Jack Higgins – The Savage Day

‘Sometimes it’s the only way, Binnie/ There was a pleading note in her voice as if she would make him understand. ‘We can’t afford weakness now. We must be strong/

‘You bloody murdering bitch/ he cried and took a step towards her, the Sten coming up.

She shot him twice at close quarters, he staggered back, spun round and fell on his face.

She stood there, the Browning ready in her hand for anyone else who made a move, very pale, but quite composed, showing no evidence of even the slightest remorse for what she had done.

But it was Frank Barry who took over now. ‘Answers, Vaughan, and quickly or you get the same here and now. Dooley, McGuire – the men I sent down to the jetty to meet the boat ?’

‘All gone,’ I said. ‘Very sad.’

‘And the gold?’

‘On board theKathleen.’

‘All of it?’

‘All that I could find.’

He stood there, thinking for a moment, then said to Norah, ‘All right, we’re leaving now in the boat. You get the Land-Rover from the garage and meet me out front.’

She went out quickly, stepping over Keenan, who still lay in the corridor moaning softly to himself and clutching his privates.

I said, ‘What about us ?’

‘Behave yourselves and I’ll let you go just before we leave. Now ckp your hands behind your necks and start walking.’

I didn’t believe him, of course, not for a moment, but there didn’t seem to be anything we could do about it. We went along the corridor, down the great stairway and out through the front door.

There was no sign of Norah and Barry marched us across the gravel drive to the patch of grass with a balustrade from which one could look down into the inlet below. He finally told us to halt and we turned to face him.

‘Is this where we get it ?’ the Brigadier asked him.

I’m afraid so,’ Barry said. ‘But then I thought you’d prefer to have it outdoors and it really is a splendid view, you must admit.’

The Land-Rover came round the corner and braked to a halt a few yards away. Norah Murphy sat behind the wheel looking at us, waiting for him to get on with it.

‘And behold how the evil ones shall reap fire from heaven/ I called. ‘That’s what the good book says. You’ll get yours, Norah, never fear.’

Frank Barry smiled and opened his mouth to make some lastban mot, I suppose, but the words were never uttered. The air was full of a strange metallic chattering, bullets shredding his jacket, blood spurting from a dozen places, sending him staggering sideways in a mad, drunken dance of death, to fall head first over the balustrade and disappear from view.

Binnie Gallagher lurched down the steps, clutching the Sten, and started across the gravel drive towards the Land-Rover. Norah sat there staring at him, frozen, waiting for the axe to descend.

He paused a yard or two away, stood there swaying, then suddenly said contemptuously, ‘Oh, get to hell out of that, why don’t you? You’re not worth spitting on.’

It took a moment for it to sink in and then she switched on the engine quickly and drove away, turning into the corkscrew road that led down to the inlet.

Binnie dropped the Sten and moved past me, grabbing

at the balustrade to keep himself from falling. ‘A hell of a view, I’ll give the bastard that much.’

As he started to fall, I ran to catch him and we went down together. His sweater was soaked in blood, the face very pale. He said, ‘It was fun while it lasted, Major. Sure and the two of us could wrap the whole British Army up between us in six months. Isn’t that the fact?’

I nodded. ‘It is surely.’

He smiled for the last time. “Up the Republic, Simon Vaughan,’ he cried, and then he died.

The Brigadier said, Tm sorry about this. You liked him, didn’t you?’

“You could say that.’

He coughed awkwardly. ‘What about the girl?’

‘She isn’t going anywhere. I immobilized the engine, just in case. There are only a few bars of gold on board anyway. It’s going to take a Navy diver to get the rest. I’ll show them where.’

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