The Midnight Bell

The Midnight Bell

by Jack Higgins

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From the “the dean of intrigue novelists” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch) comes a New York Times-bestselling novel of terrorism and revenge featuring IRA-hitman-turned-intelligence-operative Sean Dillon...

The bell rings at midnight, as death requires it.”—Irish proverb

In Ulster, Northern Ireland, a petty criminal kills a woman in a drunken car crash. Her sons swear revenge. In London, Sean Dillon and his colleagues in the “Prime Minister's private army,” fresh from defeating a deadly al-Qaeda operation, receive a warning: You may think you have weakened us, but you have only made us stronger. In Washington, D.C., a special projects director with the CIA, frustrated at not getting permission from the President for his daring anti-terrorism plan, decides to put it in motion anyway. He knows he's right—the nation will thank him later.

Soon, the ripples from these events will meet and overlap, creating havoc in their wake. Desperate men will act, secrets will be revealed—and the midnight bell will toll.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399185328
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 12/26/2017
Series: Sean Dillon Series , #22
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 233,804
Product dimensions: 4.20(w) x 7.50(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Jack Higgins lives on Jersey in the Channel Islands. The author of dozens of bestsellers, most famously The Eagle Has Landed, he served three years with the Royal Horse Guards in Eastern Europe during the Cold War, and subsequently was a circus roustabout, a factory worker, a truck driver, and a laborer before entering college at age 27. He holds degrees in sociology, social psychology, and economics, and a doctorate in media. A fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, he is an expert scuba diver and marksman.

Read an Excerpt

***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***

An east wind with driving rain and sleet pushed across the airport as the Gulfstream

landed.  It was immediately approached by a security limousine from the White House, which

Blake Johnson, alighting from the plane, was surprised to see was being driven by his long-time secretary, Alice Quarmby.  He opened the passenger door, tossed his valise inside, and joined


            “What are you doing here?”

            “Protecting your back, you idiot,” she told him as she drove away.  “You were supposed to bring Jake Cazalet back with you from London, and here you are, alone. I’m a nervous old broad when it comes to my boss, so I’d like to know why.”

            “Sorry, Alice, it’s for the ears of the President only.”

            “Well, it better be good.  With his second term coming up, he needs to show who’s in charge and here’s former President Jake Cazalet — a fine President in his day, mind you —dining with the Prime Minister and giving interviews to the media as if he’s the official mouthpiece for American foreign policy. You know the White House isn’t pleased about that.”

            “I know — but enough about that.  Anything else come up?”

            “Apparently, the President has made a new friend.”

            “Really? Who?”          

            “A Colonel Samuel Hunter. I did some research — don’t ask me where. He has a  decent black ops record in the Army, nothing spectacular, and since them, he’s spent five years with the CIA, where he runs a Special Projects Department. He gets around a lot.”

            “So what’s the ‘special project’ she’s come up with that appeals to the Oval Office?”

            “The President has become interested in the private army business since you were last here.”

            “Mercenaries?” Blake was amazed.  “What on earth for?”

            “The new name for them is private military companies, so you might as well get used to it..  It seems they’ve been having some success in Mali, and South African companies have been busy recruiting.”

            “With plenty of casualties, no doubt?”

            “No doubt. And some units have apparently done very well supporting the Nigerian Army in its struggle with Al Qaeda.”

            “Aided by the military supplies we pump in there?”

            “Not in Nigeria, I think. My research suggests the CIA wouldn’t touch this one with a bargepole if left to their own


            “Like that, is it?” he said.

            “That’s what they say, but who knows?”

            “Exactly,” he said.  “You’re an old cynic, Alice, but somehow you always get it right.”    

            “Blame it on the White House, Blake.  I’ve been there longer than anyone else. It breeds cynicism”


They were moving along Constitution Avenue towards the White House, where they found demonstrators in spite of the hour and the heavy rain.

            “Try the East Entrance,” Blake suggested. Alice did, and a Secret Service man on duty saw to the Mercedes, then escorted them to the President’s secretary, who delivered them to the Oval Office and withdrew.

            The heavy rain outside, the inclement weather, had darkened the room, and yet the President kept it in shadow, glancing up from papers now and smiling hugely.

            “There you are at last. And you, Alice, it was way beyond the call of duty for you to pick this rascal up at such an hour.”

            “I guess it’s gotten to be a habit, Mr. President, after all these years.”

            “You’re the wonder of the world. Now, if you would, go and get yourself a coffee while Blake and I talk.”

            Alice withdraw and the President called, “Join us, Colonel Hunter.  I’d like you to meet Blake Johnson.”

            Hunter emerged from the Chief of Staff’s office, a man much as Blake had expected,

around sixty, with a moustache, tanned face, an expensive suit of blue flannel.

            He held out his hand briefly.  “Your fame precedes you, Mr. Johnson.”

            “Colonel,” Blake said formally.

            Hunter’s smile was false and dismissive as he turned to a more important quarry. “As I was saying earlier, Mr. President, we must present out opponents with the unexpected and seize the day.  It’s been one of the greatest precepts of warfare since Roman times.”

            The President turned to Blake.  “Would you agree?”                                                 

            “My experience of warfare was being up to my armpits in some swamp in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, so I guess I never had time to find out.” Blake said.

            Hunter was annoyed and let it show.  “We all have to move with the times,” he said to Blake.  “Modern thinking, that’s what we need. For instance, I’m surprised that a man in your position has an elderly woman as his secretary. How computer-savvy can she be?”

            “She could write the book on the White House,” Blake said.  “She’s better than any computer.”

            “And apparently has been poking her nose into Langley’s business illegally for her Department’s purposes.” Hunter said.

            “That would be my personal security department,” the President said.

“It’s called the Basement. Blake Johnson runs it, and Alice Quarmby has served every President for it, office since the Basement was first conceived.”

            Hunter apologized hurriedly.  “Of course you are right, Mr. President. Still, this unauthorized accessing of CIA files — it’s disturbing.”

            “You may be right, Colonel, but as I am the President, I’m the one who’ll make the decision about it.  If you’d show the Colonel out, Blake.”

            Blake was at the door in a moment.  Hunter followed, hesitated and turned.  “And what we discussed Mr. President — about Havoc and the support system?”

            “We’ll see, Colonel”, the President said, and as Blake closed the door, added, “Come and sit down and bring me up to date.  Did you bring President Cazalet back?”

            “Unfortunately, no, Mr. President.  H said he’s agreed to deliver a lecture at the London School of Economics about terrorism and ISIS, and he can’t leave just yet.”

            The President frowned.  “You did give him the envelope which contained the Presidential Warrant ordering him home again?”

            “Of course.  He said he was going to leave, but then Downing Street informed him that they’d all be attending the lecture—so he felt he had to stay. The profits, by the way, are going to charity—the Children of Syria.”

            “So how can I possibly complain about that?” the President said, then laughed reluctantly.  “Damn you, Jake Cazalet, you’ve left me wrong-footed on this one.”

            “Actually, Mr. President, if I could make a suggestion?”

            “By all means.”

            “Why don’t you send a message to the Cabinet Office congratulating the Prime Minister and President Cazalet on their joint efforts — and announcing that the U.S. will match the money raised for the Children of Syria. That way, it’s as if you’d been a part of it the whole time.”

            The President was smiling now.  “What a great idea.  I’ll see to it at once. With one stipulation.”

            “What would that be, Mr. President?”

            “You climb in that Gulfstream, return to London tonight, and don’t show your face back here without him.  When he’s finished his gig, I want him back, and no arguments, even if he is a billionaire.  Let’s have a drink on it.”  The President was smiling as he rose, went to a cupboard and produced a bottle of Scotch and two glasses, one of which he handed to Blake.  “Sit down for a moment.”

            The President settled onto a couch. “I imagine you think I’m crazy, being so concerned about Cazalet, but I can’t help thinking about what happened last year.” The President had sent General Charles Ferguson, the head of the “Prime Minster’s private army,” and his people to Cazalet’s house on Nantucket, so that Cazalet could thank them on the President’s behalf for the success of a recent operation. But Al Qaeda assassins had been waiting for them. “Charles Ferguson, Sean Dillon, Captain Sara Gideon, and Cazalet, himself, they could all have died.”

            “Well, they didn’t” Blake said. “None of it’s your fault. Besides, Sean Dillon is the most dangerous man I’ve ever met. They picked the wrong target.”

“But they’ll try again. Especially after Dillon and company shot the Al Qaeda Master behind the attack.”

            “I agree with you there. I’ve a feeling in my gut that Al Qaeda won’t let us forget that,” Blake said.  “Which is why we’ve spent so much time keeping in touch across the Atlantic.”

            “My Basement,” the President said. “And the Prime Minister’s private army.”  He shook his head.  “United by a common purpose and yet so far away from one another.”

            Blake finished his drink and stood up.  “Not in the world we live in, not these days.  I’d better get going.”

            “Of course. Take care.”

            Blake turned.  “Always do, Mr. President,” he said and left.

The President sat there, thinking of what Blake had said.  Not in the world we live in, not these days.  For a moment, he was touched by despair, but that would never do.  There was work to be done, and he sat at the desk and started to go through his papers


Frank Dolan, once a master sergeant in the Rangers, now Hunter’s personal assistant and chauffeur, was waiting for the Colonel as he left the White House, an umbrella high against the pouring rain.

            “Everything go according to plan, Sir?”

            “Sergeant, some truly crazy people work in there, and that includes this President, his security guy, and the old bag working for them.”

            “That must be her dozing in the Mercedes over there,” Dolan said, and started to drive away.  “I looked him up.  Blake Johnson, right? Decorated three times in Vietnam.”

            “Hell, they gave them away like candy in those days.” Hunter said.

            “He was FBI for a while, too.  Took a bullet meant for Cazalet when he was a Senator.”

            “Well, bully for him.”  Hunter said, staring out.  “Washington in the rain.  I loathe it.”

            “Have we anything special planned this trip, Sir?”

            “London. I want to have another look at Hans Weber’s Havoc operation, the one operating out of that old RAF base at Charnley. Maybe he’s found more planes from the Second World War.”

            “More ghosts on the runways like those Dakotas of his.  Piston engines, not even jets,” Dolan said.

            “But just the thing for African rough spots. If they break down, they can be repaired just like you’d repair an old car, whereas a jet plane in the middle of Gambia would stand there and decay.”

            “So there really could be money in these old planes?”

            “More than you could imagine.  It would depend on how they were handled, of course.”

            “Some of the country the private military companies operate in is pretty rough. I imagine that’s why you’re interested in Havoc.”

            “Why, Sergeant Dolan, you know, my involvement in the company would preclude that,” Hunter said, “Not to mention my connection with the CIA.  But if the national security is at stake, well, we must be prepared, don’t you think?” and he laughed harshly.



At the airport, the Gulfstream waited in the rain as Alice and Blake parted. He’d told her of the President’s worries, and she nodded.

            “I think there’s something else, too,” she said. “Even at sixty-five, Jake Cazalet is still full of incredible energy and, more than that, a touch of wildness. You never know what he’s going to do next. Presidents aren’t supposed to behave like that, even former ones.”

            “I think I could mention a few who did, Alice, but you’re right—he’s unpredictable, likely to charge right at danger.”

            “So bring him home safe,” she said.

            He kissed her on the cheek, nodded to the flight attendant, and then ran to the Gulfstream.  A few moments later, he was settled in his seat and peering out of the window, but Alice was no longer there.

            The Gulfstream climbed very fast towards the Atlantic, levelled at forty thousand, and the second pilot visited the kitchen area, emerged with three coffees on a tray and passed one to Blake.

            “Six hours to arrival, if we’re lucky. Storms threatening in the mid-Atlantic, so belt up if you want to sleep.”

            Blake, however, didn’t feel like sleeping. His quick return to London might cause some surprise, so he realized he should give them a heads-up.  There was one person available day or night at the Holland Park Safe House, so he produced his Codex and called Roper. In spite of the hour, he knew that Major Giles Roper would be seated in his wheelchair in the computer room, checking his screens, searching for intelligence. And Tony Doyle, the military police sergeant on night duty, could be near.  A Jamaican cockney born in London, Doyle had joined the army to see the world, but had got no further than Belfast and the IRA. Now, his mission was to take care of Roper—and supply him with endless tea, whiskey, and bacon sandwiches.

            Roper had his phone on speaker so Tony could hear.  “What’s going on, Blake? I’ve heard of quick returns, but this is ridiculous.”

            “The President wants him back the moment he’s available, so he’s sent me to make sure.  He worries about Cazalet, the free spirit gathering too much publicity.”

            “He’s worrying too much,” Doyle called.  “Jake’s doing just fine.”

            “For a man who was once leader of the free world, Tony,” Blake called back, “he might just consider stepping away for a while and making himself less of a target.”

            “Maybe you’re right,” Roper said. “But it will be great to see you back.  I’ll let you

get a little shut-eye and check in later to see how you’re getting on.”


It was quiet, only the drones of the engines and Blake lay back and dozed, thinking how first Al Qaeda and then ISIS, had altered the world. International terrorism of the most murderous

kind was the name of the game now, Al Qaeda disrupting the lives of millions, its branches each controlled by an anonymous leader known as the Master.  Ferguson and his people had been responsible for the death of two Masters, so Al Qaeda would want their revenge.

            He got up and went to the kitchen area for the bottle of Bushmills Irish Whiskey he knew was kept there.  As he opened it, rain hammered on the fuselage of the Gulfstream and there was the roll of distant thunder.  He tossed his drink down and his Codex sounded.

            “Who is this?”

            The voice on the other end of the line was not one he knew. It was cultured and mature, an older man, the English perfect and with the slightest of French accents.  “Ah, there you are, Mr. Johnson.  A dirty night to be crossing the Atlantic.  I trust the President was in the best of health when you left Washington?”

            “Who the hell are you?” Blake demanded, coldly aware that he probably knew the answer to that one already.

            “Ah, don’t tell me you didn’t know I’d be calling sooner or later. There are debts to be paid. I intend to see they are.”

            “So you’re the new Master?” Blake said.  “I was wondering when another one would turn up.  A voice on the phone, trying to justify Al Qaeda and international terrorism.  You guys never stop trying, do you?”

            “And never will?  I’m certainly not the easy mark my predecessors were.  Technology changes by the week these days, and even the great Major Giles Roper will find me hard to handle.  As for Ferguson — tell him it’s a different world. His time is done. Come to think of it, never mind. I’ll tell him myself.”

            “I’m sure he’ll look forward to that.”

            “And Jake Cazalet? Get him home while you can. His time is running out, too. Oh, and say hello for me to the lovely Captain Sara Gideon. I understand she has a birthday party coming up soon, at Harry’s Place, that smart little restaurant that those gangster friends of yours, the Salters, own on Hangman’s Walk by the Thames.  An intriguing name, if a little sinister.  I admire soldiers so much.  They hold the wall for us.  Give the Captain my sincere good wishes and tell her, I’ll see her soon.”

            Blake called Roper and told him what had happened.  “God knows what Ferguson is going to think.”

            “Easy to ask him,” Roper said.  “He’s staying in the guest wing.  Are you surprised?”

            “No, I’ve always thought Al Qaeda would seek revenge.  We’ve cost them two Masters already, so what would you expect?”

            “Is the conversation recorded on your Codex?”

            “Of course.”

            “That should have Ferguson awake faster than a cold shower.  We can all listen.”

            Ferguson answered five minutes later.  “Morning, Blake, are you linked in?”

            “Ready and waiting, General.”

            “So let me listen to what he’s got to say.”

            When it was finished, Ferguson smiled.  “Cheeky sod.  Run it through again.”

            Roper complied, and this time Ferguson didn’t smile.  “He’s going to give us trouble,

this one.  The smooth approach, the familiarity, all designed to mask his true self.”

            “I agree,” Roper said.  “But he can’t believe his charm approach is going to fool anyone, so what’s his game?”

            “Maybe it’s just meant to confuse,” Blake suggested.

            Ferguson said, “He’s a clever bastard, I’ll give you that. And well-informed. Sara’s birthday, for example.”

Roper said, “Do we still go ahead with the party?”

            “Certainly.  He mustn’t be allowed to disrupt our lives, that would be a victory for him, but we’ll put on extra security. Use the secure link to let all our people know a new Master is back to plague us and to alert the Cabinet Office, Security Services, and M15.  I think that’s it.”

            “What about President Cazalet, General?”

            “Oh, certainly, him, too. Call him at the Dorchester.  Ask him to join us for breakfast.  But not a word on the matter to the White House.  It’s exactly the kind of thing they want to avoid.”

            “Leave it to me, General.”

            “I fully intend to, because I’m going back to bed for a couple of hours.”  He turned to Tony Doyle.  “As for your, Sergeant, when it’s time, drive up to Farley Field and pick up Blake Johnson.”

            “My pleasure, General,” Doyle told him.

            “Drive carefully, you rogue.  The hint of a scrape and I’ll have your stripes.”

            He went out and Doyle turned to Roper.  “So we’re going to war again, Major?”

            “So it would appear, I can smell the powder,” Roper said. 

Doyle left, and Roper poured a large Scotch, tossed it back, and lit a cigarette.  The he pressed the master switch by his right hand, turning on everything in the computer room, and he sat there, brooding over dozens of screens.

            “Don’t worry, Master,” he murmured softly, “I’ll find you in the end.  I always do.”





On the London waterfront, fog had descended early, rolling in across the Thames at Wapping, a mile downriver from Harry Salter’s place, the Dark Man, where an old pier jutted out from Trenchard Street, an early Victorian pub standing back from it.

            There was a motor launch painted blue and white, tied to the pier with two chains, giving it a permanent look, yet allowing the launch to ease itself in the five-knot current that was running that morning.

            The name of the boat was Moonglow and the fact that the painted sign hanging outside the pub indicated that the landlord’s name was George Moon amused many people. It didn’t bother him, though. His family had owned the pub since Queen Victoria’s reign, of which he was proud, and he liked sleeping on board the launch, as he had the night before.  But now there was work to be done, which meant a visit to his office.

            He went up the steps from the pier, a small insignificant balding man in steel spectacles, clutching his raincoat across his body, an umbrella over his head, and approached the front door of the pub.  Two notices faced him, one of which said Closed for the Winter, the other Moon Enterprises Limited, and as he approached, the door was opened for him by his cousin Harold, a hard, brutal-looking man with the flattened nose of an ex-boxer.

            “Late this morning, George.  Posh geezer called twice on the house phone in the last half-hour.  Said he’d call back.”

            “So it will keep,” Moon said.  “I’ve told you before, you worry too much.  I’d turned my mobile off.”

            “I just wanted to make sure you didn’t miss out on anything tasty,” Harold told him.

            “I know, sunshine.”  George tweaked the big man’s cheek.  “Now, get me a mug of scalding hot tea and an Irish whiskey, and we’ll wait for your posh geezer to turn up again.”

            It was quiet in the bar, everything peaceful, bottles lined up against the Victorian mirrors behind the bar itself.  This type of establishment would usually be a thieves’ den for serious drinkers and drug users, but Moon had long since knocked that on the head.  Development along the Thames had opened a whole new world, and his portfolio was considerable.  Life was good.

            His mobile sounded, and he answered.  “Moon Enterprises.”

            “How grand that sounds, Mr. Moon.”

            “Harold had been right, a posh geezer indeed, Moon beckoned, putting his mobile on speaker so Harold could listen.

            “Who is this?”

            “A Master who is looking for a willing servant.  I’ve just deposited seventy-five thousand pounds in your bank account as evidence of good faith.  There could be other payments later.”

            “Do me a favor,” Moon said.  “Go away and die somewhere. You think I believe that?”

            “I’ll call you again in fifteen minutes.  If you say no, I can cancel the deposit, but as I can’t envisage your being that stupid, I don’t think it likely.  I suggest that you check with your bank.”

            “A crazy one, that,” Moon said, turning to Harold.

            “How do you know?” Harold said.  “You haven’t been in touch with the bank.”

            “Okay, just to keep you happy.  Waste of time, though.”

            He made the call, shrugging, and within minutes received the astonishing news.  “I can’t believe it,” he said hoarsely to Harold. “What’s this geezer’s game?”

            “George, I couldn’t care less. All I know is it’s real money.  Here, let me get you another whiskey,” Harold said.  “Put a little lead in your pencil for when he gets back to you.”

            Which the Master did as Moon was drinking it.  “Satisfied, Mr. Moon?”

            “Who wouldn’t be? So, who are you and what do you want?”

            “What I want is your experience of the London underworld, like your family before you. Generation of thieves and river rats. How did Charles Dickens put it? Those who made a living finding corpses in the Thames on behalf of the river police?  There is not a criminal enterprise you’ve failed to touch on.”

            “And proud of it,” Moon said.

            “You’ve been especially busy running booze and cigarettes from Europe— but no drugs, you’re too cunning for that, which is one reason I chose you.  You’ve also done well out of warehouse developments by the Thames, while Cousin Harold can haul in hoodlums by the score any time they’re needed.”

            “And happy to do it, Mister,” Harold called.

            Moon said, “Okay, you know a lot about me, so what?”

            “I know everything about you, my friend, even the fact that some years ago, you were employed by Russian military intelligence, the GRU, making yourself useful in many ways, right here in London.  Remember your recognition code?  ‘The midnight bell is ringing?’

M15 would have been interested.  You could have got twenty-five years for treason.”

            Moon was transfixed.  “But how could you have known that?”

            “You’ve heard of Al Qaeda, I’m sure.  Our information system is as good as the CIA’s —better!— and I can access it by pushing a button.”

            “So this is a Muslim thing?”

            “Is that a problem?”

            It was Harold who cut in then.  “No problem at all, Master.  Whatever you want, you get.”

            “That’s good, because if I didn’t, I’d have to have you killed.  Anyway, your first job for me concerns Harry and Billy Salter and a birthday party they’ll be hosting at their restaurant, Harry’s Place.”

            Moon brightened up.  “We have history, us and the Salters,” Harold said, “What do you want us to do?  Smash the place up?”

            “Not yet. Something more subtle. Gather up some young villains to wait in the car park. Have them put the guests in harm’s way as they’re departing.  Give them just a hint of what we can do.”

            “You can leave that to me,” Harold told him.  “Mayhem is my speciality.”

            “I’m delighted to know you can spell it,” the Master said.

            “Well, I do, and it will be a pleasure to give the Salters a black eye.”

            “To a fruitful association then, gentlemen.  I’ll be in touch.”


            Moon said, “He’s gone, but I can’t say I’m happy about working for a Muslim.”

            “Didn’t you tell me that we had a great grandfather who was an Indian seaman who jumped ship in the Pool of London?”


            “Then stop being racist, join me in the kitchen, and I’ll cook you breakfast.”

            “I wonder where he lives,” Moon said.

            “I wouldn’t mind betting that he’d rather you didn’t know.  Besides, it could be anywhere — London, Madrid, Timbuktu!”

            “You think so?”

            “All you need these days is a coded mobile, and you can cover the world.”


Harold was right, of course, for the Master did move frequently, for obvious reasons.  At that

moment he was living in Paris on a furnished barge, next to other barges moored on the Quai des Brumes on the Seine.

            The business with the Moons had gone well for, despite a certain criminal cunning on their part, they had missed the fact that he had taken complete control of them.  They’d sold their souls to the Devil, which amused him.  Just like Faust. Life was all about power.

            Things had gone well so far, and he could proceed with confidence to the next step, but there was always the unexpected in life — there’d just been a death in the family of the other people relevant to his plans.  For the moment, he hesitated, waiting for God to select the right time to move, for as in all things, there was only one God and Osama was his Prophet.

            But he decided the time was now, and he took out his Coded mobile and made a call to Drumore House in County Down in Ulster, still the old family home, in spite of a certain decay, of the Magee family.

            Finbar Magee, seated at the breakfast table in the farm’s kitchen, pushed away his plate and reached for the half-glass of whiskey that Cousin Eli had shoved over to him.

            “Who the hell is bothering me now?” Finbar said, taking out his mobile and putting it on speaker.

            Eli, whitehaired and bearded, was pouring tea.  “Answer it, for God’s sake.”

            Finbar did.  “Who the hell is this?  I’m not in the best of moods.”

            “Well, you wouldn’t be,” the Master told him.  “I’ve heard about the accident that killed your wife. You’re being treated very unfairly. Come to London, and I’ll help make it right.”

            “That takes bloody money, ye madman,” Finbar shouted.

            “Which is why I’ve placed twenty thousand pounds in your bank account for travelling expenses.”

            “Damn you, I’ve no time for jokes.”  Finbar switched off.  “Did you hear that idiot?”

            “I did, but I didn’t hear you calling the bank to check the situation,” Eli said.

            Finbar stared at him, frowning, then did just that.  Minutes later, he was staring wild-eyed at Eli.  “It’s true, the money’s been deposited.”

            “Then you’ll have to hope he calls back.”

            In the same moment, the Master did just that.  “Are you happy now?”

            “Why, should I be?  Finbar said.   “But how do you know about the accident and why should it concern you?”

            “I represent an organization that has had problems with a certain General Charles Ferguson, and other people who work for him, including an IRA assassin called Sean Dillon.”

            “That bastard!”  Finbar slammed his clenched fist down on the table.  “May he die before I do, so I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing he’s dead.”

            “I can imagine. I also know about the unfortunate business concerning your sons some years ago, when he left one of your boys crippled for life. He’s given you a very rough time.”

            “Too bloody true,” Finbar said, and shook his head.  “How do you know so much?”

            “Because I represent the most powerful organisation of its kind in the world, Al

Qaeda.  Our access to information is limitless, and the money I have given you is just the beginning.  I know you’ve got your phone on speaker — this concerns your cousin Eli, as well.”

            “And if I say no?”  Finbar asked.

            “That would prove how stupid you were, and I would have to arrange for your disposal.”

            Finbar laughed harshly.  “Well, we can’t have that.  I’m in, and that includes Eli.”

            “I knew you were a sensible man.  Who knows, we might even solve the mystery of the Maria Blanco and its cargo.”

            “You know about that, do you?  Twenty-five million pounds in gold bars when it was taken.  God knows how much that would be worth today.”

            “A lot,” the Master said.  “It could have kept the IRA going for years, and they let it slip through their fingers.”

            “I think it was Dillon, the bastard.  Could it have been?”

            “Supposedly, he was in the deserts of Algeria at the time, training new recruits for the IRA. But you never know for sure with a man like Sean Dillon.”

            “So, what do I do now?”

            “Get yourself to London, and I’ll be in touch. But, remember, you belong to us now.  It would be unfortunate if you forgot.”

            He was gone in a moment and Eli said, “What was all that?”

            “It was about us being in the money again, so happy days, old son.  I’m on my way to London,” and he went out.


Excerpted from "The Midnight Bell"
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Copyright © 2017 Jack Higgins.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
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