'Che-sah!' he whispered.
The neI'man recoiled, then lunged towards him in pain and fury, his hands outstretched like claws. 'Pig!!
The patient crouched, shooting his right hand up to grip the neI'man's left forearm, yanking it downwards, then rising, pushing his victim's arm up, twisting it at its highest arc clockwise, yanking again, finally releasing it while jamming his heel into the small of the neI'man's back. The Frenchman sprawled forward over the nets, his head smashing into the wall of the gunwale.
'Mee-sah!' Again he did not know the meaning of his silent cry.
A crewman grabbed his neck from the rear. The patient crashed his left fist into the pelvic area behind him, then bent forward, gripping the elbow to the right of his throat. He lurched to his left; his assailant was lifted off the ground, his legs spiralling in the air as he was thrown across the deck, his face impaled between the wheels of a winch.
The two remaining men were on him, fists and knees pummelling him, as the captain of the fishing boat repeatedly screamed his warnings.
'Le medecin! Rappelons le medecin! Doucement! The doctor! Remember the doctor! Easy!'
The words were as misplaced as the captain's appraisal of what he saw. The patient gripped the wrist of one man, bending it down, twisting it counterclockwise in one violent movement; the man roared in agony. The wrist was broken.
Washburn's patient viced the fingers of his hands together, swinging his arms up like a sledgehammer, catching the crewman with the broken wrist at the midpoint of his throat. The man somersaulted off his feet and collapsed on the deck.
'Kwa-sah!' The whisper echoed in the patient's ears.
The fourth man backed away, staring at the maniac who simply looked at him.
It was over. Three of Lamouche's crew were unconscious, severely punished for what they had done. It was doubtful that any would be capable of coming down to the docks at four o'clock in the morning.
Lamouche's words were uttered in equal parts, astonishment and contempt. 'Where you come from I don't know, but you will get off this boat. '
The man with no memory understood the unintentional irony of the captain's words. I don't know where I came from, either.
'You can't stay here now,' said Geoffrey Washburn, coming into the darkened bedroom. 'I honestly believed I could prevent any serious assault on you. But I can't protect you when you've done the damage. '
'It was provoked. '
'To the extent it was inflicted? A broken wrist and lacerations requiring sutures on one man's throat and face and another's skull. A severe concussion, and an undetermined injury to a kidney? To say nothing of a blow to the groin that's caused a swelling of the testicles? I believe the word is overkill. '
'It would have been just plain "kill" and I would have been the dead man, if it'd happened any other way. ' The patient paused, but spoke again before the doctor could interrupt. 'I think we should talk. Several things happened; other words came to me. We should talk. '
'We should, but we can't There isn't time. You've got to leave now I've made arrangements. '
'Yes. I told them you went into the village, probably to get drunk. The families will go looking for you. Every able-bodied brother, cousin and in-law. They'll have knives, hooks, perhaps a gun or two. When they can't find you, they'll come back here. They won't stop until they do find you. !
'Because of a fight I didn't start'!'
'Because you've injured three men who will lose at least a month's wages between them. And something else that's infinitely more important. '
'The insult. An off-islander proved himself more than a match for not one, but three respected fishermen of Port Noir. '
'In the physical sense. Lamouche's crew is considered the roughest on the waterfront!'
'Not to them. It's their honour . . . Now, hurry, get your things together. There's a boat in from Marseilles; the captain's agreed to stow you, and drop you a half-mile offshore north of La Ciotat'
The man with no memory held his breath. Then it's time,' he said quietly.
'It's time,' replied Washburn. 'I think I know what's going through your mind. A sense of helplessness, of drifting without a rudder to put you on a course. I've been your rudder, and I won't be with you; there's nothing I can do about that. But believe me when I tell you, you are not helpless. You will find your way. !
To Zurich,' added the patient.
To Zurich,' agreed the doctor. 'Here. I've wrapped some things together for you in this oilcloth. Strap it around your waist!
'What is it?"
"All the money I have, some two thousand francs. It's not much, but it will help you get started. And my passport for whatever good it will do. We're about the same age and it's eight years old; people change. Don't let anyone study it It's merely an official paper. '
'What will you do?'
'I won't ever need it if I don't hear from you. '
'You're a decent man. '
'I think you are, too . . . As I've known you. But then I didn't know you before. So I can't vouch for that man. I wish I could, but there's no way I can. '
The man leaned against the railing, watching the lights of lie de Port Noir recede in the distance. The fishing boat was heading into darkness, as he had plunged into darkness nearly five months ago.
As he was plunging into another darkness now.
There were no lights on the coast of France, only the wash of the dying moon outlined the rocky shore. They were two hundred yards from land, the fishing boat bobbing gently in the cross-currents of the inlet The captain pointed over the side.
There's a small stretch of beach between those two clusters of rock. It's not much, but you'll reach it if you swim to the right We can drift in another thirty, forty feet, no more than that. Only a minute or two. '
'You're doing more than I expected. I thank you for that!
'No need to. I pay my debts. '
'And I'm one?'
'Very much so. The doctor in Port Noir sewed up three of my crew after that madness five months ago. You weren't the only one brought in, you know. '
The storm? You know me?'
'You were chalk white on the table, but I don't know you and I don't want to know you. I had no money then, no catch; the doctor said I could pay when my circumstances were better. You're my payment. '
'I need papers,' said the man, sensing a source of help. 'I need a passport altered. "
'Why speak to me?' asked the captain. 'I said I would put a package over the side north of La Ciotat. That's all I said. '
'You wouldn't have said that if you weren't capable of other things. '
I will not take you into Marseilles. I will not risk the patrol boats. The Surete' has squadrons all over the harbour; the narcotics teams are maniacs. You pay them or you pay twenty years in a cell!'
'Which means I can get papers in Marseilles. And you can help me. '
'I did not say that. '
'Yes, you did. I need a service and that service can be found in a place where you won't take me - still the service is there. You said it. '