”Reason?” purred Soller.The Commandant’s eyes clouded slightly. I do not like playing games with these people, he thought. “I have here a company of Parachutistes on detachment from Carcassonne—highly trained men better suited to other pursuits than the guarding of one man. You have not come to see anyone in my Company?”
Soller shook his head slowly.
“Do I then assume that you are here to challenge my loyalty to the President?” went on the officer.
Soller shook his head again.
The officer smiled bleakly. “Then is it not logical for me to assume that you are here for the purpose of visiting the—for visiting Reynal?”
Soller pushed himself away from the table, folding the parchment and stuffing it into an inside pocket. “Take us to the prisoner. He is to be released into my custody.”
The officer did not move.Soller moved towards him impatiently. “Hurry. We have little time.” Reaching the door he snapped it open. “We have a schedule to meet.”
The Commandant extended a hand. “Just a formality—may I see your Commission, please M'sieu?”
Soller went pale around the mouth. The bastard is being awkward with me. l shall watch him! People do not play games with me! Reaching into a pocket he produced the envelope given to him by Ernoul, and handed it over.The Commandant rustled it open, perused the contents, and handed it back, smiling bleakly.
“Everything seems to be in order, M’sieu.” He moved towards the door and called to the N.C.O., then turned briefly to Soller again.
“I am very conscious of the need for security, as you can see, M’sieu Soller. I know you would not wish it any other way.” Striding into the corridor he barked commands to the N.C.O. and the camouflage-clad section of troops in the main entrance, striding out to take a position at their head.
Out through the main door they trooped, with the barbouzes in the rear, and across a courtyard to a steel gate that slid open at their approach. The guard watched blankly as the eight dark men passed through, clanging the gate to after them.
At the far end of a high-walled alleyway stood a heavy steel door. Through it and along and down an almost endless series of corridors and stone stairways to a concrete-lined modern security bunker deep in the heart of the building. In response to a bell a window slid back in a heavily riveted steel door—a quick examination of the party by heavy-browed eyes, and the door sighed back and to one side to reveal a short wide corridor walled on one side with metal bars.
The party were detailed to one side by the officer. Face sour, the officer gestured the dark men into the barred area.The eight crowded through. Inside the barred room a one- armed man sat at a table playing solitaire. He was short, stocky, with iron-grey hair cropped close to the bone, dressed in baggy white
prison clothes without
a belt or