Bill Meilen
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Chapter Four

LIEUTENANT Michel Gadda ran the soft blue cloth along the Erma MP40 machine-pistol, buffing the dull metal of the barrel. Expertly his fingers checked and re-checked, opening and folding the skeletal butt, unclipping the magazine, checking the snub 9 m.m. shells with their saw-cuts in the noses, and reclipping the long magazine with a snap.

Reaching into the glove compartment he took out two Mills .36 grenades and balanced them on the fascia of the Delahaye, ready to hand in case they were needed.Swivelling in his seat he let his legs hang out of the sleek black limousine and stared at the cleft between the hills to the north-west, wavering in the beat of the sun. Standing, he placed the machine-pistol on the seat and leaned into the rear window.The woman in white puffed nervously at her cigarette and looked at him with pleading eyes. Gadda smiled gently.

“Would you care for a cool drink, Madame?”

The woman shook her head. “I don't trust them. I don't---trust Steka for one single moment... they are all Corsicans. Treacherous.” She took another draw at the cigarette and blew a cloud. Her hands shook, the loose skin on the fingers belying her age. “We should never have come.”

Gadda smiled dutifully. “Neither do I trust them, Madame,” he said through his teeth. “They do not know the meaning of honour and fidelity.”

Breaking away he stood looking again at the cleft. Some fifty metres downtrack a Spanish soldier sat disconsolately in the heat, rifle lying in the dust at his feet. The man puffed a cheap cigarette that grew from his mouth, and looked back at the car without undue interest.

Gadda towered above the car, broad and bronzed, his almost white hair throwing back the sun. Sucking at his teeth he squinted back the way he had come to reach the road's end, here, high in the Pyrenees. The mountains fell away to blue without a sign of movement anywhere.

With a sigh he turned back to the car and slumped into the seat, deftly moving the Schmeisser into his lap as if it were an extension of himself.For the sixth time that morning his fingers whiled away boredom by rechecking the deadly weapon. Against the windscreen a fly droned. Michel Gadda sat and watched it, ready for anything.