Authors: Gerald Seymour
Tags: #Thriller; war; crime; espionage
Mossie explained. The police inspector, three years at the Coalisland barracks, eighteen years in the Royal Ulster Constabulary, had taken to hitting golf balls in the field behind his home. He had a dog, a spaniel, that could retrieve game and now was trained to bring him back his golf balls. Most Saturday mornings, early, just after dawn, the police inspector went into the field with his clubs and his balls and his dog and hit his shots for a good half an hour before driving off to play the Dungannon course.
They spoke in low voices. On his close plan Mossie had sketched in where the back-up car would wait. It would be 200 yards from a spinney of silver birches along two hedgerows, past a crumbling cow byre, skirting a final field before reaching a firing position. The shooting range would be 40 yards. Mossie said they would be in the car before the policeman's woman and his kids had gotten out of the house to see what had happened and then back inside to phone or radio through.
That was Mossie's work, to find the targets, co-ordinate the reconnaissance and draw up a bare tactical plan. He alone had worked on the plan. No one other than the O.C. would decide whether it should go ahead, and who should be involved. Only the Quartermaster would know what weapons were to be used, where they were currently hidden. It was the cell system that guaranteed their security.
The map was unmarked, that would go back into the glove compartment of the O.C.'s car. He unfastened his belt, unzipped his trousers and let them fall. He dropped his underpants. He stood, white legs in front of the fire, and folded the plan tight and small and then attached it with a strip of elastoplast to the inside of his groin.
The O.C. pulled up his underpants and his trousers. He was fastening his belt. "You happy?"
"If they get out fast enough."
"I saw him myself last Saturday, but what I hear is that he's been out like that the past four Saturdays."
There was the grim smile on the O.C.'s face. "They did the tout proper, the Castlewellan fecker."
"But too good for him, too quick."
"The Dignan bastard should have been hurt more," Mossie said.
All the families on the mountain knew the figures. Nine volunteers arrested the year previous, eleven more held by the army and the police that year and the year not yet finished.
The Castlewellan tout had been in South Down Brigade. And there had been a tout eight months back found in East Belfast, dead. And eighteen months back another tout in Derry Brigade, dead . . . There had never been a tout found in East Tyrone. Tout hunts, yes . . . Every last man in the Brigade under suspicion after the Loughgall ambush, women too. There had never been a tout positively identified in East Tyrone.
"Myself," Mossie said, "if I ever got my hands on a tout I'd skin the back off him. They'd hear him scream in feckin' London."
They ran the same route but at a less frantic speed, and P.T.I. Terry cradled a stopwatch in the palm of his hand, and all through the press-ups and knee bends and squat thrusts he stood over Bren and shouted encouragement. It was how it should have been the first morning. At the end of the session there wasn't praise, but there wasn't criticism. Bren could live with that.
Jocelyn had come the previous late afternoon. The first thing he had done after sliding his head round the sitting-room door and announcing his arrival to Ronnie, had been to search out George and demand a good garden spade. Jocelyn had skipped supper and there had been a flashlight beam half the evening out in the garden beyond the vegetable patch. All the time that Ronnie and Bren had been in the sitting room, Ronnie talking and Bren listening, the light had shone down in the vegetable patch. When he had finally come back inside, Jocelyn, with the brushed-back sandy hair, had gone straight to his bath and had not reappeared.
After his hour with P.T.I. Terry, Bren was still panting, still sweating.
He was told to pull a set of heavy dungarees over his track suit. He was led to the vegetable patch. The cabbages were doing well, and the sprouts would soon be ready for collecting, and the parsnips were about ready for lifting. Bren knew about vegetables because his parents' entire back garden was given over to vegetables. Mr Jocelyn opened the wooden box that he had carried. Bren saw, fitted into the moulded casing, two service pistols, and when he looked up, looked around him, he saw two man-shaped targets, one thirty yards away, half behind an oak tree, the second beyond the vegetable patch and mostly concealed by the bramble growth up the old stone wall. In front of Bren was a hole, neatly dug, not more than ten inches across, and back against the wall and nearer than the second target were nine filled fertiliser bags.
Jocelyn would have had access to his file. Bren had done live firing on a range on the last day of the rural surveillance course. He had done live firing and rural surveillance after unarmed combat, before electronic bugging, after Arabic language, before urban surveillance. All of them on the course, and Bren had caught the mood from the others, had treated live firing as a bit of a joke.
Curtly, Jocelyn talked Bren through the exercise.
The hole was the start. Beyond the hole, Jocelyn knelt and lifted off the turf. The turf had been laid on planks. Below the wood was a trench, six feet by two, and eighteen inches deep, lined with old carpet. That was a hide. He was told that the earth and stones had been dug out, filling nine fertiliser bags; he would have to carry at least nine bags' worth of earth and stone a clear mile from a dug hide, and then spread them where they would never be noticed. He dropped down into the space and Jocelyn replaced the wood strips and eased the turfs back over him. He lay on the side of his rib cage and propped himself on his elbow and the brow of his head peeped through the end hole and above the level of the ground. Jocelyn caught his hair, held his head steady, smeared his face and his hair with the soil of the vegetable patch, then kicked leaves over him. He was asked if he was comfortable and his answer didn't seem to matter. He was told that the minimum he would have to spend in such a position was twenty-four hours, and the maximum was seventy-two hours. He wasn't asked if he thought he could
just told to keep a sharp look-out and stay invisible. At the end of the first hour, after the numbness had set into his legs, after the ache had started in the shoulder that took his weight, after he had just about decided to piss in the trench, after the two target shapes had merged away into the trunk of the oak and the screen of the brambles . . . Christ, shit ... a hand in his hair ... a fist pulling him up from the hole ... his scalp alive with the pain and not able to force his hands up to protect himself . . .
"Wake up, young man, or you'll wake up dead."
Bren sagged in disgust. He hadn't had the slightest warning of Jocelyn's approach.
He was told it would be live firing. His eye line was Jocelyn's boots. He looked up and watched as the bullets were taken from done live firing on a range on the last day of the rural surveillance course. He had done live firing and rural surveillance after unarmed combat, before Jocelyn's pockets and loaded into the magazines of one of the service pistols. He could have done that, although his were now filthy. He was handed the pistol,
"Simulated attack on your hide, where you are, better believe me, vulnerable . . . Without warning I will run at the hide, you will put down defensive fire on the two static targets, and fast. And you will not forget, my old darling, that these are live rounds. The two static targets represent a lethal enemy. I am not attempting to commit suicide, I am merely trying to create a real situation, so just be slightly careful. Don’t mess me. When I start running, you shoot for your life. Simple enough?'"
Jocelyn drifted away. The numbness in his legs seemed to bother him less, and the ache in his shoulder was forgotten. The rich musty smell of the earth was around him. He watched a robin take a worm. He heard George barking orders at the dog, hideous brute. He was aware of the occasional traffic on the road beyond the gates. He held the gun tight. He saw Mrs Ferguson come out to the line stretched from the back door to the trunk of a sycamore and hang her washing out. He saw everything that moved. He saw Ronnie come out of the front door with a bucket of water and start to soap down the Sierra. He saw P.T.I Terry wandering out onto the lawn with a quarter of a loaf and begin to scatter it for the birds and squirrels. He understood. They had all been sent out to distract him, one after the other. Where was the bastard?
Had to stretch his eyes to see the two target shapes and behind them was just the grey background of a wall and the darker background of the trees, Time was slipping by. Where was the bastard?
O.K., good game, game getting boring. How much bloody longer?
George throwing a ball for the dog, better keep the fiend well away from the vegetable patch or he'd be one dog short in a hurry. Mrs Ferguson bringing her washing back in. Ronnie hoovering away inside the Sierra. Two squirrels and four starlings competing for P.T.I. Terry's bread. And then, he saw him . . . He was meant to see him.
The shape in the bulky combat jacket coming through the trees. He hated th e bloody m a n God ro t t h e bastard. Pistol u p , pistol at his eye line, pistol on the moving figure and then the further target.
Remembering what he had been told. The moving figure past the target, going wide of it. Shoot the bastard. The hammer of the pistol in his ear. The further target, the moving figure, the nearer target. The whiplash of the pistol like it might take his arm out of the shoulder socket. The nearer target, the moving figure, the further target.
An awful silence around him. His finger was still squeezing the trigger. The ejected cases were beside his forehead.
The dog straining against a leash, George bellowing at him to be quiet.
Mrs Ferguson abandoning her basket and moving smartly towards the kitchen door.
Ronnie gone to ground already.
Jocelyn stood above him, contempt in his eyes. The index finger of his right hand pointed to the hole in the bulging side of his combat tunic.
"You're a right little pillock, you know that? You have one hit on the Target A, not in a stop position. You have three hits on Target B, one of which, give you the benefit of the doubt, might have dropped the man. The nearest you got to a proper hit was this . . ."
Jocelyn's finger jabbed at the neat hole. Three inches right and it would have been a proper hit.
"Glad I got one fucking thing right," Bren said.
Bren thought that he had actually frightened the man.
Jocelyn said, "My advice, if there's any real shooting to be done, leave it to Parker."
He had the only key to the room in the house in Hackney, upstairs and overlooking the back yard. Inside the room, taped to the underside of the mattress were the keys to the Escort. There was a young couple, over from County Cork more than a year, who rented the house and used the front room upstairs and all of the ground floor. The room was Jon Jo's and, when he needed it, the car.
It would have been possible to keep the rifle and the explosives at the Hackney address, but the word in the Organisation these days was that firearms and explosives had to be kept in caches. If the couple from County Cork were turned over, then at least the hardware stayed intact.
His principal cache was hidden in the forest area between Crowthorne and Bagshot.
It was the time of greatest risk. The cache itself was brilliant. The top of the dustbin was three inches below ground level, and that was under a splayed and hall capsized holly tree. He'd taken three days to dig it, twice being unlucky with roots when he was far down into the hole. It was a good position, but once he had seen a man walking a dog not fifty yards away and the lid of the dustbin had been open, and he had, Christ, frozen. And in the autumn, when it was still warm, he had had to lie off the cache for an hour because there was a couple, men, screwing within sight of the holly tree. He was most vulnerable there because a hundred policemen could have dug in, within 200 metres of where his dustbin was buried.
He had circled the cache, the first time at a radius of 300 yards. A long way down the rough forestry track, he had seen the back of a bird watcher. The second time he came closer, within 100 yards of the cache. Each time was a risk. The cache on the Welsh coast had been watched for seven weeks by more than eighty policemen, .and two good men had been taken, gone down for thirty years. A cache had been found at Pangbourne and more men doing time,
They might shout, they might just shoot, probably they'd shout On the ground, a revolver in his ear, handcuffs on his wrists, they probably wouldn't shoot.
Thirty year s he was looking at, each time he came to a cache.
Jon Jo scuffed the earth and the leaf mould clear. Between the lid and the dustbin there was a minute piece of black insulating tape He knew exactly where it should be. That way he would he would know if the cache had been interfered with. Sometimes if a cache was found they would burrow a homing device into a weapon, or they would disarm it, or they would replace the explosive with a harmless look alike compound, or they would screw up the detonators. Mostly they would lift, or kill, whoever came to collect the weapons.
In the dustbin, in separate plastic bags sealed at the neck, were two car bombs, a larger bomb for a building, and a Kalashnikov A.K.47
assault rifle. At the bottom of the dustbin were six loaded magazines for the rifle. Heh, and the dustbin had been filled when he had started out ten weeks before ... It was like a larder at the end of the week.
He took out the rifle and two magazines.
He replaced the lid, sealed it again with black insulating tape. He pushed back the soil and the dead leaves.
Jon Jo kept watch and listened for a quarter of an hour before he crawled out from under the spread of the holly tree.