Jack Higgins – The Violent Enemy
Jack Higgins – The Violent Enemy
And this one for young Sean Patterson
ON the crest of a tor where the moor lifted to meet the blue sky in a sharply defined edge, Vanbrugh paused to catch his breath, sat on a stone and took out an old briar pipe and a tobacco pouch.
He was a tall, heavily built man in his middle forties, hair greying a little at the temples, shoulders solid with muscle under the old tweed jacket, and carried about him that indefinable quality that only twenty-five years as a policeman gives, a mixture of strength and authority and a shrewdness that was apparent in the light blue eyes.
A few moments later, Sergeant Dwyer joined him and slumped to the ground, chest heaving.
‘You should do this more often,’ Vanbrugh observed.
‘Give me some leave and I will,’ Dwyer said. ‘I’d like to point out that I’ve been working a seventy-hour week since February and my last day off was so long ago it’s become a fond memory.”
Vanbrugh grinned and put a match to his pipe. ‘You shouldn’t have joined.’
Somewhere in the distance an explosion echoed flatly on the calm air, and Dwyer sat up quickly. ‘What was that?’
‘They’ll be blasting up at the quarry.’
‘Prison working party?’
Dwyer looked out across the moor, narrowing his eyes into the distance, relaxed and at ease with himself for the first time in months, the sharp, clear air driving the taste of London from his mouth. It was a happy chance that
the old man should have chosen to make this mysterious personal visit to the most notorious of Her Majesty’s prisons on such a glorious day, but one couldn’t help feeling curious.
On the other hand, one thing he had learned in his two years with the Special Branch was that Chief Superintendent Dick Vanbmgh was very much a law unto himself, as many on both sides in the great game had discovered to their cost over the years.
‘We’d better be moving,’ Vanbrugh said.
Dwyer scrambled to his feet and caught sight of the skeleton of a sheep impaled on a gorse bush in a hollow to the left.
‘Death in life, even here on a day like this.’
‘No escaping it wherever you go.’ Vanbrugh turned and looked across the moor again. ‘Whenever the mist creeps in, this place becomes a waking nightmare. A man can walk all day and end where he began.’
‘No one ever gets off the moor,’ Dwyer said softly. ‘Isn’t ‘that what they say?’
‘Something like that. In the whole history of the place, there’s only one recorded instance of a man getting clean away and he’s probably lying at the bottom of a bog. Some of them could swallow a three-ton truck.’
‘The right sort of place for a prison.’
‘That’s what they thought when they built it.’
Vanbrugh set off down the slope towards the car parked at the side of the narrow road below and Dwyer followed, stumbling over the tussocks of rough grass and patches of marshy ground, water seeping in through the laceholes of his smart town brogues.
When he reached the car, Vanbrugh was already sitting in the passenger seat and Dwyer climbed behind the wheel, pressed the starter and drove away.
He was hot and tired, his feet were wet and his sweat-soaked shirt clung to his back. A small spark of temper flared inside him, but he pushed it away with a detei-mined effort.
‘A one-hundred-and-seventy-mile drive, wet feet and the makings of a good sprain in my ankle. I hope he’s worth it, sir.’
Vanbrugh turned sharply and the blue eyes were very cold. 7 think so, Sergeant.’
Dwyer took a deep breath, aware that one of those violent storms for which Dick Vanbrugh was so notorious was about to break over his head, but the moment passed. Vanbrugh applied another match to the bowl of his pipe and Dwyer concentrated on his driving and on the sheep and wild ponies which frequently wandered across the unfenced road. Ten minutes later they came over a slight rise and saw the prison in the hollow below.