Bill Meilen
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For seconds they communicated silently, then she touched his cheek and turned to Soller.

“Are you the leader of this party?”

”Mais certainement, Madame Reynal.”

“Your name?”

Soller looked confused for a moment, then realised that his name was known anyway, so no harm could come of him giving it to the woman. “Colonel Jean-Louis Soller, Madame, at your service,” he said, bowing.

He heard a snort from the direction of Gadda and the nerve twitched again in his cheek. “I am instructed to hand the prisoner Paul Reynal into your custody.”

Solange Reynal studied him for a moment. “Why?” she said suddenly.

For a moment Soller was at a loss. He looked around at the listening faces. “I do not know Madame. My task is simply to carry out instructions, not to question my superiors as to their motivations.” He took a breath. “It is no affair of mine—what he does.” He drew on his pungent caporal cigarette. Reynal's face was inscrutable. No wonder he is called 'Samurai', thought Soller.

“It is for good reason, no doubt,” said Reynal, moving forward. “I understand that Despaude has been permitted to re-enter France.”

“Yes. No doubt they have their reasons,” admitted the thin barbouze. His Galloise sailed in an arc to come to rest against a whitewashed rock. “Now, were the choice entirely mine....”

“Yes?” quizzed Reynal.

Soller looked away down the sheer slope of the mountain, narrow nose rising in a grimace. “Were the choice entirely mine,” he repeated slowly, “were it mine alone.... “

Reynal smiled icily, “You would have me ‘put away’—you and your trained Corsican apes?”

Soller's eyes were needles behind the tinted lenses. “It is not my affair,” he erupted testily, “I do as he wishes.” He raised his hands from his body. “May I place a hand in my pocket?”

Reynal looked at Gadda. The blond stepped forward quickly, running a hand into Soller's jacket and extracting the Beretta from the waistband holster.

“Right! Hands high, all of you!” he barked. The body of barbouzes raised their hands high. A couple of Delta II commandos stepped among them and relieved them of their weapons, shoving them into their own trouserbelts, then clearing away from the group to cover them again.

“Right, you!” snapped Gadda. “Now you may go into your pockets!”

The slim man put a hand into his breast pocket and withdrew an envelope. Snapping it open he produced a passport and a Crédit Lyonnaise passbook, which he handed to Reynal.

“These are your Passport, new as you can see—for travel wherever you wish, except France. You will remain in exile from Metropolitan France until a contrary decision is taken in your case. The passbook will give you access to a numbered account at the Crédit Lyonnaise branch in Barcelona. A sum will be paid into this account at calendar monthly intervals, by way of a pension— to reward you for Military Service.”He replaced the envelope in the