Jack Higgins – The Savage Day

The far end of the room was like a quartermaster’s store. There were at least two dozen British Army issue automatic rifles, a few old Lee Enfields, several Sterlings and six or seven boxes of ammunition, all stamped War Department. There were camouflage uniforms, flak jackets, several tin hats, a few paratroop berets.

‘What in the hell is all this lot for?’ I demanded. “The great day?’

‘Mostly stuff we’ve knocked off at one time or another, and some of the lads wore the uniforms when we raided an arms dump a few months back.’ He draped his wet overcoat carefully across a chair and sprawled out on one of the beds. ‘Christ, but I’m bushed, Major. I could sleep for a week and that’s a fact’

I think he was asleep before he knew it, to judge by the regularity of his breathing, but in the circumstances it seemed the sensible thing to do. I tried the other bed. Nothing had ever felt so comfortable. I closed my eyes.

I don’t know what brought me awake, some slight noise perhaps, but when I opened my eyes, Cork was sitting on the other side of the table from me reading a book.

As I stirred, he peered over the top of his spectacles. ‘Ah, you’re awake.’

My watch had stopped. ‘What time is it?’

‘Ten o’clock. You’ve been asleep maybe three hours.’


He turned and glanced towards the other bed. ‘Still with his head down. A good thing, too, while he has the chance. In our line of work a man should always snatch forty winks at every opportunity, but there’s no need to tell an old soldier like you that, Major.’

I joined him at the table and offered him a cigarette but he produced a pipe and an old pouch. ‘No thanks, I prefer this.’

The book was St Augustine’sCityofG^d. ‘Heavy stuff,’ I commented.

He chuckled. ‘When I was a lad, my father sent me to Maynooth to study for the priesthood. A mistake, as I realized after a year or two and got out, but old habits die hard.’

‘Was that before you were in prison or after ?’

‘Oh, after, a desperate attempt by the family to rehabilitate me. They were a terrible middle-class lot, Major. Looked upon the IRA as a kind of Mafia.’

‘And none of it did any good ?’

‘Not a bit of it.’ He puffed at his pipe until it was going. ‘Mind you, a couple of years in the Crumlin Road gaol was enough. I’ve managed to stay out of those places since then, thank God.’

‘I know what you mean.’

He nodded. ‘As I remember, the Chinese had you for a spell in Korea.’

Thete was a slight pause. He sat there puffing away at his pipe, staring into the distance in that rather abstracted way that seemed characteristic of him.

I said, ‘What are you going to do ?’

‘About Norah, you mean?’ He sighed. ‘Well, now, it seems to me I’d better go to Stramore myself and see exactly what’s in Frank’s mind.’

‘Just like that?’

‘With a little luck, of course, and God willing.’

I said, ‘He’s a bad bastard. I think he means what he says. He’ll kill her if you don’t tell him where the bullion is.’

‘Oh, I’m sure he will, Major Vaughan. In fact, I’m certain of it. There isn’t much you can tell me about Frank Barry. We worked together far too long.’

*What caused the split?’

‘As the times change, all men change with them, or nearly all.’ He sighed and scratched his head. 1 suppose I’m what you’d call an old-fashioned kind of revolutionary. Oh, I’ll use force if I have to, but I’d rather sit round a table and talk.’

‘And Barry?’

‘A different story altogether. Frank has this idea about the purity of violence. He believes anything is justified to gain his end.’

There was another of those silences. I said, “Will you tell him what he wants to know ?’

I’d rather not.’

*No answer.’

His smile had great natural charm and I suddenly realized what an enormously likeable man he was.

I said, ‘How could you ever have worked with a man like Barry, or the others that are like him for that matter. The kind who think it helps the cause to slaughter

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