laces. He did not look up or show the slightest interest in the visitors.
“Open,” snapped Soller, and made to go nearer the bars.
The Commandant held him back with an arm and shook his head like a teacher dealing with a foolish child. Snapping his fingers at one of the troops, he was handed a beret. Turning, he flipped it at the bars. There was a flash of arcing electricity as the beret was hurled from them to fall smouldering to the floor. He nodded to the warder, who stepped forward smartly, chinking keys, and unlocked a safe-like door to one side, revealing a large knife-switch. Throwing it open he hurried to the gate of the cell and inserted a strangely-shaped key. The door slid aside smoothly.
Trying to hold back a smirk, the officer gestured into the cell.
“Now you may enter without frying, M'sieu.”
Soller glared at him, unamused, and stepped into the cell. For a moment he stared at the prisoner in open hostility, then unfolded the parchment from his pocket. ”Paul Reynal?” he demanded.
The prisoner finished the card he was playing before looking up. “You know who I am, Soller.” he said.
Soller's lips tightened. “Stand up,” he insisted.
Reynal ignored him, peeling off another card and looking from it to the table. Soller went a shade paler and jerked his head to two of his men. Leduc and the sneering Corsican stepped forward and hauled the man to his feet. When he was erect they stood back.
“When I say ‘stand’, I do not joke, my Général-that-was.” Soller said quietly, his voice almost a caress. What I wish to do with you now, my Général-that-was, surprises even me, he thought. “You will remain in a standing position.”
Snapping the parchment straight, he placed it on the table in front of the one-armed man. “Read.”he commanded.
With a sigh, Reynal looked at the paper. “What is it?”
Soller grimaced. “An undertaking that you will eschew political statements.”
Reynal actually chuckled. “I have not made a political statement for four years, except to the guards—and they do not seem to respond.”
Soller looked more impatient. “You will swear upon your honour to eschew political statements,” he repeated.
Reynal shrugged. “Soller, I am eager to return to my game. As you can see, I have been rudely interrupted.” He gave the Hawk a sidewise look. “Besides, what honour is left to me by you people?” His eyes were black-pupilled, inscrutable. “Everything. Your honour as a soldier of France.”
“But I am no longer a soldier of France.”
“Well, France is kind—your Commission as a General is returned to you for the purposes of military pension. Militarily, of course, you will remain inoperative and not allow yourself to be used for political ends.” Soller was fast growing tired of the need to go through the rigmarole of honour and oaths.