It had been arranged for Jimmy to meet his Intelligence Corps contact in the snooker hall that evening at 21:00 hours.
The bastard was late.
Jimmy had another look at his watch and decided to go in rather than wait outside in this sodding awful rain.
It was almost as dark and dreary inside as it was on the pavement. The Side Pocket on Silvertown Road was new to Jimmy. During The Troubles the British Army switched venues regularly as the Boyos had an almost telepathic ability to know what was going down, where and when.
“Christ, what a dump!” thought Jimmy, as his eyes grew accustomed to the gloom and he took in six full-sized snooker tables stretching away down the long, narrow hall.
He walked towards the flimsy bar at the far end where a middle-aged man was reading Sporting Life and sipping a glass of stout. The manager looked up without much interest and returned his attention to the runners and riders at The Curragh tomorrow.
Apart from the two of them, The Side Pocket seemed deserted and silent. Jimmy stopped alongside Table Three when his attention was grabbed by the sound of an avalanche of coins, and an accompanying yelp of delight.
Then Jimmy saw for the first time a figure with his back to the room, playing the slots beside the bar and dancing a little jig of delight at his windfall.
At first Jimmy assumed this must be his contact until he realised with a start that Corporal Evans had soundlessly materialised at his side.
“What the fuck!” said Jimmy. “You scared the bejaysus out of me! Where’d you come from?”
Evans grinned. “Outside, you berk. Come on, Jimmy, rack ’em up. Let’s look busy.”
Accepted protocol was for informant and contact to spend time creating the impression they were old mates before they got down to business. They chatted a bit and Jimmy was about to cue off when the two men entered the Side Pocket.
The sudden blast of cold, damp air which accompanied their arrival made Evans glance round. When he turned back, Jimmy saw the pure terror in his eyes.
It said that he and Jimmy were dead men.
The newcomers advanced silently up the hall, identically dressed in shabby leather coats, pulling on black balaclavas. The taller of the two swung an AK 47 from under his coat and there was the unmistakable gritty, metal-on-metal scrape of the gun being cocked.
Without taking his dull, lifeless eyes off Jimmy’s, he peeled off and stopped six paces away and raised the rifle to his shoulder.
Jimmy tried to make the sign of the cross but his arm wouldn’t obey and hung limply by his side. He was vaguely aware of Evans whimpering as the other gunman made his was towards the bar, screwing a silencer onto a Browning 9mm.
He came to a stop behind the lucky gambler, still absorbed in counting his winning, and shot him four times in the back. Then he turned on his heel and without looking to left or right, retraced his steps towards the exit.
He hadn’t got far before the downed man started to moan, so the gunman went back and shot him until the Browning’s magazine was expended.
“Now it’s us,” thought Jimmy and prepared himself for a burst of 7.62 full metal jacket. “Come on then. Get it over with,” he said.
Lizard-Eyes was still giving Jimmy the evils and there was a sadistic pleasure in the way he gently eased off the safety.
Jimmy saw his nicotine-stained index finger with its chewed nail gently squeezing the trigger.
As time stood still, Jimmy was aware of a sardonic grin showing through the hole in the balaclava, although the eyes remained as dead and implacable as ever.
“Bang!” said the gunman as he pulled the trigger on an empty chamber, and nonchalantly strolled out into a rain-drenched Stewartstown Road.
“I think I might have pissed my pants,” admitted Jimmy.
“Well, that’s nothing,” said Corporal Evans. “I know for sure I’ve shit myself.”