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Authors: Jack Higgins

Tags: #Fiction, #Thrillers, #Espionage

Confessional (10 page)

BOOK: Confessional
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'My God!' he cried. 'There's another in here and he's still alive. Take the van and get down to the village quick as you like and fetch the ambulance from the hospice.'

 

 

When Devlin reached the foyer, they were pushing Viktor Levin on a trolley into the receiving room.

 

 

'Sister Anne-Marie's on Ward Three. She'll be right down,' he heard one of the ambulancemen tell the young sister in charge. The driver of the bread van stood there helplessly, blood on one sleeve of his overall coat. He was shaking badly. Devlin lit a cigarette and handed it to him. 'What happened?'

 

 

'God knows. We found this car a couple of miles up the road. One was dead beside it and him in the back. They're bringing the other in now.'

 

 

As Devlin, filled with a terrible premonition, turned towards the door, the ambulancemen hurried in with Billy White's body, his face plain to see. The young sister came out of the receiving room and went next door to check White. Devlin stepped in quickly and approached the trolley on which Levin still lay, moaning softly, blood congealing in a terrible head wound.

 

 

Devlin leaned down. 'Professor Levin, can you hear me?' Levin opened his eyes. 'I am Liam Devlin. What happened?'

 

 

Levin tried to speak, reached out one hand and got hold of the lapel of Devlin's jacket. 'I recognized him. He's, here.'

 

 

His eyes rolled, there was a rattle in his throat and as his grip slackened, Sister Anne-Marie hurried in. She pushed Devlin to one side and leaned over Levin, searching for a pulse. After a while, she stepped back. 'You know this man?'

 

 

'No,' Devlin told her, which was true in a sense.

 

 

'Not that it would matter if you did,' she said. 'He's dead. A miracle he didn't die instantly with a head wound like that.'

 

 

She brushed past him and went next door where they had taken White. Devlin stood looking down at Levin, thinking of what Fox had told him of the old man, of the years of waiting to get out. And this was how it had ended. He felt angry, then, at the brutal black humour of life that could allow such a thing to happen.

 

 

Harry Fox had only just arrived back at Cavendish Square, had hardly got his coat off, when the phone rang. Ferguson listened, face grave, then placed a hand over the mouthpiece. 'Liam Devlin. It seems the car with your man, Billy White, and Levin was ambushed just outside Kilrea. White was killed instantly, Levin died later in the hospice at Kilrea.'

 

 

Fox said, 'Did Liam get to see him?'

 

 

'Yes. Levin told him it was Cuchulain. That he recognized him.' -

 

 

Fox threw his coat on the nearest chair. 'But I don't understand, sir.'

 

 

'Neither do I, Harry.' Ferguson spoke into the mouthpiece, Til get back to you, Devlin.'

 

 

He put the receiver down and turned, hands out to the fire. Fox said, 'It doesn't make sense. How would he have known?'

 

 

'Some sort of leak, Harry, at the IRA end of things. They never keep their mouths shut.'

 

 

'The thing is, sir, what do we do about it?'

 

 

'More important, what do we do about Cuchulain?' Ferguson said. 'That gentleman is really beginning to annoy me.'

 

 

'But there isn't much we can do now, not with Levin gone. After all, he was the only person who had any idea what the bastard looked like.'

 

 

'Actually, that isn't quite true,' Ferguson said. 'You're forgetting Tanya Voraninova, who at this precise moment is in Paris. Ten days, four concerts, and that opens up a very interesting possibility.'

 

 

About the same time, Harry Cussane was at his desk in the press office of the Catholic Secretariat in Dublin talking to Monsignor Halloran who was responsible for public relations.

 

 

From his comfortable chair, Halloran said, 'It's a terrible thing that such a significantly historical event as the Holy Father's visit to England should be put in such jeopardy. Just think of it, Harry, His Holiness at Canterbury Cathedral. The first Pope in history to visit it. And now...'

 

 

'You think it won't come off?' Cussane asked.

 

 

'Well, they're still talking away in Rome, but that's how it looks to me. Why, do you know something I don't?'

 

 

'No,' Cussane told him. He picked up a typed sheet. 'I've had this from London. His planned itinerary, so they are still acting as if he's coming.' He ran an eye over it. 'Arrives on the morning of 2.8th May at Gatwick Airport. Mass at Westminster Cathedral in London. Meets the Queen at Buckingham Palace in the afternoon.'

 

 

'And Canterbury?'

 

 

'That's the following day - Saturday. He starts early with a meeting with religious at a London college. Mainly monks and nuns from enclosed orders. Then by helicopter to Canterbury, stopping at Stokely Hall on the way. That's unofficial, by the way.'

 

 

'For what reason?'

 

 

'The Stokelys were one of the great Catholic families that managed to survive Henry VIII and hung on to their faith over the centuries. The National Trust own the house now, but it contains a unique feature: the family's private chapel. The oldest Catholic church of any description in England. His Holiness wishes to pray there. Afterwards, Canterbury.'

 

 

'All of which, at the moment, is on paper only,' Halloran said.

 

 

The phone rang. Cussane picked it up. 'Press office. Cussane here.' His face grew grave. He said, 'Is there anything I can do?' A pause. Til see you later then.'

 

 

Halloran said, 'Problems?'

 

 

Cussane replaced the receiver. 'A friend from Kilrea. Liam Devlin of Trinity College. It seems there's been a shooting incident outside the village. Two men taken to the hospice. Both dead.'

 

 

Halloran crossed himself. 'Political, is it?'

 

 

'One of them was a known member of the IRA.'

 

 

'Will you be needed? Go if you must.'

 

 

'Not necessary.' Cussane smiled bleakly. 'They need a coroner now, Monsignor, not a priest. I've plenty to do here anyway.'

 

 

'Yes, of course. Well, I'll leave you to it.'

 

 

Halloran went out and Cussane lit a cigarette and went and stood at the window looking down into the street. Finally, he turned, sat at his desk and got on with some work.

 

 

Paul Cherny had rooms at Trinity College which being, as so many people considered, at the centre of Dublin, suited him very well indeed. But then, everything about that extraordinary city commended itself to him.

 

 

His defection had been at Maslovsky's express orders. A KGB general was not to be argued with. He was to defect in Ireland, that had been the plan. One of the universities was certain to offer him a post, his international reputation would assure that. He would then be in a perfect position to act as Cuchulain's control. Difficult in the early days with no Soviet Embassy in Dublin and the necessity always to work through London, but now that had been taken care of and his KGB contacts at the Dublin embassy gave him a direct link with Moscow.

 

 

Yes, the years had been good and Dublin was the kind of paradise he'd always dreamed of. Intellectual freedom, stimulating company and the city - the city he had grown to love. He was thinking these things as he left Trinity that afternoon, walked through College Green, and made towards the river.

 

 

Michael Murphy followed at a discreet distance and Cherny, unaware that he was being tailed, walked briskly along beside the Liffey until he reached Usher's Quay. There was a rather ugly Victorian church in red brick and he moved up the steps and went inside. Murphy paused to examine the board with the peeling gold paint. It said Our Lady, Queen of the Universe. Underneath were the times of Mass. Confessions were heard at one o'clock and five on weekdays. Murphy pushed open the door and entered.

 

 

It was the sort of place that merchant money had been poured into back in the prosperous days of the Quays during the nineteenth century. There was lots of Victorian stained glass and fake gargoyles and the usual smell of candles and

 

 

incense. Half-a-dozen people waited by a couple of confessional boxes and Paul Cherny joined them, seating himself on the end of the bench.

 

 

'Jesus!' Murphy muttered in surprise. 'The bugger must have seen the light.' He positioned himself behind a pillar and waited.

 

 

It was fifteen or twenty minutes before Cherny's turn came. He slipped into the oaken confessional box, closed the door and sat down, his head close to the grill.

 

 

'Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,' he said in Russian.

 

 

'Very funny, Paul,' the reply came from the other side of the grill in the same language. 'Now let's see if you can still smile when you've heard what I've got to say.'

 

 

When Cuchulain was finished, Cherny said, 'What are we going to do?'

 

 

'No need to panic. They don't know who I am and they aren't likely to find out now that I've disposed of Levin.'

 

 

'But me?' Cherny said. 'If Levin told them about Drumore all those years ago, he must have told them of my part in it.'

 

 

'Of course. You're under surveillance now. IRA variety, not British Intelligence, so I wouldn't worry just yet. Get in touch with Moscow. Maslovsky should know about this. He might want to pull us out. I'll phone you again tonight. And don't start worrying about your tail. I'll take care of it.'

 

 

Cherny went out and Cuchulain watched through a crack in the door as Michael Murphy slipped from behind the pillar and followed him. There was a bang as the sacristy door opened and shut and an old cleaning woman came down the aisle as the priest in alb and black cassock, a violet stole around his shoulders, came out of the confessional box.

 

 

'Are you finished, Father?'

 

 

'I am so, Ellie.' Harry Cussane turned, a smile of great charm on his face as he slipped off the stole and started folding it.

 

 

Murphy, with no reason to think that Cherny was doing anything other than return to college, stayed some distance

 

 

behind him. Cherny stopped and entered a telephone box. He wasn't in it for long and Murphy, who had paused under a tree as if sheltering from the rain, went after him again.

 

 

A car drew into the kerb in front of him and the driver, a priest, got out, went round and looked at the nearside front tyre. He turned and catching sight of Murphy, said, 'Have you got a minute?'

 

 

Murphy slowed, protesting, 'I'm sorry, Father, but I've an appointment.'

 

 

And then the priest's hand was on his arm and Murphy felt the muzzle of the Walther dig painfully into his side. 'Easy does it, there's a lad. Just keep walking.'

 

 

Cussane pushed him to the top of stone steps that went down to a decaying wooden jetty below. They moved along its broken planks, footsteps echoing hollowly. There was a boathouse with a broken roof, holes in the floor. Murphy wasn't afraid, but ready for action, waiting his chance.

 

 

That'll do,' Cussane said.

 

 

Murphy stayed, his back towards him, one hand on the butt of the automatic in his raincoat pocket. 'Are you a real priest?' he asked.

 

 

'Oh, yes,' Cussane told him. 'Not a very good one, I'm afraid, but real enough.'

 

 

Murphy turned slowly. His hand came up out of the raincoat, already too late. The Walther coughed twice, and the bullet caught Murphy in the shoulder spinning him around. The second bullet drove him headfirst into a ragged hole in the floor and he plunged down into the dark water below.

 

 

Dimitri Lubov, who was supposedly a commercial attache at the Soviet Embassy, was, in fact, a captain in the KGB. On receiving Cherny's carefully worded message, he left his office and went to a cinema in the city centre. It was not only relatively dark in there, but reasonably private, for few people went to the cinema in the afternoon. He sat in the back row and waited and Cherny joined him twenty minutes later.

 

 

'Is it urgent, Paul?' Lubov said. 'Not often we meet between fixed days.'

 

 

'Urgent enough,' Cherny said. 'Cuchulain is blown. Mas-lovsky must be informed as soon as possible. He may want to pull us out.'

 

 

'Of course,' Lubov said, alarmed. Til see to it as soon as I get back, but hadn't you better fill me in on the details?'

 

 

Devlin was working in his study at the cottage, marking a thesis on T. S. Eliot submitted by one of his students, when the phone rang.

 

 

Ferguson said, 'It's a fine bloody mess. Someone must have coughed at your end. Your IRA cronies are not exactly the most reliable people in the world.'

 

 

'Sticks and stones will get you nowhere,' Devlin told him. 'What do you want?'

 

 

'Tanya Voroninova,' Ferguson said. 'Harry told you about her?'

 

 

'The little girl from Drumore who was adopted by this Maslovsky character. What about her?'

 

 

'She's in Paris at the moment to give a series of piano concerts. The thing is, being foster-daughter to a KGB general gives her a lot of leeway. I mean, she's considered an excellent risk. I thought you might go and see her. There's an evening flight from Dublin direct to Paris. Only two and a half hours, Air France.'

 

 

'And what in the hell am I supposed to do? Get her to defect?'

 

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