Authors: A. J. Quinnell
A. J. Quinnell
is the pseudonym of the author of ten novels including
Man on Fire
which was made twice into Hollywood Films - most recently directed by Tony Scott for Twentieth Century Fox in 2004, starring Denzel Washington, Christopher Walken and Dakota Fanning. The book sold more than eight million copies in paperback and was translated around the world.
Full list of titles:
Man on Fire
Siege of Silence
In the Name of the Father
The Perfect Kill
The Blue Ring
Message from Hell
In the Name of the Father
A. J. Quinnell
First published in Great Britain by Hodder & Stoughton in 1987
Copyright © 1987 A. J. Quinnell
Published by CLLA
The right of A. J. Quinnell to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted to him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted, in any form or by any means, without the prior permission of the copyright owner.
With thanks to Maurie for his advice on this and other books, and to my Polish friends, particularly Maciej, Mirek and Andrzej; and to Matthew Berry.
‘You can’t run the Church on Hail Marys.’
Archbishop Paul Marcinkus
First he cleaned the gun; then himself. He did both meticulously. The gun was a Russian Makarov pistol. He cleaned it at the table in the tiny kitchen. He worked automatically. His fingers were practised. He used very fine engine oil soaked into a soft cloth; then he wiped the oil off with a chamois leather. It was an hour after dawn but the kitchen light was still on. Occasionally he raised his head to look out through the small window. The sky over Cracow was overcast. It was yet another grey, winter day. He emptied the magazine of its bullets and tested the spring. Satisfied, he reloaded it and snapped it back.
His fingers curled around the butt. The weight felt balanced and comfortable. But when he screwed on the fat silencer it became front-heavy. No matter. The range would be close.
Carefully he laid the gun on to the scarred wooden surface and stood up, stretching leg and arm muscles.
He washed himself in the cramped shower cubicle. The size of the bathroom did not stretch to a bath. Even so, he remembered his pleasure on being assigned the apartment on his promotion to Major. It was the first time in his life that he had been able to live alone. The solitude had been welcome.
Using a French shampoo that he had bought in one of the restricted shops, he lathered his hair and his whole body. After rinsing himself he repeated the process twice more. It was as though he attempted to clean even beneath the skin. He shaved carefully without seeing the face in the mirror. His uniform lay neatly on the bed. He remembered his pleasure, almost sexual, on first putting it on. He dressed slowly, all his movements measured, as though going through a ritual. Then, from under the bed he pulled out a canvas bag. Into it he packed a pair of black shoes, two pairs of black socks, two pairs of dark blue underpants, two woollen plain shirts, a thick navy-blue woollen sweater, a black woollen scarf, a khaki anorak and two pairs of blue corduroy trousers. On top he placed his toilet bag.
His black leather briefcase was in the narrow hallway by the front door. He carried it into the kitchen and laid it on the table beside the gun. The twin locks had the joint combination number 1951 - the year of his birth. The briefcase was empty except for two leather straps attached to the bottom. He placed the gun between them and strapped it down tight.
Two minutes later, carrying the briefcase and canvas bag, he let himself out of the door without a backward glance.
The rush-hour traffic had eased and it took him only twelve minutes to reach SB Headquarters near the centre of the city. He could hear the rattle from the engine of the little Skoda. It was supposed to go in for a major service on the coming Monday. Automatically he glanced at the dashboard. The car had done just over ninety thousand kilometres since it had been assigned to him, brand new, on his promotion.
Normally he would have parked it in the compound behind the building. On this morning he left it in a side street just around the corner from the main entrance. He climbed out with the briefcase. Normally he would have locked the door. This time he left it open but he did check again that the boot which contained the canvas bag was securely locked. Passers-by, on seeing his uniform, averted their eyes.
He had not brought his overcoat and the wind chilled him as he walked briskly around the corner and up the steps into the building.
With his increased workload, they had recently assigned him a full-time secretary from the pool. The building was overcrowded and he had found a place for her in an alcove opposite his office. She was middle-aged, prematurely grey, and a worrier. She looked up as he strode down the corridor and said anxiously, ‘Good morning, Major Scibor . . . I tried to phone you at home but you must have just left. Brigadier Meiszkowski’s secretary phoned. The meeting has been brought forward.’ She looked at her watch. ‘It’s to start in twenty minutes.’
‘Good. You have finished typing the report?’
‘Of course, Major.’
‘Please bring it in.’
He went into his office, put the briefcase on his bare desk and opened the blinds. Grey light filtered in.
She followed him, carrying a laced-up brown file and put it beside the briefcase saying, ‘You’ll have time to check it. May I say that it represents a brilliant piece of work, Major . . . I’ll bring your coffee now.’
‘Thank you. I won’t take coffee this morning.’
Her face reflected surprise. She already knew him as a man of routine.
‘Thank you,’ he said again. ‘I don’t want to be disturbed before the meeting.’
She nodded and turned away.
He worked the combination locks of the briefcase and opened it and for a moment stood looking down at the gun. Then he unstrapped it. The brown file had the words ‘SLUBA BEZPIECZENSTWA’ printed in black on its cover. He unlaced it. Inside were about a dozen closely typed pages. He did not bother to read them.
He laid the gun with its silencer on the top page, then sat down. He turned the file so that the flap opened away from him. He put his right hand on the butt and slipped his finger through the trigger guard. Twice he lifted the gun, then laid it down again, and laced up the file. It was now bulky. He put it into the briefcase and locked it up.
For the next fifteen minutes he sat perfectly still, gazing through the window at the side of a grey building across the street. A light rain had begun to fall.
Eventually he glanced at his watch, pushed himself erect and picked up the briefcase. On the wall to his left was a large-scale map of the city. He gazed at it for a few seconds and then strode to the door.
Brigadier Meiszkowski’s office was on the top floor. His secretary sat in an outside office. She was an attractive woman with long auburn hair. It was rumoured that she and the Brigadier had a relationship that went deeper than work. She gestured at a leather settee across the room and said, ‘Colonel Konopka is already inside. The Brigadier will call for you shortly . . . Coffee?’
He sat down and shook his head, laying the briefcase on his knees.
She smiled at him and went back to typing. Occasionally she glanced up. Each time his gaze was fixed at a spot about four feet above her head.
She decided that he looked tense on this morning and wondered why. The coming meeting held no difficulties for him. On the contrary, he was due for a commendation.
She glanced up again. His gaze had not shifted. She estimated that he was in his early thirties. Very young to be a Major. He was an attractive man in a saturnine, sardonic way, with black hair longer than normal in the service, and dark brown eyes. A lean, almost thin face, but a full lower lip and a cleft chin below that.
Brown eyes should be warm, but his were as cold as a Siberian wind.
She was wondering why she had never noticed that before when her phone console buzzed. She picked up the phone, cocking her head to one side. The bell of her hair swayed away and she placed the phone to her ear.
‘Yes, sir . . . Yes, he is . . . Yes, sir.’
She put the phone down and nodded to him and watched as he stood up, automatically straightening his tie.
* * *
The Brigadier’s office was befittingly large, with a good thick carpet and red curtains. He was sitting behind a walnut desk. There were two chairs in front of it. One of them was occupied by Colonel Konopka. The Colonel was thin and angular, the Brigadier florid and overweight. He smiled and gestured at the empty chair, saying, ‘Mirek! Good to see you. Did my girl give you coffee?’
Scibor shook his head. ‘Thanks, I didn’t want any.’
He nodded to the Colonel and sat down, laying the briefcase on the desk.
Konopka said, ‘Your work on the Tarnow Group has been outstanding. The question is, will your report be strong enough for us to recommend prosecution?’
Scibor nodded. ‘I’m sure it is. But you - and the Brigadier - must be the judge of that. It’s brief and very much to the point.’ He leaned forward and flicked the dials of the combination locks.
There was a silence. The Brigadier had an expectant look on his face. He smiled when he saw the bulkiness of the file and said, ‘I thought you said it was brief?’
Scibor put the file in front of him and lowered the briefcase to the floor beside his chair.
‘It is. I brought along something else to show you.’
Slowly he began to unlace the file. He had begun to breathe more deeply. It went unnoticed. The other two had their eyes on the file. As he pulled the lace through the final few eyelets Scibor said, ‘Brigadier Meiszkowski, Colonel Konopka, you will remember when I was initiated into the brotherhood - the
You knew all about that initiation. I only found out the full details yesterday . . . This is my answer . . .’
He lifted the flap. As his hand closed on the butt of the gun he looked up.
The Brigadier’s mouth had opened in shock. His torso rose in the chair. With his left hand Scibor closed the flap. He raised the gun and squeezed the trigger.