Read Liz Carlyle - 05 - Present Danger Online

Authors: Stella Rimington

Tags: #Mystery, #Espionage, #England, #Memoir

Liz Carlyle - 05 - Present Danger (19 page)

BOOK: Liz Carlyle - 05 - Present Danger
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A strong wind was gusting across the bay, whipping the sea into white-crested waves and blowing open Milraud’s grey checked jacket. The fine cashmere sweater he wore underneath was not designed to cope with these temperatures, and he shivered as he walked down to the wooden jetty that jutted out into the small cove.

A substantial rigid inflatable dinghy was moored up firmly, rocking in the water’s chop, its fenders rubbing against the wooden struts. Much further out, in the mouth of the bay, a large motor cruiser was anchored. At first sight, with its gleaming white paint and aluminium rails, it looked like the sort of rich man’s toy that is ten a penny in the Mediterranean, but Milraud recognised the wide bow and strong lines of a boat designed for rougher seas and longer trips than cruising the usually calm waters of the Mediterranean. He knew that this boat made regular voyages to pick up the goods that James Purnell (or Piggott as he supposed he should call him here in Northern Ireland) imported and sold, under the cover of his consultancy company.

As he gazed out to sea, Milraud’s mind was racing. He was used to dealing with the unexpected and turning it to his advantage, but the events of the last twenty-four hours had thrown him off balance. Ever since Gonzales had marched into the shop, he had been trying to keep things under control.

The Spaniard had been told to wait for Willis to leave, then follow him to try to find out who he was. But Gonzales had got his signals crossed, and had come into the back room where the Englishman had been sitting. At that point it would still have been possible to terminate the meeting and let him go – indeed, the man had actually started to make his excuses and leave. But Gonzales had pulled a gun. He’d said later that he could tell that the man recognised him, as if that somehow justified what he had done.

After that, there was no way they could let Simon Willis leave. If he was MI5, he would have been back five minutes later with a posse of armed policemen. Milraud had alerted Piggott, and the American had instructed Gonzales to bring the Englishman down here to the house in the bay. He was now lying, half-comatose and strapped to a bed in the basement room.

You had to admire his cool, thought Milraud, as he watched a cormorant swoop down and pluck a fish the size of a sardine from an oncoming wave. He thought about how Willis had sat in the back office guest chair in Belfast, seemingly unfazed by the 9 mm handgun Gonzales was waving in his face, sticking to his story – he was a collector of derringers. When it was suggested he had really come on behalf of the UK security services, Willis had looked at them all as if they were mad. It was almost a convincing performance.

They’d bundled him, hands tied, head enveloped by a sack, his mouth covered in thick strips of parcel tape, out of the back door of the shop and into the boot of the car brought round by one of Piggott’s men. Milraud had followed with Piggott, and an hour later they had arrived here, and installed their unexpected visitor in the basement room. When Gonzales had untied him and taken off the tape, Willis had relaxed slightly.

He hadn’t stayed relaxed for long, not after Malone had come in with his bag. At this point Milraud had left the room. He wished he had left earlier, though either way he was already implicated in everything that had gone on.

It was a fallacy that ‘truth serum’ could serve as a kind of cranial diuretic, flushing out of the brain all those things an undrugged person would never admit to. But what it did do, in the hands of an intelligent practitioner, could be just as revealing. Willis had apparently not told them
anything
directly, but nor had he shown the blanket ignorance he should have displayed if he had been the innocent collector he claimed to be. And he’d nodded drowsily at names he should not have found familiar. Any lingering doubt about Willis’s true vocation had been dispelled.

But what was on Milraud’s mind now was how to get out of this situation where he was party to the abduction of a British intelligence officer. And possibly to something worse than abduction, if he could not control Piggott/Purnell.

It was nearly dark now and getting colder. As Milraud turned to go back inside, he saw the American coming towards him from the direction of the house. His leather jacket could not have given him much protection from the wind but he walked upright, with his long strides, tall and lean, apparently impervious to the cold. It struck Milraud that the man seemed indifferent to so many things: clothes, food, women – all the aspects of life that Milraud enjoyed most. He knew there were things his associate cared about – there had to be, since nothing else could explain some of his actions. But the Frenchman did not know what those passions were, so buried were they beneath an almost perversely cold demeanour.

Nor did he think of trying to find out. Milraud was in a business where you did not enquire about your clients’ motives or even their actions. You supplied them with the goods they requested and what they did with them was their own business. But now, through no fault of his, he found himself in a situation he had so far successfully avoided – involved in someone else’s affairs.

Piggott said, ‘There’s a simple way of dealing with this, you know.’

Nothing was simple anymore, thought Milraud, but he made a show of being willing to consider this. ‘What’s that, James?’

‘Let Gonzales take care of the problem. There’s no danger then of Willis ever talking. And we don’t have to worry about what to do with him.’

Milraud looked out to sea, rough enough that day to keep most craft firmly on shore. He thought he saw a tanker chugging south and east towards England, but in the evening light he could not be sure.

‘Too late for that,’ he said tersely, though just the idea of killing Willis made him feel sick. Milraud had a large, successful business which was now in peril; the last thing he needed was the prospect of a life sentence for murder. He said to Piggott, ‘Listen James, it’s bad enough as it is, thanks to Gonzales. Willis’s people will soon find out that he came to see me, if they didn’t know beforehand, which I expect they did. It won’t take them long to get onto you too, once they start investigating, and then they’ll be swarming over this place. Even as things stand I have to get out of here and I suggest you do too.’

He wondered how long he could count on Mrs Carson back at the shop to play dumb. Probably longer than he feared, but not long enough – for his business at any rate. He’d have to write off the shop and stay out of Northern Ireland. Otherwise, the authorities here would be all over him. Whereas if he could get back to France, slipping under their guard, it would be a while before they caught up with him. Eventually, the British would find him in Toulon and send someone over. But they had no evidence of anything substantial, certainly not enough even to try to extradite him.

He should be all right. Unless he listened to Piggott. The man had drawn him into some vendetta of his own, and Milraud resented that. Phoning him with that preposterous accusation that Milraud was working with MI5, and now suggesting a course of action that would have the British authorities down on them both like a ton of bricks. Because if the British could connect him with the murder of Willis they would never let the matter go: Milraud would be looking around corners for the rest of his life. The British were tenacious bastards. Especially if you hurt one of their own.

But recriminations had been pointless then and were pointless now, as well as potentially dangerous – Milraud sensed an only half-submerged menace in the American which he was wary of. If they were ever to cross swords, Milraud wanted it to be on his home ground. Another good reason for his plan.

‘We should make Plymouth on the first day and I reckon we’ll be through the Straits of Gibraltar in five days and in Toulon within a week. It gives us some breathing space.’

‘But why take this extra baggage with us?’ asked Piggott. ‘Wouldn’t it be simpler if we just left it behind? Especially since it couldn’t tell any tales.’ His voice was soft but insistent.

‘Listen,’ Milraud said sharply, realising he was betraying his own agitation. ‘If we kill an MI5 man, we’ll put everything at risk.’ He looked at Piggott and what he saw chilled him. The man was completely unmoved, undeterred. Something was driving him that Milraud hadn’t understood.

Piggott went on: ‘What are we going to do with him in France, then? You can’t exactly put him to work in your shop. And are we going to keep him drugged for six days on the boat?’

‘We may not need to. We can lock him up. He can’t go far at sea. Think of him as a commodity,’ said Milraud, sticking to business. ‘This particular commodity has considerable value.’

‘To MI5? You think we can ransom him to his own people?’

‘That’s possible, but I wouldn’t advise trying. Much better to sell him off to the highest bidder. Let someone else hold him. That will take the heat off us soon enough.’ Milraud had contacts in several countries who might well be pleased to buy Willis. He’d make an attractive hostage. ‘But meanwhile, we need to move our commodity to a safe place.’

‘When do you want to leave?’

‘We need to move fast. The next high tide is just after midnight. We should go then.’

Piggott thought about this, but his face showed no expression. Finally he gave a curt nod in agreement. ‘I’ve some business to finish up before we leave. I’ll go with Malone back into town to bring down another “commodity”. But this one will be staying here. Permanently.’

And seeing the set expression on the other man’s face, Milraud decided not to argue. At some point he would have to find a way of betraying Piggott to the authorities, or else Piggott would drag him down with him. But Milraud was going to pick the time and place for that. Meanwhile he was looking forward to being back in France.

31

 

Paddy O’Brien was pulling him a second pint of stout. Normally Dermot would have contented himself with a single glass, since there might have been more work to be done that evening. But now it wasn’t clear there was any work to do at all, whatever the hour. He’d been by the office of Fraternal Holdings twice in the last three days, but there was no sign of Piggott, and no instructions left for Dermot either. He’d caught sight of Terry Malone, but when he’d asked where the boss was, Malone had shrugged and said he had no idea, though Dermot didn’t believe him. There was something going on, he was sure of that, but whatever it was he, Dermot, wasn’t part of it. At least there was no sign of that bloody Frenchman, Milrow or whatever his name was. Dermot hoped his letter had had its intended effect.

 

He looked around him at the half-dozen regulars in the pub, chatting quietly or reading the papers, and wondered if this was going to be his new office. He hoped not, but for the time being he had to sit tight, and if only to pass the hours a second pint had seemed advisable.

He’d had the first sip when ‘Danny Boy’ suddenly blared out from his trouser pocket. Paddy O’Brien looked startled, then chuckled as he realised the source of the sound. Dermot extracted his mobile and answered with a voice he hoped sounded stone cold sober.

‘O’Reilly,’ he announced carefully.

‘Dermot, it’s Piggott here. Where are you?’

O’Reilly looked around him guiltily – it seemed best not to say. ‘I’m just off home, boss. I’ll be there in five minutes.’

‘No rush. But I’ll need you about half past six. All right?’

‘Of course,’ said Dermot, breathing an inward sigh of relief. He could enjoy this glass then and be fine by six o’clock – he just had to make sure to call a halt at two pints. ‘Shall I come to the office then?’

‘No. I’ll pick you up. Be at the memorial park on Falls Road.’

‘Okay,’ said Dermot, puzzled. It seemed a strange place and time to meet, but clearly something was up. He wondered if it had to do with his letter, though he couldn’t see how Piggott could suspect that he had sent it. And he sounded friendly enough.

‘Right then,’ said Piggott, and Dermot waited for him to ring off. But Piggott added, his voice uncharacteristically soft, ‘And Dermot, we’ll need to talk about your new responsibilities. I know you were a bit upset by the change, but you shouldn’t be. I’ve got great faith in your abilities, my friend, and important things for you to do. See you at six-thirty.’ He rang off.

Dermot sat staring at the pint of stout, watching as the creamy head of foam settled, bubble by bubble, in his glass. He felt a growing satisfaction as he reviewed the phone call. Whatever Piggott had made of the letter, he clearly didn’t think O’Reilly had sent it. He had work for Dermot to do, which was good news on two counts: Dermot would get paid, and as things played out (he thought briefly about the MI5 man he’d met in Bangor) he would have a ringside seat.

‘Pint all right?’ asked Paddy O’Brien, pointing to Dermot’s full glass with concern.

‘It’s fine, Paddy. Just fine.’ He pulled a fiver from his pocket. ‘Why don’t you have one on me?’

He had never liked the Remembrance Garden on the Falls Road. It was neat and well-tended – when flowers passed their best they were quickly removed and replaced with fresh ones – and he accepted that it was the right thing to do, honouring the dead of his cause by listing their names and regiments on large stone memorial plaques. But it was a gloomy little enclave, particularly in the early dark of a winter’s evening, and it depressed him now as he sat on one of its low brick walls waiting for Piggott. The place had a sort of finality that suggested that the war was over and the glorious struggle past. Even the Republican flag hung limply, protected from the wind by the adjoining buildings.

A man came in off the street, bulky in a duffel coat, walking without hesitation straight towards Dermot. As he approached Dermot saw it was Terry Malone. ‘Ready?’ he said.

Dermot nodded and stood up; he had expected Piggott himself.

‘I thought the boss—’

 

‘He’s waiting in the car,’ said Malone, and turning round walked towards the street.

Piggott was in the back seat and motioned Dermot to join him. To Dermot’s surprise, when Malone started the engine, he did a 180-degree turn and headed towards the outskirts of Belfast.

BOOK: Liz Carlyle - 05 - Present Danger
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