Authors: Gerald Seymour
Tags: #Thriller; war; crime; espionage
"His friends in Dungannon would light fires when the coaches left under cover of darkness from Dungannon to make the run to Omagh.
They thought the night would help them, but they were wrong. Shane could see down to Dungannon, and the fires that were lit for him, and he and his men would stop the coaches and take back from the Englishmen what had been stolen from the Irish people. The English feared him more than any fighter in all of the island. They built a barracks on the mountainside, near to the top, and garrisoned it with their soldiers, and the barracks and the soldiers were there only to chase and hunt Shane Bearnagh. They hunted him and they chased him, because he was the bravest free man in all Ireland . . ."
"Did they catch him, Ma?"
It was the story that had no ending.
She told him that it was time for them to go together to feed the stock cattle in the barn.
A whispered voice spoke into a dictaphone.
The machine fitted snugly into the gloved hand and was held against the lips. The other hand moved the two inch-long joy-sticks that controlled the zoom on the camera and the focus.
The camera was 200 yards forward of the hide and set in a hedgerow above a steeply sloping field. The camera was well placed. On the close-up it could monitor the farmhouse and on the wide-angle it could take in the Nugent bungalow. The bungalow, set close to the narrow road leading up the mountain towards Inishative, west of the village, was sixty paces nearer the camera position than the small farm and its rusted metal outbuildings.
The camera and the cables that controlled its zoom and focus functions had taken two weeks to get into position. It had been in operation now for a month. It was the best that the technical support could manufacture. The camera, twenty-five inches long and with the capability of night vision, was concealed in an old log that had been removed under cover of darkness from the hedgerow, taken back to the Mahon Road barracks in Portadown, hollowed out, and replaced before dawn. In the course of six more nights the control cable had been buried. The ground under the hedgerows had been eased back with the sort of tool normally used for edging lawns, a half-moon blade, and then the slit had been painstakingly pushed back together by hand. Only after that, back up the mountain slope, had the hide been dug out and the command panel installed.
The positioning of the camera, its army serial numbers removed, was regarded as of major operational priority.
Day and night, through close-up and wide-angle, the camera oversaw the comings and goings, and the movements at the Donnelly farm and the Nugent bungalow.
It was easier to speak into a dictaphone than to write the log in the lightless cramped hole that was the hide.
A faint voice, "Attracta and Kevin, taking a bale from the barn to the cow shed, zero nine forty three."
There was the bare click of the dictaphone being switched off, then the faint rustle of a sheet of tin foil being unfolded.
With the penknife that she took from her apron pocket she sliced the twine binding the bale and then reached through the railings to loosen the hay. There were eight bullocks in the shed. In the building next door, before it was light, she had already milked the four cows and then manhandled the churn, rolling it round on its base, down the centre of the lane where the tarmac had not been destroyed by the tractor tyres, and left it for the tanker at the junction with the road. There would have to be one more journey for another bale for the three cows that were in calf in the bay beyond the fattening bullocks. She needed Kevin to help her.
Attracta did not know where her man was. She knew where he had been because she had seen the news the night before. Kevin long since asleep, she had been alone in the small front room, sitting beside the chair that had been empty for almost a year. She had been about to put more logs on the fire when the news had started. She had good pine logs, well seasoned, that her father split for her. She had seen the shattered Volvo and the wedding portrait of the wife, and the school photographs of the two children. The younger of the two was Kevin's age. She had switched off the television and gone to bed. It was the bed in which she had been born, the bed in which she had been alone for almost a year.
There had been a bombing or a shooting every week since before the autumn had set in. Now it was winter. She trudged back across the mud-filled yard for the second bale. It was man's work to clear the mud from the yard. The police and the army had come after the third kill and searched the farm, and called her man a murdering cunt. Later, they had sealed off the road on either side of the lane, stopped her when she had taken Kevin to the school at the village, searched her and the car so thoroughly that the child had been forty minutes late for his classes.
They had called her a Provo's whore, and they had called her son a Provo's bastard.
She never spoke of the war that her husband fought, not to her Ma, not to Siobhan Nugent who was her only neighbour, not to the women at Mass, not to the mothers who gathered at the school gate in the afternoons.
Even in her loneliest times, when Kevin was asleep and when the wind hit the chimney and sang on the electricity cable, she never criticised her man and what he did. She insulated herself with silence.
With her son trying to help she carried the second bale from the barn to the cow shed.
If they trapped him, finally, with a gun in his hand then they would surely kill him. If they hunted him down and he surrendered with his hands raised then they would surely lock him away until his youth and his middle age had been squeezed from him, until he was old.
The voice murmured, was lost in the wind beat on the russet bracken around the hide.
"Mossie off out. Right, and right again onto the village road, thirteen zero four."
The screen in the hide, beside the box that could make a video recording of the picture if that were necessary, blurred at the change of focus. The Nugent bungalow was gone, replaced by the Donnelly farmhouse, seen end on. The dog was clear on the screen, curled up in its kennel. It had good teeth and a persistent yapping bark. If the dog was out in the yard, or quartering the lane to the front of the house then it was impossible to get within fifty yards and remain undetected.
Because of the dog it was necessary to use the surveillance camera. The dog was regarded as a bloody nuisance. There were two policemen from Dungannon who had needed stitches in their arms and anti-tetanus jabs in their backsides because of that dog.
The angle of the house to the camera meant that the back yard and the farm buildings could be seen, and also the lane at the front and the pathway through the small and tidy front garden. It was only the last yard or so to the front door and the kitchen door into the yard that were masked.
In the tiny cramped space of the hide, the dictaphone was laid down next to the camera controls and the recording box, beside the loaded pistol.
Charlie One was Stop and Search. Automatic, no point in arguing it.
Out of the car, side of the road, anorak off, coat off, shoes off, and the army or the police, or both, going over his car.
Mossie could live with it. He had known a long time that he was categorised as a Charlie One.
The roadblock was on the hill leading down into the village. He couldn't tell whether they were British or Ulster Defence Regiment. If it was the British he might be away in ten minutes, if it was the U.D.R.
then he might be away in an hour. They had his face and they had his car registration. His was a face that was memorised at every patrol briefing, and the number of his old Cortina.
He passed the machinegunner, lying on his stomach, aiming back up the road. He passed the rifleman kneeling in the ditch, up to his waist in water, aiming back up the mountain. There was a chain with tyre-shredding spikes in it in case he had tried to accelerate through. It would have made their afternoon, getting a Charlie One. He thought they looked all excited, they always were when they waved down a Stop and Search, they couldn't believe they'd find less than a rocket-launcher and warhead under the passenger seat. The face was at the window, cheeks and forehead smeared in camouflage cream.
British accent. "Hello, Mister Nugent, have a little word, shall we?"
Mossie climbed out of the car. Best that way, best to get out without them pulling him out. Being the Saturday he didn't have his work gear on board. Six weeks before he had had his work gear, the tins of paint, and he had been slow getting out, and they had emptied each last one of the full tins into the ditch, and had a hell of a laugh, and said that the bottom of a tin of paint was just a pretty obvious place to move a firearm or ammunition . . . His coat came off, and his shirt. They were dropped on the verge. A soldier bent and tugged his shoes off. Another was talking into his radio, another was inside the car and ferreting, another had the bonnet up and was peering down into the engine.
The sergeant sneered, "Off down the pub to get pissed up?"
"No, I'm not."
"That's the Paddy weekend, isn't it, getting arseholed ..."
"I'm not drinking, I'm driving."
" . . . Then, when you're all pissed up, all arseholed, all brave, going out and blowing away a few kiddies, a few little girls. That's the fucking Paddy weekend, eh?"
It was the wind-up, nothing new.
"I'm going down the shop."
"You're real brave bastards, aren't you? Blowing up little kiddies.
Watched it on the news, did we, Paddy, with the Missus and all your own little kiddies? Right fucking heroes, Provo shit."
Mossie Nugent was too old to be wound up. He was thirty- seven years old. Twenty years ago he might have stuck one on the sergeant.
Just what they wanted. Grievous Bodily Harm or Criminal Assault, anything they cared to think up. He held onto the seams of his trousers, kept his hands down. The cold whipped through his cotton vest, and the damp seeped in his socks.
They were bored by the time that Pakkie Henty came along with his tractor and a load of silage, so they let him go. He dressed. He climbed back into his car and drove on.
Mossie Nugent was the Intelligence Officer of the mountain- based Company that was the driving force inside the East Tyrone Brigade.
The men from Altmore mountain dictated everything that went on in East Tyrone. And the Intelligence Officer would never have been stupid enough, knowing that he and his car were Charlie One, to carry a weapon, explosives, ammunition, or documents. He had been going to meet his O.C. They were careful now, all of them, the officers and the volunteers on Altmore. Too many roadblocks, too much military presence. He had been going for a talk. Not any more, not once he had been through a vehicle check point.
He drove to the shop in the village. He bought three tins of baked beans, and a sliced loaf, and a pound of sausages.
And he was stopped again and questioned again on his way back home. When he was let through, he waved to Pakkie Henty whose sileage trailer was still being searched.
The Commander sat straight in his chair, a cup of tea on the table beside him.
"What I can tell you, sir, is that every resource available to me is currently deployed in the hunt for this man. There is absolutely no complacency in SO 13. What it comes down to is patience . . .
" . . . Over the last three years we have recovered four lists of targets, and they added up to 210 persons and locations. Currently I have 172 of those under some form of surveillance. As I told you at the time, when your Parliamentary colleague was killed, he had attended a public meeting without notifying us. Two of the earlier bombs were against targets that had not figured on any previous list. Mr Tennyson was on one of the lists, but was not provided with protection because it was not thought he was a priority to our e n e m y . . . "
There was a sharp intake whistle of breath from the Prime Minister.
The Commander could happily have kicked himself. The last thing he wanted was for the Prime Minister to chide him for not regarding the lives of Tennyson and his family as 'priority'.
" . . . They have patience, we have to demonstrate the same quality.
Because he is intelligent, he will know that his chances of survival become slimmer with every hit. He has made one mistake a lr e a d y
. . . "
The mistake had been on the second attack. The victim, the target, the poor bastard who hadn't done anything worth dying for, had been the principal editorial writer for a tabloid newspaper, and had, late at night, answered the door bell at his mistress's flat. At a range of three feet he had been blasted back across the hallway by five shots, fired semiautomatic from a Kalashnikov rifle. Scenes of Crime had put it together rather well. He had picked up the ejected cartridge cases. He would have been wearing gloves, his hands would have been awkward. Scenes of Crime reckoned that he had shoved the cartridge cases probably into a hip pocket, and in pulling his hand back out he brought with it a £5
note. Probably his hip pocket because he hadn't seen the folded note fall to the floor. Everybody in the block fingerprinted, every regular tradesman, and the pristine thumbprint sent across the water to the R.U.C.
" . . . We have a name, we have evidence, we have a four-year-
old photograph. It's just a matter of time, Prime Minister."
The Commander saw the tired and wan face of the Prime Minister.
He sipped quietly at his tea.
"It's just that we seem so helpless."
"Oh, we'll get him. Some day, some place."
The anger started to the Prime Minister's face, the blood coursed through his cheek veins, bulged corridors on his forehead. "When will you get him, where?"
The Commander had been back eleven days from Belfast. He had been taken for a helicopter ride. Three thousand feet up, rolling in a Lynx, clear of the range of a 12.7 mm heavy machine- gun, he had been shown the small farms, the close-set villages, and the bleak gale-swept landscape.
"When? When he comes home . . . Where? Where he's from, Altmore Mountain."