Jack Higgins – The Savage Day

After he’d gone, a couple of his men took us in through the same door. There was a long, dark, flagged passage inside, presumably to the kitchen quarters. At the far end

a flight of stairs obviously gave access to the rest of the house. There was a stout oaken door beside it, which one of the men opened to disclose steps leading into darkness. He switched on a light and we went down. There was a series of cellars below, one leading into another, and there were wine racks everywhere although most of them were empty.

We finally arrived at what looked suspiciously like a cell door straight out of some Victorian prison, for it was sheathed in iron plate and secured by steel bolts so krge that the guard who opened them needed two’ hands.

A cell indeed it was as we found when we went in. Bare, lime-washed walls oozing damp, no window of any description, an iron cot with no mattress, a wooden table and two stools.

The door shut, the bolts rammed home solidly, the steps of the two guards faded away along the passage outside. There was a zinc bucket in one corner, presumably for the purposes of nature, and I gave it a kick.

‘Every modern convenience.’

Binnie sat on the edge of the bed, the Brigadier limped to one of the stools and sat down, massaging the back of his neck.

‘Are you all right, sir?’ I asked politely.

‘No thanks to you.’

He glared up at me and I said, If I hadn’t done what I did, you’d be dead meat by now. Be reasonable.’

I managed to fish out my cigarettes with some difficulty as I was still handcuffed and offered him one.

‘Go to the devil,’ he said.

I turned to Binnie and grinned. ‘No pleasing some people.’

But he simply lay down on the bare springs of the cot

without a word, staring up at the ceiling, unable, I suspect, to get Norah Murphy out of his mind.

I managed to light a cigarette then sat down against the wall, suddenly rather tired. When I looked across at the Brigadier his right eyelid moved fractionally.

It must have been about an hour later that the door was unbolted and a couple of men entered, both of them armed with Sterling sub-machine-guns. One of them jerked his thumb at me without a word, a squat, powerful-looking individual whose outstanding feature was the absence of hair on his skull. I went out, the door was closed and bolted again, and we set off in echelon through the cellars, the gentleman with the bald head leading the way.

When we reached the kitchen area again we kept right on going, taking the next flight of stairs, coming out through a green baize door at the top into an enormous entrance hall, all pillars and Greek statues, a great marble staircase drifting up into the half darkness above our heads.

We mounted that, too, turned along a wide corridor at the top and climbed into two more flights of stairs, the last being narrow enough for only one man at a time.

When the final door opened I found myself on the battlements at the front of the house. Frank Barry sat at a small konwork table at the far end. I caught the fragrance of cigar smoke as I approached and there was a glass in his hand.

I could see him clearly enough in the moonlight and he smiled. ‘Well, what do you think of it, Major? The finest view in Ireland, I always say. You can see the whole of the North Antrim coast from here.’

It was certainly spectacular enough and in the silvery moonlight it was possible to see far, far out to sea, the lights of some ship or other moving through the passage between the mainland and Rathlin.

He took a bottle dripping with water from a bucket on the floor beside him. ‘A -glass of wine, Major ? Sancerre. One of my favourites. There’s still two or three dozen left in the cellar.’

I held up my wrists and he smiled with that immense charm of his. ‘There I go again, completely forgetting my manners.’

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Categories: Higgins, Jack