Louis L'Amour: Last of the Breed

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Louis L'Amour Last of the Breed
  • Название:
    Last of the Breed
  • Автор:
  • Издательство:
    Random House Publishing Group
  • Жанр:
    Триллер / Историческая проза / Приключения про индейцев / на английском языке
  • Год:
    2010
  • Город:
    New York
  • Язык:
    Английский
  • ISBN:
    978-0-553-89935-1
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Last of the Breed: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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“For sheer adventure L’Amour is in top form.”

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Louis L’Amour

LAST OF THE BREED

Introduction

The soldier placed the flat, skin-wrapped package on the table before Colonel Zamatev and stepped back, standing rigidly at attention. Before diverting his attention to the package, Zamatev studied the soldier.

Hunger, cold, and the exhaustion of long trails had sapped the man’s strength and drained him of feeling. Gaunt and hollow-eyed he awaited orders.

“You saw nothing of Alekhin?”

“Nothing, sir.”

“And the American? You saw him? He spoke to you?”

“We were told to kill him, to shoot on sight. I glimpsed him through the trees and started forward. To kill him was my duty. He moved again and I saw an opening between two trees. I rushed forward.”

“And then?”

“It was a trap. There was a rope of branches between the two trees, hidden by undergrowth. I tripped and fell.” The soldier put a hand to his forehead where the remains of the bruise could still be seen. “My head hit very hard. When I awakened he was standing over me.”

“He was armed?”

“He had my rifle, my knife. The muzzle of the rifle was at my throat. He looked at me for a long time and then he said, ‘You are young to die. Lie there while you count to one hundred. Then get up and take this package to Colonel Zamatev. To Zamatev and to no one else, you understand? No one else! Tell him to open it when he is alone.’”

“Nothing else?”

“Nothing.”

“You counted?”

“There was nothing to be done. He had taken my rifle. He was gone.”

Colonel Zamatev studied him with eyes that seemed to offer no mercy. “Nothing else? Nothing at all?”

The soldier’s eyes were haunted. Hopelessly he glanced right and left.

“He said—”

“He said what?” Zamatev leaned forward. “He was heard to speak again. You were heard to reply. What was said?”

Miserably, the young soldier swallowed. Sweat stood out on his brow. “He — he said, ‘You are two days from your unit. You will try to get there, but you cannot make it in less than two days, do you hear? If you reach your unit in less than two days I shall find and kill you.’”

“You believed him?”

“He is a devil! A fiend! I was afraid.”

“How long did it take you to reach your unit?”

The soldier was utterly without hope. “Almost — almost two days.”

Zamatev glanced at his aide Suvarov. “The Yakut who heard him speak? How far was he from your unit?”

“Less than a half day’s travel, Colonel Zamatev.”

Zamatev looked at the soldier. “Take him away, Lieutenant, and I do not wish to see him again.”

When the soldier had been taken from the room a long silence followed. Lieutenant Suvarov waited, his heart beating heavily. Would Zamatev hold him responsible?

He backed up a step, wishing he dared sit down. The Colonel had walked to the window and was looking out at the compound. He was a big man, slightly stooped, wearing a simple uniform coat. It was a coat, Suvarov knew, that could have been covered with decorations, only Zamatev chose not to wear them.

Zamatev was like this room, a man who needed only the bare essentials. The room had only the table, a swivel chair behind it, two shelves, a wastebasket, a chair that faced the desk, and a bench along the wall. Suvarov had been in the offices of other men of Zamatev’s rank and they were never like this.

Zamatev turned around. “So? He has eluded us again.”

“Alekhin will find him,” Suvarov said. “Alekhin will never stop until the American is dead. Alekhin never gives up, and this is a personal thing with him. He will never stop.”

Zamatev looked around at him. “You may go, Lieutenant. I shall want to see you in the morning.”

“In the morning, sir? But I just—”

Zamatev’s eyes were icy. “In the morning, Suvarov.”

When the Lieutenant had gone he walked around his table and sat down, staring at the skin-wrapped packet before him. It was the tanned hide of a small animal, of very little weight and tied with rawhide thongs. Something was inside. Something of light weight but stiff. A bit of bark, perhaps?

The sender of the packet could not have seen paper or string for many months, and the packet was just one more item in a pursuit that had seemed time and again to be nearing its end, only to have the American evade them once again.

Were there other Americans such as this one? Or was he one of a kind? For the first time in many months Colonel Arkady Arkadovich Zamatev was beginning to doubt the wisdom of his superiors.

He took up the packet and slowly, with careful fingers, he began to undo the knots, ignoring the knife that lay at hand.

Chapter 1

Major Joe Makatozi stepped into the sunlight of a late afternoon. The first thing he must remember was the length of the days at this latitude. His eyes moved left and right.

About three hundred yards long, a hundred yards wide, three guard towers to a side, two men in each. A mounted machine-gun in each tower. Each man armed with a submachine gun.

He walked behind Lieutenant Suvarov, and two armed guards followed him.

Five barrack-like frame buildings, another under construction, prisoners in four of the five buildings but not all the cells occupied.

He had no illusions. He was a prisoner, and when they had extracted the information they knew he possessed, he would be killed. There was a cool freshness in the air like that from the sea, but he was far from any ocean. His first impression was, he believed, the right one. He was somewhere in the vicinity of Lake Baikal, in Siberia.

A white line six feet inside the barbed wire, the limit of approach for prisoners. The fence itself was ten feet high, twenty strands of tightly drawn, electrified wire. From the barbed wire to the edge of the forest, perhaps fifty yards.

No one knew he was alive but his captors. There would be no inquiries, no diplomatic feelers. Whatever happened now must be of his own doing. He had one asset. They had no idea what manner of man they had taken prisoner.

The office into which he was shown was much like a military orderly room. The man behind the table was tall and wide in the shoulder. He studied Joe Makatozi with appraising eyes.

For the first time Colonel Arkady Zamatev was seeing a man who had been the center of his thinking for more than a year. Up to this point his personally conceived plan had worked with a fine precision of which he could be proud.

When he had first proposed the capture of Major Makatozi his superiors thought he had lost his mind. Yet information was desperately needed on some of the experimental aircraft the Americans were designing, and Makatozi had test-flown most of them. Moreover, he had advised on the construction of some, had suggested innovations.

Only Zamatev knew there were three Soviet agents in the American division of military personnel assignment, no one of them aware of the others. All were Americans at whom no suspicion had been directed. The three had been carefully maneuvered into position for just such an emergency, and it was upon these three that he depended for the assignment of Major Makatozi to the Alaska command for a refresher course in Arctic flying before tests were made with a new aircraft.

It had not been difficult to arrange. A casual remark had been made about operating the new plane in sub-Arctic temperatures; a few days later the question of a refresher course had been raised, if Major Makatozi were to pilot the new plane. And the rest had been up to Zamatev.

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