“Sir. It’s Collins and Bacon, Sir.”
“Just there, Sir.”
“Get Bacon’s dry clothes from his pack for him.”
Bacon walked straight up to me and reported, still dripping wet, “Sir. The port is two hundred by one hundred and fifty yards, Sir. There are eight jetties running north to south along the shore, but they’re nearly all bear. Two jetties, side by side, at the north end have eight boats a piece. There are men patrolling the site in pairs. I counted twelve in total, and they’re not your regular ragtags. They’re all switched on; chins up, eyes peeled, Sir. If we come in from the water we stand a chance, but we’ll need to booby trap the walkways and their boat too, it’s a runabout. And it could easily outrun any of the trawlers. The mouth of the port is a good forty yards wide too, Sir. We could get three abreast through it if we had to.”
“Bacon, you’ve done me proud, son,” I smiled. “Put yourself round some food and take a rest.”
Everyone just stared at Bacon. Awe would be an understatement. He had completed a suicidal mission and didn’t make any fuss about it. We were all so fucking proud of our brother. Me most of all!
“Right, that’s you Swanson. Longshot is gonna run you through a few things before you go and then once it’s dark get going. Zero hour is O one hundred.”
“Sir. Yes, SIR.”
As he and Tony walked away Swanson removed an envelope from inside his shirt and handed it to Pretty Boy, who stood up, saluted him and shook his hand. Then – without a word – Swanson turned back to Tony and off they went.
“Right, Gentlemen. This is where we burn our ships. I want everyone to strip down anything from your gear that isn’t food or ammunition. Leave it all right here and tie your packs tight, nothing is to rattle. You have one hour to write your letters and prepare yourselves.”
“SIR. YES, SIR!!”
By ten o’clock it was pitch dark, clouds had been sent by god to shield us from the moonlight. It was a cool night for that time of year and the hike up the shore to where Bacon had entered the water was a brief and silent affair. Bacon led us into the water as Longshot took up the rear of the column. All eleven of us were primed for hell itself to descend upon us, and heaven help the devil if it did. The water was calm and the winds were low, so we had to move at a slow pace so as not to cause noise. I can’t remember the cold. I just remember looking at the back of Glynn’s head as he swam two or three yards ahead of me. After about a half an hour Glynn stopped us at a seawall. We’d reached the port.
My men lined up as they reached the wall and, with a calm surety, were looking around for anyone that might spot us. As I passed each of them to reach the front of the column I gave them each a nod, but none of them were looking at me. They were all engrossed, true to form.
“On me,” I whispered to Bacon and we climbed the boulders to the walkway some ten feet above. Once our eyelevel reached the path I could see three pairs of boys patrolling. On the map Bacon drew for me the harbour was shaped like two arms bowed out to the west without the hands touching. The gaps between the ‘hands’ was about forty yard wide, the mouth of the harbour. We had come up on the southern arm of the port, around about centre. There was one lamppost every fifty yards on the walkways but the clowns had sense enough to carry torches, miners’ style lamps. To our right a pair of patrolmen were walking away from us, towards land and across the port two pairs were walking towards each other, their lamps glowing in the distance.
To be continued…
© Stephen Fahey