By Jim Case
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Cody slowed his car, swung behind the truck and eased in well in back of the trailer. Before he stopped rolling, Hawkeye and Rufe were out of the little car, each with an Uzi, running hard toward the truck cab. Two cars zipped by on the big four lane motorway that slanted south out of Belfast. Neither driver noticed what was happening, or didn't slow down if he did.
Hawkeye stood ten feet from the driver's door. "You inside," he thundered. "Come out slowly with both hands over your head."
There was no reply.
"You've got five seconds more, then I drop a grenade in the window. Take your chances, sucker!"
A small black object sailed from the window and hit the soft dirt.
"Grenade!" Hawk shouted, and dove toward the big tires on the tractor. There was a deafening blast...
Also by Jim Case
CODY'S ARMY: ASSAULT INTO UBYA
CODY'S ARMY: PHILIPPINE HARDPUNCH
CODY'S ARMY: D.C. FIRESTRIKE*
WARNER BOOKS *forthcoming
WARNER BOOKS EDITION
Copyright © 1987 by Warner Books, Inc.
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First eBook Edition: September 2009
For a moment there was not a sound to violate the cool silence of the late evening. Then a nighthawk shrilled as it pounced on an unsuspecting mouse and wheeled away with a meal for its young.
Terrance Leslie crouched lower against the block wall. The good Catholic people of Beechrock were fast asleep in this community south and west of central Belfast and just off Falls Road.
He wore black pants and a black long-sleeved T-shirt, skintight black leather gloves, and a black hood that revealed just his eyes. No one would even see him. He would be a black spirit in the night.
The crisp, spring night air of Northern Ireland was invigorating. The winding road and the cottages of red brick and native stone gave Leslie a strong sense of home, of country.
He tightened his grip on the Armalite rifle as he saw the Pig's lights slanting along the curving road. Soon the ironically named British Army rig would turn, prowl a few streets at random, and then swing its mounted patrol back north.
There the men inside the Pig would die.
Leslie pushed the rifle selector lever to fully automatic fire and checked the thirty-round magazine. There was a 5.56-mm bullet waiting in the chamber. Time and time again he had told the IRA Council members, the bastards, that the only way to fight a war was to fight a war.
And this was war.
If the bloody IRA was ever to move toward its goal, the members had to realize it was a war and stop acting like weak, puking nannies.
The British Army Humber FV1611 came into view down the road and slowed for the sharp corner. It began maneuvering through the turn slowly, and Terrance saw with satisfaction that the left-hand driver's armored port had been let down. It gaped wide open. His information had been right.
Through the sights of the Armalite assault rifle, Leslie saw the flash of the driver's face. He squeezed off a six-round burst.
The 5.56-mm whizzers thundered from the Armalite barrel at 3280 feet per second, and all six sprayed through the driver's port. Three shattered the head of the nineteen-year-old draftee from London who had been driving. He jolted to the left in time for two of the rounds to kill his mate sitting on the passenger's side.
The vehicle slewed around the corner, and when the driver's dead hands fell from the wheel, the tires straightened out and the Pig crashed into the two-century-old stone wall around the Sean O'Conaill cottage.
In a practiced move Leslie lay down the Armalite, grabbed a rocket launcher from beside him, and sighted in. Quickly he fired at the stalled Pig. The rocket-propelled armor-piercing grenade hit the side of the Humber, detonated with a screeching roar, and blasted half the steel panel inward in the form of deadly shrapnel.
Terrance Leslie grabbed the Armalite, jumped to bis feet, and ran to the shattered rig. It had not caught fire. Gingerly he approached the wreck and peered around the far side.
A British soldier of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers lay half in and half out of the truck. He held his L1A1 self-loading rifle, SLR, and when he saw movement at the rear, he sprayed bullets in that direction.
Leslie pulled back in time to avoid the rounds, men pushed the muzzle of his Armalite around the corner of the 'rig. He leaned out suddenly, angled the rifle downward, and triggered a six-round burst into the Brit.
The English Fusilier died instantly.
Leslie hesitated. Were there any more? He ,had to check inside. With great care he edged down the side of the smoking vehicle to the open rear door. Before he could move, a figure flew at him from the smoky interior. He ducked and jolted to one side, but a flashing knife sliced through his dark jacket, barely missing flesh.
He brought up the Armalite, but the quarters were too close. A pistol fired, and the slug barely missed Leslie. He pulled the knife from his boot, its four-inch blade shaving sharp. The British soldier had slammed past him and fallen onto the macadam at the side of the road.
Furiously Leslie spun around, still near the Pig, trying to get clear for a clean shot or to use his knife.
"Stinking IRA murderer!" the Fusilier screamed. He lifted his pistol, but blood poured from a tear in his right arm and it trembled, then sagged. He tried to lift his arm again but the weapon was too heavy, the strength in his wounded arm fading.
Leslie dived on the man, his knife thrusting again and again at the enemy's chest, only to see it hit and slant away. The damn flak jacket! He lifted the blade and slashed higher at the British soldier's unprotected throat.
Hot blood gushed from a carotid artery, spewing, spraying over Leslie's hand, jacket, and face. He felt a wild thrill as he slashed twice more and sensed the British soldier's body go limp under him as his life flowed out on the Irish road. Terrance stroked once more with his knife, then paused a moment to make sure the man was dead.
He rushed back to the Pig, checked the front, and saw two more bodies. A bloody four; the Brits always patrolled these rigs with four men.
He dashed back to the end of the wall, where he picked up the empty rocket launcher and slung it over his shoulder. Lights had come on in three of the nearest houses. The good Catholic residents would have heard the RPG and the rifle' fire. None of them would report it, nor would they come out until they were sure it was well over with.
He pulled out the partly used magazine from the Armalite, rammed in a new one with thirty rounds, and jogged past the O'Grady house to the empty field behind it.
Terrance Leslie was thirty-two years old, a thin man at an even thirteen stone and not quite six-one. His sandy brown hair was longer than he liked, falling now and then into intense green eyes that were wide set. He would have to get a haircut soon. He hated getting his hair trimmed.
He had a small nose and jug ears that gave his face a slightly comic slant. However, there was nothing humorous about him now.
The IRA soldier moved quickly to a small stream a quarter of a mile across the field that was crossed by hawthorn hedges and again by low stone walls.
He found the path he wanted, followed it for four kilometers to the north, and went around several small stone farmhouses. Leslie passed one ancient whitewashed and thatched cottage that stood sheltered in a cluster of syca-more trees. He had once lived for a while in such a house.
After a long walk he came to an access road that led to the motorway exchange. In a patch of conifers the government had planted just off the access road, he found his two-year-old Ford Anglia where he had left it.
A quick inspection proved that no one had tampered with it, or set a bomb on it. Quickly he took a heavy plastic case from the rear seat and put the rifle and launcher in it, then slung them under the Anglia on prepositioned hooks and wired the package in place.
He was well away from the death scene. With any luck the shots would not be reported until morning, for now there should be no roadblocks at all, and certainly not any this far north. Leslie started the car and drove onto the access road, then to the motorway. In half an hour he would be back at his small flat in the heaviest populated Catholic area of Belfast.
He was not smiling as he drove. He had not lusted for the deaths of those British youngsters. They were victims. He was their executioner. It was his job. He had a certain talent for warfare; in fact, he was excellent at all phases of combat and removal of an enemy. The best in the whole IRA, some said.
That was how he had reached the top levels of the organization.
Someday he would be the chief of staff with the whole IRA Council and members to serve his demands. He would have over three hundred dedicated, trained, loyal freedom fighters. Then they would make progress. His way. Terrance Leslie's way. It was a war and would be fought like a war!
He parked the Anglia a half block down the street in a different location than he had used the previous day. Patterns set by habit in any of his activities could lead to sudden death. He went up to his flat and quickly washed the British blood off his hands and face where it had sprayed.
He put on a neat three-piece suit, went back down to the street, and walked two blocks over, keeping to the shadows. There he climbed the stairs to the third-floor loft where the council would be meeting. The men up there thought he had been calling on one of his lads who was hurt and resting on the far side of Belfast. James would cover for him. He was a good soldier.
He combed his hair, adjusted his tie, and checked his suit. It would never do to be sloppy in front of the council after he had built a reputation for being a classy dresser. He turned the knob and went into the hall.
An Armalite trained on him for a moment, then he lifted his hat and the weapon swung away.
"And a good evening to you, Terrance," the guard said. "I think they been awaiting fer you."
Leslie grinned. "Thank you, Mr. Craig. I'll be putting a mark in my book for you." He nodded and walked toward the next door, which was now held open. Underneath he was cringing. Not more petty arguments! He was sick to death of fishmonger wrangling! He was close to tossing it all in and forming his own squad. Just one squad of ten men! Think how he could set all of Belfast on its ear!
Paddy Behan, their chief of staff, looked up from his table and smiled. "Terrance, my lad, we've a bit of a problem here, and you're just the man to work out a compromise. Would you be having a few minutes?"
He sat down and listened to the two men before him explain the situation. Some damn procedural management affair that he couldn't care less about. He quickly struck a solution mat seemed obvious to him and sent the two men back to their work satisfied.
It was a working and reporting session, with the council members handling areas and items of their assigned concern. Then the whole council met for ten minutes and the session was over. They did not like to prolong get-togethers, since it increased the risk when they were in the same room for long. Anything could happen. There were spies everywhere. Terrance Leslie trusted no one but himself.
He and Paddy went down the steps a short time later to a pub and lifted an ale.
"Have you heard anything about Cornerstone?" Leslie asked.
Paddy shook his head. He was in his fifties, had been in the movement since the 1956 border campaigns. He had been on the wet side of things more than a dozen times. Notches on his gun, the American gangsters would call it.
Even so, Paddy Behan had a kind, soft face. His eyes were light blue, and large, red splotches showed on his cheeks. His hair had thinned almost to the point of baldness on top. Usually he wore reading glasses.
He was not more than five-nine, and now his physician told him he was at least three stone overweight. He called it a beer belly.
He shook his head. "No progress on Cornerstone. We've had four good men talking with them for two months. Nobody but you and I know about the negotiations, laddy, and we keep it that way. If it works, it works. We've got our best talkers there—a lawyer, even."
"Sometimes, Paddy, I don't care if it works or not. I'm fed up with all this talk."
Paddy lifted his glass. "That, lad, is why we didn't send you. Besides, we need you more here. We'll keep things quiet while they talk. It just might work. I'd say anything right now to get the damned British out of Northern Ireland. Then we can do what we please with the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the bloody bastards."
"The RUC never have been a big worry to us, Paddy," Leslie said. "Unification with the Republic of Ireland is what's important—first, last, and forever!"
"Aye, and you know I believe that, too, Terrance. Sometimes the best way to an end result isn't the bloody straight line. Especially in politics, and this damn well is politics at its best or worst, I'm not sure which."
They drank in silence for a moment, each man rethinking some important aspect of his IRA career.
At last Paddy lifted his glass. "To all of those good men we have lost, Terrance. May their eternal souls rest in peace."
"I'll drink to that, Paddy. Rest in peace!" But he was thinking of the four Fusiliers he had gunned down less than three hours ago. It would be on the radio shortly, he imagined, maybe the telly tomorrow. He didn't crave the publicity. However, he did want the British to know that they were still in a war.
Sometimes they forgot.
Hell, sometimes a few of the IRA men forgot.
The two friends worked on their drinks. Paddy lifted one foot, slipped off his shoe, and massaged his foot.
"Never been quite the same since my set-to over in Londonderry on Bloody Sunday back in 1972. Quite a time, that." He massaged the foot again, then put his shoe back on. Terrance frowned slightly as the older man winced as he lowered his foot to the floor.
They talked a moment more, then set a meeting for the next day in the lawyer's office to find out if any progress had been made on Cornerstone. Five minutes later they went their separate ways.
Leslie walked to his flat, realizing for the first time mat Paddy was slowing down. He was getting too old for this young man's war. Tonight Paddy never would have finished the job. It was a shame, but Paddy would have to be replaced sooner than he thought. He would have a frank talk with Paddy soon.
In his second-floor flat he undressed and fell on the bed. He snapped on the telly and watched the late news. No mention of die loss of the four men in Beechrock. The British would wait until tomorrow. Try to trap someone into a statement. They should know better by now.
He lived alone. He never had had time for a wife. There was a woman now and then, for a night or two— usually someone he knew from the movement who could be totally trusted. But time was the factor. He was thirty-two already. He had maybe ten to fifteen more active years. He had to put them to the very best use he could.
Nobody else was going to do it; he would have to. He must spark Northern Ireland and the six hundred thousand Catholics living there into a real war of independence against the Stormont holdovers and the British, if necessary. No, first get the Brits out, then deal with the rest.
Kill the queen? They'd had their chance when she visited Belfast back in 1977. He had been twenty-two at the time but he'd done nothing. She was right there on their streets! But mings had seemed different then.
Now he would jump at the opportunity. They needed a master stroke, a shocking raid to focus attention again on Ireland for the Irish, not the bloody British or the unionists. Let them all move to London!
The real IRA needed a headline-maker again. They had been without one for so long. They needed daring, they needed attacks and bombings and assassinations that would put them in the forefront of the news and in the hearts of Irishmen everywhere.
But what would it be? How could he do it unless he had control, unless he was the chief of staff?
He tried to sleep. For the first time in months he could not. He had no remorse for the four Brits he had slaughtered in Beechrock that evening. They were pawns, simple dolts pushed around the board by the bishops and knights, while the important ones, the rooks and the king and queen, lurked deep in the background where it was safe.
Pawn against pawn, that's how wars were always fought, with the pawns suffering the losses.
He turned over and thought through the encounter again. Next time he would drop a grenade through an open port, if he had the chance, when he made the final body count. He would not risk someone rushing him that way. Yes, a good soldier learns from every encounter.
It seemed like he had always been fighting someone.
He had been born in 1955, after World War n, when Belfast had been hit hard by German bombers during the London blitz. His father had fought in the war, been wounded twice, won medals twice, and came home to continue his work with the IRA in Belfast for a United Ireland.
His father had fought in the Irish War in the border campaign of 1956 and had been one of those to at last declare it to be a failure in 1962. Little Terry had not known why his father went away so often or stayed so long. Several times he came home wounded, and they had to hide him in the attic and then in a cellar until he was strong enough to make it on his own.
Terrance grew up on IRA stories, of derring-do, and anger and hatred of all Protestants and Britons. His special impetus from the IRA came in 1968, when he was thirteen years old. They told him his father had been killed as he planted a bomb in a shopping district in London.
It was several years before he learned the truth. Duff Leslie had been killed along with another IRA man when a bomb they were making went off prematurely in a garage on the outskirts of Londonderry.
Gelignite was impossible to obtain by then, and they had turned to using common materials to create their own explosives. The trouble was that they were highly unstable and unreliable. His father had learned how unstable they could be.
Terrance's mother had moved with him and his younger sister to Dublin for a while, but she found the situation there with some shirttailed relatives impossible. Soon she was back hi Belfast, living in New Lodge, Old Park, and then Ardoyne, all intensely Catholic areas of Belfast and all peppered with IRA members and sympathizers.
There were many friends. Because of his father's station in the IRA, the organization had pledged to "take care" of his widow and children. They were "family." Often young Terrance would run errands for a kindly man who came to see them now and then. His name was Paddy, and he ran a small jewelry shop downtown. He was an expert with clocks of all kinds. That made him important to the IRA.
One day Paddy told Terrance to leave a shoe box beside a special car outside City Hall. He was to locate the car by the license plate and sit down next to it, as if he were tired. When he got up, he would simply leave the shoe box under the front of the car.
"Remember, Terrance, you must leave the shoe box well before three o'clock, do you understand?" Paddy asked him for the third time.
"Of course, Paddy. I understand. Will there be a surprise in it for the owner of the car?''
Paddy nodded grimly. "Indeed there will be, Terrance, my boy. Indeed there will be."
He had done as he was instructed, walked away from the car as he counted the pennies in his pocket to see if he had enough for an ice cream. He got the ice and found a clock to see what time it was.
At exactly three o'clock he was half a block from the City Hall when the bomb went oflf under the car. It had been his bomb! For fifteen minutes he had been so excited, he could hardly move. At last he did.
He hurried home and found Paddy waiting for him, a big smile on his face and holding two candy bars, which he gave to Terrance.
Three more times he had planted bombs where a man might be suspect. Three more times he had been successful, and others in the IRA knew of his good work.
A year later he had grown four inches taller and was a regular member of the local IRA cell. Paddy Behan was their leader.
He turned over in bed again. It was a shame, yes, but Paddy had to go. One way or another. He was holding up progress. He was stifling the lads who could set Ireland on her ear again. One way or another, Paddy had to be eased out of power and command taken over by a younger, more vigorous leader.
The only logical replacement was Terrance Leslie.
That settled in his mind, he fell asleep at once.
John Cody scowled out the second-story window of a brick safe house in Ballymacarret, a Protestant section of Belfast, Northern Ireland, and not far from the River Lagan. He slammed his open hand against the wall and felt the vibrations all the way to his toes.
"Where the hell are they?" he asked the neatly furnished room where he had been holed up for a day and a half, staying out of sight and waiting for his team to arrive.
The orders had simply told him to proceed to Belfast, and there contact Sherman at the firm of Rothchild and Bull, and assemble his team. Sherman told Cody he was the first to arrive and that Caine, Hawkins, and Murphy had made contact by phone and would be along "shortly."
The first day, Cody rested from the long plane ride from Manila. Then he spent this morning obtaining background material and current political evaulations on the Northern Ireland "problem" through the firm of Rothchild and Bull, an export-import firm with very little real property to show for its good address.
Now, well into the afternoon of day number two, Cody was getting cabin fever. The message from Pete Lund had been concise and precise. Lund said the president had a mission for Cody's Army in Northern Ireland, and anything he knew about the area before he arrived there ASAP would be beneficial. Nothing more.
Cody stared out at the neat row of brick houses. If the IRA didn't burn out the whole damn city, these houses should last for three hundred years. The Irish always had been good builders.
He picked up Ireland Today, the book he had been reading. What little he knew about Ireland he didn't understand. There was the Irish Republic that constituted about three quarters of the Emerald Isle's landmass. That part was a free and independent country and had not even participated in World War II.
On the other hand, the six counties of Northern Ireland, more correctly northeastern Ireland, had voted back in 1921 to remain a part of the British Empire as a province and remained so today. The whole of the north had been called Ulster, but now the Ulster province was divided with a part of it in the Irish Republic.
What a mess, Cody decided. The majority of the people in Northern Ireland were Protestants who wanted to maintain sovereign links with England. They were called the Unionists and there were about a million of them.
The Catholic minority were the Nationalists, and most of them preferred to return to the fold as a part of the Irish Republic. There are only about six hundred thousand Catholics in Northern Ireland.
In elections from 1921 to modern times, the Protestants won every contest in Northern Ireland and gradually ground die Catholic minority down into definite second-class citizenship. This affected business, schools, and, most important, jobs. Unemployment in Northern Ireland was about 22 percent for Protestants, but in Catholic areas it was 37 percent.
Ever since 1921, the two sides had been fighting inside Northern Ireland. The IRA, the Irish Republican Army, was an outgrowth of those fights, with the popularity and the power of the group ebbing and flowing with the times.
The Protestant government was known as the Stormont, and with heavy fighting between the two sides increasing, in 1972 Britain abolished the Stormont parliament and took over direct rule of the province of Northern Ireland through a cabinet minister.
- On Sale
- Sep 26, 2009
- Page Count
- 183 pages
- Grand Central Publishing