Sons of the Troubles

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: War and Military  |  House: Booksie Classic

Chapter 1 (v.1) - Chapter 1

Submitted: June 12, 2019

Reads: 57

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Submitted: June 12, 2019

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CHAPTER ONE

The unfolding October morning in Londonderry, also known as “Derry”, Northern Ireland greeted its citizenry with a very bright sun and gentle but chilly breeze. It was the beginning of a long awaited glorious day in Londonderry, often scorned this time of the year with ill-favored, inclement weather; and, as the morning hours gradually passed, the anxious, restless residents eagerly accepted nature’s beckoning invitation and were out in throngs admiring and enjoying the gorgeous weather.

Through the remainder of the delightsome, languid morning and afternoon, the sun’s natural radiance and the wind’s subtle gusts continued to steadily lavish Londonderry. The savory weather was a pleasant hiatus from the readily developing October Cimmerian weather that reminded the citizens of the baleful, hostile “Troubles” that was primarily plaguing and terrorizing England and Northern Ireland’s two largest cities, Belfast and Londonderry.

During the afternoon, the only imperfections of the day’s stunning, cerulean canopy had been the innumerous white, puffy clouds that lethargically drifted inland from the Atlantic. The menacing Atlantic tempest that had been forecast to mature into a rare hurricane and besiege the whole of county Londonderry and its surrounding counties was still far out at sea, nurturing and vitalizing itself as it trekked languidly landward.

Tim Fahey had lost count of how many times he had been up and down the small, wooden footstool. All he knew was that it was many, many demoralizing times. It was mid-afternoon and a perturbed, disheartened Fahey once again alighted from the stool that was positioned beneath the bar-lined window of his drab, gray and claustrophobic domain, but this time he did so while hastily making the sign of the cross. He had grown extremely tired of monitoring what he considered to be disturbing and disappointing weather. Besides, his strained eyes and weary legs needed a rest. The only interruptions of his monotonous task had been his observation of the continuous, mesmerizing movement of the streaming, insignificant clouds and their ethereal shadows that tightly hugged the landscape and slowly slithered over its undulate contour. He despised the unvarying weather presently gracing the entire region and in a silent, diffident solicitation he requested of the Almighty a mutation of the present conditions to the often discordant and disharmonious October weather and in particular to the forewarned weather turmoil that was presently unfolding in the Atlantic and directed to land. To say the least, he and Dermot Higgins were in the minority of the Derry populace. He looked over at his yawning IRA compatriot and cellmate, Dermot Higgins who had been observing him from his cot.

“Prayer is it now, Tim?” barbedly asked Higgins, as he stood, stretched and returned to his uncomfortable cot, interlocking his hands’ fingers and placing them behind his head to lessen the harsh effects of his miserable, punishing cot.

“Desperate measures for desperate people,” remarked a seeming abashed Fahey. “Besides, I’m not like those murderous, heathen Brits. I still have a little faith.”

“Well Tim, it looks now as if we may need more than a ‘little’ faith. Hopefully, yer sins will be forgiven and yer prayers will be answered by tonight or early morning,” derided Higgins.

“Well, if they’re not, we’re doomed to a hellish, highly secured confinement,” warned a despondent Fahey, who turned, stepped up on the stool and once again craned his neck to explore the skies that wafted above.

Within the week, Fahey and Higgins were scheduled to be transferred to Magilligan prison about 27 kilometers East of Londonderry. They were desperate to prevent such movement.

They now had been temporarily incarcerated in a hastily renovated, abandoned, large stone mental asylum located on a hill just outside Derry city overlooking the river Foyle as a result of their arrest for their participation in the bombing of a Derry pub, which severely injured twenty people, including three off-duty British officers. Their capture was an ignominious, public dragging along a road to an awaiting police wagon in which their violent entry was attended with vicious punches, kicks and cigarette burns. They now considered that additional English-ordered incarceration and almost daily torture was not an option to be further endured by either of them.

Tim and Dermot met in early 1971 Derry during the beginning of the “Troubles”. Both, being Catholic, had experienced the prejudice and discrimination by Northern Ireland’s Loyalist Protestants and the oppressive, barbaric treatment by British soldiers. They mutually decided to aid the Nationalist Catholic cause and volunteered for the Provisional Irish Republican Army. As members, they participated in as much mayhem and bombings of pubs, cars and hotels in and around Derry and Belfast as they could.

 Tim Fahey was thirty years old and possessed black hair, shorn but long enough to permit a comb to run smoothly through it. He was six feet one inch tall and weighed one hundred eighty-five pounds. He had an athletic build, the result of years of playing football on the pitches around Derry. He was cute, as the girls like to say, and when he smiled the resulting dimples made the ladies fall all over him. He, at times, worked with his father and three brothers as a laborer on a farm near the village of Draperstown,  Southeast of Derry, where he resided with his family. Like his brothers, he had superior upper body strength and large, taut biceps as a result of constantly lifting hefty bales, large wooden barrels and various other physically challenging farm equipment and tools.

Twenty-two year old Dermot Higgins was only five feet ten inches tall, but a solidly built, two hundred pound animal with huge muscular arms and legs, making him a formidable foe for the British troops. He had worked on various Northern Ireland farms, resulting in his physical frame. Daily pushups and sit ups helped tone and maintain his striking physique. He could handle himself well and his reputation was widely known by everyone.

Fahey’s attention had been fervidly and anxiously directed to the sky from his cell window since he and Higgins were routinely bestirred from their sleep by the morning guards, but it was not to admire or be enraptured by the weather’s resplendent beguilement. His surveillance was strictly for selfish reasons. After a disappointing morning and afternoon searching the heavens, desperation became his emotional infliction and it was gnawing at him every minute of the remainder of the passing day as he knew that the fading, brilliant sun would be surrendering its domination to the encroaching evening darkness.

With no evidence of a brewing storm, a deeply concerned Fahey again embarrassingly and silently resorted to beseeching an absolving God’s help in having the weather flaunt its rambunctious October behavior, together with the atypical approaching hurricane, all the while continuing to entreat Him to forgive his sinful deeds and his long ago abandonment of his Catholic faith. He realized the hypocrisy of his prayer but his growing frustration and hopelessness left him with little choice but to implore his once revered God for his abetment. His childhood’s deeply ingrained Catholic faith had gotten the better of him.

The remainder of the uneventful afternoon failed to provide any encouragement to the worrisome, dithered Fahey that the portended, significant weather disturbance they had restlessly been expecting was on its way. Other than the harmless, meandering clouds, there still had been no indication of the serious, approaching weather system.

It was just before the evening’s twilight hours that Fahey discerned large, ominous, gray clouds and muted rumblings. Also noticeable was the earlier tranquil, animated breeze’s morph into a more intense wind that commenced pestering scores of swaying broadleaf and coniferous trees into surrendering their recalcitrant leaves and cones to the Earthen floor.

“Dermot! Come here. Did you hear that? I think it’s comin,” declared a jubilant Fahey.

Higgins hopped up from his cot, grabbed the desk chair and joined Fahey at the narrow window.

“Look!  The darker clouds?” excitedly exclaimed Fahey. “Listen! You’ll hear thunder.”

Higgins cocked his head toward the window and listened. He elatedly grinned.

“Dermot, never underestimate a ‘little’ faith in God and the power of prayer”, lectured Fahey, the self-declared hypocrite.

As they continued to scrutinize the sky, the crisp wind strengthened into a haughty, more gelid wind. To the ecstatic pair, the deep, subtle mumblings were the presage of the anticipated turbulent weather from the Atlantic. At times during October, these storms intensely disgorged, in a furious rage, an abundance of precipitation upon county Londonderry and nearby counties as they swept inland but now Fahey and Higgins recognized that they were observing the genesis of the forewarned paroxysmal hurricane.

Just before dusk, the inaugural, funereal clouds were joined by billows of leaden, villainous nimbi creating a dense, impenetrable barrier between the retreating light and the demesne’s countryside. Brief periods of lightning materialized, accompanying the expanding blackened mantle and silencing flocks of singing, crepuscular birds as the infringing storm slowly but steadily trekked further over Londonderry and Donegal counties. Within a few minutes, a very light drizzle began. The scant rain, as well as the sporadic, benign lightning and thunder, continued intermittently throughout the remaining evening hours.  Fahey and Higgins were now, more than ever, optimistic that the clamorous deluge that had been predicted would evolve from the present trivial thundershowers. Fahey continued to tediously follow the metamorphosis of the current weather. The storm was on its way.

It was during the late evening and advancing morning hours that Fahey’s grueling forbearance paid off. Revealing its infamous, mercurial nature, the trifling weather suddenly matured and erupted into an explosive, electrifying and torrential assault. Voluminous amounts of inundating rain tumbled from the raven firmament and powerful gale force winds swept across the land, drubbing, lashing and punishing all things within its dominion, and, more aggressively and furiously, it seemed to the rapt and exhilarated Fahey, the asylum, as he heard the wind’s high-pitched, whistling handiwork swirling, curling and sweeping through and around every nook, crevice and curvature of the asylum’s heavy stone structure. Bolts of brilliant, agitated lightning blazoned across the heavens and spectacularly lunged down to the Earth and upon reaching their destination sharply and obstreperously crackled their arrival. Deafening booms of contiguous thunder followed, announcing the lightning bolts’ sudden departure and their imminent reappearance to impetuously perform numerous, ostentatious encores.

The plundering, cataclysmic hurricane was the corrupt weather Fahey had envisioned and for which he had uncomfortably entreated the Almighty. His and Higgins’ time had finally arrived.

While the unremitting storm flourished, inside the former asylum, some of the prisoners slept while others sat silently in their cells enduring the storm and its extreme bruit. Fahey had remained awake through the night and was quietly initializing his part of the plan that would culminate in a shocking and disturbing scene.

Fahey stood next to Dermot Higgins’ cot. Bending down and in an excited voice, he demanded that Dermot wake up.

“It’s time to get up, Dermot,” Fahey faintly stressed. “Quickly now! We have to get movin. The squall has arrived and it’s bucketin down outside. Thompson will be makin his rounds any minute now.”

Bobby Thompson was six feet two inches tall and weighed two hundred and twenty-five pounds. He was the guard on duty that night on Fahey’s and Higgins’ cell block. He was a thirty year old screw who had subjected the prison’s IRA captives to severe tortures and punishments, some resulting in unforgiving physical and psychological damage to the unfortunate victim. His Da, Jimmy, a former Chief Superintendent for Northern Ireland police, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, better known as the RUC, was the now the senior guard. Bobby had learned all of his torturous skills from him. Among the tormenting proficiencies taught to him by his Da were food and sleep deprivation, water boarding and wall-standing, where a prisoner balances in a search position against a wall, endless hours at a time. He took extreme delight in afflicting these excruciations on the prisoners and witnessing their agony and suffering. To him it was a form of entertainment and recreation, a distraction from the usual mundane, boring life of a guard. And as time went by, he considered that he had an aptitude and flair for executing this acquired morbid talent. His Da had created a sadistic lush. If Lucifer had two empty thrones, Bobby Thompson and his Da would occupy them. Every IRA man presently caged in the asylum complex wanted a piece of Bobby and his Da.

Bobby Thompson, as well as the other screws would, at scheduled times each evening and morning, walk the catwalk on their assigned cell block checking on the prisoners. The cells were spaced far enough from each other that no normal conversation was possible between prisoners. Fahey’s and Higgins’ cell was last on their cell block.

Startled from a very light doze, Dermot sat up and swung his stocky frame around, perfunctorily placing his short, thick legs off the cot and to the floor. He shook his head and he was awake. He then heard “Give me yer blanket.”

Higgins handed his blanket to Fahey. Fahey then stripped off his prison uniform. Higgins, also undressed. Both stood in their cell clothed only in their underwear. They shoved their prison garb under Fahey’s cot. They started to shiver from the chilled air and cool flooring. The extremely faint sound of a metal chair scraping the concrete floor echoed from the opposite end of their block.

“He’s comin,” Fahey excitedly proclaimed. “We must act swiftly. Paddy and Tommy have been waitin for us since late mornin. We can’t let ‘em down. Most importantly, we can’t let ourselves down.”

Paddy Keough and Tommy O’Leary were fellow IRA soldiers who were helping with their escape. Keough, claiming to be a cousin of Fahey’s, had visited them once since their incarceration, two days ago when they decided that this was the day they would proceed with the escape because of their impending transfer and, more importantly, the harsh weather that had been forecast. The predicted, savaging weather was their godsend and well worth waiting for.

Keough and O’Leary would have a lorry waiting for Fahey and Higgins off the Victoria Road on the East side of the river Foyle just after crossing the Craigavon bridge. They also were to bring civilian clothing and were to pour shards of glass, metal screws and loose sections of barbed wire onto the asylum’s main entrance/exit to slow the guards’ pursuit that was sure to follow their sudden, unannounced and defiant departure.

Thompson’s heavy footsteps feebly resounded down the cell block. Hesitation between his steps indicated he was inspecting each cell. 

“Get your shiv and give it to me,” Fahey ordered. Higgins’ shiv was nothing more than a flat discarded piece of metal that Rory Mahon, another IRA prisoner sharpened by continuously scraping it on concrete. Its blade was eight centimeters long and was extremely sharp. When finished, he smuggled it to Higgins. He snatched the rudimentary tool from its hiding place and handed it to Fahey who placed it on the floor next to the wall.

“Now, get down on the floor at the end of my cot. When I grab Thompson, get his keys.”

Higgins knelt down next to the cot, hidden from plain view. The dim ceiling lights of the catwalk were located a meter to each side of a cell so that they did not interfere with the inmates’ sleep at night. They were not very bright due to age and neglect. Because of the intruding storm, some even flickered, threatening outage. Tonight, the lighting was unusually dim due to the rain and the dark clouds shrouding the moonlight that would sometimes stream through the cell’s narrow, rectangular windows.

The torrential rain and wind were relentless. The unruly, flamboyant lightning and stentorian thunder were still streaking across the tarnished sky, bequeathing their resonance to County Derry and abutting vicinage. Fahey knelt down against the wall and cell bars closest from where Thompson was coming. A few minutes had passed since Thompson began his inspection. The louder and closer the faint footsteps came, the harder Fahey’s heart pumped. Adrenaline was flowing and working overtime. He would need it.

Thompson arrived and was now standing up against the bars of their cell, peering in wide-eyed at the empty cots. Before Thompson could sound any warning, Fahey shot up from his crouched position and deftly thrust his right arm through the bars and around Thompson’s neck, knocking his prison hat from his head. He quickly slammed and forced Thompson’s head against the cell bars again until Thompson was completely dazed. 

Higgins had now stood up and was next to Fahey.

“Damn it man, get the keys,” demanded Fahey.

Higgins bent down and lunged his right hand through the cell bars and grabbed the chain of keys dangling from Thompson’s left hip. With all of the might and strength in his right arm he tore the key chain free and into his possession. Feverishly he fumbled with each key to unlock their cell door. Finally one of the keys slid the door slightly open. Higgins opened the door further and pulled the stunned Thompson into their cell. After throwing him to the cell floor, he gave him a hard, swift kick to the left side of his head. He lay unconscious.

“Dermot, strip him down to his underwear.”

Higgins unbuttoned Thompson’s uniform shirt and then took off his belt, boots and socks and then slipped off his pants. He shoved Thompson’s baton under Fahey’s cot.

“I’ll wear those. They’re a little big but they’ll do,” declared Fahey. “The heavy rain and wind will hide my flawed appearance.”

Higgins threw him the clothing and Tim rapidly started donning Thompson’s uniform and boots, making the required adjustments. The boots were snug but fit. Tim reached out of the cell and picked up Thompson’s hat from the block’s floor. The storm’s lightning, thunder and forceful wind and rain stifled the asylum’s sounds. The other guards were either napping at their station or busy making their own rounds. Their actions had gone undetected.

They now had to wait for Thompson’s replacement on duty. It usually was Michael Porter, another veteran guard of twenty-five years who was fairly large, standing five feet eleven inches to six feet even and weighing two hundred and ten pounds. His uniform would be Higgins’ new clothes. Anytime now they knew Porter would arrive on their block and see that Thompson was neither at his station nor making any inspection of the cells. Porter’s reaction to Thompson’s absence was unpredictable and it had troubled both Fahey and Higgins when they first talked about their escape. They had decided that any unanticipated reaction was a chance they had to take. Hoping for the best was all they had.

After approximately five minutes, the extremely dim sound of a metal door opening at the other end of the block reverberated. Porter was now on duty and, to Fahey, his remote footsteps seemed to become heavier and more hurried each passing second. Thompson had partially been pushed under Fahey’s cot. His bare, left leg was protruding from underneath.

“He’ll be here in a matter of seconds. Get down,” ordered Fahey as he picked up the shiv. Each took up their original position and was ready to spring into action. It was even harder to discern Fahey with Thompson’s dark uniform on. Just as Thompson had, Porter now stood in front of their cell. He stared in disbelief at the unoccupied cots and the exposed bare limb. Before he could utter any expletive, Fahey instinctively darted toward the cell door, opened it and from behind, without hesitation, stuck the shank deeply into Porter’s throat, slicing downwardly. Instantly, blood leapt from the deep laceration onto Fahey’s hands and arms, Porter’s uniform and the jail flooring. Completely shocked, Porter’s hands reached up for his throat and he began to collapse to the floor. Blood continued to belch from the wound as Fahey grabbed him under both of his arms, dragged him into the cell and laid him in the middle of the floor.

Porter was slowly gagging on the blood that was flowing from Fahey’s slash. Higgins swiftly undressed Porter until he too lay stripped to his underclothing. He dressed quickly, adapting the slightly larger, now bloody uniform to his physique. Fahey looked outside the cell and saw and heard nothing stirring. Kneeling down, Fahey pulled Thompson completely out from under the cot. Thompson was beginning to regain consciousness.

“Aren’t they a fine lookin pair,” facetiously commented Higgins.

Thompson opened his eyes and saw that he was unclothed except for his undergarments. The cold flooring had awakened him. He was staring into Fahey’s face.

Fahey had earlier ransacked Thompson’s uniform pockets and had discovered a set of keys. He now held the keys over Thompson’s face.

“Are these yer car keys?”

Thompson failed to respond.

“Are these yer keys?” repeated Fahey. “Tell me!”

Thompson nervously nodded yes.

“What’s yer plate numbers?”

Responding, Thompson nervously told him and gratuitously added that it was in the middle row of the parking lot.

Fahey tore off part of the thin blanket and stuffed it into Thompson’s mouth. Never before had Fahey seen a man’s eyes as large and widely open as Thompson’s. Porter was still gagging on and gurgling blood. Higgins took a portion a piece of torn blanket and packed it harshly into Porter’s mouth. Now the only sounds apparent, other than the wind, lightning and thunder, were Porter’s low, faint gurgling and Thompson’s muffled moans.

Removing the rented blanket, Fahey pressed one more time. “What are yer plate numbers?”

Thompson answered with his original response. Fahey was satisfied. He stuffed the blanket back into his mouth.

Staring down at his prey through eyes devoid of a soul, Fahey grasped the shiv in his right hand and with a swift and heavy downward motion sliced completely across the top of Thompson’s left thigh. A sudden pouring and spouting of bright red blood emitted from the open wound. Fahey had cut his femoral artery which, without immediate medical attention, was a death knell. His blood was spewing profusely. A similar procedure was performed on Thompson’s right thigh with the same results. Both legs looked like small fountains. Low, painful moans and groans poured from Thompson as he hysterically reached for his legs with his trembling hands, attempting to stop the excessive bleeding. Bothhands were sodden and dripping with blood and were flinging lashings of blood throughout the cell and onto Fahey and Higgins. Despite his desperate efforts, the jets of blood continued to flow from his body and cascade to the cell floor. The resultant puddles were growing larger and larger, creeping across the floor as if they were living creatures. Thompson was in extreme agony. His moaning became more and more pronounced. His eyes were opening and closing incessantly and his arms were waving wildly in the air, as though he was beckoning someone for help. The puddles of blood began to slowly settle.

Still kneeling beside Thompson, Fahey whispered spitefully in his left ear, “Die you bastard! This is for all the pain, torture and maiming you and yer Da have caused and inflicted upon me and other prisoners. This is revenge for all of the prisoners that you and yer fellow butchers kicked in the head and balls and unendingly beat and bludgeoned with yer batons and subjected to other miserable torments. Now, yer dying. If you have a wife and children, they will be without a husband and a Da. I will be cherishing the moment you take yer final breath. Too bad I won’t witness it”

“Let’s get the hell out of here, Dermot.”

Fahey had taken more time than needed to accomplish their escape but the gratification he received from the gruesome, vengeful frenzy made the risk worthwhile. Thompson’s and Porter’s lives were waning. It was only matter of minutes before the very life was drained from them. To hasten Porter’s demise, Fahey used the shiv to make one last cut to Porter’s left carotid artery. What blood he had remaining within him seeped from the deep, gaping wound. Porter’s eyes were completely closed. No further sounds emanated from either guard. Fahey again examined the asylum’s environs. There was no other activity on any of the cell blocks.

Fahey made his way to the gray, metal door at the end of the cell block, five meters away. After gathering Porter’s baton, Higgins followed. Fahey was standing in front of the door’s lock and was frantically trying Thompson’s keys to open the door. When it opened, Fahey, without warning, stopped and hastily reached out, stiff arming Higgins. Higgins was confused. Looking up dumbfounded from Fahey’s outstretched right arm, he saw Fahey with his left index finger pressed to his lips. He mimicked Fahey’s silence and then he too heard the echo of voices, talking and laughing, in the stairwell, two floors below.

“Screws!” whispered Fahey.

Without further hesitation, Fahey knelt and began to unlace his left boot. He paused for an instant and pointed to Higgins’ boot. Higgins understood. He immediately bent down, discarded the baton and proceeded to withdraw the lace from his right boot. When he finished, Fahey stood up. Higgins joined him. Without saying a word, Fahey instructed Higgins what to do. He wrapped the opposite ends of his lace around each of his hands and displayed it to Higgins. Higgins did the same, readily grasping Fahey’s intentions. Fahey then retrieved the baton and entered the stairwell with Higgins close behind. While descending the steep, steel steps, both lowered their respective guard’s hat over their eyes and conversed with one another in a low tone. Their footsteps were resounding throughout the stairwell. The prison guards continued to talk and laugh. As they reached the second floor landing, the guards came into sight. Fahey glanced at them. They turned their heads upward. He acted instinctively by deliberately dropping the baton exclaiming, “Shite!” The baton hit the steps and fell to the floor in front of the nearest guard, who bent down to pick it up. Fahey raced down the steps and bounded over the last four, landing on top of the guard’s back, garroting him with his boot lace and pinning him against the concrete floor. Without missing a beat, Fahey twisted around, recovered the baton and brought it down sharply on the subdued guard’s skull, rendering him senseless. Using the lace, Fahey easily restrained the guard’s  hands with a knotted cincture.

In the meantime, the remaining guard who had been momentarily paralyzed as he stared incredulously at the surprise attack on his fellow guard was now grunting loudly and his complexion was reddening from Higgins’ throttling. Higgins had scrambled down the remaining steps while wrapping the lace around his hands, darted to the inattentive, stupefied guard, looped the gripped lace around the guard’s neck and was presently pulling back tenaciously. The guard’s eyes were bulging from their sockets. He uselessly struggled and shortly succumbed to the strangulation and plunged to the floor, losing consciousness. Higgins removed the lace and used it to tie the guard’s hands behind his back. He looked over at Fahey who was standing over his victim. Higgins stood up. Their eyes met and mesmerized each other for a brief instant. They both blinked, turned and confronted the door to their freedom. They could hear the interminable rain and wind pounding against the portal that was offering manumission.

Fahey went to the door with Thompson’s keys. After trying several keys he successfully, with shoulder against the portal, battled to inch the door open. He and Higgins again looked at one another, took deep breaths and desperately fought their way to the outside. The stinging rain and wind, a prodigious five meter rusted, deteriorated metal fence, a nearby guard tower and the guarded security exit gates greeted them.

They flattened their backs against the exterior of the Northern wall. They were becoming soaked to the bone. Whatever foreign blood they had on them was now trickling down their face and hands. The surging deluge was so hard and thick that their eyesight was obscured and limited although the prison grounds were thoroughly illuminated. To see beyond a few meters required constant blinking and squinting. There were no complaints; however, as the unremitting storm was the very help they had prayed for. Both the rain, wind and the element of surprise were important allies that had, so far, facilitated their breakout.

Their destination was to the guards’ parking lot. The distance to the lot was approximately forty meters from their present location. Walking in a straight line was nearly impossible. Their bodies were being pushed and pulled right and left. They hurriedly and uncontrollably walked down the sidewalk toward the lot. They dreaded every passing second, knowing that at any moment the alarms could sound and their escape would be dashed.

When they entered the lot, they strenuously walked down what they determined was the middle row searching for the proper car plate. After closely squinting at all of the plates in the row, Higgins shouted that he had found the car. Quickly, Fahey stumbled his way to the auto and unlocked the driver’s side and then the passenger’s. Both entered and with one foot on the clutch and a turn of the key, the car was aroused from its repose and with downward pressure on the pedal, its motor revved. Fahey’s only hope now was that it could penetrate the make-shift gates that were the last hindrance to their complete liberation.

Fahey turned on the wipers, backed the car from its parking space and turned the wheel toward the gates where there were two assigned guards. Fahey approached the exit and drove slightly past it. He came to a complete stop, shoved the car in reverse, backed onto the exit way and floored the pedal.

“Dermot, get down!”

Higgins hunched down toward the floor. Although his vision was greatly confined and blurred, Fahey was able to vaguely see the gates through the rear window and accelerate in reverse directly and accurately toward them. The guards heard and then saw, through the lashing rain and wind, the oncoming vehicle and scattered pell mell to safety. Within a few seconds, the car barreled through the set of gates, exploding the metal lock from the center of the gates. The gates were mangled by the collision and were left partially wrenched and dangling. Metal fragments were soaring everywhere, as if someone had just thrown a live grenade. On impact, glass from the rear window shattered and burst violently throughout the vehicle’s interior onto its two occupants. The guard in the tower immediately called to inform the inside guards of the escape.

While the car was careening its way in reverse, several meters beyond the barriers, Fahey slammed on the car’s brakes and at the same time frantically turned the steering wheel to the right, so that the car easily whirled one hundred eighty degrees and was now facing their escape route. The rear of the vehicle had taken a great pounding from the gates and was shoved up and inward and now lay partially flattened over the rear seat, allowing the rain to penetrate the interior of the vehicle.

Higgins finally sat up from his crouched position and reacted by simply inhaling deeply and then slowly exhaling. No words were exchanged. He and Fahey were being doused by the intruding downpour. Fahey turned on the headlights and sped the vehicle mostly off of the road surface to avoid the pitfalls placed by Keough and O’Leary. The nonstop wind and rain was causing the vehicle to fish tail. Wet grass and mud were being churned and thrown upward by the car’s rabidly, rotating tires. They reached the main road out of the asylum compound grounds and made a right turn toward the rendezvous with Keough’s lorry. As they drove with great difficulty and unbounded celerity, the alarms began to blare loudly, warning of the escape.

A few minutes after the break out, the bodies of Thompson and Porter were discovered. Six guards hovered around the grisly scene. The increasing clamor and cacophony of the awakened inmates bespoke their awareness of the storm and that something heinous had occurred inside the asylum.

In the middle of the cell floor laid the white, exsanguinated corpses of Thompson and Porter with the pieces of blanket protruding from their mouths. Thompson’s dead eyes were wide-open, staring at the cell ceiling. Streaks of bright red blood gruesomely decorated their bodies. The cell floor appeared as if someone had dumped a can of red paint on it.

“Jesus! A gory bloodletting,” cried out one of the guards.

“It’s Thompson and Porter!” exclaimed another guard. None of the guards made a move to either of the lifeless bodies, knowing that death was indisputably bestowed by Fahey and Higgins.

Muscling his way through the crowd, Bobby Thompson’s Da, fifty-three year old Jimmy Thompson, a behemoth of a man at six feet four inches and two hundred forty-five pounds fixated his stunned gaze on the two bodies and the formidable pools of blood.

“No! No!” shouted Thompson. “My God! My son, Bobby. It can’t be.” Thompson’s knees suddenly weakened and yielded, delivering him to the cell floor kneeling next to and across his son’s slain body. His hands concealed his face and he was bawling uncontrollably. His severe, excruciating anguish persisted for several minutes. A few of the guards attempted to lift him and comfort him. Thompson swung his arms out and wailed, “Leave me alone. Look what has been done to them.”

After a few more minutes, Jimmy Thompson stood up, wiped his glazed eyes and the tears from his cheeks and chin and sat on one of the cots still loudly sobbing. His uniform was saturated with his son’s blood. He glanced at the unbelievable scene one more time and, while struggling to compose himself, demanded to know the names of the prisoners who were responsible for the cruel and merciless butchering of his only son, his best friend, the married father of two small children. He was told and he fumed and seethed with demonic detestation and malevolence.

“They didn’t have to kill them. Those two barbaric bastards are mine. Do you hear me? Mine! They’ll pay for this!”

Just as Thompson finished his rant, a frenzied guard, Joe Price unexpectedly appeared at the cell door and, while straining to catch his breath, reported to Thompson that the semiconscious bodies of Ben Stanton and Neville Hill, two more guards, had just been discovered in the North stairwell.

Outside the enclosed asylum grounds, while beginning to chase the two escapees, the first pursuing guard’s vehicle ran into the section of barbed wire, screws and glass. The wire fastened itself to the car’s front bumper, finally caressing the car’s undercarriage. At the same time, the loose screws and glass had laminated themselves to the vehicle’s tires, deflating them in the process. The vehicle became immobile and sat outside of the asylum, along the road and unable to continue.

After driving several kilometers and crossing the Craigavon bridge, Fahey’s vehicle’s bright headlights revealed, through the curtain of frenzied, merciless rain, the parked white lorry occupied by Keough and O’Leary. As best he could, Fahey quickly steered the car off the road and parked it behind a nearby thick clump of foliage. Fahey and Higgins jumped out of the car, tussled with the storm’s mighty strength and splashed their way through large pools of water and leapt into the open rear of Keough’s lorry. They were dripping wet. The small window from the lorry’s cab to the back slid open.

“Welcome lads. Glad you could make it.”

After his greeting, Keough revved the lorry’s engine and accelerated southwestwardly upon Victoria road along the river Foyle, heading toward the Lifford Bridge and into the County of Donegal, approximately twenty kilometers from Derry city. 

“This lorry’s a little antiquated,” commented a roguish Fahey as he was speaking to Keough through the cab’s window.

“Don’t feckin complain. It’s getting you out of harm’s way. No?” responded a stern Keough, not comprehending the flippant tone of Fahey’s statement. Fahey did not respond but simply turned around and sat to watch for any speeding vehicles behind them. Four inch high waves of rain were intensively sweeping across the lush land and inundating the paved roadway, making for further hazardous driving conditions.

Curious, Fahey stood up and unsteadily studied the numerous boxes that were stacked in the lorry. He tried to lift and move some of them and discovered they were quite heavy.

Suddenly, Fahey looked up and shouted, “There are headlights behind us and they’re coming up fast.”

“Here, take this,” said O’Leary.

Fahey was handed a pistol through the cab’s miniscule window.

“When they get close enough, unload some of those boxes in the back and see if that will stop them. If it doesn’t, shoot the driver.”

When the trailing car was about four car lengths away, Fahey and Higgins began to strenuously shove some of the boxes out from the back and into the path of the pursuing vehicle. Upon impact with the road, the boxes exploded open, releasing their broken and splintered contents over the road’s surface. The vehicle veered right and left to avoid most of the obstacles and continued its unsteady pursuit. Upon seeing their failure, Fahey, with pistol in hand and fighting to retain his balance against the rocking lorry and the surging rain and wind, again made his way to the open rear. When the car was only three car lengths away, Fahey, holding tightly onto the lorry’s wet, slippery side panel, shouted, “See if you can dodge this” and unloaded the revolver’s rounds into the driver’s windscreen. At once, the vehicle suddenly strayed out of its lane and into and across the right lane and onto the roadside, as if experiencing a serious mechanical seizure. It continued forward and down a slight ravine until the uneven landscape tossed the car into the air. Upon settling harshly back on land, its speed and momentum caused it to tumble, flipping it four times before settling upside down with its tires spinning vigorously. As the lorry continued to speed away, Fahey and Higgins witnessed the vehicle suddenly combust. They watched amusingly as bright orange, petrol flames vaulted from the engulfed, steel wreckage reaching and stretching for the darkened cosmos, wildly writhing, swaying and dancing from the overturned vehicle amid the rain, battling with the potent wind and powerful downpour to survive. It was a fruitless, ephemeral effort as after a few moments the overbearing weather masterfully euthanized the conflagration and the attendant, expanding smoke. Only a hissing, steaming and scorched metal skeleton remained, still possessing its two occupants, lifeless, partially charred and smoldering. The lorry traveled over and down a hill and their view of the horrid scene promptly vanished. 

“I’m assuming my aim was on target,” declared a glib Fahey.

“Poor bastards. They were roasted alive. It’s not a way I’d want to go,” remarked Higgins.

“They were probably killed when the car flipped and overturned,” added Fahey. “Not much suffering.”

Just as they believed the pursuit was over, more headlights appeared through the veil of unremitting rain.

“Bollocks! We’ve got more company behind us and they’re in a hurry. It’s probably the police,” Fahey cried loudly so that Keough could hear him.

Speeding toward the desperately, fleeing lorry were two police vehicles, which were gradually decreasing the distance between them and Keough’s lorry.

 “Unload more of the boxes,” commanded Keough and adding “Hopefully that’ll slow them down and buy us more time.”

Higgins joined Fahey in unloading the remaining bulky boxes onto the roadway. As before, upon impact, their contents were convulsively released and indiscriminately spread across the road. The police had no choice but to slow down and drive cautiously on the side of the roadway to avoid colliding with the hard to see jettisoned furniture that were blocking their path.

Keough continued to push the strained lorry and was nearing the town of Strabane, which would take him across the Lifford Bridge and into the town of Lifford, county Donegal, Republic of Ireland.

Keough prayed he would not be faced with any road closure in Strabane. Roads were closed by British soldiers digging deep craters and placing large concrete blocks in the roadway. The British even blew up border bridges that crossed streams or rivers. He was confident that most of road closures were located further North at the various Derry border crossings with county Donegal. 

As he neared the bridge, he didn’t see any road closures. He was relieved.

The police were still in the chase and were closing in on them. Keough kept the pedal to the floor and, at the lorry’s top speed, accessed the Lifford Bridge. A short distance further and they would be departing Northern Ireland and entering the Republic of Ireland.

The aged lorry had been driven aggressively and the extreme stress exerted on it began to show. Smoke streamed voluminously from under its bonnet.

A loud metal noise was also emanating from beneath its bonnet. Despite these inflictions, the coughing lorry jerkily continued over and across the bridge into county Donegal. For now, they were safe. The pursuing cars’ headlights were terribly blurred and barely visible through the storm but their distance from the lorry appeared to be lengthening. Obviously, the police were halting their chase at the bridge.

Once in county Donegal, Keough carefully and slowly continued to drive the limping, hobbling lorry a few more kilometers. Rattling noises continued to fill the air but now was accompanied by an unwelcomed, annoying smell.

Peering through the lorry’s windscreen, Keough turned onto a familiar narrow road which was the road to his cousin, Devlin O’Brien’s house. O’Brien was an IRA sympathizer and, when contacted by his cousin, Keough regarding the escape, he agreed to house Fahey and Higgins til daylight. It was imperative though, that Fahey and Higgins travel quickly beyond the region.

When they arrived at O’Brien’s residence, they saw O’Brien standing at his open front door, surrounded by the surging rain and wind.

Knowing it was a useless bellowing, O’Brien screamed “Hurry now! Get inside out of the God forsaken rain,” as he frantically waved his arms to gather them inside out of the downpour.

They dashed from the lorry through the ocean of fallen precipitation and hurriedly entered the house, tracking globs of thick, soupy mud onto the interior floor.

“Don’t worry about that. Just take off yer shoes. I’ll clean that up presently,” stated O’Brien.

While O’Brien cleaned the floor, everyone dried off. Eventually, formal introduction to O’Brien was made. Upon finally relaxing and settling in, a knackered Fahey succinctly recounted the intricacies of their treacherous, daring escape.

Following Fahey’s account, Keough made it known to Fahey and Higgins that they could remain in Northern Ireland and continue in the service of the IRA or they could be set up with a new identity and perhaps a job in America and help the IRA cause by further support from the States. He continued further.

“If I were you two, I think my only wise choice would be America. It is not just the killing of those two guards as you have described, but the aggravated and brutal manner in which their deaths were accomplished that magnifies yer lethal handiwork and will fortify the Brits’ unceasing search for you.

And let’s not forget the injuries to the two guards in the stairwell and the killing of the policemen who were chasing you. Four homicides and two hard-handed assaults committed in one night is, without saying, attention grabbing. The Brits will not be satisfied until all of yer crimes are redressed.

Now, in choosing either option, any true relationship with yer family and friends may suffer greatly and be virtually nonexistent. Also, yer family may be continuously badgered by the Brits to discover yer whereabouts. If they are, it will be natural for you to feel tremendous guilt for any anguish they may experience. Don’t let such emotion overcome you. Move on. There is nothing you can do. Just know that it won’t last forever.

You must decide swiftly where you will go from here. For now, just get some sleep, as the morning will be here before you know it. When you awake, give me yer answer. With all of that said, good night lads.”

Unable to sleep, Fahey lie quietly on a blanket next to Higgins in front of the fireplace, pondering his decision and wondering what tomorrow and beyond would bring, such queries inconsequential to the really disturbing question, What have I caused my family?, which, understandably, now weighed unbearably heavy on his mind.

As he struggled to drift off, he heard a weak, whispered question. “Tim, are we going to survive all of this?”

Fahey, dead tired, paused for a moment and unhurriedly turned from his right to his left, confronting Dermot’s knitted brow and inquisitive eyes, brightly lit and shimmering from the fire’s glow.

“Escape and survive, Dermot? We’ll make it, but the days ahead will be harrowing and dangerous,” assured a confident Fahey.

“Are we now, by our deeds tonight, the monsters the Brits have always made us out to be?”

“Dermot, there are Irishmen whose sole intent is to oust the Brits. They are the true soldiers. Then there are the Irish monsters who are not only fighting for the cause but also battling to seek selfish revenge for the brutal treatment and killing of us, true Irish, by the Brits. So, close your eyes and eliminate any further bothersome thoughts. You are one of the soldiers.”

Fahey turned again to his right side. Tears began to stream slowly down his cheeks and land upon his upper lip as he took a deep breath and slowly sighed, hoping, for the time being, to forget the night’s calamity and excitement. 

As the rain and wind continued pummeling their shelter, Fahey was slowly being lulled from a lingering drowsiness into a deep, sound sleep; but, before he was overcome, his tears were replaced with a final sinister smile as he suddenly envisioned the terror and horror Jimmy Thompson would experience when he saw his son, Bobby’s remains on the cold, barren cell floor. In addition to escaping, he had successfully avenged the wanton mistreatment he and others had experienced at the hands of both Thompsons. While savoring that thought, his moistened eyes began to surrender to the harrying tiredness and his wide smile gradually dwindled to a twitching, satisfying grin, which dawdled awhile before his entire body was vanquished by the unforgiving, nagging fatigue and exhaustion. 

The monster was asleep.


© Copyright 2019 john24. All rights reserved.

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