Jack Higgins – The Savage Day

Lucas and his friend reached the opposite pavement and paused behind a parked car, where Lucas produced a Schmeisser machine pistol from beneath his raincoat and sprayed the machine-gun post.

In the same moment, his friend ran out into the open and tossed the attach^ case in an arc through the rain and muffed things disastrously, for instead of dropping inside the machine-gun post, the case bounced from the sandbags to the gutter.

The two of them ran like hell for the shelter of the nearest side street and made it, the Highlanders being unable to open up with their machine-gun for the simple reason that the square seemed to be suddenly filled with panic-stricken people running everywhere.

The case exploded a split second later, taking out half of the front of the machine-gun post, dissolving every window in the square in a snowstorm of flying glass.

People were running, screaming, some on their hands and knees, faces streaming with blood, cut by the flying glass. One of the cars at the pedestrian crossing had been blown on to its side, the crossing itself had been swept clean.

Norah Murphy ran out into the square in what I believe was a purely reflex action and Binnie and I followed her towards the car which had turned over. A man was trying to climb out through the shattered side window, his face streaked with blood. I hauled him through and he slipped to the ground and rolled over on his back.

The woman who had been pushing the pram on the

j6The Savage Day

pedestrian crossing, was sprawled across the bonnet of the second car, half the clothes torn off her. From the condition of the rest of her she couldn’t be anything else but dead. The young couple who had been behind her were in the gutter on the far side of the road, people clustering round.

The pram was miraculously intact, lying against the wall, but when I righted it, the condition of the baby still strapped inside, was beyond description. The only good thing one could say was that death must have been instantaneous.

Norah Murphy was on her knees in the gutter beside the little girl who only a few moments before had gaily trotted beside her sister’s pram. She was badly injured, smeared with blood and dust, but still alive.

Norah opened her case and took out a hypodermic. As troops emerged cautiously from the police station she gave the child an injection and said calmly, ‘Get out of it, Binnie, before they cordon off the whole area. Get to Kelly’s if you can. Take the Major with you. He’s too valuable to lose now. I’ll see you there later.’

Binnie gazed down at the child, those dark eyes blazing, and then he did a strange thing. He reached for one of the limp hands and held it tightly for a moment.

‘The bastards,’ he said softly.

A Saracen swept into the square on the far side and braked to a halt, effectively blocking the street.

‘Will you get out of it, Binnie,’ she said.

I jerked him to his feet. He stood looking down for a moment, not at her, but at the child, then turned and moved across the square away from the Saracen without a word. I went after him quickly and he turned into a narrow alley and started to run. I followed at his heels and we twisted and turned through a dark rabbit warren

of mean streets, the sounds from the square growing fainter although never actually fading away altogether.

We finally came to the banks of a narrow canal of some description, moved along the towpath past an old iron footbridge and turned into an entry. There was a high wooden gate at the end with a lamp bracketed to the wall above it. A faded sign readKelly’s for Scrap. Binnie opened the judas and I followed him through.

There was a small yard inside, another lamp high on the wall of the house giving plenty of illumination, which made sense for all sorts of reasons if this was a place of refuge, as I suspected.

Binnie knocked on the back door. After a while, steps approached and he said in a low voice, ‘It’s me, Binnie.’

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