‘My hunch is no, but I couldn’t be definite at this stage. You could always try pulling out her fingernails.’
‘Your sense of humour will be the death of you one of these fine days, Simon, just like your father. Did I ever tell you that I knew him back in the old days in India?’
‘Is that so ?’
He dropped into that brown study of his again. I said patiently, ‘All right, sir, what happens now ?’
He drained his glass, rolled the kst of the whisky around his tongue. ‘That’s easy enough.’ He glanced at his watch. ‘It’s just after seven-thirty. At nine o’clock precisely, I’m taking the three of you back to Belfast with me, escorted by Captain Stacey and Sergeant Grey.’
‘Do we get there ?’
‘Of course not. About ten miles out on the road to Ballymena we’ll have engine trouble.’
‘Which means that Stacey and Sergeant Grey will know what they’re about?’
‘Exactly. I’ll come round to the rear of the vehicle to check your handcuffs, giving you an excellent chance to grab my Browning. Only make damn sure it’s you and not that lad. From the way he’s been carrying on he’d leave the three of us lying in the nearest ditch.’
‘You play the game as the cards fall. If you want me, you get in touch with the following Belfast telephone number. It’ll be manned day and night.’
He gave it to me and I memorized it quickly. ‘And the bullion is still number one on the agenda?’
‘Followed by the apprehension of Michael Cork
himself, with Frank Barry and his men number three.’
I stood up. ‘That’s about it, then.’
He chuckled suddenly as if to himself. ‘Sons of Erin. Why on earth do they choose such ridiculous, bloody names ?’
‘You know how it is,’ I said. “The Celtic Twilight and all that sort of rubbish.’
‘You know you really have got me wrong, my boy,’ he said. ‘I like the Irish. No, I do. Finest soldiers in the world.’
‘Next to the English, of course.’
‘Well, as a matter of fact, I was going to give pride of place to the Germans. Terribly unpatriotic, I know, but truth must out.’
I retired, defeated, and Sergeant Grey took me back to my cell.
Norah Murphy was standing at the window peering out into the night when I went in. There was no sign of Binnie.
She said, ‘What happened?’
‘I had a chat with the Brigadier. Ferguson his name is. Very pleasant. What about you ?’
‘Captain Stacey. Cigarettes, coffee and lots of public school charm. I just kept asking for the American consul. He gave up in the end. He’s talking to Binnie now.’
‘He won’t get very far there.’
She sat down on the bed, crossed one knee over the other and looked up at me. ‘What did you tell the Brigadier, then ?’
‘That I’d hired theKathleen in Oban and that as far as I was concerned, any bullet holes must date from some previous occasion. I also told him in confidence, one
gentleman to another, that you and I were very much in love and that the passage to Stramore had been designed as a kind of pre-wedding honeymoon trip, just to make certain we were physically suited.’
There was that look on her face again of helpless rage and yet there was something else in her eyes – something indefinable.
I crouched down in front of her and kid my manacled hands on her knees. ‘Actually, I’d say the idea had a great deal to commend it.’
And once again, the humour welled up from deep inside her, breaking the mask into a hundred pieces. She laughed harshly and cupped my face in her two hands. ‘You bastard, Vaughan, what am I going to do with you ?’
‘You could try kissing me.’
Which she did, but before I could appreciate the full subtlety of the performance, the key rattled in the lock. I got to my feet as the door opened and Binnie and Captain Stacey entered, followed by the Brigadier.
Binnie moved to join us and Norah stood up so that we confronted them in a tight little group. The Brigadier brushed his moustache with the back of a finger.