He coughed again as if to clear his throat. ‘It’s beginning to look as if we owe you rather a lot. If there’s anything I can do..,’
‘I’ll tell you one thing you are going to do,’ I said. ‘You’re going to pull the right kind of strings in the Republic so that you and I take this boy here back to Stradballa, which, in case you don’t know it, is the village in Kerry where my mother was born.’
‘I see,’ he said. ‘I suppose it could be arranged.’
‘Oh, you’ll arrange it all right,’ I told him, ‘or I’ll know the reason why. Just like you’ll arrange for him to be buried next to my sainted uncle, Michael Fitzgerald. And we’ll have a stone. The finest marble you can buy.’
fire from Heaven
‘And what will it say on it?’
‘Binnie Gallagher, Soldier of the Irish Republican Army. He died for Ireland.’ I looked down at Binnie. ‘He’d like that.’
I turned away and lit a cigarette. The sky was dark and grey, swollen with rain. It seemed set for die day.
I said, ‘Do you think we’ve accomplished anything? Really and truly?’
‘We’ve won a little more time, that’s all. In the end that’s what soldiers are for. The rest is up to the politicians.’
‘God help us all, then.’
There was a slight pause and he said, ‘Vaughan, I’ve got a confession to make. The night you were arrested in Greece running those guns. I’m afraid I arranged the whole thing.’
‘That’s all right,’ I said. 1 decided that was a distinct possibility within ten minutes of meeting you. Anyway, it got me out, didn’t it ?’
Or had it?I stood there at the balustrade, staring out into the grey morning and down below at the jetty, hidden by the overhang in the cliffs, theKathleen’s engine burst into life.
Ferguson moved beside me quickly, ‘My God, she’s getting away. I thought you said you immobilized the engine.’
TheKathleen appeared in the inlet far below, heading out to sea. I saw the bow wave as Norah Murphy increased speed. A moment later, the whole vessel seemed to split apart, orange flame spurting outwards as the fuel tanks went up. What was left went down like a stone.
‘Fire from heaven,’ I said. ‘I warned her, but she wouldn’t listen.’
‘Oh my God,’ whispered the Brigadier.
I gazed down at the dark waters, searching for some sign of Norah Murphy, the merest hint that she had existed, and found none. Then I turned and walked away through the rain.