Jack Higgins – The Savage Day

‘And that man in there? Is he a priest?’ He shook his head and she went on, *Who is he, then ?’

‘Michael Cork,’ I said. ‘Otherwise known as the Small Man. Perhaps you know of him ?’

Her eyes widened, closed briefly, then opened again. 1 have heard of Mr Cork. He is extremely ill. The bullet has penetrated the left lung and lodged under the shoulder-blade. I think the heart has also been touched, but I can’t be sure until I operate.’

‘You operate ?’ Binnie said, taking a step towards her.

*I would imagine so,’ she replied calmly. ‘I am senior surgeon here and a case like this requires experience.’

“The bullet was fired at point blank range, Sister,’ I informed her.

‘I had imagined that must be so from the powder burns. What calibre?’

TSJine millimetre. Sterling sub-machine-gun.’

She nodded. “Thank you. You must excuse me now.’

Binnie caught her sleeve. As she turned, he said, ‘No need to inform the authorities about this, is there, Sister ?’

‘On the contrary,’ she said. ‘The moment more pressing matters are taken care of I shall make it my first duty to inform the area military commander of Mr Cork’s presence. You gentlemen, I presume, will have had the good sense to take yourselves back where you came from by then.’

‘We’d like to stay for a while, Sister,’ I said. ‘Until after the operation, if you’ve no objection ?’

She hesitated, then made her decision. ‘Very well, I’ll send for you when it’s all over.’ She opened the door, paused, a hand on the knob and turned to Binnie who had slumped into a chair, shoulders bowed. ‘I spent five years at a mission hospital in the Congo, young man, so gunshot wounds are not unknown to me. A small prayer might be in order, however.’

But I was long past that kind of thing myself. Perhaps there was a God who cared, although from my own experience, I doubted it. But I knew a professional when I saw one and beyond any shadow of a doubt, if Sister Teresa couldn’t save him, no one could.

I left Binnie and went out to the Land-Rover to check on our prisoner. When I opened the door I found that he was not only conscious again, but had managed to roll over on his back. His face was streaked with dried blood and his nose, from the look of it,’was very possibly broken.

He looked up at me, da2ed and more than a little frightened. ‘Where am I ?’

I said, ‘You’re on the wrong side of the Border in the hands of the IRA. Lie very still and quiet, there’s a good lad, and you might come out of this with a whole skin.’

He seemed to shrink inside himself. I got up and went back to the ante-room.

We weren’t left alone for very long. After twenty minutes or so, a nun appeared and took us down the corridor to a washroom where we could clean up. Then we were taken to a large dining-room with several rows of tables. We had the whole place to ourselves, two nuns standing patiently by to serve us while we ate. Afterwards, we were escorted back to the ante-room. It

The Raee North

was a long wait, in fact, a good two hours before a nun appeared and beckoned us.

We followed her along the corridor to another small room at the far end. Again there was a glass wall, this time looking in at a side ward. There were half a dozen beds, but only one occupant, Michael Cork, and he was in an oxygen tent.

A couple of nuns knelt at the end of the bed in prayer, two more leaned over the patient. One of them turned and came towards us. It was Sister Teresa and she still wore a surgeon’s white cap and gown, a mask suspended around her neck.

She looked tired, lines etched deeply from either side of her nose to the limits of her mouth. I think I knew what she was going to say even before she opened the gkss door and joined us.

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