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(Redirected from The Chinaman)


‘North or south?’ asked Sir John. Nguyen smiled. ‘Today there is no north or south. Only Vietnam.’ ‘When you escaped,’ the MP pressed. ‘Where were you from then?’ Nguyen shrugged. ‘Both,’ he said. ‘North and south.’ ‘And why did you come to England?’ ‘Because I could not live in Vietnam. Because the Communists persecuted me and my family. I helped the Americans in the war. When the Americans go they put me in prison. So we escaped. To Britain.’ ‘Why Britain?’ ‘Because here we can be free.’

A group of Americans on a mission, the man on point would run into a booby trap, his leg blown off or a poisoned stick through his foot, and his screams and blood would terrify the rest. Not only that but the mission would be suspended while a helicopter was called in or the man was stretchered back to base. And next time a patrol moved down the trail they’d do so with twice the care at half the speed.

Bromley thrust his hands deep into the pockets of his corduroy trousers and studied the ground as he walked. ‘You know they’ve taken explosives, but you don’t know who they are?’ ‘We’ve checked out all our caches. Some ordnance was missing.’ Morrison chose his words carefully because he couldn’t afford to give away any more information than was absolutely necessary. The IRA was still at war with the British Government, when all was said and done.

The smell of roast pork reminded him how long it had been since he had last eaten so he took out a carton of meat and one of rice and ate with his fingers. It had been a long time since he had eaten outside. What was it the Westerners called it? He’d seen the word in one of Kieu Trinh’s English story books. Picnic, that was it.

child. ‘It doesn’t matter. It never has. That’s the big mistake everyone makes, Liam, they assume that when we kill what you call a soft target everyone turns against us. It doesn’t happen. We kill a couple of tourists by mistake, we blow up a child, we shoot an old woman, it has no effect. It doesn’t affect the votes we get at election time, it doesn’t make a blind bit of difference to the amount of money we raise. In fact, you know as well as I do that a big bomb on the mainland, aimed at civilians or the army, often results in more money flooding in from the States, not less. It proves to them that we’re serious, that we’re prepared to fight for what we believe in.’

The two men in the courtyard walked over to the cottage and Nguyen let the curtain swing back into place. ‘I mean, I’ve lost relatives in the Troubles, my own brother-in-law was killed not so long ago. Almost everyone I know has had someone they know killed or maimed, but I’ve never met anyone who has taken it so … so personally … as you have.’ ‘Perhaps if you did take it personally, the war in Ireland would not have dragged on for so long.’ ‘What do you mean?’ ‘What are you fighting for?’ ‘To get the British out of Ireland. To be allowed to live our own lives without prejudice or persecution.’ ‘So why do your people not take up arms against the British and drive them from the country?’ ‘Many do.’ ‘But not enough. Not enough people care. Not enough take it personally. The Vietnamese fought the French until they left the country. And the Communists fought the Americans and the army of the South until the Americans left. They won because the desire to be one country was stronger than anything else. It seems to me that you will never force the British to leave Ireland. Not enough people care. You play at war.’

McGrath tried to talk to Hennessy as the group moved back into the lounge but he was ignored. Morrison recognised the technique of sapping the man’s confidence to make him more susceptible to questioning.

‘Why did he do it?’ Hennessy shrugged. ‘I guess the money helped persuade him. Gaddafi and Hussein have their own axes to grind against the British Government, and someone like McGrath would be a godsend. McGrath earns a small fortune from his smuggling operations, he’s been playing the border like a bloody one-string fiddle. But most of that disappeared with the European Community’s single market, so recently he’s had to depend even more on his other sources of income in Belfast, and they in turn depend to a great extent on the Troubles. He’s behind a number of protection rackets in the city. Most of the cash goes into IRA funds, but I doubt if he passed it all on. I’d be very surprised if some of it didn’t find its way into his Swiss bank account, along with the Libyan and Iraqi money.’