Jack Higgins – The Savage Day

He was all business now. ‘Handgun or what?’

‘And sub-machine-gun.’

‘We’ll go downstairs,’ he said. ‘I think I can fix you up.’

The Mk IIS Sten sub-machine-gun was especially developed during the war for use with commando units and resistance groups. It was also used with considerable success by British troops on night patrol work during the Korean war.

It was, indeed still is, a remarkable weapon, its silencing unit absorbing the noise of the bullet explosions to an amazing degree. The only sound when firing is the clicking of the bolt as it goes backwards and forwards and

this can seldom be heard beyond a range of twenty yards or so.

Many more were manufactured than is generally realized and as they were quite unique in their field, the reason for the kck of production over the years has always been something of a mystery to me.

The one I held in my hands in Meyer’s basement firing range was a mint specimen. There was a row of targets at the far end, life-size replicas of charging soldiers of indeterminate nationality, all wearing camouflaged uniforms. I emptied a thirty-two round magazine into the first five, working from left to right. It was an uncomfortably eerie experience to see the bullets shredding the target and to hear only the clicking of the bolt.

Meyer said, ‘Remember, full automatic only in a real emergency. They tend to overheat otherwise.’

A superfluous piece of information as I’d used the things in action in Korea, but I contented myself with laying the Sten down and saying mildly, ‘What about a handgun ?’

I thought he looked pleased with himself and I saw why a moment later when he produced a tin box, opened it and took out what appeared to be a normal automatic pistol, except that the barrel was of a rather strange design.

‘I could get a packet from any collector for this little item,’ he said. ‘Chinese Communist silenced pistol. 7.65 mm.’

It was certainly new to me. ‘How does it work?’

It was ingenious enough. Used as a semi-automatic, there was only the sound of the slide reciprocating and the cartridge cases ejecting, but it could also be used to fire a single shot with complete silence.

I tried a couple of rounds. Meyer said, ‘You like it?’

Before we could take it any further, there was a foot on

the stairs and Ferguson moved out of the darkness. He was wearing a dark grey double-breasted suit, Academy tie, bowler hat and carried a briefcase.

‘So there you are,’ he said. ‘What’s all this ?’

He came forward and put his briefcase down on the table, then he took the pistol from me, sighted casually and fired. The result was as I might have expected. No fancy shooting through the shoulder or hand. Just a bullet dead centre in the belly, painful but certain.

He put the gun down on the table and glanced at his watch. ‘I’ve got exactly ten minutes, then I must be on my way to the War House so let’s get down to business. Meyer, have you rilled him in on your end yet?’

‘You told me to wait.’

I’m here now.’

‘Okay.’ Meyer shrugged and turned to me. ‘I had a final meeting with the London agent for these people yesterday. I’ve told him it would be possible to run the stuff over from Oban.’

‘Possible ?’ I said. ‘That must be the understatement of this or any other year.’

Meyer carried straight on as if I hadn’t interrupted. ‘I’ve arranged for you to act as my agent in the matter. There’s to be a preliminary meeting in Belfast on Monday night. They’re expecting both of us.’

‘Who are?’

Tm not certain. Possibly this official IRA leader himself, Michael Cork.’

I glanced at the Brigadier. ‘Your Small Man ?’

‘Perhaps,’ he said, ‘but we don’t really know. All we can say for certain is that you should get some sort of direct lead to him, whatever happens.’

‘And what do I do between now and Monday?’

‘Go to Oban and get hold of the right kind of boat.* He

joThe Savage Day

opened the briefcase and took out an envelope which he pushed across the table. ‘You’ll find a thousand pounds in there. Let’s call it working capital.’ He turned to Meyer. Tm aware that such an amount is small beer to a man of your assets, Mr Meyer, but we wanted to be fair.’

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