Authors: Gerald Seymour
Tags: #Thriller; war; crime; espionage
Across the plain coffin, over the small bunches of fresh flowers, over the heads of the widow and her wee ones, over the bowed shoulders of the few inside the great church, the priest said, ". . . Eddie was trapped between two groups of unscrupulous men, one of which - as covert agents of the state - has a skein of respectability masking its work of dark corruption. They too work unseen, seeking victims like Eddie whom they can manipulate for their own ends . . ."As they waited for the widow and her children to ride away in the big black car from the graveside, it was muttered that the greater blame lay with the bastard British who had used Eddie Dignan, not with the Provo gunman who had shot him dead.
It was a more comfortable thought.
He had slept on the bench at Paddington railway station, and then he had gone to the Left Luggage and collected the grip bag with his clothes and the canvas holder that held his carpentry tools. He had bought his ticket, paying cash, and taken the early train to the west.
Jon Jo stood on the platform at Newton Abbot. It was near to nine o'clock. The cold morning air seemed to blast off Dartmoor and swirl across the open space of the station. He had come off the fast train, and the slow train was running late. It was nearly nine o'clock. After a hit, there was a room in London that he could use, in Hackney. There was another always available to him in a Victorian house divided up into bedsitters in Guildford. A third room in Reading, west of London, had also been rented for him. Those rooms had been chosen and paid for by deep cover operatives. The room in the Devon summer resort town of Paignton, he had found for himself. It was where he felt most safe.
Jon Jo took a Walkman from his grip. Methodically he untangled the wires and tuned across the babble of the stations until he caught the chimes of nine o'clock. There was the abbreviated news bulletin. The Gulf, the trade figures, the storm force winds approaching the northwest, the still unsuccessful hunt for a missing child, a soccer transfer record for a central defender . . . The introduction to a phone-in broadcast on Equal Opportunities . . . He tore off the earphones, and buried the Walkman back in his grip-What the feck had happened? Every morning, winter and summer, the target left for work at twenty minutes past seven. The surveillance report had been definite on that. If the gouging of the window with his screwdriver had been s p o t t e d . . . Or if the target had sat so heavily into the driver's seat as to shake off the magnets, and the fall had not thrown the tilt switch. I f. . . But the road of the target house would have been swarming with police. There should still have been, "News is coming in of . . ."
For the first time since he could remember, the first time since he had crossed the water, he felt the sweat of the fear of failure run in the pit of his back.
The platform was crowded. Men and women and school children jostled their way onto the two-carriage train going south and west to the coast towns. Jon Jo was amongst them, his bottom hp white between his teeth.
His P.A. had been sent with a fistful of loose change to the shop across Curzon Street to buy the sandwiches and two large bottles of Perrier.
They were talking through the lunch break because Wilkins knew that Carthew would be off at three to meet his wife at the airport, and Foster would be wanting to get away early so that he could get onto the M4
before it seized up at the start of his drive to Exmoor. Carthew was certainly work-shy, and Foster
might just be certifiable if he intended to pitch a tent against the elements at this time of year.
"So, it's Brennard, is it, until we can get Ferdie back?"
Foster said, "He's the obvious one, the one we'd miss the least."
Carthew said, "He's a prickly little beggar."
Foster said, "Prickly is an understatement."
Carthew said, "You know, when he first came, and I called him Gary, I thought he was going to do me Criminal Assault."
"He's the one that I would think most suitable," Wilkins said quietly.
"It had crossed my mind to move him to the Donnelly team, give him something tougher to cut his teeth on. I'd say he was a little frantic for some meat, in rather a hurry, oh yes. He deserves the chance . . . but I would be less than honest if I did not make plain my disappointment with the reaction of other members of our section ..."
Foster said, "I thought Bill was going to have a coronary . . ."
Carthew said, "No one in their right mind actually
to go . .
Foster said, "Trouble with Charles is that he's got the private means cushion to fall back on. I think if he were posted he'd quit. Be a waste if we pushed him too hard."
Carthew said, "Ulster's hardly the place for a pressed man . . ."
Foster said, "The only other one that I could think of was Archie.
Quite simply, he declined. I suppose it's because he's taken on that place in the country. The problem is, Ernest, that no one who has a halfway normal life to lead is going to be ambitious for a posting in that dreadful country."
Carthew said, "Brennard's particularly well-suited ..."
Objectively, of course, it was not satisfactory to put in a raw young man, but it was temporary. Foster would check out the position on Ferdie Penn, when he could be recovered from the training programme he was running down in Nairobi. Might be a month, might be two . . .
Brennard wouldn't need to be told that it was just a temporary thing because that would be demotivating.
They chewed at their sandwiches. Wilkins mused, "It's a life that none of us older men were trained for. Alright, we have our Watchers, and we do that well, but for the most part we are a collating agency. All of this frigging around in ditches, carrying sidearms, running sources, it's a new science . . . You don't think Brennard will let us down?"
Foster said, "Be working under Parker, won't he?"
Carthew said, "With Parker in charge, you could send a babe in arms."
And so, over beef and salad sandwiches and mineral water, it was agreed by the Section Head and his two principal Higher Executive Officers that Gary Brennard should be invited to offer himself for a posting to the Security Service unit working in the province of Northern Ireland. It was further agreed that the invitation should be made quickly, in order that the vacancy left by the compromised Faber should be filled as soon as possible. Faber's return, regrettable though its cause was, would be an asset to the Desk.
"Don't you trouble yourself about young Faber," said Carthew. "He's as tough as old boots. Put him straight to work, that's my advice. Give him any sort of break and you'll be doing him no favours."
Wilkins talked on about the difficulties with Finance. Carthew defended the quality of the glass that could be bought in Hungary.
Foster recalled that every stitch of his and Marjory's spare clothing had been stolen from a camp site near Nice last summer. They were civilised men. They enjoyed each other's company and conversation.
Ireland, the abscess that governed their lives, was, temporarily, forgotten. The laughter was warm.
His P.A. stood in the doorway.
"Bomb in Motspur Park, probably Irish. One woman, two children, both girls, fatals."
He was the familiar figure.
The Commander of SO 13, the Anti-Terrorist Branch of New Scotland Yard, had travelled to the location of four shootings and five bombings that long autumn. He thought he should be seen to attend the site of every atrocity. He regarded the British public as his last and best hope of defeating the terrorist scourge now visited on the Home Counties.
The landlady of the block of letting rooms, the curious neighbour behind her lace curtains, the inquisitive salesman in the second-hand car yard, the Commander regarded them as his most reliable allies. If he could not be bothered to abandon his schedule and turn out, then he could not expect the watchful and the curious to telephone the police with their suspicions.
He still experienced the sledgehammer blow of shock. He reckoned he always would. He stared grimly across the scene. He had been told in the car coming down that James Tennyson, late of the Northern Ireland Office, now with the Department of Trade and Industry, had been warned that his name was on a list passed from Dublin nine months before, and told also that a local Crime Prevention Officer had been to his home to make recommendations on a security system that wouldn't eat half of a senior civil servant's salary. And he had been told that the man was ill, too ill to go to the office that day, that his wife had taken the Volvo rather than her own smaller car to go with their two children to collect some others for a music class. Tennyson had been taken to a brother's house in Kent.
It was pitiful, they were so naked, these men and their families. The Commander stood alone. He was tall, straight in the back. He tugged continually at his heavy moustache.
The car, metallic grey, was just recognisable as a Volvo. The two nearside doors were completely off. The roof, with the splintered sun hatch at the apex, had expanded to a jagged pyramid. The bonnet was nowhere to be seen and a far-side front wheel was gone. Close to a window frame was the chalked outline of a small body shape and a buckled shoe and one half of a violin case.
The car had cleared the drive, probably bounced in the gutter, and been almost in the middle of the road when the device exploded. The garden fence was flattened back onto the flower bed, the gates were off their hinges and mangled, a bare cherry tree was snapped off at its roots. The front windows of the house were blown in, but the curtains were now drawn and flapping in the wind. He knew the age of the girls, and the name of Tennyson's w i f e . . . He wasn't even important. He had once been a civil servant doing whatever civil servants do, but in Belfast.
There were neighbours across the road who stared at him. They stood with defiantly folded arms.
A Chief Inspector was at his shoulder.
"The garage had an alarm, and he could have expected that. He still went into the garage. He was prepared to take a hell of a risk . .
"So, was he stupid?"
There was the grate, now, of the shovels gathering up the fragments of glass and the metal mess from the roadway to tip into the dustbins.
They moved across to the pavement to allow the recovery vehicle to pass by with the winch to drag the Volvo onto its trailer.
"Ruthless, I'd say, determined to get it right. He used a heavy tool to get the garage window o p e n . . . "
The Commander said, "Sounds like him."
"Probably a big screwdriver."
"That's my old love, Jon Jo, taking risks again."
When he couldn't sleep, as he hadn't slept in the last ten weeks, when his wife chucked him out and into the spare room at the back of their house, then the face that filled the Commander's mind was that of Jon Jo Donnelly.
"Brennard? Hope I didn't wake you. Ernest Wilkins here . . .
Something's come up that I'd like to discuss with you. I can't talk about it on the phone. I hope you haven't anything that can't be switched on Monday morning . . . Let's say before the chaos starts, eight o'clock.
Goodbye, and have a good weekend."
It was the story that the child loved best, the story that had no ending.
"They called him Shane. He was from the family of the Donnellys, and they had a small castle at what was then called Ballydonnelly that had been built beside the Torrent river, where there was a ford. People could cross the ford, wade across the river, at that place, so it was right for a castle. Shane was one of the young men of the family of the Donnellys. His father was Patrick Modardha, a funny name because it means that he was called Patrick the Gloomy. It is 350 years ago that this all started. They were the Catholic people, they owned the land, and the English set themselves to drive them off that land just because they were Catholics and to put their own people, thugs and scum, onto that land . . .
"Patrick led his men in the attack on the castle of Lord Charlemont at Moy. They sacked the castle, drove the English away. That was when Patrick was a young man, and before Shane was born. The years passed, and for a while the Donnellys at Ballydonnelly Castle were left to themselves. Shane was born. He grew up to be a fine young man, good to his neighbours, kind to the family's tenants. Even when he was small he had learned to ride a horse and to shoot and to hunt so that he could live off the land on the Altmore mountain. When he was just twenty years old, the English came again. The Englishmen were led by Sir Toby Caulfield, who was a harsh man. The English came with overwhelming force and they killed Patrick Modardha, and they captured the castle at Ballydonnelly. Shane fought as long as he was able and then slipped away and climbed high up onto the Altmore mountain. From there he could see the burning and pillaging and thieving of the English soldiers and the 'gallowglasses' who were paid to fight for them. On that first evening, as he saw far below him the climbing smoke from the Donnelly home and their cattle barns, Shane swore to himself that he would take his revenge of the English for what they had done. At first he joined the
band of Redmond O'H
anion of Armagh, who was called Terror of the Fews, and then when Redmond had been killed, he formed his own band of free men. He lived wild on the mountain with them. All his teeth fell out, and he was known as Shane Bearnagh, which is Shane Gap-tooth. In all of the band he was the most powerful man, and it was said of him that his toothless gums could bite through a thin plate of iron as if it were gingerbread. The band of Shane Bearnagh became the most famous group of resistance fighters in the whole of Ireland. Down in the valley, Ballydonnelly was now renamed Castlecaulfield and Sir Toby Caulfield lived in Shane's castle, and had taken all the land that had belonged to Shane's family . . .
"The revenge of Shane Bearnagh was on the mountain, but the fear of him spread far and wide. Some of the Englishmen, cowards, paid Shane Bearnagh with money and beef and bread, in the hope that he would leave them alone. He lived in the caves of the mountain, and close to the main coach road that ran between Dungannon and Omagh was where he was happiest. At the very summit of the mountain was a heap of rocks that is to this day called Shane Bearnagh's sentry box . . .