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Jack Higgins – The Savage Day

Binnie swung a punch at him which Barry blocked easily and Tim Pat got an arm about the boy’s throat and squeezed.

‘I’ve told you before, Norah,’ Barry said, shaking his head. ‘You should never use a boy when a man’s work is needed.’

I think she could have killed him then. Certainly she looked capable of it, eyes hot in that pale face of hers, but always there was that iron control. God knows what was needed to break her, but I doubted whether Barry was capable.

He shrugged, lit a cigarette, turning to me as he flicked the match over the rail. ‘Now you, Major/ he said, ‘look like a sensible man to me.

‘And where exactly does that get us ?’

‘To you telling me where you’ve got the stuff stowed away. We’ll find it in the end, but I’d rather it was sooner than later and Tim Pat here’s the terrible impatient one if he’s kept waiting.’

Which seemed more than likely from the look of him, so I volunteered the necessary information.

‘That’s what I like about the English,’ he said. ‘You’re always so bloody reasonable.’ He nodded to Tim Pat. ‘Put them in the aft cabin for the time being and let’s get moving. I want that gear transferred and us out of it in fifteen minutes at the outside.’

He snapped his fingers and another half a dozen men, all in British naval uniform, came over the rail, but by then Tim Pat was already herding us towards the com-panionway. He took us below, shoved us into the big aft cabin and locked us in.

I stood at the door listening to the bustle in the saloon, then turned to face my companions. ‘And who might this little lot be?’

‘The walking ape is Tim Pat Keogh,’ Binnie said violently, ‘and one of these days…’

‘Cool it, Binnie,’ Norah Murphy cut in on him sharply. “That kind of talk isn’t going to help one little bit.’ She turned back to me. ‘The boss man is Frank Barry. He was my uncle’s right-hand man until six or seven months ago, then he decided to go his own way.’

‘Whatishe-aProvo?’

She shook her head. ‘No, he runs his own show. The Sons of Erin, they call themselves. I believe there was a revolutionary organization under that name in Fenian times.’

‘He seems to be remarkably well informed,’ I said. ‘What else do he and his men get up to besides this kind of thing?’

‘They’d shoot the Pope if they thought it was necessary,’ Binnie said.

I glanced at Norah Murphy in some surprise and she shrugged. ‘And they’re all good Catholic boys except for Barry himself. Remember the Stern gang in Palestine? Well, the Sons of Erin are exactly the same. They believe in the purity of violence if the cause is just.’

‘So anything goes? The bomb in the cafd? Women, kids, the lot?’

‘That’s the general idea.’

‘Well, it’s a point of view, I suppose.’

*Not in my book, it isn’t,’ Binnie said quietly. “There’s got to be another way – has to be or there’s no point to any of it.’

Which was the kind of remark that had roughly the same effect on one as being hit by a very light truck. The Brigadier had once accused me of being the kst of the romantics, but I wasn’t even in the running for that title with Binnie around.

The door opened and Frank Barry appeared, a bottle of my Jameson in one hand, four tin mugs from the galley hanging from his fingers. Behind him, they were passing the Lahtis out of the other cabin and up the companionway.

‘By God, Major Vaughan, but you deal in good stuff and I don’t just mean your whiskey,’ he said. ‘Those Lahtis are the meanest-looking thing I’ve seen in many a long day. I can’t wait to try one out on a Weasel armoured car.’

‘We aim to please,’ I said. ‘The motto of the firm.’

‘I only hope you’ve had your money.’

He splashed whiskey into all four mugs. Norah and Binnie stood firm, but it seemed to me likely to be cold where I was going so I emptied one at a swallow and helped myself to another.

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