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Authors: Jack Higgins

Tags: #Fiction, #Thrillers, #Espionage

Confessional (5 page)

BOOK: Confessional
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Dr Hans Wolfgang Baum was a remarkable man. Born in Berlin in 1950, the son of a prominent industrialist, on his father's death in 1970 he had inherited a fortune equivalent to ten million dollars and wide business interests. Many people in his position would have been content to live a life of pleasure, which Baum did, with the important distinction that he derived his pleasure from work. jflL
He had a doctorate in engineering sciengRrom the University of Berlin, a law degree from the London School of Economics, and a master's degree in business administration from Harvard. And he had put them all to good use, expanding and developing his various factories in West Germany, France and the United States, so that his personal fortune was now estimated to be in excess of one hundred million dollars.
And yet the project closest to his heart was the development of the plant to manufacture tractors and general agricultural machinery outside Londonderry near Kilgannon. Baum Industries could have gone elsewhere, indeed the members of the board of management had wanted to. Unfortunately for them and the demands of sound business sense, Baum was a truly good man, a rare commodity in this world, and a committed Christian. A member of the German Lutheran Church, he had done everything possible to make the factory a genuine partnership between Catholic and Protestant. He
and his wife were totally committed to the local community, his three children attended local schools.
It was an open secret that he had met the Provisional IRA, some said the legendary Martin McGuiness himself. Whether true or not, the PIRA had left the Kilgannon factory alone to prosper, as it had done, and to provide work for more than a thousand Protestants and Catholics previously unemployed.
Baum liked to keep in shape. Each morning, he awakened at exactly the same time, six o'clock, slid out of bed without disturbing his wife, and pulled on track suit and running shoes. Eileen Docherty, the young maid, was already up and making tea in the kitchen although still in her dressing gown.
'Breakfast at seven, Eileen,' he called. 'My usual. Must get an early start this morning. I've a meeting in Derry at eight-thirty with the Works Committee.'
He let himself out of the kitchen door, ran across the parkland, vaulted a low fence and turned into the woods. He ran rather than jogged at a fast, almost professional pace, following a series of paths,.|j|rnind full of the day's planned events.
By six forty-f^Hie had completed his schedule, turned out of the trees and "hammered along the grass verge of the main road towards the house. As usual, he met Pat Leary's mail van coming along the road towards him. It pulled in and waited and he could see Leary through the windscreen in uniform cap and coat sorting a bundle of mail.
Baum leaned down to the open window. 'What have you got for me this morning, Patrick?'
The face was the face of a stranger, dark, calm eyes, strong bones, nothing to fear there at all, and yet it was Death come to claim him.
'I'm truly sorry,' Cuchulain said. 'You're a good man,' and the Walther in his left hand extended to touch Baum between the eyes. It coughed once, the German was hurled back to fall on the verge, blood and brains scattering across the grass.
Cuchulain drove away instantly, was back in the track by the bridge where he had left Leary within five minutes. He tore
off the cap and coat, dropped them beside the unconscious postman and ran through the trees, clambering over a wooden fence a few minutes later beside a narrow farm track, heavily overgrown with grass. A motorcycle waited there, an old 35occ BSA, stripped down as if for hill climbing with special ribbed tyres. It was a machine much used by hill farmers on both sides of the border to herd sheep. He pulled on a battered old crash helmet with a scratched visor, climbed on and kick-started expertly. The engine roared into life and he rode away, passing only one vehicle, the local milk cart just outside the village.
Back there on the main road it started to rain and it was still falling on the upturned face of Hans Wolfgang Baum thirty minutes later when the local milk cart pulled up beside him. And at that precise moment, fifteen miles away, Cuchu-lain turned the BSA along a farm track south of Clady and rode across the border into the safety of the Irish Republic.
Ten minutes later, he stopped beside a phone box, dialled the number of theBelfast Telegraph, asked for the news desk and claimed responsibility for the shooting of Hans Wolfgang Baum on behalf of the Provisional IRA.
'So,' Ferguson said. 'The Motorcyclist the driver of that milk cart saw would seem to be our man.'
'No description, of course,' Fox told him. 'He was wearing a crash helmet.'
'It doesn't make sense,' Ferguson said. 'Baum was well liked by everyone and the local Catholic community was totally behind him. He fought his own board every inch of the way to locate that factory in Kilgannon. They'll probably pull out now, which leaves over a thousand unemployed and Catholics and Protestants at each others' throats again.'
'But isn't that exactly what the Provisionals want, sir?'
'I wouldn't have thought so, Harry. Not this time. This was a dirty one. The callous murder of a thoroughly good man, well respected by the Catholic community. It can do the Provisionals nothing but harm with their own people. That's
what I don't understand. It was such a stupid thing to do.' He tapped the file on Baum which Fox had brought in. 'Baum met Martin McGuiness in secret and McGuiness assured him of the Provisionals' good will, and whatever else you may think of him, McGuiness is a clever man. Too damned clever, actually, but that isn't the point.' He shook his head. 'No, it doesn't add up.'
The red phone bleeped. He picked it up. 'Ferguson here.' He listened for a moment. 'Very well, Minister.' He put the phone down and stood up. 'The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Harry. Wants me right away. Get on to Lisburn again. Army Intelligence - anything you can think of. Find out all you can.'
He was back just over an hour later. As he was taking off his coat, Fox came in.
'That didn't take long, sir.'
'Short and sweet. He's not pleased, Harry, and neither is the Prime Minister. She's good and mad and you know what that means.'
'She wants results., sir?'
'Only she wants* them yesterday, Harry. All hell's broken loose over there in Ulster. Protestant politicians having a field day. Paisley saying I told you so, as usual. Oh, the West German Chancellor's been on to Downing Street. To be frank, things couldn't be worse.'
'I wouldn't be too sure, sir. According to Army Intelligence at Lisburn the PIRA are more than a little annoyed about this one themselves. They insist they had nothing to do with it.'
'But they claimed responsibility.'
'They run a very tight ship these days, sir, as you know, since the re-organization of their command structure. McGuiness, amongst other things, is still Chief of Northern Command and the word from Dublin is that he categorically denies involvement of any of his people. In fact, he's as angry as anybody else at the news. It seems he thought a great deal of Baum.'
'Do you think it's INLA?'
The Irish National Liberation Front had shown themselves
willing to strike in the past more ruthlessly than the Pro-visionals when they felt the situation warranted it.
'Intelligence says not, sir. They have a good source close to the top where INLA is concerned.'
Ferguson warmed himself at the fire. 'Are you suggesting the other side were responsible? The UVF or the Red Hand of Ulster?'
'Again, Lisburn has good sources in both organizations and the word is definitely no. No Protestant organization was involved.'
'Not officially.'
'It doesn't look as if anyone was involved officially, sir. There are always the cowboys, of course. The madmen who watch too many midnight movies on television and end up willing to kill anybody rather than nobody.'
Ferguson lit a cheroot and sat behind his desk. 'Do you really believe that, Harry?'
'No, sir,' Fox said calmly. 'I was just throwing out all the obvious questions the media crackpots will come up with.'
Ferguson sat there staring at him, frowning. 'You know something, don't you?'^
'Not exactly, sir. There could be an answer to this, a totally preposterous one which you aren't going to like one little bit.'
Tell me.'
'All right, sir. The'fact that theBelfast Telegraph had a phone call claiming responsibility for the Provisionals is going to make the Provos look very bad indeed.'
'Let's assume that was the purpose of the exercise.'
'Which means a Protestant organization did it with that end in view.'
'Not necessarily, as I think you'll see if you let me explain. I got the full report on the affair from Lisburn just after you left. The killer is a professional, no doubt about that. Cold, ruthless and highly organized and yet he doesn't just kill everyone in sight.'
'Yes, that had occurred to me too. He gave the postman, Leary, a capsule. Some sort of knock-out drop.'
'And that stirred my mind, so I put it through the computer.' Fox had a file tucked under his arm and now he opened it. 'The first five killings on the list all involved a witness being forced at gunpoint to take that sort of capsule. First time it occurs is nineteen seventy-five in Omagh.'
Ferguson examined the list and looked up. 'But on two occasions, the victims were Catholics. I accept your argument that the same killer was involved, but it makes a nonsense of your theory that the purpose in killing Baum was to make the PIRA look bad.'
'Stay with it a little longer, sir, please. Description of the killer in each case is identical. Black balaclava and dark anorak. Always uses a Walther PPK. On three occasions was known to escape by motor cycle from the scene of the crime.'
'I fed all those details into the computer separately, sir. Any killings where motor cycles were involved. Cross-referencing with use of a Walther, not necessarily the same gun, of course. Also cross-referencing with the description of the individual.'
'And you got a result?'
'I got a result.all right, sir.' Fox produced not one sheet, but two. 'At least thirty probable killings since nineteen seventy-five, all linked to the factors I've mentioned. There are another ten possibles.'
Ferguson scanned the lists quickly. 'Dear God!' he whispered. 'Catholic and Protestant alike. I don't understand.'
'You might if you consider the victims, sir. In all cases where the Provisionals claimed responsibility, the target was counter-productive, leaving them looking very bad indeed.'
'And the same where Protestant extremist organizations were involved?'
True, sir, although the PIRA are more involved than anyone else. Another thing, if you consider the dates when the killings took place, it's usually when things were either quiet or getting better or when some political initiative was taking place. One of the possible cases when our man might have been involved goes back as far as July 1972,, when, as you know, a delegation from the IRA met
William Whitelaw secretly here in London.'
'That's right,' Ferguson said. 'There was a ceasefire. A genuine chance for peace.'
'Broken because someone started shooting on the Len-adoon estate in Belfast and that's all it took to start the pot boiling again.'
Ferguson sat there, staring down at the lists, his face expressionless. After a while, he said, 'So what you're saying is that somewhere over there is one mad individual dedicated to keeping the whole rotten mess turning over.'
'Exactly, except that I don't think he's mad. It seems to me he's simply following sound Marxist-Leninist principles where urban revolution is concerned. Chaos, disorder, fear. All those factors essential to the breakdown of any kind of orderly government.'
'With the IRA taking the brunt of the smear campaign?'
'Which makes it less and less likely that the Protestants will ever come to a political agreement with them, or our own government, for that matter.'
'And ensures that the struggle continues ^ar after year and a solution always recedes before us.' Ferguson nodded slowly. 'An interesting theory, Harry, and you believe it?'
He looked up enquiringly. Fox shrugged. 'The facts were all there in the computer. We never asked the right questions, that's all. If we had, the pattern would have emerged earlier. It's been there a long time, sir.'
'Yes, I think you could very well be right.' Ferguson sat brooding for a little while longer.
Fox said gently, 'He exists, sir. He is a fact, I'm sure of it. And there's something else. Something that could go a long way to explaining the whole thing.'
'All right, tell me the worst.'
Fox took a further sheet from the file. 'When you were in Washington the other week, Tony Villiers came back from the Oman.'
'Yes, I heard something of his adventures there.'
'In his debriefing, Tony tells an interesting story concerning
a Russian Jewish dissident named Viktor Levin whom he brought out with him. A fascinating vignette about a rather unusual KGB training centre in the Ukraine.'
He moved to the fire and lit a cigarette, waiting for Ferguson to finish reading the file. After a while, Ferguson said, 'Tony Villiers is in the Falklands now, did you know that?'
'Yes, sir, serving with the SAS behind enemy lines.'
'And this man, Levin?'
'A highly gifted engineer. We've arranged for one of the Oxford colleges to give him a job. He's at a safe house in Hampstead at the moment. I've taken the liberty of sending for him, sir.'
'Have you indeed, Harry? What would I do without you?'
'Manage very well, I should say, sir. Ah, and another thing. The psychologist, Paul Cherny, mentioned in that story. He defected in nineteen seventy-five.'
'What, to England?' Ferguson demanded.
'No, sir - Ireland. Went there for an international conference in July of that year and asked for political asylum. He's now Professor of Experimental Psychology at Trinity College, Dublin.'
Viktor Levin looked fit and well, still deeply tanned from his time in the Yemen. He wore a grey tweed suit, soft white shirt and blue tie, and black library spectacles that quite changed his appearance. He talked for some time, answering Ferguson's questions patiently.
During a brief pause he said, 'Do I presume that you gentlemen believe that the man Kelly, or Cuchulain to give him his codename, is actually active in Ireland? I mean, it's been twenty-three years.'
'But that was the whole idea, wasn't it?' Fox said. 'A sleeper to go in deep. To be ready when Ireland exploded. Perhaps he even helped it happen.'

BOOK: Confessional
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