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Harriet Cleve Jan 2019
"The exploits of Sir Harry Flashman VC as he tries to outwit Michael Collins, assist the notorious Cairo gang, avoid ****** Sunday,charm the Irish ladies, and escape with his skin intact.

A nod to George M Fraser!



Old Harry Flashman stood in Dublin Castle as a monocled spiv eyed him cautiously.' You'll do your duty, sir, by God you will ! or you'll be handed to Collins and his murderous crew of ignorant paddies. His Majesties Government will disown you and abandon you to your fate, if you betray your colours and turn Turk. It will be the gallows for you, as it was for Casement, if a treacherous bone in your miserable hide breaks bread with the enemy. I can reveal to you that one of our agents, Jameson, has just met his maker in Glasnevin Cemetry. Too close to Collins, **** it!, he must have dropped his guard. That won't happen you though, Flashman! You are going undercover, and you'll have an excellent cover story too. Lloyd George wants that despised Irish Organisation infiltrated and destroyed. You will be watched closely by my dear friend Hoppy Hardy. A finer fellow you won't meet. He has kicked some green arses I can tell you, and would we had more of his kind! ****** fine fellow indeed.

I could only stand there, blanching, and my guts turning sour listening to that drivel. I was no spy and those ****** potato eaters were on the warpath! Give them the ****** Country, I thought to myself. Old Harry couldn't give a **** if they flew a Green Flag over Buckingham palace or paraded their colours in Winsor Castle! The Irish had their Irish up and had the Country in a state of terror, and Flashy was to be a go between for King and Country?
I wanted to retch and felt nauseous at the thought. Even as I stood there nodding as my cover was being presented and my arrangement to meet Michael Collins outlined, I could only think of that poor deluded fool Jameson.Lying in the damp soil of Glasnevin Cemetry, of all places!
A bullet in his head and chest for his troubles. Flashman, my boy thinks I, you will shake hands with the Devil and won't be leaving Ireland in a wooden overcoat. Even as that idiotic spiv spoke from his safe leather chair, I was working out my departure plans and Collins could go to Hell. As usual though, it never goes to plan for Old Flashy. I stepped out into a cold November chilled night air as Christ Church cathedral rang its bells. A gun was cocked and an Irish brogue said' Into the side street, nice and easy friend and we'll have a little chat, won't we? My innards churned and I looked for an out but I could see I was well accompanied.

Now Gentlemen, what will we talk about? said I as my mind raced to collect my thoughts. I felt I could brazen it out and was ready to blow my cover if I could save my skin. 'We'll do the talking, friend!' were the last words I heard before I was violently coshed on the head and relieved of my wallet.

***********
When I awoke Hoppy Hardy stood over me and I was safely quartered in the Royal Barracks. My head pulsed with pain and Hardy was rabbiting on. 'Well done Flashman, you held your nerve old son. We had our eye on you all the time old boy! I wanted a taste of your mettle although i didn't expect a blatant attempt on you so soon.Our sources tell me you enjoy a violent engagement with the enemy. Good news for you, the paddy who coshed you is in the next room.'

'We know he's an agent for Collins and you missed all the fun of the shootout when you were unconscious. Come on and have a look at how we run things here'.

As we entered the isolation room, I saw they had given the prisoner a good dose of the discipline stick and the blood trickled from a severe head ****. At least the ******* had a headache to match my own I thought. He was in a bad way and Hoppy gave him an unmerciful boot to the nether regions and let out a scream, which put the fear of God in me immediately. 'Once again you Irish *******! What were you doing breaking curfew with an unauthorised weapon! Who gave you that weapon? This was followed by a stinging slap to the prisoners face. This was pointless in my view as the fellow was clearly incapable of response after the boot he received. It made me think I was in for the same treatment if the Irish boys adopt the same tactics.it was all I could do not to flinch as Hardy unleashed a flurry of blows on the unconscious rebel.

**********

Charlie Dalton was in a rage as he spoke to his brother Emmet. ' One of our lads, Frank Fagan, was taken last night! We were following an English lad, and his bearing was suspicious. A right cocky one parading the streets like a Lord of the manor. We had just coshed him and were about to take him to Crow street when Hoppy Hardy and his thugs made an appearance. We had to shoot it out but Fagan was captured.
Emmet listened and stunned Charlie with his response. 'Fagan's a traitor and has served his purpose for Hardy. Wouldn't surprise me if Hardy kills him with his own hand and dumps him in the Park.
' What are you talking about? Emmet! Would you listen to yourself! How the hell do you make that out ?
' Because I told him ' said a voice and in walked the Big Fellow himself with the bearing of a bull and the shock black hair combed to the side. Michael Collins stood in front of the brothers.
' The Brits are playing silly buggers again and a new agent is in town! I want all our boys to keep a close eye on him and no one harms a hair on his head till we find out more about him. Let's play along with the ruse. I understand his real name is Flashman. The pride of the British Empire. A British Lion is it? We'll make that boy roar when we know more.

******************
Fla­shman was handed a Brandy and Hardy toasted ' Your good health old Boy! and broke into a big guffaw of laughter. Flashman didn't like the black humour and swallowed hard and racked his brains for his next move.

************
The Cairo cafe on Grafton Street was my meeting place with Captain Gunnery who was instructed to walk me around Dublin and introduce me to the City. I could see his nerves were shot and he had the fear of the demented in his eyes.'Welcome to Ireland, sir, he whispered. Watch your back at all cost, trust no one, and treat every approach from any of the natives as a potential threat to your life. 'The Irish are a shrewd lot,as dangerous as a cornered rat.They are also experts at holding a grudge. The mood is treacherous since that failed insurgency in '16.We made a ***** of it executing the ring leaders.The massacre on North King Street is still sour in their mouths.
Cozying up to the Germans after all we did for'em. What did they expect?

I could only nod and wonder if I wasn't already marked for a ticket to the next world. '

'Anyway, we're going hunting now, Gunnery said then, and you and me will be dressing up for the party.'That's right, he whispered with a haunted look in his eyes. 'We're donning the Black and Tan gear and raiding the Mansion House tonight.'

' Are you having a laugh? I blurted and looking every bit as startled as a nun inadvertently walking into the gents. 'We'll be well numbered, said he, and give those green ******* a taste of hardship. I gave him my best manly look ' Do me a favour old boy, walk me to this building, on Dawson Street you say, and let me have a look at the battlefield beforehand eh?

I needn't tell you, dear reader, that I wanted to examine the terrain and take a mental note of my escape routes while I still had my faculties.
Just as we were leaving, a good looking middle aged woman, who I thought was giving me the glad eye, bumped into Gunnery and pulled a gun on him.
No words were uttered as a loud bang floored him immediately and he was on the ground with a gaping hole in his chest. She gave me a look and pointed the gun at my manhood then suddenly redirected it to Gunnery's head and blew it to kingdom come! As cool as you like, out she walked.
I made a run for it and the stupid ***** thought I was trying to get a hold of her. I could se she pulled the gun again and aimed to take a shot at me. ' Sweet Jesus ! I cried and as I made a dive for it, I felt a God Almighty sting in my ****.' You ****** *****! I passed out, as you can imagine with a bullet in your rear flank and still I knew I would be seeing that little ***** again.

***************
A passing patrol of Auxillaries marched down Harcourt Street on their way towards St. Stephens Green. Looking down, from number 6, Michael Collins observed them closely. He knew two of them by sight and smiled to himself.
' Go back to Blighty lads, while ye still can'. Across from him were three members of the Squad; his chosen gunmen for assassinations. Three of his twelve disciples, although he had many more in reserve. **** McKee, looking every bit the revolutionary, with his long leather coat, heavy moustache and proud bearing stood facing the men. He was a Finglas man from North Dublin and Commander of the Dublin Brigade.

' Well ****, said Collins, who took out Gunnery? Who put a gun in that lady's hand?, God bless her! There's not a man here with the nerve to pull off a stunt like that. Find out who the officer was who chased after her and got a bullet in the **** for his troubles.We believe it was Flashman'. A burst of laughter broke out among the men.' Well we may laugh lads, but I believe that gun-woman is an agent for the Brits.Gunnery was a becoming a loose cannon.He couldn't keep his mouth shut.' Didn't we know a raid was imminent on the Mansion House because of him!' 'His own mouth sealed his fate. Let that be a lesson to ye! '

'Now, he said to Liam Tobin, get cracking and find out who that woman is. We could do a girl like that ourselves and if she's still in the Country then I want to meet her.' Yes ****, we'll get the background. I am off to Crow Street now to check our intelligence.

'Intelligence is it ? said **** What about that officer Flashman? Who the hell is he? Why was he with Gunnery. The word is he's no weasel. He took after that Gun-woman quick enough. Flashman, what kind of a name is that? 'The Brits must think we're right gobshites altogether naming an officer Flashman. Let's keep our eye on him closely! He's in the infirmary in Kilmainham. Maybe we can pay him a kindly visit and see he's settling in. Another laugh broke out amongst them.

Right **** said Collins. ' Let me see the list of names we need to eliminate and take out that picture of the Cairo gang. 'Take a good look at lads, we'll be sorting those boys out soon enough. If Lyoyd George wants Ireland that bad then let him see the price he's going to pay! Ireland's not for sale and we won't be tenants in our own ****** Country!

**********

' I was lying comfortable, all things considered, in my hospital bed with the nurses swooning over me. Incredibly that ***** did me a favour. Witnesses reported how I gallantly chased after the assassin without a thought for my safety. Even Hoppy Hardy had called to my bedside and said as much!
'Well done, old chap! Another feather in your cap eh! A pity about the location of the wound though. Don't fret, the official report says wounded while pursuing the enemy.This means you will have to lie low for a month at least. Did Gunnery, the poor *******, mention the Black & Tan uniform to you? He did eh! Jolly Good!

Now Flashman, you are going on vacation to the Rebel County Cork! I knew a chap like you would dive on an opportunity like that. The Irish have formed ' flying columns' and are taking the fight to us in that treacherous City. We'll teach them about ambushes, by Christ, and you Flashman will be right in the thick of it.

I smiled faintly and looked at Hardy with an anguished expression.
'If you don't mind Sir, I'm feeling a bit drained and your news is most welcome. Do you mind If I close my eyes and rest a bit?
' Forgive me Flashman, I've been inconsiderate old chap! You take a rest and have a speedy recovery. You'll need your energy for the Cork campaign!

' **** it already! I thought to myself.I don't need this reckless boys own mentality and nuts like Hardy putting me in the front line. For God's sake, I've never even been to Cork! What did Hardy say? Rebel County!
I felt sick to my stomach and turned over in my bed. I litteraly had a pain in my ****.

Down in Kilmichael, Co. Cork, a young man named Tom Barry was putting his men through their paces.
A nod to George McDonald Fraser creator of the wonderful Flashman books.

— The End —