He looked at me closely, ‘And what do you believe in, Vaughan ?’
‘Nothing. I can’t afford to.’
‘A man after my own heart.’ He turned to Dooley and jerked his thumb downwards. ‘Takehim back to the others for now.’
He picked up the candelabrum and went upstairs. I stood watching him for a moment, then Dooley put the muzzle of the Sterling in my back and prodded me towards the door.
When I was returned to the cell, Binnie was fast asleep on the cot, his head to one side, mouth slightly open. When the door closed, he stirred slightly, but did not waken. The Brigadier put a finger to his lips, moved to check that the boy was genuinely asleep, then crossed to the table and we both sat down.
‘A pretty kettle offish,’ he said. ‘What’s been happening to you ?’
I told him and in detail, for in some way almost everything Barry had said to me seemed important, if only because of the way in which it threw some light on the man himself.
When I’d finished, the Brigadier nodded. ‘It makes sense that he would ask you to go to Oban. After all, you’re on call to the highest bidder as far as he knows and you couldn’t very well go running to the police.’
‘He said he’ll be seeing me later, presumably to discuss the deal further. What do I say?’
*You accept, of course, all along the line.’
‘And what about you?’
‘God knows. What do you think he’d do if you told GHQ where I was and they sent the Royal Marine Commandos to get me out.’
‘He’d use you as a hostage. Try to bargain.’
‘And if that failed, and it would fail because the moment the government gives in to that kind of blackmail it’s finished, what would he do then ?’
Tut a bullet through your head.’
The bolts rattled again, the door was flung open with a crash that brought Binnie up off the cot to his feet. He stood there, swaying slightly, wiping sleep from his eyes with the back of a hand.
Dooley was back again with a couple of men this time. ‘Outside, all of you,’ one of them ordered roughly.
We followed the same route as before, up through the green baize door to the hall, then mounted the marble stairs to the main landing and turned along the corridor. We paused at another of those tall double doors, Dooley opened it and led the way in.
It was a rather similar room to the old man’s although there was no bed, but it was pleasantly furnished in Regency style. Norah Murphy sat in a chair by the fire, her hands tightly folded in her lap. Barry stood beside her, a hand on the back of the chair.
‘Good, then as we’re all here, we can get started. I should tell you gentlemen that Dr Murphy is being more than a trifle stubborn. She has certain information I need rather badly which she stupidly insists on keeping to herself.5 He put a hand on her shoulder. ‘Shall we try again ? What happened to the bullion, Norah ? Where’s he hidden it?’
*You go to hell,’ she said crisply. ‘If I did know, you’re the last man on earth I’d tell.’
‘A great pity.’ He nodded to Dooley, speaking slowly, enunciating the words so that he could read his lips. ‘Come and hold her.’
Dooley slung his Sterling over one shoulder and moved behind the chair. Norah tried to get up and he shoved her down and twisted her arms back cruelly, holding her firm.
Barry leaned down to the fire. When he turned, he was holding a poker, the end of which was red-hot. Binnie gave a desperate cry, took a step forward and got the butt of a Sterling in the kidneys.
He went down on one knee and Barry said coldly, If any one of them makes a move, put a bullet in him.’
He turned to Norah, grabbed her hair, turning her face up to him and held the poker over her. ‘I’ll ask you once more, Norah. Where’s the bullion?’