Ian Tercaronni stood with fifty-one other men on a cold January morning in the year nineteen hundred and seventy-three. Their breath formed small clouds that hung motionless in the still air before cooling enough to disappear.
They stood and shivered and listened to a Royal Marines corporal give his welcoming speech at The Commando Training Centre Royal Marines based at Lympstone, Devon.
Tercaronni had heard the same speech many times before. Proud to serve, the best of the best, the marines are family. All the right sounding phrases, practiced many times. The kind of backbone stiffening the military is famous for.
He stood easy with his hands behind him and his feet shoulder width apart. He wore civilian clothes. Their kit wouldn’t be issued for another two days. Two days to allow the ‘fivers’ to drop out. There were always a few lads who wanted to go home when they realized there were two five o’clocks in a day or that five minutes actually meant five minutes. Not a second over.
More would leave as the training progressed. A few would be discharged due to being ‘unfit for service’, a military term used for something that was next to useless. There weren’t too many of those. The marines didn’t waste their time and effort on defective candidates. All of the men formed up outside the accommodation huts, or ‘grots’ as they were known, had already passed the pre-training tests. They wouldn’t be there if they hadn’t.
Fifteen minutes later they were assigned their quarters and told to form up again in five minutes after depositing their kit bags and cases.
Tercaronni found his bed, wardrobe and box locker in hut number four. There were fifteen beds to a hut. All with matching bedding. At the far end were the showers and toilets, or ‘heads’ in military jargon. It wasn’t much different from a boarding school dormitory.
Within the five minutes allocated, Tercaronni had stowed his gear and once again stood easy in the frigid air. Others quickly formed up beside and in front of him. To his right a ginger haired lad whispered out of the side of his mouth.
‘It’s like being in the bleeding army, ain’t it?’ he said.
Tercaronni didn’t answer. Ginger McCaul would soon find out that it was nothing like being in the army. For one thing, the Royal Marines were a branch of the Navy and for another, the training was completely different. Much more demanding.
Corporal Jacks stood before them once more. He wore a half lovats uniform with an olive green woolen sweater. And he wore the famous green beret with its Globe and Laurel cap badge. He surveyed the three ranks of his latest recruits. It would be his job to turn this motley collection of civvies into real men. He had thirty-two weeks in which to do it. He was just about to speak when a late arrival came out of one of the huts.
‘What is your name?’ he said, approaching the errant individual.
‘Paul, er, sir?’
‘I’m a corporal.’
‘Oh, right. Paul, corporal.’
‘Paul, eh? That’s a nice name.’
Tercaronni glanced to his right. Corporal Jacks stood within six inches of the recruit he would soon bawl out. He spoke slowly and carefully, enunciating every syllable.
‘Does your mummy call you Paul, Paul?’
‘Er, yes, she does.’
‘And do I look like your mummy, Paul?’
‘No,’ said Corporal Jacks. ‘I don’t.’
Several moments passed. The new recruit didn’t know what to say or do, so he smiled. The worst thing he could have done under the circumstances.
‘Why are you smiling?’ said Corporal Jacks.
‘I don’t know. It’s just I don’t know what else to do.’
‘Well, I’m still standing here. Still waiting. Wasting my bloody time.’
‘I’m sorry. I don’t know what you want.’
‘I want your bleeding name, boy!’ Corporal Jacks said, screaming into the boy’s face. ‘That’s what I’m waiting for!’
‘Yes, corporal. Sorry corporal. It’s Bennet, corporal.’
Corporal Jacks checked the list he carried on a clipboard. He made a note against Bennet’s name with the stub of a plain brown pencil.
‘I don’t understand, corporal.’
It came as a bit of a shock to Paul Bennet when he suddenly realized where he was and what he was doing. His eyes blinked in understanding and he dropped to the ground and started the first of forty press ups.
‘Find us in that building when you’re through, Bennet,’ Corporal Jacks said, pointing to a large building to his left. ‘The rest of you, right turn!’
As Tercaronni marched by the man on the ground he slowed.
‘Chin up, Paul. As soon as Jacks is through the door, follow us.’
Before Bennet had a chance to answer, Tercaronni was gone, marching along to the sound of the corporal’s voice.
‘Left, right, left, right, left.’
The recruits spent the next hour listening to the commandant give his talk, pretty much along the same lines as Corporal Jacks, and then attesting an oath of allegiance.
They formed up again outside the grots. Tercaronni gave a nod to Bennet. The recruit hadn’t left. There had been a few times in the past when he’d picked up his things and walked out of the gate, but this wasn’t one of them.
‘Bit of a shock, isn’t it,’ he said.
‘You can say that again,’ said Bennet. ‘Thanks for the encouragement.’
‘What’s your name?’
‘Tercaronni. Ian Tercaronni.’
They shook hands. A fact that Corporal Jacks didn’t let slip.
‘Making friends are we gentlemen?’
‘Yes, corporal,’ said Tercaronni.
It wasn’t said in a condescending manner. The training team wanted recruits to make friends. The quicker the better. Men don’t fight for queen and country, they fight for their mates.
‘Right, you lot. The barber shop is over there,’ he said, pointing. ‘The hut with the green door. Form a queue outside and wait to be shorn of your golden locks.’
The recruits began ambling towards the hut. There were several laughs and good natured moans.
‘This is not a bleeding Sunday school picnic! Double away! Now!’
The recruits ran.
‘An’ this is just the first day,’ McCaul said when they were standing in line.
‘You’ll get used to it,’ said Bennet.
‘How would you know? You been here before, eh?’
‘Keep your hair on, Ginger,’ said one of the other lads. ‘At least for a few minutes.’
This brought about one or two laughs from the rest of the recruits. Even Tercaronni smiled. It had been a long time since he’d last heard the joke.
Ginger McCaul was in for some more shocks before he left. The lad wouldn’t make it through the next day and would ‘five out’ before the weekend.
Tercaronni didn’t mind. He’d never really taken to him much. He was all talk and trousers. The sort who liked to belittle others, but didn’t like it when the tables were turned. And, like most bullies, he was a coward.
‘This is bollocks,’ he said. ‘It’s only done to put you down. I can fight wiv or wivout me hair.’
‘I guess we’ll see,’ said Tercaronni.
‘Wot? You want proof, mate?’
‘Okay wot? Do you, or wot?’
‘Yes. I want proof. Right here. Right now. Clear enough?’
McCaul looked into deep blue eyes and a smiling face. Tercaronni had a scar above his eye and a nose that had clearly been broken at least once.
‘Yeah, right,’ he said. ‘Not wiv him coming.’
The recruits turned from what might have been interesting to where the corporal was approaching.
‘Later,’ said McCaul.
‘What are you doing? Having a natter, are we? Stand still and silent!’ said Corporal Jacks.
He marched along the line of waiting men. His left leg took a slightly shorter step than his right, but not enough to call it a limp.
‘I can see I’m going to have trouble with you lot,’ he said, watching the recruits shuffle into a more or less straight line. ‘You have a lot to learn. And the sooner you learn it, the better it will be for all of us!’
The line moved quickly and it wasn’t long before Tercaronni took his place in one of the chairs. Hair of many different colours was already brushed into several piles on the linoleum floor. There were two barbers at work, although the word barber should be taken extremely lightly. Both of the men wielding electric clippers would have made a fair living on the sheep farms of Australia. He emerged a few moments later feeling the chill air on his bald scalp.
‘That suits you,’ said Bennet.
‘It feels like an egg,’ Tercaronni said, running his hand over his head.
They quickly made their way back to the grots where the other recruits had formed up.
Corporal Jacks marched up and down the lines checking each recruit’s head, making sure not a single hair had been missed.
‘You are now Royal Marines recruits,’ he said. ‘This afternoon you will take two tests. Mathematics and English. They are both simple. You will not fail, but, if you do, you will be leaving via the main gate today. Do you understand?’
‘Speak as though you have testicles!’
Tercaronni couldn’t help but smile. The method by which the training team worked never changed. Knock ’em down, build ’em up. He guessed it was the same everywhere.
It spoke well for the selection process that only one recruit failed the tests. He was discharged from training and packed off home before anyone knew what had happened. The marines didn’t like failure. It was part of the ethos to remove it as quickly and as quietly as possible.
That evening, the fifty-one remaining recruits, aged between eighteen and twenty-six watched a fully grown man take a shower. Corporal Willis washed every nook and crevice whilst Corporal Jacks gave a running commentary.
‘Start at the top, lads. Wash your nut first, then behind your ears and around your neck. Pay particular attention to places where you sweat. Especially the crack of your arse, around your ball sack and your foreskin if you have one.’
The recruits didn’t know whether to laugh or not as Corporal Willis slid back his sheath and washed the head of his penis. Corporal Jacks continued.
‘If you don’t wash properly in the field, you will stink. If you stink, your mates won’t like you and neither will I,’ he said as Corporal Willis rinsed off. ‘Right. Your turn.’
Before retiring that night each recruit had to stand naked and to attention in front of his bed. They were spotlessly clean.
‘Now, lads,’ Corporal Jacks said, parading up and down the sleeping quarters. ‘All of you are bald, clean and nude. You are on your way to becoming reborn. Like babies once more. Only this time your mothers will not be present. You will be reborn into the Royal Marines Corps. Any questions?’
‘Do we sleep naked, corporal?’ said a voice from the far end of the grot.
‘Morgan. Am I right?’
‘Yes, Morgan. You will sleep as nature intended. Naked as the day you were born. You are clean. Your bed is clean. That is how it will always be.’
He turned back to the whole troop.
‘Lights out in five! Four! Three!’
Tercaronni got into bed. The rest of the recruits followed his example.
The lights went out. They wouldn’t come on again until five o’clock in the morning.
After a few seconds of silence, Ginger McCaul was the first to speak.
‘Wot the ‘ell was all that about?’ he said. ‘Watching a bloke take a shower.’
‘I guess they have to start somewhere,’ said Bennet.
‘It’s bleeding stupid. I know how to wash, for chrissakes.’
‘What do you think, Ian?’ Bennet said, turning towards the bed next to his.
There was no answer. Only the sound of breathing. Tercaronni had taken less than a minute to fall into a deep and unconcerned sleep.
Four hundred and eighty miles from where Tercaronni lay, Michael Walsh wasn’t asleep. He sat at a plain wooden kitchen table and pored over a map. It wasn’t the sort of map normal people would use. It was an ordnance survey explorer map, one of the most detailed ever produced. It showed every road, footpath and bridleway in a given area. Walsh studied every detail, even the smallest of landscape features.
His plan was bold and audacious. A move the English would never expect. The Original Irish Republican Army had rejected it as being too brutal. Even the Provo’s had been against the idea and had dismissed it. He didn’t care. If he had to, he’d go it alone.
He jotted a few lines on a ring bound notebook and then rubbed his eyes. There was still a lot to organize. The best laid plans covered each and every eventuality. He couldn’t afford to miss even one detail.
Once it was done, when the vulnerability of the English had been exposed, he’d be able to rise up through the ranks. No one had ever thought of anything like this before. He’d be welcomed by the OIRA and the Provo’s then. For sure they’d want a man like him in their fight. He might even sod them all off and set up his own paramilitary force.
He got up and washed his hands. Then he made some coffee. It would help him stay awake. He couldn’t rest. Not yet. The first anniversary of the Bogside Massacre was only a couple of weeks away. He’d have every detail finalized by then. With his coffee in hand he went back to work.
Tercaronni awoke at four-fifteen in the morning. He got out of bed, went to the heads and showered under lukewarm water. After brushing his teeth he returned to his bunk and made it. Military style.
In the darkness of the morning he dressed in shorts, t-shirt and running shoes. He made his way along the grot to the door and silently left the building.
Once outside, in the crisp winter’s air, he set off on a short run to warm his body and prepare his muscles for what lay ahead. A quick tour of the top field would be enough.
Corporal Jacks always enjoyed this part of training. The very first five o’clock morning call for hands. That wasn’t because he was in any way sadistic or callous. Far from it. He took no pleasure at all from seeing recruits suffer. What he found enjoyable was the looks of absolute horror on their faces when they realized that five o’clock was a normal time of day for a Royal Marine. In fact, once out in the field, they’d come to learn that five o’clock was late. Or early, he checked his thoughts, depending on the circumstances.
He opened the door to hut four, switched on the overhead lights and bellowed at the top of his voice.
‘Call for hands! Stand by your beds!’
He marched down the centre of the grot banging his pace stick against the metal bed frames.
‘Get up, you lazy lot! The day’s almost over!’
The recruits stumbled to comply. Bleary eyed and befuddled, they shivered in the sudden cold as they each stood aimlessly at the foot of their beds.
‘PE kit in five minutes! Fall in outside!’
Corporal Jacks smiled inwardly. The sleepy recruits looked as though they’d been having happy dreams. They’d soon get the hang of it. By week four they’d bounce out of bed with just a whisper.
He turned at the end of the room and headed back towards the door. That was when he spotted the empty bed. It was immaculate. The top blanket was stretched so tight you could bounce a coin off it. He checked the name tag fixed to the frame.
‘Terkaroni! Where the hell is Terkaroni?’
He stared at the recruit standing shivering at the end of the next bed. The lad looked as though he wouldn’t know his own whereabouts, never mind those of his friend.
‘Get showered, Bennet!’ he said, yelling in the boy’s face.
Now he was really pissed. Never, not in all the time he’d been training, had a recruit ever sneaked off in the middle of the night. Not on day one! He stormed towards the door and threw it open. There was going to be a massive shitshow to pay for this and most of it would stick to him.
Tercaronni was already stood to attention in the light from the doorway. He looked wide awake and ready for the day.
Corporal Jacks took a pace toward him and looked into his face. There wasn’t even a hint of a smile. The deep blue eyes stared centre and forward.
‘Are you mugging me, Terkaroni?’
‘Having a bit of a laugh, were we?’
‘Trying to be clever, eh?’
‘Then what the bloody hell are you doing out of bed, ready and waiting at five o’clock in the bleeding morning?’
‘Couldn’t sleep, corporal.’
‘Well, you will tonight, Terkaroni. Believe me,’ Corporal Jacks said with his nose not an inch from the recruit’s. ‘You’ll sleep like the dead.’
‘Yes, corporal,’ said Tercaronni. ‘Permission to speak, corporal?’
‘What is it?’
‘My name, corporal. It’s Tercaronni, with two n’s and the c is soft, like an s.’
‘Is it indeed? I’ll try to remember that,’ said Corporal Jacks, moving on to the next grot. ‘Thirty, Tercaronni! Now!’
While the recruit dropped and started his pushups, Corporal Jacks headed for hut three. For a moment he had a smile on his face. It wasn’t often a recruit surprised him, but Tercaronni had. The lad had potential and he hoped it would continue over the coming months. He wiped the smile from his face before throwing open the door and switching on the lights.
‘Stand by your beds!’ he said, bellowing.
For the recruits, the morning consisted of physical training and being yelled at. After a fifteen minute lunch, during which they bolted down as much food as they could, they had to report to the swimming pool for evaluation tests.
‘I can hardly keep my eyes open,’ Bennet said, standing beside Tercaronni at the edge of the outdoor pool with the rest of the recruits. ‘I’m bloody well knackered.’
‘That’s why they call us nods,’ said Tercaronni. ‘It’ll wear off after the first few weeks.’
‘Few weeks? I doubt I’ll make it that long.’
The PTI from the morning, a Corporal Watson, was talking from the other side of the pool. He gave instructions to the recruits regarding the next exercise. He had the sort of voice that further induced sleep.
Tercaronni looked along the row of shivering recruits. Several of them were having difficulty paying attention. One or two chins dropped before quickly bouncing back up.
‘You’re not the only one, Paul,’ he said.
‘But you’re doing alright,’ said Bennet. ‘What was all that about this morning?’
‘Just teaching Corporal Jacks some pronunciation. He had a problem with my name.’
‘You’re bloody mental.’
‘Will you two luvvies shut up, for chrissakes? I’m trying to listen!’ McCaul said, hissing from the other side of Bennet.
‘Yes, Paul. Shut up will you? I can’t hear the man speak,’ said Tercaronni.
‘You’re a bloody faggot, Tercaronni,’ said McCaul.
‘Want some, Ginger?’
‘I wouldn’t even if I was, you bender.’
‘What? Not even a cuddle?’ said Bennet.
‘Up yours, Bennet. You’re a bloody poofter!’
Corporal Jacks walked up behind the three of them. He didn’t make a sound even though he wore heavy leather boots.
‘Corporal Watson! Three volunteers for you!’ he said, in a voice that made everyone spring to attention.
‘Very well. Come here. On the double!’ said Corporal Watson.
The three recruits ran around the pool and stood to attention in front of the PTI.
‘Take four weights each,’ Corporal Watson said, indicating a large red plastic box. ‘And throw them in.’
They did as they were told. Each of the heavy lead weights sank quickly to the bottom of the pool.
‘Now retrieve them.’
‘Corporal, I…’ said McCaul.
Tercaronni and Bennet both dived into the water. It was freezing cold. Tercaronni made for the farthest weight, while Bennet went for the nearest.
Swimming was virtually impossible with the weight in hand, so Tercaronni walked along the bottom of the pool until he came to the side. He crouched down and with all the force he could muster from his legs, lunged up with the weight held overhead. As he broke the surface, he dropped it on the side of the pool, took a deep breath and went down for the next one.
Bennet struggled with his. He couldn’t get to the surface no matter how hard he kicked his legs. Then he saw what Tercaronni was doing. Pushing up from the bottom. He tried it and succeeded in getting his weight to the side. He returned for the next.
Ginger McCaul didn’t have the sense to stop and think. He jumped into the water and his body immediately stiffened up against the cold. He tried to scramble back out, over the slippery tiles.
‘Get on with it, McCaul!’ Corporal Jacks said, shouting his order.
Tercaronni was on his third weight already. As he walked across the bottom he saw the blurred shape of McCaul attempting to swim down for his first. He’d never make it. Not even one.
Corporals Jacks and Watson watched the three recruits work. Tercaronni had gotten it right first time. Always start with the most difficult job. As the body tires the work becomes easier. Simple fact of life.
Bennet had learned quickly enough. He’d made the mistake of aiming for the closest weight, but after seeing what his friend was doing, had followed suit.
Only McCaul was having real difficulties. The cold water had shocked his body and numbed his mind. He wasn’t even thinking as he splashed around in an attempt to get below the surface. Already his lips were blue.
‘Get out, McCaul!’ Corporal Watson said. ‘Get out now!’
McCaul either didn’t hear, or was too far gone to understand. He continued floundering around and was in danger of panicking.
Tercaronni dropped his third weight at the feet of the two corporals and headed back out into the water. He quickly swam over to McCaul and, from behind, cupped his chin with his right hand. He swam back towards the side with the struggling recruit in tow.
‘Permission to off-load, corporal,’ he said, looking up at Corporal Watson.
‘Permission granted, recruit.’
Tercaronni pulled McCaul near and the corporals manhandled him out of the water. Then he dived down for his last weight. It was the closest one to the side.
When he and Bennet stood at the side of the pool again, the PTI went over what had gone wrong.
‘You have to prepare yourselves, gentlemen,’ he said. ‘It’s bloody Winter. The water is bound to be cold. Expect it, prepare for it, and your body won’t go into shock.’
McCaul sat to one side shivering with a towel wrapped around his shoulders. It would be the last time any of the recruits would see him.
‘Good effort, lads,’ Corporal Jacks said quietly as Tercaronni and Bennet marched back to their positions.
‘Thank you, corporal,’ said Bennet.
‘Don’t let it go to your head, recruit. There’s still a long way to go.’
He watched as they moved over to join the rest of the troop. McCaul was out, that was for sure. Forty-nine left. One leader so far. Not a bad result after only two days. If Tercaronni and Bennet continued like that, they’d be up for diamonds.
He remembered back to when he’d received his. Eighteen years ago he’d been a fresh egg just like them. He’d worked really hard and loved every minute of it. He’d learned and memorized everything he could about the corps.
When his training team had put him up for a diamond, he’d felt pretty bloody special, that was for sure. It took three tours of Belfast and a piece of homemade bomb behind the knee to convince him he wasn’t.
He was still a Royal, though. And extremely proud to be one. A hard boiled Royal Marines Commando.
Michael Walsh walked from his home in Barrykelly, just to the South of Lough Ree in County Westmeath, to the Duck and Dog public house on the banks of the Breen River.
It wasn’t that far. About three miles across country. Normally it would take him no more than an hour, but at night, with the peat bogs nearby, it took longer.
He had to be there at seven-thirty to meet the man from Dublin. A meeting he hadn’t expected to have. The last time he’d been in contact with the Provisionals he’d been turned away without a second thought.
This time it would be different. He’d completed every detail of his plan. A plan so well thought through that nothing could go wrong. He carried his notebook and map in his inside coat pocket and would prove to the man from Dublin that the place was accessible. The last place the English would think to look.
He pulled up the collar of his coat against the chill wind and hurried on towards the pub. He didn’t know what had made the Provo’s change their minds, only that they had. They’d told him during the telephone call he’d received the day before.
The meeting had been arranged and Walsh had hurried to finalize all the last minute details. He’d spent last night and most of the morning getting prepared. If he got the backing he needed, the bloody English would be in for the shock of their lives.
It had started raining by the time he reached the front door of the Duck and Dog. He stepped inside and closed the door quickly behind him.
There was a log fire burning and the room was warm and comfortable. He removed his coat and, after taking out his book and map, hung it on a hook near the door.
There weren’t that many customers thirsty enough to venture out in the wind and rain. Old Donahue was there, though. He was always there. Sat by the fire to keep warm with a pint of ale in front of him. Walsh nodded when the old soak looked over.
He moved to the bar and perched himself on one of the padded wooden stools. He straightened one of the bar mats. Aligned it neatly with the edge of the bar. When he was satisfied, he looked around.
‘What’ll it be, Mike?’
‘Oh, I’ll have the usual, Sheila.’
Sheila Simpson was a typical barkeep. Broad of hip and mouth. Her permed blond hair sat uneasily on her plump round face.
Walsh took another look around. There wasn’t anyone he didn’t recognize.
‘The man you’ll be looking for is in the snug,’ Sheila said, sliding a black pint across the bar.
Taking a quick sip, Walsh left the stool and headed for a semi-glazed door leading into the quiet side of the bar. An area reserved for those who wanted some privacy.
There was only one person waiting for him. A man with pulled back brown hair and a hooked nose that protruded from a thin face. He looked twice the age of Walsh. He was wearing one of those long grey raincoats usually seen in American gangster films and a dark suit with a white shirt and a maroon tie. He motioned for Walsh to take a seat.
‘Hello, Michael. I’ve been expecting you,’ he said in a deep brogue that didn’t match the owner.
‘Good to meet you, er. I’m sorry, I didn’t catch your name,’ said Walsh, taking a seat and placing his glass and notebook on the table.
He moved the notebook an inch with the tips of his fingers.
‘No names, Michael.’
‘But you know mine, sure enough.’
‘Yes. We know yours.’
Walsh stared at the man opposite him. For just a second he thought of standing up. If they weren't going to show him respect, he should just get up and leave. He didn’t. He stayed where he was. This was his one chance to prove he had what it took to be one of the men from Dublin. He didn’t want to blow it. Not after all his hard work.
‘Now then, Michael. What is it you want?’ said the man.
‘What is it I want?’ said Walsh. ‘You called me, remember?’
‘Yes, indeed. We called you. Now I’m asking what it is you want, Michael. It’s not a difficult question.’
‘You mean to complete the operation?’
‘But why now? What’s changed? It was rejected before.’
‘Indeed it was. But things have changed. There’s talk that the English will try to reach an agreement. To set up direct rule in the North. And the suspension of Stormont means there’ll be nothing to stop them. We need to show the bloody Tans that they can’t just walk in and make themselves at home.’
‘So now you want to go ahead with my plan?’
‘We do, Michael. If it’s feasible.’
‘It’s definitely feasible,’ Walsh said, opening his notebook. ‘I’ll show you.’
Walsh went over the details for the next hour and a half. The man from Dublin asked a multitude of awkward questions and he had an answer for every one. He showed him the place on the map. The simplicity of the whole operation was what made it so brilliant.
‘The English will never expect it. Not there and not at that time,’ he said, taking a drink of the fresh beer Sheila brought them.
‘It’ll certainly be a surprise,’ the man said. ‘But what about this woman? How do you know she’ll do it?’
‘What choice will she have?’ said Walsh. ‘And even if something does go wrong, there won’t be any losses.’
‘That’s true,’ the man said, thoughtfully. ‘I’ll tell you what I’ll do, Michael. I’ll talk to Dublin tomorrow. If they agree, we’ll see about getting you the things you’ll need. How’s that?’
‘And you’ll back me up? Back up the operation?’
‘I’ll tell them I’m in favour, if that’s what you mean.’
Walsh finished his drink, collected his things and said goodnight to the man from Dublin. He put on his coat and stepped out into the pouring rain. He’d be soaked by the time he reached home, but he didn’t care. It wouldn’t be long before he could move to the capital and get away from the bloody peat bogs. He hurried along the path. He needed to get home and wash his hands. He could already feel the skin of his palms itching.
Elly White drove her little Mini from Plymouth towards Lympstone. This would be the first time she had seen Tercaronni since he’d left five weeks previously. She’d been invited to families’ day even though she wasn’t family.
She drove through the country backroads as though she were in a rally. At first she’d wanted to get a sports car and had been annoyed at his insistence that she didn’t. Now she was pleased she’d listened. The Mini was an amazing little thing. It went around corners like it was on rails. She hoped he liked what she’d done to brighten it up.
Before she could pass through the main gate at the Commando Training Centre she had to fill out all sorts of paperwork, show her ID and the invitation letter from the camp Commandant and open the car up for inspection. The gate guards left nothing to chance as they went over the car with a fine tooth comb.
‘Do I look like a bomber? Really?’ she said to the marine in front of her.
He looked her up and down. She wore blue round rimmed glasses, a red scarf, a yellow sweater, blue flared jeans and a pair of bright red platform shoes. With her mop of yellow-blond hair she looked like something off the cover of a teen magazine.
‘No, miss. You don’t,’ said the marine. ‘But we can’t be too careful, can we?’
‘No, I guess not,’ she said before smiling. ‘Do you know Ian Tercaronni? He lives here.’
‘Is he a recruit, miss?’
‘Yes! You do know him!’
‘No, miss. I don’t know him. I don’t know any of the nods.’