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Authors: Jack Higgins

Drink With the Devil

BOOK: Drink With the Devil
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Synopsis:

A fortune in stolen British gold lies shipwrecked at the bottom of the Irish Sea. Irish militant Michael Ryan wants to finance war in his homeland — and a sinister pact with the New York Mafia will make his dreams a savage reality. Former IRA enforcer Sean Dillon now works for the British government. His mission is to retrieve the gold by any means necessary and finish Ryan’s plot before it gets off the ground. Two deadly men are locked in a furious race, with millions of dollars and lives are hanging in the balance.

 

Drink With The Devil
Jack Higgins

 

The fifth book in the Sean Dillon series
Copyright © 1996

 

 

To Denise
Best of girls

 

 

 

B
ELFAST
1985

 

O
NE

 

R
AIN SWEPT IN
from Belfast Lough, and as he turned the corner there was the rattle of small-arms fire somewhere in the darkness of the city center followed by the crump of an explosion. He didn’t even hesitate but started across the square, a small man, no more than five feet five, in jeans, reefer coat, and peaked cap, a seaman’s duffle bag hanging from one shoulder.

A sign said
Albert Hotel
, but it was more a lodging house than anything else, of a type used by sailors, and constructed originally by the simple expedient of knocking three Victorian terrace houses together. The front door stood open, and a small, balding man peered out, a newspaper in one hand.

There was another explosion in the distance. “Jesus!” he said. “The boys are active tonight.”

The small man said from the bottom of the steps, “I phoned earlier about a room. Keogh is the name.” His voice was more English than anything else, only a hint of the distinctive Belfast accent.

“Ah, yes — Mr. Keogh. Off a boat, are ye?”

“Something like that.”

“Well, come away in out of the rain and I’ll fix you up.”

At that moment, a Land Rover turned the corner followed by another. They were stripped down, three paratroopers crouched behind the driver, hard, young men in red berets and flak jackets, each one carrying a submachine gun. They vanished into the darkness and rain on the other side of the square.

“Jesus!” the old man said again, then went inside and Keogh followed him.

 

 

I
T WAS A
poor sort of a place, a square hall with a reception desk and a narrow staircase. The white paint had yellowed over the years and the wallpaper was badly faded, damp showing through here and there.

The old man pushed a register across the desk for Keogh to sign. “RUC regulations. Home address. Next port of call. The lot.”

“Fine by me.” Keogh quickly filled it in and pushed the register back across the desk.

“Martin Keogh, Wapping, London. I haven’t been to London in years.”

“A fine city.” Keogh took out a packet of cigarettes and lit one.

The old man took a room key down from a board. “At least they don’t have Paras hurtling around the streets armed to the teeth. Crazy that, sitting out in the open, even in the rain. What a target. Suicide if you ask me.”

“Not really,” Keogh told him. “It’s an old Para trick developed years ago in Aden. They travel in twos to look after each other, and with no armor in the way they can respond instantly to any attack.”

“And how would you be knowing a thing like that?”

Keogh shrugged. “Common knowledge, Da. Now can I have my key?”

It was then that the old man noticed the eyes which were of no particular color and yet were the coldest he had ever seen, and for some unaccountable reason he knew fear. And at that moment Keogh smiled and his personality changed totally. He reached across and took the key.

“Someone told me there was a decent cafe near here. The Regent?”

“That’s right. Straight across the square, to Lurgen Street. It’s by the old docks.”

“I’ll find it,” and Keogh turned and went upstairs.

He found the room easily enough, opened the door, the lock of which had obviously been forced on numerous occasions, and went in. The room was very small and smelled of damp. There was a single bed, a hanging cupboard, and a chair. There was a washbasin in the corner, but no toilet. There wasn’t even a telephone. Still, with any luck, it would only be for the one night.

He put his duffle bag on the bed, opened it. There was a toilet bag, spare shirts, some books. He pulled them to one side and prized up the thick cardboard base of the bag disclosing a Walther PPK pistol, several clips of ammunition, and the new small Carswell silencer. He checked the weapon, loaded it, and screwed the silencer into place, then he slipped it inside his jeans against the small of his back.

“Regent, son,” he said softly and went out whistling a small, sad tune.

 

 

T
HERE WAS A
public telephone by the reception desk of the old-fashioned kind in a booth. Keogh nodded to the old man, went inside, and closed the door. He found some pound coins and dialed a number.

 

 

J
ACK
B
ARRY WAS
a tall, pleasant-looking man whose horn-rimmed spectacles gave him a bookish look. He had the look also of the schoolmaster, which was exactly what he had once been. But not now — now, he was Chief of Staff of the Provisional IRA, and he was seated by the fire at his Dublin home reading the paper, his portable phone at his side when it rang.

He picked it up and his wife, Jean, called, “Now don’t be long. Your supper’s ready.”

“Barry here.”

Keogh said in Irish, “It’s me. I’ve booked in at the Albert Hotel under the name of Martin Keogh. Next step is to meet the girl.”

“Will that be difficult?”

“No, I’ve organized it. Trust me. I’m off to this Regent Cafe now. Her uncle owns it.”

“Good man. Keep me posted. Use the mobile number only.”

He switched off his phone and his wife called again, “Come away in. It’s getting cold.”

He got to his feet obediently and went into the kitchen.

 

 

K
EOGH FOUND THE
Regent Cafe with no trouble. One window was boarded up, obviously from bomb blast, but the other was intact, offering a clear view of the interior. There were hardly any customers, just three old men at one table, and a ravaged-looking middle-aged woman at another, who looked like a prostitute.

The girl sitting behind the counter was just sixteen; he knew that because he knew all about her. Her name was Kathleen Ryan, and she ran the cafe on behalf of her uncle, Michael Ryan, a Protestant gunman from his earliest youth. She was a small girl with black hair and angry eyes above pronounced cheekbones. Not pretty by any conventional standard. She wore a dark sweater, denim miniskirt, and boots and sat on a stool engrossed in a book when Keogh went in.

He leaned on the counter. “Is it good?”

She looked him over calmly, and that look told him of someone infinitely older than her years.

“Very good.
The Midnight Court
.”

“But that’s in Irish surely?” Keogh reached for the book and saw that he was right.

“And why shouldn’t it be? You think a Protestant shouldn’t read Irish? Why not? It’s our country too, mister, and if you’re Sinn Fein or any of that old rubbish, I’d prefer you went elsewhere. Catholics aren’t welcome. An IRA street bomb killed my father, my mother, and my wee sister.”

“Girl, dear.” Keogh held up his hands defensively. “I’m a Belfast boy home from the sea who’s just come in for a cup of tea.”

“You don’t sound Belfast to me. English I’d say.”

“And that’s because my father took me to live there when I was a boy.”

She frowned for a moment, then shrugged. “All right.” She raised her voice. “Tea for one, Mary.” She said to Keogh, “No more cooking. We’re closing soon.”

“The tea will do just fine.”

A moment later, a gray-haired woman in an apron brought tea in a mug and placed it on the counter. “Milk and sugar over there. Help yourself.”

Keogh did as he was told and pushed a pound coin across. The woman gave him some change. The girl ignored him, reached for her book, and stood up. “I’ll be away now, Mary. Give it another hour, then you can take an early night,” and she went through to the back.

Keogh took his tea to a table by the door, sat down, and lit a cigarette. Five minutes later, Kathleen Ryan emerged wearing a beret and an old trenchcoat. She went out without looking at him. Keogh sipped some more tea, then got up and left.

 

 

I
T WAS RAINING
harder now as she turned on to the waterfront and she increased her pace, head down. The three youths standing in the doorway of a disused warehouse saw her coming as she passed under the light of a street lamp. They were of a type to be found in any city in the world. Vicious young animals in bomber jackets and jeans.

“That’s her, Pat,” the one wearing a baseball cap said. “That’s her. The Ryan bitch from the cafe.”

“I can tell for myself, you fool,” the one called Pat said. “Now hold still and grab her on the way past.”

 

 

K
ATHLEEN
R
YAN WAS
totally unaware of their existence as they stayed back in the shadows. It was only the quick rush of feet that alerted her and by then it was too late, one arm around her neck half choking her.

Pat walked round in front and tilted her chin. “Well, now, what have we got here? A little Prod bitch. Ryan, isn’t it?”

She kicked back catching the youth in the baseball cap on the shin. “Leave me be, you Taig bastard.”

“Taig bastard is it,” Pat said. “And us decent Catholic boys!” He slapped her face. “Up the alley with her. Time she learned her manners.”

She didn’t scream, for it was not in her nature, but cried out in rage and bit the hand that fastened on her mouth.

“Bitch!” Baseball Cap called out and punched her in the back, and then they ran her along the alley through the rain. There was a stack of packing cases clear under an old-fashioned gas street lamp. As she struggled, two of them pulled her across a packing case and Pat moved up behind and racked her skirt up.

“Time you learned,” he said.

“No, time you learned!” a voice called. Pat turned and Martin Keogh walked up the alley, hands in the pockets of his reefer. “Put her down. I mean, she doesn’t know where you’ve been, does she?”

“Stuff you, wee man,” the one in the baseball cap said, released his hold on the girl, and swung a punch at Keogh, who caught the wrist, twisted, and ran him face first into the wall.

“You bastard!” the third youth cried and rushed him.

Keogh’s left hand came out of his pocket holding the Walther and he slashed the youth across the face, splitting the cheek from the left eye to the corner of the mouth. He raised the gun and fired, the distinctive muted cough of the silenced weapon flat in the rain.

Baseball Cap was on his knees, the other clutching his cheek, blood pouring through his fingers. Pat stood there, rage on his face.

“You bloody swine!”

“It’s been said before.” Keogh touched him between the eyes with the silenced end of the Walther. “Not another word or I’ll kill you.”

The youth froze. Kathleen Ryan was pulling her skirt down. Keogh said, “Back to that cafe of yours, girl. I’ll see you soon.”

She hesitated, staring at him, then turned and ran away along the alley.

 

 

T
HERE WAS ONLY
the rain now and the groans of the injured. Pat said wildly, “We did what you told us to do. Why this?”

“Oh, no,” Keogh said. “I told you to frighten the girl a little and then I’d come and save her.” He found a cigarette one-handed and lit it. “And what were we into? Gang rape.”

“She’s a dirty little Prod. Who cares?”

“I do,” Keogh told him. “And I’m a Catholic. You give us a bad name.”

Pat rushed him. Keogh swayed to one side, tripping him with his right foot, and dropped one knee down hard in his back. Pat lay there sobbing in the rain.

Keogh said, “You need a lesson, son.”

He jammed the muzzle of the Walther against the youth’s thigh and pulled the trigger. There was a muted report and Pat cried out.

Keogh stood up. “Only a flesh wound. It could have been your kneecap.”

Pat was sobbing now. “Damn you!”

“Taken care of a long time ago.” Keogh took an envelope from his pocket and dropped it down. “Five hundred quid, that was the price. Now get yourself to the Royal Victoria Casualty Department. Best in the world for gunshot wounds, but then they get a lot of experience.”

He walked away, whistling the same eerie little tune, and left them there in the rain.

 

 

W
HEN HE REACHED
the cafe, there were no longer any customers, but he could see Kathleen Ryan and the woman Mary standing behind the counter. The girl was on the telephone. Keogh tried the door, but it was locked. Kathleen Ryan turned as the door rattled and nodded to Mary, who came from behind the counter and unlocked it.

BOOK: Drink With the Devil
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