‘The Small Man won’t be pleased by this night’s work,’ Barry said to Norah.
‘At a guess I’d say he’ll have your hide and nail it to the door.’
‘Chance would be a fine thing.’
He toasted her, mug raised, that slight mocking smile hooked firmly into place, an immensely likeable human being in every way or so he appeared at that first meeting, and it seemed to me more than a probability that he would be the end of me in the near future if I did not get to him first.
Tim Pat appeared in the doorway behind him. ‘We’re ready to go, Frank.’
Barry drained his mug, then turned casually without another word to us. ‘Bring them up,’ he said and went out.
Norah followed him and I paused long enough to let Binnie go in front of me. As we went up the companion-way I stumbled against him as if losing my footing and
muttered quickly, ‘We’ll only get one chance, if that, so be ready.’
He didn’t even glance over his shoulder as he moved out on deck and Tim Pat gave me a shove after him. Barry was standing by the rail, lighting another cigarette with some difficulty because of the heavy rain.
He nodded to Tim Pat. ‘Get Norah on board. We haven’t much time.’
She rushed forward as if to argue and Tim Pat handed his Thompson to one of the other men, grabbed her by the waist and lifted her bodily over the rail of the MTB. Then he climbed up to join her.
Binnie and I stood waiting for sentence in the heavy rain. There was only Barry, and the two original ratings who had first boarded us left now, one of them holding the Thompson.
‘Now what ?’ I said.
Barry shrugged. ‘That depends.’ He turned to Binnie. ‘I could use you, boy. You’re still the best natural shot with a handgun I ever did see.’
Binnie’s hair was plastered to his forehead and he looked very young. He said quietly, but so clearly that everyone on the MTB must have heard it, ‘I wouldn’t sit on your deathbed.’
Barry didn’t stop smiling for a moment. Simply shrugged. ‘All right, Major, get back in the wheelhouse, start her up and move out to sea again. We’ll follow and when I give the signal, you’ll cut your engines and open the sea cocks.’
He clambered up over the MTB’s rail. One of the ratings rammed a Browning into my side so I took the hint and moved along the deck into the wheel-house.
The MTB’s powerful engines rumbled into life. The
Browning dug pointedly into my ribs again and I pressed the starter button and looked out of the side window. Barry was walking across the deck to the short ladder which led up to the bridge. Norah ran after him and grabbed him by the arm.
I heard her cry, ‘No, you shan’t. I won’t let you.’
He had her by both arms now and kughed softly as she started to struggle. ‘By God, Norah, but you have your nerve. All right, just to please you.’ He turned to Tim Pat Keogh. ‘I’ve changed my mind about Binnie. Pipe him on board.’
I leaned out of the window. ‘And what about me, then?’
He paused half way up the ladder and turned to smile at me. ‘Why, damn me, Major, but I just took it for granted that the sum total of any real captain’s ambition was to go down with his ship.’
‘We definitely operate on the same wavelength. That’s exactly what I thought you’d say,’ I called, and added cheerfully, ‘The big moment, Binnie.’
I put my left hand on the wheel, my right went under the chart table, found my secret button and pressed. The flap fell and I had the Mauser and shot my guard through the head at point-blank range, all in one continuous movement.
The silencer was really very effective, the only noise a dull thud audible at a range of three yards. The other guard was in the process of urging Binnie towards the rail, prodding him with the barrel of the Thompson.