Читать онлайн "Field of Blood" автора Mina Denise - RuLit - Страница 8

 
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“You are invited to sit,” she said, pointing to a dirty canvas-and-metal chair.

Meehan sat down. He felt very exposed. He was in the center of the room, everyone was looking at him, and his chair didn’t have any arms.

The square man nodded at him and spoke for a long moment. The woman said: “You claim that you have come to give us information on British prisons. You want to help us to free imprisoned comrades in the West. Why would you do this?”

“I’m a communist myself,” said Meehan. “I’ve had sympathies that way for many years. Since I worked in the Glasgow shipyards.”

She told the important man what he had said, and he spoke again, holding Meehan’s eye.

“Yet you are not a registered member of the party in your country,” relayed the woman.

“Aye, well,” shrugged Meehan, thinking that, actually, that probably did seem strange. “I’m not much of a joiner.”

When he heard this the man smiled and spoke again, but his smile was forced.

“If you are motivated by political sympathies,” said the woman, “why have you asked us to give you money for this information?”

“I need a new start in Canada. I have a wife and children.”

The woman translated. The square man nodded and spoke again.

“He says…” The woman paused, wondering how to say it. “What are we to think of a communist who will not join the party and wants money for doing his duty?”

Meehan smiled weakly. He glanced at Rolf, but neither he nor the lieutenant would look at him. They were going to kill him. The square man spoke again.

“Do not feel threatened,” the interpreter ordered briskly. “We are friendly to you.”

But Meehan felt sick. He thought of Betty and their disappointed children. He wanted to cry or pray, he didn’t know which. The square man leaned forward, looking furious now, and it took Paddy a minute to work out that he was speaking in English.

“Is ver’ good,” said the man, slurring as he worked his tongue around unfamiliar open English vowel sounds. “Glasgow Rangers- is ver’ good.”

Paddy Connolly Meehan nodded. Whether it was the fear or a loyalty reflex, he felt himself getting hot and said, “Glasgow Celtic better.”

The panel looked puzzled for a moment until the square man laughed, and then they joined in nervously, glancing from side to side, almost believing at one point that they found it funny.

***

Over the following few weeks they asked him repeatedly about British prison security, made him draw maps of the layouts of all the prisons he had been in and tell them about weaknesses in the window bars and acceptable methods of bribing guards. They presented him with a problem: how to get a two-way radio in to a prisoner who was under constant surveillance. Meehan suggested two identical transistor radios, one with the two-way facility and one without. If they delivered the special one to any other prisoner who wouldn’t be searched thoroughly and had the normal one delivered to the subject, a switch could be effected a few days later by anyone with a pass card. They made him go through the plan over and over again and apply it in detail to the layout of several different prisons.

Three weeks later Rolf and the lieutenant accompanied him back to wherever the hell they had been in the first place. They were in the air before Meehan felt he could relax. He had heard a lot of people come and go from the adjacent cells during the three weeks, heard women keening softly in the night and sobbing men being led away shouting in Russian dialects he didn’t understand, final, desperate words laden with regret- a woman’s name, perhaps, or a place. Meehan knew they wouldn’t be sending him on a plane if they intended to kill him. They would just have popped him there and then.

Rolf took out his old hip flask and gave them a vodka each. They sparked up Meehan’s cigarettes again and drank a toast to Scotland Yard. The young lieutenant looked to Rolf for permission and then he told Meehan that President Kennedy had been assassinated in Dallas a month ago.

II

It was a blindly sunny day and they were standing where half of East Germany wanted to be, on the right side of the Wall at Checkpoint Charlie. Rolf had come too far over, Paddy could tell by the agitated faces of the East German guards. They wanted to challenge him but couldn’t because of his rank. The British consul, a small man with a brown trilby and an ill-fitting camel overcoat, was waiting by a large official car with little flags on the bonnet. He stayed ten feet away, avoiding coming over to them, waiting instead for Paddy to come to him, as if communism were contagious.

In the car on the way there, Rolf had given Meehan a check, cashable only in an East German bank. It wasn’t much money in the East, and outside it worthless. All Meehan had for seventeen months of interrogation was an unusable check, two packets of cigarettes, and a bar of chocolate. Two packets of fags and a bar of chocolate and handed back into the hands of the British authorities, who would question him endlessly before returning him straight to prison to finish his sentence. The communists were sending him back as a carrier pigeon. They had put information his way so consistently he was sure it was wrong. Each of his many East German cellmates carefully passed on the same unsolicited information about guard-changing times and security measures.

They couldn’t drag it out any longer: the guards were getting pissed off and edging towards them. The time had come to part. Meehan put out his hand and Rolf shook it politely.

“You are a clever man, Comrade Meehan.”

Two packets of fags and a bar of chocolate. Meehan saw a turn in his eye. He would never have suspected it before and would lie to himself about it for the rest of his life; but for that small moment, he knew for certain that Rolf despised him. He thought Meehan was a cheap turncoat prick.

SIX . SHOVELING FOOD IN

1981

I

They could hear the burble of the gathering before they turned the corner to Granny Annie’s. All the lights were on, the front door sat open in welcome, and the shadows pressing up against the front window showed how busy it was.

As Paddy came through the front door she dipped her finger into the holy water font hanging on the wall, but Annie had been in hospital for a fortnight and dead a week, and the little sponge at the bottom had dried out. The contact left a sour stain on Paddy’s fingertips. She only kept up the habit because it pleased her mother so much when she witnessed it.

Someone’s auntie was doling out the entrance drinks from a table just inside the door, assisted by Paddy’s Gran Meehan, a small woman who had taken an abstinence pledge at the chapel twenty years ago and had neither enjoyed a drink since nor allowed a drink to be enjoyed in her company. The auntie pressed a glass with a smear of whisky into Sean’s hand and an inch of sweet sherry into Paddy’s. Afraid the sherry would interfere with the chemical reaction of the eggs and grapefruit, Paddy sipped, trying to mitigate the damage by not really enjoying it.

Annie had been a strict adherent to pre-Vatican II old-style Voodoo Catholicism, and it showed everywhere in the house. Holy pictures were hanging on every wall above the grab rails, and novenas were neatly tucked into the corners of toothy school photos of her grandchildren. A romantic plaster statue of Saint Sebastian, shot through with arrows and wilting in ecstasy, sat under a grimy glass dome on a windowsill, and a chipped Child of Prague was on the mantel, tipped at an angle by the silver ten-pence coin placed underneath it, a fetish that would invite prosperity into the house. Apart from superstition, sanctimoniousness, and a general distrust of Protestants, Annie’s only real weakness was the Saturday-afternoon wrestling on the television. She had a signed photo of Big Daddy on the wall below the Sacred Heart.

     

 

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