‘I said I was a writer. Belfast was beginning to get me down and I felt in urgent need of a little peace and quiet, I used the name Berger, by the way, just in case.’
I nodded. It all sounds pretty neat to me.’
He looked out across the Firth a trifle dubiously as rain drummed against the roof of the cabin with renewed vigour. ‘Do you really think you’ll get across tonight ? It doesn’t look too good.’
‘According to the Met forecast, things should ease up considerably during the early evening, and even if they
don’t, we’ll still make it. This boat was built to stand most things.’
There was a sudden hail across the water.’Kathleen, ahoy!’
Norah Murphy and Binnie Gallagher were standing on the jetty beside a taxi.
Meyer said, ‘Take me across with you and I’ll be on my way. I don’t want to talk to her any more than I can help.’
He went below to get his hat and coat and when he returned he was stowing Al Bowlly away in his briefcase. I helped him over the rail, slipped the line and joined him.
His face was very pale as I started the outboard. I said, ‘Look, it’s going to be all right. I promise you.’
‘Is that so ?’ he demanded. ‘Then tell me why I feel like I’m lying in my grave listening to earth rattling against the lid of my coffin.’
I couldn’t think of a single thing to say that would have done any good. In any case, we were already coming in to the steps at the bottom of the jetty.
I stayed to tie up the dinghy and Meyer went up ahead of me to where Norah Murphy and Binnie waited beside the taxi. The boy was dressed exactly as he had been on that rather memorable night in Belfast, but Norah Murphy herself was all togged up for Cowes week in a yellow oilskin. Underneath she wore a navy blue Guernsey sweater, slacks and rubber boots.
Meyer turned to me as I arrived. Tm just making my excuses to Dr Murphy, Simon, but I really must get moving now or I’ll miss my plane.’
‘I’ll be seeing you soon,’ I said and shook hands.
He got into the taxi quickly. The driver passed out a suitcase to Binnie, then drove away.
Norah Murphy said coolly, ‘So here we are again, Major.’
‘So it would appear.’
I led the way down the steps to the dinghy and Binnie followed with the case. He didn’t look too happy, but he got in after a moment’s hesitation and sat in the prow. Norah Murphy perched herself in the stern beside me.
As we pulled away she said casually, ‘It’s going to be a dirty night. Is the boat up to it ?’
‘Have you done much sailing?’
‘One of my aunts was married to a retired sea captain. They had a house near Cape Cod.’
‘Then you should have learned by now not to be taken in by top show. Take theKafb/een. Underneath that rather drab coat of grey paint there’s a steel hull by Aker-boon.’
‘Only the best.5 She looked suitably impressed. ‘How is she powered ?’
Tenta petrol engine. Twin screws. She’ll do about twenty-five knots at full stretch. Depth sounder, radar, automatic steering. She’s got the lot.’
I cut the motor and we coasted in. Norah Murphy took the line and went over the rail nimbly enough. Binnie was nothing like so agile and from the look on his face it was obvious that he was going to have a bad night of it whatever happened.
He was like a fish out of water. In fact, I doubt if he had ever been on a boat, certainly a small boat of that type, in his life before. When he took off that sinister black overcoat of his he looked younger than ever and the clothes he wore didn’t help. A stiff white collar a size too krge for him, a knitted tie and an ill-fitting double-breasted suit of clerical grey.
Norah Murphy opened one of the saloon cupboards to hang the coat up for him and found a neopryne wet suit, flippers and mask and an aqualung inside.