Jack Higgins – The Savage Day

indiscriminately. Women, kids, anyone who happens to be around.’

He sighed and scratched his head again, another characteristic gesture. ‘Revolutionaries, Major, like the rest of humanity, are good, bad and indifferent. I think you’ll find that’s held true in every similar situation since the war. We have our anarchists, the bomb-happy variety who simply want to destroy, and one or two who enjoy having a sort of legal excuse for criminal behaviour.’

‘Like Barry?’

Terhaps. We also have a considerable number of brave and honest men who’ve dedicated their lives to an ideal of freedom.’

I didn’t have any real answer to that except the most obvious one. ‘I suppose it all depends on your point of view.’

He chuckled. ‘You know, I knew your uncle, Michael Fitzgerald of Stradballa. Now there was a man.’

‘Who just didn’t know when to stop fighting.’

*Ah, but you’ve got quite a look of him about you.’ He put another match to his pipe, then glanced at me quizzically over the tops of his glasses. ‘You’re a funny kind of gun-runner, boy, and that’s a fact. Now what exactly would your game be, I wonder ?’

Dangerous ground indeed, but I was saved from an unexpected quarter. There were three distinct blows against the floor above our heads. Binnie came awake on the instant and Cork jumped up and climbed the ladder in the corner.

Binnie swung his legs to the floor and ran a hand through his hair. ‘What’s going on?’

‘I’m not sure,’ I said.

Cork came back down the ladder and returned to the table. ‘Right,’ he said. ‘It’s time to be off.’

Binnie stared at him blankly. ‘What’s all this?’

‘You’re going back to Stramore, Binnie,’ Cork told him patiently. ‘And I’m going with you.’

Binnie turned to me. ‘Is he going crazy or am I? Isn’t half the British Army scouring the hills for us out there?’

‘True enough,’ Cork said. ‘And with paratroopers by the dozen in every country lane, who’ll notice two more ?’

He walked to the other end of the room, picked up one of the camouflaged uniforms and tossed it on to the table, then he rummaged in one of the boxes for a moment. When he returned, he was holding a couple of major’s crowns in his open palm.

‘Stick those in your epaulettes and you’ve got your old rank back again, Major. You’ll have to make do with corporal, Binnie. You don’t have the right kind of face for a British officer.’

Binnie gave a kind of helpless shrug. I said to Cork, ‘All right, what’s the plan?’

‘Simplicity itself. You and Binnie get into uniform and go back down to the village. Keep to the woods and it anyone sees you, they’ll think you’re simply searching the area like everyone else. I’ll pick you up at the roadside on the other side of the village in my car. You can’t miss it. It’s an old Morris Ten. Rather slow, I’m afraid, but I find that an asset in my line of work. No one ever seems to think a car that will only do forty miles an hour worth chasing.’

“Will you still be playing the priest?’

‘Oh yes, that’s all part of the plan. Once we reach the bottom road, the story, if we’re stopped, is that you’re escorting me to Plumbridge to make an identification. If we get through there in one piece, we’ll change direction. From there on you’ll be escorting me to Dungiven. After that, Coleraine. Sure and we’ll be at Stramore before you

know it. The military have a terrible respect for rank, Major. With a modicum of luck we won’t get stopped for more than a minute at any one time.’

It had a beautiful simplicity that made every kind of sense. ‘God help me,’ I said, ‘but it’s just daft enough to work.’

He glanced at his watch. ‘Good, I’ll pick you up as arranged in exactly half an hour.’

He climbed the kdder and disappeared. Binnie stared at me wildly. ‘He’s mad, Major. He must be.’

‘Maybe he is,’ I said. ‘But unless you can think of another way out of this mess, you’d better get into uniform and fast. We haven’t got much time.’

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