Finn had taken the liberty of borrowing Spencer’s official limousine, including a disarmed and handcuffed chauffeur in the rear seat with his mouth thoroughly taped. Using the full set of lights and sirens, he sped down the A8 motorway toward Belfast. On the off chance Spencer had set up roadblocks around Ballyclare, they would not dare try to stop him.
Spencer’s communication capabilities were still disabled, but Finn did not make the mistake of underestimating the man’s resources. He figured he would need less than ten minutes to reach the outskirts of Belfast where he had set up another pickup location.
The A8 motorway quickly turned into A6, where he was forced to reduce his speed, and several minutes later he left A6. After a few turns, he steered the limousine through the residential neighborhood of Somerton Road and eventually turned to the left into Somerton Park.
He spotted the small truck with a large printed logo, “McDuff’s Plumbing & Heating,” ahead in the parking area to the right next to a small apartment building.
How appropriate, Finn thought, considering the time of year. The vehicle’s presence would not raise any suspicion.
He parked Spencer’s car at the other side of the parking lot, deliberately blocking an expensive looking sports car. He opened the back door to retrieve his duffel bag from the backseat.
“Sorry, buddy,” he addressed the chauffeur, who chose not to pay any attention to him. “Somebody will be really pissed at this lousy parking job, but it also means they will find you soon.”
He closed the door and walked across the parking area where he entered the truck on the passenger side. The driver, Andrew, knew better than to ask any questions. He started the truck immediately, and, without further ado, entered onto the road on his way to Belfast Harbour.
Finn remained quiet. He was not in the mood for a conversation. His thoughts were with his best friend Marty. Marty’s family was with him when he died, and they had found a way to keep Finn up to date on Marty’s battle with pancreatic cancer. In a way, he was glad he had not been able to see his old friend ever again. Apparently, in the end, the once feisty little leprechaun was less than a shadow of himself.
He had wished that Marty somehow could have played a vital role in this last plot, or at least have had a chance to learn about it. He would have enjoyed it very much. Playing with the Brits, as he called it, was his favorite game. In his mind, Finn saw how they would spend time in a pub, enjoying a good beer or two, and, just like during the old times, they would have a laugh about the trick they had just played on the Brits.
He remembered when Marty had called him, out of the blue, in the summer of 1975.
“Are you up for a good pint of Bass Ale?” he asked. “I found this really groovy pub close to your neighborhood. The patrons are quite some crackpots, but the beer is good.”
The groovy pub turned out to be the Rex Bar, a popular hangout for members of the Ulster Volunteer Force in the loyalist Shankill quarter of Belfast. Finn was convinced that a visit to the bar was a guaranteed ticket to hell, but Marty persuaded him there was no risk involved.
“Believe me, nobody will harm us,” he said. “I have been working on that bar for quite a while now, and I have befriended most of the regulars. These guys are so gullible. Just make sure you dress appropriately and adjust your language.”
Both Finn and Marty had the formidable gift of assimilating regional dialects, and, when on safe grounds, enjoyed mocking Loyalists and Brits by staging outrageous conversations in front of their friends.
Earlier that day, Marty had stolen the entire luggage of two SAS soldiers on their way home to England. When he rummaged through the suitcases, he was pleasantly surprised to find a personal address book containing the name, ranks, and private phone numbers of roughly twenty fellow officers.
How terribly careless, he thought with a bright grin on his face. He looked forward to telling Finn about his latest scam. Not only were the victims of the robbery unable to identify themselves and notify authorities in time, they also missed their flight.
Initially, he could not think of any practical way to take advantage of the phone numbers. The IRA did not have the means to tap that many phone lines, and even if they did, they could not invest sufficient manpower in monitoring the entire communication.
Then Marty had a brilliant idea. He called the homes of each officer and told whoever picked up the phone that their loved one had died in the line of duty, and that they should contact their individual headquarters for further arrangements.
“Cruel,” Finn commented with a grin, looking at Marty sitting on a stool next to him at the Rex Bar.
“That’s just the guy I am,” he said and took another swig of beer. “Filthy to a fault, but enjoying it tremendously.”
Finn smiled. They had made it in and out of the pub without being noticed and, once on safer grounds, they bid each other farewell. That encounter was typical for their friendship. They had never worked on the same job, but they would meet for a drink on occasion and share their stories.
The truck came to an abrupt halt when Andrew suddenly slammed the brakes. Finn hadn’t paid much attention to traffic and looked at Andrew, who pointed up ahead in the road.
“Road block,” he said. “If I turn around right here I will stir suspicion.”
Finn looked down the road and straight ahead, less than a quarter mile away, he saw the flashing lights on top of several police vehicles.
“I can only help you so far, Finn,” the driver continued. “I think it is better you continue on foot.”
He pointed to his right. “Over there is Dargan Road. You go down Dargan Road for about one kilometer where it turns into West Bank Road. Can you make it in time?”
The building next to the large parking area at West Bank Road was the pickup location. Finn checked his wristwatch and added the time it would take to arrive at the pickup. He could maintain a fast pace on foot, but he had to add time to account for the hidden side paths he would use.
“It’ll do,” he said to the driver. “Thanks for your help, Andy.”
They shook hands.
“My pleasure, Finn. Good luck.”
Finn knew that the next stage of his escape plan was the most critical, but he kept his cool. No time to get nervous, he thought to himself. He was sure his schedule allowed some wiggle room and that, in the worst-case scenario, his pick up contact would wait as long as necessary.
He took his duffel bag, jumped out of the truck, closed the door quietly, and quickly disappeared under the cover of darkness. Once safe, he watched how Andrew steered the truck back into the road and drove toward the roadblock.
Finn was confident Andrew wouldn’t get into trouble, and he didn’t waste any more time. He moved quickly toward the narrow gap between two buildings. It was the first time in many years that he was back in Belfast, and he had carefully prepared himself for any changes in the layout of that part of town.
He checked his wristwatch every time he reached a corner, always maintaining a cover of darkness. He took a look across the street to the left and right and then made a quick walk to the other side. He could not afford to run, as it would cause suspicion, and he did not trust the fact that there was hardly any traffic and nobody else about in those parts of town at that time of night.
After a gruesome long stretch of more than thirty minutes, which seemed like hours to him, he had finally reached his destination. He scanned the locality and found the exact spot as his contact had described it, the entrance door leading to the offices of a large cargo shipping company with a look onto a large zone filled with hundreds of trucks waiting either for a load or to be unloaded.
Finn knew he could trust his contact, but he didn’t care for the abundance of light, which made it a poor choice for a meeting point.
Be that as it may be, he thought.
He had been too long in the reconnaissance business to allow a minor flaw in the escape plan to distract him. He was dressed like a harbor worker, and he would not look suspicious.
The region around West Bank Road is a small peninsula surrounded by the waters of the Belfast Lough, which leads to the Irish Sea. Finn smelled the salty air, and, in the distance, he noticed the lights of the George Best Belfast City Airport.
He had some thoughts of adding to his camouflage as a harbor worker. Despite an aversion for cigarettes, he chose to pull a pack and a lighter, which he kept for such occasions, out of the bag. It took him a few minutes to light the cigarette and master the technique of dragging the smoke and exhaling it without choking.
He felt a child-like pride at having accomplished a difficult task and suddenly remembered to check his wristwatch again.
He is not here, he thought. Where is he?
Finn looked down the road and across the vast parking zone.
He froze when he recognized a harbor police car slowly patrolling toward him and cursed himself for trusting his contact.
I should have chosen the pickup point myself, he thought. There was no escape route and running away from the vehicle would be foolish. He had no choice but to play the game.
The car had reached the office building and, very much to his dismay, stopped in front of him. Both doors opened, and two policemen stepped onto the street.
“Hey, lad,” the man on the passenger side called out to him. “What are you doing here this time of the night?”
“Waiting for a pick up,” Finn answered truthfully.
“Well, lad. Can we see some identification?”
That was not part of the plan, Finn thought.
“Left it home. Didn’t think I’d need it,” he answered.
The man looked back to his colleague who nodded, then he turned back to Finn, and they both pulled their weapons.
“Down to the ground!” the policeman yelled.
Finn’s thoughts were going frantically, but there was no escape. His plan did not include a gunfight with the local police, and he had disposed of the gun. Even if he had a gun, he would not have used it. Violence was a matter of the past for him.
Finn raised his arms and slowly went to the ground. The policeman walked over to handcuff him, protected by his colleague, who still stood behind the car pointing the weapon at Finn.
They informed him of his arrest, and that containment was according to British terrorist law. They had strict orders to survey the neighborhood for suspicious individuals and arrest anybody without proper identification.
Finn closed his eyes. He paid no attention to the words that were yelled at him. His mind was racing.
What happened? Did my contact switch sides and betray me? Was my contact captured as well?
After he had been handcuffed and frisked thoroughly, they shoved Finn and his duffle bag into the back seat of the vehicle. The policeman who had handcuffed him sat next to him while his partner sat in the driver seat and called in the arrest.
A few seconds later a female voice responded and gave instructions to comply with previous orders to transfer all arrests to the interim MI5 office at the Stena Line Terminal.
When Finn overheard the directions, he could not help the devilish grin on his face.