welcome to Soller. ”Monsieur Soller?” he queried.
Soller nodded curtly, ignoring the hand. Simultaneously, he and the blunt men flashed their warrant cards.
The officer tried to smile and failed. “The Général is in the Security Section—over there.” He raised an arm.
Soller sniffed. “The who?”
The officer looked mystified. “The Général. Général Reynal.”
Soller sniffed, eyes like glass, “First of all I do not know what interest that could hold for me— until I have read the sealed orders which I understand you are to give me, Commandant. Secondly, I was not aware that the prisoner Reynal was in possession of a Commission.” The Hawk watched the soldier through his tinted lenses.
The man stiffened. “My apologies, M’sieu. ex-Général.” The Corsican grunted.
“Right. Please.” He held out a hand, gesturing the officer peremptorily into the building. Chastened, the officer turned and led the party through the doors and into a large and shabby office.
Ordering a Sous-officier to get outside, he closed the door, leaning on it for a second, then crossing to the heavy, old-fashioned safe against one wall. Unlocking it with a key from a trouser chain he withdrew a heavy manila envelope bearing the tricolour seal of the President. Soller took it from his hand without grace and snapped the wax. Turning his back on the party, he withdrew a parchment with a large attached map. His men watched him, ready to accept commands. Soller's shoulders stiffened. When he turned his face was pale, his hands shaking.
“Leave the room please, Commandant!” he said sharply.The officer crossed to the door, hurt, but not wishing argument with the cold man, and left closing it behind him. On the far side he stared at the inquisitive N.C.O. until the man looked away, and concentrated on trying to hear what passed behind his office door. Only the faintest mumble of Soller's voice came through the heavy pine.
After a time the door banged open. The sneering Corsican beckoned him back into the room with a gesture of his head. Soller was sitting on the edge of the table, nostrils pinched angrily.
“Did you know the contents of this?” he demanded.
The officer looked from face to face. “No, M’sieu! How could I know that?”
Soller stared at him icily in disbelief. “You seemed to know our reason for being here well enough.” he persisted.
The major shrugged. “Monsieur Soller, I am the Commandant of this place. I have been in command here for eighteen months. In that time there has been only one prisoner in the entire complex. Who else would you be here to see?” He waited for the logic to take root. Soller’s eyes did not change behind the glass. “It would appear obvious that you could be here with your, er, gentlemen, for only one reason.”