Jack Higgins – A Prayer for the Dying
Jack Higgins – A Prayer for the Dying
When the police car turned the corner at the end of the street Fallon stepped into the nearest doorway instinctively and waited for it to pass. He gave it a couple of minutes and then continued on his way, turning up his collar as it started to rain.
He walked on towards the docks keeping to the shadows, his hands pushed deep into the pockets of his dark-blue trench coat, a small dark man of five feet four or five who seemed to drift rather than walk.
A ship eased down from the Pool of London sounding its foghorn strange, haunting – the last of the dinosaurs moving aimlessly through some primeval swamp, alone in a world already alien. It suited his mood perfectly.
There was a warehouse at the end of the street facing out across the river. The sign said Janos Kristou – Importer. Fallon opened the little judas gate in the main entrance and stepped inside.
The place was crammed with bales and packing cases of every description. It was very dark, but there was a light at the far end and he moved towards it. A man sat at a trestle table beneath a naked light bulb and wrote laboriously in a large, old-fashioned ledger. He had lost most of his hair and what was left stuck out in a dirty white fringe. He wore an old sheepskin jacket and woolen mittens.
Fallon took a cautious step forward and the old man said without turning round, “Martin, is that you?”
Fallon moved into the pool of light and paused beside the table. “Hello, Kristou.”
There was a wooden case on the floor beside him and the top was loose. Fallon raised it and took out a Sterling sub-machine-gun thick with protective grease.
“Still at it, I see. Who’s this for? The Israelis or the Arabs or have you actually started taking sides?”
Kristou leaned across, took the Sterling from him and dropped it back into the box “I didn’t make the world the way it is,” he said.
“Maybe not, but you certainly helped it along the way.” Fallon lit a cigarette. “I heard you wanted to see me.”
Kristou put down his pen and looked up at him speculatively. His face was very old, the parchment-coloured skin seamed with wrinkles, but the blue eyes were alert and intelligent.
He said, “You don’t look too good, Martin.”
“I’ve never felt better,” Fallon told him. “Now what about my passport?”
Kristou smiled amiably. “You look as if you could do with a drink.” He took a bottle and two paper cups from a drawer. Irish whiskey – the best. Just to make you feel at home.”
Fallon hesitated and then took one of the cups. Kristou raised the other. “May you die in Ireland. Isn’t that what they say?”
Fallon swallowed the whiskey down and crushed the paper cup in his right hand. “My passport,” he said softly.
Kristou said, “In a sense it’s out of my hands, Martin. I mean to say, you turning out to be so much in demand in certain quarters – that alters things.”
Fallon went round to the other side of the table and stood there for a moment, head bowed, hands thrust deep into the pockets of the blue trench coat. And then he looked up very slowly, dark empty eyes burning in the white face.
If you’re trying to put the screw on me, old man, forget it. I gave you everything I had.”
Kristou’s heart missed a beat. There was a cold stirring in his bowels. “God help me, Martin,” he said, “but with a hood on you’d look like Death himself.”
Fallon stood there, eyes like black glass staring through and beyond and then suddenly, something seemed to go out of
him. He turned as if to leave. Kristou said quickly, “There is a way.” Fallon hesitated. “And what would that be?” “Your passport, a berth on a cargo boat leaving Hull for
Australia, Sunday night.” He paused. “And two thousand
pounds in your pocket to give you a fresh start.” Fallon said incredulously. “What do I have to do? Kill