Reynal walked a pace and turned, looking Soller in the eyes. “I would far prefer to face you.”
The Hawk's mouth tightened in impatience. “Turn and walk up there towards the parting of the hills.”
Obstinately Reynal stood his ground. “Let it never be said that Paul Reynal turned his back on a bullet.” he said quietly. “When they find me I want the holes to be in my front.”
Soller laughed without mirth, looking around at his men. “Listen to the old fool.” Turning back to Reynal he pursed his lips. A fly settled on his neck. He nipped it away. “I am here to do what I am ordered to do, Reynal, not what I would like to do. If I was in a position to do as I would wish, you would not get the quick despatch of a bullet.” He let the words sink in. “I owe you a harder time than that! I do not forget what your pigs did to my brother at Parc Poirson in Alger. you will all pay for that someday. I’ll have the lot of you hung from meathooks.“
Reynal looked down past him and the cars and the other barbouzes into the purple of the low vista and up again at a spot of a bird, hovering high in the heat.
“What can I say, Colonel? There were—certain elements more excitable than others. Many things were done that civilised people would not normally do. I too, suffered. You will recall only too well that my son was found axed to death in the Rue Joris. That was no accident. We all have things to answer for.”There was a long silence. Reynal cIeared his throat. “What is only important is France. Nothing else counts—no individual, group, or political viewpoint. It is France that is being butchered. That is something a man of honour can never countenance while he has a spine to keep him erect. But we must be patient. The malaise that besets France does not have long to live. He is getting old and must die someday.”
Soller hissed air between his teeth. “If you have finished your political harangue, turn and start walking.” He walked forward. “Over the ridge. Go—and I will be pleased to see the last of you.”
With a shrug of resignation Reynal turned, his clumpy prison shoes scuffing the shale, and started to climb.At a signal from Soller the seven barbouzes drew their pistols and fanned out, following the two up the slope towards the cleft.