FERDINAND Leduc paused at the summit and stood wiping sweat from his face and neck with a red bandana, flapping his panama to make some cool air. Ahead, Reynal sat slumped on a rock with Soller and two others standing over him, guns in hand.
Far below, beyond them, he could see the rear of a black limousine parked at the end of a rutted track. There was no sign of life anywhere. Some forty metres away a white marker stone paced out the frontier between France and Spain.
It had been a hard climb. They had come by the old escape route once used by the Resistance to sneak escapees out of France during the War. Very few of those rich Jews reached Spain, he recalled, these mountains are dotted with the graves of rich men who believed that Shangri-La lay just over the next ridge.
Soller walked a few paces from Reynal and stood staring in the direction of the silent Delahaye. Where are they? he thought, Are they not going to come into the open? Turning back he prodded Reynal's shoulder with the muzzle of his Beretta. “Up, and start walking!” Reynal rose with effort, surprised at the way the climb had taken the energy out of him. Mountain climbing had once been a sport to him, but that was when he was younger, fitter, and had not been cooped up in a small area for years. Walking forward he paused at the marker stone.
”What now?” he demanded. Soller came alongside and pointed downhill at the rear of the waiting car.
Reynal suddenly found it hard to focus his eyes. I can see that there is a vehicle standing far below. What game are they playing? Is this a mystery tour? Am I to ride somewhere else? What are they trying to do to me? Suddenly the fog before his vision cleared and he made out the lines clearly. It looks like my own personal Delahaye. But how can that be? All at once it struck him. Spain! I am looking into Spain! Solange is in Spain! This marker is the frontier!
A clack of metal brought the nine heads around simultaneously. Slightly above the party, in a huddle of boulders, Michel Gadda crouched with Schmeisser casually pointed at Soller, while to either side two men in coveralls enfilladed the rest of the party.
A nerve twitched in Soller's cheek, Otherwise he did not turn a hair.
“Lieutenant Gadda,” he said, as if the meeting were taking place on the Boul’ Mich’. “We are a little late, I’m afraid. I did not expect to see you.” He ghosted the Beretta into its holster.
Gadda did not answer. Slowly he rose to a standing position, keeping the muzzle of the submachine-gun rock steady on Soller. Soller sucked his teeth.
“Aren't you a little over-eager?”
Gadda continued to ignore him, signalling the men who were with him down into the cleft. The tough characters ran down the scree to take up positions surrounding the body of barbouzes.