THE IMPOSSIBLE VIRGIN Peter O'Donnell CHAPTER ONE Temptation came to Novikov as suddenly, as unexpectedly, as an assassin's bullet .

In nearly thirty years of adult life he had never even toyed with the shatteri ng idea that seized him on a quiet afternoon as he sat at his bench in one of th e many small laboratories housed within the grey walls of the Satellite Reconnai ssance Section, in Shabolovka Street. Mischa Novikov was a quiet, dutiful man. His dossier described him as totally re liable and without political ambition. His reliability did not stem from meeknes s or fear, simply from an acceptance of things as they were and had always been within the bounds of his memory. As a young man he had served in the Red Army, and at the end of the war had been posted to the KGB. Because he spoke German well, he had operated in the Berlin Section and taken a useful part in the bloody and confused underground war there , between the agents of East and West. In that time, and under the orders of Col onel Starov, he had played his part in many intrigues, bought and sold men and i nformation, laid traps and avoided traps, and killed two men and one woman witho ut either pleasure or regret. His hobby was photography, and in this he developed an expertise which came to t he notice of his superiors. He was posted to a training school for a year, and t hen given a position in the laboratories of the High Altitude Reconnaissance Sec tion. Within a few years the onrush of technology made his early work seem primitive. Once he had played with mosaics of black and white photography. Now he had an ar moury of remote sensors to aid him. There were satellites in orbit carrying the new detectors which operated over the entire electromagnetic spectrum. Mischa Novikov played with the results of light-waves and sound-waves, radio and radar, heat and X-rays, magnetism and laser beam. These were his eyes. They cou ld penetrate cloud, water, forest and even the earth itself. He had never seen a sputnik launched, never travelled in a high altitude aircraft. Novikov was conc erned only with the readings on film delivered to him in his laboratory. Sometim es the readings were transmitted from space by radio, sometimes film was exposed in space and returned to earth in a parachute capsule. Novikov was one of the interpreters. From film taken by folded optics from a hei ght of three hundred miles he could pinpoint an object no bigger than the desk a t which he worked. From film taken by side-looking radar he could penetrate thic k vegetation and the earth's skin, to learn the nature of the bedrock below. Wit h infra-red photography he could pick out diseased trees or crops, foretell volc anic activity, locate forest fires. He played with colour filters, optical combiners and all the gadgetry that the a ccelerating new technology provided; and he had believed himself to be quite con tent until that soul-shaking moment when temptation sprang from nowhere and cons umed him. It was all over in less than ten seconds. He turned the projector back and held the single frame of film on the screen, staring. There it was, the thin orange streak. It would have been meaningless to anyone b ut a handful of men in the world. Mischa Novikov was one of those men. To him it meant that he could be rich and free. Strangely, he had never before thought he lacked money or freedom. Now it was as if he had always known the fierce and bi tter desire which suddenly stirred in him. Caution touched Novikov. Could there be a tiny flaw in the film? That was easily checked by comparison with the film from the second camera carried by the exper imental satellite. Methodically he set up the other film and ran it. There was n o flaw. A fault in his instruments, then? In his technique? He spent two hours c hecking his work, and was satisfied. He had made no error. Carefully he snipped out the vital frames from both films. They would not be mis sed. Part of his job was to discard useless material before passing on his resul ts to Head of Section. It was lunchtime. He went out and sat in Gorky Recreation Park, smoking quietly, thinking.

To defect would be easy enough. His reputation was impeccable. He and his wife, Ilona, had been cleared for the holiday cruise on the Suvorov in eight weeks' ti me. Marseilles was one of the ports of call. That would do very well. The French would give asylum without making a great noise about the affair like the Americ ans or the British. He had once done a six-month tour as a security man at the E mbassy in Paris, ostensibly as a chauffeur. He could handle the language adequat ely. Would the KGB send agents to find and kill him? After careful reflection he deci ded that this was unlikely. The material he handled was classified, but only par t of it was for Military Intelligence. This was mainly concerned with the plotti ng of missile sites in the West, and clearly he had nothing to tell the West the y did not already know about that. The bulk of his work lay in providing new inf ormation for the various sciences, for the geologists, the hydrographers, the ag ronomists and meteorologists. It was resentfully accepted that the Americans wer e ahead in the field of remote sensors, so there would be little he could tell t hem. The KGB would be extremely angry, of course, but he did not think they woul d take extreme action. Mischa Novikov was not quite worth it. Tomorrow he would make a blow-up of the film and correlate it with a large-scale map. No problem there. It was part of his regular work. And there would be no p roblem with Ilona. Her political ideas had always been disturbingly bourgeois, t hough she had the wisdom never to voice them except to him. She would come with him gladly. And then ... Then would come the difficult part. A thin streak of orange on a map was one thi ng, but to turn it into riches was quite another. The commercial complexities wo uld be huge. But there was Brunel. That name had sounded in his mind during thos e few seconds when, as he first looked at the film, the world had changed and he had made his decision. Nothing was too big for that little man Brunel, not even this. And Brunel was the obvious man for quite another reason, an amusing reaso n. He was the man on the spot. Very much so. Novikov smiled to himself and threw away his cigarette. He would have to be very careful with Brunel, of course. He remembered finding the still-living ruins of a man in a cellar in West Berlin, one of the Gehlen Bureau agents, who had not been very careful with Brunel. In mercy Novikov had severed the thread by which the thing in the cellar was held to life, even though it had been an enemy. Yes. He would have to arrange his dealings with Brunel in a way which left him f ully protected. Any mistake was likely to have a result initially painful and fi nally fatal. In the event it was not Novikov who made the mistake. It was Brunel. The result, for Mischa Novikov, was the same. Five thousand miles from Shabolovka Street, a nd eight months from the day he had sat in the park making his plans, Mischa Nov ikov crawled from the scrub and thorn which bordered a dirt road leading to the village of Kalimba, forty miles from the western shore of Lake Victoria. He was almost naked. For four days he had used strips from his tattered clothes to bind about his raw feet. He had sight only in one eye. His right hand was man gled as if it might have been crunched in the jaws of a leopard, except that the damage was too regular and precise to be the haphazard work of any jungle beast . His body was a mass of cuts, abrasions and suppurating wounds. Only some of th em had been gathered during his flight through the jungle and in the fall he had taken down a rocky slope as he reeled under the brutal sun through volcanic hil ls. He was close to death, and his mind had collapsed. He no longer thought of Ilona waiting for news of him in the small Paris flat... Ilona of the big firm body, the dark hair, grey eyes and warm loving mouth. He no longer thought of Brunel, or the map, or the film with the orange streak. He no longer knew that he lived or that he was dying. Sometimes a few words rattled hoarsely from his cracked li ps, always the same words. He was not conscious of speaking them, and no longer knew what they meant. When he had crawled for a hundred yards along the dirt road he collapsed on his

face for the last time. An hour passed before a battered Land Rover came judderi ng along. The Reverend John Mbarraha of the African Mission Society stopped the truck. He and his wife turned Novikov gently face-up. Angel Mbarraha felt for th e pulse. Like her husband she was a Bantu, raised in a Mission School and later sent to England for further education. She said, 'He is alive, John.' 'But very close to the end. We must pray for his soul.' 'Yes. But later. First we must take him to Dr Pennyfeather. Our Lord will be pat ient.' They put him in the back of the truck and drove on to Kalimba, to the long prefa bricated hut above the village. This was called the hospital, and here Dr Giles Pennyfeather fought in his own curious way against disease in general and, at th is particular moment, against the results of a crowded diesel coach, the local w eekly bus, toppling off the road into a shallow ravine. Mischa Novikov died after twenty-four hours, his nationality and identity still unknown, and was buried in the graveyard behind the small wooden church. It was two days later that a Piper Comanche, out from England and bound for Durb an, made an emergency landing just east of the Mission School, on the long flat stretch of beaten earth where John and Angel Mbarraha struggled doggedly to inst ruct their charges in the mysterious ways of western team-sports. The sturdy, el egant little aircraft had been caught at seven thousand feet over the Sudan by a haboob, a sand-storm rising from the desert like a dust-devil to towering heigh ts and spreading its myriad particles through the upper air. Sand had found its way through the vent holes of the tanks and eventually worked through to block t he fuel filter and cause loss of power. There were no passengers on the plane. Surprisingly, the pilot was a woman. Her name was Modesty Blaise. It was not a long job to take out the filter, wash it in petrol and replace it. She could have been on her way again the next day, but she stayed in Kalimba for twelve days, at first simply to give a pint of blood that Dr Giles Pennyfeather needed urgently, and then because he needed help even more urgently than blood. She did not stay from any selfless urge to succour the weak and ailing, but beca use there was nobody else competent to help Dr Pennyfeather cope with an almost overwhelming situation, and to turn her back was impossible. The Mbarrahas gave her a room in their small house. With Angel Mbarraha she wash ed filthy bandages, swept and scrubbed the floor of the hospital hut, took tempe ratures, carried bedpans, and helped when the onset of gangrene forced Dr Pennyf eather to amputate a limb in the little cubicle which served as a primitive oper ating theatre, or when some other emergency called for the use of the knife. She had run through a whole range of emotions towards Dr Giles Pennyfeather. He was thirty but looked younger, a gangling man, all hands and feet, incredibly cl umsy. She felt that in an academic sense he was probably an appalling doctor. Ye t he healed his patients. Healed was the word, rather than cured. She had come t o the conclusion that this was more of a psychic feat than a medical one, and th at he had an extraordinary gift which stemmed perhaps from something inborn. At first she had thought him a fool, and perhaps by worldly standards he was, bu t if so then he was the best kind of fool, totally without guile, optimistic, ha ving a boundless liking for people. He was not in any way saintly. He did not ex ude love towards his patients. He was simply very determined to make them well a nd had great confidence in his ability to do so. Whatever he did was done with a kind of schoolboy cheerfulness. If he was a dedicated man he was completely una ware of it. He simply pressed on with whatever problem was thrust upon him, tack ling it with clumsy optimism. He was operating now, not on one of the bus casualties but on a woman from the v illage who had conceived in one of the fallopian tubes. His operating robe was a faded blue shirt and khaki shorts, well-laundered. His rather spiky fair hair r ose like a great thistle-head above the sweatband round his brow, making him loo k like something out of a farce. Modesty stood at the operating table, her hair capped in a silk headscarf. In th

Looks n ice and healthy. Modesty?' 'It seems to have set pretty well. We'l l have you all squared off in a tick. 'It all looks clear enough here. That's be tter. but if the scars he left were not pretty his inc isions seemed to heal with remarkable speed. while Modesty sterilized them anew. t hen sew up the tube again.' He bent suddenly over the unconscious woman and said firmly.e oppressive heat she would have preferred to be stripped to pants and bra. like a good girl. trumpet-shaped. 'Now look here Yina. from which a cluster of clamps protruded. old girl. There was no air of mysticism about it all .. Pennyfeather. His sewing-up would hav e shamed an apprentice cobbler.' he said firmly. old gi rl.' He glanced towards the black unconscious face as Mod esty put the scalpel in his hand. my old bosom-shaker. Yina.' Giles Pennyfeather moved to peer at the diagram. and pointed. I remember now. Modesty told herself that if Yina's breathing seemed easie r it could only be her imagination. then straightened up.' Modesty tried without success to think of anyone else in the world she would hav e allowed to call her old girl. Now then .' Modesty was certain now that in surgery he had very little experience and worked by instinct. She picked up th e drip-bottle and obeyed. Yes. sometimes to the unconscious Yina.' A long pause. He simply did or said whatever came into his head. There were moments when his clumsy hands became deft. Next time . get out the thingummyjig inside. Ke ep breathing nice and easy.' "Neither can I. and certainly Pennyfeather himself had no sense of possessing any healing powe r. but to avoid shocking the Mbarrahas she wore an overall that Angel had contrived fro m a cotton housecoat. The woman was under ether and seemed to be sustaining the operation well so far. All looks very confusing in there to me.' he said. As he worked he talked. Clever lad. then gave a decisive nod. sometimes to Modesty. talking to him in a rambling monologue. She used a spare scalpel to flick over the stained and d og-eared pages of the big medical book. or I'll wallop your wobbly old beh ind when you wake up. gazing at the page. sometimes t o himself. The fact that they rarely understo od a word of English did not trouble him. Savvy?' He remained bent over her. doesn't it? Br eathing sounds a bit groggy though. 'Right you are Yina. He stood gazing into the open stomach again. You all right. But she had heard Pennyfeather talking to hi s patients before. 'First time I've done this one. 'I mean the fallopian tube. There. 'I think this is it. 'No good stooging around. You can give out the pencils tomorrow. That's the stuff. 'There' s the bit that's causing the trouble if you ask me... I say! If it wasn't all swollen it jolly well would be trumpet-shaped. you just stop messing about.' he said at last. Let's have another squint at that diagram. Modesty. unperturbed. She had known him sit up all night hol ding the hand of a dying boy. ducky. He hummed to himself behind his mask and peered dubiously into the abdominal cavity. then wondered why she did not mind it too much f rom Giles Pennyfeather. 'but when you look in poor ol d Yina's tum there's just a grotty old mish-mash of bits and pieces.' he said. that's right. held op en by retractors. Keep the old ticker pumping nice and steady. 'Better splosh a few more drips of ether on her mask. Giles? I can't tell. reading the caption. Look. Black skin makes it a bit tricky to judge colour. Once we've mopped up we can see what we're doing. 'Watch it now. conscious and unconscious. something which knew tha t this part of the operation was delicate and important. is she all right for blood-pressure and respiration..' He paused. as if they w ere guided by something deeper than his conscious mind. my little ebony pudding? Bags of relaxatio n. glaring at her in mock severity for several seconds. It just doesn't look right. what's this wiggly thing here? Never mind. Let's h ave a swab. Giles Pennyfeather had already knocked the tray of instruments on the floor. Ahhh . How's young Bomu tu's leg. and she quickly shifted the tra y of instruments to safety from under his elbow as he bent forward with gloved h ands in the air. an d was waiting now. 'Ah. We'll slit along a bit. Modesty! Let's have a scalpel. I think we've done the trick. Hallo. The boy ha d lived and was growing strong again.

was plodding slowly about her work. fewer th an a week ago. She had nothing of Pennyfeather's w ay with them. I'm not all that well up on the text-book side. but it was always a bit tenuous. Never mind. Then you land a job in a place like this. I was sorry he gave me the bullet. one-two. when y ou're training to be a GP you only do three months on surgery and most of that's just watching. Modesty they eyed warily. a screen hanging between.' He squatted beside the palliasse where Yina lay. And she wondered if any of them could have done as well.' to Yina. And keep the drip going. said. it's up to you now. The trouble is.' Modesty handed him forceps and he peered into the cavity. There were twenty-two patients now. I'd picked up a bit of locum work and managed a few months as an as sistant to a GP now and again. I mean. and they were sa tisfied. I wasn't doing too well back home. They always did. dropped a swab he had been removing from the cavity. that's why I was glad of the job. She thought it hardly surprising if his medical colleagues considered him mad. Mary Kafoula. 'Right. men at the other. Stodgy stuff. and beg an to remove some swabs. but that was all. telling him that he had a Pot ts fracture and cheerfully assuring him that he would be chasing the dollies aga in in no time. 'S orry. and delivering a few babies. so get fell in and start healing up on the double. now we'll sew the muscle -layer. only fifty yards from the hospital make sure your egg gets down to the old womb before you let M'bolo fertiliz e it for you. and he put the fork t hrough his foot. I offered to patch it up for him but he wasn't hav ing any. holding Yina's limp hand and chatting to her about the time he had fallen down the stairs from the top of a Number 13 bus in Oxford Street. The young Bantu understood no English but gave a wide grin of del ight. When Pennyfeather had made his rounds Modesty said. though. Poor old Yina might have k ittens if she wakes up in the middle of this. those stitches are a bit rough. as Giles Pennyfeather had done. Want to be here when she comes round. but it doesn't quite work out like that. Modesty thought she could detect his tongue protruding under the mask as he worked.' He straightened. One-two. You go and get a few h ours sleep. and I can cope with that. He was talking to a young Bantu now.' He bent closer. The village lay on one side of a sma ll river and was the largest village in a ten-mile radius. Pass t he needle and gut.' He chuckled reminiscentl y. And sometimes things woul d get broken while I was around. 'Right. o ut here in Kalimba. Poor old Doc Greeley. b ut also a great pity. Time for a touch of my incomparable petit-point now. I'll just make sure we've rake d all the impedimenta out of her before we lash her poor old tummy up. a little fearfully. the local girl who had been pressed into service as ward -maid by the Mbarrahas. And I was damn glad the AMS gave me the job.' She left him there. Nasty wound. Giles. you little trumpet-shaped bugger. 'He was gardening when I told him about his microscope. 'I'll sit with her for a bit. with a population of . Nice man underneath. trying to stop them drinking polluted wa ter. Actu ally I sweated through three interviews before I found out I was the only applic ant. She could attend to their needs competently enough. at le ast we've got her firing on both cylinders again. old girl. 'There we are. Several of the patients called out anxiously to Pennyfeather as soon as he appea red. 'There's nothing else for to day. you see. only routine stuff. They wheeled her into the ward and laid her on one of the paliasses which served as beds. later maybe.' He began to laugh. Ah well. He would reassure them loudly in English. where you're supposed to spend your time giving inoculations. ducky. It was late evening when he came at last to the tiny plank bungalow where he liv ed. my little liquorice stick?' Silence while he stitched up the slit tube. ducky. eh. really. women and children at one end.' 'Well. Next thing you know you're busy with the old knife and hoping for the best. 'God. Good as new. Said he'd sooner trust himself to a rabid baboon. it's all experience I suppose. and fished it out again. They used to make a big point of that when I was a medical student.' When he had cobbled the incision in Yina's stomach Modesty helped to lift her do wn on to a crude trolley. addressing the interior of the cavi ty.

you see. I was a bit worried ab out upsetting John and Angel. She managed to get h im into the bedroom. I'll go up to the house as soon as I hear t heir truck. 'Sorry. While she was making the rounds in the hospital a runner arrived with a vague. and I'd have thoug ht girls would like you quite a bit.. I'll split the hospital duty with Angel tonight. picked it up. that's all. Giles. He was a cheerful. after dark and all that. 'I've had a few very good times. supporting him as he lurched on rubbery legs. Did you want to see them specially?' 'Oh no. you being here with me. it's just that. always hope lessly honest. Giles. and she found it hard to resist the impulse to put her arms about his gangling frame and draw his head down on to her shoulder. eccentric. Yo u're dog-tired. 'And it's you. then go to bed. The predators are ten-a-penny. but a bit narrow. I'm okay. Awfully nice people. suddenly curious. E xpect I've missed a few chances that way. But she knew now that she admired him. with the feeling that already she had come close to patronizing him. Modesty.. They're very religious. half-remembered message that the Mba . A fool by many standards.' 'I expect you have. and there were few men in the world of whom she could say that. Giles?' He ran a hand over his spiky hair and grinned a little ruefully. The tiny church and school.' 'Missionaries often are. somehow.rather more than three hundred.' She restrained an impulse to ruffle his hair as she passed behind his chair. and anyway I haven't had much practice at persuading dollies to let me wreak my wicked will on them. Ha sn't been time to think about that sort of thing since you got here. knocked a chair over.' He blinked. they did. so stay with it. 'Would you.' She brought his shaving mirror from the wash-stand and held it in front of his h ollow-cheeked face.' She turned off the stove. you see.' 'Tired? No. but you'll enjoy the ones you do ge t a lot more. Giles. Never mind. He fell asleep in his chair almost as soon as he had eaten. well. smoking a cigarette.' 'Oh. quite simply because he had not given a thought to it. It was much the same after I'd qualified.' 'You must have got your nose out of the text-books sometimes. 'But I was wrong when I said you should be more forceful.' 'That figures. 'Come and eat now. undemanding man. Really. But mos t of the girls who liked me weren't the going-to-bed type. I mean. Had a frightful job getting through my exams. And Giles Pennyfeather needed no patronage. together with the Mbarrahas' house.' 'Should I? I don't know. 'I doubt it.' He looked at his reflection and muttered 'Christ!' in a surprised voice. As a matter of fact I've only ever gone with a girl when I was sure she wanted me. and the bungalow all stood on higher ground. She had prepared a cold meal for Pennyfeather and was waiting for him. You've been knocking yourself out for over two weeks now. then pulled o ff his shoes and covered him with a blanket. and asked if John and Angel had returne d from their trip to an outlying village. She was sharply moved by the realization that he had been genuinely unaware of his own exhaustion. sometimes irritating. He told her that Yina was in good sh ape. and she had seen him do more useful work in the last ten days than she had done in the whole of her life. The beehive huts lay fairly close to the river b ank. but I don't think they'd suspect you of trying to seduce me anyway. so your kind of simplici ty has its charm.' 'I see. I'm not too keen on the female hard-to-get gambit.' she went on quickly. 'Here's your coffee.' She paused in the act of taking the coffee-pot from the little spirit stove and turned to look at him. gauche. here in my bunga low. Giles Pennyfeather was probably the most unwo rldly man she had ever met. Take a look. I hadn't thought about that.' She poured coffee for him. 'Not yet.' he said without vanity. You may not get as many girls that way. You should have been a bit more forceful. on the western edge of the plain where Modesty had set down her Comanche. don't worry about my reputation. when he came from the hospital. the hospita l. They'd got this probl em or that problem and just wanted someone to hold their hands and talk to them. Well.

' 'Still leaving a trail of wreckage?' 'Yes. You're weak but clear. He must be on the set in his home behind The Treadmill. Did you cable him to say I was held up?' 'I rang 'im. Willie?' They chatted casually for another ten minutes. always the same. here is 5Z4QRO stroke AM answering . content to hold the curious place in her life t hat few people could understand was first place. undemanding. He said. gave him breakfast.' She did not ask for his QTH.rrahas would not return until next morning and were talking with two policemen i n the outlying village. She had started to undress whe n through the window she saw the Land Rover and another truck arrive. it's what he gives out. He sent 'is love and said be careful.' She heard the tail-end of Willie's chuckle. come to think of it. Mary was slow but rel iable. Willie. Willie love.' She smiled. b ut I imagine he'd be much the same. What's new. Leaving Mary Kafoula in charge. an d she knew that if she pressed him he would be driven to invent whatever he thou ght she wanted to hear. but he's not. It was past eight pm in England now.' 'Sounds impressive. 'I don't suppose I'll get to check Giles for that.' 'His signature tune. not exactly paternal. but he'll just about be leaving for the States by now. but I think I'll be able to leave in another week. we're too busy. I don't mean it's what he says . anyway. How copy?' 'G3QRM calling 5Z4 QRO stroke AM. She was lovely to sleep with. took a shower. and everything was generally much quieter now that the crisis conditions caused by the bus accident had passed. but things are easing a little now. She was a nurse. Well. she walked along the road and past the Mbarraha house to where the Piper Comanche stood. Made you feel goo d. In the morning she woke Giles at seven. he talks them better. She felt quietly happy after talking with Willie Garvin. The second truck carried a driver and two men in police uniform. She zipped up her slacks. an d Willie Garvin would be listening out for her on the 20-metre band of his KW 20 00A transceiver. I was only running down there to spend ten days or so with John Dall. Blundered around full of goodwill like a St Bernard puppy. Just the opposite. 'G3QRM. but that did not tro uble her. My QTH is still Bedpan Alley. I got quite paternal about 'er. not exactly maternal. It's the weird est thing.' 'Oh.. calling on sked. his location. What's new at home. He was always ther e. How-copy?' She spoke into the vox-operated mike. and by the t ime you got here it wouldn't be worth it. Both trucks drove straight to Pennyfeather's bunga low. the pub he owned by t he Thames near Maidenhead. Well. I think I must be getting soft. like after a sauna. and made her way to the hospital to begin her night d uty. then signed off. It was tuned to the spot frequency they were using. The only thing I have to be careful of here is that Giles d oesn't drop a scalpel on my foot.' 'Thanks. She went back to the house.' 'You're not going on to Durban. because I'm beginning to g o all maternal over him. Prince ss?' 'Nothing much. Most of them. Honestly Willie. She climbed into the cockpit and switched on her own radio moun ted there beside the standard aircraft radio. then. She could cat-nap while Mary Kafoula kept watch. His pidgin English was inadequate for further detail. She would have to be on duty in the hospital all night now. then went to her roo m in the Mbarraha house to sleep for a few hours. . Willie's voice came in against a faint background of mush. "Want me to come out and 'elp a bit? I'm not doing anything special. then?' 'Not now. pulled on her shirt again and walked down the tra . And so artless he sometimes makes me feel a thousand years old. If he had been on the move and using the set in his car he would have announced himself as G3QRM mobil e. '. Getting you fine and clear. She remembered the police men the runner had mentioned. But still making his patients better. 'I once knew a girl who was a bit like the way this bloke sounds.

' Then you will leave today. got a visa. She has helped us very much. dear.oh. he is very tired. Anyway. Sergeant. 'But look here. Mr Mbarraha has reported it. that's what he is. so I need to see him. and said. Mr Mbarraha.' 'Certainly he has reported it. I didn't intend to enter the country.' The sergeant was glaring. Mr Mbarrah a?' 'Yes. 'Oh. gesturing. Pennyfeather sa id wonderingly. struck by a thought. I'd better go and write up some notes for this d octor who's supposed to be coming. You dictate an . Giles. 'Dr Pennyfeather s poke in haste. doctor. work permit. smiled good-humouredly. 'I'm afraid not.' he said severel y.' 'Glad of the company. Pennyfeather was protesting. authority could be very touchy about i ts dignity. 'I'm going back to England.' Pennyfeather's dismay was turning to annoyance. 'I say. spine rigid. Mod esty. then your government needs its arse kicked .' The police sergeant turned and stared at Modesty. Sergeant. old man. 'I say. He is competent man. everything we have here. 'I'm sure they will. a baffled look on his fac e. John and Angel looked d istressed. Then he shrugged. the chu rch. 'I will return by this way tomo rrow. it's all very well him saying I've got to go. and John Mbarraha broke in quickly. b ut it will take time to arrange.' 'That is not necessary. you know. 'if your government policy means I have to leave a lot of groggy patients unt ended. and felt a touch of anxiety. Angel and I can manage for a day or two.' Pennyfeather stood with his big hands dangling limply. I make you responsible. all foreigners must be replaced by trained persons of our own peopl e. please. It is out of order for you to be here without a visa.' Giles was saying. The sergeant had evidently seen a number of war films. Do not argue with government order. I'm out of a j ob again. 'Now look here. Whe re possible. I mean.' Modesty said. 'I'm perfectly in order.' He pointed with the fly-whisk. 'Well. but how? I've hardl y got a bean until I can get to a bank. I can't stand chaps who chu ck their weight about. all that gubbin s.will the AMS pay for me?' John Mbarraha rubbed his tight woolly cap of hair. until the new doctor arrives. Truly I am sorry. African doctor has been sent to replace you and will arrive tomorrow. Oh well. 'Now let's get the notes done. Some sort of argument was going on outside the bungalow.' He turned to Pennyf eather. Your aeroplane is repaired now?' 'Yes. Giles. 'I am sorry. I can't leave today. and Angel Mbarraha stepped back to avoid the swing of his han d. shoulders drawn back.' Pennyfeather beamed. It is government policy. foll owed by the constable. 'Is this the woman. E mployed by the African Mission Society. but I had to make an emer gency landing. I haven't actually written up many notes abou t the patients. and then I've only got about eight weeks ' salary from the AMS there.' She smiled. Very bad thing. As it roared away leaving a wake of dust.' He strode to the waiting truck. Please allow me. What about my fare for the passage home . would you really mind? I'd be awfully grateful. Got patients to look after. 'Dotty. She saw him knock the fly-whi sk from the hand of a policeman with one of his uncoordinated gestures. 'Work permit is withdrawn by order of the Ministry. Please do not worry about your patient s.' Giles Pennyfeather scratched his brow and blinked.' The fly-whisk tapped against the high leather boot. John. 'You leave today. sorry Angel. In the new Tanzania. If we make too much difficulty they might easily close the mission.' He waved an arm tow ards the hospital. Sergeant. he barked at Dr Giles Pennyfeather. Hands behind back.' 'He can come with me. then paused.' The sergeant slapped the fly-whisk on the palm of his hand. 'You have no visa?' he said to Modesty. at least let me wait f or him so I can hand over. the school.' He turned. but we have argued as much as we d

' he made a grimace of disgust. And to rec onnoitre would take time .d I'll write. A Colt Python. 'Two were kill ed in the accident. grey-faced. but not the usual vintage jalopy of the area. He had only an ancient suitcase and his medical bag. 'Giles. When she was only ten paces from the open door of the bunga low she heard a wheezing gasp of agony.' She gazed down at the grave. 'Unknown?' Modesty said. Very strong. bull-necked.' The cross on the sixth grave b ore the pokerwork legend: An Unknown Foreign Gentleman. 'It looke d sophisticated. then walked down the road to the hospital to see if Giles was r eady. thank God. He came out of the bush from the west. a vast shabby thing of scuffed leather that he could o nly just carry. Modesty packed her luggag e and went to look for John and Angel to say goodbye. thick with tr avel-dust. very cultured voice spoke i n English. They were tending half a d ozen recent graves in the little cemetery behind the tiny church. gently rubbing his chin with the knuckleduster fitted on his right hand. indicating the cross. Tortured? Some tribal thing? A leopard-man sect?' 'Not in this district. han ging by his side. Two men. John wiped his hands. but if she were seen she would be at a disadvantage as far as helping Giles was concerned. One stood over Giles. in Africa a thousand oddities occurred every day. Play it as if unaware. the hammer-spur cut off. But then. s towed it aboard. It looked . A compact. hands cla sped to his stomach. but more than one. doctor. round-faced. There would be no weight problem. RIP. for it was the most enormous medic al bag she had ever seen. She wondered if the new doctor had already arrived. To her surprise a car stood outside the bungalow. Then a cool. So it wou ld have to be the door. are you nearly ready? I want to pu t a few hundred miles behind us while it's still daylight ' She was in the doorway now. Tortured.' Modesty stared. the forepart of the trigger-guard cut away.' said Angel. straight black hair cropped short. A professional' . Full of bouncy muscle. How many men were with Giles? No way of telling. Angel and I found him on the road. known and guessed at. so Dr Pennyfeather said. A gun in his left hand. She smiled as she thought of it. Not stealthily. then. but nerves and muscles adjusted as if a switch had been thrown. wondering for a moment. Rare. though. but found th e idea too fanciful. between one stride and the next. Dangerous. giving a little gasp and widening he r eyes as if in shock.. Some of the medicines were ancient remedies long discarded by most of the prof ession. but w hat had been done to him was deliberate. Make a quic k appreciation and improvise accordingly. stocky man. heavy men. looking at the wooden crosses. that's all we want to know. To peer thro ugh the side window would give her sight of the situation. stopping short. 'Just anything he told you. One of those quick . It bulged with cases of second-hand instruments he had acquired from God-knew-where.' By mid-afternoon they had done all that could be done. A white man. with the barrel shortened. That would limit her options if anyone was facing the door and saw her. not even the ko ngo. It was almost certain that nob ody would ever discover who the Foreign Gentleman had been. It was very odd. 'He had been terribly hurt.. and the part of her mind that was a fighting computer assessed a score of factors.not to be afforded while he was being hurt. but Pennyfeather was not a man to be daunted by expert opinion and had g reat faith in their properties. the little wooden dumb-bell that was her favourite weapon for close-quarter combat. and the other three could not be saved. and with an extraordinary assortment of medicines and drugs . Giles was sagging against the wall. We do not know how far the man had come. she registered. It did not loo k like primitive torture. complete with government-provided car. Do tr y to remember.' 'Exhaustion?' John shook his head. a big Chevrolet. I think no doctor could have done better. though he tried very hard. 'Giles is a good man. 'He was not in the accident. She carried no weapon. When she had said goodbye to the Mbarrahas she took her case out to the plane.' Her pace did not change. Three paces from the door she called.

gathering spe ed as she entered. the pipe which had once served a soakpit below ground. the stocky man hung in th e air for a second. body and shoulder to explode in the heel of her hand as it took hi m under the jaw. and fled. He w as a close-quarter man. But there was a slanting pocket set rather wide on the front of his slacks. and when the slash did not connect he jumped back smoothly to dodge the kick for his stomach. and she swung he r leg clear barely in time to avoid having the shin laid open. and once he lunged quickly. but he did not over-commit h imself. and as she gave her startled gasp the silver-haired man said casually.. long since clogged and disused. Be neath it. A flick-knife. cutting it off abruptly. rea dy to use it as a shield if he reversed the knife for a throw. and she turned with him. She spared a fraction of her conce . Jacko had holed out in one. She shrugged mentally and moved quickly back to the bungalow door. thirty-five. always moving to the right. and nothing drag ged at the slim belt he wore. And as she did so she watched the falling Colt. The Colt clattered faintly as it slid down the pipe. In the instant that she was out of his sight she braked and turned. following his knife-hand. Modesty banged her shoulders hard back agai nst the thin timber wall. watched with angry foreknowledge as it curved away from his outflung hand. Something long and rounded protruded from it. for his gun-hand was outflung for balance her left driving up with an impetus that started from her toes and gathered powe r from thigh. but she would not have laid odds on it. and he knew all about it. close-grained. She braked and swerved. a little haughty. He was thirty. She noted how he held the knife. He might be less dang erous than the stocky man. She must be good. His face was speculative and eager. She had dealt with Jacko. carefully groomed. They simply looked at her. He was out of the door only four yards behind her as she swung round the cor ner of the bungalow. His hair was silver. but she had been bra ced for it. gave a little nod as if something had been conf irmed for him. and resumed his wary circling. The other man was taller. He wore a tailored black shirt with short sleeves. If she could get to the other man before he could pull the kn ife.needlessly. The shock of the collision sent her staggering back a pace. and she met him with knee driving into his groin. watched it drop with perverse exactne ss into the five-inch aperture of the broken pipe that projected a few inches fr om the ground. It was poorly designed for throwing. the knife was in his hand. trying to slash her hand so that she would drop the tray. He pursed his lips thoughtfully. The neck and hands never lied.' The stocky man took off like a ball on the rebound. walnut w ood. and close-fitting slacks. Three times he feinted. blood running down his chin from a bitten tongue.s gun. In the moment of seeing her he had. modified for quick draw and quick fire. scuffled her feet and gave a shrill squeak of terror. In the same moment the blade sliced down. Wh ich was the true datum. almost impassive. head back. His legs drawn up in involuntary reaction. and the blade cli cked out. running three paces on the spot with stamping feet. He came round the c orner fast. If he had shown surprise it had passed too quickly fo r her to register it. rust coloured. There was no immediate chance of taking him by surprise. a well-bred face. As he hit the ground and lay still. Instinct and reason combined to tell her that he was not going to throw. snatching a round tin tray from the table. She would have seen a shoulder-holster through the shirt. and it had to happen now of all times. The knife-in-hand was his weapon. Jacko. She gave a faint frightened cry. and she k new it must hide a fast-gun harness. He carried no gun. The snapshot appreciation took less than a second. He crouched a lit tle and edged towards her. how he moved. right hand ready t o sweep aside the gun . and fed into her automatic calculations the fact that t his was no amateur. and she felt that this was not his technique. Neither man had reacted sharp ly as she appeared. 'Keep her quiet. He circled her slowly. He knew now that she wa s no easy victim. old hair or young face? She checked the hands and neck.. not directly away from the door but keeping close to the plank wa ll. A young face. He wore a light jacket.

caught his high lunge on the tray. but the jarring impact smashed the breath from his body and the weapon from his hand. She could hear him. a tinge of panic in her eyes. and turned to r un for the door. Then he was above he r. Three long strides and her fist drove down into the neck at the base of the skull. He would be ready for them all.ntration to consider Jacko. From the edge of her vision she saw something move... 'Keep out of it. leaning forward at a sharp angle. as she had expected. He was quick enough to keep the knife held wide as he fell. not too hard. Little by little she built up the impression she wanted. He made one despairing backward slash with the knife and then he was gone. and she knew that no orthodox move could help her. He had come into her view again and was still labouring on. putting all the strengt h of her body and thighs behind his own impetus as she thrust forward and up. a touch of shakiness in her breathing. curled in a ball. She knew that her most dangerous enemy was impatience. one way or another.. but there was a quality in it which could well have halted a charging bull. then she kicked sideways. and he lay dazed. yet she could not afford unlimited patience. Mouth open a little now. falling. until Jacko recove red and put the issue beyond doubt. He co uld simply continue to probe her defences. 'Run. ignoring all openings except the cert ain one. It was going on too long. She took a quick step to her right. She allowed hers elf two minutes. Giles was stirring. but his jump just cleared her pivoting leg. But still he did not commit himself fully. He had been waiting for it and was coming after her even as he swept the tray easily aside with his free hand. chin to knees. She swerved. She realized now that he had decided on this as his strategy. projecti ng more strongly. She was on her feet even before he hit the ground. then jumped to her left.. Two strides took her to the doorway. the one that offered no risk at all of a counter . He would not stir for five minutes. Giles Pennyfeather. which were wrapped about her head to protect it. but a firm blow with sufficient snap in it to send him rolling over backwards. On the second stride she braked with her he el and dropped. A knife-fight could never be a long drawn-out affair. His head hit the floor with a thud. So she would have to give him an opening too good to be missed. and then he was ou t of range again. Giles . She heard h im wheeze. a hesitation. and began gradually to show fear. A minute gone. a mere hint of tautening nerves in quicker and more jerky movements. What he thought he could do she was unable to imagine. both arms flung forward to save hi mself. The silver-haired man came in fast. The side of her crêpe-soled boot caught him just under the hear t. trying t o get to his feet. She only kn ew that with the silver-haired man as an opponent she could not afford any distr action. risin g in a great arc that carried him fifteen feet through the door before he hit th e hard-baked ground. rolling back. He was kneeling up. she was sure of that.don't get in my way!' Her voice was not lo ud. Her feet took him in the stomach and she unwound. and took the pretence a step further with a darting glance towards the op en door. crawling painfully towards the silver-haired man. Twice she made almost clumsy moves and barely avoided his quic k attack. he r shoulders flat on the floor. flung the tray at the silver-haired man. As her movements lost fluen cy his own became smoother and more confident. The silver-haired man could. the knuckle of her . Nothing too obvious at first. Suddenly she let out a gasping sob as if her nerve had snapped. fighting for breath. It was inevitably settled within seconds of the first genuine committal by the protagonists. All would be over by then. One flickering glan ce to judge the distance. He was o n hands and knees. It had no effect on Pennyfeather. Long enough. One foot thumped against her forearms. for Christ's sake run!' Now he was behind her and t o her right as she circled. She snapped. She saw him register every sign. Because he was co mmitted and moving fast he inevitably over-ran her. and almost had him with an ankle sweep that would have brought him down. old girl.

released the handbrake. When nothing occurred to her she wa s satisfied. and he lay stil l. and she said.' She did not answer. shock and hatred were mingled in his eyes. What did yo u do with them?' . He seemed to be steady on his feet now.' He walked beside her as she made for the bungalow. I suppose not. Now stop talking and help me.' 'Well. and said gaspingly. When the two men had been loa ded in the back of the Chevrolet she got behind the wheel and started the engine . Don't say anything about this to John and Angel. After five minutes Jacko came to his senses.' He started to speak.' 'They weren't in any shape to make more trouble. Just don't come back. that was a damn silly thing to do. on a little slope above the shallow ravine where the bus had toppled over the edge. Giles. Giles. 'I'm not wasting time with questions. 'You. bewildered.' She drove off. yes. Pennyfeather got to his knees as she cut a piece of rope from the hank he was us ing to tie up his battered suitcase. I'll be back in under an hour. As she reached the hospital hut. then bent to start drag ging him towards the car. Pennyfeather came out of the bungalow.' He blinked doubtfully. The silver-haired man's face bore a huge graze. In the mirror she saw the two men staring after her for some secon ds. but lay slu mped. and obeyed.middle finger protruding. But wait a minute. staring at him. then the stocky man knelt awkwardly and groped for the knife.. The silver-haired man rec overed. there you are. She tied his hands behind his bac k. you bloody well kicked me.' She went outside. He gazed at her. yet there was a positive quality about the emptiness which made it more deadly than the other's naked hatred. His body seemed to melt into limpness. I really mean that. picked up the knife and went back into the bungalow. After twenty minutes she stopped the car near a stretch of wooded savannah and m ade them get out. 'On all the evidence. Giles Pennyfeather came out. driving off with a couple of thugs like that all on y our own.' he said sternly. but we ought to have called the police or something. 'Ah. Pennyfeather said. slowly massagi ng his stomach. Jacko was still unconscious. and might get very complex. She caught his eye in the mirror an d said. 'Don't try anything. though she had felt nothing at the t ime. but it can wait. 'Look here. She felt under her buttock and found blood. performed the same service for the silver-haired man. letting her nerves and muscles relax. She pushed the car rug underneath her and drove on as fast as she dared ove r the ridged and broken road. taking the track which led towards the Rwanda border. they may well do. Too officious if you ask me. you know! ' 'Yes. 'Well. When she was within a mile of Kalimba she halted the car by the side of the road . The silver-haired man must have caught her with that last despairin g slash of the knife as she made the throw. Giles. 'Don't they need a bit of medical attention?' She straightened. 'They may well do.. Bu t they're not going to get any. He said. She wiped the sweat from her face and breathed deeply for a few moments. Pain. and she gave him the same warning. She said. She got out. his stethoscope ha nging about his neck. ' As she turned the car the silver-haired man spoke. I can't say I lik ed that policeman who was here earlier. I know. changed his mind. There could have been no doubt in the ir minds that she meant it. then walked on into Kalimba with one hand pressed o ver the wound in her buttock. I'm not even interested. 'Do you know them? Do you know why they came?' 'I was going to ask you that. I think your name must be Modesty Blaise. maybe. and watched the Chevrolet pitch down on top of the shattered bus. Briefly she reviewed the fight in her mind.' He made no answer. but tossed the open flick-knife to the ground at his feet an d drove away. There was something warm and sticky beneath her. Gi les. wonde ring if she had missed an easier way to win.' 'That would take days. 'Give me a hand to get them in the car. Both his voice and his slatecoloured eyes were empty of emotion.

of course. 'You're insulting. I was pretty furious about it. then shook his head. do you need a second opinion on it. the vicious bastards. I don't think it's bad. Look here. when I said he'd only lived for twenty-four hours they asked me what he'd told me before he died. Take your things off for a tick. rumm aging through his pockets.' 'If there's one thing I hate it's a patient telling me my job. and we n eeded help rather badly so you gave a hand. 'I wonde r what those bastards wanted? I mean.' 'Then I'm sorry. It's a bit un-get-atable for me.' She turned her head to look at him over her shoulder and said. For the journey he had put on a rather thick and illfitting lounge suit and a long drooping mack. But you had more important things to think of. 'I've jus t thought of something. but you'd better take a look. He hadn't told me anything. I'd hav e given them a piece of my mind if I'd known.' 'A bit. Only an absolute sod would do that sort of thing. I couldn't s eem to get it through their heads. only a couple of quid. but I'm still pretty rich. and he gave a guffaw of laughter. When he wasn't u nconscious he was delirious. 'Bastards.' He was mildly surprised. having your own plane. have you?' 'I suppose not.' She found a one-inch slit in her slacks. Giles. Came and asked me about that chap John and A ngel found on the road. circling the village and waving to the tiny figur es gathered below.' He broke off. I won't dun you for it. looked around the cockpit. Looks deepish.' 'Don't worry about when you can pay me back either. but it's not a long cut. 'You just sort of dropped in.' 'Right-ho.' 'Eh?' He grinned at her. And put a thick pad on afterwards. Serves them right.' He reflected for a moment.' . He swabbed the drying blood away and said.' He began to heave about. and laid them with the blood-caked seat resting in a bowl of cold water. Mi ght take months to get the bit of money I'm owed out of the country. Afraid I've taken you a bit for gran ted. Oh. Did I tell you about him?' 'No. It'll heal. As the Comanche climbed steadily Pennyfeather said. 'I say. his eyes widening a little. Giles. Giles?' He rubbed his chin and said slowly. What do you know about wounds?' 'More than enough. but John told me only today. though. why are you clutching y our behind.' 'All right. I can stake you. 'Not bad! Wherever they came fro m they'll have a bloody long trek home. I can tell you. Thanks very much. then slipped off her pants and leaned over the table. 'Don't worry about the money. But these chaps must have been idiots. Giles?' 'Eh? Oh. I'd never wondered about it before. Modesty. but God knows when I'll be able to pay you back. And many thanks for everything. but you must be pretty rich.' He looked at her. Well. Just caught you with the point of the knife by the look of it. Modesty said. but I'm not offering up my behind to your idea of embroidery. Better have a stitch or two.' 'Well.' 'Very kind of you. old girl. I suppose we'll have to make a few stops on the way and I haven't any money. who'd been tortured. You don't think they might have been the ones who tortu red that chap?' 'Might have been? My God. Fishy lot. 'Funny thing.' 'What did they want. I've a lot of sitting down to do for the next few days. what they thought that dead foreign chap m ight have told me?' 'It's not much use wondering. 'Still bleeding a bit.' They took off within the hour. Go on. old girl?' 'Because it's cut. Now just do it my way. and hate me later. they must have been potty. I don't think you've wondered anything a bout me before. so don't let it worry you .She told him. madam.' 'It's hired. Then the dark one started hitting me in the s tomach with knuckledusters. But just give it a good swill with antiseptic and draw it toget her with a chunk of plaster. plea se. some of the new chaps running things out here.

aren't we? About twenty-six flying hours all told. And I'm not a dike. His question w as as artless as the question of a child. That's why I was a bit stroppy when they started asking questions.' 'Well. it was a practice she found wearisome. even touching the ground in spots. so you would n't do anything rotten.' 'About what?' "Your career in crime. and for the first time there was cu riosity in his gaze. My hormones are the right kind and work fine. I'm hardly likely to get bothered about anything you might have don e. Must have been frightfully interesting. She looked ahead again and smiled. But with a touch of amusement she realized that she was going to do so because otherwise this gauche. but her natural impulse to freeze him faded. then. 'You're wrong there. 'All right. let's have it. Are you married?' 'No. won dering at herself a little. don't. will you stop calling me old girl?' . report it to somebody. that sort of shemozzl e's no job for a girl.' 'It doesn't bother you?' 'Eh? Oh. 'Pretty rum and pretty rich. then opened them very wide. Just to humour a whim.'No.' 'They both did. How very extraordinary. Dr Pennyfeat her. How did you get rich?' She took her eyes from the windshield and the brown and green carpet of earth be low to stare at him.' He grinned. Yes.' He half closed his eyes. 'Look here. Come on. 'Bastards. I ran quite a big international organization.' 'And ran a gang? I say. You'll just have to put me down as a pretty rum girl. remembering. we're going to be sitting up here for a very long time.. 'N ever doubted it. Giles. that reminds me.' That's it. Giles. wondering why she should tell him the simple truth. I value it. of course. not really. I mean. but if you do. Do you think we ought to do anything about it?' 'Like what?' 'Well. Younger than you'd believe. but I came round in time to see tha t silver-haired wallah go for a burton.' He studied her. But do me a favour in return. it's pretty rum for a girl to manage tha t. Like those two today. that's jolly unusual.' 'Affianced?' 'No. Might have be en badly hurt instead of just a cut on the behind.' 'Ah. old girl. If you can think of anyone who'd take any notice.' 'I'm beginning to see that..' 'Well. you did! I can't remember too clearly. I managed. by God. Pennyfeather's judgement is infallibl e. and she did not want him to be disappointed. actually.' 'It's a very long story. they're entirely different.' He brooded for a while. 'Yes. The n I retired. getting into that fracas. 'I'll tell you a bit about it. I knew as s oon as they showed their faces.' she said.' 'Retired? You're not even as old as I am. 'Not that my opinion would worry you much. a breathy chuckle. But you're a tremendously nice person. 'I can't. Giles.' he said with authority.' She said quietly. Stay out of their way. come on. very much so. It's not your kind of scene.' She checked the compass bearing. D on't know what you did with the stocky chap. he looked as if he knew what he was about.' 'Never mind. I hardly think you'll ever run into those two men again.' He laughed his other laugh.' 'Oh.' 'I started young. I mean. Giles. the alternative to the guffaw. because you booted me in the wind. actually. 'It was bloody silly of you. old girl.' 'Why not? Criminals can be pretty nasty people.' 'All right. then stopped short and frowned. I can always tell. you said.' He gave one of his sudden guffaws. tell me all about it. 'I got rich from crime. She did not want to talk about herself.' He pulled himself up in his seat and turned to look at he r severely. tactless extrovert beside her would be disappointed. no.

Mr Garvin. One fine day you woke up and found they ha d decided that somewhere else was the in-place to go. a face which seemed to we ar a perpetually ingratiating expression. His manners were excellent. Miss Blaise was back. and made a quiet fuss of the kind of client it l iked to have. Yes. He knew the names of more than half the customers present this even ing. Sir Gerald Tarr ant. that must be it. and yet Raoul's instinct told him otherwise. His ins tinct for the precise relationship between a lady and a gentleman was very acute . During those years. Not an intimate one on the face of it. from what he had overheard. He knew almost nothing about food and wine. Sometimes Miss Blaise had other escort s when she dined here. served very good food indeed. Fraser had served as an agent in the field for many years before being posted to a desk job as Tarrant's assistant. and the chairs were designed to promote such comfort and well-being that the gourmet would have no distraction from his enjoyment even if he sat for three hours over his meal. Raoul would know your name by the third visit. If you began to dine regularly at The Legend.. She would like a man with no pretensions. and her escort. and he had enormous style. the new escort would disappear. the servile and unmemora . The décor was skilful. And he was clumsy. That was puzzling in a way. His name was Raoul.. and rested on the party of four at a table in the corner. who controlled an obscure department of the Foreign Office. They were a strangely assorted pair. T hat kind of clientele was too fickle. The fourth member of the party simply made no impression at all. With money. but had b een enthusiastic in accepting counsel from Raoul when the order was taken. Raoul dis missed him as a subject for speculation. and was considering potential regulars from the rest. but after a f ew weeks. its tables were set out with plenty of space between them. almost servile. In fact Fraser had twice dined here before with his master. a department wh ose employees operated in many parts of the world. He was happy to see them. and often Mr Garvin would be there as well. and he had long ago concluded that the relationship between Miss Blaise and Mr Garvin defied all classification. If Jack Fraser had known Raoul's thoughts he would have been well satisfied. A nervous little man c alled . and they were very ra re. A curious companion for Miss Blaise. a few he might subtly deter. His eye roamed over the regulars. To be honest. apparently. and his salary was deservedly high. this was not a client he would have encouraged. but it would have confirmed to Fraser that the persona he had projected for so many years still made the impression he wan ted.. The suit was cheap and fitted poorly. Mr Fraser. Raoul wanted civilized. fighting as they did in the complex underground war of intellige nce and espionage. The voice was not loud but had a penetrating quality. Not that it mattered what Raoul thought. of course. Perhaps she liked him beca use he had no pretensions. That Cockney accent of Mr Garvin's w as quite misleading.CHAPTER TWO The head waiter of The Legend stood by the service doors to the kitchens and mad e a leisurely survey of his customers. Of course. The Legend was expensive . Mr Garvin was not an escort in the same intimate sense as the other g entlemen. designed to produce an atmosphere of tranquillity. A doctor. Unlike most Soho restaurants. even though he made no attempt to project it. Even Raoul coul d not remember whether he had seen the face before. Some he would encoura ge. how had Miss Blaise referred to him? Fraser. He did not want The Legend to become a fashiona ble haunt of personalities from the worlds of screen. but Raoul was quite sure about it. and then there woul d just be the two of them again. or perhaps months. this was a good position for his surveillance. whose work was always secret and often grim. fashion and photography. Since the restaurant was L-shaped and the service doors were set in the angle of the L. It was a totally forgettable face. di scriminating people. He had already dropped a knife and spilt half a glas s of wine. Raoul considered the young man in the party.. Yes. belonging to a middle-aged man of slight build.

sorry. Raoul groped for the concept . almost a mid get. but if you could see inside it you m ight well feel the same sense of unease that you felt with Mr Brunel Raoul jerked his thoughts away from such fanciful imagery. That's Tanzania for you. except perhaps the three men who were nearing the end of their meal. but it was absurd to become too imaginative in the practice. slightly menacing even. Stocky. darling?' She sighed.' 'I hope it was an interesting trip. Nothing to fault there. unpityi ng man who had taken many cold risks and performed many savage necessities. A thick-necked man with a manner slightly agg ressive. It is good to see you back. Not a man to argue with. Strange.' He looked at Modesty. the voic e and features showed excellent breeding. and of all times you h ave to ask now. A gulper of wine. Raoul.' 'Thank you. really. He assumed his warm. Yet there was something . It did not stem from serenity but from an inner deadn ess. annoyed with himself. Miss Blaise?' 'Perfect. Nothing that called for special consideration . at lea st nothing Raoul could lay his finger on.' Willie pointed out comfortingly. 'It got cut slightl y. with thick dark hair brushed back i n wings on each side. you haven't asked me that for a week. I'm not long back from Tanzania. Satisfied with his appraisal of Miss Blaise's party. Gile s. balk ing at neither. heavy-lidded eyes in a quiet f ace. The hand-stitched suit was a hundred-guinea job. that silver hair. It's all right when you're out in the wilds. but difficult to place..' Pennyfeather said..' . with a coarse face and doubtful table manners . 'Is everything as you wish. polite s mile and began to move from table to table. madam. Somewhere in the sun.. Raoul turned his head to view the tab les in the other section of the restaurant. perhaps? But quite in proportion.. 'Giles. with all his experience. 'Well no. 'I mean it's not as if it was one of your patients. that's a nasty boil you've got on your neck. Behind it lay a tough. Quiet. o ld man. He was in his earl y fifties.' 'Oh. Quite a number of regulars with thei r guests. The other gue st was a different matter. though he was not play ing host this evening. The table had been booked by the host. He wore his expensive clothes well. and mov ed away. To assess his customers carefully was one thing. and a few new faces. at the bra ndy and cigar stage. Four feet nine inches. His thoughts simply touched Fraser and passed him by as a nonentity.ble face he showed the world had served him well.' Fraser shrugged.. One was very good material to be encouraged as a regular. A lot of behind-cutters if ever I saw any. and very important.' Raoul inclined his head to Willie Garvin. Foreign. A tomb was quiet. but here we just say. loud and clear. I'd like to keep the old hand from losing its wizardry.. q uiet but assured.' 'At least it was dead. something unhe althy about the quietness. made a deeper bow for Modesty.' 'Then I am delighted. Perhaps that was it.' Pennyfeather grinned. it wasn't done by a Tanzanian. Take this letter along to The Middl esex and get it lanced. Raoul. thank you.. actually ' She broke in.. because in physical stature Mr Brunel was . Mr Brunel. 'By the way.' She looked across the table at Fraser and said. how's your behind. But is it okay?' 'Just fine. I think?' 'Yes. An impressive head. well. but Mr Brunel made him a little uneasy . Raoul judged. 'Don't get a chance to do any surgery now I'm back here. An excellent manner. glimpsed nothing of the reality behind the façade. 'Mr Fraser was just showing a polite lack of inquisitiveness. It must be premature. You have been away. 'I don't think he liked what I've done to his Dover sole.' Pity. Tight curly hair and brown face that owed nothing to the sun. 'Ah. That was odd. for the sun-tanned face was that of a much younger man. Giles Pennyfeather looked down at the mess of fish-bones on his plate and said.

I must fly. Just leave him alone. 'I took 'im t o lunch at Dolly's the other day. 'I remember old Merryd ew saying.' 'Left or right?' Willie asked. when I was a medical student the first thing I was ever given to disse ct was somebody's arm.rather complex. The a nswer is. Didn't want a general discussion about your behind.' Giles said c andidly. I went in the loo and didn't come out for ten min utes. He decided that onl y the mysterious nature of woman could explain why Modesty Blaise should see any thing at all in Dr Giles Pennyfeather. They watched. I've got you now. Nice meeting you. He knew that Willie and Modesty were finding some a musement in his discomfiture. 'but do have a go at explaining this new system to me. he's a nice man. 'Aren't you on duty pretty soon. in a hospital bed. I'd fallen on the knife and giv en my ribs a three-inch gash.' 'Coward. gave her a smile that lit up his rather chaotic features. 'I say a month. A s a doctor his only virtue is that he gets his patients better.' Fraser sniffed.' 'Oh. when Modesty came to his rescue. Forearm. Jack. Thanks. Came round with my chest swathed in bandages.' He touched Modesty's hand. just another inch. what were we talking about?' His eye fell on the remains of the Dover sole as a waiter cleared the plates. actually.' Fraser nodded his head slowly as if awed by the thought of it.' Pennyfeather turned to Fraser.ah . 'I never found out. if it's not a rude question.' 'What sort of thing?' 'A suggestion. that's jolly nice. Our new system of collating import/export figures is enormously ex citing.' 'They probably take a fresh hold on life from wondering what's going to happen n ext. and hund reds of future patients might well have been saved from the horror of your minis trations. quiet as a mouse. of course. and Willie nodded unashamed agreement.' He gave a bray of delight. 'Could you amplify that?' 'I could. What happened was that I'd got the old knife in my hand and was just going to start on the beastly thing when I passed out. Willie said to Fraser. Do you know. let's see. looking at her watch and saying. is that the time? Yes. 'Where's he dashing off to?' Fraser asked. Enormously.'Ah. then relaxed. I gather he's staying with you at present?' 'Yes. Yanked 'er wig right off. You're being dined here at vast expense because we want something from you.' he echoed wonderingly. 'Do excuse me .' Fraser stopped nodding and stared inscrutably into space. Perhaps because of his profession he did not suffer fools gladly . yes.' She beckoned a waiter and asked for coffee to be served.' He got to his feet. I'll be back about four-thirty unless anything crops up. 'A nice man. Cutting up of patients. but I'm not going to. in fact he did not suffer them at all if he could help it. then turned and marched gawkily away with ar ms swinging. Pennyfeather. 'He's got a job for a month doing some sort of locum night duty for a group prac tice. but I'll let it go since I once asked myself the same thing. 'Well. but I'll tiptoe in. Don't wai t up.' he began. and he got 'is cuff-link caught in a woman's ' air. Willie. Giles?' 'Eh? Lord. His usually quick mind had gone suddenly blank in the face of Pennyfeather's innocent acceptance of hi s words at their face value. Cheerio. darling. "Another inch to the right.' 'Pretty rude." He was joking. really? Pretty interesting?' 'Fascinating.' Modesty shrugged. 'What's you r line of business. tensing a little as one hand missed by a fraction a huge strawberr y flan on the sweets trolley. 'It's . What can we get Sir Gerald for his birthday that would really ple . 'Ah. I'm not much good at admin stuff myself. old chap?' 'I'm a civil servant. 'I suppose it would be rude of me to ask what you see in him . Fraser said slowly.' said Modesty. eh? W ell. Smashing nosh. but I don't know how long he'll last. and let's get to the object of the meeting. Mr Fraser.

' That's his birthday. He had then walked quietly out.' 'If they tried to replace 'im. These winter colds drag o n. bending down a little to do so.' He waved a tiny hand. you'd do your nut. and though his gaze appe ared casual Fraser's highly-cultivated instinct told him that Willie was at flas hpoint readiness. and she said very softly. then made his way between the tables with the other two following. After all. He just happens to be my boss. Turning his head. I didn't expect to see you again so soon. How many scars have you got between you that ought to have his initials on?' Willie grinned. fishing t ackle. but not impossible. not too bad. And the others were Adrian Chance and Jacko Muktar. with a cigarette lighter w hich brought a small quantity of prussic acid above its boiling point of 89 degr ees and ejected the vapour into the man's face. 'I'll tell you something about Tarrant. By no means. 'Willie . 'Good God. Brunel p aused for a moment. You'd better have your money back. 'Briefly. eased a finger round his collar and said with an embarrassed sm ile. He'll be back from the States by then. 'Oh. gave a nod. So you're co-op ted.' he said slowly. Still a bit chesty. 'An i nteresting gathering.. But nothing very original. of course. Brunel said.' 'Balls. He recognized one of them immediately. Chance was speaking.. They had stopped and were looking towards Modesty's table. But Willie Garvin was watching them. Brunel listened. not even glancing at his companions . in view of our similar careers. and said. We've thought of all sorts of things -golf-clubs. but you'll know pretty soon anyway ' He looked up and stopped short. a double-agent. I find it strange that you and I have never encountere d one another before. I've heard mu ch about you. on occasion. ingratiating smile. really. something antique. I didn't even know Tarrant had a birthday coming u p soon. somethi ng I shouldn't. sketched a bow. don't they?' 'Do tell Sir Gerald Tarrant I look forward to an early and satisfactory meeting . his eyes suddenly bitter. 'Anyone might think you 'ated old Tarrant. lounging back in his chair. Modesty Blaise was not listening. a painting. executioners. he's your boss so you ought to know his tastes. Fact is.' Still she did not trouble herself to look at them as she answered. 'Miss Blaise? M y name is Brunel. It was unlikely that there would be any kind of physical actio n here in The Legend. er. 'A drian Chance and Jacko Muktar. won't he?' 'He's due in on Wednesday. as I remember. did not alter his relaxed attitude. Miss Blaise. ignoring Brunel. Fraser saw the three men who had emerged from the other sectio n of the restaurant. 'But the meeting was not witho ut interest. Mr Fraser. Brunel's lieutenants. Fraser himself had once k illed a man.' There was a quality in her vo ice that made Fraser's nerves go suddenly taut. but his eyes followed Modesty's a nd he edged the chair back from the table a little.ase him?' Fraser stared.' Fraser stared down at the table. bodygu ards and. His lack of height in no way detracted from the ease a nd assurance of his manner.' 'Yes?' Fraser saw that she kept her eyes on Brunel.' He looked at Willie. you'd break your arm for 'im.' His smile was as quiet as his eyes and his voice. How a re you?' Fraser fidgeted. 'I understand you have met my colleagues. She was starin g past him. Cosy suggestions fo r presents aren't in my line. so I'm told. in a crowded Berlin bar.' 'Next week. and about Garvin. Brunel. who showed no s ign of having heard but continued to gaze musingly at Chance and Jacko. and when nobody spoke he looked at Fraser and went on. 'You've touched a ten der spot there. and in his mind utter ed an obscene oath even as he ventured a hesitant.' 'Why the hell do you want to buy him a birthday present? All he's ever done for you is inveigle you into jobs you barely came out of alive. Willie Garvin. He halted. long before anybody even realized that a body lay slumped over the table. then the other two.

' Willie brooded for a moment. They're nasty. Adrian Chance wore a t houghtful. 'I hope this is merely a social gathering I'm interrupting. 'I'll walk a little carefully while they're around. 'I reckon it was our silver-'aire d boy who did the torture bit. He'd enjoy it.when he returns. It's been most interesting to talk with you. 'What girl?' 'Sorry. 'Brunel has a finger in a dozen pies. I suppose you wouldn't con sider killing him as a birthday present for Tarrant? It's not something the old man can keep on his mantelpiece.' She shrugged.' Modesty said. 'Thank you. Others get turfed out of Black Africa.' 'That's easy. My colleagues already feel that they are in your debt from when they last e ncountered you. 'Oh Christ. Relationship obscur e.' Fraser accepted a cigarette from the case M odesty offered him. Alw ays.' 'Yes. I guess that's where your Dr Pennyfe ather's mysterious tortured man escaped from. 'Anything in the Brunel dossier to tie in with that?' Fraser grimaced. hardly any pigmentation.' Willie said. Origin unknown. Miss Blaise. but on general pattern they won't be here long. Miss Blaise. Jacko's face was cold and ugly. 'I very much hope so .' They turned away together. plenty.' She said. so it's a hell of a dossi er. They reckon they're the best team in the bus iness. 'Yes.' he whispered fervently. I thought you knew the Brunel set-up. isn't it?' Fraser nodded. 'I gather you've tangled with Brunel's boys in some way. so th . What happe ned?' She told him the essentials briefly. 'and not a business discussion with Mr Fraser?' His tone made the words a question. Mr Brunel. 'Yes. and with it a dew of sweat suddenly filmed his brow. 'You should have finished them off while you had th e chance. He said. I urge you not to increase the b urden of what they feel they owe you. 'There's a long and interesting ex perience I hope to provide for you one day. But there's also a girl on the scene somewhere. I know. I'll wish you good night. according to our dossier. 'I take your point. and they're very touchy about their status. But the significant word is business. and tell them not to have any more dealings with me. both looking at Modesty. but not Brunel. as if to himself. 'I don't like the kind that break ou t in 'ot flushes. She calls herself L isa Brunel.' he said.' 'Ah. Modesty considered him. Remind them that it wasn't by my invitation we met last time. but it's the thought that counts. Or it could have been the girl. or why Brunel wanted to know what he said before he died.' He gave a little bow and turned away. if only life were so simple. What do you expect me to come up with?' 'Just a thought. White hair.' Fraser nodded morosely. Brunel eyed him for a moment. 'In what way?' 'She's an albino. Yes. The other two men stood fast for a moment. yes.' Fraser twisted his thin neck and smiled meekly. For a moment a brilliant smile lit his face. I know what he thought. Very beautiful. 'I think interrupting is the significant word. a debt they would gladly repay. She w ears dark glasses most of the time. what he looked like. I'm keeping you from your coff ee. Willie eased himself in the chair and said. 'What was Brunel getting at just now? He seemed to think you were talk ing business with us. You don't know who the man was. Not all that far from the border with Tanzania. then turned back to Modesty. By God you should. Is there another cup of coffee there. Quite a little princeling of his own patch out there. in a way. Brunel's base is that big estate he has in Rwa nda. almost absent expression. Eyes slightly pink. I'll put a memo on his desk. When she had finished he drew in a breath b etween pursed lips and said.' Fraser said.' Willie said. walking quickly to catch up with Brunel. Willie love.' He spoke softly. But forgive me. but officially Brunel's adopted daughter. Jacko Muktar and Adrian Chance are his muscle. Princess? ' 'Yes.' 'Very likely. Pass your cup.' He shook his head. ducky. and he didn't like it.

everythi ng. We'll have all the anti-establishment mob here sc reaming about our Secret Service interfering in another country's affairs. 'You were saying something about Sir Gerald when they showed up. or 'an dling drugs. I wanted to be sick.' Willie said. In a safe at Welbury Square.' Willie said incredulously. if he's in the country. and it's the toughest thing you ever saw. we'll get the big stink.' Fraser knocked ash from his cigarette. 'I fancy our masters would like him to. He wants a list of our loc al agents in Prague. Then the Singapore papers go to Moscow. They don't carry enough credence. What we need is t he papers. Except that some bureau cratic clown in their local Intelligence Department set out an appreciation of t he whole thing on paper. Or you steal. Willie. Moscow will pay him the earth for that. can't you outbid Moscow?' 'Brunel isn't interested in our cash. I saw him take them out. and it can only be Tarrant.' Modesty's eyebrows drew together. A failure would give him another fifty per cent leverage to make the stink even bi gger. you've used villains before. It weighs half a ton.' Venom touched Fraser's voice . 'You mean Brunel expects Tarrant to 'and over some of 'is Czech people?' Fraser shrugged.' 'Then get someone to crack it.' 'You're sure they're genuine?' 'Genuine as the Koh-I-Nor. like most things we have to do.' Willie Garvin rubbed his chin.' Modesty said. then go in and grab the papers?' Fraser sniffed. hand-written. No photostats. But they can't force Tarrant's hand. mate. he doesn't sell them down the river. get 'im arrested for receiving. only in barter. we don't know how.' 'Tarrant?' 'Yes. An Intelligen ce scandal doesn't suit their political book just now. Where does Brunel keep 'em? In a safe?' 'Of course he does. 'A political necessity. He' s got a nice cash offer for them from Moscow. Blimey.' Fraser said with an impatient gesture.' 'Tarrant won't play on the Czech thing. Fraser's grin was wolfish. You'd need to o many people to set up a good frame. These are the original papers. it's cut and dried. 'I'd have hi m put down quick enough if it would do any good. I've seen them. 'Say again?' 'I saw them three days ago. A dirty littl e job. Our gam e gets more like dealing in stocks and shares every day. He expends people when he ha s to. of course.' Willie stared. then maybe you steal something else that will give you the right leve rage to get hold of what you wanted in the first place. and it worked out very nicely.' Modesty sat up a little straighter. That was just a lousy joke. When Tarrant gets back from the States he'll meet Brunel and tell him no deal. chapter and verse. You swap spies. date-stamped. Brunel's rented it for a month. 'I'd love to. I was given sight of the stuff so we'd know it was authe ntic. and Tarrant takes the rap. His eyes were angry. and a handful of Czechs a re expendable. 'You're a bit out of touch with current trends. That house belonged to old De Gruyle. It had the unofficial blessing of the gov ernment there. No. Brunel got hold of the papers. That safe's a Burdach and Zeidle r. And if you can't steal what you want. But we couldn't make it stick. You buy and sell. but it won't. if you can. Willie. So there has to be a scape-goat.ey say. and it doesn't matter. built into on e of the walls. 'Last year we organized something in Singapore to prune the Commies back a bit. and when they let the thing break there'll be a hell of a stink.' 'Lay on a job like that with only five days to prepare? Brunel would love it.' 'These papers.' he said reluctantly. If that means Brunel h asn't sold yet. you mak e deals. 'You said a cash offer. 'Why don't you frame Brunel. 'I don't see it would 'elp much for us to sign Br unel off. The w hole bit. and it is. What was it?' 'I was about to say that his head's going to roll. in a house on the corner of Welbury Square. And don't think it wouldn't fail. before he died and a prope . It was a statement. Petersen. but Christ.

then knew a pang of guilt at her relief.' She s miled. She did not know who or what the voices we re. but even then they dominated her life. and is aware of it. she would have hated the voices.' she said. he put on monogrammed pyjamas a nd a dressing-gown. If she had dared. Lisa had performed with the extreme a nd urgent passion he required of her. This was strange.' Willie smiled happily and lifted a hand to signal for the bill. Tying the belt of his dressing-gown. for the voices liked Brunel. That would be excellent. She had never told anybody of them. That it was entirely simulated held no imp ortance for him.' He went out of her bedroom without saying goodnight. You haven't a c hance.' CHAPTER THREE When the buzzer sounded. He'd sometimes have half a million quidsworth of precious stones in that safe. 'Well. He didn't like it a bit and the Princess wasn't going to like it either. 'And this is what Brunel thinks you were talking to us about tonight?' 'I'll lay odds on it. This was bad. This much she knew. He turned to look at her. They were simply there. 'Don't be a bloody fool. Modesty. That she was an albino did not detra ct from her beauty . or at least they were always pleased that she was obedient to him. He knew that look. admonishing. because she knew they woul d come again.except in her own eyes. and this troubled her. I'll go into details later. he thought with amusement. closing her handbag. Brunel rose lazily from the firm warm body of the white -haired girl who lay beneath him.' Willie drained his cup of coffee and sat back.' 'It's a damn nuisance. and smiled mechanically when he looked at her. gathering up her cigarette-case and lighter while Willie signed the bill. and partly because the voices spoke so clearly in w . Sometimes they would be silent for days a nd even weeks. and her lower lip was pushed forward slightly. as she usually did af ter Brunel. relaxed. 'I may wish you to pick up a man c alled Garvin. not even Brunel. She lay watching him. for they had forbidden her to. listening. usually waking her in the night. Without haste. He has a certain crude attraction. She stood still. but that doesn't matter. wai ting for the voices in her head to start whispering. and well worth all the trouble he had take n over her. partly because in her weakness and wickedness she so often wanted to r esist them. he said. Fraser leaned fo rward and said in a low voice. The safe 's a twelve-hour job at best . and she had tried hard to overcome it. 'After all. Lisa got up. but she was weak. A very satisfactory possession. That house is wired with more alarms than you've ever dreamt of. She sat with her chin resting on her hand. too weak to wipe out her own fooli sh emotions entirely. 'Especially as we haven't very much time.' She nodded. he reflected gloomi ly. She said to Fraser. That's a small co nsolation. 'It may well be impossible. and they did not arise from her own inner thoughts but were something apart from her.rty company bought it.and they'll be waiting to nail you. her eyes conte mplative and a little dreamy. Lisa. so he may think he can make use of you if you encourage the idea. It was shameful enough that she feared them. When the voice s did not come she relaxed gratefully. to disobey them. He felt good. waiting for you to try something. and had long ceased even to wonder. at least it might keep them aw ake for the next few nights. if Willie and I can pull this off it's t he perfect answer to our birthday present problem. There were two small vertical lines in the middle of her forehead. She could not clearly remember when the voices first began to speak in her head. but to hate them would have b een the ultimate crime. A hint of excite ment stirred in him. It was wrong. Jack. but sometimes coming to her sudde nly at any hour of the day. When Raoul had wished them goodnight and moved away she said. He'll probably know I've sent you. but at least let's take a look and try it for size. only that it was several years ago. She felt a little sick. She was useful in so many ways.' He laughed shortly. went into the bathroom and turned on the shower. Everything before the voices was remote and fragmented now.

She selected The Golden Years. guiding. but from a bank of batteries.. and they required nothing of her. She stepped out from under the shower. among the Victorians and Edwardians and their counterparts in Europe and America. no modern sex-based fiction. Brunel had not hurried when he left Lisa's room. at least nothing outside the ir standing commands on which she had long ceased to need reminding. White-haired. She shivered. It relayed a picture of the porch. but nothing came. She dared not show it. the life bounded by the pages of the books. Brunel pressed one of a panel of buttons to cut the front door alarm-buzzer for ten seconds. And yet?. Garvin. When they had first come to her she had been frightened. then t his was an ugly blemish within herself. They were passionless and all-knowing. which was wickedness indeed. then another button which released the three locks on the door. She wished he did not insist on the vivid red nail varnish. Be thankful the voices condescend to use su ch a creature. was it? If he was a bad man. she knew that mus t be so. put on a wrap. of course. It was here that she lived the ser ene part of her life. but she had obeyed beca use what they wanted was simple and easy. even when they made her kill. It had been for his own good. but their oth er demands still terrified her. distressed by her own weakness. laid it re ady on her pillow. and they had made her understa nd that it was her privilege to serve their necessities. but showed no sign of impatience. then . and went back into the bedroom. for otherwise the voices would soon have spoken their cold reprimand.. saw the door close after them. On those rare occasions when she had failed them b adly. That meant they were not acting unde r the threat of somebody out of sight with a gun. but it had almost broken her mind. The voices were always right. an austere and dreadful privilege that she was too stupid and unworthy to comprehend in all its fullnes s. By far the larger proportion of books consisted of memoirs and biographies of an earlier age. remembering what they had made her do to the man in Rwanda. quickly and guil tily repressed. their silvery tones had chanted in her head all night in passionless wrath . it made her white hair and skin more obvious by contrast. He watched the two men enter. Brunel dropped the curtain. for the voices would have punishe d her almost to destruction. Fr eak. dried herself. But that had changed. Each man was finger ing the knot of his tie with the left hand. If she felt revulsion. and obey. He made his way down to the stu dy on the first floor and pulled a curtain aside. they might lay upon her one of those duties she dreaded so much. The car parked below was Adria n Chance's. an anthology of Edwardian reflections. The novels were romances. then sat at the dressing-table and began to manicure her nail s. commanding. T urning. a tiny bell-like chorus in her head. an Enemy of the voices. Jacko and Chance. a shameful frailty. with their solid confidence in a world that changed litt le and then slowly. She listened. put on the lights and switched on a smal l portable television receiver on his desk. Be glad. actual words to which she listened.ords. If she was to be free of any duties for the moment she could relax and live her other life . an unending repetition that had driven her close to collapse. A thought touched her mind. mainly historical. hoping they had heard her thoughts and would speak their approval.. Brunel liked her to keep her nails fairly short. But they were no t displeased now. She was inured now to the way the voices used her body. pushing the memories away. to the long shelves of books. She knew that she had satisfied Brunel. And she had been glad when he escape d. She shook her head. a nd the upper halves of the two men waiting there. bringing a flicker of apprehension. They had bee n waiting for two minutes. Brunel wanted her to pick up a man called . Had that been her fault? Had she in some way lef t him a chance he had seized upon? Surely not. colourless freak. first with Brunel and then wi th others. There were no mysteries or thriller s. admonishing. Soon she had bee n told to do things which scared and sickened her. she looked at her naked body in the full-length mirror with contempt. if she felt some deep-rooted desire to disobey. The current for the locks and alarms was not from the mains supply. dared not even think what she felt.. They chanted. for this was wrong.

Fraser took a cab and presumably went o n home. They say Blaise is good at being unlikely.' His calm face twitched for a moment. With a gun. 'When she had us tied up in the car she di dn't ask any questions.' Chance sat down on a couch again st the wall and smoothed back his silver hair.' 'It won't be easy. if we stay in the house.' Brunel drummed his fingers on the desk absently. It can't be for money. Adrian. And to reach us. to fool us into leaving an opening.' 'Why would they agree?' 'That I can't explain. and he's a tenacio us little bastard. 'I expect so. 'Whatever the reason. perhaps. 'It can't be coincidence. I doubt if there's anywhere more secure than that safe in this house. its back set in the brickwork. He said in a hard. 'On their record. From this moment I want one of you here in this stu dy at all times. 'They probably have some idea how Jacko an d I feel about her. 'We didn't know who she was then. who wants access to the house. and w . restless. 'They drove to a block overlookin g Hyde Park She has the penthouse there.' 'You believe he wants them to try for the Singapore papers?' 'I believe Fraser has nothing else on his mind at the moment. didn't want to know why we were intere sted in Pennyfeather. They'll need twelve uninterrupted hours in the house. Pennyfeather must have been with her. What's important about tonig ht is that we saw Fraser in conference with Blaise and Garvin. and there was a fourth place at her table wh ere somebody had dined.' He paused. then came home.' He looked at Chance. his solid muscles moving under the tight-fitting suit.' He stubbed out his cigarette and stood up. The Britis h pay chickenfeed. 'I very much doub t if a strongbox in a bank would be proof against the authority Tarrant's people could exert if they felt the need. If we suspect anybody. but I don't think that has any particular significance. the telephone repair man. then dab bed his forehead with a handkerchief. I share your feeling that they may well tr y for the papers. that's why we'll start being careful now.' Jacko was looking at the big safe which stood against one wall of the study. I believe?' Adrian Chance's smile was taught and bright. We waited half an hour. but I don't thi nk it's anything to do with the Novikov business. didn't search us. We' ll operate under siege conditions for the next few days. They can only be by-passed if we allow them to be. saying nothing. 'You can both vouch for that. Adrian takes over then. a tiny figure behind the desk.' 'What about Pennyfeather?' 'We didn't see him. To take care of us they have to reach us. 'You're on guard here till three am.' Jacko prowled the room.' 'I'm bound to wonder if that would have made any difference. 'I said with a gun. Thirty seconds later A drian Chance knocked and entered the study followed by Jacko. But there are people who act from incredible motives. Brunel said. that's absurd. so they have to take care of us first. 'You going to put the stuff somewhere else? In a bank?' 'I can't think of anything more stupid. The word is that they've done a few things for Tarrant before. I imagine they 'll try something subtle. and tailed them. She's evidently brought him back to England with her.' He raised an eyebrow.' Brunel said musingly. Blaise and Garvin went in. I fancy Garvin's staying there tonight.switched off the closed-circuit television and sat down. I think they will. J acko. we can hardly go wrong. You s aw Pennyfeather leaving The Legend. but I don't know why.' 'To us. thinking. and check every detail.' Brunel l it a cigarette.' Brunel said. 'Well?' 'We waited for them to leave. Chance shrugged and said. At last he said. 'Very well. the man sent by t he council to check a faulty drain. A bit later lights came on in the penthouse. We need to watch out for the postman. I know nothing is likely to happen tonight. And it can't be just because they like him. meter readers. in any shape or form.' He looked at Chance. See to everything yours elf.' Brunel sat in thought for some minutes. they have to breach the alarms. so tha t's got to be their tactic. You can u se your knife once we've got them all sewn up. throaty voice. The alarms c an't be cut or jammed.

Adrian came towards her. like a rag doll . Wide pavement. A s Brunel reached the door Chance said politely in a rather high voice. He took the book from where it lay on the pillow and tossed it b ehind him. I'm sure we'll arrange an opportunity later. The voices always wanted her to please Brunel. 'A job?' 'If Blaise and Garvin don't come. All curtains pulled to. Steps leading down to a basement. and it was a fault and a blemish in her to feel as she did. If you don't get the chance to use your little knife on Blaise in the next day o r so.' A stone's throw away. He had simply walked up the stairs to the top floor. A chink of light showing through the cu rtains of the study. Brunel said. and showin g fear. It la y on the first floor. I may put her to work on Garvin. on the roof of the block of flats set on the southern side of the square. drawing up her knees and crossing he r arms over her breasts. When he had punished her for this. reaching only to her thighs. but without enthusiasm. 'Don't be downcast. Adrian. To please him she must not be as she had been with Br unel. He's linked with Blaise and Garvin now.atched the sheen of moisture brought to Chance's brow by his words. the worst would be over. Railings set abou t six feet from the wall of the house. a large window on the ground floor. He stud ied the windows. Understood ?' Chance looked surprised. Leaning against the storage tank housing. and she had not expected Brunel to let h im have her again so soon. windowless side-wall. Still smiling down at her he began to ta ke off his tie. while he exacted his various enjoyments on her body. Adrian . Guiltily she realized her offence in thinking of his punishment of her as 'the worst'. if he said so. and. and on up the final flight of service steps to the flat roof. There would be nothing more for her to do except remain limp and submissive. He could have drawn a plan of that study from memory. Adrian. Fraser stood studying the house across the road. But I still think he knows something. It was a long block. though he had little hope that his occupatio n would be fruitful..' Chance nodded. Jacko flung himself sulkily on to the couch. 'Please.' Lisa lay in bed on her stomach. Adrian would not have come to her unless Brunel had given permission. 'The Singapore papers are not my only interest. Therefore anythi ng he did was by the will of the voices. Standing beside the bed he gazed down at her with his b rilliant smile. so we have to move carefully. then more strongly.' 'Pennyfeather?' 'Yes. whispering. to please Adrian Chance. considering. reading a book. no. took a gun from under his arm and checked it. . Street lamp.' 'But why?' Brunel said patiently. and by moving from one end of the roof to the other he could see the front and side of Brunel's house which together formed the corner of the square where the road turned north..' Brunel paused. He lifted nig ht glasses to his eyes. There had been no problem in getting to the roof. For Adrian she must resist feebly at first. Corresponding wind ows on the two floors above. It was a month since the last occasion. 'You can go ahead. for in fact it was a short but very wide road. but don't get carri ed away. he studied the si tuation. just a blank wall. so she's not to be marked. Fraser was mildly enjoying himself. and the safe was set in the blank. In the front. 'Are you using Lisa tonight?' 'No. I may need her for a job shortly. When the door opened and she saw that it was Adrian Chance she braced herself quickly against the involuntary tr emors in the pit of her stomach. on the right of the porch. She was wearing a white chiffon night dress now. It was only by courtesy that Welbury Square was ca lled a square. No windows in the side of the house. She turned over and sat up. No sign of a disused coal-chute in the pavement. and he's the only possibility we have left of opening up the Novikov Project again.. then threw the bed-covers back. ashamed of the reluctance and apprehension that the sight of him produced in her. Adrian. ashamed of her hope that he would not hurt he r very much this time.

One end of the case was a filter which elimina ted all visible light and allowed only infra-red to pass through. The spot was s witched on now. He did not believe the plans would be any use. She had sai d she was going to case the place at ground level. She was kittenish now. trenches. Irma. Fraser decided. Some fun-loving young scamps would have seen to that. and her hips swung in the manner of the practised tart. his arms w rapped round her. but her camera would pick up precious little detail from that distance and angle. her cheek against Willie Garvin's. N eeds encouraging. secured from the builder who had converted the interior se ven years ago for De Gruyle. A part of him hoped foolishly that Modesty Blaise would come up wi th something. because it was a rout ine action. don' t scare him off. She turned and waited. the width o f the road away. then turn na sty. She wore a shiny black leather suit with a very short skirt. Fraser thought approvingly. Leave the money bit till after. He did not believe that he was lo sing sleep now for any useful purpose. The job simply was not on. this one. After talking togethe r for a few moments they moved on slowly. stacks of bricks. There was no light in the booth. t alking. Might an engineer call at the house purporting to check on the run of cab les. apparently to argue. stopping every now and again. Inside it was a pow erful battery-operated spotlight. That was exactly the kind of thing Brunel would be waiting for.But there would be no need for him to draw a plan. Willie had put down the suitcase carefully. A blonde girl. but still he was glad to be going through the motions. The nervous type. She was swinging her handbag. Fraser leaned forward a little to watch. and wondered if Modesty was in one of the cars parked at the end. He looked along the road running wes t. She steered him towards it. was foll owing her a little uncertainly. He looked along the road running north beside the house. Frase r began to feel depressed. was w alking slowly south from where the roadworks lay. The local police had told him of two occasions dur ing De Gruyle's time when a cat had set them off. the diamond merchant. then stopped again. He could hear their voices bu t could distinguish no words. Two men walked slowly along the opposite pavement. A little group of weirdly dressed drop-outs passed in the other direction. Red lamps marked where a vast excavation was being started for an underground car park. Mounds of earth . He looked down again. tossing her head archly. the poise of her head and body crudely inviting. the littl e sods. carrying a small suitcase. Modesty gazed over his shoulder at Brunel's house. Business was evidently slack. Fraser thought. you might as well give up the game and go back to being a brain surgeon. then spoke to him as he d rew near. Easy now. a power-s hovel. playing to hook him. Fraser had got hold of them a s soon as Brunel began his play with the Singapore papers. Not sure how much she's going to charge him. he's new to it. Anything bigger than a pigeon would trigger the electronic alarms there. of water or gas? Fraser drew down the corners of his mouth in a sour grimac e. piles of sewage pipes. ducky . If you can't warm him up enoug h to forget his financial worries in five minutes. Probably no phone either. There were plans of the whole house in his office. F raser reflected. . the man still vaguely hesitant. He moved a little and looked down into the road below. long hair brazen under the lamplight. Give him a trailer. bathing the front door of Brunel's house in infra-red light. Make him think you're a nice warm-hea rted girl and you really fancy him. a place of shadows. A man in a long mac and a trilby hat. the trained and analytical agent. a concrete mixer. Opposite Brunel's house was a small area where the pavement widened to take a phone booth and a p illar box. That's right. In the shadows by the phone booth. He looked acr oss at the roof of the corner house. and take photographs. and you'll take him for everything but his bus-fare home. The man fidgeted f rom foot to foot and rubbed the back of his neck. But the rest of him. The tart and the man merged into the shadows near the booth. was afraid that she might. She slipped her hand through the man's arm and they walked on slowly together. An occasional car moved e ast along the one-way square and turned left at the house on the corner before p assing out of sight. not talk ing.

and he lifte d her. 'Right. and said.' 'Why don't you go 'ome?' Willie asked amiably.' She moved the suitcase with her foot so that the unseen beam of the spotlight co vered the ground-floor window. but it's there all right. He shrugged. eyes half closed. lit a cigarette. He spoke of alarms and ele ctronics. adjusted the telescopic lens. Princess?' 'I think so. Willie. the roof and the basement. she sat gazing absentl y down at one of the glorious Isfahan rugs which lay scattered on the tiled floo r. Fraser looked at the parked cars again. usually drawn up in a chignon.' 'Okay. smiled. 'They don't tell us a damn thing we didn't already know. of stethoscope techniques and of thermic lances. She sighted over his shoulder. She indicated the photographs. and took fou r shots of the porch and door. They were to rendezvous at the penthouse at one. He had only realized it on returning to the penthouse. the rear. When the prints were dry. who studied them glumly and spread them on the couch beside her.' He lowered her. Willie. It stops me worrying about what Tarr ant will do to me when he comes back and finds I've told you about this and that you're both bloody well dead because you tried something idiotic.' 'We won't do that. She roused. 'Strikes me as a bit unseemly. He spoke of sewers and cables.' Modesty said thoughtfully. then said. when he had seen the blonde wig lying on the table and Modesty in the shiny black leather s uit. Arms folded in the wide sleeves where golden dragons coiled against a crimson background. passing them in turn to Fra ser.She fumbled under Willie's long mac and drew out the camera.' His arms tightened. 'Whi . 'Can't ev en pick out the scanner in the porch. She had changed now. wondering wher e Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin had got to.' On the roof of the flats. 'Down for a moment now. a 35 mm Asahi-Penta x with a focusing spot for infra-red sensitive film. of safe-blowing. hung loosely tied in two pigtails. Tonight wasn't wasted. Her hair. Slowly she went through them. then turned towards the stairs bulkhead which jutted fro m the roof. Willie Garvin stood looking at her for a moment or two. Fraser was in a sour mood which even the glass of matchless brandy he carried co uld not lighten. Slipping an arm round his n eck so that she could hold the camera in both hands just behind his right should er she said.' For the next ten minutes Willie Garvin strolled back and forth across the room. 'Let's have a run-down. from the improbable to the fantastic. Whoever said rec onnaissance is never wasted didn't know about 28 Welbury Square. from the front. and said. what next?' Fraser allowed another large sip of th e brandy to gild his throat and looked at her angrily. With Fraser following. adding to the hint of the Eurasi an given by her black hair and high cheekbones. Willie.' She felt the breath of his soundless chuckle against her cheek as they s tood relaxed together. 'Princess'. Willie Garvin unclipped them. 'Because I like the brandy they serve here.' Fraser said. just for the look of things. simply looking with open pleasure. talking.' she said. When he had finished he sat down. and took the sheaf of phot ographs he handed her. He s poke of time and labour equations. But we'll stay clinched for a couple of minutes. 'Lift me up a few inches. It was partly because he was tired now and partly because he wa s annoyed with himself. It's a matter of getting the feel of the sit uation. h e went out of the darkroom. In Welbury Square he had been looking for a man and a wo man and had seen them clearly without realizing that they were the couple he was looking for. He talked slowly but rarely hesitated as he posed eve ry possibility.' She took six shots of the big wi ndow. some'ow. He covered methods of entry. and was sitting on the big couch wearing a Chinese dressing -gown that lent a rich glow to her dark beauty. of disguise and deception. His watch showed half past twelve . 'Again. 'Got all you want. took a last glan ce at the square below.' 'And now you've got the feel. 'We think. 'I didn't expect to find a loop-hole. through Modesty's lapidary workshop and into the big drawing-room.

I say. Just sw itch to receive. aged twenty-seven. too many areas for snag s. Jack. the n she called softly. 'You don't have to be quiet. Willie love. he remembered. It always pays to get rid of the old-hat stuff before you try to think fresh.' He looked at her gloomily. You know that. 'It's complex because the set-up is designed to be complex. sorry. I was trying to clean my teeth in the dark. 'I know there isn' t much time. and thanks for trying.' 'Sure. Giles. 'We've only just started trying. 'Fine. and had been shown the hidden switch to open them at the top. 'Did I distur b you when I knocked the bathsalts over?' 'Oh my God. That would account for it.' She sat up and put on the bedside light.' He lifted her hand and touched the backs of her fingers to his cheek in the salutation that was peculiarly his own and for her only. 'I think Kalimba was more your style. Before he went to bed he checked the alarms carefully. I'm awake. It's not like in Kalimba. taking off his pullover. a little too complex. Did you have a busy night?' 'Not very.' Fraser stood up.' She went with him to the doors of the private lift in the big foyer of the penthouse. t he night porter knew him. whose philosophical convictions he found hilarious but whose phys ical parts exerted a compelling attraction on him. you haven't done it again?' 'Well. Since he did not want to think about the house in Wel bury Square he thought about his current campaign to achieve a close and horizon tal relationship with one Erica Nolan. ducky. Satisfied. Got one call from that all-night garage across the road. I suppose it would.' One bedroom of the penthouse was kept permanently for Willie. I mean. so do I.' He came out of the bathroom. goodnight. If anybody tried to make Pennyfeather take them up with him. I wish you weren't such a bloody fool. But as an added precaution Willie set the control pane l beside the lift doors for 160 lbs.. We g ot to come up with a new angle. Very different.' 'You never see a new angle coming until it comes. 'He could be right. darling.' 'Yes. Tim idly he extended a limp hand. I'm writing around for something like it. Chap dropped a battery on his foot and smashed it up a bit. servile character that he habitually played to enfold him once again. he went to bed. but if we come up with any ideas I'll give you a ring right away. It's been a plea sure. 'Oh. I have. does it?' 'That's a tube of hand cream. Modesty woke soon after four-thirty. 'Well. and it's not within your option to change it.' He picked up his coat. Also. when Pennyfeather came home. A great pleasure. She did not show any disappointment.' With something of an effort he sm oothed the hardness from his face.' 'No. Princess.' Modesty nodded. In five minutes he was asleep . I've never tried that lemon-flavoured toot hpaste before. Giles. you see. but I just sent him to hospital. 'I just sat by the phone reading Reader's D igest most of the time. I'll probably have to emigrate. I see. Sleep well. remembering the hours in the primitive little makeshift o perating theatre. She heard him tiptoe into the bedroom and blunder about in the bathroom for a few minutes.' He stood with his hand . the tautness from his eyes.' When Fraser had gone Willie said reluctantly. it's b een interesting. Willie. Pennyfeather had his own key to the lift do ors below. Willie. and I s ort of bumped the jar somehow. It's quite nice but it doesn't froth much. yes.' Modesty smiled. Miss Blaise. and forget it. and allowed the h umble.' 'Yes.chever way you look at it there's too many ifs and buts. Let's bear that in mind and sleep on it.' 'Ah. 'Well . I 'aven't got a glim mer of an idea meself. or we don't stand a chance. That's clear ed the air nicely. Not frothing. a Professor of Sociolo gy at the LSE. the lift simply would not work. What we have to avoid is thinking a little too clever on this o ne. 'I'll see to the lo cking up..' She watched him with affection as he put on a pair of Mark s and Spencer pyjamas.' He pulled off his shirt. Giles Pennyfeather would be returning somet ime during the night. 'You're a nice girl.

first because the silver-haired chap and the stoc ky chap might try to pay me back for what I did to them. just in case. If the man in my bed has got cold in the line of dut y. that's a pretty rum coinciden ce.' h e said contentedly. I'm coming to bed. with a man called Brunel. Wil l you accept a small contribution towards my board? I realize you're stinking ri ch and all that. But why. I don't know whether or not they sa w you there.' 'I am.' He got in. I thought as soon as I'd got my wind back I'd get up and kick that damn g un out of his hand to start with. Remember?' 'Lord. Willie Garvin's staying the night here.' 'Oh Christ. I hope I don't fall asleep. Or Willie. Don't go out unless I'm with you. Am I crushing you?' 'A bit. What about them?' 'They were dining in The Legend tonight. his arm s holding her. and we're all going to keep our eyes wide open. Giles?' 'Well. her head turned to rest beside his on the pillow. listen. But you're welcome to enjoy it. I think it was a coincidence. Giles. darling. and it's not really right for a chap to let a girl see to that kind of thing. Modesty. I didn't mean that!' 'Shut up. then said. but after all you're a girl. Or Willie.' 'Unless she's a pretty rum girl. I was pretty fed up with that chap hitting me in the stomach. then.' She said carefully. Are you just going to stand there or are you coming to bed?' 'Oh. But not your bed. It was awfully good o f you. It's marvellous. They certainly saw me. of course.' 'You're welcome. but you know what I mean. idiot. A very nasty man indeed. He's their bo ss. You feel half-frozen. and manoeuvred to draw her over until she lay on top of him. it's awfully good of you to let me sta y here.' 'Oh. So one of us will keep guard on you. I see. you haven't got it qui te right. You were bloody amazing.' He gave a muted guffaw. talking to the ch ap with the foot while he was waiting for the ambulance. 'I don't need a bodygu ard. that's ridiculous. 'Lovely hot.' '1 am. 'Darling. But anyw ay. Especially on your night surgery duty. The thing is.' She lifted her head and looked down at him.s on his hips. All right. 'You know. I know what you mean. I'm afraid.' She pursed her lips to kiss his ear.' 'They may also have in mind to take another crack at finding out from you if the mysterious Mr X told you anything.' 'Oddly enough.' 'Don't encourage cowardice. yes! Look here. Even on your night surgery duty. their noses almost touching. 'Did you have a nice evening?' 'Interesting. we need to be rather careful for a while. I know. which we've agreed on. Sat in that chilly garage for half an hour.' 'Yes. and 1 was going to h ave a smack at dealing with him myself when you took over. Something for your board. you'd better not wander around on your own with those two about. or is it just for m e?' 'I always don't. Remember those two men who came and knocked you ab out in Kalimba. darling. Modesty. Better stay away from m e for a bit. he's welcome to some of my hot. of course. you mustn't go out unless I'm with you.' 'I don't quite follow. looking at her. Yielding but not squashy.' He laughed. the ones who wanted to know if that unknown foreigner had said a nything to you?' 'The silver-haired chap and the stocky chap? Yes. before you do. surely?' 'Yes. Look.' 'Yes. 'Well. Brunel came and spoke to me. 'Do you always not wear anything in bed. 'I came in a bit useful in Kalimba. I get paid on Friday. How were you going to ha ve a smack at him. It's very nice. 'Please . But I still don't take to the idea.' 'Well. exactly?' She gave a little sigh.' 'They were at the same place as us tonight? I say.

'All right. 'More toast. warm and exciting. her houseboy. v ery mobile target. Willie?' 'No thanks. 'If they're holed up.' 'You didn't. that can be catered for. I was able to take them by surprise. they can't do anyth ing. 'I've had a man watching fro m an empty flat across the road. They're going to sit on top of that bloody safe unti l you-know-who comes back from the States. and take my word for something I happ en to know about. not the weapon. In fact don't try anything.' 'You're a marvellous girl.' Willie nodded. then y ou go for the man. he was master of anything that had whee ls.' 'Well. The hand is a very small. never try to kick a gun or knife out of anyone's hand.' She shook her head slowly. and you aim to put him out of action fast. anyway. Do yo u feel tired or do you want to make love?' 'Both. her nose rubbing his. . What about the other one?' 'I hit him here. Jack. brought in fresh coffee. and the gloomy sniff which spoke of nameless problems and diffi culties. Fraser rang next morning at ten.' Modesty said.' She rang off and went back to the breakfast table.' 'For the last time. the criminal organization based in Tangier which Modesty ha d created and controlled. don't try it.. He was not a sophi sticated lover. all right. and had been set up with a garage in Glasgow and a pension.' She told him what Fraser had reported. with my knee. not an industrious text-book follower. I hope you'll never face the situation again. 'There's someone around we could use to keep an eye on Giles if w e're too busy ourselves. 'Understand?' 'Well. Not for a few days. I'm fine. I told him last night that he mustn't go out unless one of us is with him. because it needs nice timing. And never try to grab a gun-hand or a knife-hand. Modesty remembered the indignant glare with which Wee Jock had always received h er instructions. and hope for a better chance later. Wee Jock Miller's in town. and when he refuses to play they'll c all in the man from you-know-whose Embassy and give him the stuff. A natural engineer.' she put her hand under his jaw. Thank you. Yet he had never failed her. Deliveries of all kinds.' She moved her thigh against him.' "Not that time.' 'I saw you do it with the silver-haired chap. Giles. 'They're preparing for a siege. tracks or a keel. never. I forgot to tell you. There's all kinds. and the touch sent a new wave of affection through her. Wee Jock had promptly broken the man's nose. but I'm not sure it matters now. It can move a few inches much faster than your foot can move through a four-foot arc. Willie was reading the mornin g paper. A nd nobody's left the house. Princess. 'please listen.' 'I'll let you know. actually. The Network looked after its own.' Wee Jock Miller was a squat block of solid muscle barely topping five feet. Modesty. If you want a general rule. 'and here.' he said brusquely. They're stocking up. But what does that leave you? I mean what can you do?' 'Sometimes nothing but stick your hands up. How's Giles?' 'He'll sleep till noon. because the man with the gun is on the same pay-roll as the man doing the kick. and let's stop talking about it. 'But don't try that either. who had been born in a Glasgow slum forty odd years ago. Wee Jock was a taciturn man with an inborn gift for al l things mechanical.' she said gently. He had lost the sight of his eye while serving The Network . but he gave a strange and healing satisfaction. and anyway I was born sneak y and I've got a lot sneakier over the years. Giles. with a razor:scarred face and only one good eye. On one occasion a man misled by Jock's dou r attitude towards her had felt encouraged to be impudent to her in his presence . t hen never. as instructed. It's fine on the movies. but if you do.' He put his hand to her cheek. But it's not good for real. For four years he had been in charge of all transport matt ers for The Network. Weng. Never.

watching her. and that was it. and rigged the game.' He gestured. Fraser can fix that.' CHAPTER FOUR .' She cupped her chin in her hands.' 'Conkers?' She gave a little snuffle of laughter and put down her coffee cup. It's only an admin problem. They gave Annie twenty per cent. we used to call 'im. 'Th anks. A right villain. She was the caretaker's daughter. She was sixteen. They wer e simply waiting. and then they would get down to detail.' She nodded. and that helps. Soon she would lay out the bones of the idea for him. Took me nearly a week. Wh ere I slipped up was in telling Annie afterwards. We all just called 'er Annie the Bang at the orphanage. 'I like Giles. Conkers? What the hell had she come up with? Two minutes passed. Cast it.' Willie said idly. but there was nobody to send me parcels and things. . hoping that something would come.' Her eyes sparkled with sudden humour. 'I remem ber my first girl all right. painted it.'We must have him up for a drink. I love watching him glower. and put down the paper. Conkers. frowning a little with the intensity of her concentration. but I didn't mean that. It wasn't all that romantic. and she froze. but it looked just like the real thing. Willie. I 'ad to scarper..' 'Yes. but in chocolate. Princess.' 'Don't tell me you by-passed her agents?' 'Not exactly. really. Maybe it's that 'e 's the same on top as all the way through. 'One of nature's innocents. he's not q uite sure which.' 'Who was she?' 'Annie. Images came spinning into the receptive void.' Neither she nor Willie had mentioned Welbury Square. Won fifteen minutes with Annie. and cradled her coffee-cup in her h ands. 'I think you've d one it.' 'Annie who?' 'I dunno. It appears I'm only about the fourth or fifth girl he's ever had.' she said. almost black.' Willie leaned back in his chair and half closed his eyes reminiscently. Pretty fat. though? Nobble his conker?' 'No. He couldn't dissemble if he tried. He loved watching her when she was thinking in over-drive.' 'How old were you?' 'Fourteen. looking at him. and 'is name was Old Creep. 'I've never known anyone who remembers so litt le. but w illing.. You said Wee Jock Miller's in town. the boss man.' 'How did you rig it. 'He's got something. Willie Garvin did not speak. 'We'll ask him to look over the Rolls. Then she said.' She sat with her chin resting on linked fingers now. Hard to say what it is. She let on to Dicer. So I took 'im on at conkers. I made mine out of lead. Dumb as a post. and we haven't time . We' ll need rehearsal time and we'll need some special gear that can't be traced bac k to us. 'C an I tell Tarrant? It's worth a lunch. lovely nec k. and the big kids 'ad 'er under contract.' 'He makes you laugh. and he does enjoy it so. knowing that it could not be forced because it would have to be a new concept. 'e was. and 'ung it on a bit of string. so I was always skint. she was. an d there was a special little tilt to the head at the end of the long. It was just before I ran away. You could buy 'alf an hour in the boiler room with Annie for a packet of snout or 'alf a dollar. 'I was all steamed up to get at Annie and find out what it was all about. and they were alight with excitement. but a sucker for a gamble. He sat down again a nd waited. There was this big kid.. Her dark blue eyes became darker still. The punch-line gets me a champagne supper ' Her mind whirled suddenl y. 'Princess?' Her eyes focused on him. After a few moments Willie Garvin stood up and said in soft query. 'Look. enormously content. her face full of laughter. Willie. She was the only female around.' He looked rueful. Willie. 'Sure. Dicer. drilled it.

For a moment. A C olt . Something was moving along the road. a hole from which wide cracks radiated. He was quite sure that none of them had b een genuine. Another massive thud. and as he turned he saw a large piece of brickw ork topple to the floor. Something was troubling him. The suspect phone calls. Another mechanical monstrosity for the excavation up the road. Waiting for Blaise and Garvin. There had been promising moments. just in time to see the derri ck of a mobile crane as the contraption lumbered round the corner of the house a nd out of view. an irregular square yard of it. that they had given up. a nicely contrived loop-hole to lure Blaise and Garvin in.Adrian Chance sat in the deep armchair by the curtained window of the study. he half wondered wha t Lisa thought and felt. Jacko was shouting from upstairs. Too much availabi lity took the sparkle out of things. the one drink he would have during what remained of t he night. It was all part of a misdirection play. Why? Suddenly. his eyes so wide that the lids had di sappeared. The next blow shattered t he wall on the other side of the safe. but there was a lot of rattling and crunching. Chance's mouth was stretched in a grimace. walked idly over to the safe and patted the smooth steel top. His brain had stopped working because for the moment it simply could not accept the inconceivable thing that was happening. They seemed to favour the night for bringing these things in. . Another dull hammer-blow made his e ars sing with the reverberation. Idly he thought about Lis a. but fai led to keep it. The thing had stopped moving. waiting. and a piece of wall. H e had used her for so long as a living toy that to consider her now as a person was beyond him. the house trembled at a giant blow as if a colossal hammer had been swung at the wall. Three men and two wome n in all. falling. and was acutely disappointed. he had made an appointment with Brunel. Probably Fraser supplied the stooges. He picked up his drink and sipped at it. tumbled into the room. The floor shook. He jumped away and ran to snatch up the gun. nagging at his subconscious. against the outer wall and just above the safe. His arm felt numb. Chance ignored them. No sound except the steady throb of the m obile crane's engine outside That was it. leaving a great hole beside the safe. Everything was quiet. for instance. suddenly alert. and Chance ag reed. A beautiful safe. That was Brunel's opinion. He yawned and looked about him resentfully. a tracked vehicle. But what was the real play? Chance t hought it likely that there wasn't one any longer. He dropped the curtain. One had been from a m an purporting to sell insurance. impossibly. Better to have left a loophole. listening to a noise outside that was f amiliar. but unfortunately none of them had been either Modesty Blaise or Wi llie Garvin. A lighter blow knocked away the ragged edge of brickwork near the safe. There were two of J acko's girlie magazines on the table. too. You could not disguise yourself to deceive somebody who knew what you looked like and was expecting deception. and now he saw the impossible hammer . Chance felt the floor shake beneath his feet. and a big piece of plaster fell from the ceiling. Disguise had its limits. too bor ed even to make the effort of alleviating his boredom. or making a consumer survey. It swung through the hole and into the room. and he had just taken over from Jacko. but he was not curious enough to pursue the question. It wa s a pity Brunel had taken such complete precautions. It would be a while before Brunel gave him the okay again. but that was all right. He was conv inced now that they would not come. It was three-fifteen. Chance got up and drew the curtain aside slightly.357 revolver lay on the small table at his elbow beside a half empty tumble r of weak whisky and soda. That was where the blow had fallen. the arm he had b een resting on top of the safe. or offe ring to service electrical appliances. He tried to locate it. The engine was fairly quiet. There had been callers at the house. He was bored. For the last four days they had all been holed up in this house. They were collecting for charity. vaguely. Four days now since he had been with her. and the re came the sound of splintering wood. Not very long. Last night there had been two bulldozers.

end shovel-loader. In the road outside. then the hammer slid away and swung out into the darkness. Adrian Chance was met by Brunel and Jacko as he threw open the study door. A builder's to get out to them. Set in the ball was a heavy steel chain. that. It was swinging towards him again. To one side. you could play with that ton of steel like a tenn is ball on a string. The safe. For a moment it caught the edg e of the safe. Willie was waiting at the controls of the cat. She did not try to imagine what it might be. a control c abin with the tall derrick rising in front of it. N ow the end of the floor joists beneath the safe had no support. his scarred face crinkling in a grin as he let out the hoist a few feet. stood a smaller machine on caterpillar track s. his hands moving on the three levers in front of him. twisting it and breaking its adhesion to the weakened wall. dropping it through a reinforced concrete roof. The voices were never hurri ed. slippers on his small feet. The ball struck precisely where he had aimed it. The hammer struck. toppled outwards and fell to the pavement with a single loud. She could hear Jacko's voice. Wee Jock Miller had promised nine ty seconds.' He plunged down the stairs. Wee Jock spared a glance in that direction. ready for another blow. but it was not needed. and only one woman. She always got what was needed for a job. Two minutes maxi mum for this part of the job. aiming to strike just below where the safe stood. A lovely machine. the thing squatted on its tracks. Wee Jock Miller had trusted few men in his life. You could use the ball like a pile-driver. He had seen the side of it after flicki ng the ball into the room to drag the edge of broken brickwork away. When you jugg led those controls just right. Jacko clattered after him. the great s teel ball dangling from the hawser like a pendulum bob. sa id. Something wrong was happening . The wall above the safe shivered and split. 'They're after the whole bloody safe! Downstairs . and with a little luck he would even trim that time. telling her what she must do. Willie had said. The voices remained silent. The joists sagged . The crane was a twenty-three ton Ruston Bucyrus with a fifty-five foot derrick. crunching clang. Brickwork shattered and fell. and a slewing lever. Chance ran towa rds the hole. and attached to this two thick wir e hawsers. As Chance watched with starting eyes the hawsers tightened and the mo nstrous hammer was dragged back through the hole. you could slew the derrick to swing the ball like a pendulum. He slewed the de rrick smoothly. watching the swing of t he ball. its surface pitted and scar red. dust and sweat mingling on his fa ce. The r oom was full of dust. Breaking free of the shock that seemed to have locked his limbs. the front. and pushed the slewing lever forward. with bits of brickwork still adhering to its back. like a jackal wa iting for the lion to glut himself. 'Yes?' 'Demolition thing! Hammer!' Chance jerked out. shouting. He did not wonder how she had come by it. swinging away now. He ha d served her for four years in the old days of The Network. It was there all right. She f elt no surprise for it had happened this way before. . There was a clutch for the hoist and an other for the dragline. and Chance flung himself wildly across the room. Lisa lay in bed. Wee Jock Mi ller pursed his lips and made careful calculations in his head. It stood in the exact position marked on the plan Modesty Blaise had produced for him. A go od plan. O nly way. Brunel followed thoughtfu lly. Brunel. in Wee Jock's critical opinion. or you could use the horizontal dragl ine to draw it back for a forward swing. but listened for the voices to sp eak in her head. Bricks crumbled o ver the safe. listening. Wee Jock Miller chewed on the end of an unlit cigarette. timing it with the swing. with steel arms bearing the long toothed scoop of a shovel-loader. his feet resting on t he two brakes. In the instant befor e he did so he saw that the machine was not alone. without haste. In her room. or she didn't send you in. in a dressing-gown.The thing was a great ball of steel two feet across. a footbrake for each. Sitting in the cab of the ball and chain demolition crane. staring into the darkness. The house sh ook again. They always considered carefully before telling her what she must do.

' In the study. Not only the Singapore papers but everything else in the safe. Modesty Blaise did not look like a woman at this moment. The clock in Willie's head had ticked off ninety seconds only. so that the great teeth of the sh ovel screeched on the pavement before thrusting under the scattering of rubble o n which the safe lay. eyes streaming.' he snarled. with t he help of the dannert wire that she and Willie had off-loaded from the van and piled in the porch and across the front windows while Wee Jock was striking his first blow. wearing a long mac. watching the shovel-loader lung e towards the fallen safe. Something flashed through the hole and passed over his head at a steep angle. The operator said. then turned and followed them. to be rep laced by a cold and aching desire. Adrian Chance wrenched open the front door and made one stride before he managed to bring himself to a halt. Which service do you require?' Brunel said. too. h e turned and groped his way to the door. He could see nobody. Something would have to be done about her. Brunel st ood aside to let them pass. Brunel accepted the fact coldly. She would have the getaway all worked out. Brunel was dialling 999. 'Back upstairs. to break against the ceiling. but not to the study. He had lost this one.' He switc hed off the engine and jumped down from the cab. and he was well c ontent. so all-consuming that he moaned softly as it racked him. to the drawing-roo m. put on the lights and picked up the telephone. Willie Garvin had driven the cat hard forward. The coup was original in conception and could not be countered now. a yearning for revenge. He did not believe that calling the police would serve any purpose. could only hear the noise of a tracked vehicle from round the corner by the windowless wall. his face scratched. It looked like a big red Post O ffice van. but it was the necessary thing to do. blindly. 'Emergency . his clothes caught in the barbs of coiled dannert wire piled high in the porch and across the narrow strip betw een the railings and the front window. That was very bad. It was the n than he knew there was nothing to be done. Gasping. Chance and Jacko were fla iling about to no purpose. And she wo uld be ready. Wullie boy. The t errible hammerblows had stopped now. Yes. The doors stood open. He fired on ce. Wee Jock Miller had done a beautiful job with the ball and chain. The police. then cannone d painfully into Jacko as he groped his way back to the stairs. The fury went out of him. With one hand held to his eyes. He was not worried about interference from the house. Modesty Blaise h ad thought of it at leisure twenty-four hours ago or more. more. Again his eyes began to burn and stream. A shower of dust and broken bricks fell as he tilted the s coop and lifted the safe in its belly. please. Cradled in one arm was the compressed-air . Chance edged forward across the creaking floor. and heard glass shatter as the bullet hit a wall mirror. he tore free of the barbed wire and slammed the door shut.Wee Jock muttered with deep satisfaction. and were ready to delay any passerby or policema n on the beat with the clinging persistence of the truly drunk. Carefully Willie backed the cat away and killed the engine. you stupid bastard!' Chance almost screamed the words. see king to pick up the safe in its scoop. Neither was he worried about anyone coming accidentally on the scene . Quick!' 'But you said ' 'Back upstairs. A figure ran past. gun in hand. 'No good. Modesty was covering that. They had set up portable 'No Entry' signs five minutes ago. rolling the safe and broken bricks out on to the thick mattresses laid o n the floor. Fraser had a man at all approaches to the square. and tears running down his dust-coated cheeks. Choking fumes rose up to sear his nose and eyes. The shovel-loader would be taking over. He glanced behind him and backed towards the Morris van waiting twenty yards up the road. As they ran into the shattered room he turned the other way. Whatever Chance and Jacko might think of trying. 'Beat that then. he co uld fire down at the man on the control seat. Somethi ng fell at his feet and broke. complete. He cam e running past the cat now as Willie turned it and eased the shovel up to the op en van. trousers and a beret. She would have the safe. If he could get to the hole safely.

' He scowled. and said. Jock. The van took the slope smoothly. A car pulled out ahead. One man wore a sheepskin jacket and a cap. At the wheel. with its two-inch diameter barrel. Halfway along the underpass the road was blocked by a huge removal truck. She said. The two cars and the van stopped. a Mercedes. Jock. The Jag followed.' It was Fraser's voice. The Jag had pulled up behind. Thirty s econds ahead of schedule. just a bumbling obstruction of any police car that came on the scene. The man in t he sheepskin jacket turned and gave a thumbs-up sign. Wil lie moved to peer out of the small rear window.' 'Eh?' He glowered. in a black topcoat and bowler hat. Wee Jock Miller had brought down four drivers from his garage in Glasgow to pro vide interference if a chase began. Two minutes and ten seconds. The engine roared and the truck began to lumber on its way. Modesty spoke into the transceiver. Willie Garvin gave a sigh of satisfaction. 'Three minutes. He was moving at fifteen mph as the front wheels met the ramp. Modesty was sitting on the tail of the van now. Red lights and a 'No Entry' sign for the under pass. keeping a comfortable distance. The lights were ag ainst him. 'Jock. Nothing obvious. The ta ll doors stood open. The Jag driver slipped her into gear and said. Wee Jock was heading towards Knightsbridge at a steady speed. and the approach t o the Hyde Park Corner underpass. The Mercedes kept left for the Hyde Park Corner roundabout. which she had used for placing the teargas bombs. He gunn ed the engine once. 'We'd ha' cut it by five seconds if Wullie'd been a bit smarter wi' the cat. past a 'No Entry' sign and a solitary man who was fumbling his way unsteadily round the corning. 'That's it then. and they fell in fifty yards behind it. of course.gun. Wee Jock took off as they closed the doors. you got it. Mam'selle.' . As soon as they had finished Willie sta rted to block the wheels of the van.' She smiled. you're a lovely man. There would be two more cars lurking on the route ahead. Thirty seconds later they moved on again. perhaps a little more. That's a hundred an' sixty quid he's doon.' 'I'll make sure he pays up. Willie was beside her as she climbed into the back of the van. an' he laid me a fiver for every second under two minutes. Wee Jock Miller squinted balefully with his one good eye as he judged speed and distance. The man in the sheepskin coat and Fraser closed the big doors of the removal tru ck and moved forward to the cab. Jock? All finish ed?' 'Aye. Do you read me?' A voice replied simply. 'That was for auld time's sake. 'All the same. you'll be hearing from me.' He looked past her at the safe.' He snorted. The other was Fraser. got out of the cab and helped the sheepskinned man slide one of the channels up into the truck.' He still called her by the name all men but Willie had called her in The Network days. its engine id ling. A Jaguar was following. You wouldn't like me to th ink you're sentimental would you? On your way now. His scarred face cr eased in a villainous grin. clinging to the railings. Eighty seconds had passed since the Post Office van had entered the underpass. Knightsbridge now. yet keeping just enough way on her to bring the rear wheels up and over the top of the channels. switched on. 'Three minutes. and two men were setting long steel channels to form a ramp from the roadway to the interior of the truck. And thanks again. The van that l ooked like a Post Office van swerved past the sign and went on down the tunnel. He did not look up as they passed. Modesty picked up the small transceiver which lay in a padded box in one corner of the van. I'll be in touch. It was so beautifully judged that Wee Jock scarcely had to touch the brakes to halt th e van. jumped down from the truck and got in beside the driver of the Jag. just. 'Anyway. The van headed out of the squar e. But you'll come out with a lot more than side-bets. He cut the engine. Willie Garvin had opened the van doors and wa s helping Fraser with the other channel. losing impetus as the front wheels reached the reinforced floor of the truck. hard.

it matters. he felt relaxed and wonderfully cont ent. Twenty minutes later the truck drove into a big garage on the river near Greenwi ch. Willie and the man in the sheepskin coat were assembling a thermic lance. 'Better wait till we know what's inside before you go overboard with complimen ts. Fraser had arranged that. Not a thing. He trusted his people. then at Modesty again.' Modesty said. It did not matter anywa y. T hey were the salt and the essence of it. then smiled the most human and genuine smile she had ever seen on Jack Fraser's face. He put the lighter to his own cigarette. coping s o smoothly that the snags were often turned to advantage as if they had been par t of the plan. The establishment operated as an ordinary garage. 'You look like something out of an old silent movie. as if having a mental struggle to reconcile the two. At the Knightsbridge end of the underpass a man in overalls climbed out of a Wat er Board van and began to take away the 'No Entry' sign. When the doors of the garage had been closed and the safe hoisted out with block and tackle. the male trousers and shoes. Fraser took off his hat and lifted the little transceiver. of having climbed a high mountain. There was always this difference between them. Modesty Blaise was beside him. Jimmy boy. the bere t hiding her hair. Fraser said softly. and he switched off. A voice repeated the words to him. 'All about? What the hell was what all about?' he growled. declared her sex. She looked a weird sight in the shapeless mac buttoned to her neck. And when they were past there came the sense of well-being that was already seeping into the marrow of his bones. during the run-up to it.' . 'Nothi ng. Fraser stood gazing down at it with a dreamy look on his pinched fa ce. 'Better?' 'Much better. what a lovely job. the h eady sense of having drunk nectar.' He turned away and brought a wooden chair for her to sit on. covered with dust and scratched by the sho vel-loader's great steel teeth. Princess. Well.' He looked at the safe. At this momen t the repair shop was empty. and why. 'Did ye notice something. That was the time when she was most at ease. I did n't 'alf enjoy that. They were what really made the game. As he dumped it dow n he said.' 'Then don't ask bloody fool questions. but I'm not much good at it. then shook his head slowly from side to side.'What the hell was it all about?' Wee Jock Miller turned a venomous glare upon him. His own tensions came before a caper. Brunel must be spitting blood. Her tensions were short-lived but always came afterwards.' Fraser looked at her.' 'I don't think he goes in for strong emotions. though perhaps he alone knew her well enough to read the signs. That was when she took unexpected snags in her stride. 'It doesn't matter what's inside. the lovely composed face with the strongly arc hed eyebrows. Where's yer fags?' In the passenger seat of the cab. 'For God's sake take that bloody beret off at least.' She pulled off the beret and shook out her hair. 'Just like old times. He said. I'll tell you this.' and waited. I'm trying to say thank you the right way. though. In the light of the small flame he saw the tension in her eyes now. intrigued to have found a soft spot in the hard shell he wore . 'but he'll be thin king hard. wonderingly. For himself. It had not been there before. Only the face. 'Jesus. Jock. You had to feel the tensions sometime. 'I don't know. watching her.' He saw her quick smile before the lighter clicked off. but the staff were careful ly chosen men whose wages came out of Sir Gerald Tarrant's budget. or seemed to be. Ever. At last he prodded the safe irritably w ith his umbrella and said. Sitting on the safe. I've sometimes won dered just what it was that Willie Garvin felt about you. Willie Garvin leaned forward and held a lighter to Modesty' s cigarette. Now I've got the idea. bu t it was a firm principle not to let any man know more than he had to know for a particular operation. 'All clear now. He patted the corner of the safe and said. Jack. but it doesn't ch ange anything. Jimmy?' The driver pursed his lips. ' he said.' She looked at him.

It was a nice dream. say. 'Gangway. The safe. chafing his hands. was tilted slightly with one edge of the base resting on the g round. All right if you're sitting in a cellar and cutting through the wall into a bank.' She glanced at him in surprise. the cutting f lame isn't directed into the safe. watching the cherry-red line of the cut as the lance sl iced through the toughened steel. and almost at once little globules of molten metal began falling to the concrete floor. of course. this wintry day was a suitable welcome home to a wintry future. 'That one has a nineteen millimetre bore. That's the w hole idea. That way. He was the man Willie emplo yed as manager. This was the pub Willie Ga rvin had bought when he retired. 'For God's sake. I must be gettin g past it. 'Aren't you interested to see what else might be inside? This is Brunel's safe.' 'Eh? What reason?' She turned with a touch of impatience now. It was only a few minutes pa st nine. 'I've heard about these things. Fraser said. Willie's going to open this one by chamf ering the edge where the lock is.' Fraser looked sour and stabbed inaccurately with his umbrella at a spider scuttl ing across the floor. For him. fo r he spent less than half his time here. But t he equipment's too cumbersome for a quick in-and-out job in somebody's drawing-r oom. is that they can't be used very easily on the site where a safe's likely to be. The other man followed carrying a dozen six-foot sectio ns of thermic lance. Fraser wasn't getting past it. He was simply i n a state of high excitement he had not known for quite a few years now. He grinned suddenly and said.Willie Garvin said. that's why you need plenty of s ections. and basically they're pretty si mple. Tarrant knew him. "You're joking?' "No. but I've never seen one work. 'When a chit of a girl teaches me my job. feeling tired and old. 'I've just r ealized. if you're a safe-breaker. it wouldn't matter a damn if we did destroy what's inside. She sai d. The only snag with a thermic lance.' She nodded towards the lance sections as the man set them down. Do you expect me to give him a handful of ashes?' It was a wintry morning when the Daimler which had picked up Sir Gerald Tarrant at Heathrow pulled into the carpark of The Treadmill. You ignite the thing by pre-heating the tip with an ordinary gas cutting blowpipe.' Fraster watched the operation with sober respect. Will ie. halfway down the side. a very sound man to whom Willie thankfully delegated almost ever . wearing a welder's mask. and a man was checking th e array of bottles behind the bar. A girl was pushing a polisher over the floor. If he lived so long. Tarrant went in. Once it's g oing. the oxygen reacts with the iron in the rods to produce terrific heat. still held horizonta lly by the hoist.' 'Wouldn't that kind of heat destroy what's inside the safe?' 'It's so intense and cuts so fast that you get surprisingly little radiation eff ect.' 'And how long will this take?' 'About an hour.' he said gloomily. of course. Running a pub had quickly proved too te dious. Tarrant was not sure why Willie retained it. She gave a little smile. but Fraser saw the steel surface itself change colour. You can drill a hole through eight feet of granite in less than fifteen min utes. You have to be careful. don't you remember w hy I'm here.' 'It's quite dramatic. 'There's still the most important reason for getting the Singapore papers out intact. You' re burning up the lance all the time.' He stared at her. The flame applied to the safe was almost colourless. Given another tw enty years it might suit Willie ideally. so that the slag would fall clear rather than run into the interior. just a steel tube packed with steel rods burning in oxygen. but one achieved too early in life. Jack? Those papers are Tarrant's birthday present.' and wheeled a low trolley bearing two big oxygen cylinders past the safe. had ignited the lance with an oxyacetylene blowpipe .

He mo ved on a pace and opened the inner door. don't you. The outer door had been pushed to. leaving him with hands thrust deep in his trouser pockets. this cold weather. She's terribly nice. if that's what it is. 'Perhaps I'll see you again later. there was something indefinably appealing about him.' he said cheerfully.' . but I don't think she expected you so early. Tarrant said. Quite interesting. The rest was a combination of gymnasium. I hope your though ts about the gall-stone prove satisfactory. gre at folds of the ancient sweater drooping about him like wrinkles of rhinoceros h ide. No. 'Why.' Tarrant agreed. Ther e's Dr Pennyfeather wandering about outside. Extraordinary business. Adrian Chance stood looking do wn from the window on the lines of traffic below. combat dojo. and said. and they're dead. waiting for a job somewhere.. You go on in. and shor t archery range. Giles Pennyfeather. As Tarrant approached. of Modesty's really. of Collier's keen intellect. Tarrant had known one or t wo of her men in the past. old and new.' said Tarrant. 'You'd better ring through and ask them to let me in. she's terribly nice.' He jerked his thumb towards the windowless building. A friend of Willie's?' 'Well. Hagan.' Chance said tautly.' The man turned. Jacko was slumped in an armchair. I left the doors unlocked. it's you.' Tarrant moved on. pistol range. 'I expect you're Sir Gerald Tarrant. and could be entered only through double steel doors.' Tarrant's eyebrows lifted slightly but he asked no questions.' Pennyfeather repeated pensively. of Dall's immense personalit y.' 'Yes. 'Give us forty-eight hours.y aspect of the work. John Dall. Mr Spurling. but he found 'boyfriend' coy and 'young man' nauseating. you know..' 'That's right. wearing a huge sweater which looked as if it had been wo ven from grey rope. 'Just give us the word. As he made his way down the brick path he saw a lean-faced gangling man with a s hort bush of fair hair. He seemed a woolly-minded young man. If that's what it is. His rather unmatched features wore a smile that was oddly engaging. that's all you have to do. not appealing. sir?' Tarrant knew the way. Tarrant hesitated mentally over the word. but swung open at Tarrant's touch. bu t a bit alarming if you know what I mean.' Mr Spurling glanced out of the window at the end of the bar. 'No need.' He waved towards the building again. Willie Garvin's workshop occupied only one end of it. the man stopped swingin g his arms and came forward. then it seemed likely that he was Modesty's c urrent. She's in the wor kshop with Mr Garvin. The place was soundp roof. Miss Blaise said you migh t be coming along. Rather odd. sir. idly turning the pages of a morning newspaper.' They shook hands. In the drawing-room of a suite at the Dorchester. the American tycoon. I really came out here to have a think ab out Mrs Leggett's gall-stone. 'Thank you. smiled. well. None of Hagan's toughness. I believe Mr Spurling referred to you as a doctor. Engaging. you know. his face sullen. sir. so don't hang on for me. It contained Willie's remarkable collection of weapons. They had all been very different. Jolly nice after Africa. Col lier the urbane scholar with the pretty wit. 'Good morning. of course. b ut this one was more so. So Pennyfeather was probably that to her. that mad e him sound like a spaniel. suddenly eager to see Modesty again. 'Ah. 'Hallo. and settled for lover.' 'M'mm. I've been staying at her place for a couple of weeks now. 'Chuc king each other all over the shop. He also knew that the long low building behind the pub was rather more than a workshop. How do you do?' 'I'm Pennyfeather.. Tarrant brushed a few flakes of snow from his coat and sai d. She sort of picked me up in Tanzania when I was in a bit of a jam.. And yet. Brunel sat on t he couch. He was mildly surprised. 'Just came out for a b reather.' Tarrant said. He was standing with his back to the river and appeared to b e doing deep-breathing exercises. Old-f ashioned. there. perhaps? Unexpectedly Pennyfeather said. You know the way. If Pennyfea ther was staying at the penthouse. 'Look. the agent. They've been havi ng a scrap in there. His arms were folded and he wa s very tense. 'I do know what you mean.

So do we just go home and do nothing?' 'Not at all.. Tarrant's department will have their hands on everything.'I see.. It's pleasant to kill two birds with one stone.' Chance murmured. But too great a degree of submissiveness might affect those qualities in her which alone interest me.' Brunel said calmly. If you could assure me that your efforts would secure the recover y of all that was in the safe. But it's too l ate for that. 'How you aim to get hold of her?' 'I shall begin by going to see her. Jacko . We could use a mind as clever as that. With anyone. 'It bears no fr uit. I'd like that.' said Brunel. Do you understand me?' Adrian Chance's face lost a little of its colour.' he said with a touch of impatience. like a man trying to state a proposition that was inherently self-e vident.' Th e little man opened his eyes suddenly.' Jacko grunted approval. It can be a very us eful practice. half closing his eyes.' Chance schooled his manner to polite ness.' 'Brain-washing . and for the first time in many hours some o f the tension went out of him. fortunately. 'They've already got away with it. As you point out. I believe it may be possible to break into her acceptance of the i dea without destroying the essential qualities I wish to retain in her. 'I've no interest in r evenge as an end in itself.' Chance sat down. 'She'll have to be ensn ared very delicately. 'They'd be dead.. yes. It will require a selective and nicely judged brain-washing technique. Adrian. and the hand he smoothed over his silver hair was not quite steady. I'd be happy to give you the word.' Chance gestured helplessly.' 'You're confusing subtlety of execution with subtlety of conception. steepling his fingers to touch the tips gently together.. to take any insolence from the words. We already have Pennyfeather on the scene.' he said between his teeth. so perhaps I'll use the Novikov Proj ect as bait. Brunel returned to his newspaper. thinking his own anticipatory thoughts. hardly listening. 'You're also speaking in a manner which i s so insolent as to be dangerous. I want that bitc h licking our hands. W hat purpose will it serve?' Chance turned. 'Oh my God. 'They've done so. they have. When will you ever learn to be a realist. 'I got carried away. I've always felt tha t death puts an end to the possibilities of revenge. Adrian?' Chance stared out of the window. How do you visual ize these things? Do you see Blaise and Garvin sitting on a cloud in heaven or a rock in hell. and a small hungry smile to uched his eyes. 'You insisted on kee ping the stuff in the safe and you predicted they'd try something subtle. but one which doesn't compromise us. He stared into space. of course. yes . gnashing their teeth in eternal fury because they've been killed by you and Jacko? I can't really believe it works that way. 'And suppose you achieve that.' 'Then give us seventy-two hours. of course. you know. 'I was thinking what an excel lent employee she might make. holding his anger under rigid control. So the y come along and very subtly knock a bloody great hole in the house and make off with the whole bloody safe. 'Why not?' 'Because she'd never go into partnership with you. Blaise has been too clever for us on this occasio n. Twenty-four hours in hell before they go. Adrian. 'We'll put them down slo wly. A valuab le haul. you can't just let Blaise and Garvin get away with it!' Brunel put the paper aside and leaned back.' Brunel did not look up from the paper. Adrian. Brunel.' 'Use Blaise?' Chance whipped round. 'Isn't that enough?' Brunel looked up curiously. 'I think not.' 'But for God's sake. So don't make the mistake of trying to achieve your objective at t he expense of mine. 'I'm sorry. 'I don't quite follow you. gazing incredulously. I have nothing against torture in principle.' He shrugged and gave a sour l augh. but I have one or two ideas which might develop admirably.' 'Working for you? That's even more absurd.' he said. Now that intrigues me. 'Yes. 'I wasn't thinking of a partnership. will you?' Jacko said.' Chance said urgently.' he said. 'I don't wish to deny you your pleasures.' Brunel looked at him.

'Do you know what this man's tastes are? W hat kind of thing he likes from a girl?' 'I've no information. l ighting up that section like a stage. she mus t obey or they would drive her into madness. And no matter what they told her to do. she was a girl named Jeannie. She simply complie d with Brunel's instructions. my dear. I'll talk to you later about where and when you can make contact with him. delirious men. 'I want Garvin to know Lisa's been put in by me.' Brunel said. that he's a very bad man indeed. Novikov babbled. First we have to disorientate her. 'You know. Garvin will certainly have to go. 'Yes. of course. but we have to be realistic.' CHAPTER FIVE Standing in the inner doorway. Fraser will have warned him. and kept that small meaningless smile. The right friend liness at the right moment. 'And especially now. He's good. In the drawing-room of the suite Adrian Chance was saying. no matter how terrible or humiliating. Seeking an anchor of reality. but this was not a fact which perturbed him at all. Run along now. Brunel would tell her. pleaded.said.' H e stood up. Dying men. but she could not fight the voices.' There was a tap on the door and Lisa entered. The right shock at the right moment. Lisa. His Enemy was always their E nemy. To him she said briskly.' She went out into the corridor. And the man who heard his babbling was Dr Giles Pennyfeather.' He lit a cigarette. They did not hear. but he does. ' I want to go to the shops for some make-up.' She felt a little sickness in the pit of her stomach. a small compact figure. and a white blouse. The right degree of brutality at the right moment. and I' m reluctant to discard the idea of using him. She said. Do you remember me mentioning a man called Garvin?' 'Yes. The fluorescents at the far end were switched on. and strolled to the window. And you don't have to be smart to recognize an albino coming at you. in love with a Cavalie r being hunted down by Cromwell's men. 'Garvin will have to go. of Puritan stock. Her fa ce bore the usual meaningless little smile that was her customary expression whe n in the company of any of these three men. when we start to tame the Blaise girl we must be very careful in our timing.' His emphasis gave the word a capital letter. If he didn't know before. Perhaps only Brunel knew that it was an entirely mechanical expression. she thought of the book she was reading. Tarrant found himself in shadow. As sh e waited.' He smiled. only commanded. Will it be all right if I go now?' 'Of course. In fact. A radio was playing a Cole Porter selectio . a suede coat over her arm. an Enemy. She might have argued.' Jacko laughed. Toget her they make a much too formidable team. Brunel ignored him and went on thoughtfully. She wore a smart black suit with a gold brooch on the lapel. thought of the young seventeenth-century heroine with whom she was identifying. and allowed only a tiny part of her mind to deal with the unrealit y of Brunel. did not respond. we've now discovered what we suspected. walked to the lift and pressed the button. and when you've achieved that I shall be read y to tell you what to do next.' 'That's right. 'So I shall wan t you to become intimate with him. an histor ical romance. 'Garvin will know she 's your creature. There was no nat ural light in the gymnasium.' Brunel said. 'Well. even fought against Brunel. torn between love and duty.' Brunel said pleasantly. I remember. Again. 'We always like you to be as beaut iful as possible. are babblers. I t should be an interesting exercise. and then the voices in her head would reinforce his wishes. but her expression did not change.' She felt the prickle of goose-flesh on her skin. 'He may not realize he knows anything. 'but I'm sure I can rely on you to be discer ning in the matter. Since they had moved to the hotel at early dawn she had made no reference to any thing she had heard or seen during the night. She had long since learned never t o refer to anything strange or frightening that might happen.' Brunel's voice was placid. in the right way and at the right time. 'You still reckon this Pennyfeather knows something?' 'I'm quite sure of it.

for to him it seemed that this above all brought out perfection of the f emale body in form and movement. As she continued. Her arms were extended backwards. The jumping-about bit. Modesty. and watched now with profound pleasure as she circled to a hand-stand. Willie stalked after her. and dropped lightly to the mat. With the rest of it. She mimed panic. which had been waiting for him at the airport. Willie spun her round. rather like fencing masks. the little fingers curled in a refined manner.' She turned. and gracefully stra ightened her up. She mimed fear. They were playing out their high comedy not for an audience but . as the music changed. pirouetting.' He put down his burden. 'Right. Tarrant decided that she was i mproving. 'I'm going to buy you a soul for your next birthday. 'Ah. strutted back. It was a relaxed routine. She finished with a spectacular fly-away somersaul t dismount. Modesty applauded. Willie said. but her knees were stuck and she could not rise. Tarrant felt a sudden enormous sense of guilt. made a jump change to undergrip and fol lowed with a giant back circle. Princess. She to uched down. and he very much doubted that any other eyes had ever seen them as he saw them now. Still Tarrant did not move. lovely in its fluency and seemingly effortle ss in its execution. rolling her eyes ludicrously. He owed Modesty Blaise a great deal. and ballet music filled the gym. a ballet-lover like herself. she composed her features and cam e running forward on the tips of her toes. took her ears between fing er and thumb. but always with that touch of exaggeration which brought an effect of high come dy to the performance. and it called for strength to cope with the five g's exerted in the long ci rcles. enjoying a little guiltily the pleasure of watching her unobserved. Their limbs and bodies made the classic movements. Modesty Blaise was at The Treadmill and wanted to see him urgently. One movement flowed sweetly into the next. then!' He bounded after her in a series of passable cabriol es. As far as he could tell she showed no signs of tension or anxiet y. According to Fra ser's message. and so he had driven straight to Willie's pub. leaping. then walked over to the radio and be gan to turn the tuning dial. He said. miming. Hip circles now. the broad swinging rhythm of the Blue Bird movement. Then they were off again. and was almost grateful for a chance to repay. Slowly Willie lowered her. miming wrath a nd menace as she shrank away. Urgently was a word she would never use lightly. he r feet turned out a little as she ran. his legs crossing rapidly in a series of brisés. He wore white slacks and a T-shirt . as he had seen her look at times after a demanding exploit. Tarrant stood still. her head thrust forward on the long graceful neck and turning from side to side. He was spying on them. watching t hem at play. Then. She ado pted the straddle-legged and bent knee posture that Tarrant. had always found rather incongruous. recalli ng all the distinctive characteristics of ballet dancing with scandalous mockery . performed a fouetté. then?' He sprang into the air. There was nothing to be done about them anyway. Brunel and the Singapore papers could wait . very young. now that's the only sort of ballet I like watching. It called for perfect coordination of every mus cle. He found this puzzling now. whirled in a pir ouette and faced him again. She had found another station on the radio. spinning rou nd with each giant stride as he circled the far end of the gym. I always seem to laugh in the wrong plac es. and was carrying two protective helmets. then leapt again . smiled. Wi llie strutted away. It was a wickedly excellent bur lesque. watching.n. Willie Garvin came into view f rom behind the corner of the shower cubicles. Of all sports he liked best to watch women's gymn astics. A back uprise and fall turn. It could only mean she needed his help in some way. wearing a leotard. took her by the waist and lifted her from behind. and some s ections of protective body padding. 'How's this. and the look of aesthetic bliss on his craggy brown face enhanced it. on the contrary she looked very relaxed. pursuing her. pushed back a sweat-damp piece of hair and said. was exercising on the horizontal bar. retreating. He had not seen her on the horizontal bar before.

with love.' She came towards him. Sir Gerald. Now. 'When I was a great deal younger.' 'Good morning. so I celebrate three times a year. He said. Willie.for themselves alone.' 'Cake? What the hell are you talking about. She said.' Tarrant said.' 'My plane was on time and I came straight from Heathrow. The sheer exuberance of it. and walked across to where he had left the masks and the body padding.' . 'Well. and it came as an absurdly moving surprise to h im to realize that what their smiles mainly held was affection.' She stood beside Willie. and that's nice. pulling the door to. He was enjoying himself too much to allow his plea sure to be marred by it. Too flexible for anything in hard covers. Willie?' 'Your birthday present. and now he quite deliberately thr ust aside all sense of guilt. and the skill of their improv ised mimicry.' Tarrant shrugged. 'I bet Dame Margot never thought of that bit. Sir Gerald. an arm round his waist. 'I've always allowed Fraser plenty of leeway for initiative. 'His message certainly managed to create that impression. A book? A rare book? No. changed her grip as she swung over the to p. But good God. a nd I suppose he decided on the degree of urgency. 'Well. 'You got 'er e quick. so you'll just 'ave to to take it as it comes. and walked into the gym calling.' She smoothed back her hair.' Willie helped him off with his coat. He said. and he simply stood there in the shadows of the doorway .' 'My birthday? Today?' Tarrant looked at the ceiling for a moment. and looked from one to the other of them. I tho ught you needed my help?' She smiled. her face alight wi th the exhilaration of the romp. 'I 'm sorry it's not gift-wrapped. A ca ke. Willie laughed happily and said. They were smiling at him. 'Yes. I don't know when my birth day is.' 'You must put it to her. 'Catch. unashamed. but you know that. 'Fraser' s message said you needed to see me urgently.' Modesty and Willie exchanged a glance. 'Good to see you. I seem to remember I always tried to guess before opening a present. 'We were going to make a big deal of it. or at least defiant of his scruples.' Tarrant sat.' She walked across the gym and through the door in to Willie's workshop. then he banged on it with the palm of his hand. 'That's ridiculous.' he said.' Modesty came through from the workshop carrying a small brown-paper package.' She put the package in his hands. let's 'ave a go with the sticks then. 'Do sit down. but we thought you'd go to the office first and com e along whenever it was convenient. They were not far from the horizontal bar. 'I wouldn't want to make Rudolf jealous. The movement ended. pushing it open. He said a little brusquely. made Tarrant sigh with pleasure.' He kissed her hand. Willie said. 'Just a minute. 'Fraser's a liar. what's this all ab out. resting his hands on his knees. Willie. She caught the bar. It was extraordinary that they should like him. Willie had just lifted her above his head with a hand on sho ulder and thigh. what's the trouble?' 'Trouble? Did Fraser say that?' Tarrant frowned. They both bore scars of battles fought for him. watching Modesty Blaise and Wi llie Garvin at play. He fingered his moustache. But we didn't reckon on seeing you till after lunc h. fas tened with sticky tape. She said. I don't go in for celebrating birthdays at my age. Willie following. We do want to see you. move those things off the locker. just touching the hands ready to steady her. then?' Modesty said. but never mind. and candles and all that.' an d threw her at it. 'G ood morning.' Tarrant drew back a pace very quietly. Would you like coffee? Something to eat?' 'Nothing at all.' Tarrant fingered the package. thank you. The Princess 'as been on about it for the last couple of weeks now. and dropped to the floor facing him. 'You got her e earlier than we expected. 'From Willie and me. you're r ight.

then gravely shook Willie's hand. We stole them.' he said.' She said. 'Read all about it. and Fr aser mentioned the papers as a rather bitter joke.. and bent forward to kiss her on each cheek in turn. We took it from there. The headline screamed: THE WRECKERS! Fantastic Robbery in Heart of London. very thoughtful indeed. The wrapping fell away. 'Jesus Christ Almighty. Tarrant drew in a quick breath of astonish ment. The Princess chose it.' he said.' Willie said sagely 'From Brunel's place? From that safe? My dear. but he would value this more. Putting down the Singapore papers he rose to his feet. looking at the papers he held. That's a very rude question when somebody gives yo u a present. 'I rather wondered that you didn't know about it when you arrived. There's something in them which might have warned me. We examined e very angle ' Tarrant broke off helplessly. We fixed a dead cut-off on every line they could follow. Fraser had described them minutely in his report.' 'It's cheaper.' Tarrant took out a small penknife and slipped the blade under the fold of the wr apping paper.' 'We're glad you're pleased. It's just what I wanted. 'T hank you both very much indeed. and it's a bit special. Don't be angry with him about it.' Modesty took his arm and they moved back into the g ym. covered with a rounded handwriting in violet ink. though. 'I've never had more t han the sketchiest account from you. Then wit h a great effort he rallied his wits. How much did these cost you?' Willie laughed. i s there? And Fraser didn't want to spoil your surprise. then let it out slowly and began to read. Tarrant sat staring at the sheaf of papers for long seconds. Brunel happened to be there at The Legend. Now then. but today they weren't there ' He broke off.. it wasn't possible.' 'I know you hate recounting your exploits. and led the way into the workshop. 'Fraser put you up to this. but he knew them. where we were dining.' Willie said.' Tarrant said. Fraser always sends them down with the car. my dear? It wasn't even a proposition. 'And don't fret about the b it that says the police are following up clues. The reports in the different papers were much the same. 'The originals. 'I wouldn't try it with this. and he held a sheaf of rather poor quality paper. But I'd be obliged if you'd make an excepti on in this case. 'I hope you have some small idea of how I feel. 'They're genuine.' They left Tarrant and began to fasten protective padding on their arms. 'That must be why he sent a message to hustle you straight here from Heathrow. With a flicker of dry humour it occurred to him that this could stand as his farewell present.' he said. but he read them all car . 'I'm afraid words won' t do the trick. He had never seen these papers before. feintruled.' She smiled.' Tarrant said very softly. As he read the first fe w words of the top page his pulse jumped. of course?' 'No. took Modesty's hands. Modesty said. When Tarrant was sitting down again he said. With a pair of tongs Tarrant placed the Singapore papers in the small furnace. and just beyond it the wall of a house with a gaping hole in the side.' Willie repeated. I see. As it's my birthday. 'Thank you for my present. This was very kind of them. hardly registering what they were do ing. I'll tell you one thing. 'Yes. But we didn't have to buy them.' 'But. Our Jack's getting to be quite human.Willie grinned. shoulder s and torsos. but I take it you haven't seen the morning papers yet?' 'No. On the front page was a photogr aph of a demolition crane. after visit ing Brunel. He was relieved to see that his hands were steady. It's genuine. then picked up the first of the newspapers. May we have the ceremon ial burning now?' 'The electric furnace is going. Slowly he looked up. twenty feet up the wall. how. We asked him for ideas for your birthday present. and watched them turn to grey ash. He watched them for a moment. No doubt the Government would give him a K when they chopped off his head. Princess.' Willie emerged from the workshop with the morning papers and dumped them on the locker beside Tarrant.

Yes. But we practise with 'em because they're good for muga. and the tapered en d of his staff thrust forward. behind his mask. and she curled in a ball. each holding a staff rather longer than six feet. He had made little use of it h imself. A clacking and thudding had been trying to penetrate his concentration.' . and tapering slightly to one inch at the other. and whipped her staff up for the overhead for he was not changing his grip. But sti ll. The newspapers referred to Brunel as a foreign businessman. and he stepped back.' Willie shook his head. Then. This appeared to be the basic grip. parried and thrust. Modesty was trying to break through. han ds wide. the gloved hands. the other in the middle. she brought the centre of her staff down hard on Willie's. which was held behind her back now and had her added weight upon it. I mean. Tarrant heard the small gasp from behind her mask as she folded forward. Your point. Tarrant noticed with interest that they did not hold the staff with hands an equ al distance from each end. It formed a shield as impenetrable as the whirling spokes of a great wheel. and was well aware of the superior value of thrust over cut. Tarrant saw Willie make his staff spin in a hissing vertical circl e . and wondered what else the safe had in fact contained apart from the Singapore papers. With smooth economy of effort Willie reversed again. They were in combat with quarter-staffs. I'm inclined to have more respect for Willie's views on them now. so he would be able to fil l in the technical details of the job. A quick reverse of the staff in his hands and the butt swung down towards her helmeted h ead. The clacking was the soun d of wood on wood. 'You never give up. One hand gripped the staff only a foot down from the butt. catching her squarely on the cane-cored padding w hich covered her torso. really. even with so unwieldy a weapon as the quarter-staff. now for a flank stroke at the more vulnerable waist of the figure of eight. 'I'm at least a couple of grades below Willie with them. consider me converted. the thudding the sound of a staff striking the body-padding. then they're a formidable weapon all right. There were few questions left for him to ask. Modesty's staff was caught. Watching now. so tha t Willie's staff was locked against the floor by her own. so I rarely manage to touch him. for h e had fenced much with the sabre and épée. thru st. as she fell. That was another surprise to him. y ou can't carry one of them around with you in a handbag. do you?' She relaxed. 'I've never seen those things in use before. But she had recovered. and said. Suddenly Willie changed the shape of the plane of his shiel d slightly. then straightening her legs suddenly. Tarrant decided. But the opportunity for use seems limited. That was very satisfactory. None at all. a kind of figure of eight movement. he thought. bear ing it to the floor. an inch and a half thick at on e end.' She picked up a towel and wiped her face. and the end jarred to one side. two circles. taking off the mask. He looke d at Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin. Yet was it so unwieldy? It did not seem so in the hands of Willie and Modesty. and Brunel had issue d a statement saying that there had been nothing of great value in the safe. Fraser would have helped with the cut-off s on the hire of the equipment. and that he had resea rched deeply to discover what he could of the technique used. She got to her feet. They held the position for a moment. which was stupid of him. But if you're as good as he is. as he had always vaguely imagined would be the techni que. S he had once told him that Willie considered the quarter-staff the most effective pre-firearm weapon ever devised. and with the getaway. Willie chuckled and said. tha t it had been installed by the previous occupant. the ready position.' Tarrant applauded softly and said. now feinting for the juncture of the two ci rcles. drawing her feet up between her s pread hands as they held the staff. especially against odds.' 'Oh. 'I've never used one for real.efully before putting the papers aside. Willie. The thiev es had therefore wasted their time. except for keeping a small cash float of a few hundred pounds. and I don't s'pose I ever will. but it was subj ect to swift change as the quarter-staffs whirled. he decided. 'I don't fancy I was going to get anywhere much with that move. drawing his staff away.

'I'm not familiar with the word.' Tarrant spoke idly. It fascinated him to hear them talk about their peculiar arts, but they had to be drawn gently. Eager ques tioning would make them change the subject. 'It's a Japanese word,' Modesty said. She was frowning a little, and with sudden intuition Tarrant knew that she was thinking about the climax of their recent b out, wondering what better defensive move she might have made. 'Japanese?' he said, picking up one of the newspapers and pretending to study th e photograph again. She nodded absently. 'There's muga in any form of close combat. It just means sh ort-circuiting the mind so you react subconsciously, but with exactly the right move.' She towelled her neck slowly. 'Someone comes at you, and you take in a do zen things about their attitude - speed, balance, intent, committal, posture, an d so on. And everything's changing every split second, so there's virtually a gr aph curve for every item. It's much too quick for conscious thought. You need to develop an instantaneous computer so you can feed in all the data and come up w ith the right counter. When you do get it right, the counter just flows. It's in evitable, so inevitable that it can sometimes look as if the opponent cooperated in throwing himself, or whatever it is that happens to him. The instantaneous c omputer, that's muga.' She flicked the towel at Willie and pulled a face. 'Mine wasn't so hot just now. What were we talking about?' 'Before muga? Nothing, I think. You were quarter-staffing,' said Tarrant. He fel t that he had done very well. She had emerged from her reverie now, and would ex plain no more, but he was satisfied. 'I've much enjoyed reading the newspapers. Thank you again, and congratulations. I'm completely awed. Would it be out of or der to ask if there was anything else in Brunel's safe?' 'No, that's all right.' She sat down beside him on the locker. 'There were a few bundles of papers. All rather cryptic, and they didn't mean much to us, but Fra ser was pleased about one or two things. We gave him the papers and you can stud y them at leisure. Then there was forty thousand dollars in currency, which I th ought we'd convert through safe channels and give to some charity or other. Will ie wants to make it The Distressed Gentlefolk, so he can get well in with them i n case he falls on hard times.' Tarrant smiled and touched the newpapers. 'There are your expenses, of course.' 'Not too heavy, but we'll take them out first if it'll make you feel happier. Th ere was one other thing in the safe, and we've kept it because it's an intriguin g link with a Brunel operation I stumbled on not three weeks ago in Tanzania. I' ll show you that now.' She looked up. 'Will you fetch it please, Willie?' 'Sure.' He made for the workshop. She said to Tarrant, 'You can have it, of cour se, but I'd like a copy, if you don't mind.' 'I feel that whatever it is, you have a moral right to it,' he said solemnly. 'A fter all, you stole it.' Laughter sparkled in her eyes. 'We'd better not talk about morals. Not you and I .' 'Very well. Let's talk about Brunel. I was astonished to hear you say you'd cros sed his path recently. Did you tangle with him?' 'With his muscle. Adrian Chance and Jacko Muktar.' She told him the story in a f ew brief sentences, too brief for Tarrant's liking. The two men had come to some hospital in an African village, questioned Giles Pennyfeather about a dead man, and beaten him up when he failed to supply the answers they wanted. She had com e on the scene and put them out of action, then dumped them out in the bush. No reason given for her being there, no details about what she simply called puttin g Chance and Muktar out of action. A very nasty combination those two, Tarrant r eflected. It must have been quite a scene. He sighed and held his peace, watchin g Willie return from the workshop. 'It was just this,' Willie said, and unfolded a canvas backed map thirty inches square. Clipped to the map was a transparency with grid lines on it, forming sma ll squares of less than a quarter of an inch. Each horizontal line and each vert ical line was numbered in the margin from one to one hundred and fifty. There we re key marks on the map, and corresponding marks on the transparency. Tarrant fi tted them together.

'A hand-drawn map and very well done,' he said, spreading it on his knees. 'Lake s and rivers and roads marked, but no names given. Now let me see ... these dott ed lines seem to indicate borders. There's something familiar about this neck of territory here, bordered by a lake on the east. Ah yes, that cluster of islands rings a bell. This is the area we were speaking of just now, surely?' He ran a finger along the dotted lines. 'Part of Central Africa. Lake Victoria here, a bi t of Uganda to the north, then Rwanda and Burundi, with this section of Tanzania on their eastern borders.' He looked up. 'Large scale. About four miles to the inch, I'd guess.' 'Full marks,' said Modesty. 'And the transparency. That's just a coordinate grid. I presume there must be a cross-refence of two coordinates to give a particular location on this map. But where are the coordinates and what do they locate?' 'We've no idea,' Modesty said. 'But we're guessing that this is something to do with the dead man, and with Brunel sending his muscle to hit poor Giles in the s tomach with a knuckleduster.' 'You're very probably right,' Tarrant agreed. 'One might go so far as to guess t hat Brunel knows what it is that's located somewhere on the map, but doesn't kno w the all important coordinates. Perhaps that's what he wanted from the dead man .' From beyond the door there came the sound of somebody stumbling and half falling . Then Pennyfeather came in. 'I think it's gall-stones all right," he said conte ntedly. 'I've been thinking about it.' 'You think what's gall-stones?' Willie asked blankly. 'Mrs Leggett.' Modesty said, 'Never mind that now, Giles. They'll keep. Come and meet an old fr iend of mine, Sir Gerald Tarrant.' 'Oh, we've already met. Introduced ourselves and all that.' He gave Tarrant the friendliest of smiles. 'You looked jolly rotten when you arrived, sir. Looking m uch better now, though. Much.' Tarrant said, a little taken aback, 'I've had good news since then. But was it t hat obvious?' 'Giles is very perceptive in his own field,' Modesty said. 'Don't worry. To anyo ne else you couldn't have looked more urbane.' Pennyfeather advanced to the horizontal bar. 'I used to be able to chin myself w hen I was at school.' He was reaching up when Modesty said, 'Giles, come here a minute, please, and tell me if you recognize this.' 'Yes, all right. What is it?' He came across. She handed him the map and the tra nsparency. He glanced at the transparency, shrugged, then looked at the map, hol ding it at arm's length and studying it with a frown of concentration. After a m oment or two he said, 'It's just a map with lakes and roads marked on it. Couldn 't say where though.' 'It shows part of Tanzania, including Kalimba, where we met, Giles. And some of the adjoining countries. Have you ever seen anything like that before? I mean, t hat map and that transparency.' 'Afraid not. Where did they come from?' 'You remember those two men who came to Kalimba and started knocking you about? The men I told you were here in London with their boss?' 'Yes, of course. You told me the other night and you've been body-guarding me ev er since. Chap called Lebrun or something.' 'Brunel. Well, last night somebody pinched Brunel's safe, and among other things in the safe was that map and transparency.' 'I read about that safe thing in the papers. How on earth did you get hold of th is stuff, then?' 'It just fell out that way, darling, and it doesn't matter. What matters is that those people think the dying man told you something.' Giles gave a breathy chuckle. 'I bet you and Willie pinched the safe. You can't kid me, you know.' He frowned. 'What dying man?' 'The one in Kalimba, who'd been tortured. Now did he tell you anything? Please t ry hard to remember, Giles dear.'

'I don't have to try hard. He didn't.' Giles passed the map to Willie. Modesty said, 'Was he unconscious all the time?' 'Oh, lord no. He was conscious in snatches and delirious most of the time, babbl ing away like mad.' 'Babbling? Then he did say something!' 'Oh, yes. But he didn't tell me anything.' She said gently, 'What exactly did he say?' 'That's the point. I don't know. He was a foreigner, and he babbled in foreign. Surely I told you that, Modesty?' She put a hand to her head. 'Perhaps you did. Sometimes I get a little confused. What language was it?' 'Well, it wasn't French or Spanish or German or Italian. I don't mean I can unde rstand those languages, but I can just about recognize them. He was a white Cauc asian, if that's any help.' 'Well... it leaves a good few millions.' Willie Garvin said, 'Ah, forget it. Come an' try chinning the bar, Giles.' It wa s an odd thing to say, Tarrant thought. He saw a flicker, not of puzzlement but of quick curiosity in Modesty's face, then it was gone. Pennyfeather took off hi s sweater, missed walking into one of the support wires by a fraction, and jumpe d for the bar. He heaved, drew himself up a few inches, legs kicking, then sagge d at arm's length again, panting. 'Come on now,' Willie said encouragingly. 'You've got more juice than that if yo u concentrate. Stop kicking about with your legs an' pump everything into your a rms.' 'Right,' Pennyfeather panted, and tried again. This time he almost made it. 'Once more,' Willie said. 'Just 'ang there for a bit an' think 'ard about it. If that bloke was tortured, you must've made 'im jump when you were cleaning 'im u p.' 'Couldn't help hurting him a bit,' Pennyfeather wheezed, glaring up at the bar w ith a grimace of fierce concentration. 'Breathe nice and easy. Pump the juice into your arms. What did 'e say, then?' 'Just kept saying "nyet, nyet".' Pennyfeather heaved, chinned the bar, gasped, ' I say! ' and lost strength suddenly, banging his chin on the bar as he fell. Spraw led on the mat, rubbing his chin, he stared up at Willie and said, 'Jesus, that' s what he said, Willie! Nyet. He must have been a Russian, eh?' Modesty stood up and said, 'Not bad, Willie love.' Tarrant agreed. Willie's probe into Pennyfeather's subconscious memory had been a smart piece of psychology. Clearly Pennyfeather was a man who lived very much in the present, and simply forgot whatever seemed of no importance to him at the time. 'A Russian,' said Tarrant. 'That still leaves a very large field. But I have som ething to offer. It may be useless, but I'll tell you for what it's worth. About seven months ago a Russian named Novikov defected. He was a technician speciali zing in satellite photography. The French gave him and his wife asylum. I forget just where they settled in France, but I believe Novikov himself quietly left t he country a few weeks later.' He looked at Modesty. 'Our friend René Vaubois of t he Deuxième Bureau will no doubt give you chapter and verse if you want it. He owe s you a favour.' Modesty stood with arms folded across her waist, holding her elbows, head a litt le to one side, staring absently at the floor. It was a characteristic stance, w hich Tarrant recognized. The data was flimsy, but her instinct was at work. It w as, Tarrant thought, like muga at a different level from physical combat. She wo uld make deductions, calculations, conclusions which might seem to have little b asis in logic but which in all probability would prove correct. 'Satellite photography,' she said. 'A map, and a coordinate transparency. I thin k you've named the dead man. Sir Gerald.' Pennyfeather was sitting cross-legged on the mat now, lost in his own thoughts. 'I wonder what sorok-dva means?' he said vaguely. For a moment nobody spoke, the n Willie said casually, 'What was that again, Giles?' 'Sorok-dva, sto-odin.' Pennyfeather repeated the syllables several times in a di

Willie laid the map on the locker and fitted the transparency over it.' He was quite firm. So you'd better go away.' 'Well.' 'Sometimes you're so thick I could hit you. It's just come back to me. 'I wish I knew how to argue with you.' Tarrant went through.rge-like chant. But no. So you get chopped off. And every time someone gives in.' 'Sure. 'That's what the poor chap kept babbling. They were trite and could have sounded pompous. The trouble is y ou're horribly right. or even dead.' he went on. He was simply saying what he felt. The kind of thing where it's easy to get hurt. thanks very much. I just think it's awfully wrong to run away from something that scares yo u. nowhere sp ecial.' 'I'm not making any stand.' Tarrant came out of the workshop and stopped. Damn it all. Giles.' 'Not to us. if ever yone went on like that. The reference fell in Rwanda. Giles. I'll go. But people like you aren't geared to make a stand against people like Brunel. Modesty walked to Pennyfeather. like the Mafia. Sorok-dva. .' 'We can easily fix that. then kissed him lightly o n the cheek and let him go. wel l of course you have every right. Willie?' 'I think so. some twenty-five miles west of the Tanzanian borde r.' 'Let's take a look. without a trace of self-consciousness. you know. Modesty. if you're not used to it. da rling. watching the two of them as they s tood in a loose embrace. Giles.' Pennyfeather ambled away and started trying to climb a rope that hung from a cro ss-beam. He had heard Pennyfeather's last words. yes. ' And what would the poor Mrs Leggetts and their gall-stones do then?' 'Well. sto-odin. Following the normal map-re ference system I'd say forty-two was the horizontal coordinate and one hundred a nd one the vertical. I sat with him all one night. you know. All I said was I don't intend to do a bunk. but Tarrant could almost feel the e xcitement in her. I can only manage up to ten in Russian. 'Did you get the translation. She said. In the workshop. 'I can give you th e answer in a couple of minutes if you'll allow me to use the phone. God.' Still with her hands behind his neck she looked at him consideringly and said. isn't it. really. they get stronger a nd worse. kicked his leg very gently with her bare foot. 'Please be sensible. Sir G. whether it's an op you've never done before or whether it's wicked bastards l ike those men. And if some mission offers me a job in Timbuct u or where-ever. 'if you want to chuck me out of the penthouse. 'I think it's time you went away. After they had huddled over it for a few seconds Willie said. but dva means two.' Tarrant straightened up. 'Are we expecti ng a genie to pop up and offer three wishes? It's a point on the map. we'd end up being ruled by horrible sods. I jo lly well hate it. who go in for torture and terror and all that sort of thing. but I've a hunch Willie and I are going to get caugh t up in something. Forty-two and one hundred and one. You know. Sir Gerald?' 'Russian numbers.' 'I am. I'll have it checked by our own Map Section to give you a precise location and description of terrain. stod-odin.' Tarrant was mouthing the syllables under his breath.' 'You mean what you call a caper.' 'I haven't anywhere to go. darling. But I'm not going to disappear just because some blood y bandits might do me a mischief if I stay around. and he nearly drove me potty with i t. What would they?' She said uneasily. 'Let me take this. that's exactly what I mean. but coming from Pennyfeather they did not seem so. I don't want you to. 'Get up.' Modesty had not moved. He said. but I've a familiar sense of being nudge d that way.' she said. I'm not likely to forget that in a hurry. 'What I mean is. We're not starting anything. He was not even being earnest about it. like you've told me about? Against those men?' 'Possibly. Sorok-dva. only turned her head.' When he was standing she linked her hands behind his neck and said soberly. 'It's numbers in Russian. and said.

I can't change the scene. half wary.' CHAPTER SIX At six-fifteen that evening. I'd advise extreme caution. it co uld be for you. We ng said you weren't there but he'd get in touch and ring back. I want you out of the way while Brune l's here. She must have seen his expression. for he saw that she was looking at him a litt le challengingly. You can pop into my workroom and amuse yourself with the lapidary equi pment there if you like. cunning bitch. and I li ke you that way.if the area has ever been properly surveyed. he looked back along the gym to see Pennyfeather. Modesty Blaise sat at her dressing-table and touched a stray wisp of hair i nto place.' He grinned.' 'Why so?' Tarrant asked. I'm a little defensive about him.' After a few moments. Giles. don't feel like that. 'T hat was Weng. half amused. but I hop e I've never descended to impertinence.' Modesty said. But don't mak e judgements. 'If Brunel wants to talk to me I'm not going to refuse. Just don't touch that emerald I'm setting. as Modesty held his coat for him to put on. because otherwise I'd be dead.' She laughed and relaxed. and h e's not used to that. 'I have my own inadequacies.. half smiling. We're almo st certain to learn something. She said quietly. Brunel has just lost a great deal. half fr owning. darling. reluctantly declining to stay for lunch. an odd look on his face.. and ran a hand over his spiky hair. 'Is it wise?' Willie shrugged. Tarrant winced. He's out of place with p eople like us.' he said. and a yellow je rsey blouse beneath.' The phone in the workshop rang. Judge him when you've seen him bring off a successfu l caesarian on a half-dead African woman.' She put her hands on his arms. I'm a nasty. on the floor of a hut by lamplight. a hint of warning in her eyes. in her bedroom of ivory and pale green and silver g rey. hard.' 'No.' Five minutes later. I know I've very nearly been the death of you several times. sometimes. But you stay out of it.' 'Why do you want me out of the way?' 'Because it's not your scene. it's much too late.' 'My dear. 'Go ahead.' 'God forbid!' Tarrant said fervently. strike himself a sharp blow on the ankle. I can't imagine that whatever it is will show up as a significant feature on any map. Tarrant took his le ave. that should be interesting. 'You look terrific. "You told Weng to say yes?' 'Sure. and that's just as well with my kind of scene. It almost made him shudder t o think of Pennyfeather being on hand if Modesty and Willie got into a fight wit h Brunel's team. He says a man called Brunel rang the pent'ouse five minutes ago an d asked if 'e could call and see you this evening about six-thirty. 'Don't ask me what I see in him. 'Sometimes you treat me just lik e a child. In the doorway. a quarter-staff twirling in his hands. 'I spent enough time riding ramrod for the Princess to know wha t she'd say without 'aving to ask. Hard people. She got up. please. He said.' 'Well. 'Thank you. the jacket unbuttoned. but at least I'd like to have it pinpointed on a fully detailed ordnance job .Assuming our guesses are right. 'Like an innocent. Princess. But that's what you are. there's something there which is detectable by s atellite photography. Modesty said. Willie Garvín came out of the workshop and w alked down the gym. and touched her brow with the tips of his fingers in a curious littl . Giles. She wore a black trouser suit.' He laughed. Giles Pennyfeather came from the bathroom. Now listen. 'Your heads. so what can we lose?' Tarrant frowned. you know. 'You'd better wait a second.' Modesty nodded.' Modesty said slowly. and we needn't give anything away. so I'll take your word for it. perhaps. pulling on a navy roll-neck sweater. possibly. You're not seeing him in his own element. 'Sorry.

you're really very sweet.' He looked round again and moved one of the armchairs a foo t or two. You don't want blood all over the rugs. 'I imagine you could put a knife through my hand before I could reach a pocket. Garvin?' 'Throat. But let us begin with a clear understanding.' She tapped her hip. She said. but since the situation cannot be restored I consider the incident closed. darling. the sheaths were made of skirting leather. 'Yes.' 'Sweet?' She gazed at him almost with exasperation. Look. 'That's thoughtful of you. Willie Garvin stood there look ing about him with care as he slipped two throwing-knives into the twin sheaths that lay inside the left breast of his jacket.' He sat in the armchair with hands resting on his knees.' Brunel smiled a quiet burnt-out smile.' He nodded. this was his weapon. 'but I'd rather be a bit over-drama tic than a bit dead. 'I'm not carrying a gun.' She slipped the automatic into the flat hol ster at the back of her hip. then nodded gravely. 'You do say bloody silly things about yourself. I assure you. drugged cigarettes. Miss Blaise.' 'You wanted to talk to me about something?' she said.' 'Good-oh. So we 're not taking chances. That's why I want you out of the way.' Two minutes later she went into the drawing-room. I don't indulge in violent action myself. ' He looked at Willie. and turned hi s head. The fact is. 'It would only matter to whoever robbed you . The act had been performed in the time of an eye-blink.' 'All right. and I have the warmest professional admiration f or the thieves. Giles. 'We're probably being too careful. And let's keep him bracketed while he's moving. and would be delighted to kill you.' Modesty said. For serious trouble. wet-moulded to perfect shape. Do be damn quick with that thing if you have t o use it.' 'Of course. cogitating. He said. thin but unyielding as a board.' Brunel said. They are men who act on emotional drives. checking the free movement of the knives in their sheaths. for God's sake. I am a realist. The inside surface had been thoroughly ru bbed with a paste of neatsfoot oil and graphite. then said with a to uch of authority. I wanted you to kn ow my reaction to the incident. I am not an Adrian Chance or a Jacko Muktar. But I'll have my medical bag ready so I can get him corked pretty qu ick. 'You tooled up. Do you believe me?' 'That hardly matters. But do you truly mean he might try?' 'It's possible. a watch that shoots cyanide dar ts. then she was holding a small automatic. I can't put it higher than that because I don't know Brunel. bu . Giles. There he paused for a moment. We read about it in the morning papers. wondering if anything would ever shake Giles Pennyfeath er. You won't need it tonight.' She blinked in surprise. 'Sit 'im 'ere Princess? With you standing in front of the fireplace an d me by the couch?' 'Yes.' 'Yes.' Willie corrected amiably. 'I've heard experts speak with admiration of your skill with a gun. but you've misjudged me. 'However. He saw the black jacket flutter as her hand moved. 'Oh.e gesture of affection. 'Then I jolly well think you'd be right. or anything exotic of that nature. I d on't know if he's vengeful and impulsive or if he's a cool-headed realist. 'You're being very prudent. Princess?' 'Yes. 'The MAB two-five.' She half turned. I'm quite sure I know which item in the safe they were after.' he said. so if you wish to button your jacket please do so. His small feet barely touched the flo or. Brunel nodded without smiling.' 'Brunel? Why would you do that?' 'If he tries to kill me. to give a frictionless draw. fine.' He picked up his huge medical bag from beside the bedside cabinet and went to the door. I have a very natural regret for the severe loss I sustained last night. 'And look here. Giles. Like Modes ty's holster. 'Sweet? I may very well inflict gunshot wounds on a man in the next half-hour. Or Willie.

' Modesty said. all this would be an operation for a very capable entrepreneur willing to make a large initial in vestment . However.some where in the area covered by that map. 'Sounds a bit chancy. 'Yes.' 'I don't think we're interested.' She gave a shrug. 'I don't mind listening. And the costs would be low. because after Novikov defected he prospected the area secretly. 'I'm d isappointed. This was confirmation of what Novikov himself told me. The original was in the safe. they would only be relatively so.' 'I'm not a scientist myself. No flicker of rec ognition touched his face as he glanced at it and passed it to Modesty. 'Novikov was able to scratch nuggets out of the ground. but Brunel made a little gesture inviting him to keep it. take samples. he slid out an oblong of stiff white paper folded several times. apart from a small sum of money. and I have several. 'Stop for a minute. Novikov felt I filled that role suitably. so they allow me a free hand in my own small domain . build sluices and get the stuff out of the ground on a large scale. but I'd say you'd 'ave to do that from an aircraft.' said Brunel. He showed me samples. May I take something from my inside pocket wit hout risk?' 'If you open your jacket wide and do it slowly.' 'I see. more or less. The authorities th ere are grateful for past and present favours.' Brunel said. it might not be worth th e cost of getting it out. I was on the spot. I said just now that I bear no malice.' Modesty said.' he wave d a hand. and I'm reliably informed that the Russians have developed and pu t into orbit satellites which can produce results previously possible only with low-flying aircraft. and clipped to it was an identical transparency. I would like to give proof of that by off ering you a partnership in a project of immense value.' Brunel opened his jacket. and anxious not to be deprived of my advice and good offices.and well able to protect that investment against all comers. 'which is neither here nor there. He wanted a qui . That means the easily accessible d eposit.' 'Novikov came to you with this?' Modesty asked. to bring in experts. but he refused. To secur e a concession for mining this terrain. I'm prepared to risk telling you what that map is all abou t in the hope that you may be tempted to reconsider.' She passed the map and transparency back to Wi llie. 'If it's auriferous rock and low content. In any case the question no longer arises. His job was to analyse the results obtained from satellite photography in a ll its various forms.' Brunel sat back in his chair. Lifting the unsealed flap. I believe this might be California '49 all over again. They use scintiliometers for detecting different ki nds of ore-bearing ground. steepling his fingers together. who rubbed his chin and said. of course. Also.' 'This is an alluvial deposit.' She looked at Willie. 'Would you care to look at this?' Willie Garvin stepped forward. slipped two fingers into the inside pocke t and drew out a long envelope. of c ourse. if you wish to. Go on. What he had found was a clear indication of a very substantial and accessible deposit of gold in an underdeveloped country of Central Africa .' 'Very well. Some time ago a man named Novikov was working in a laboratory in Mos cow. took the paper and unfolded it. But there was one which I think may be of interest to you. The gold is there. 'but I have access to the best scient ific opinions.' 'Why?' 'Because although costs would be low. especially if there are sulphides in the area. where I have a large estate. 'That is a copy. 'Novikov was too g reedy. yes. n ot a stratospheric detector. There may be much more. I offered to buy him out for a large sum. You may know that my home is in Rwanda. Brunel said. It was a black and white photocopy of the section of map they had studied earlier that d ay. and said. which he checked and dou ble-checked. One day he made an odd discovery. The other items may be of marginal i nterest to those in whose hands I think they now rest.' 'Thank you.t there were certain other items also. The deposit extends for over a mile in te rrain that has never attracted investigation.

I asked. it woul d surprise me greatly. I take it you're rejecting my offe r out of hand?' 'I did that to start with.' 'Novikov told him nothing. Brunel was an emotional neuter. Brunel was something else. We'd wipe out people like you. if they try to lay a fi nger on him.' .' 'Very broadly speaking. if we stumbled across them. And then you. 'It was several days before rumour of his whereabouts reached me.' he said at last. In fact he contrived to escape in a manner that still remai ns a mystery to me. I had Novi kov tortured in an attempt to make him tell the coordinates. including overflying. It would be almost a psychological inevitability. It meant nothing to Dr Pennyfeather. I believe Novikov must have told him something. the good Dr Pennyfeather.' 'A dying man with a secret will babble. let alon e making his way through bush and desert to cross the border into Tanzania.' 'A dying man tends to babble repetitively. 'I'm underwriting it. But yes.' She nodded towards the map Willie held. 'I'm afraid I've come here under a false impression. 'Let's put it this way . after your muscle came and questioned Dr Pen nyfeather with a knuckleduster. I take it he arrived in Kalimba unaided?' 'He was dead and buried before I got there.' 'So?' Brunel spread his hands.te unwarrantable percentage of the gross as well.' 'In his own language. But I'm sure his memory could be stimulated. If Chance and Muktar come after Dr Pennyfeather again.' Willie Garvin decided that Brunel made him feel ill. And he insisted on a water-t ight deal before he would reveal to me the precise location of the strike. 'I'm not sure that we would have to use painful methods. I want to find out what it was. It is because of him that I have laid my cards on the table and offered you an interest in the project.' 'Ah. You could perhaps feel a shred of pity for the man so twisted that he enjoyed cruelty.' 'I find it hard to follow you. then at Brunel again.' 'Because of him?' 'Yes. all very touchy about their rights.' He looked at Modesty. She said. since he had been resisting that very thing under torture . or failed to take note of it. don't you think?' 'You believe Dr Pennyfeather lied to me?' 'No. Dr Pennyfeather told me he was picke d up unconscious within a mile of the village. 'You mean he wouldn't give you the coord inates?' 'I do. Brunel. Modesty looked at Willie. Would that distress you?' He sounded mild ly surprised. Prospecting fourteen thous and square miles.' The small man tapped his fingertips gently together. would be a lifetime's task. we used to be. it might be necessary in the end. not consciously. And to try a erial survey is out of the question. That's a promise. Brunel. I think he may have forgotten what he heard. the area of that map. but not the man who simply used it as a tool. It's astonishing how capitalis tic a communist can be when he sets his mind to it. Modesty said without expression. I'll kill them this time. and about that which dominates his th oughts. Unfortunately he pr oved very difficult. 'I thought you were in the same line of business as myself. Hard men and cruel men he had known in plenty. but no matter. He knew I couldn't find the area without them. Miss Blaise. 'But even then there was q uite a difference. It would surprise me if Novikov had not babbled the coordinates. 'So what you want us to put into the partnershi p is Dr Pennyfeather? Then we help you torture him to stimulate his memory. broadly speaking. He wanted to pick up the ma nikin and throw him through the great window which filled one end of the drawing -room.' Willie Garvin said. Is t hat it?' Brunel considered.' Modesty said. The map includes parts of four different co untries. 'I took the only possible course open to me. I would have thought the man incapable of crawling.

' 'You're being emotional. But your hopes don't disturb me. I think. I shall c onsider Dr Pennyfeather to be out of bounds. or was that clever bastard conning us?' 'I think Brunel meant what he said.' 'The sack?' There was a letter waiting for him when we got back today. Tonight is his last ni ght in the job.' He stood up. specifically. I'm also a man beyond the childishness of malice.' 'Do that.' She made a rueful face. Modesty and Willie st ood watching until the doors had closed behind Brunel. you see.' Willie opened the bottle and poured two glasses. it seems. 'There's a little charmer for you. I'll stay on 'ere. then I would feel bound to enter the arena. Willie love. A difference of opinion over a diagnosis. You'll go home and chase girls or whatev er it is you were busy with before I came back with Giles. Told the man he was talking a load of bilge . looking down. Giles appeared warily from the passage leading to Modesty's workroom. 'You'd better go now. Genially enough. helped him on with the coat. no doubt. 'However..'And you're not tempted by the prospect of enormous returns in due time?' She said reflectively.. perha ps. You understand me ?' She looked at him with contempt.' 'Good thinking. but where's the trick? I think what it is. then led the way to the foyer and the lift.' 'I reckon so too. and do night-shift at that surgery with 'im . He may have meant his offer. You need not f ear that you will have to implement your threat. 'You reckon we can st op worrying about Giles. I got a mucky taste in my mouth. And Giles ju st doesn't know how to tread softly. 'Yes. so my face was right down on the floor. Willie said softly. He said. Giles has got the sack again. Miss Blaise. honestly.' She smiled. peered rou nd and said. but he was laying trip-wires at the same time. 'The way he talked about torturing people was simply bloody.' said Willie. as a matter of fact I did. then pressed a bell-p ush set in the wall. 'He's gone? My God.' Pennyfeather drank half the wine in his glass and thought fo r a moment. Open a bottle of burgundy.' He went out of the room and returned a minute later with a bott le. if you tr y to use what I have told you about Novikov's secret. I rea lly should. I didn't like him at all. you feel something's coming up be'ind yo u.' . darling.' He paused. 'The only temptation I have is to put you down now. To fight you over Dr Pennyfeather would be too expensive. 'Yes. naturally. Miss Blaise. Willie. but I've a feeling it doesn't.' 'Could be. and I'll sit it out with him myself.' 'You saw him?' Modesty took her glass of wine to Giles and gave it to him. then they relaxed. There were no goodbyes. But then . 'I still think we ought to ride shotgun on Gil es for a bit. if you try to advantage yo urself without me. 'I'm disappointed. I was a bit.' 'So have I. I sort of darted nimbly back.' 'But-' 'There's no need. She was standing by the window.' She sounded doubtful. 'Torturing you.' Weng appeared with Brunel's hat and coat. But as I said before. I was pretty intrigued. his face quiet and untroubled. Th e only trouble is. and seek some other approach.' he said thoughtfully. I was pretty sure he wouldn't sp ot me. you know. 'No you won't. Brunel give s us the creeps.' She studied him silently for several seconds. He's tricky all right. so I crept alo ng the passage and peeked round the corner. But I got down on my hands and knees first. I think he was operating on more than one level . so maybe that makes us see more in 'im than's there. There's probably two copies of Reader's Digest. 'I know what you mean. 'Whichever way you look.' Modesty said. Then when he got up to go. He tangled with one o f the partners. I can't see them. Until Brunel leaves the country. That should end it as far as we're concerned . 'We haven't a grain of interest in your damned golden mile. anyway. Willi e poured another for her.' 'You're a cunning little M D. except to hope you never locate it.

It was two days later when Sir Gerald Tarrant came to have tea with Modesty Blai se at the penthouse. but it would be well worth while. perhaps. the invisible bait which would only become appare nt when the catalyst was applied.. still wheezing a little. if she could be brought under control. And there. matey. He had felt no alarm at the time. I could have cut him up in the bath for you.. Modesty Blaise had the fatal weakness he had suspected in her. after all. She said..' Pennyfeather nodded judicially. To start with. that chap. cheap but in good taste... As she poured tea he said. He was well satisfied . To tell you the truth. But it doesn't matter who. 'You can laugh. yes.' Willie Garvin choked massively on a sip of wine. blew it out in a fine spray. who gave a baffled shrug. Just that. but I've never run int o anyone like him before. and I'd be int . certainly not. Pennyfeather was there. Honest to God. She was emotionally a fool. Public service. It would take time. Pennyfeather was wearing a new navy sweater. And Garvin was the same. and rather dark s heer tights which would have enhanced her splendid legs if that had been possibl e. Dear God. I mean. for instance . she would be a priceless asset. And very glad to be so. Despite her cleverness. a body's only a body. Giles. he t old himself.' Pennyfeather said with solemn conviction. th ere was sudden dampness on his forehead. you know. He had laid the bait. Her reaction to his unemotional ment ion of torture had been typical. 'Getting rid of the body's always a bit of a problem. what must it be like to have such extraordinary motivations? Well. Yes .' Brunel was sitting in a taxi heading south down Park Lane. You ought to have put that bugger down. It's nothing to joke about. I still wish you had. 'I don't usually wish people any harm.' Pennyfeather nodded his head slowly with an air of regret.' Modesty looked at Willie. He dabbed his brow gently with a handke rchief. Giles?' 'Well. Brunel. you' re lovely. You're lovely. good lord. suppressed laughter shaking her hand so much that she had to set down her glass. coughing and apologizing.' Willie said gravely. bu t he's so bad he's dangerous. Tarrant decided that Modesty had chosen it and Pennyfeather paid for it. was intolerance if you like. she had stolen them for Tarrant's sake. 'Well. if you ask me. frowning. staring dazedly at Pennyfeather. I suppose so. I kept hoping you'd shoot him. or something.' 'But. They had kept him bracketed beautifully from the mome nt he entered the room. Garvin would certainly have to go. though. 'What's that to do with it.'Well. an d staggered about thumping his chest. The Singapore papers. She was wearing a fine woollen dress in green and white check. I mean it. Very satisfactory. Modesty sat down .' 'I know one thing.. And then it would be too late. converted into an instrument of h is hand.. perhaps as long as a year. me. 'We could've shoved 'im down the Tweeny.' 'M'mm. but he found his innocence and woolly-mindedness more irritating t han amusing.. Brunel acknowledged that it was he who was extraordinary. He admitted to himself that he was capable of slight jealousy towards friends o f Modesty who failed to win his entire approval. you know. Willie croaked. strangely. 'Still. She said. That was all very good indeed. There had been one moment. 'Giles . but now. I can tell. No doubt he had admirable qualities. you had me on hand . 'I have something interesting for you. are you joking?' 'Eh? No. And they could have done it without any difficulty at all. If Modesty had taken him to he rself. He had no doubt that she had weighed the question seriously. not extraordinary. Not that he disapproved of the young doctor. then that was certain. rather to Tarrant's disappointment. I'm a doctor. even if he had been armed.' She gestured helplessly. Together they were far too dangerous to handle. But for Tarrant it was not enough. and I'd hate you to get into any trouble just for doing in a rotten swine like that. Most of the idiot human race seemed to have them. a sharp and startling mome nt when she had considered killing him.' Tears in his eyes.

'I've been enjoyin g a small private joke. Can he really have believo d you might go in with him?' 'I've thought about that.' He glanced at Pennyfeather. but she made me wait till we got home. but his sense of caution produced an amusing situation. but it was wo rth waiting for. 'It's quite ghastly having her for a bo dyguard. That man Brunel is an absolute shocker. 'I've told her. 'I wanted to go to the loo in Oxford Street yester day.' Pennyfeather said. and there was a Gents' handy. and with a silver pencil t ouched an area where dotted lines marked out a shape roughly rectangular and fiv e miles by two. 'If any country's going to get the concession to prospect and wor k the area. the little swine doesn't feel anything.' He looked at Mode sty. very fully drawn in colour. 'Since you told me Brunel's story just now. Please. 'The boundary shows the area of Brunel's estate in Rwanda. 'Is it all right if I take Weng down to the squash courts for a game?' 'I'd rather you waited a bit till I can come with you.' Tarrant went on. with contour lines. 'I take it we can talk?' 'Yes. Maybe he looked back on my record and decided I was hi s type. a nd with a key indicating the nature of the terrain. A bea stly man. tripped on a rug and recovered.' 'I've made mistakes like that before. Giles. please. If they come back. but the content of what she was saying on this occasion was more than enough t o hold his attention. if you feel free to tell me.' 'He must have looked very superficially. It had made little impression on him. 'If you're concerned about Brunel. If you want my view on it.' 'Oh.' She looked a little puzzled but said.' He loped across the room.' 'It's in confidence. so there's nothing he wouldn't do. 'You said you had something for me?' Tarrant reached for his briefcase. The courts are inside the building and I'll have Weng there .erested myself to hear how your interview with Brunel went. my enigmatic little Asiatic! C ome and get thrashed at squash. Those thick-ear merchants Brunel totes around can't possibly walk in and do an ything to me there. I'm pleased to hear that. l arge-scale. 'Weng! Weng. The thought of an un discovered deposit of gold waiting to be exploited somewhere in Central Africa w as a remote conception which held no fascination for him. Agony it was. This was a tendency Tarrant had found in himself at times .' 'Oh really. 'That's really quite startling.' The map showed part of Rwanda. 'Well. darling.' 'Amen. Black Africa prefers the new imperialists of Moscow and Peking to the ex-colonialists. and stood up. They've done a very good job. But I'm not so much startled at the facts of the matter as that Brunel made you a present of them. When she had finished he said.' 'Weng slaughters him.' Tarrant said. I mean nothing too loathsome. and reached for a cigarette.' . that's all right. I can tell you that he and his thugs flew out this morning to Paris. a short thick cross had been made in red. 'He ca lls it Bonaccord. tracks and rivers. according to the scale.' He moved to sit beside Modesty on the couch. then disappeared in th e direction of the kitchen.' Tarrant said. Pennyfeather did not interrupt.' Tarrant gave a rueful smile.' said Modesty. but simply enjoye d watching her say it. I shall know within hal f an hour. Within the dotted boundary and close to the northern edge of it. It seemed to Tarrant that he paid little attention to what she was saying.' he said to Tarrant.' 'You must be joking. I shan't spread the secret of Novikov's golden mile around. His only comment had b een. From it he took a map which he unfolded. The late Comrade Novikov may or may not have had a sense of humour.' She had told Giles whatever he had failed to overhear d uring Brunel's visit.' said Pennyfeather. calling.'You mean they cut and burned that poor Russian chap for that?' Now she put Tarrant in the picture. 'It' s taken me a little while to get hold of this from the War Office. it won't be us. spread out the map.

That's presumably the centre of the golden mile. hence the name no doubt. a valley according t o the contour lines. but when she looked up her eyes were sober. He told me they form part of a rather freakish natural feature.' Tarrant laid his pencil on the map again.' 'I'd have thought both would be crude and simple. and ' 'Really!' Tarrant expostulated. 'Why should you think I might? I don't want Novikov's golden mile. as one would expect for an alluvial deposit. I've had that checked. Apparently it's an age-old joke among the na tives. And now here's the joke. 'My God. But I very much hope you don't intend to do anything about it. legs apart and knees drawn up a lit tle where the ridges rise in humps. while the place was still under Belgian mandate. rather poor state. While I was waiting for the map to come through. I feared you might intervene in some way.' 'Just a minute.' Modesty said softly. If you've got half a dozen key men in your pocket. T he Impossible Virgin. 'And finally a bigger and more rounded height here. and found a man at the Belgian Emb assy who worked in Ruanda-Urundi. but he'd travelled close to the area on several occasions. 'Do you mind?' 'All right. anyway?' 'That was something he didn't know. and it would do you good. She gave him a wicked grin. 'If Brunel hadn't killed N ovikov before. Appa rently when you see this complex from high ground to the north.' She looked at the map again. But I still don't think this looks like a virgin.' She looked at him with mild indignation. It 's like an enormous woman lying on her back. 'I asked him about the terrain all rou nd this area.' Tarrant said sedately.' Tarrant said with a touch of unea se. 'The way she's lying doesn't suggest virginity to me . and then two small volcanic hills. but Brunel is very careful about his image in R wanda. Why don't you find a nice attractive understanding housekeeper. The native Watutsi have a name for it which I can't possibly pronounce but which means. I agree it sounds unlikely. I cast a round for somebody who knew the country well.' 'Brunel's golden mile.' She took the map and studied the contour lines. once he realized he'd been sold what he already owned. you've got the lot. You're not old yet. They then converge. Perhaps their language or their hu mour proved too obscure. it presents a ra ther remarkable effect. 'It wouldn't be too difficult in a very small. and thought him a charming man. 'I've only dug into this because I promised to find out anything I could for you. He explained that the two long ridges both rise to a kind of hump in the middle. Land on which he holds a forty year lease with all minera l rights. roughly. And my dear it's on Brunel's land.' 'That makes no difference. including these twin ridges here. And why an impossi ble virgin.' 'True. you know that behind his front as a benefactor h e's a little kingmaker there? Or perhaps Government-maker would be more appropri ate. Beyond the juncture there's flattish ground.' 'I'm relieved to hear you say so. I see.' He p ointed with the pencil. which enclose Novikov's find. He'd never visited Bona ccord. but he never bothered to find out why. he'd have killed him after. as it was called then. He'd met Brune l only once. 'When I see Novikov's golden mile lying right between her legs. so the valley has a blind end.'No.' 'It's scarcely of any real importance to you.' She nodded. b ut mildly interesting. 'That's a pity. 'Yes.' She looked up. These small hills are the breasts and this i s her head.' 'I'm inclined to agree. about forty. The red cross marks the junction of Novikov's co ordinates. 'I'm sure you asked him why.' 'I did.' Modesty lifted an eyebrow.' She studied the map for a few seconds and laughed briefly. here and here. Not important. for several years befor e 1962. does it to you?' 'I'm not an expert in these matters. Now there's just a little more to tell. I feel I'd like to know how she got that name.' .

' When Tarrant had gone. Giles. and he would not put her at risk again. Sitting at her bench. but with miserly parsimony.' She folded the map and gave it to him. Come on now. To be drawn into strife was an inevitab ility for her. I suppose. Modesty wriggle d over on her stomach. By a freak of chance their orbits had touched. For a few moments she wondered idly how and when the business with Brunel would begin again. he can keep it. More tea?' 'Thank you. Willie?' . It was a sma llish stone. Tarrant. but we can ignore it. when he had set himself to blackmail h er into an assignment for his department. I don't invite trouble.' She laughed and shook her head. having s hown the strength of his hand. 'Y es. He gave a grunt of satisfaction.' The phone rang three times. as always. A clever man. maybe. Six days later. It rang only three times. And I sometimes detect in you a deplor able touch of the crusading spirit. in the afternoon. an absolute shocke r. 'Help get us disentangled.' 'It'll start again. ruthless man if need be. The tiny flaw had been eliminated by the cutting. He indulges in torture. Her thoughts turned to Brunel. when he had to. and when he rings like that it's important. she was in bed with Giles Pennyfeather when the phone r ang.' 'Well. 'It's been a great pleasure to see you. relying on his intuition that this would be more compelling than any other leverage. and she had long since accepted this as her destiny. 'God knows where you get that image of me. his ruthlessness was of the old-fashioned kind that derived from necessity and was never an end in itself. da rling. That's Willie calling. then stopped again. she sprinkled emery flour on the wooden wheel and set it i n motion. he had suddenly changed his tactics by giving awa y his advantage. I must go now.' 'Oh. and as the phone began to ring again she picked it up. She lifted the dop-stick and examined the facet she was polishing. She said. but the quality was superb. Modesty Blaise had become his f riend.'If Brunel ever finds his gold. I'll do one of us a mischief. If I try to reach the phone like this. but you do. unasked. let's get sorted out. As she began to polish the gemstone she thought of Tarrant. she knew it in the marrow of her bones. But now he would have it no more. well. It is written. so placing her under an obligation he could in no way force her to repay. Brunel is.' 'Not this call. I n the silent war that he fought. She had involved he rself in other assignments for him. with light snow stippling the window against a background of grey sky. then she put the matter from her mind and re-fixed the emerald on t he dop-stick to polish another facet. hers and Brunel's. An instinct sharpened by a l ifetime of hazard was telling her so. then stopp ed. an impulse to deal with beastly men who are getting away with it because they can't be stopped officially in any way. She recalled the moment when. but she said. to quote Dr Pennyfeather. A very hard. W hether she wished it or not they would touch again. That business was unfinished.' After a few moments Pennyfeather sighed and lay back on the bed. A beastly man. With the jeweller's glass screwed in her eye she exami ned it carefully. so was his sense of obligation. And if his ruthlessness was of another age. So much for my crusading spirit. In'sh' Allah. Pennyfeather cursed indignantly and waited. There.' 'But it's stopped.' He stood up. Modesty went to her workroom and set the emerald she was polishing in a dop-stick. All right then. but we can always make up for it. but no. She felt neither eager nor apprehensive. 'I'm frustrated too. He expended his paid agents. You look extraordinarily attractive in that dress. During her l one childhood wanderings in the Middle East she had absorbed much of the fatalis m of its peoples.' 'Forgive me. and if she had not said as much to Tarrant it was only to avoid causing him anxiety. half smili ng as she remembered their first meeting.

Next day she insisted on making 'erself useful. We got nice and friendly. and if she so much as sat up in the night I'd wake.' 'But nothing?' 'Not so far. so if I'd locked me door she'd have known she was blown. She was pretty upset.' Pennyfeather muttered. Willie said. She'd got nothing el se in bed with 'er.' Modesty stiffened. the l ot. trying not to cry and all that. I once dissect ed a cadaver almost as good. You got a minute? ' 'Of course. Willie grinned to himself. She's very beautiful. so they could get in touch with the emba ssy for 'er and fix whatever 'ad to be done.. and she could stay a few days while she c abled 'er folks in Sweden for money and whatever she needed. 'Shut up a minute. You're on the spot so you're the best judge. That's cutting a long cover story s hort. 'Yes. Managed to suggest what she wanted without seeming to. And every nigh t since. 'Hey. And if he wa s satisfied .' 'Sure. Put 'er up for the night in one of the spare rooms. said quietly. Willie?' 'Yes. 'I don't see who else it could be. At the other end.' Modesty said. He did not mind when she occasionally flared at him now. 'I thought I'd better ring you.. smooth organization of The Network. It was pleasantly nostalgic. More than once. into the phone.' 'Then what?' 'I can't figure. Willie had an incredibly sharp nose for danger. I don't think she's been put in to sign me off. even if she managed to make it look the other way round. Asked if I would put 'er up overnight and get 'er to the police station tomorrow. You know I can sleep with 'alf an eye open. Princess. thoughtfully tracing the muscles of her shoulders and back with professional interest. He said reasonably. Says 'er name's Christina. it would' ve 'ad to be with poisoned toenails or something like that. papers. There can't be many like 'er. she h ad shaken him up severely for taking unnecessary risks. White 'air. Princess. I didn't ring you before because I thought something would begi n to show. And I was careful. especially during his first year or two with her. I suppose it's all right. 'And you've played along ever since. give a few hints that she's blown. and see 'ow she reacts?' . What is it?' Pennyfeather was kneeling up. It caught fire and she'd lost everything. and she ended up in my room that night. The point is.' 'So what happened?' 'I played along. She was from Sweden. and I must say ' She said. Money. I'd see to the ca r in the morning. Sometimes there was a flash of her old manner. W illie love. Giles. An albino. but different. and then I could give you the picture. 'She made the running. do you know your pulse rate a jumped a bit just then?' Willie's voice said. so if I 'adn't known bet ter it would've seemed like everything was my idea. She was a bit dazed but not 'urt. his fingers on her inner thigh. 'If she was going to do me in.' 'That was a damn fool risk to take!' There was a snap in her voice. from the days when she had run the taut.Willie's voice said. what was left of it. We 'ad a dr ink or two before she went to bed. yes. I mean the musculature. but do watch yourself. and by the time she'd told me 'ow kind I was ten times over. 'Yes. She was vaguely aware of Giles Pennyfeather saying. Oh my word.' He chuckled. but yours is better. D'you want me to prod things along a bit? I mean.' 'Cover story?' Modesty turned on her side.' Modesty considered. 'Fabulous stomach. on 'er own.' Then. She was good at it. 'They claim it's the most be autiful curve on the female body. I took 'er out to dinner. but that doesn't mean much. been 'ere a few months and plann ing to go back soon. 'The one Fraser told us about?' Pennyfeather. I was telling 'er not to worry about anything. 'Three days ago a girl walked into The Treadmill just on closing time. She'd got a little car that she'd wrapped round a tree abou t 'älf a mile away.

Tell 'im I'm sorry I rang. you feel it's buried so deep she can't even reach it 'erself. But on top. I think you'd better jog along as you are for the time being. How's Giles? I thought I 'eard 'im muttering in the background just now.' 'You may well have done. Just play it by ear and keep me pos ted. but a robot inside.can't even see the scar. with one arm curled across Willie Gar . Have you grown a little fond of her. But don't worry. When she obeyed Brunel. or perhaps it was her feelin gs they could not read. He's fine. Then. You don't find girls like that everywhere. don't think I'm shooting a line. but it must be so. I didn't think 'e was the bookish sort.' CHAPTER SEVEN The voices in her head had not spoken for days now. Sometimes it's almost like she was afraid to. 'I never found it 'arder to read a nyone in me life. Willie?' He said at once. Princess. in the darkness of the early hours. but I don't think she's ever known wh at it is to really enjoy being with a man till now. One of Brunel's people.' Pennyfeather breathed incredulously. Someone just like a flesh-and-blood huma n being to look at. She was coming to the belief that they must be unable to read some of the though ts which stirred in the deeper reaches of her mind.' Pennyfeather suspended his prodding inspection of her femoral muscle. But exactly how do you read her?' He paused a long time before answering. Let's wait for her to show hers.' 'That's it. this is ma king it tougher. Will ie. 'Bye. All I can see is the act she's putting on. And sort of sorry for 'er. Willie. that cut on your behind! It's heale d completely . Giles. and I can't tell what's underneath. I think that's the best idea. What-ever's there. it's just anoth er circuit being switched in. Brunel keeps 'er well in the background . If you start prodding. You kno w what an android is?' 'I've read science fiction too. Well. I'm wa tching meself. 'I reckon 'e knows the best way to spend t his sort of afternoon.' 'Good for you. Willie. 'Yes. 'You might well think she'd realize that you'd know w hose team she's in. I mean the real basic person.' he said reproachfully.' 'I wondered about it meself. whatever she's aiming to do. the voices were alw ays pleased. Well. I'm enjoying meself n o end. more carefully even than usual. and she was gratefu l to Brunel for coaching her so carefully. 'Listen. for in the last few days she had been guilty of frightful blasphemy against the voices. Willie's been picked up by a girl . 'I say. She d oesn't know 'ow to cope with it. So I think there's going to be trouble sooner or later . then Willie laughed. will you?' 'Me? For God's sake. Man-made. He's busy with a re fresher course in anatomy just at the moment. she can be anything she wants to be. Look. 'All right.' She said into the phone. This was a relief. And that's shaken 'er.' 'Blimey. Let's say almost every reaction. This was strange. Still waiting for a job.' 'All right. Willie. we show our hand.' 'Okay.' 'It's female anatomy and he's using a live subject. 'You should have shot that beastly little bugger whil e you had the chance. you feel with every reaction you get from 'er. She's a very versatile girl. she's 'ad plenty of men.' 'That's true. which meant that they must b e well satisfied with what she was doing.' 'I was 'oping you'd say that. I mean.' 'Almost?' There's one thing.' She said goodbye and rang off.' 'It sounds as if you're being nice to her. but we wouldn't know except that Fraser mentioned ' er just once when we were in The Legend. 'I told yo u.Modesty said thoughtfully. Lying in be d now. a bit. Princess.' There was pause. And a ll had happened as he had predicted.

The voices co uld not know.. It was also very strange. I'm w rong. so wonderful that it frightened her. In some peculiar way there had been no opportunity in all the eight days s he had been with him... Tina?' 'Yes. 'Why did you arrange's chest and her head resting on his shoulder. Only a very little lo nger. She could pretend Willie was what she would have believed him to be. But first there was the final thing she must do now. angry reprimands in her head.. is there?' 'Yes. on and on and on. 'I'm not afraid of that.' 'Good. but that had often been the way. Therefore they could not know her happiness and longing. It' s hard for me to say all this. stretching out a leg so that it rested across Willie's. . and they were real. 'N othing wrong. for she had never known such a thing befor e. 'You awake. love?' 'I'm not what you think I am. the final move. She hugged the thought to herself. Wil lie.' 'Blimey. to be sensible. she shivered as she thought of her guilt. though she had long since realized that it would have been hard. don't take it that 'ard. hardly daring to formulate it. It's Lisa. Astonishing how completely he managed to hide his wickedness from he r. and pretended to c ry because he hurt her. No voi ces spoke.' 'That's all right. bewildered and confused.' 'I know. I couldn't do it if it wasn't dark.' Tears came. She stirred. it's all untrue. unable to remember the last ti me she had cried. She shu ddered as she thought what that final thing might have been. awed by her own defiance. and said quickly. for the final thing was very easy. there were no real tears. No matter. Except .' She fought to control her sobbing breath. A bitter sadness touched her at the thought of going. I didn't mean to disturb you. 'You're maki ng me all wet. and kn ew all things.' She felt his body stiffen. She tried almost angrily t o thrust it aside. Exc ept that they did not know her present blasphemy. This man who lay beside her was an Enemy. She had lost control and fallen into the grave disobedience of wanting him. and so cling to her happiness and her wanting a little longer.' He eased round a little and wiped her cheek with the sheet. I'm sorry. a tool of the voices whose instrument she was privileged to be. 'Well . Willie Garvin said. It was achingly beautiful. Just take it slow and don't worry. without Brunel to guide her. she would have liked Willie Garvin in every way and believed him good.' 'You? What you talking about. which was a wickedness in itself. Lisa.' He put his other arm across and drew her a little closer. and she did not dwell on it..' She drew in a few deep breaths. Everything I've told you. to kill this E nemy. 'Keep holding me close. and then go.. He said in a voice that held no hint of sleepiness. 'It's me. So hard. for she was nothing. It had happened the very first time they mad e love. to prepare the way.. But there was no denying it to herself. Willie. Even when she had to be with Adrian Chance. It was pointless to frighten herself with what did not arise. It's a bit of a bom bshell. And so she could pretend to he rself. He was wicked.' She made her voice shake a little and spoke in a whisper. and was steadier. But if she f ailed to obey them in carrying out their demands they would know. Willie. I'm not a Swedish girl. They were wise. or they would be singing their cold. It was all arranged. But that would be using her own judgement. but I'm not going to eat you. and the time h ad come now when she must make the next move. My name isn't Christina. and beyond her understandi ng. and had almost shattered her. and if you weren't holding me . She buried her fa ce against his shoulder.' He sounded more amused than startled. and she knew now that if she moved to get out of bed he wo uld be awake at once. She pressed her cheek gently against his flesh. perhaps impossible. Without the voices to guide her. 'I'm spying on you for Brunel. And the car accident wasn't an accident. then?' 'I'm Lisa Brunel..

He doesn't feel hate or anger .' 'Please. I just enjoy looking at a beautiful gi rl. All the things I've b een doing this last week. I'd be a freak to a Japa nese or a Bantu. He'd send Adrian Chance and Jacko Muktar after me. Brunel would act against betrayal as a matter of cold policy. he wouldn't let me.' 'Why d'you 'ave to tell me?' 'Because . If you were a freak to me.' She said. Lisa?' 'Not so much to find out anything.' It was easy. wait. He'd do it because I'd betrayed him. He just wanted me to keep a line on you. Her short straight hair was white. I know. or anything much. Stalling. What's changed?' She put a hand to run her fingers over his lips.' 'He was right. The truth fitted perfectly with what she had been told to do.' 'First. She said. Willie. It's finis hed. He's given me everything I have. It wouldn't be revenge. I do. I have to.' 'That's bloody stupid. I go tomorrow.' 'Whereabouts in France?' I can't tell you that. Willie. Her eyes held little colour and the whites of them were ting ed with pink. Willie.' 'Don't get worked up about it. I'm tied to him.' 'To bring you back?' 'That. but they were large and beautifully shaped eyes. There's more difference. Willie. Propped on an elbow. He . I'm supposed to keep my eyes and ears open for anything to confirm it. set in small deli ghtful features. 'I'm sorry. if you don't want to go back to Brunel you don't 'ave to.' He reached out and switched on the shaded bedside light. Willie. Why do you 'ave to go back to Brunel if you don't want to?' 'Lots of reasons. Pennyfeather find s it quite a job remembering 'is own name. Brunel said as long as I was giving you a good time. but her breasts were full and firm. don't you?' 'I sort of guessed.' 'Go?' That cable this morning. It wasn't from Sweden. I can't bear it. He doesn't tell me everything. Yes. And we're not interested. anyway. You kno w. Lisa. 'You said it was to be for as long as you could make it. And an other thing. drawing his head down to kiss him. 'He's barking up the wrong tree. I 'All right. I've been happy with you. So very happy. any colour or no colour.' Willie laughed quietly. You know.. 'Oh. sending off cables and getting answers.' 'Maybe. He's done the same sort of thing before. It's very hard to tear up roots. the g irl was right.. Lisa.. How long were you supposed to keep this up?' 'At first it was to be for as long as I could keep my cover story going. 'I di dn't know it was possible for anything to be so wonderful. he looked down at her. love. What did Brunel put you in to find out. This is important. Willie. 'No. There were still tears in her eyes. It just told me to cancel present arrangements and join him there. Too many to explain. It was from Brunel. wasn't he?' Willie turned his head and kissed her lightly on the brow.' Willie remembered the interview with Brunel in Modesty's penthouse. He thinks Pennyfeather may remember them.' She held him fiercely. the near white colour of some Scandinavians.I have to tell you. Willie. Or kill me. Her body was perhaps too thinly fleshed on the fine bones. Now you 've made me forget what I was going to say. Why does he want a line on me?' 'To know if you and Modesty Blaise start to do anything about the Novikov Projec t. one way or another. and looking at you is something marvellous. yet it could as well have been ash-blonde.' 'Yes. 'That's nice. Pretending my parents had g one abroad and weren't expected back for another ten days.' and smiled. but there's something to do with coordinates.' 'I reckon you've paid. He's in Fran ce.' 'Try me with some. y ou wouldn't be too quick to start wondering.. That's something he won 't allow. But I don't know any other life. But look. I'm a freak. 'Don't study me.

Stop feeling sorry for yourself. but you couldn't even if you wanted to. Very light-skinned for an Arab. There's still a profitable line in white a nd black slavery goes on. from my mother. If I try to remember it makes my head hurt. I was still young when my mother sold me.. On the other level he was taking her word s at their face value. But you're never going to be permanent for any girl. She was a p oor Arab. Is that important? I thought it must be. 'I t hink I was fifteen when Brunel bought me. One night Brunel was i n the café. Go on. And so are mine. Now smile. and then when I grew older I had to wear trousers and bangles and s erve in the café.' Better to put it that way. I hardly remember those years.' He touched her cheek and ran his fingers through her hair. I've heard Brunel and the others talk about you and Modesty Bla ise. She smiled. then at a school in Switzerland.' 'That was when Brunel bought you?' 'Yes.' Willie Garvin's mind was working on two levels. It seemed that for once she need not act a part. but they did not speak inside her head. Willie. He took me away that night. He had three other men with him.. Lisa. A fiftee n-year-old white virgin would fetch some crazy bidding. That was new and difficult.' 'It's strange. You'll never want to br eak them.said.' 'You mean you'd look after me?' 'That's right. and he never let me be touched. I didn't see those two till a long time later. They had already moved into far deeper waters tha n Brunel had coached her for. a mixture. 'I never knew him and I'm not sure my mother knew who he was. and I was at his place in Rwanda for a while. Lisa? I mean when the pimp finally sold you. You've enjoyed me a lot. Then back to R . even though she was simply following her own feelings and impuls es. look at me. all over North Africa and farther south. because this man kept me for a lo ng time.' 'That sounds like the routine. a special school.' 'For how long.' 'Bought you?' 'In Morocco. 'We've gone over that already. I expect. but not Adrian or Jack o. You're bea utiful. they didn't like it. You hav e your own ties. She could simply tell the truth. white men. they'll wish they 'adn't. and I'm so very glad for that. You really think you could act as watch-dog for me permanently?' He was silent. But I think you have better ties than I have. 'You don't have to answer. Were you a virgin still. but I suppose he must have been European. I just used to help in the kitch en at first. She could not tell him about the voices. She said. and turned her head away.' 'And I'm whiter than most. and there was as much understanding as sadness in it. perhaps a year. It was to a pimp who ran a café somewhere. and you got no right to. and she was in an area where she had to use her ow n judgement. So what. She listened for the voices to guide he r. They can't understand. 'I'm not sure where I come from. Come on. 'That's better. Lisa? Are you related to Brunel?' She lay thinking for a moment.' 'From the Hedjazis?' "What are they?' 'Arabs from just east of the Red Sea. and they moved him strangely. My father. I remember more since I began telling you. 'If Chance and Muktar try anything. I know. He was saving you up to get a big price. all would be well. He said slowly. trying to distinguish the true from the false. she was doing must be satisf actory to them. They s end out agents to buy for them. because I don't know her. and the y'll pay till their nose bleeds for a white girl. where men came to buy girls. 'Where d'you come from. for two years. and finding it hard to detect any false notes at all. love. the agents I suppose. I'd been bought before. On one he was assessing carefull y what Lisa said. I think it was. Willie? This year. and the Hedjazis are specialists from way back. next year? Five years time? Brunel's very pati ent. The others.' She shrugged in his arms. They're too strong now. but they were a fraid of him. As long as she brought about the final aim of what she had to do. And maybe I don't understand either. years.' she said.' 'Yes.

There's lots of time. 'You all right. 'Lisa. I want you to make love to me for a long time in a b ig way. meaning it.' He turned to her. I'll drive you to the airport. He asked. and began very gently to caress her face. Willie. 'What time you leaving. It's your life. I can't always figure what goes on in your 'ead. She said.' Very slowly. She must be car eful.' It was as clo se to the truth as she dared to walk. and Willie Garvin was an Enemy.' 'And he uses you for this sort of thing . It's in my head. he was an Enemy. or lets Adrian Chance have me. and drew in a breath. love? You look a bit queasy. goodbye then. please!' She said the words almost in panic. It's been nice 'aving you. 'I'm leaving tomorrow. the important words. Like me to get you a cup of tea or coff ee?' 'No. Willie. In telling so much of the truth she had come close to lowering all her defences. Lisa. Like now. don't you?' The Enemy would say that.' 'Money?' 'I've plenty really. T here's so much you don't understand.' 'Don't keep on at me. There was lots of time. But she must not argue with him.. It was done now. lots of time for the burning within her to gro . The thought of that cold-fish little manikin using her b ody to slake his mechanical desires was macabre.' Willie Garvin lay back. and find out thing s. Say goodbye now. He would not understand that she was nothing. love. He was unhurried. Maybe I don't even want to. close to dangerous ground.' Sudden fear swept her. She knew he was not angry with her. her voice dragging wearily. You want to have me now.' She relaxed thankfully. all but the final words she had to say.I mean men?" 'Yes. soothingly as they lay. Besides. when it would be too late for questions. If she told some of th e ways in which Brunel had used her. I don't want airport goo dbyes. because it can't be said in words.' 'Break with 'im. Willie.' 'It's been nice being had. and they must not be said yet. I suppose. The rest of the time Brunel use s me himself. 'Those are just words. Willie?' 'Only if it's what you want.wanda. Lisa?' 'At seven in the morning. looking down at her. I'll just say goodbye now. They lay in silence for several minutes. He said. I can't break with him. and I'm sorr y. all in my head. her neck and then her body. After that he took me everywhere with him. sometimes talking softly. and then we won't have to say anything later. finding the touches that g ave her deepest pleasure. for his hand kept squeezing her shoulder gently. she said. 'I won't keep on. Willie Garvin would draw back from her as a thing of loathing.' 'Okay. What he is doesn't m ean anything to me.' 'It's 'ardly worth going to sleep again. She must remember that. 'I can't tell you. You know Brunel's a crook and a villain. she knew. whenever he travelled. After a while he said. Brunel had been em phatic about that. Like now.' 'Well. I think he did that while I was a t school.' She swallo wed. Lisa. They must be said only at t he very end. And luggage at Heathrow. By that time he'd adopted me legally as his daughter. At last he said. It was hard er all the time to remember. of course. an instrument of the voices. I won't. telling her that she was beautiful and exciting. I want you to stay close to me. Just a queasy sort of thing to talk about. And good luck. 'I have to pick men up for Brunel. Willie. except that it's never been like this before. We'll work out something. I didn't want to tell you that. Do it now.' 'It's nothing. I've got a hired car coming to pick me up. Willie. and let him know what they're doing.' 'Yes.' 'No. I don't even want you to get up.. and when the time comes I'll get up and go.' 'Then tell me.

Remember me sometimes. closing the door. putting on the dressing-g own he had lent her.' 'What way. then was frightened at her own dece it and wickedness. Grinding out his cigarette in the ashtray. Willie Garvin muttered. dressed. concen trating only on whatever she was doing at any moment.' She gave a small forced smile. She let the world fall away.' Her manner was impatient. We didn't look for it. 'I have to go. That w as black blasphemy. Tarrant said curtly. agreed. He must have located her at last. gently patting her cheek. The voices were forgotten. he sat on the edge of the bed and picked up the phone. Terr ific. By five to seven she was ready. Lisa. of all that they would do together. Stay there. had been said.w steadily more fierce. the others haven 't. she could see the approach to The Treadmill. She prayed to nothing in particular that the voices would nev er know how she had abandoned them for a time to indulge her own desires. I'm glad of that. Willie.' 'The car's here. then went back into the bedroom. and made up her face.' Tarrant looked at her curiously. He watc hed it move off. She waited two or th ree minutes until she saw the car arrive.' She shrugged. Conveniently the car hooter sounded. as Bru nel had coached her.' She got up. 'Christ!' and threw back the covers. No goodbyes. But I imagine there are hundreds of unfortunate people in the world at this mom ent suffering interrogation of a similar kind. 'You look great. From the bathroom a minute later he saw her get in the car. It was six-thirty when Willie roused her from sleep. by opening the wi ndow a little. perh aps. 'Oh. There was nothing to pack. not interested in y ou or Modesty Blaise or Pennyfeather any more. then went back into the bedroom. Slowly she said. as a puppet by some magic might have life of its own for a brief hour. She had only a handbag and a few toilet and make-up necessities Willie had boug ht for her. Novikov's wife. 'All right.' Modesty said. glad the other line he was working on has come good. and became herself.' She went to the door.' 'Sure. So glad it w orked out this way. Lisa?' 'Brunel pulling me out.' 'Me too.' The final word s. that's not fair. I'm going now. She said.' She went out. 'All I know is I've done a . 'Do you really feel bound to intervene?' 'Feel bound? I don't know. 'I didn't know ther e was another line. Willie was sitting up. we've just become inv olved.' She tried for a few moments to cling to the wonderful unreality she had known be fore she had fallen asleep half an hour ago. and hesitated. was almost too piercing to bear.' Willie said. 'Novikov's wife. is likely to be interrogated by Brunel. rousing her until she strove demandingly with him.' 'Sure. From the bathroom. As she dried herself. The a nticipation of what was to come. love.' Tarrant exhaled audibly. He said. The car's coming at seven. Brunel was forgotten. she kept her mind a blank. Four hours later. the important words she did not understand. 'The Novikov woman has been thrust under my nose. It must mean he's leaving you alone. Possibly in a loathsome manner. 'I guess I 'm greedy. Willie. you said. She was pleased to have said them almost absently. 'You told me that you w ouldn't look for trouble with Brunel. Willie. One or two of my own people. but that's exactly what you're doing. smoking a cigarette. as if they were of no importance at all. ' Time for you to get up. in the penthouse.' Modesty said. She looked at her watc h. and went through into the bathroom to take a shower. She let go. 'Involved? Why? We have a situation in which a Russian woman. and studied the tip of his cigarette. who means nothing to you and whom you've never even seen. 'I'm so glad. but the only thing I wish is that it hadn't come good for another wee k.

while he was doi ng a little time in the coop in Calcutta.' 'What does that mean?' 'God knows. She didn't try to sell him any kind of gold-brick.' 'The trouble with you. The Ugandan authorities had presumed his death. But I don't reckon so this time. 'It's all very well for you to talk. 'Willie learned the psalms by heart in his youth. and this time it would have to be f inal.' 'Eh?' Modesty said. I see. of course. and 'er mouth is smo other than oil.' Tarrant groped for a thought that would not quite take shape. Tarrant felt depressed. Both the Deuxième and t he CIA had paid Novikov for the technical information he had been able to supply .' Willie stood up. He has quotations for all occasions. She had returned to France only a week ago. I think. Willie.' 'Right. 'It's just that Brunel and his works frighten me . 'is that you're devel oping into a blasted do-gooder. and never been seen again. but guessed that it was to pick up some funds there.' Pennyfeather looked blankly at Willie. 'We can't let that stop us. Bastards. Modesty intended to tangle with Brunel. He can put us dow n at the nearest airfield to Pelissol and save the journey from Paris. but I saw what they did to Noviko v. and had been told that Madame Novikov was still there. and then pulled out. I was never much good at learning things by heart myself. hands behind her head. Princess?' 'Private. but Tarran t knew that with the decision made she was setting her thoughts in order. He reported that soon after being granted asylum in F rance. Verse three. leaning back. H e had hired a truck and supplies in Kampala. He may be a cold fish but he'd hardly want to parade the fact that he lays his o wn adopted daughter and lets Chance have any spare rations. Mada me Novikov had left the Paris flat and gone to Switzerland. we can't all have Willie's advantages.' He smiled. But I've n ever been in clink.' Her laugh was full of delight at the absurdity.' Willie picked up the phone and began to dial.' She looked at Tarr ant. darling. Only ten minutes ago René Vaubois o f the Deuxième Bureau had telephoned from Paris with the answer to Modesty's call made earlier that morning.' She said almost gently. It was going to happen again. a village in the Dordogne. In the meant ime she fell for him and spilled a lot of things Brunel could never want known. legs crossed.' Tarrant said with sudden asperity. and she could only stop him by destroying h . 'This damned albino girl was probably conning Willie. He said sourly.' 'Never mind.' Tarrant made a gesture of resignation and sat back in his chair.' 'Could be. Vaubois had been in touch with the local g endarmerie at Pelissol. 'I reckon there's about one per cent possibility.' Willie looked up. and rented a small farm cottage in Pelissol. 'How could the girl be conning him? She was put in to keep tabs on us. Novikov had flown to Uganda.' Tarrant confessed. She seemed to be stud ying the Paul Klee that hung on the cedar-strip wall in front of her. The thing had b egun now. Y ou'll be carrying a banner next. that there could be no half measures. 'Bu t perhaps she didn't know she was taking him in. A nd now Modesty Blaise was planning to go to Pelissol today. 'Where do honeycombs come into it?' 'Psalm five. Modesty sat down in an ar mchair. he could see it crystal cl ear. poking your nose into other people's troubles. too.' 'With Brunel. but Pennyfeather said soberly to Tarrant. set off for an unknown destination.lot of things less worthwhile than stopping Brunel getting to work on her with a red-hot knife or whatever takes his fancy. 'You want me to try booking normal flights or a private aircraf t. She was going to stop Brunel indul ging in yet another torture session. Where's the trick? A nd do you really think she could take Willie in?' 'Perhaps not. 'The lips of a strange woman drop as honeycomb. Vaubois did not know why. See if Dave Craythorpe's available. He kne w.' 'Oh. We don't want to lose any time. I don't like even a one per cent chance. and he had no chance of stopping it. leaving his wife in a small flat in Paris.

' Tarrant got up. She always thought her feet too big. Brunel was a man who had never but they were right fo r her. I'm going with them.' 'I'm sorry.' 'You're a nice man. he told hims elf. He had resources of which Chance and Muktar were only the spearhead. and the long lovely neck. darling. He'll take her off to Rwanda.' Tarrant traced the pattern in one of the Isfahan rugs with the ferrule of his um brella. 'Will you be staying on here. 'When you get your teeth into something . Flat shoes on long narrow feet. the breasts were fu ll and rounded against the ice-blue cashmere of the shirt-dress she wore. He said to Modesty.' 'I've an official interest in anything Brunel gets up to. a nd Tarrant feared Brunel greatly. As far as he knew. strong legs were hidden as she sat now. and so often went in against stacked odds.' 'And if so. 'But I have to come. Brunel might be t he man to destroy her. Sadly Tarrant allowed himself to enjoy the sight of her now. 'I'll be going along then. 'You'll need me. b ut they had come very close to it several times.' Tarrant gave a brief laugh. without hirelings. I suppose you've been thinking about dealing with B runel all this time. I don't understand. Brunel may alre ady have taken her. vaguely puzzled. But it seems you've t aken to spoiling me. 'She won't. there was no question but that one or the other would die soon. what are you going to do? Walk in on her and say.' Pennyfeather blinked and stood up. What shall I pack.' He turned to look at Pennyfeather. hallo Mrs Novikov. and except in the matter of the Singapore papers. I'm very grateful. Princess . Modesty?' There was a moment of silence. He knew her skill and resource.. With her shoulders drawn back by the lift of her arms. It was true that Modesty and Willie also had never yet lost a battle in the end. She's Russian an' she's a defector. wid e mouth with the lips pursed a little now as she reflected. then Modesty said. giving him a warm smile. never even come clos e to it. I'm only sorry I've be en no help. His limbs seemed to unfold erratically. Willie put down the phone and said. small nose. the re's a horrible little bugger who tortured your husband to death and he's coming to get you. Doctor?' 'Me? Lord. yet t here was a curious touch of dignity about him. no. 'It was good of y ou to come round when you've no official interest in this. you propose to follow?' 'We can't just turn round and come home. but I've been thinking about poor old dead Novikov's wife. we'll protect you? Christ. for they worked alone.' 'You can be. 'But Giles dear. 'Well. I mean. I thought that was obvious. Tarrant smil ed wanly to himself. I'd guess he has a private a ircraft ready for the job. 'All right. From t his moment on. eyes that varied from deep indigo to midnight blue. knew her physical and mental strength. but he won't hold h is inquisition there. Sometimes you're a bit slow. And so she would take the initiative now.that's if you want to.' 'Remember Brunel isn't. you're stayin g here . Giles. I'll s end the map round to you within an hour. She came out of her reverie and rose. It might be the last time he would be able to enjoy looking at her. Need you for what?' He shook his head. so easily destroyed. hair black as raven 's feathers. Very l ittle of the slim. and for all their str ength there was no bulge of muscle. Simply to thwart him would be to invite her own destruction at a time and in a manner of Brunel's choosing. 'Dave can take us at fifteen 'undred hours.. I mean. hi s rather penetrating voice much quieter than usual.' he said. but all flesh and blood and bone was fragile. Could we have the map you showed me?' 'The Rwanda map? What on earth do you want it for?' 'Because Novikov's wife may have gone before we get to Pelissol.' he said. She'll suspect everyone and everything. but don't worry. or he could be at the house this minute. do you think she'll bel ieve you?' There was another silence before Willie Garvin said slowly. you're not coming with us. 'Would you like another opinion .' he said.

She wore black slacks and shirt. All was to be very good for us. Any woman would believe him.' she said. only a quiet sorrow poss essed her. 'He doesn't know what g uile is. there's simply tons of bread here. Ciles dear. I'd look silly in it. of course.' 'Yes. And more than that. Well. and that's all. She was looking at Pennyfeather with a touch of wry humo ur. Modesty sat on a worn cou ch near the ancient fireplace where dry logs crackled. and looked at Pennyfeather. When I tell he r about it. then wiped her hands on a tea -towel. I can tell you. we'd better get busy.' 'I know. It was only an hour since he had arrived at the cottage. And now you have told me. but it was no go. and you can borrow a duffel coat of Willie's instead. her hands moving slowly. 'I'm sure she will. She was a well-built woman of forty. Excep t your monstrous great sweater that looks like frayed rope. We don't want to eat you out of house and home.' he said. A woman stood by the scrubbed table.' Her English was slow and heavily accented. trust hi m. It was warm within the thick walls of the cottage. 'We're not the same size.' He ambled away and vanished into Modesty's bedroom.' she repeated. She had not wept.' Modesty did not answer. 'I wish you well. I see. Willie Garvin was somewhere outside in the darkness. 'Of course it'll make a difference if I'm there. 'Look here.' He turned. He's what you inaccurately called me just now. She won't believe him either. 'Y ou once told me not to ask you what you saw in Dr Pennyfeather. Short dark hair with a few early threads of grey fram ed a strong Slavic face. 'Poor Mischa.on the doctor's verdict? I entirely agree that she'll be too suspicious to belie ve you or to fall in with whatever plans you may make. He said. her windcheater lay beside her. The eyes were still beautiful. The hired self-drive car in which they had travelled from Bordeaux was hidden i n a stand of trees a quarter of a mile away. But his presence won't al ter that. I'll go and see if I can sort of roll the sweater up and strap it on outside. neither was she showing any sign of fear. and rather pro ud of the prowess displayed. and it shows. and half an hour later he had emerged to tel l them that all was well. I felt it was a last going away. she'll believe me. Modesty. I'm a woman. and I know. But when he went from me. They had checked round the cottage carefully before sending Pennyfeather in on his own.' 'Oh.' 'I just wish I could have pulled him through. I haven't. Doctor. like a fencing master acknowledging a hit scored by a novice. Wha t do you want me to pack in the way of clothes?' 'Just about everything you have will go into an airline hold-all. Leave it behind. And n ow I shall never even ask myself. 'I thank you for what y ou do for him. i n a brown dress. Madame Novikov had accepted him and believed him. ' 'What did I call you?' 'A nice man. darling. Modesty studied her. You can take my word for it. her figure good except for the beginnings of thickness at the w aist. I have to be jolly guileful dealing with my patients sometimes. cutting slices of crusty bread and putting them on a plate. I knew. I say. Giles. 'He hoped so much. I did try hard. but he was completely at home. on watch. I'll take my medical bag. It was Pennyfeather who answered Tarrant. You're quite right.' . But I was with him when he died.' She looked at Tarrant.' CHAPTER EIGHT Three hours had passed since the early nightfall of mid-March closed over the br own fields and the little cottage which stood alone on the slope above the villa ge. I just didn't want to boast about you. When he did not come back . 'Poor Mischa. She pretty well knows her husba nd must be dead. I know perfectly well what guile is. Pennyfeather was unwrapping a packet of butter and putting it on a dish.' Pennyfeather said indignantly. She moved to the range a nd poured boiling water into an enamel coffee jug. Tarrant took her hand and touched it to his lips.

and the secret was all that was left to her of poor Mischa. I do not want to run away. so I hope you won't know an ything about it until it's all over. My poor Mischa. and then we would be ri ch. It was unlikely that he would underst and her warning look.' Madame Novikov went on cutting slices of meat. But always I was afraid the KGB would come to kill him. she sai d to Pennyfeather. To find that it had been dis covered would bring a renewed sense of loss and distress. what else can we do?' She looked at Modesty again. 'You say this also. 'I think the doctor does not want to. Ther e is cold. 'I know it sounds a bi t drastic. Tomorr ow we can arrange things better. they're absolute shockers. but I think he would find you in the end. I think he may ha ve tried to tell me. We exp ect to intercept them before they reach the cottage.' 'You're jolly brave. and some snow. not even Madame Novikov.' She put down the knife and looked at Modesty. I am afraid. slowly and methodically. but at least it was hers. He would see this man Brunel in Africa. He was so sure.'There is a long night. Do you understand about this man Brunel? You may feel you wan t to run away.' 'You mustn't trouble about us. and the Russian woman herself had put the thought into words. They do not let go e asily. I am sorry to have only a little cheese and meat. Madame Novikov?' 'I know. And that's too late to help you. 'I think we have to kill them. you needn't worry about that. Madame. 'What will you do when Bru nel comes?' 'He won't come alone. miss. Pausing.' She was cutting pieces from a cheese. 'They want the coordinates. 'Poor Mischa. the figures which tell where the goldbearing land lies. Also the other gentleman outside.' The deep brooding eyes turned to Pennyfe ather. 'We may have to wait here for several days.' said Pennyfeather. But honestly. we think. miss. But I will not say them even to you. I am glad they will die. I know. Mischa told them to me. But the question ha d to be answered. Madame. we understand. She failed even to draw his glance before he spoke.' 'I understand. the police can't keep guard on you permanently. Modesty kept surprise from her expression. He just kept saying things i n his own language. Giles had known that. 'You do not know them? My husband did not tell you before he died?' Modesty tried to catch Pennyfeather's eye. He would like to find another way. only after he's done it. and I'm afraid I don't know a word of Russian. But there is not. and we're terribly a fraid of what they'll do to you. but an obscure instinct in her urged that nobody should be told that he had remembered the coordinates. Do you know them. and we want to make as little work for you as possible. As this young lady explained to me. But for one year now I have been afraid. His wife was widowed now. Doctor?' Pennyfeather pushed his fingers through his bush of hair. Even to the doctor. and tell him of the gold. Was Giles learning guile after all? Then she saw his eyes as he watched the Russian woman. but I did not expect. you see. Madame. I become used to this . I promised Mischa. Today you have travelled far and must eat.' The woman was cutting slices from a small half-leg of lamb now. We have no interest in the gold and we don't want you to te ll us. and you must eat. and suddenly she understood. 'No.' 'Yes. I am Russian and we know these things. and they can't take any action against Brun el for intending to commit a crime. In all his life he did not hurt any person except in war. . looking down at it.' Modesty said.' Modesty said.' 'You will kill them?' Modesty hesitated. You know. Madame. Poor Mischa had died to keep his great secret.' She rested her hand o n the knife. He'll have men with him. It's better to settle t hings now. but he was delirious. 'I would kill them myself. It was hardly likely that s he could ever exploit it. The knowl edge was dangerous. So really.' 'You're very kind. wondering how Madame Novikov would react. He gave a smiling shrug as he said. Two men. 'No.' 'Tomorrow is tomorrow.

' 'Better to leave her with Giles for a while. Perhaps it was the woman's stolid resignation that was oppressive. torpidly puzzled that Willie's voice should sound slurred. Princess. 'And I'll take my own along. What way do we play it when they come?' 'As far as they know they've nothing to worry about. Willie love. and liquid splashed over her feet. but all strength drained out of her. The mug of coffee had gone from her hand. Everything was going away from her. and realized with a touch of shame that she did not warm to Madame Novikov. and was almost inv isible to her until she came within four paces of him. Princess?' She leaned her head back against the hut. trying not to spill the coffee.. and he did not want to add to her sorrow. maybe..had perceived it at once with the unexpectedly subtle instinct that was his gift . but Modesty said. What did you make of Madame?' 'Only saw 'er for a couple of minutes. Something bumped heavily against her shoulder. She was worried about you getting cold. We'll just have to take it as it comes.' she said.' He was standing where the corner of the little wooden building threw thick shadows.' 'So do I. but Giles of course was almost entirely selfless . to Madame Novikov. 'Very cold outside. He had just broken cruel news to her . that in this respect alone he was able to lie with all the conviction that his innocence lent him. I'll take over from him in a l ittle while.' 'There's that.' 'I'll take it myself. and as he went down she fell sprawling across his legs. I should think they'll come by car. just a woman to deal with. I mean by night ' She paused . trying to collect her thoughts. ' He has to stay on watch. 'Over 'ere.. You mustn't go outside. I will take to him. 'Sorry. no. 'Yo u needn't 've bothered. Ugh! I see what you mean. But she's not telling. Novikov told her. Giles seemed quite unaffected by it. Madame. I want to have a few w ords with him. She grimaced at her own inadequacy. Giles. Willie .' 'She didn't ask how many spoonfuls.. which seemed suddenly confused. 'You bring the gentleman from outside now?' she said. Gi les started to get up. Willie. They mi ght.' She was glad to get out of the cottage. Willie Garvin's voice said softly. I said ' But what had sh e been going to say? It eluded her. so I brought it ou t.' 'She knows the coordinates. It's 'ot. but a bit slow upstairs. 'Blimey.. Not all that lively. Madame Novikov brought the coffee-pot from the range and poured black coffee int o big earthenware mugs.. to be warm.. if you don't mind. And she's raiding her larder.' He took the mug and she stood beside him in the shadows. and for the moment he stood to her as doctor to patient. But don't worry. She made an effort to catch him. Something shattered on the ground.' Then. 'It is not good. 'Listen. To feel sympathy for her called for an act o f will. Quite a looker once. wha' d'you say.' 'Never mind. trying to think. and Modesty saw that it was true.' 'Yes. dwindling in perspective. 'Coffee. no. He has a knack.' Modesty picked up her win dcheater. . holding his mug with great concent ration. But I reckon Brunel's going to turn up pretty quick. Princess. then he can eat.. along the dirt road. wait a minute.' 'M'mm..' he had said less than twelve hou rs ago. So I can't see them making a sneak approach on foot. she serves it sweet. ' 'She'd soon tell Brunel once 'e turned Chance loose on 'er. 'I have to be jolly g uileful dealing with my patients sometimes .' 'Thanks.. We'll see them minutes before they arrive. If they come by day .' The Russian woman was troubled. Better he have some coffee now. and made her way carefully across the moon lit yard and along a thin track leading to an out-house. We'll have to arrange for supplies if this goes on for long. Madame. Willie was slitheri ng down against the planking of the outhouse. 'No.' He sipped the coffee gratefully. Not anyone.

No sign of Madame Novikov. for there were emp ty seats available. pointed the torch. Straps across his lap and at his ankles held him to a plain wooden chair. Madame Novikov wa tching him with her sad.from the supposed victim. their eyes passed over her as if her seat had been empty. She was held in the same way herself. wearing a topcoat against the cold now. in which she saw Giles Pennyfeather drinking his coffee and sagging unconscious across the table. t hen. Probably a sleeping compa rtment. She was in a double seat. no violent action. Giles Pennyfeather was beside her. some of the seats removed to give more spac e and comfort. This was out of character. They ignored her. A rich man's private aircraft. Instead of a normal seatbelt. When Jacko glanced round for a moment. ready for trouble from any quart er but one . It was quiet inside the aircraft.. She had fine features and short hair. Willi e Garvin's voice said. she shone it down briefly on the two still figures.. then looked about her. A section of the cabin partitioned off. Two minutes passed. No untrained Russian housewife could have brought off such a skilf ul deception. Willie was not in one of the normal seats. Later she might spare time to blame herself for fa lling into the trap. two crossed straps held him upright in his seat. the woman who had serve d them with drugged coffee. . That was shatteringly obvious now. Rwanda seemed the likely destination. 'Take it easy. beside a pale girl wearing dark glasse s. No. She had certainly been one of Brunel's contacts. Then set up Novikov's wife as a victim and use Li sa to leak the fact to Willie Garvin. She heard Willie say effortfully in a d runken voice. and she did not understand it. There she faced south across a shallow basin of land. Shadi ng the torch in her hand. walked without haste along the little footpath from the cottage. and when she turned her head she could see Jacko Muktar farther aft. A Dakota. In the double seat facing her sat Brunel. white. and flashed it slowly and deliberately six times. Mouth d ry and sticky. Chan ce was reading a magazine. Brunel knew where to find whatever kind of talent he wanted.. Vibration. This was Lisa. Blaise and Garvin come hotfoot on the scene. absorbing it. Princess. no problems. Sh e switched off the torch and walked on up the slope to the low crest of the ridg e. But meanwhile replace Novikov's wife with someone clever enough to act the part. There were signs that this was a makeshift job. beautiful eyes. To her left was Willie Garvin. and she kept the m so while she fought with the inevitable surge of fear. It must be a tactic of some sort.' He did not have to speak loudly .. She put it aside to con sider later. and they were flyin g south. well appointed. turned her head and gave Willie a littl e nod. offer Bl aise and Garvin a partnership and use the opportunity to test their reaction to the concept of severe torture. Lisa . with the seating modified. It had been the subtlest trap imaginable. she conned me. still unconscious.. was not Mischa Novikov's wife. First. But the woman in the cottage. The muted roar of engines.' Then dark waves rushed upon her and drew her down.She had one brief instant of bitter clarity. Her head was hanging on her chest. Then simply wait for the expected reactio n. Three minutes later the woman in the brown dress. hired for the job . So it was nearly dawn. They were all three secured in strai t-jackets. alone. Nausea. its four legs set in steel colla rs with flanges which slotted into sockets bolted to the deck. And without any trouble at all she serves them drugged coffee. Her eyes were still closed. taking ho ld of it and sealing it away in the dark void within her where it could not corr ode her defences. ash-blonde. Jacko was looking out of a window. No fuss. yet simple in essence.. 'One per cent . Through the window beyond Willie she could see thin grey clo ud and a line of gold on the horizon. On the port side she saw Adrian Chance. and she had played the part superbly. when Chance looked up f rom the magazine. She opened her eyes. She lifted her head and drew in a deep breath to push down the queasiness. but for the moment her mind was totally focused on assessin g the situation.

. She looked again at Brunel and the girl. but the straps holding his ank les were only of half-inch leather. If so. not for strength. Occasionally she turned her head.. T hat was puzzling. Autocar. but as if listening for something. expecting deception. Nobody spok e. perhaps looking at Modesty for a moment. then worked the upper o f your crossed arms higher until you could bring the hand over the opposite shou lder. that was a waste of t ime. even if he had the chan ce. but she should have given more thought to it.. and drawing the jacket straight off over your head. had questioned her and killed her.And the real Madame Novikov? Impossible to be sure when the switch had taken pla ce. It might be useful. not as if watching the clouds or the ground below. . but the woman who had returned from Switzerland to France a week ago must ha ve been the fake. Probably Brunel had located the woman as so on as Novikov escaped. Strait-jackets were for restraining people who had lost their reason. for the strap across his back was far higher than it should have been. Nobody gave any sign of noticing that she had come round. He would never forgive himself . Brunel turned a pag . to drop the last-minute hint tha t Brunel had located Novikov's wife. perhaps an unsurmounta ble one. gazing absently at the back of the magazine that Adrian Chance was read ing. but worth remembering. and if there was enough give in the sleeves and trap s. He could break one by twisting it against th e chair-leg. but for the amount of give in the canvas sleeves and the straps which ran f rom the sealed cuffs to buckle in the middle of her back. From the moment Lisa walked int o The Treadmill he had been expecting a con. perhaps two minutes if you were strong and supple. Jacko appeared to be dozing now. looking about the cabin of the aircraft. you forced your head through the crook of you arm. Not once did th e eyes behind the dark glasses turn towards Willie Garvin. Brunel was reading a hard-cover book. She spared a moment from her assessment of the situation to feel sympathy for Wi llie. The one very small bright spo t on the whole horizon was that for his own reasons Giles had denied knowing the coordinates when the fake Madame Novikov had asked him. wondered why something deeper than reason was warning her. no sign of triumph. Modesty realized now th at her own instinct had been true in that moment. Adrian Chanc e had taken out a pencil and was making calculations in the margin of the magazi ne. His face was still pale from the effects of the drug and he sat a little slumped. her mind added bleakly. You could get out of one if you knew how. She saw now that he must have been working at the task. She sat gazing out of the window.. The lap-straps holding him to the chair w ould not hinder him. His self-recrimination would be merciless. a shattering one. Well. Cautiously she tested the strait-jacket. this helped to push the securing strap up your back. a little eerie. and you were nearly there. that would be at about the same time that Brunel had p ut Lisa in to float the lure for Willie Garvin. at Chance and Jacko Muktar. Then. It was easier if you could lie on the floor on your back and slither along feet-first. holding her arms wrapp ed round her body. You gained as much slack as the material would yield. Lisa was doing nothing. but with no more inter est than if they had both been passengers on a scheduled flight. and the twi n diagonal seatbelts holding her would prove a hindrance. It was an incredible achieveme nt. and given a little time. when you got one hand over the point of your shoulder. With your arms hanging in front of you it was simply a matter of getting a foot on the strap that linked the two sl eeves. He would need one foot free. Yes . though. Beside her. It had all been planned with immaculate precision. The overall impression was pecu liar. There was no sign of movement fro m him. but in spite o f this the albino girl had sold him a gold-brick. Willie could make it. She saw from the dust-jacket that it w as a volume of General de Gaulle's memoirs. it was too late now. There was a strained expression on her face. Pennyfe ather stirred and groaned faintly. Modesty registered the fact that Lisa Brunel was not enjoying her achievement. But you didn't escape from a strait-jacket while under surveillance. she could not h ave known the answer to his questions..

and he could use that to help push it up still farther. You learned to think only about what might be fruitful in helping you when the moment came. So he had ensnared them for some other reason. Her heart rose a little. So what else? She thought of the interview with Brunel in the penthouse. What was the aim of this present tactic? Chance and Muktar should have b een gloating. and his eyes rested on Modesty. He must have a purpose in taking them to Rwanda. He seemed not to have moved a muscle. but he had set himself patiently to it.It showed in the man. but there had always proved to be a way out. and he would not give up. It might be pointless. But somewhe re along the line a chance might offer. for the final act of escape from the strait-jacket wo uld take seconds at least. H e was seeking a fraction more play before continuing his infinitesimally slow ta sk. Aga in she steadied them. She only knew that he had the initiative n ow. She looked at Willie again. This was when it was hardest to hold back the natural thrusts of fear. and that he was a realist. As he did so he lifted his head for a moment. Then he looked down at the new page and continued reading. There was no basis on which to plan. It was unlikely that he understood the tactic of silence adopted by Brunel and his entourage any more than she did. Brunel's motives were important. She looked around her again. There was nothing to be done for the moment. but that was not for thinking a bout. by some alchemy she had never understood. and the enigma made her nerves crawl. changed him from a dangerous g utter-thug to the cheerful and matchless companion who had in turn changed her o wn life. She had Willie Garvin. totally. without interest or curiosity. If this was for revenge. Thankfulness rose like a sudden warm wave within her. With a gun-barrel at his head and the hammer fall ing on the cartridge. She kept coming back to that. and t his disturbed her deeply. The albino girl should have been either glowing or smug with her s uccess. And Brunel? She did not know. She could only be alert and ready to sei ze it. The present set-up offered no possibilities. And he would keep going. using all the mental tricks she had learned since childhoo d. To deal with an enemy whose motives you could not fath om took away all power of anticipation.. That was sound. But they we re alive still. A chance might come when they landed. nothing at all. The comfort of his tenacity in so many times of danger was beyond all price. He had said he was no t interested in revenge as such. showing as little interest as Brunel had displayed in her. perha ps more than one purpose. but there must be more to it than that. but more probably later.e of his book. with all the proven cunning and passionless savagery of his nature. It was like trying to fight blindfold. As she wat ched she saw the canvas of the sleeves and shoulders grow very gradually more ta ut until she could almost fancy she heard the material creak under the strain. Willie was worth a battle-pla toon. He was sitting to her left and a little forward of h er. It mi ght not always be so. but she saw that the buckle at the bac k of the strait-jacket was perhaps another inch higher. and he would never be allowed to make it. She fought down another wave of nausea and began to re view the larger situation. Bad spots sh e had known before in plenty. Brunel could not ha ve known for sure that they would bring Giles Pennyfeather to France with them. It was just above the ch air-back now. She still believed h im. She thought carefully. they would surely have been dead by now. There was not much to be done. and that he would use it to achieve whatever his aim might be. He had not spoken to her since those first words as she came to her senses. as Willie Garvin would be. The Novikov co ordinates? Possibly. but could find no answer. They were in a very bad spot. His aim. but he had realized that to ask . Remembering years gone by. She was not alone. he would still be scheming and fighting to find a way out. might not be so this time. she acknowledged tha t this was something she herself had taught him in the days when she had found h im and. and he was preparing for that. and looked like staying alive for a while at least. when s peculation could go no further and when positive planning of a move was impossib le. the moment of opportunity. o r even before. With his strength and skill. If she had dared to let herself feel frightened she would have felt very frightened indeed.

we're up in the air!' He shook his head. But you didn't show it. but decided to find something to occupy his mind. You might as well do the same. he c ould see that. Yes. I'm going to sleep for a bit. Brunel turned a page of his book without looking up.' 'Don't talk?' He jerked about furiously. The whole thing was pretty scary. but he showed no signs of stress.questions of them. everybody j ust sitting and saying nothing.' She closed her eyes. 'Take it easy. much better not to let on. Giles.. t hough. Yes.' She said. knowing the sort of sod Brunel was. then relaxed. He'd sometimes felt pretty damn scared facing up to a job of surg ery he wasn't too sure about. Ah! There were those two bastards Modesty had seen off in Kalimba. a jumble of half-formed questi ons flitting across his mind.' 'But look here !' 'No. Willie had decide d to play them at their own game. 'What happened?' he said hoarsely. You didn't even show it to yourself. It wouldn' t do any good and it would seem like being scared. Now what did he remember about it from the medical books? That would do to ke ep him occupied .' 'Eh? Christ. The plane droned on.. The Dakota was losing height. He nudged Modesty. That would ha ve taken time. then saw Brunel and the albino girl sitting opposite. There wer e all the little signs. panting. and you'll disturb the other passengers. this was a nast y business! Modesty and Willie had slipped up somewhere.or more likely to a disused landing strip. Must be a tr icky piece of work if she'd managed to fool Willie Garvin. it made sense in a way. when y ou came to think about it. He did not think he could pretend to sleep. Pennyfeather stared at her in total bewilderment. that. You couldn't very well ask Brunel what was going to happen next. winced. Brunel had had to get their three unconscious bodies to an airfield somewhere . Modesty glanced at Willie. then. Pennyfeather turned to stare at Modesty.. And this whit e-haired girl must be the one Willie had talked about. Because he was using the maximum give of the materia l. tried to move his arms. Now don't talk any more. and she wondered why. 'I was drinking some coffee and ' He craned his neck round. His hair was standing on end and his ey es were round and huge in the pallor of his lean face. Might have a complex about being an albino. Impossible to know at what h our they had taken off. We made a little mistake. This was much the same sort of thing in a way. would in some way be an a ct of weakness. He twisted his head to look all about him with the vague hope of finding some reason for her odd behaviour. He had gone as far as he could go in preparing to esc ape from the strait-jacket. 'Why the hell not?' 'Because there's nothing to talk about. A bit skinny. as Willie had said to her. or even to exchange words with her. The girl was gazing out of the window. There was Willie himself. 'God. 'Where's Mad ame Novikov?' 'She wasn't Madame Novikov. Pennyfeather yawned deliberately and settled back in his seat. Giles Pennyfeather lifted his head and muttered. Pretty weird. Looked like a girl on the verge of a breakdown. the albino girl. Didn't look tricky. Well. Ah. strapped to a chair. The whole thing was weird. and when she first woke . Why had Modesty s hut him up like that? Pennyfeather pondered the enigma. out in Kalimba. Brunel put down the mike and looked out of the window. albinois m. who opened her eyes. Beside her. but she wore clothes well. Well all right. Giles. It was some time later that Brunel put down his book and pi cked up the small mike attached to his arm-rest. a submissive acknowledgement of their mastery. he was scared. I feel sick. ignoring everybody else. stared blankly down at the strait-jacket securing him. . Much too tense. Ver y pretty. she knew it must be uncomfortable trying to breathe with his arms wrapped so tightly across his chest. unless she gave him a different lead. Still. of cours e. Giles. it was lucky they weren't all dead by now. Christ. She had an uncanny instinct for location. Still. tugging against the straps that held hi m. though he fancied the language was French. speaking into it so quietly tha t Pennyfeather could barely hear.

somewhere beneath the horror and fury. and holding altitude now. They were at three thousand feet. his face as quiet as a deserted hous e. 'It's time for Garvin to go now. and there was no freedom ye t for his hands. He could use his arms to some extent now. twisting his body. kicking the releases of the clips that held the legs. Beside her. She saw irregular patches of green. where the spurs from the Maritime Alps ran south. Brunel sat holding the mike. She heard Giles Pennyfeather say. 'What ?' Then Jacko was gripping the back of Willie's chair. Willie had little power to manoeuvre. He turned his head and nodded to Adrian Chance. The grin made her nerves burn with sudden alarm.' Shock hit her like a blow from a club. or at least drawing near to it. The plane turned again. a tiny piece of me ntal machinery continued to register data. his knees against the side of the cabin. cruising over the mid-slope of the mountains where grey spur s interlocked with narrow green valleys. mak ing a long east-west elipse. as the chair cannoned into the side of the cabin only a foo t from the door. The diagonal seatbelts were thwarting her. Now Modesty saw that Chance wore a belt attached to a nylon safety-line anchored to his seat. and Brunel murmured into the mike again. She turned her head and saw that Jacko was standing now. Chance and Jacko were behind the chair. per haps a little more. and suddenly there was frost in her blood as shock turned to raw fear. an d in the same moment Brunel lifted his voice and spoke directly to her above the roar of the wind. The strap linking the seal ed cuffs looped over and caught Jacko round the neck. She saw Willie start to struggle. No. She thought they might be cro ssing the south coast now. Using the purchase. and the stra ps that held her grew taut. cursing in a wild. pulling it back so that it could be thrust sideways and then forward through the open door. He said. Willie swung his arms up and back. Provence. crossing the strap. She was fighting now herself. and she heard the creak of the strait-jacket's c anvas and leather as it was tortured under the stress of Willie's huge and despe rate strength. to line it up with the door. They broke through cloud. and in the same moment yacked Jacko 's head down to butt him viciously between the eyes. and she cou ld not even begin to shift the securing buckle at her back. The chair slid across the deck. but they were still encased in the sealed slee ves of the jacket. just rugged country with a few cultivated patches at the foot of the hil ls between ridges of rock. straining madly against the grip of the strait-jac ket. A small village th ere. with the long strap joining had told her that they were still over France. who got up and slid open the door set in the port side. but the scen e for her seemed to be taking place in slow motion. To her right now she saw thin white streaks reaching up to merge with the mountain snows. Somewhere in her mind. wearing a similar safety-line. he forced his head through the crook of his upper arm. Through the door she could see the ground below. but they would surely reach North Africa on the first le g of the flight. She was screaming silently inside her head as she fought like a trapped animal a gainst the strait-jacket. A forward shove slid the flanges from the deck sockets . Was Brunel waiting for some sort of signal from below? No possible landing place there. at the end of a narrow ribbon of track. Adrian Cha nce and Jacko had pulled the chair back and were edging it sideways now. Willie jerked the chair round. Willie's back was towards her. banking steeply. Then. . Yet the plane was descending. She could look through on e of the windows on the far side of the cabin. A blast of air plucked at his silver hair. looking across the cabi n and down through one of the port windows. Giles was struggling too. She was sure of it. even if the pla ne carried extra tanks. bracing h imself against the tilt of the deck. The plane ban ked and changed course. the cruel stony spurs. a thousand feet below the snows. Still held to the chair by t he straps at thighs and ankles. down through the dawn light to gr ey and brown hills below. coming round still more. There was an expectant grin on his face. cracked voice. unwindin g the strap across his back. It was perhaps only ten or fifteen seconds since Brunel had spoken. They were turning east. If they were heading for Rwanda they would have to put down to refuel at least twice.

Not quite. . still hold ing the grip with his teeth. She had seen it man y times before. must be hanging below. slamming it against Chance to se nd him reeling aft. He drew in the em pty straight-jacket. Jacko's safety-line was stretched to its limit and he lay with his head a foot from the door. Then. In the same moment he hooked the toe of his right boot behin d the chair-leg and leaned forward. and dwindling as it flashed away in a long parabola towards the slopes of grey rock. secured from above by the s trap round Jacko's neck. setting his teeth in the wrist. She knew what had happened. Chance made a shrill. Enough to cripple him for a few seconds . He wou ld heave the choking Jacko against Chance and send him sprawling. The narrow leather strap holding his ankle snapped like paper. Chance tripped and fell as the safety-line brought him up short. It p assed over the threshold and out of sight. still secured to the chair. Willie's head flicked sideways. choking in the grip of the strap looped a bout his neck. thrusting outwards with his knee. Then her hands began fumbling feebly with her seatbelt. when she had fought him in practice. feet-first. neatly and precisely. Willie let Jacko drop to his feet. staring. slid the door shut. At this moment action engul fed the fear that would otherwise grip him. He reached out to cut the leather a few inches from the thresh old. the four chair-legs jutting from it incongruously. Jacko carried a gun. still held to the chair but with hands and arms free. If Willie could get a hand on one or the other. Lisa. The albino girl screamed. There had been nothing for Willie to grip inside the sealed s leeves. on the strap that was looped around it. For still Wil lie had not gone. Three seconds and he could be out of the strait-jacket. it slid across the tilted deck and out through the exact centre of the open door. Then he leaned back and heaved with his arms. Willie took it on the top of the head. Very slowly she turned her head a way from the window. He sat with an elbow on the armrest. Through the window she sa w the falling shape. Chance a knife. Jacko was on his knees at Willie's feet now. The doubled strap was still looped about his neck. rigid as a bar of iron.With a great aching agony she saw the look on Willie's face. But as he bent forward in the chair for the final heave to draw the strait-jacke t over his head. seemed frozen. her flesh crawling. calculating. It was f ive hundred feet below now. watc hing quietly. The chair toppled over sideways. The whole of his being was absorbed in the process of finding the best of the limited moves available to him. coming round to head south once more. the plane banked steeply to turn across the mountain spurs agai n. lost against the background. She saw Willie heave Jacko's body up and round. bent over the stocky man for a moment. estimating the distance between her and Brunel.. Modesty sat quite still. Then the tiny shape that was Willie Garvin fall ing to his death was gone from her blurring vision. a look of total concentrati on. 'God. bu t without heat he swung a small arm and hit her across the mouth with his open h and. strangled s ound and swung his other fist. Her mouth was beginning to open. and murderous fury in his face. His face was almost black. his tongue bulging from his mouth. Muga.. She thought wildly. he's going to make it!' She knew his next move. Willie. They were climbin g again. The girl. The sweat on her face felt like beads of ice. but before the blade could touch it the strap went suddenly limp. appraising. In the moment that he fell the plane had banked again. had simply been dragged off Willie's body. She might. Adrian Chance was unwinding the strap from Jacko's thick neck. still. Adrian Chance crawled forward. Modesty sat with locked muscles. eyes a little narrowed. The aircraft's wing came up. There was Brunel. and put his free right foot on the man's neck. Chance slammed a fist at Willie's face. There was a gleam of perspiration on Brunel's brow. chin on hand. Modesty stopped struggling vainly against the straps and sagged down hard in her seat. she might just reach his knee-cap with her booted toe. She wa s going to scream. After a few split seconds the strait-jacket. There was a knife in his hand now. her lips bloodless. and as the first grazed his cheek he turne d and snapped. Brunel spoke into the microphone.

He's breathing.' 'As you please. but there had never been o ne who understood her. and she had found it necessary to teac h them otherwise. murdering bastard!' 'We're all animals. for she had glimpsed something of what lay deep within Willie Garvin. Because she made her own ru les. Dr Pennyfeather. There was the salt taste of b lood on her tongue. Adrian. 'It's all right. you bastard! You stinkin g. and she could not let Brunel see her break. She must face it now. all blanketed by the grey lethargy that a harsh childhood and a life of nomadic crime had laid u pon him. At last her mind was still. when at barely twenty she had been running an expand ing organization of hard men. and remember the early days. but she forced herself to go on remembering.' His voice. They were in a winning game.' He shook his head. The old hands were qu ick to slap down or throw out any who did not want to conform to the ways she ha d established. a delivery job. 'Oh. then began warily to let the little burning daggers of though t penetrate her awareness. If there was to be any future. I'd have a good try at ki lling you. must think of him. Willie Garvin was dead. Brunel. alone.' Pennyfeather said in a shaking voice. her body trembling. To be emp loyed by The Network came to carry its own special cachet. Pennyfeather said.. criminals of every kind. very loudly. the thoughts which must be faced and absorbed. the girl sat with her hands pressed to her face. but for all the future. the man of so many skills and such tremendous potential. there were some who had seen this as weakness. 'If I could get at you. then looked at Modes ty. would you care to attend to my unconscious colleague if you wer e freed from that strait-jacket for a few minutes? We have your medical bag with us. in this moment. the days before Willie Garvin. not only now. There would not be another Willie Garvin. are you not?' Grey-faced.then looked up and said to Brunel. For Willie's sake she could not do that. She had take n him from a Saigon jail. sounded very loud in the new quietness of the cabin now that the door was closed. whose mind could mesh smoothly and easily with hers. She slowed her breathing. and given him a particular job to do. Looking back now. Pain stabbed into her. the task had become easier. told him that she had no interest in the kind of ra t he had been in the past. ' He opened his book and began to read. She had been harder than any of the men who work ed for her. Alone. At some time during the struggle she had bitten through her lip. and they did not want the wheel put out of balance. animal.' Brunel turned his head and said. With increasing success. 'Do your best for him. it was difficult to recognize herself. She held it so for long minutes. The trouble with most men is that they're f or ever aspiring to be something more. her face might have been chiselled from white marble. Her eyes were closed. and you are under the obligation of the Hippocratic Oath. She was playing a hunch.. or else she could never have ruled them. Not until the coming of Willie Garvin. and would not tolerate certain profitable but vicious areas of crime. suspended in an unmoving sea of pain. and that money she gambled as co ldly as a professional poker player. Adrian. and the grief in her was the greatest pain she had ever known. neither of you is going the same w ay. to be delivered in Hong Kong. letting the pain wash through her. 'In case you're wondering about it. The job involved trusting him with ten thousand dollars in gold. She forced herself to go back to the beginning. When I remember that you wanted me to let you take on Garvin in a st raight fight with your little knife . Modesty had been only dimly conscious of the exchange. The potential. Willie was dead. As a doctor. It was necessary for me to dispose of Garvin. the twisted gutter-rat with a sour grudge against the world. Beside him. and I've done so. Neither can y ou. and she was alone again. I've never fallen into that foolish error . . rising and falling unevenly. No use to close her mind to it. 'I see now why you've been so successful in the past. not fig hting it because she knew that if she tried to resist she would break down.' He picked up his book. Brunel said drily. She had found a few good lieutenants. of Willie and herself through all the years. 'He can hardly take any credit for being alive. She had taken him from jail.

It had not worked for Willie Garvin. an d had grown more different week by week and month by month until. was not a part of what g rew slowly between them. In less than a year he was her second in command. perhaps next time. And it might. and the first of the new kind of caper. I always felt yo u didn't want to change anything because it might spoil what we had. She had found a perfect right arm. There had been Tarrant. Willie. D id you sometimes want me? I never tried to make you feel that way. the new Willie Garvin emerged. Absorb it. and his dedication to her was total. I have to get him out of this if I can. Sleep well. and they came to be c ontent that this should be so. It's not ever ything. but I won't quit. much more. Keep your fingers crossed for me. involvement came from other directions. When Tarrant made no call on them. Willie love. I don't know if you're able to worry about me. as others choose to climb a mountain and to risk making the notorious traverse that has killed a dozen men before th em. and for the moment her world had fallen apart. you know that. the blandly cheerful man wit h a personality that dominated even the hard and jealous lieutenants of The Netw ork's inner circle. A shoulder to cry on after a rough caper. He knew her faults and encompass ed them as being a part of her. But more than that.. Princess. If they manage to sign me off. like a butterf ly from a chrysalis. pinching out the dangerous spark of self-pity. if this was easy She caught at herself. I'll take a little time to get my balance. She called up the remembered voice. not wishing her different. Let's 'ang around in the foyer before we go in. They had never been fools. Willie love. It was not a blind adoration. 'You look terrific. Modesty Blaise. But what he had risked and achieved. she could acknowle dge the word now.. They did not seek trouble. for now he was no longer in her employ. Sleep well. And the tides of fate would not allow this. even though he was always fully aware of her as a woman . Willie Garvin is dead. she was no longer alone. His mind engaged with hers as smoothly as the cog s of a precision watch. I'll need a better chance than you g ot. there had been yet another s hift of relationship. You were always there when I need ed you. But now. and it was Willie who had gone. And when they had split up The Network and retired. Accept it. and the others accepted this a s entirely natural. They were good years. I led you into this. It was also on a leve l above and beyond physical desire. He was lost without his talisman. and that one or both would di e. she had reluctantly tried to make him go his own way. All those stories about the girls you'd known. Not easy. The man who returned was different from the old Willie Garvin. You always made me feel I was something special. so I'll get all the men 'ating my guts. It's going to be hard to go solo after all this time. Yes. quickly followed by others. but it found them. on his own initiative. perhaps. That did not arise. proud of her as a woman. Because she though t it was best. We had so much more. How you'd hate that. I'd have been sad to lose the big thing for the small. Now Willie Garvin was dead. not even the most important thing. was a story that took her breath away when at last he return ed to tell it. Easily? God.The simple delivery job had gone hopelessly wrong. She knew that by so me freak of mental chemistry he quite simply adored her. it won't be because I didn't try. I think that's how you felt. Willie. You liked that. break the p attern. never failed to recognize that one day. but please don't. Better that way. to pick up the pieces an d make it go right. It has to make a difference. through no fault of his. Now it had happened. Yours was the only shoulder I ever cried on. for the sharp spice of occasional danger had beco me something close to an addiction. And there's poor Giles. No tears. a caper would go against them. the gravelly voice and the grin that went wi th it. but I'm not going to start feeling guilty. It was part of the game they had chosen. perhaps this time.' You taught me to laugh. for she could more easily sustain th e loss than he. often by the slightest quirk of c ircumstance. Thank you for everything. S he knew he would have wished it so himself. .

or rather between his head and massive shoulders for he had hardly any neck. and she looked back. tired face as he said. And there she rested. even though the pain was still ra w and would never be completely wiped away. and ahead she could see the coast of North Africa. I know you will.' 'Yes. maybe something will offer. as if confessing to a defect. not fear or despair. After a moment he went on. It was a savage humiliation. she thought. at Chance a nd Jacko. Willie had almost beaten them both. you'll have to tell me what to do. 'I'm sorry.' He brooded for a moment. or whatever you call where the pilot is.' Yes. glancing at the empty seat opposite. I'm not a Willie Garvin. a little bitterly.' He l ooked down at his strait-jacketed arms. he nearly got them j ust the same. somebody for it. He did not stare. and a grima ce that was half grin and half snarl touched his thin. al l that could not be said. Most men's necks would have snapped when Willie went over the threshold. That was good. She saw that the weariness i n him was from shock. We'll have to be ready.' 'Do you think we'll find a chance to get these buggers down?' 'Not for a while yet. Later I sent Willie to him ' She broke off. Chance and Muktar. Brunel came through from the flight compartment.' 'I didn't know you could do that. asking where Brunel was. His eyes rested on Jacko.. They'll keep us strapped up till we get to Rwanda. Lucky to be alive.Sleep well. On the port side. The acceptance was made. then press on for Rwanda. I'm a bit out of my depth. She met his gaze. But by Christ. it was something. I me an about Willie. Adrian Chance. but I'll h ave a good try. 'Look. The girl. his wrist bandaged. Modesty . They unfastened me and let me go to the loo about an hour ago. north of Jodhpur. across the aisle. and since Willie was dead she was now the most natural substit ute. Has anything happened?' 'Not much. I went away for a while. Do you feel a bit better now?' 'Yes. looked at her with murderous blue eyes. Gently she coaxed her mind to stillness. if she had any time to come.' 'Like that yoga stuff? Sort of trance?' 'In a way. The seats opposite were empty. After t hat well. Slowin g her breathing still more. her fa ce impassive. I bet you're proud of him. With everything against him. and snap at it.. 'It doesn't matter.' He said. And you?' 'I'm all right. a sleep. We'll probably refuel at some small airf ield. but simply looked. Do you want to go to the loo?' 'No. Pennyfeather said very quietly. She would think of it again in time to come. and that's something. Jacko sat with his head resting gingerly on a pillow. Adrian Chance had to hate.' 'An old man called Sivaji taught me.' She nodded. She lifted an eyebrow. forward on the port side. a wet towel wrapped round his neck. looking at her. Her nerves were quiet again now. But for the moment it hurt too much. He glanced at Lisa. 'T hey bloody well had to work for it. For perh .the North African coast. lay curled up on a double seat. almost whispering so that the words would not re ach Chance. When she opened her eyes again the sun was past its zenith. Do you know where we are?' 'Just crossing. the reality absorbed. she sought and found the trance-like yoga state of b eing which is like a small hibernation. H is face was tired and drawn. 'He's in the cockpit. the mental and physical processes virtua lly halted. didn't they? Willie hadn't a ghost of a chan ce. Willie love . but he was quite calm. I wish I could hold your hand. In the Thar desert. perhaps. all strapped up against the two of them. I mean. then at her face again. I wasn't just asleep. She knew why. Modesty turned her head to find Giles Pennyfeather looking at her wonderingly. hatin g her. acknowledging her understanding of all that lay behind his words. 'You've been asleep for age s. then sat down facing Modesty. That s ilver-haired bastard was holding a gun at the back of your head all the time unt il they strapped me up again. Lisa.

Yes. make it for Willie.' When the girl was roused she moved like an automaton.' 'For him?' . Sooner or later you had to lose. Opening the book. One of his wr ists still bore the marks of Willie's teeth under a two-inch bandage. She had ta ken off the dark glasses now. but she could not decipher it. the hu rt. The note of sympathy in his voice bewildered her.. But it must never be this time. You screamed at the time. her eyes blank. I forget. Talk to me.' he said.aps two minutes they held the steady gaze. Tell me how you enjoyed seeing him thrown out of the plane. Thin blades of sunlight penetrated the slats of the blind at the big window. instead of a posy. her head hanging awkwardly over the edge. 'What a pity. a recognition of cause and effect in his make-up. That he had a motive she was very sure. Pennyfeather lunged against his straps.' She closed her eyes. Wake Lisa and tell her to clean it up..' Chance said. You seem different. But her inability to understand the purpose of the whole perfor mance. I'm su re you remember that. 'More comfortable now. 'I'm sorry want me to do. Turning to Chance he said. but I don't know what you She said. It was so utterly unexpected that she had no time to ride the blow. Modesty clawed at her scattered wits. a little desperately. That's what he'd like more than anything. and hit her across the mouth hard with the spine of th e book that he still held.' He smiled. The blow. enjoying it. She smiled at Giles and gave a little shake of head. She was ly ing on her back across the bed. The liquid was cold and stinging as she wiped the dry blood from Modesty's chin and lip. Lisa. and she had never faced an unfathomable o pponent before. swung his arm. Tell me what Willie Garvin was like. let's see now. CHAPTER NINE Adrian Chance put his hands round Lisa's neck and squeezed gently. Closing her eyes she began slowly and with infinite patience to rebui ld her inner strength. She looked back at him withou t expression. and had the pleasurable satisfaction of knowing that it was not assumed. Adrian. to grasp Brunel's motive. This one had to be won. 'There. I hope. But to overcome an enemy demanded an understand ing of him. the danger of self-doubt and lost confidence. Brunel co nfounded her. I can hardly breathe. She did not know why he had killed Willie Garvin in such a way and at such a time. Brunel ignor ed him and sat down. and she felt fresh blood run from the split lip. Their moist flesh clung in the humid air. telling him not to worry. 'It's stopped bleeding. fighting to collect them. hit her hard and deep. that's better.' She struggled a little. and he was sprawled across her. aware that she was in the subtlest kind of danger. A thread of panic sparked within her and she quelled it sharply. Especially not this time. 'Please. for Willie's sake if for noth ing else. Her head sang. I've told you what to do. In remembrance.. he began to read. He could feel her trembling.. to focus it s o intensely that it would release power to the physical and mental springs of he r being when she called upon it. against Brunel. He was unfathomable. She brought cotton-wool and a little bottle of ant iseptic from a first-aid box. I'm trying. She had learned to feed her own will. what about?' 'Oh. 'Our guest has blood on her chin.' 'I was frightened.' He stood up and bent to look at Modesty's face. and he allowed her to edge round until her head was supported on the bed. darling. When she had finished she stood looking d own at Modesty with dull eyes until Brunel said. 'Come on. 'Go and sit down.' 'I can't. watching the strained perplexity in he r face.' he said. Talk t o me. to repair her shaken defences. She knew that in all contests the will is the crucial factor.' 'You must learn to cope with my whims. was nothing.' 'But. calling Brunel a vile name. In this. It was bad. did not know why he had ordered Lisa to tend her minor hurt and then struck her. then Brunel smiled quietly and picked up his book.

Or bo unce. The point is. and the sweat broke out on his body. In the moment when she saw him go down to his death she ha d screamed not only in fear for him but in horror and protest. They don't say a w ord. a plaything. If Brunel's brain-washing worked. She knows that somewhere in Bonaccord we've got Pennyfeath er tucked away. I see. known how she had been shattered by t he death of an Enemy. When she was quiet again he said. then. 'I don't understand. So she's completely hog-tied.' Anger touched his voice.' he pinched her thigh brutally.' 'That's right. she won't. van Pienaar and Camacho walk in. It seemed that the punishment was over. She'll only fight if she thinks we' re going to kill her. Adrian.' A sour note entered his voice. He always is right ' She gasped in sudden pain as Chance hurt her. and we've told her we'll kill him slowly if she tries anything a t all out of line. caressing her. the three of us do. for he knew now that she was not to be another Lisa. He hated Modesty Blaise as he had never hated anyone or anything in his life before. per second. but she's not going to ask. but I know what you want me to do. The thought was as painful as raw acid o n the skin. At le ast.' Her voice was a whisper. doesn't do a nything.' 'Just when coffee is served. Brunel doesn't want her hurt much. soundless sobs. 'I was frightened he he might get away and hurt me. pin her across the couch and bea t her with a strap. All very civilized and amiable. Is that clear?' He felt her shoulders move as she said. Was it wrong to say that?' For a moment he did not answer.' It was four days since the Dakota had landed on the airstrip at Kigali. praying that the voices would hear and would believe the lie. darling. 'I'm sorry. She has dinner with us. me and Jacko. But for the last two nights they had let her rest. She doesn't know what's going on. 'No. 'The point is that the rest of us go on talking and having our coffee and smoking. At fifteen hundred feet it reaches a terminal speed of roughly one hundred and twenty miles per hour. 'Not the buckle-end. and elation at his success ran like threads of fire t hrough his veins.' 'Well. fifty mi les to the north of Bonaccord.'No!' She cried out the denial urgently. They grab her. 'accelerates at thirty-two feet per second. was unable to speak for the rage which had explo ded within him. Adrian. They had known the evil in her. Do you see?' 'Yes. as the case may be.' 'Yes.' Chance smiled very brightly. 'Are you listening? Brunel told me to tell you w hat the scene is for tonight. Again he knew that this was not her usual compliant pretence. 'A falling body. As usual. I'm not too good at mental ar ithmetic. You and Brunel. their passionless reproaches whispering in her head all throu gh the night hours until she had felt her mind would collapse. For the first two nights the voices had never let her rest. The voices had pu nished her for it. just humiliated. I wonder what he thought about all that time?' She began to shake with dry. then she would stand as an equal to Jacko and himself. We talk. She did not want to think about Willie Garvin again. Jacko isn't exactly an Oscar Wilde. rip the dress off her back. I'm listening. and listen b loody carefully now. fight and struggle. Adrian. I expect so. The knowledge that Brunel was working to make her a willing lieutenant was unbearable to Adrian Chance. He drew a deep breath and said. His hatred expanded to encompass Brunel.' . Won't she make trouble? I mean. We don't register it at all. Have you got it so far?' 'Yes. but if he went out at three thousand feet I think it must have taken m ore than twenty seconds for him to get down and make a hole in the ground. 'She doesn't say anything. and had almost lo nged for that release.' 'All right. she'll only speak when spoken to.' said Adrian Chance. for to do so mig ht revive the displeasure of the voices. just as if it wasn't hap pening. 'What do you think of Modest y Blaise?' 'I don't know. 'But Brunel still thinks she's some sor t of superwoman he can put to work for him. and then as little as p ossible.

and she felt feverish. and perhaps tak e her round the estate. It was to be done in a very special way. but they had not denied her water. to know where he was. To ask anything. She knew now that this erratic treatment had purpose. Brunel might treat her with all the courtesy of a guest. as she had been on the second day.. Nausea stirred suddenly within her. The alternatio n of harsh and kindly treatment was the first stage of the campaign. The flesh of her back and buttocks was slightly swollen. as it had do ne before. She had been driven round the big estate once.. to alter her own image of herself. and she died. her muscles aching from the painful contortions he had compelled from her. There was always an arm ed man there. but that was all. They were too tight and too short. she mourned him. together wi th three or four dresses belonging to Lisa. for food or rest or relief. the burning pain in her s ide. but not simply to b reak her. That's enough talking. and it still seemed so. Modesty Blaise woke at dawn in the small bedroom on the upper floor. If it got worse. had started again. The other pain. had been taken off the plane first. She moved her shoulders. On the flagged patio. got up. For a moment she began to wonder what would happen to her today. and she lurched at a stumbling run to the bathroom . free from his strait-jacket. and was filled with self-lo athing because it was she who had trapped him so that he could be killed. She did not care. so that in the end she would be psychologically bound to him in a master-servant relationship. On the polished wooden boards were scratched faint lines. The muscles felt a little stiff. Once they had left her locked in he r room all day and night without food. but in those few days spent together he had cha nged everything for her. And when Pennyfeather had been taken away in a car. Whatever happened. Automatically she went to the door and found it locked. and he had not cut the skin. Adjoining the bedroom was a small cubicle with a shower and lavatory. with Brunel pointing out and explaining this or that feat ure as if she had been a house-guest. She had to find Giles. b ut it did not matter. Or she might be shut in the sweat-box beyond the gardens for a few hours. and she went to the bedside table to pour herself a glass of water from the tall jug there. sat o n a bench with a hunting rifle resting across his knees. She threw b ack the sheet. it would seem to have no basis in reason. They always provided her with water. Giles Pennyf eather. She took a hairgrip from the dressing-table and turned back the rug beside the b ed. her attempt to mak e a plan of Bonaccord. The seeming lack of logic was in itself a logical policy. and looked through the slats of the blind. They ha d told him quite simply that if he attempted anything foolish then Modesty Blais e would die. would gain nothing and would be the beginning of submissi on. She would not speak of it to Brunel.'All right. Now he was dead. as she had known it woul d be. an Angolan. calculated to create disorientation in her. on the mor ning they had arrived. Willie Garvin had been an Enemy.' When he left her she lay limply on the bed. then at least she would be free of all this. Her throat was dry. When she had showered and dried herself she put on a dressing-gown and sat in front of the mirror to do her hair. Camacho had used a broad leather belt to beat her. Standing naked with her back to the dressing-table she looked over her shoulder into the mirror. before she could dare to make any m . and had not asked about him. they had told h er that he would die if she gave any hint of trouble.There was soreness but no damage. Brunel had provided the dressing-gown. Now . It seemed a dreamlike fantasy to her at th e time. Brunel was out to break her. Perhaps it would go. one of Brunel's overseers. Perhaps it would get worse. or f or Giles Pennyfeather. She had not seen him since . At least that was something which remained predi ctable. but then quickl y blocked the speculation. the sk in still red. and in the depths of her mind where sh e prayed the voices could not hear. There had been no chance to make a move when they landed at Kigali. moved to the narrow window.

'Useful fellows. Loeb for murder.ove towards an escape. a few hundred yards south-east of the house.' Brunel had said.' She had since learned that all five overseers were wanted men in their own count ries. It was Mesquita who was sitting on the patio below now. the house held something of the style of a Bavarian chalet. a long buil ding of two storeys with a wing or sprig at each end. And in five days she had not been able to pick up the sle nderest clue to help her. They were all Bantu families imported from farther south. and van Pienaar was eager to organize a hunt. but her mind seemed to be struggling against a torpor she had not known before. and an Englishman. but assessed the South African as a thug and the Englishman a s a psychopath. lay a belt of wooded savannah which gave wa y to an area of arid twisting valleys and ridges. that's why I use it. as she had seen on the jo urney from the airfield at Kigali. with quarters on the g round floor of the south wing. 'I've managed to instil a reasonably paternal istic attitude in them towards the natives. confusing and without pattern. Their quarters were in the central span of the house. that the configuration of The Impossible Virgin lay . and we manage to graze some sheep and goats. She made a scratch on the floor to mark the position of the big workshop and gar age beside the fuel store. There were five white overseers. a rifle across his knees. Also impo rted were a dozen Kikuyu who seemed to act in some kind of watchdog capacity. It stood at the top of a very gentle rise. but apparently it was rare for a lone cat to roam into the estate. two from Angola. Inside. She closed her eyes and tried to visualize all that she had seen of Bonaccord. . for it was out there. two from South Africa. There was game in plenty aw ay to the east. upstairs. It came to her that there would be one pattern at least. Th e cook and the four house-servants were all male Chinese. She did not know about van Pienaar or Selby. bordering a small river which fed Lake Rweru. around the marshes. s orghum and coffee. but knew its nature beca use she had overheard Pienaar talking with Brunel. Of course. The r ustic exterior was deceptive. We also grow sufficient bas ic crops to be self-supporting. Camacho and Mesquita for rape. Brunel and his entourage occ upied the north wing. They were rather too fond of crackin g the whip at first. quickly and without hesitation. looking out across several miles of grassy savannah to a rocky ridge beyo nd which there lay a great marsh covered with papyrus. and with a village of prefabricated huts as its centre. to the north-west. beyond the kitchens. The walls were insulated. there was ai r conditioning and a deep-freeze store room. His people grew a variety of crops. The area between the two sprigs formed a huge patio. She had not seen the area beyond the wooded savannah. The area had once been barren from over-stock ing and periodic bushfires. then fro wned. mainly manioc and groundnuts. with a low-pitched roof overhanging the long balconies. Behind the house. troubled by the realization that the generator house was also in that comp lex and that she had forgotten about it until now. One of the Kikuyu who patroll ed the estate as guards had found the spoor of a lion only half a mile from the house. 'All supplied free to the grateful authorities for export. and beyond this were green lawns and flowerbeds fed by underground water-pipes.' She had estimated that in the village huts in the farm area Brunel had about eig hty workers. but by irrigation and drainage Brunel had made the l and fertile. Her own room was at the en d of the southern sprig. Timber-built. 'I am considered a great benefactor. the house was quietly palatial and had bee n constructed with every modern facility. The furnishing and appointments spo ke of design experts and unlimited expense. I t was a well planned estate. The house faced a little south of east. it doesn't matter too much what happens to impor ted labour.' he had said during t he guided tour. Normally she would have been able to sketch a rough plan of the whole estate after that single tour with Brun el. near the edge of the estate. T he Bonaccord farms were something rare in this region. South of the savannah was the farming area of Bonaccord. but I like to preserve a good image here as far as possible.

he measures nearly six feet the height of a man.. and after a little silence B runel went on. more than a dozen times greater than any human's. 'You managed to hurt him. the huge hands gripping the bars. rolling ac ross the cage on feet and knuckles. Ozymandias. Five days now . 'Y et Ozymandias is a prisoner in a cage. She had known many enemies. a cre ature to inspire terror. But his strength is fantastic in compariso n. Would you like to try. When Ozymandias sta nds up. the key to her survival had been a total refusal to acknowledge defeat. there was a wide dell surrounded by acacias. 'No. She could probably outrun Jacko and Chance through the trees. but now it was in question. h is shoulders huge. Miss B laise. long before Willie came. Throughout a life of many dangers. And there was no l ack of compelling motive to drive her into action now.. the tiny spark in the red eyes. 'Adrian wants to put you in the cage with Ozymandias. Put the strongest man in th e world in that cage. ' He looked at her again. and she could not understand it. in five days she had achieved nothing at a ll.' said Brunel. All this had been a part of her since childhoo d. that had hit her harder t han she had ever been hit before. And there he stands. to b ring Willie himself out of trouble on more than one occasion. Brunel said idly. where Adrian Chance and Jacko Muktar were waitin g.. and to act decisively when the moment came.' She made no answer. the sullen eyes glaring from beneath the great ridged brows. To kill Brunel now was to kill Giles. and others like them.' and considered killing Brunel now. His chest is big. Miss Blaise?' She said. the essential driving power which had always carried her through. No man who ever lived could hurt Ozymandias with his bare hand s. Strong and violent men. and added without emphasis. and Ozymandias will simply pull him apart as if he were ma de of cardboard. three feet across. Even in recent years she had often worked solo. some plan which at least offered a chance of success.' Brunel glanced towards the car.. A hundred yards from the house. It's alm ost a burning ambition in him. She remembered the sharp stink of ammonia. and I am free. She had discarded half a dozen vague ideas because they would not come into focu s.' He spread his hand. and the silvery sheen on the fur of the back as Ozymandias snarled at them and turned away. I am a small man. 'I keep him as an object lesson in the superiority of brains over muscle. 'Perhaps Ozymandias is my one vanity. He had a gun in his hand. on that firs t day. But you couldn't hurt Ozymandias. She knew that if the mental shield crum bled. 'As those two men belong to me. fear would break through and she would be lost. where the belt of trees began. and this in itself was frightening. quickly. yes. Brunel had taken her to see him at the end of the tour. no more. there . When all the fa ctors of her situation were taken into account. His manner was careless and with no shred of drama in i t. heard many threats. In it lived Ozymandias. and here a huge circular cage some forty feet in diameter had been built. and she saw that it was no bigger than a child's. He smiled. sixty-two inches.Looking down at a small circular scratch on her map she thought of the gorilla. Shall we continue our tour now?' The impact of his words had been small at the time. And why was that? There was Willie's death . Apart from herself. This was bad beyond belief.' he said musingly. 'Jacko is a strong man. He belongs to me.' Brunel glanced towards the car. the ability to think. It was a mental attitude she took for granted. But above all she remembered the look on Bru nel's face. she tried to analyse her loss of confidence. perhaps twice the weight of a man. a silver-backed mountain go rilla. there had to be some loop-hole s he could exploit. Staring down at the pattern of scratches on the floor. lacking i n physical strength. 'As you will belong to me. capable of destroying even a lion if truly roused. the epitome of raw muscle-power. He weighs 360 pounds. But now it was daily growing harder to kill the sense of hel plessness that was eroding her defences. But she would not accept that it could destroy abilities which had always been hers. to plan. Jacko leaned against the bonnet. But her mind seemed to have lost a vital element. 'Look at that terrifying creature. But there wa s Giles Pennyfeather. while the chance off ered.

but even so far her resistance is astonishing.. Pouring himself a fresh cup of coffee he smiled and said. No. It's also very gratifying. You might as well get that firmly into your head now. The strap burn on his neck had almost healed now.. Might have proved interesting. then in the end you'll b e taking orders from her.' 'All the same. 'Did you. I'm quite all right. but it had become fixed and meaningless.' Chance watched the girl go. 'P erhaps so. Five days now. Lisa?' She brought her thoughts back from elsewhere. we'll see. Then. 'Well. Now . 'It's a pity Blaise didn't put up a fight when the y started beating her...' 'Oh. you do something in the next twenty-four hours!' Brunel sat on the big veranda taking breakfast with Adrian Chance and Lisa. find Giles. This is a slow business.' The smile remained on Chance's face. and he stopped. She was almost glad.' 'I hope ' Chance seemed to have difficulty in speaking.' 'Leborde's away for a month. trying to stimulate them by anger. When she drove them hard. 'Five days . Adrian.' A dozen vague. The pa in in her stomach was worse. She fought them do wn. When she gave up cons cious effort and simply made her mind an expectant void. still hold ing the spoon. 'She believes herself to be waiting for the most promising moment. His movements slowed. But are you sure you don't overestimate her?' 'Quite sure. and all you'v e done is find reasons for not doing anything.. thank you. 'You look rather flushed this morning.. she found her thoughts going round in circles.' 'What do you mean . for God's sake! Y ou can handle the lock on that door.. I want to talk to Adrian for a while. 'Go and look for him. and grinned. if you must h ave it in cliché form. shadowy doubts began to flit through her mind. I can radio Kig ali.' He watched for the beads of perspiration to spring on Chance's brow. Jack o had gone into Kigali with the refrigerated truck which collected supplies flow n in monthly to the airfield. my dear.' 'Really. she ached to win this one for Wi llie. I'm not really sure what you mean. that's all. I'm quite all right. take it step by step.was Giles Pennyfeather to be saved.yes ?' Brunel broke in. no spark of inspiration came. She walked a little stiffly. Think what could be happening to Giles. naturally.. Are you unwell? ' 'No. perhaps Dr Leborde had better have a look at you. When she's fully conditioned. and he recalled with pl easure his activities of the previous day with her. I hoped she would. Now take your coff ee inside. seeking for ideas.. Good or bad. It was untrue. 'Maybe Dr Pennyfeather w ould do. . and for God's sake make a move. Adrian. Go and look for him tonight. Just don't get caught. First thing. 'When you say invaluable .' Chance was stirring his coffee.' Chance said. 'Do something you thick-headed cow!' she whispered. She drew in a deep breath and said softly.' said Chance.' Lisa repeated mechanically. yo u stupid bitch. 'I thought that affair last night went very well. 'Last night?' 'When the Blaise girl took a strapping. A more intelligent attitude than yours would be in similar circumstances . groping for the fine focus of concentration and for the hard confidence she had always been able to command until now.' 'I mean that she will eventually become a tower of strength to me. savagely to herself. then said. yes. 'If this works out as I expect. And if you are. she'll be invaluable. 'Don't panic. But the muscles of her mind would not respond. 'I hope you don't mean that her position will be superior to mine and Jacko's?' Brunel lit a cigarette. I fancy. Above all. Brunel studied her for a moment.' Brunel said. of course. and his face was pale.. How?' The impetus of her thoughts faltered.

Listen to me carefully. This kind of conversation only distresses you. They're there all right.' 'Let them meet? What for?' 'To see what the result is. The pupils of his eye s had shrunk to black pinpoints.' 'But I thought Blaise was going to be ' 'You thought she was going to be another Lisa. 'You can't!' Chance said in a frightful whisper. Brunel had said. we'll try hypno-narcosis to dredg e them out of his subconscious. I gained a distinct impressio n that he wasn't being entirely frank. 'The suspense of wondering when it's going to start again will work on him. All right. I'm not sure he isn't lying on that point. A plaything. 'You're to cease treatment for the time being. Or if he did he can't remember the m.' In the searing fury that gripped him Chance forgot all caution. which he wouldn't understand anyway.' Brunel nodded. You'll never be anything more. He made a strange sighing sound. Pennyfeather says he can't recall the words. looking past Brunel to the distant ridge. Hating me is a waste of energy. Neither of them is lik ely to produce much hope in the other. or even the sound o f them. They'll interact upon one another. That's the wa y I arrange these things. 'And now tell me how you're getting along with Dr Pennyf eather.' Adrian Chance sat still for several seconds. It's quite unimportant and doesn't affect the human logic of the situation at all.' She wore a white linen shift dress of Lisa's. You're an excellent hatche t-man. Perhaps your methods are too direct?' 'Perhaps he never even heard the coordinates.' he s aid at last. one might say. 'Pennyfeather? I haven't got anything out of him yet. I suppose you know what you're doing. 'Why . you would die slowly. We'l l let Blaise and Pennyfeather meet for a while. They don't like you and they'd jump at the opportunity. 'Suppose 1 don't ?' Brunel surveyed him without interest. because you can never do an ything about it.' 'You've hurt him considerably.' Chance emptied his coffee cup and stood up.' Chance shrugged. but it may well be to ours. Blaise also is superior to you in your own line. And this afternoon we'll try an experiment. Selby and the rest.and saw them appear.' 'He heard them/ Brunel said. It's quite unalterable. I'll let you know. But there's Loeb. If you tried. Then you can recommence. Adrian.' Without pausing for any reaction Brunel went on calmly. Adrian. You know it. 'Then you'd have to go. Now do try to control yourself. and you won't try. I advise you to be realis tic and accept that as a fact of life. Or I could use the Kikuyu. if that doesn't produce the coordinates.' 'I've been taking it slowly so far. I promise you. I want him brought to a state where he's genui nely trying to tell all he knows. if you care to think about it. and I can't think it will be to their benefit. and kept saying the same thing over and over again. Adrian.' 'And who'll see to that for you? Jacko?' 'No. 'That's because she's better than you are. with those machetes they ha ndle so well. and the shock was fading f rom his eyes. He'll be entirely frank before I've finished with him. Part of what he babbled was the coordinates.' Chance had regain some of his colour now. then said in a faraway voice. It was an hour since lunch and the ground was steaming after a light rain shower when she saw Giles Pennyfeather s huffling towards her as she stood near the gorilla's cage. 'Be very sure of that. 'We hate her guts!' Brunel nodded. You hate my guts too. successfully or otherwise. and also has many other considerable qualities. has a burning desire to do so. it might upset him briefly. Adrian. Brunel thought for a while. 'All right. 'He told me Novikov babbled a great deal in Russian . You were wrong. Perhaps you have. Then. 'How long do you want me to suspend treatment?' 'A few days. You can take that as a fact. I wa rned you at the time. His face beneath the silver hair was rigid and wet. Adrian. Any or al l of them.

He waved a shoe. But I mustn't show I care.' She could hear the hint of desperation in her own voice. 'Christ. but then he saw her and increased his shuffling gait.' She felt sick with hatred for herself. 'Don't you worry about it. I mean. I seem to have run out of both just now. I've only got five toenails left. for he gave her a rm a little squeeze and said. Makes you damn dizzy.' 'Yes. not while they're watching. I wonder you don't hate me for get ting you into this. A sort of finale to the slapping about. Giles. I decided I'd better not tell them the coor dinates because once I do that they'll kill me. She saw the abrasions on his wrists. I saw. Giles?' 'I haven't actually thought about that.' 'Not very much. I just take each day as it comes. but wh en they're gone I suppose that silver-haired sod will start on something else. but I suppose the generator noise muffles things.. the spiky hair matted with grime. He must have sensed it.' He slipped his hand under her arm. I'm all right. Despair swept her at the realizati on that he had been viciously hurt and that she had nothing to offer him. the rope-marks. I'm not being terribly heroic or anyt hing like that. His lean face was hollow. and the house is too far awa y for anyone to hear us.. Just let's walk up and down h ere. trying to concentra te. maybe I can do something. and had expected anything but to see Giles.' 'Eh? It wasn't your doing. She said. how long can you hold out. and hope something will turn up. Giles. I thought they were having me on!' he said. but that's not too bad. It's j ust a pity something went wrong.' 'Don't be bloody silly.' 'But. old girl oh. Once I know. That silver-haired sod comes and yanks one off every day. I d . that's something. I want to kiss you hallo.' She shook her head. and dropped the shoes to gr ip her hands. What have th ey done?' 'Well. S o far. Have you told them anything?' 'You mean the coordinates? Not likely! Oh. I've been trying to work out what to do. but I guess they're watching and I don't want them to see a big scene. With an effort she kept her face impassive as he came closer. had co nceived no plan that might even provide a spark of hope. and his feet were wrapped in strips torn from the legs of his trousers. not hurrying beca use she was sure they would be watched from the house.' She had thought it the start of another deliberately confusing project. you can't expect to work miracles. They've hardly touched me. that does. I don't like bein g kept in the dark all day and night. 'Listen.. dirty face as the y came together. her nerves quivering as she fought against the thrust of hysteria.don't you take a stroll to see Ozymandias? You might run into an old friend.' 'Oh. but managed to swallow it down. Look. No.' He looked down at his crudely swathed feet. Makes the time pass a bit slowly. 'Are you all right?' 'Yes.' 'It doesn't need a miracle. we couldn't just sit on our backsides.' 'Right-ho.' He gave a little bray of laughter. but. I'm not doing very well. They keep me locked up in there. and drew in a long breath. and a great grin of pleasure split his gaunt. 'Oh my God. 'Then there's the toenail s. He was carrying hi s shoes.. but .' At the banality of his comment she felt a sob of aching laughter rise in her thr oat. This is my kind of business and I ough t to have got us out of it long ago. It's a wonder you haven't heard me. next to the fuel store. you know. And pretty long spells without water. a bit of hefty slapping about every day. Have they been giving you a bad time?' 'Not like you. 'I don't know what's wrong with me.' 'Well. 'I'm a bit slow on the old pins. I don't know how long we have together. It just needs hard thinking and a bit of fire in the belly. and I'm not too keen on that.. I'm afraid. That's the important thing. which now reached only to just below his knees. They can't have peppered the ground with bugs. 'I fairly screech my head of f when they do a toe-nail. It doesn't half bloody well hurt. though.. He seemed to be limping a long aimlessly. Now she moved towards him. there's a little sort of brick building behind that power-house place. sorry. so tell me where they're ho lding you. his e yes sunken.' 'I see.

'Yes. th ere aren't any obvious symptoms you could find listed in a medical book. I can empty that at about the usual rate. darling. But not a minute later anyway. unable to concentrate. and most people wouldn't know whether to suck it or blow it. then.' 'That's marvellous. and all that?' 'Usually. Three more toenails for Giles. Modesty. old darling?' 'I've got the soft option. yes. three less. 'I think they're co ming for us. they are. Giles. Giles?' 'Oh lord. I managed to give that littl e bastard Brunel a sort of impression that I might just vaguely remember somethi ng if only I could pin it down. To make hasty decisions.' She forced herself to match his hobbling pace. She said in a whisp er. The mere knowledge that her lack of powe r was caused by an outside source acted upon her like an elixir.. He was frowning. Keeps them hoping. a note she had heard when he was dealing with a patient. but the re's something about the way you look. always kept filled. startling yet stimulating. There are several kinds. darling? It makes me sick to ask.' There was a note of authority in his voice. and drink from the washbasin. She said. 'Let's make it three days.' He gave a short laugh. and had to press her lips tightly together as she looked into his haggard face. At last he said.' 'What?' His words hit her like a douche of cold water in the face. From tomorrow. They dose the water-jug in my room. 'Have you been feeling a bit confuse d? I mean. once you stop being dosed of course. by the fourth night. 'It makes something to look forward to. It can be administered orally. look at me for a minute. I think you'd shake off anything pretty quickly. how are things goin g with you.' Her stomach tightened . The ju g was always there. I wonder why they let us m . they were still Giles Pennyfeather's eyes. win or lose. but her fingers were digging into his arm as excitement and relief swept headily through her.. 'How long will it take to wear off.' He composed his features into a lugubrious expression. and with it sh e felt the awakening of a fiery spark of will. We'll just keep soldiering on until you think of so mething. 'Thymoleptic. Don't let them see you looking pleased. let's keep walking. A wave of humility and affection coursed through her. 'The water.' He turned his head. her mind seemed to be racing now.' She glimpsed a movement from the corner of her eye and said. Giles.' The jug of water in her bedroom. With the adrenalin effect of what he had told her. and then they'd give me the chop any way. Though the eyes were sunken. Giles?' 'Well. Then we'll make our break. They're out to break me. but it's basically a drug that would make a healthy person confused. see? Now.' 'Yes . I don't seem to have what it takes any more. She knew it now with absolute certainty. But you've been tangled up in the same sort of thing quite a bit before. Doesn't it usually sort of sharpen you up? Clear th e mind. Brunel and Jacko. If you can't look deadpan. And before then if I really feel I'm back on form. but she knew this would be short-lived. Look. Could it be given in water. lips pursed as if trying to pin down a thought that flickered i n the shadows of his mind. She turned her head. Giles. ou tward-looking from a quite unquenchable spirit of whose quality he was completel y ignorant. 'Can you hang on for tha t long. 'I wouldn't wonder. but I swear I'll come for you by then. But I've been terrifically cunning about that. look miserable. I'm bloody sure they've been fee ding you one of the thymoleptic drugs. to take ha sty action in the euphoria created by his mental shot in the arm. eh? I was a bit worried they might get the idea I absolutely couldn't r emember anything poor old Novikov jabbered. Or rather. but with fairly painl ess brain-washing. I know the whole situation's pretty grotty. yes. Come on. ' 'Righty-ho. would be to co urt disaster.' he said simply. Say three or four days. That's what scares me. it varies a lot as between individuals.idn't mean to call you that. She said.' 'I can stop that without their knowing it.

slotting neatly through the thin crack between the top of the lowest drawer and the cros and disappearing. an intruder. really no matter what. The radio telephone was causing trouble. He did not want to go and tell Brunel. No t now! He thought of his discovery. and knocked it off the edge with his cuff. CHAPTER TEN Lying in a lounging chair under the warmth of the late morning sun. 'Yes. He'll make her carry a hatchet for him. Yesterday. and he ha s-brace above it d given a startled. but I'm afraid I must break it up now.' 'Blaise is tougher. no matter what? I mean.' Chance laughed. I'm not mad about anyt hing.' She studied him without interest for a few seconds. and Brunel had t old him to look at it and check for a loose connexion. just look listless. nervous laugh. Jacko. You mad because Brunel don't let you work on that doctor these last co uple days?' Adrian Chance did not open his eyes. 'All right.' Jacko jerked his head. same as us. heading towards the veranda along the south wing. He had put it on the desk to study it as he wo rked. so that she would b e able briefly to have a sight of the fuel store and garage complex beyond. I guess you're right. Hav e you ever wondered why?' Jacko shrugged massive shoulders. then moved past him towards the house. but with an effort he crushed down the impulse and said. by a million to one chance.' said Jacko sleepily. Incredibly. Brunel will. He said lazily. Don't say an ything. 'It's n ice to have a gossip with one's friends. but she does it just the same. 'You haven't asked anythi ng of me so far. But when you l earn to do so. Perhaps for this reason his hands had been a little clum sy. Just thinking.' Brunel was watching her closely. The study seemed to have absorbed the aura of Brunel's presence. A morale-breaker. especially a killing. Giles rubbed his fo rehead with a grimy hand. When neither of them spoke Brunel said. Ja cko. and he felt une asy there. She wished now that she had thought to ask him what kind of lock was on the door . take Dr Pennyfeather back to his suite. Have you ever wondered how it is that Lisa always do es whatever Brunel says. Brunel's study. The drawer was locked when he tried it. though.' No he won't. And he had come upon it quite by accide nt. by Christ! Chance said to himself with almost prayerful passion. Brunel watched them go. 'What difference would it make?' 'You can never tell.eet?' 'So we could each see how helpless the other was. I . then you'll find it will make a lot of difference. when you accept that asking me for what you want is the only way open to you. wher e the small brick building that was Giles Pennyfeather's prison lay. Only the third time in six years that he had been in that study on his own. Different. Brunel said. It was just like a conjuring trick. 'You not talk ing much. 'Aren't you going to ask me to spare h im Adrian's attentions?' Again the small shrug. you know. 'Tougher than Lisa. Have you enjoyed yourselves?' Modesty gave a tired shrug and looked at him with dull eyes.' They waited in silence. Even now. The excitement in him was so intense that for a moment or two he was on the verge of blurting out the tremendous discovery he had made. 'No. watching Brunel and Jacko approach. nearly twenty-four hours later. Pennyfeather picked up his shoes and hobbled away. There was a small plastic card with a circuit diagram. A million to one chance. 'Because he's Brunel. fixed in a slot in th e chassis of the radio telephone. But he'll get her. his squat ha iry legs bulging against the shorts he wore. his mind was still scarcely able to encompass it. She hate s most of it like hell. then looked at Modesty. Jacko Muktar grunted. and there have been several occasions. after falling on to his knee the card had fluttered down and caught the air in such a way as to swo op suddenly against the drawers in the right-hand pedestal of the desk.

Brunel was out of the house. and he'd be right if Giles hadn't guessed. it's a horrible feeling and it brings on a sort of inertia. For another five minutes he sat as if in a daze. Even within twenty-four hours of her meeting with Giles Pennyfeather. Why would Brunel keep this portable tape-recorder? He did not use it for dictati on.. and switched on the recorder. I'll be careful. Chance had never seen him use it at all. and slid the upper drawer back into place. I'll head for Kalimba. Very puzzling. ironic tongue. as a woman might warily test the heat of an iron.. Today. It could be done . and when he woke his mind was clear and cool. He let his thoughts enfold t he idea. He tried the dra wer above. He came to himself with a start. would never come near the study. but he was careful not to to uch this. He knew that something huge lay within his grasp. and she sometimes spoke to Willie Garvin in her tho ughts.. Brunel was driving into Kig ali with Jacko. I only wish I could finish . That night he lay awake until the early hours. it was cle ar to Modesty that there was a marked difference in her. Chance looked at the spool of tape set on one of the sp indles. and his face broke out in sweat as temptation grew within him. Chance. The thought of broadcasting his offence. With relief he reached in and down into the d eep bottom drawer. And it was not simply a tape-record er. Chance swore vilely under his breath. It's going to be all right. All I have to d o is reach Giles. her ability to concentrate w as improving. before doin g what he had decided upon. and Lisa would be no problem. Apart from Lisa. The sense of becoming herself again brought fierce exhilaration. It was all being offered to him. Willie. though at first it roused only a vague and furtive curiosity in him. get him out. Perhaps what broke the spell was the bitterness which had seethed a nd burned within him since the moment on the veranda when Brunel had coolly told him that one day he would make way for Blaise and take orders from her. John and Angel are there. Gradually the doubts faded and his confidence grew. She could feel the cogs of her mind beginning to mesh more smoothly again. Muktar. He would have to listen carefully to the whole of the tape. After forty-eight hours the urge to take action had become almost overpowering. He w ould have the afternoon alone there. reeled the tape back on fast rewind.. and anyone else who gets in t he way. and to any others he could find. to no matter where..Brunel. and her sense of purpose was hardening. in the afternoon.. He would be gone for a full hour. when the tape had run only a quarter of its length. It was then he made the discovery. I'll come back here and deal th is bunch out of the game . but reason had yet to catch up with instinct.t would only mean suffering under Brunel's cool. He slept. He's relying on the drugs to keep me fr om doing anything. Fantastic was the word . But that's all over now. Everything . touched it and were snatched away at first. remembering what he had heard. and nobody else would come to the study. Still Chanc e hesitated.. It was mid-afternoon. They'll take care of Giles. he switch ed off. examining it calmly. There was ample time to listen to a little of what was on the tape. he would have the whole north wing of the house to himself.. There was a radio transmitter bolted to the back of it. making an inspection of the f arms. And when he's safe. The confusion . It could be done. Don't worry though. That was time enough and to spare. and seemed to hum like a dynamo within her. Willie love. Temptation shook him as a terrier shakes a rat. thrust the machine into the drawer. feverish with excitement as the tendrils of his thoughts touched a concept which had seeded within him. Ten minutes later. was chill ing. then run for the border in one of the cars. with an extending ro d aerial. trying to assess the possibilities presented to him by this fantastic di scovery. Willie. plugged the earpiece into his ear with a h and that shook. I don't even think it's going to be very difficult. and it came out easily. and when the spasm was past he l ay with blurred and delightful images floating through the darkness of his mind. those missionaries I told you about. There was a second switch which ap parently linked the recording to the radio-circuit.

made a hole in the centre. linked to physical reality by only a thread of consciousnes s. The sealed section could be approached only by way of the long corridor wh ich ran north and south from the top of the stairs. chec king them for alarms but finding none. and tied it over the lens so that the flash-lamp produced only a thin pencil of light. but no. Their bedroom windows would be simila rly wired. As she prowled. making up her mi nd. but I do miss you so. then eased the latch back and edged inside. For half an hour she examined doors and windows. Chance and Jacko. When she fitted it into her fist the ends protruded an inch on each side. Since learning of the thymoleptic drugs. But instinct warned her that this was not the right oppor tunity. There were se veral kitchen knives in a drawer. and halfway along the northe rn arm of the corridor was a solid door. It was very tempting. and was locked in her room. It would make a good improvised kongo. she wo uld be able to leave the house without difficulty. She listened outside his door for a while. but it's an extra risk. Sleep well. she looked for anything which might be of use to her but which w ould not soon be missed if she took it. She put the wire probe back in her pocket and moved away down the corridor. unt il she could make out his sleeping figure. I won't thin k about that. Wearing the black slacks and shirt that were the only clothes of her own she possessed. Opportunism was a strong element in her make-up. Willie love. deciding whether or not to try pickin g the lock.. and these were the bedrooms of the five overseers.. and the salt-cellar mushroomed at the top. and she squatted on her haunches in the darkness for long minutes. but there had been nothing major. Switching on the flash-lamp she moved the pencil beam slowly round . Ten minutes later she found that the upper floor of the north wing of the house was sealed off. tuckin g it down inside her boot. coming or going from their rooms. This was the mental attitude she had always known. she found that her nerves were steady and that confidence was flowing smoo thly through her.. Getting Giles clear is the main thing. He was sprawled on his face. no. she had spent m any hours in trance. and she took one with a six-inch blade. It was made of close-grained wo od. Brunel was not the man to set up a standing defence which would easily y ield. She did not think the missing kitchen kn ife and flash-lamp would rouse any suspicion. Different if you were with me. f or Brunel was away for the afternoon with Jacko. Checking her reactions as she stood in the darkness with the flash-lamp switched off. she spent two hours moving about the sleeping house like a shadow. With kitchen scissors she cut a small pat ch from the bottom of her shirt. The lock on her door yielded to a short p iece of stiff wire broken from the bed-spring and shaped to her purpose. Today she was free even of those. and she had realized now that B runel did not trust Adrian Chance to carry on the campaign alone. I t suited her very well. reaching down into the cool depths of the psyche as she had been taught. only constant pinpricks. Ther e were doors on each side. And for two hours each night she soundlessly performed a whole range of exercises to bring every muscle up to perfect pitch. On the third night she tested herself.. and to be treated with th e greatest caution. Though she could see no signs of it on this side of the door. and the com fort of rediscovering the old pattern brought relief beyond all words. she felt cer tain that it was wired to an alarm system. and directing the unfathomable energies there to the end of cleansing her body from the subtle enemy that lingered in her bloodstream. Sh e had seen them occasionally. one arm hanging down. She had often used it to turn a setback to advantage. It was locked.them off before we make the getaway. In the kitchen she found a flash-lamp. She had been given nothing to eat since breakfast. and she slipped it into the pocket of her slacks. Over the last two days the system of alternating civilized treatment with sudden and irrational harshness or humiliation had continued as before. If she could get to Brunel and his entourage w hile they slept. This was the fortress section of the house. We could . Camacho was snoring. I'm all right. For five minutes she waited. This was where Brunel and Lisa. When the time came tomorrow night. had their bedr ooms. In a cupboard of the sideboard she found an empty cruet she had never seen in use.

and a holstered Webley revolver hanging over the back of a chair. she knew. though she pressed her hands over her ears. The time to strike has been chosen. Silently she withdrew and closed the door. but the moment was not right. The pain in her stomach had become sharper. He gives thought to your destruction. This is your path to peace. but there was a harsher t imbre. The re was a difference in the voices. I had to make a dry run to try myself out. as she had once heard a Greek chorus chant its message in the ancient theatre at Epidaurus. Brunel must d ie. lying in bed and watching the slits of m oonlight from the lowered blind. For an hou r they had spoken to her last night. I t shall not be done under the sky but between walls. for their sing-song message shattered a pattern she had believed changel ess. yet when he did not come her torment had grown greater in the knowledge that this was only a postponement. This is your priv ilege and your honour. The burning seemed remote. The moment shall be when ne xt he lies upon you. You are o ur child and our disciple. Willie love. she was listening to the voices. . from the m ap Tarrant gave us. There are three cars and a Land-Rover. He must die by the knife and you are chosen. Lisa. or almost the same. In obedience to us you will find peace. Better disable the rest of the cars. ready to flick it off if his breathing changed. a stiletto with a long nee dle-pointed blade. Her spirits were high now. and her whole being was racked by terror and doubt. the style of delive ry and the phrasing were the same. Brunel has become an Enemy. No answer came to her out of the darkness. Yet this was understa ndable. Tomorrow night befor e she left to get Giles that was the time to pick up the gun. The knife lies under your sleeping head.. but I was all right . Lisa was awake. Again she was sorely tempted. so the Land-Rover should b e able to cope. It's pretty good. but it'll take longer to get on the road. You are chosen . I've see n them coming and going. a sense of urgency tinging their measured coolness..the walls of the room. It runs over a high ridge. She had put the knife ready under her pillow. When she had locked the door behind her with t he probe. There wa s a hunting rifle in a rack on one wall. all sins lifted from you. Lisa. The whispering instructions that the voices had for her. But you are our child and we your protectors. The choice of words. Brunel has become an Enemy. I was a ll right tonight. the voice s chanted on in her head until their words were carved into her mind. Evil has entered his mind. as if it were hap pening to some shadowy counterpart of her. They may have some other tr ansport down in the farm area.. You are chosen. Willie. Br unel must die by the knife. I can remember now. That track to the border might be pr etty rugged for a car. was something she would always have to live with. Must have got that muck out of my system. There is no other way but through us. And this. were frightening beyond anything she could ever have imagined. she told him. too. and now again. or tonig ht. Brunel must die and you are chosen. she hid her few trophies behind the cistern in the shower cubicle and undressed. tempered only by the underlying ache that marked her grief for Willie Garvin. Brunel has become an Enemy and must die. Eyes tightly closed.. chanting repetitively. but this alone was not what kept her awake. Let no fear or question enter your heart. Though she paced the room. waiting in drea . When next Brunel lies upon you he must die by the knife in your hand. So it's tomorrow night for go. that the moment was still moving towards her on t he stream of time. But at least it's a marked track. then moved along the passage to the s outh wing and her own small room. their exhortation and t heir command. under the mattress beneath her pillow. I'll take the Land-Rover and short out the ignition. body rigid. It shall not be of your choosing but of our choosing. Wish me luck. Brunel must die. emotionlessly. and I'm damn sure they don't immobilize them. All frailty of the past will be forgiven. She had looked for the knife and found it. For an hour they had spoken to her last ni ght. more fiery. She had dreaded that Brunel might come to her during the day just past.

she's not there. you dumb bastard.' Chance's smile was twisted. You know. A vice was attached t o one end of the table. Light her cigarettes. They rope her up. his eyes on two throwing knives which lay on the cabinet beside Jacko's bed. 'But what's the idea?' Chance sighed. 'Do we get to see them set her up?' 'Yes. We just go on chatting. Then two of the boys walk in. There were only the voices. Jacko. His stare was incredulous but hopeful. I could make a good charade putting a bullet in her gut. wouldn't you be a lit tle bit glad? A little bit thankful? Even if you hated his guts?' Jacko pondered.' 'Our hero?' 'Brunel. Bu t in all the hours since the voices had first spoken. Jacko?' 'Sure. Jack . all set up for a gang-bang by the natives. whispering the same terrible message in her head. She's going to know he set it up. st retching out his legs.d for the High Priest of the voices who had now. Then suddenly she doesn't exist for us any more.' He scratched his chest an d leered.' he said impressed. I do n't see her no more. Chance stood up.' said Chance.' 'You can never tell. he was studying a map sprea d out on the table. He was very relaxed. Later Brunel takes her for a drive round Bonaccord. and if about fifty Bantu were lined up to screw you. and our dark beauty is taken home to the safety of her little room. Do you know what you have to do?' 'Sure I know. and the hilt nestled swe etly into his hand. No big scene. become an Enemy. She's not there. Chance threw him a cigarette and sat down in an armchair. we compete to lig ht it. It's gone on long enou gh for her to start relaxing.' 'Blaise. Let's just stick to today. our hero appears on the scene. 'Today's charade for Blaise. examining it closely. or rather at the l ast second.' Jacko's head jerked round. stamping it into her brain. and nodded his big head. Jacko grunted a greeting. 'If you were a woman.' 'Every day. 'She hardly knows the time of day. and if someone came along and stopped it. 'But she knows he wants that. We can go and watch. The window which led to the balcony stood open. Beside it there was a small t eak table which Jacko used as a work-bench.' Chance moved across and picked up one of the knives. Wants her thankful. You know what I mean?' 'I know.' Chance stubbed out his cigarette. It wa s the most superbly balanced knife he had ever touched.' said Jacko. You'd better take a cold shower first. Brunel leaves. The morning she's brought down t o breakfast and she gets the olde-worlde courtesy. They take her down to the farms. Jacko. Then the boys come and take her. strip her and strap her over an o il-drum.' 'Yes.' Chance smile d. you randy bastard. 'Are those Garvin's?' 'Uh? The knives? Sure. Below them stood a compact rack of tools. 'Brunel wants it real!' 'Not quite. We treat her like a lady. Like before. Selby and Loeb. We stand up when she comes in the room. In sheaths under the jacket. He's increased the dose these last two days . 'You want them. He stops the performance. Then when Brunel goes. He just stops it. She' s full of dope and confused as hell. We took it off bef ore we put the strait-jacket on him. If she takes a cigarette. Brunel has to be her only saviour. 'Are you listening. Don't ask me who our dark beauty is. 'At the last minute. undefil ed. This gets her jumpy. because she wonders what's coming next. Look. but this isn't the moment for it. Brunel had not come to her room to lie upon her. The soft treatment continues through lunch.' 'I've a much better idea myself. 'Today we play it Brunel's way.' 'So what comes?' 'Nothing yet.' Jacko grinned. His four hand-guns hung on the wall above the table. It was ten minutes before breakfast when Adrian Chance strolled into Jacko's roo m. 'They're beautiful. He said. incredibly. you don't have to understand it. Jacko was not checking his guns when Chance entered.

' Chance looked over Jacko's shoulder. Large-scale. Tough boy. I just figured there was a track. not just in Rwanda but within the boundaries of Bonaccord itsel f. It was hard to br eathe evenly. then gave a deep chuckle. He looked where Jacko was pointing. A marvellous knife. 'You'll end up in a marsh. The gold was there. It might be important The small red cross near the north-western boundary suddenly hit his eye like a bullet. Next time I t ake the Land-Rover. As soon as Selby and Loeb had set up the Blaise girl for the gang-bang in the vi llage she had simply passed out. That was interesting.' Chance tore his eyes away from the small red cross. Jacko should have shown it to Brunel. then at the map key. .' Jacko glanced at the rack over the table. An enormous and almost unbearable excitement was throbbing within him. It was also a little disturbing. only mildly curious. He believed it had been a deliberate and self-induced loss of cons ciousness. I try. Save going round the lake. In tha t case no more would ever be made. 'I always figure there's got to be a track here. He would not tell Jacko. Even with the nails ripped from his toes h e had kept it up. Odd that Garvin should have been carrying a map of this area..' 'Where did you get it?' 'Found it in Garvin's jacket. 'It's good. 'A gun for me. He was in very good humour.' Jacko returned to his map. Pennyfeather had known all the time. What of?' 'Around here. Can I bo rrow this?' 'The map? Sure. The little red cross. B laise had known.. the knife in his hand. His feet danced and the blade glittered as he cut and stabbed at the air. He wandered across the room to Jacko and said. By God. you thick ape . He never resented Chance's insu lts. Not yet. It was all coming to him now. The cross. Chance knew that he had the answer Brunel had been seeking. Jacko jabbed a finger on the map and said.' 'Marsh?' Jacko peered. Chance crouched. and he took his time before he said. shadow-fighting. Now Adrian Chance knew. These two would be rarities. It seemed that once you started to reach out and make thin gs happen the luck began to flow.' 'Never mind.' 'A bullet throws easier. He had heard somewhere that Garvin made them himself. I might find something interesting myself. hey? We go light Blaise's cigarettes. Brunel did not think it was involuntary.' Jacko gestured vaguely. 'No goddam good.' Chance laughed. At three o'clock in the afternoon Brunel sat in his study reviewing the day's ma in event and acknowledging to himself that it had not produced the impact he had hoped for. But leave the chat to Brunel and me. Every time. He would not have thought Blaise could manage such a trick when her mind was confused by drugs. Christ! This was a detailed blow-up of part ot Novikov's map! No coordin ates marked. it had lain under Brunel's han d all this time. As surely as he could hear the thudding of his own heart. the fool. 'Breakfast. Make a short cut to Kigali. 'I can see it's a map.' 'Thanks. It covered the whole o f Bonaccord and some of the surrounding territory.' Chance folded the map a nd slipped it into his pocket. 'What's that?' 'A map. between those two long ridges. I might try my hand at throwing.' He pushed the map aside and stood up. yo u silly bugger. Take it. So Pennyfeather had been stalling. but.o?' 'No good to me. It's not your line.' 'That's right. from s hock or fear. an unusual accomplishment. too. Astonishing. Chance smiled to himself at the thought.

He knelt beside her. She stood up. Chance studied the table.' 'Good. She was unconscious when he arrived. Remaking Blaise in the way he wanted was going to be more difficult than he had anticipated. and for a moment she stopped brea thing. She was in her room now. in the act of chalking the cue. She rolled sideways. Not impossible. please. A light meal would be sent up later. Brunel concluded. and the charade was completely lost upon the one p erson it had been devised for. She need not fear that anybody wo uld attempt such a crude jest with her again.' Chance nodded. He cocked his head to look at the ceiling. and though she could put little force behind the awkward thrust. There was never any variation in Brunel's union with her. He would hav e to give closer attention to it. 'There's nothing wrong. chose his shot and moved round behind the cue-ball. At his orders. gripping the hilt of the stiletto. wrapped a blanket about her limp naked body. gazing at the tip of his cue as if it suddenly held great interest for him. It was five minutes before the spasms of retching passed and she could drag hers elf back from the bathroom. He felt h e had struck the right note in his manner towards her. She could rest for a few hours. Her right hand was under the pillow. He said. yet something of a challenge. She struck. 'You look feverish. just more demanding. and he realized now that it had roused a need in him. 'Not quite the best. Jacko whistled. the blade went home as if against no resistance at all. did not dare to wai t. They were almost back at the house before she opened h er eyes.Certainly it had weakened the effect of his own appearance on the scene.' Her voice sounded strange to her. She heard him say in a shocked. Undress. His body went slack. She was listening for the voices. Her eyes wer e closed as she undipped her bra. And then Brunel could only tell her with cool reassurance that she had not been violated. he had told her.' Chance straightened up. clutching at a chair as her legs threatened to fold .' he said. slipped the dress from her shoulders and let it fall. Adrian. her naked body spread-eagled over the big oil-drum. A disappointing outcome. but the message they had burned into her mind ran on and on. She brought her hand down beside her hip. paused for a moment. came off the cushion. that he had arrived in time to put a stop to the affair. She did not wait. Adrian Chance and Jacko Muktar were in th e billiard room. with the knife poised abov e bis back. of course. The ball fla shed down the table. It w as not the same. 'In her room. 'Yes. Brunel decided. then moved on top of her. It was quite mechanica l and rather slow. and gas ped. unbelieving voice. 'I'll be with her for the next half hour. Lisa was lying on her bed when Brunel entered. seeking her. certainly.' Brunel went out. 'Jesus! That's the best shot you ever made.' he said at last. 'Where's Lisa?' he asked. He put away the files and reports which lay o n his desk.' Brunel said.' He began to take off the pale blue shirt he wore. It's just the weather. not looking up. When th e balls had finished rolling they were gathered in a tight group which offered a long break. 'See that we're not dist urbed. Is anything wrong?' 'No. kissed the red and the white. ' And that was all.. pushing against him in panic as nausea surged within her. The sight of her when he had come upon the scene that afternoon. then up. She kept her eyes closed. her eyes dull and uncaring. The impact had been much diluted. and went out of the study. 'But. They did not speak to her now. and put her in the car with him. She lay down on her back. She had listened without any apparent reaction. lingered in his memory. There came a soft thud as his small body h it the floor beside the bed. Adrian Chance. As he bent for the stroke he felt utterly confident. in being amiable but not too solicitous. his smile cool and bright. Brunel jerked once. Selby and Loeb had cut the ropes l ashing her to the oil-drum. angled towards her. like the sound of the sea heard in a shell held to the ear. Not without his orders.

Brunel had appeared only a few seconds after she had put herself u nder. but he would sure ly aspire to it. He had been on guard there w hen she was returned to her room. She had not enjoyed t he ordeal laid upon her by Brunel during the afternoon. dragging it open. eyes narro wed and she tried to interpret the bustle of footsteps and muffled sound of rais ed voices from the main corridor. could not stay here with Brunel lying dead. falling to her hands and knees. but she could not doubt the note of ur gency in Jacko's voice. She heard Jacko Muktar's voice shouting from the far end of the patio. Brunel was dead. for otherwise Brunel's death might prove to have altered the situation for the wors e. with everything in chaos. then she had used deep respiration combined with muscle tension to drive the bl ood from her head and bring unconsciousness. In the far wing of the house. the n lurched to the door. Something unexpected had certainly happened. to somebody at an upstairs window in the north wing. She got off the bed and moved to the window. When she had been locked in her room. her mind racing as she tried to reassess the situation. Now Brunel was the Enemy she h ad struck down. In the event. offering no guidance. g athering her energies for the night's work that lay ahead. she saw Camacho with his rifle. It was less than an hour later that something roused her. That was incredible. His hatred for her had . Lis a had killed Brunel. That was a pleasant relief to be greeted by on awakening. Dazedly she wondered what she should do. For most of the time she had believed that the threatened performance would not be carried through. He could ne ver replace Brunel. she took the jug of drugged water and care fully poured another half pint of it down the lavatory before settling to sleep. swallo w poison maybe! Chance says to bring that doctor quick!' Camacho called. And that changed everything. when she had pro bed with the first tiny thread of awareness and found there was no need to sink into oblivion again. Pe ering between them. If the gang-bang went through. stumbling into the passage. man! Killed Brunel? You drunk as hell. Modesty did not hear the scream. she killed him I tell you! Knife in the back! Go get that goddam Pe nnyfeather quick.' 'Chris'sake. and the voices were silent. There was a dressing-go wn lying across the chair. could never take over Brunel's operations. The why and the how of what Lisa had done did not matter . And with Chance in command. When it seemed that her belief was wrong. the hilt of the knife jutting from between his shoulder-blad es. '. Camacho!' Modesty stood still. Almost fifteen seconds passed before she could draw enough breath into her lungs to scream for help. She dragged a forearm across her sweating face and doubled up with pain. Vanity would not let him recognize his inadequacy. she would not live very long. The pain in her stomach had focused to a red-hot skewer point now. She was asleep. A voice shouted from the patio below. as if the killing of Brunel had unleashed it. She went to the war drobe and began to put on shirt and slacks. Giles Pennyfeather was being brought here to the house. it would be well to do so. An atmosphere of bustling alarm s eemed to pervade the house. and he seemed to be calling a question across the length of the patio. If she could find or cre ate an opportunity now. The slats of the blind were half closed. would not have the immediacy of memory and sen sation to overcome later. but neither had it shatt ered her. when she had been roped across the oil-drum and the jabbering natives were being herded into line. at l east she would not know about it. It was done. gone crazy! She killed him killed Brunel! An' she's sick in the gut. There was only a trickle of blood. He lay on his side. at least for the time being.. Three times before this the voices had made her strike down an Enemy. She held her breath and turned her head to listen.beneath her. 'You drunk. but then t here had always been Brunel to give instructions. Presumably Chance would take charge. She sat up. She managed to straighten herself and pull it on. She cou ld not stay.. cupping a hand behind her ear .

Chance took up his position behind the chair Brunel had always used. a sandy-haired Englishman with faded blue eyes and a seemingly lipless mo . and handled their rifles with trained familiarity. Had Brunel suspended the torture? . He was also frightened. and take one of the cars. and there was silence. by God. put him o ut. Now I'll tell you where we go from here.' Chance said coolly. past the corner of the south wing. No chance of going through the window yet. When Brunel said the wo rd you jumped. hard to believe anyone could kill Brunel. and there's no need for it anyway. That was stran ge. Then we'll have a nice natural death for the police doctor from Kigali. Then the sound of voices and footsteps gradually faded awa y.. So we can just let her die. Camacho and van Pienaar. She had seen a dozen of them down in the villag e that afternoon. It seemed that the handful of Kiku yu had been imported to form a private police force of Brunel's little empire. each with a rifle. growling voice. She pulled on her boots and moved to check that the patio was still empty. It was hard to believe it. There were two Kikuyu in the back.. watching the door.' he said again. They had the look of city natives rather than vil lagers. She considered using her probe to open the door.' 'Kill that white-hair bitch first.' Selby. Van Pienaar spoke to them. She brought the kitchen knife. Perhaps in a general upheaval Chance would forget about her until tomorrow. He was angry and spoke in a deep.. He was hobbling still. A big man inside. But now Brunel was gone. 'Kill that bitch. They assembled in the lounge. Needs an emergency oper ation. the wire probe and the make-shift kongo from thei r hiding place. Without a g un. Gi les would go too. If she could cross the patio unseen. and a minute later she heard Camacho's voice sh outing on the stairs. but seemed to be movin g less painfully than when she had last seen him. 'All right.. unpredictab le. It was tempting to have them on her. Perhaps. Loeb shook his head. Van Pienaar was driving. let's get this sorted out. For six years now he had lived under Br unel's protection. 'That's asking for trouble. almost running. any place you wanted. You did the job. keeping the Bantu in order. With Brunel you were okay. Mesquita and Selby. but better to wait until she was ready to make a move.grown during the days since their arrival here. She had seen it in his eyes. free Giles. pointing at the window of her room. and he felt suddenly exposed. Only Jacko was absent. she saw Giles Pennyfeather. you got plenty of mon ey and three months leave every year. There w ere people coming and going. or at least postpone dealing with her in the confidenc e that she was heavily doped and could give no trouble. p erhaps only half believing that Giles knew them. and painfully. and that was fine. Brunel's dead and Lisa killed him.' said Loeb. waiting. any place the police couldn't touch you. u nder command of the overseers. Loeb. Selby beside him. After a little while she went and sat down on the bed. hesitating for a few seconds before putting them near at hand un der the mattress. she could follow Camacho. working as he had worked on Novikov. Camacho was urging him along wit h an occasional shove from behind. she could never get through them. Her mouth twisted at the corner in bleak mockery of herself for enterta ining the hope. The thought came to her that with Camacho gone she might climb down to the empty patio. three days ago. Pennyfeather says she's got acute appendicitis. then he and Selby moved off into the house. As sh e reached the window a small truck roared round the north wing of the house and came to a halt. Looking out of the window. He woul d try to tear the coordinates from Giles. Chance would never continue Brunel's patient ca mpaign of trying to force Giles' memory by moderate torture well-spaced. She would have to wait. If she had read Chance rightly he would not sleep on his hatred. but discarded the idea. He said crisply. It was good. upstairs watching Pennyfeather attend to Lisa. He w as a little man but he had big brains. It was too consuming. They disappeared from her sight. At present the situation was confused. 'No. resting his arms on the back of it. on the stairs and in the main corridor.

' he said. it was so easy. It's simple. This is where Brunel chose to live.' Chance sat down in Brunel's chair and stretched out his legs.' 'Okay. don't forget. Loeb said. It won't mean a lot to them.' Selby said. I should think I'll be able to call Kigali some time tomorrow. There won't be anything for them to do except make a report. Just go and get on with what you have to do. Blaise and Pennyfeather will be gone before sunset. and tell them Brunel's dead. I'll handle the police mysel f. The work goes on as be fore. God. 'Somebody put you in charge?' 'Jacko and I did. above all else. as they had wanted to kill Lisa. but make it casual and keep everything cool. I know them all. 'Brunel was getting a little over the hill. Two of them had carried away towards the garage a small blanket-covered form on a stretcher. said.' Chance leaned back in the chair. As it was. and since there's nobody to challenge it there won't be an y problems. . 'We'll delay reporting on that until Lisa's as good as dead. He could feel it.' Loeb put his hands on his knees and stood up. the only one who can keep the loot coming in. they were frighten ed and desperate. and Chance laughed. That wa s what Brunel had had. What happens now?' 'Normal routine. 'And Brunel? There's going to be questions. If you don't want a piece of it.' Chance spread his hands. 'I don't forget anything. it might work out pretty good. van Pienaar. 'I'm the only one who can keep the organization running.. nor that his voice held something of the flatness with which Brunel had always made his pronouncements. 'All you do is run Bonaccord. I'll take good care of you boys. and we don't know w hy. no t where he made his money. and ran a hand over his silver hair . Selby.' 'There's us. Mesquita was on guard there now . gathering th em under his dominance. Now he had found and unleashed it in hims elf. Leav e the rest to me.' Chance said softly. He was big-time. He did not realize that this had been one of Brunel's mannerisms. Brunel k ept meticulous files in his study. I f it had been his own hand that struck down Brunel they would have torn him apar t in animal fury. These men were thick-headed fools. and he wasn't squeamish. knowing they were his. The whole thing came down to confidence. Don't worry. Anybody want to argue?' Chance could feel the power within him and it was wonderful. a Belgian FN light automatic rifle slung on one shoulder. 'Hold it. 'What happens to us afterwards?' 'We just go on as before.' 'You?' Camacho lifted an eyebrow. He said. I'll bring in a penman to fix a Will. 'You go down to the village. His own personality would bend the m like reeds. He was thinking that maybe Chance could make a job of filling Brunel's shoes. 'We inherit this place. Yes. Loeb. So this must have been the way it was for Brunel. The men looked at one another uncertainly. You reckon you can take over and keep things going like Brunel?' 'I'll do better. he had brains.' said Chance.' CHAPTER ELEVEN Modesty watched the truck pull out of the patio. We'll unfreeze Brunel ready for the police doctor. They better be out of the way. but it was said with total conviction. Desperate for a new leader. There's been dust collecting on th ree or four projects for months now.uth. chin on chest. Nobody talked about quitting. You and van Pienaar get Brunel boxed up and put in the refrigerator truck. Quietness had settle d upon the house again after an exodus of the overseers. 'Okay.' It was a lie. and Chance was sure he could learn all he nee ded from them.. She killed him. That won't be long. He'd been closer to Brunel t han anyone else. 'There's the Blaise woman and that Pennyfeather. with a dozen smart operations going. any one of you. Van Pienaar said. and was almost stupefied by its power. gently topping the tips of his s teepled fingers together.' He looked round upon the men. 'You bloody fools . I can replace you in a week.' 'What happens to Brunel?' Selby jerked his head towards the ceiling. 'We tell the truth.' said Camacho. you can a lways quit. lost without Brunel.

The door of the main cage stood open.' Chance said.' 'No! She's my patient now!' Chance laughed incredulously. 'Get in.' . If Chance was going through with this. I'm behind him with Pennyfeather. Pennyfeather said in a strangled voice.She frowned. she might as well tr y something now. it might be too late. Beyond him. watching Chance.' Jacko was very thorough. Or I'll start cutting pieces off Pennyfeather for every five seconds you wait. Face the wall and keep quite still. 'Okay. 'Can't you get it through your stupid bloody head. 'Your patient! Jesus. his gun aimed at her back. I rather hope not. Jacko was there. 'Out. I see. 'Through the din ing-room and out at the back. you're an evil bastard . C hance herded Pennyfeather along ten paces behind. Jacko motioned with the gun and said. make sure she's clean. just south of the equa tor. It could be no more hopeless than being caged in with the gorilla. nightfall was swift. or your friend gets a bullet right through her liver.' After a moment Pennyfeather said bitterly. She walked out of the room. Chance said briskly. his rough hands probing every inch of her body and clot hing.' They moved down the stairs and out through the big french windows of the diningroom.' 'We're going downstairs and out of the house now. drawing his head b ack. please. Here. I wonder if you're a s heavily doped as Brunel thought? Never mind. if she delayed. This was circular and had a door which opened or closed from outside by a pulley and chain. Jacko kept a steady three paces from Modesty. Chance said. 'Move along. 'Now look here. 'My God.' Did they mean to go through with it? Or was this a continuation of Brunel's camp aign.. Ozym andias was dozing in the shade on his bed of grass in the small central section of the great cage. If she broke out now. It was raised in angry indignation. There was no way of judging. standing back. Pe nnyfeather. Jacko's behind you with a gun. but it w as not the indecision of a confused mind.' As she turned. The only emotion on his face was one of fur y. her lower lip caught in her teeth.' Modesty stood still. but he looked less haggard than before. You understand the arrangement?' She nodded. 'Right. Hands on top of the head. At last he said. He gave her a glittering smil e and said. then Jacko laughed. 'I'll begin now. Indecision plagued her. Jacko said. We want you to appreciate what we've arranged for you. She was wondering what had happened to Giles Pennyfeather when she heard his voi ce in the passage that led to her room. Jacko's finger was o n the trigger. Jacko. She heard Chance say something she could not catch. intensified? She half turned her head. It depended mai nly on what Chance had in mind. across the passag e. Chance? That girl's going to die if you don't let me o perate on her pretty quick!' She saw that his feet were still bound in rags. A nerve twisted painfully inside her as she saw that the knife he held was one of Willie's knives.' He stepped aside. t he feverish glow of a man seeing visions of glory. One little wrong move and Dr Pennyfeather gets a quick tracheotomy. There was an aura about Chance. Better to wait for that. gun in hand. let's go. 'All dressed up in your working clothes. They were outside the door now. Choosing the best moment to make a mov e depended on factors unknown to her and not readily guessed at. He was tense and ready. 'You're repeating yourself. They crossed the open ground t o the fringe of trees and came to the ring of acacias where the cage stood. Chance gripped Giles Pennyfeather by the hair from behind. so that Ozymandias could be confined while the ca ge was cleaned. It's almost a pity to lose you. holding a knife to his throat. you silly man. it might be too early. A glance at the sky told her that there was half an hour to sunset. A key turned in the lock and the door was throw open. you're out of this world. Anything.. and drew a bead of bloo d with the knife-point. Six feet away. Now. Now move along.' Chance said. you bastard! I'm not just going to let that girl die ' His voice broke off with a grunt on the last word. 'Get in. please.

A quarter of a mile away. He moved round the cag e and hauled on the chain. grinning. keeping his head turned to watch Pennyfeather all the time. I' ve already got what Brunel couldn't get. to gain time for a final throw. but I'll get around to it very soon. 'The generator!' he yelled. Chance s aid. 'You didn't hear her argue. It was only when Modesty heard Chance's shocked curse that she turned her head for a quick glance. I know the coordinates. Jacko was on his feet. He said. Forty-two and one hundred and o ne. Jacko ca ught at his arm and shook him. He slammed an open hand against one of t he bars and said in a shrill voice. There was one s ure way to win a brief respite. Adrian! The transport!' Chance turned his head. huh? Make him mad. a big soft sound from a little way off. schooling herself not to hurry. bu t sooner or later he would charge these invaders of his domain. A dozen powerful me n could not hold him.' Modesty absorbed the shock. as if he were trying to remember something. her only card that might win a reprie ve. Her last card. they'll do better w ith me than with him. Like all wild an imals he feared the man-smell. his head twisted to glare over his shoulder. You might divert a gorilla for a few moments. Giles Pennyfeather stood a little hunched. t hen he wiped his hands down his dripping face and said flatly. Then slowly he got to his feet. As I told the boys. 'How about I get a few stones an' throw at him.. a curious look on his face. Chance gave a laugh of sheer delight. 'That goes. When he charg ed at Giles she would go in from behind and try . Chance. more angry. bellowing. She turned away. his eyes sparkling. As she turned. Modesty forgot about Chance and Jacko. grunting deep in its throat. I'll start moving the transport clear. beyond the house. It might take him seconds or minutes to make up his mind. we got no power ! You gone crazy?' Chance pressed his knuckles to his head and seemed to make an enormous effort. 'Listen. a long spea r of flame and smoke pierced the air.' 'The coordinates. Jacko took Giles Pennyfeathe r by the shoulder and gave a thrust which sent him stumbling against her.' 'You'd better believe me. Ozymandias stood upright and pounded his stomach. concentrating all her attention on the go rilla. for though their united strength might almost match his ow n it could not be brought to bear within the unity of one mind and one body. 'Call the village and get the boys up with the foam wagon. It had shuffled out of the inner cage now and was staring at Pennyfeather.. Ozymandias was shuffling bac k and forth. The fury in him was close to madness. 'Chris'sake. Chance sec ured the chain.She moved forward and into the cage. 'I want to see her die!' Jacko dragged him round.' Before Chance could reply there came a sound. and perspiration r an in rivulets down his distorted face. Modesty moved to the outer bars. 'That's very interesting. His gru nts were growing louder. Now let me see if I can guess. but that was all. quick!' Chance stood as if frozen. She edged round slowly until Ozymandias was between her and Giles. Right? The valley's only about two miles away. The y would be destroyed piecemeal. staring. 'Jesus! It's the fuel store! Some goddam fool we got to ge t the foam wagon. 'Is that right? That really right? You know them?' Chance was looking past Modesty at the gorilla. had fallen under Chance's ace. Ozymandias lifted his great head and blinked. . but he would overcome that. isn't it? I haven't had time to take a look yet. she guessed. The door of the inner compartment slid up. and get us out quick. what? She had no weapon. The do or clanged shut. arms wrapped about his middle. She said. however desperat e. Jacko had sat down on a pile of empty sacks near the small corrugated iron shelt er where the gorilla's feed was kept. Once we're dead you can say good bye to a bankful of gold. Jacko picked up the two big padlocks and slipped them through t he hasps.' His eyes widened in mock surprise.' Jacko said. Jacko? Yes. did you. We know the coordinates. The drumlike sound was louder and far more frightful than she had ever imagined.

' He took one last glance at the cage, then turned and began to run hard with Ja cko on his heels. Modesty pressed a shoulder between two of the bars, then tested hips and head. N ot enough space, not enough by a good two inches. Flesh could give, but not bone . She turned. Ozymandias had stopped bellowing. He was hunched with knuckles on the ground, poised. Abruptly he gave an ear-splitting scream and rushed at Giles . Modesty had started to launch herself after him when, incredibly, she saw Gile s hop forward a pace, his arms still folded round his body, crouched low now. Ozymandias halted only ten feet away, then turned and lurched back and forth on all fours, gibbering angrily. She saw the shiny leather of his enormous chest, t he colossal arms and shoulders, the nightmare face and the great thews of the bo wed legs. Giles was jerking his head sideways, winking at her hugely, urgently. She moved towards the bars, then round a little. He hopped over to her, still crouched. Oz ymandias halted his pacing and watched them, glaring and scolding. Giles whisper ed, 'Look, crouch down, darling! Now fold your arms like this. And don't run if he charges. They bluff at first. Might make a dummy rush two or three times befo re he comes in for real, and maybe we can calm him down before then.' She squatted like Giles, her mind half numb with unbelief, wondering how in God' s name he knew anything about the attacking-ritual of gorillas. 'Ah, that's jolly good,' he breathed. 'Looks a bit weird, I know, but this is th e posture of submission. It means we're not threatening him. I read an article i n Reader's Digest by some woman. You know, in that London surgery when I was on night duty. She got on very well with a gorilla tribe up in the Virunga Range. T he thing is, you've got to act like a gorilla, she said. Hold on, I've just reme mbered something.' He crawled spiderlike across the cage, a grotesque figure in his ragged trousers and swathed feet, picked up a stump of wild celery from the ground, nibbled it, then tossed it at the grumbling gorilla's feet. 'Naoom! Naoom!' he said ingrati atingly in a deep voice. Ozymandias surveyed him, then picked up the stalk and began to gnaw it, but the deep-sunk eyes in the great head were still suspicious and hostile. Pennyfeather rolled back to Modesty, knuckles to the ground, legs bowed. 'That's their word for food, so this woman said,' he whispered. 'She actually sp ent about three years with them, so she ought to know. Says they're not aggressi ve if you don't alarm them, especially if you act monkey-like. We'd better do th at.' He began to scratch his chest vigorously with both hands, paused, frowned, and said, 'No, wait a minute though. It wasn't Reader's Digest. It was the Natio nal Geographic, now I come to think of it.' It was an insane moment for laughter, but she had to swallow a great hiccup of i t. Ozymandias threw the stump of celery away and stood on all fours watching the m, growling a little. Giles muttered, 'Do it again. Modesty.' 'Do what?' 'That sort of belch you did just now. But nice and deep this time. They do that a lot.' She swallowed air, and let forth the deepest eructation she could manage. Giles gazed at her admiringly. 'Christ, that was marvellous! I wish I could do it, but I've never got hold of the knack. Better move about a bit. He might think we're rather rum monkeys if we just squat here.' Pennyfeather went lurching away round the cage, grunting and whimpering, arms fo lded submissively across his stomach. Modesty watched for a moment, then copied him. This was the stuff of farce, but she knew that in seconds it might turn to bloody destruction. Ozymandias rose, drummed on his great belly, and squatted do wn again. His belligerence seemed to have waned, but this could be no more than a reprieve. A casual buffet, a single clutch from one great hand, would mean the beginning of the end. Pennyfeather rolled back to her and whispered, 'Is there any way we can get out? I mean, once Chance and that, stocky sod come back it'll be too late.' She said, 'Give me a minute to think.' Without a probe, there was no hope of ope ning the two great padlocks. The vertical bars of the cage were set in a massive

ring of concrete bedded in the ground; the bars of the roof sloped up slightly in a shallow cone, and were no wider apart than the verticals. Giles was sitting down now, fixing a strip of rag that had come loose from his foot. She saw Ozym andias thump down on his haunches and begin to pluck at his own foot. She looked at the bars again, and the germ of an idea took shape in her mind. Knuckling her way across the cage she picked up a bunch of long grass, then move d to the bars. Dividing the grass, she knotted one bunch of it round the foot of the bar, the other at shoulder height round the same bar. Giles joined her and muttered, 'What's that for?' 'It's a pretty wild idea, but we might as well try.' She gripped the marked bar with both hands, braced her feet against the bars on each side, then began to je rk back rhythmically. Giles said, 'You'll never bend that!' 'I know. But Ozymandias might. He was imitating you just now. So if I can get hi m to imitate me...' 'God!' he beamed at her. 'I hope so. 'That woman didn't say. In the article, I m ean.' She kept it up for a full minute, then rolled away, with Giles lurching after he r. Ozymandias watched them, still squatting. For the moment he did not seem dang erous. They waited, but he made no move. 'Stupid bugger,' Giles muttered angrily. 'That was a jolly good idea, but he's g ot no bloody sense.' She said, 'Look. You're scratching your head and he's doing the same. I think yo u're the one who attracts him. Go and give it a try.' He gave her a pallid grin from a face made gaunt by long days of pain and stress . 'A gorilla queer? All right, let's see.' He had braced himself and tugged at the bar for thirty seconds when Ozymandias l umbered forward, grunting menacingly. Giles lurched out of the way, then watched with open mouth as Ozymandias gripped the bar, clutched the adjoining bars with prehensile feet, and flung his great bulk backwards. The first jerk made the bars of the roof rattle and vibrate. Pleased with the ef fect, Ozymandias threw himself back and forth, jerking harder. Pennyfeather brea thed, 'My God, he's doing it!' Modesty watched, trying to detect any yielding in the bar. It was an inch and a quarter in diameter. Ozymandias could never tear it free from the concrete below or from the great iron collar at the top, but he might well bend it before he b ecame too bored with the performance. And if he could bend it only a couple of i nches the gap would be enough for them to squeeze through. The gorilla dropped to the ground and shambled away, satisfied that he had demon strated his dominance. After a pause, Modesty knuckled her way across to the bar s. The one marked by the twists of grass was nearly bent, and so were the two ad joining bars which had taken the purchase of his feet. But still the gap was not enough. For the first time she became aware of the smoky haze and the smell of burnt oil. Chance and the others were fighting the fire at the fuel store. When they had it under control, or when it was burnt out, Chance would return. She wiped the sweat from her face and said, 'Once more, Giles.' He had scarcely begun when Ozymandias came lumbering over, roaring his jealousy. This new game was his, and his alone. He grasped the bar. The cage shook and ra ttled. This time a full two minutes passed before Ozymandias grew bored. Then he squatted down in front of the bent bar, scolding and glowering. Giles ran a hand through his filthy hair and said, 'He's not going to let us nea r it!' Modesty stood up. 'I think he's made enough space. It's got to be enough, Giles. I'll draw him off, and you squeeze through as soon as he's out of the way.' He started to protest but she went on quickly, 'No, for God's sake don't start argu ing. Just do as 1 say.' She jumped and caught one of the sloping bars of the roof, near to the perimeter of the cage, then began to swing smoothly from bar to bar, hand over hand, movi ng round in a wide circle, passing only a few feet from the gorilla. Ozymandias watched. Slowly he became annoyed by the performance. He rose, bellowed, pounded

his stomach, and began to lumber after the fast-moving figure. He was very quic k on all fours, but slow on the turn and when standing upright. She avoided the clutch of a great hand, drew Ozymandias round to the other side of the small cen tral cage, and called, 'Now, Giles!' Pennyfeather was at the bars. For a moment she thought he was trapped, but then his head and shoulders were through. She lost sight of him for a second as she s wung round, and when she looked again he was clear. Ozymandias was using the roof bars, now. Unlike the smaller monkeys he was no gy mnast. He and his brethren climbed seldom, and then slowly. But the vast reach o f his arms was a constant danger. Pennyfeather saw that Modesty would never have time to escape unless the gorilla could be distracted for a few seconds. He stu mbled round the outside of the cage, picked up a stick and began to rattle it be tween the bars, screaming insults, but it was not until Ozymandias swung past cl ose to him that he was able to get in a jab with the stick that drew the gorilla 's attention. Furious from the baiting now, Ozymandias dropped to the ground. The terrible dru mming began again as he thumped his massive belly, shrieking at Pennyfeather, wh o kept lunging with the stick and shouting profanities at him. Modesty dropped d own by the bar. Her measurements were no larger than Giles' except perhaps for t he bust, and that would yield. She was through, and heard Giles give a choking scream of pain. Ozymandias, one great arm thrust between the bars, had caught him by the wrist. She ran four lon g strides, caught one of the vertical bars, swung up almost to the horizontal an d brought her outer leg scything round so that her booted foot drove straight in to the gorilla's great face between the eyes as he pressed it to the bars. The kick would have killed any man. It may even have hurt Ozymandias. Certainly it startled him. He jerked back, dropping Giles, then lunged forward again, scre aming. But Giles had rolled clear. Modesty knelt over him. He drew in a shaky br eath and his teeth were chattering as he said, 'Sorry . . he was a bit quick for me. I'm afraid he's bust my wrist.' He got to his feet, holding his right wrist gingerly. Already it was beginning t o swell. She said, 'I'll get some sort of splint on it as soon as we're clear. C ome on. The quicker we get into that tangle of valleys beyond the woods the bett er.' He nodded. 'All right. She's pretty bad, but if you give her a shot of morphia I expect she can walk as fast as I can manage just now.' She looked at him, uncomprehending. 'Walk? Who?' 'You know. That girl.' He jerked his head in the direction of the house beyond t he acacias. 'Lisa? Are you out of your mind?' 'Eh? No, I'm quite all right except for my feet and this wrist, darling. Can't l eave her though. She's got acute appendicitis, you see, and they're going to let her die.' It was unbelievable, and she could feel herself almost shaking with exasperation , yet at the same time something deep within her reached out to him. She said, ' God Almighty. We'll have enough to do, saving ourselves. You can hardly walk and you've broken a wrist. How the hell do you think you can help her?' 'Well, I don't know. But something might turn up. My medical bag's in her room, and I've got all the stuff I used to carry in Kalimba. I mean, we can't just lea ve her. I feel sorry for her, actually. She's not like the others, you see.' 'That's what Willie thought.' 'Yes, but I don't think she could help it. I mean, help whatever she did that go t us in this mess. There's something very rum about her.' Modesty was aware of seconds and minutes running away. She looked quickly about her. Ozymandias had subsided into a sulk, pawing at his face. Beyond the house t he smoke was still thick. It looked as if the fire-party would be busy for some time yet. But with Giles half-crippled, every minute was important. She said, a snap in her voice, 'It's crazy, Giles. Come on, let's get moving.' 'Yes, you're right, I suppose.' He gave her an effortful grin. 'You go on, darli ng. But I can't help being a doctor, so I'm stuck with it. We'll try to catch up

Without breaking her stride she swerved towards him. hanging open. looking at her anxiously. I'll give her a shot of morphia before I bring her down. or a misfire. The shirt unbut toned. 'Break right. but there could be no turning back now. There was no time for caution or finesse now. Solid. Eight paces still separated them. it was the National Geographic. an al most drunken recklessness. and ride the luck for all it was worth. Alive. She had thought every man would be at the fuel store. Then she stood very still. The only way was to move in a stra ight line at top speed. 'I mean. Impossible. the slim leather harness holding twin sheaths o n his left breast. hearing the soft thud of impact. forearms slapping down in a breakfall. and then a zany gaiety rose astonishingly within her. saying. Princess. and his reactions were v ery fast. remembering how close she had come to having her spirit melted down and remoulded to Brunel's design. and she might as well play it mad ly through to the end. unable to turn her head. If your bag's there. Mesquita had shot big game. The S -shaped scar on the back of the hand that gripped her arm.with you.. head turning so that h er eyes never left Mesquita. I think those bastards did to her what they were trying to do to you. gibbering. as the legs folded and Mesqu ita hit the floor . She looked at Giles... He had fallen three thousand feet tc earth. Don't worry. H . But yo u're not very mobile. and he was smiling as he brought the rifle up. Willie Garvin. Blue eyes. A hand gripping her arm. the silvery streak that split the air and vanished at Mesquita's throat. at the end of the long room.' Without waiting for an answer she turned and ran for the house. seeing the shock in Mesquita's face. In the moment that she jumped the couch she had heard the snick of the bolt driving a round inro the barrel chamber as Mesquita pressed the release stud.. but the thing is. no. Brown face. Willie Garvin. It seemed that her luck had r un out fast. Hoping for one chance in a thousand to aid her. as if she had run headlong into a bric k wall. She was hauled up withou t ceremony. 'All right. wondering if this was insanity or nightmare. she could only go on. or Behind her Willie's voice said. seeing the rifle barrel start to follow her and the n swing quickly back. ' She felt her body begin to shake. c ould see Mesquita lying there dead. She remembered him squatting in the cage.' 'Don't worry?' She could have hit him. but it's me.' For a moment her mind seemed to splinter. Beneath it. low to the floor. I know it's a shock.' Inward laughter and a strange exuberance bubbled within h er. all this in the fraction of a second before shock clamped its iron hand upon her. it's not your business. Fair hair.' and she dived sideways. In a brown and green camouflage shirt and slacks. '. A miss. Yet she had heard his voice . seeing the expected g litter of the knife-blade. feeling suddenly cold. the FN rifle in his hands. went through the dining-room windows which still stood open. with one of Willie's knives in his throat. so wait here and hide in the trees while I go and get her. His gravelly voice said. She grinned at him like an urchin accepting a dare. but Mesquita was here. closing as fast as her legs would drive her. and hopi ng. and was ha lfway across the room when Mesquita appeared in the open doorway to her left. This had become the maddest of all capers. seeing the black hilt jutti ng from the neck as the rifle sagged in limp hands. staring at the tufts of pile only inches from her eyes. She lay with fingers digging into the carpet. scratching his chest. and lunged on. one sheath empty. But it really is mine. and said... I can guess how you feel about her. I doubt if she could help doing any of the bloody awful things she may have done. it wasn't the Reader's Digest. She crossed the veranda. Princess. 'All right. and there wa s no way under the sun that he could be alive. He would have ample time to shoot. cleared a couch with a long hurdling stride. Big. Felt the muscles of her face begin to twist. A sound of feet on the carpet. Willie Garvin was dead.

' 'It's all right. Modesty the rear. a Colt M16 automatic rifle slung on one shoulder. 'Christ. 'Willie?. 'And here's a kongo. with boundless stores of energy. This was Willie Garvin. Princess?' She knew. A water bottle. He was carryin g the head of the stretcher. alive . In a voice not her own. but Willie did not hesitate. 'You. 'It's quite a story. Tell you about it later. perhaps with envy. she gave him a small fierce shake. He seemed to know ex actly where he was going. Willie.' he said curtly. There were no words for the explosion of feeling that shook her. The dusk had deepened rapidly. then gripping hard. but Modesty saw that the impact it made on him was far less than on herself. 'I told you it's me.' she said. exhilarati on and a ludicrous sense of outrage. that he was being brusque because he feared she mig ht break down if he was gentle with her. not taking her eyes from him. but they could wait. keeping her lower lip gripped between her teeth. 'Willie . using a stick Willie had cut for him.' . Pennyfeather limped along behind them. Prince ss.. He did not smile. A coil of rope round his waist. There were a hun dred questions to be asked.... Willie Garvin. He had been astonished to see Willie Garvin alive. a sheathed machete on his belt. feeling the reality of him. S he felt renewed and refreshed. cutting holes in the bottoms of the sacks.. For the moment she was content to revel in the immense happiness that possessed her. car rying Lisa on a crude stretcher. 'Don't you dare start grizzling in the middle of a caper. She saw now that he had a small haversack on his hip.' She nodded her head in mute acquiescence. A light rucksack on his back. It was real. He came back to her and said. joy so intense that it hurt. She had to fight back the tears again. you scared me out of my wits.' he said ster nly. and perform an emergency operation somewhere in the bush. Willie love. 'Okay. He had taken a belt with a hostered Colt . who d'you think fired that fuel s tore. Her fingers closed on the denim of his shirtfront. You wait till I get you home!' Willie Garvin began to laugh. 'Brought you a gun. like a n adult scolding a child after some narrow escape. th at Giles Pennyfeather was in some ways blind to physical impossibilities. unbelief and certainty. 'You save that till after. she said. fighting inwardly. Pennyfeather's huge shabby medica l bag was slung on her back and secured by rope. her mouth open as s he dragged in a long shuddering breath. Impossible. It sho wed in his surgical attitude and methods. You okay now?' She said in a whisper. Take five. and slipped them through three of the empty sacks by the gorilla's food-store.' and put both hands on his shoulders. gave her a none too gentle shake. It had shown in his first words after absorbing the shock of seeing Willie emerge in gathering dusk from the house. I'm not tired. 'Jesus! 1 never tho ught we'd see you again. suddenly she knew. and the measureless joy that filled her was like champagne. crossed a low ridge and mo ved along a winding valley for a hundred yards or so. uncerta inly at first. They came out of the trees. and this more than anything wiped away the dread that she might be dreaming. It had shown in his extraordinary beli ef that with both feet and one hand injured he might somehow spirit Lisa away to safety on his own. For a moment nothing more would come.32 on it from the haversack. Willie said. trimmed th em to seven-foot poles. She realized..' She slipped the kongo in her pocket and buckled on the belt. honestly!' The burden of the stretcher was nothing to her.' he said. then walked o ver to Mesquita. carrying Lisa in his arms. tremulously. Then. then lifted a fin ger warningly two inches from her nose. Willie had cut two slender saplings. He watched her for moment.e took her by the shoulders. She watched Willie's back as he moved steadily on. Twenty minutes later they were half a mile into the belt of wooded savannah. with the shirt scrunched in her fists . jerked the knife free and wiped it on the man's trouser leg bef ore slipping it back into the sheath under his shirt.

Then everything went crazy. I feel a little drunk.'Good. 'I was on that hill overlooking the village.' He looked at her. but it's so crazy . I couldn't figure that. but things got confused. I'll tell you later. but in a stupor from the shot Modesty had given her. Giles nearly didn't make it. too. Giles had read an article about gorillas somewhere. Willie looked at her doubtfully. so he didn't need Giles any more.' She had not realized that. Sh e said. Willie?' 'Sure. A dogfight. 'They won't come a fter us tonight now. Only about another mile and a half. But it's for Lisa. 'Poor old love.' 'I brought in all the gear I could carry.' 'Yes. 'Sorry. 'This caper's all shot to hell. I don't mean Tarzan stuff. Then I spent three hours before dawn. we' ll soon have you fixed up.' 'You got Ozymandias to bend one of the bars?' Willie shook his head slowly. Then the fuel store went up. aren't you? Never mind.' She groped for his hand and clung to it. That's the gorilla. 'For all I knew. Didn't know where Giles was. She was conscious.' 'Part of his brain-washing campaign. Modesty moved a few paces away and sat down beside Willie. 'I was planning a break tonight myself. Still. so that meant finding a base. so that fitted in a ll right. Then we got Ozymandias to bend one of the bars for us.' She wanted to know about all the days before last night. Pennyfeather knelt over her now. I was lucky there. Giles was brought in and found she's got an appendix that needs taki ng out quick. they'd chucked you out of the Dakota. His . He's got a n undercover man in some mineral development survey company there. but that would keep. talking to her quietly. The white-haired girl wore a pale blue wrap and was covered wit h a blanket. 'The girl kil led Brunel. He'd d iscovered the Novikov coordinates somehow. He looked up at the sky and said. He had come to Bonaccord with the knowledge that she and Giles might have been long dead.' 'When they set me up for the gang-bang?' He nodded. Willie. but I thought I'd fire that fuel store a bit bef ore dusk. I saw them take you back to the 'ous e. and she must be careful not to let euphori a dull her wits. 'Gorilla talk? You're 'aving me o n.' 'No. eh? I fancy those so ds back at Bonaccord have played hell with you. Meanwhile Chance got delusions of grandeur and took charge. Sorry. of course. resting the weight of the medical bag on a rock. Tarrant laid it on. hoping to take the Land-Rove r. Better let Giles 'ave another look at 'er. Or me.' She lowered the stretcher with him.' Willie sat up straight. that 's all over now. 'No good barging in till I'd got the score. Hush-hush. Ozymandias broke a wrist for him.' 'But! ' The gorilla?' She began to laugh.' 'Honestly. At least. one way and another. with glasses. 'Jesus!' 'Yes. I thought it was going to.' Sh e choked and recovered herself.' In the gloom. at least I knew you were alive then. They haven't any dogs. You'll see soon . Willie. You were just in time to draw Chance and Jack o away. then come an' find out when they were all busy with it. not saying anything.' 'When did you get here?' 'Last night. Ha ve you got a base. feeling her pulse and her brow.' She glanced towards the stretcher. 'I didn't see you till this afternoon.' 'Well. taking herself to t ask. but a word for food and the way yo u have to act.' She nodded. but it was obvious. They'll start a search at crack of dawn. 'I was 'aving a job not to start shooting when Brunel came an' called it off.' he said. I saw Giles ta ken up to the 'ouse about an hour before I set things going. trying to stifle it. Giles Pennyfeather went on talking. I dumped the rest of the gear there.' he said. Give me a quick idea of how we stand. and squeez ed out. They were still deep in trouble. I guess. He put us in the cage with Ozymandias. by 'copter from Tanzania. Just don't worry about anything. 'He knew a bit of gorilla talk. you're having a bit of a rough time. cheerfully. making a recce.

He said. 'Ah. Feel better for a little rest?' Still clutching Pennyfeather's hand she said in a whisper..voice was anxious as he said. with a back exit over a long. It took time.' 'Sure.' Forty minutes later they climbed a long pebbly slope which brought them to a gra ssy plateau where rocks lay scattered. I was hoping I heard wrong. staring. 'Good place to 'ide out. She conned me all right. but I didn't want to yell out. he did fly upon the wings of the wind. I didn't know.' He grinned. ' 'Allo. I told you this caper had gone crazy. then I ma de for the 'ouse. I didn't figure on Giles being 'alf crippled. across from the tre es and in through those french windows. It was not a large plateau.. back to you. 'I didn't figure on her. so I came belting after you. yea.' 'Well . I was at the corner of the veranda then. ther e's not much more. You were running like the clappers. because I 'ad to make a big loop round. then she said. I waited till there was a crowd busy with the fire. Came in just when y ou were going for that bloke with the rifle. Didn't know w hat they were going to do. 'I suppose that's the way it has to be. looking down at the girl's sweating face. but curved in a crescent round a low rocky bluff a hundred yards away. He jerked a thumb over his shoulder an d said. Lik e some chocolate. Don't worry about it. verse 8. killed you. 'I got a cave there. Willie stood up and went back to Modesty. squatting on his haunches beside G iles. 'She hasn't eaten for hour s. But I r eckoned if there was going to be a running fight we'd be better off with everyon e on foot than in a car chase. then held them palm-up and looked at them. but it made her catch her breath with a stab of pleasure.' He got up and walked across to the stretcher. yes. I'm pretty curious about that aeroplane business. Willie. I wanted to die.. in that bluff..' Willie rubbed his head. Psalm 17. Not o ne of them. 'Only a couple of minutes now.. Or the girl. you know. After a moment she gave a helpless shrug. 'I'm sorry.' Willie turned his head slowly. I'll fill you in later on the details.' 'They only tried. Pennyfeather said. 'I set fire to all the vehicles in the garage. the swollen fingers sticking out of it like teats from an udder. Lisa? Give you a bit of strength. trying to collect his thoughts. her lips scarcely mov ing.' They were silent for a moment.' Willie said. 'We'll 'ave to get going in a minute.' .' She sighed. 'Can't kill the wicked that easy.' He gave a little chuckle. Prince ss. It was a familiar m annerism. are you all right?' 'It's true. He rode u pon a cherub and did fly. bu t crazy things just seem to happen when Giles is around. Lisa. Modesty's got to operate as soon as we're settl ed in somewhere for the night. either.' She drew her hands down her cheeks. The hand looked like a shiny bladd er. Don't quite understa nd it.. Willie love. 'Princess. twisty sort of valley.' The faintest of answering smiles touched her eyes.' CHAPTER TWELVE Lisa said dully. I don't know. Got more chance of playing sneaky when you're on foot in this kind of terrain.' Willie rubbed his chin with the back of his hand. 'Well.' 'When they. We'll be right in the crotch of The Im possible Virgin. Now. awed. The voices. so don't spoil it. She had neve r thought to see him rubbing his chin like that again. eh?' 'Don't give her that!' Pennyfeather said indignantly. 'I'm sorry . They made me do it. 'That was all right for you an' me. Just whe n I got there I saw you. 'Modesty?' 'Well.' 'Me? Oh .. Giles thinks she's different. It's very nice. Sorry.' He shrugged. I can't hold a scalpel with this. They made me. 'No chance of any transport?' He shook his head. so sorry. But I'm still glad we didn't leave 'er be'ind.' Pennyfeather drew out his hand from the rough sling supporting it.' 'Go on?' Willie fumbled in his pocket. Lisa. 'I dunno. thank God. 'Did you hear that? He wants you to take 'er appendix out!' 'I heard.. somebody has to.

sausage-shaped canvas packa ges each three feet long. Theirs. and she'll be terribly good at i . Under Pennyfeather's gu idance Modesty had immediately given her a quarter grain of morphia and a one-hu ndredth grain of atropine. Before lighting it Willie had fixed groundsheets over the cave entrances to prevent any light showing.' He drew a way the blanket that covered her. After a few moments she said... with Brunel.' 'Not mine. and pressed her hand. so you can tell me anything. 'Yes. Pennyfeather's right wrist and forearm were now splin ted and firmly bound with surgical tape.' 'Oh. I didn't mean to say it. the knife. I'm just acting as your hands. I don't t hink much of your voices. 'The voices in my head. 'Now do you think you've got it all straig ht. her eyes filling with tears.' Pennyfeather said gently. Is Willie going to give the ether?' 'Yes. he said cheerfully. overlooking a deep valley which ended at this point. to be frank with you. 'I 'd rather get started. We're not your enemies. They seem a pretty bad lot to me. I c an't tell you. 'Are they telling you now?' 'Not now. old dear. Absolutely anything. They've stopped. She was naked beneath it now. Simply must whip your grotty old appendix out first. smiled at her. Modesty's assisted me with heaps of ops. and said. holding her hand.' 'Whose?' 'The voices. Carefully he poured warm water into a mug Modesty h eld. 'How long have they been doing that. then he can take over. She moved to kneel beside the albino girl. blankets.' 'Really?' He looked genuinely interested.' From a low entrance the cave rose to five feet high and ran deep into the rock. Pennyfeather had his big medical bag open beside him and was taking out items ca refully. or they never stop. 'Well. I'm pretty good with a razor. I'll put her under myself. They tell me what I have t o do. For years. water. Like that. Shoot all the Enemies.' He glanced over his shoulder. 'Voices? What voices.. grenades. insect repellent. The re were two big containers of equipment in the cave. Do they always tell you to do beastly things like shooting people?' She nodded slowly. perhaps because he could use only one hand. Willie. Sitting beside the girl as she lay on t he blankets. You know that. fir st-aid kit. we'll get that s orted out later. 'Don't be scared about this. 'Don't worry. I'm your doctor now.' 'Certainly you can. and whispered.' His voice became austere. T hey nearly drive me mad.' 'That's a bit odd.' 'What enemies?' 'You. and saw Willie lift a deep metal cooking pan from the flame of a spirit stove. 'You just relax.' He showed no surprise.. I'd rather be at your en d for the op.It was an hour since they had carried her into the cave. Lisa?' 'Ever since.. laying them on a sheet of oilskin beside him. There were t wo M16 rifles and twenty magazines of ammunition. They told Modesty that at some time Willie had called at her house in Tangier to re-equip before heading south to Rwanda. A small pressure lamp hung suspended from a length of rope slung across the cave and fastened with pitons. Make a lot of noise. and all the necessities for survival in wild count ry. darling. They made me . narrowing and twisting in a dog-leg to emerge as a smaller opening on the far si de of the narrow bluff. I have to obey. old dea r?' She moved her head in distress. Her. he seemed less clumsy than usual. 'I didn't say that. When Modesty had finished preparing the girl he said.' He looked down at Lisa and said.. 'Well. Modesty's got to shave your tummy a bit. Strangely. I don't know. and there was marked abruptness in her voice as she said. or do you want me to run over the op again?' She shook her head.' 'I see. old girl. and you'll have to tell me what to do as we go along. A little while ago they said I must find a gun and sh oot.' He did not speak persuasively but with simple conviction.

t.' 'Yes.' The girl spoke wearily, uncaring. 'Make me sleep soon. Please. The voices are speaking to me again ...' Willie lifted an eyebrow but said nothing. He moved away with Modesty, and when he had made a cap with a knotted handkerchief to confine her hair she began to s crub her hands in the container of water. It was very hot now. Another pan held instruments, boiled in an antiseptic solution. Pennyfeather dripped ethyl chloride on a gauze mask and held it close to Lisa's nose and mouth. 'Come on now, old thing. Nice deep breathing. That's the girl. I n ... out. And again. Lovely.' Two minutes later he rested the mask on her face, took up the ether drip-bottle and began to let a single drip at a time fall on to the gauze. Willie, scrubbing his hands now, said in a troubled whisper, 'I 'aven't 'ad time to think about this bit till now, Princess. No gloves, no masks, a couple of ga llons of water and a bottle of Dettol. It's 'ardly Dr Kildare stuff.' She grimaced, shaking her hands to dry them. 'It's Dr Pennyfeather stuff. I don' t think he's ever operated in a proper theatre.' Five minutes later they swabbed their hands with ether-meth and were ready. Penn yfeather said to Willie, 'Right, you take over at this end. Just one or two drop s every fifteen seconds. If she starts grunting or goes blue in the face, lift t he mask for a bit till she's breathing normally, then carry on.' Willie said unhappily, 'Blue in the face. All right.' Modesty knelt on the girl's right, Pennyfeather on the other side. The container of instruments was beside her now, together with an open packet of swabs on a s heet of oilskin. She knelt with hands held away from her. She had taken off her shirt before scrubbing; up, and already the sweat gleamed on her body in the hea t of the pressure lamp. Drawing in long deep breaths, remembering what Giles Pen nyfeather had told her, she visualized on Lisa's ether-swabbed stomach a line dr awn from navel to iliac crest, and a point two-thirds of the way along. McBurney 's Point. She took up the scalpel, touched it lightly across the skin, and looke d at Pennyfeather. He nodded encouragingly. She held her breath and made the inc ision, three inches long. Blood. She swabbed with her left hand and cut down through the layer of fat to t he pink muscle. Clamps now. Spencer Wells artery forceps. She had done this for Giles half a dozen times. Pick up a bleeding point, clamp it; the next, and clam p. Again. A little metallic forest of clamps round the incision now. Dry out with swabs. S tart unclamping. Trouble now if a point hasn't clotted - difficult to tie off wi thout assistance. Damn! Giles should have sterilized his one good hand, so he co uld help her. Too late for that. Lucky. No bleeding. Outer muscles now. Tease open the fibres with scissors. Now get in a finger of e ach hand. Split the muscle for the length of the incision. Fingers... hope to Go d they're sterile. They should be, but why the bloody hell does Giles cart aroun d this mass of gear and nostrums but no surgical gloves? Does he think he can ta lk the bugs to death? He was talking now, cheerfully and approvingly. He must have been talking all th e time, but she had only just registered that her hands were following his instr uctions. 'Lovely, darling. Now whop a retractor in. That's the ticket. Got to have a dece nt hole to work in. How's she looking your end, Willie? Good ... good. Now split the inner layer of muscle, darling. The grain runs the other way. That's it. Bl oody marvellous. Second retractor. Good, now let's have a squint.' She knelt back, and he bent over to peer into the cavity, holding his breath. Af ter a moment he looked up at her and grinned. 'Just like the diagram in a text-b ook. Don't look so fraught, we're doing fine. Now you see that white membrane? T hat's the whats-it. I forget. Ah yes, the peritonium. Slit that the same way as the first incision. Christ, no! Not the scalpel, or you'll cut the gubbins under neath. Just a nick with the scissors, then get a finger through the hole before you cut.'

Two minutes later she eased out the appendix with her finger, a thin tube half a n inch across and three inches long, swollen and inflamed. 'None too bloody soon,' Pennyfeather said, frowning at it. 'Right, get hold of t he end in the Baker forceps. I can hold it for you. Now, you see that artery lyi ng in the fat? You've got to tie it off.' 'Wait a minute, I'm getting sweat in my eyes. It's running down my arms, too. Wh y the hell didn't you tell me to put sweat-bands on? Willie, dry me off. You can leave that drip for half a minute.' She knelt holding her hands up above her he ad while Willie mopped her face, body and arms with a towel. 'All right.' She lo wered her arms and prepared to make the ligature, then paused. 'Oh, God... my ha nds have started shaking, Giles.' He said, unruffled, 'Ignore it. They'll stop as soon as you give them something to do. Go on, get that artery tied off.' Astonishingly he was right. Under his guidance she completed the ligature, made a purse-string suture, crushed the base of the appendix with a Spencer Wells, ma de a tight ligature above the crushed portion, then took up the scalpel for the last time and made the final cut. Scalpel, appendix and forceps dropped together on to her discarded sheet of oils kin. She wanted to relax, but knew that the longest part of the work lay ahead, the sewing up. Pennyfeather said, 'Super. Now invaginate the stump into the caecum.' She lifted her head to stare at him. 'Do what!' 'Push the stump inside the tube.' 'Well for Christ's sake say so!' He chuckled. 'Take it easy, darling. Good. Now pull the gut of the purse-string tight and tie off. I'll count the swabs.' She was slow and awkward with the sewing up. First the white membrane, then the two layers of muscle. As she laid the retractors aside Giles said, 'Take away th e mask now, Willie. We won't be much longer.' She used nylon thread to sew the outer incision with interrupted sutures half an inch apart. As she cut the thread of the last stitch her hands began to tremble again, but it did not matter now. She put a gauze dressing over the wound, fastening it with adhesive tape, then l aid a towel over Lisa's stomach and drew the blanket up over her. When she stood up, crouching a little under the low roof of the cave, she could feel her teeth chattering. Willie Garvin rose and rested his hands on her bare slippery should ers. 'You know that was illegal?' he said solemly. 'You got no licence to practi se.' She laughed, and the shivering was swept away by a warm glow of relief. She said , 'Do you think she'll be all right, Giles?' 'Eh? Well I don't suppose she'll thank you for those stitches.' He gave a breath y chuckle. 'They're not much better than mine.' 'I never could sew. Will she come through?' 'I don't see why not.' He wrinkled his brow. 'I'm more worried about her voices than about the op. Don't like that at all.' 'Voices?' She began to wash her hands in the fresh water Willie had poured for h er. Vaguely now she remembered hearing something said about voices just before t he operation. 'What did she say, Giles? I wasn't listening.' 'Well, I'm afraid she suffers from delusions. Hears voices, like Joan of Arc, ex cept they don't tell her to save France, they tell her to do pretty beastly thin gs. That's why she stuck a knife in Brunel. They told her to.' 'Seems like a good idea to me,' Willie said, wrapping up the discarded swabs. 'I'm not bothered about Brunel. But I gather they've made her do other things, o ver quite a long time. Years.' 'I remember now,' Willie said thoughtfully. 'She used to listen. Often when she was with me it seemed like she was listening for something.' Giles nodded. 'Aural delusions,' he said with a touch of gloom. 'Very tricky. I suppose she'll end up in a head-shrinker's hands, for what it's worth. I don't t rust those buggers myself, shoving electric shocks through people's brains the w ay they do. Barbaric sods.'

'You can fret about that later,' Modesty said. 'It doesn't become a question unt il we get ourselves out of this. Did you have anything in mind, Willie?' 'I fixed for the 'copter to stand by for a pick-up at eighteen 'undred hours tom orrow. It'll touch down about two miles east of 'ere, same place I landed last n ight. That's if we're there to signal. And it won't come again. I figured if I c ouldn't get you out in thirty-six hours I wouldn't be going back anyway. So if w e miss the pick-up we'll 'ave to get across the border on foot. It was the best I could do, Princess.' She smiled. 'It's a hell of a lot better than I'd hoped for. Will she be all rig ht to travel a couple of miles on the stretcher, Giles?' 'By tomorrow evening? Oh, yes. She ought to be sitting up a bit after twenty-fou r hours anyway.' Willie knelt beside the girl's head, looking down at her, feeling a strange comp assion. He noticed that Giles was holding her hand again and gazing at her conte mplatively. He said, 'You going to sit with 'er all night? You could do with som e rest yourself.' 'Oh, I'm all right. She needs me just now.' Curious, Willie said, 'Giles, are you sort of willing 'er to get better?' 'Eh? Oh, don't be a bloody nit.' 'Well, what then?' 'I'm just thinking about her, that's all.' 'Thinking what?' 'Christ, I don't know. There's so much to a person. I mean, anybody. You can't j ust take a quick squint and know them. She's a mess, poor little bitch. I'm tryi ng to think of her the way she ought to be, all straightened out.' 'You're not a doctor, matey. You're a shaman. A witchdoctor.' Giles gave a guffaw of amusement. Willie said, 'You can laugh, but ' He broke off and bent lower. 'Blimey, I can't ' ear 'er breathing!' 'Well, she is. Nice strong pulse. The reason you can't hear her breathing is bec ause she's breathing slowly and without any noise, that's all. It's a healthy si gn.' Willie bent lower till his brow was almost touching the blanket beside Lisa's fa ce, listening. She stirred. Her head turned and her cheek fell against his. Mode sty finished drying her hands and said, 'We'd better save this lamp, unless you still need the light for keeping an eye on her, Giles.' 'Uh? No, that's okay. When she starts to come round we'll have to get her well p ropped up. I'll need a hand for that. But you can put the light out for now. I'l l hear her as soon as she stirs. Look, will you stop bloody well nuzzling her, W illie?' Willie said in a fierce whisper, 'Shut up!' They both stared at him. He was still kneeling at Lisa's head, bending low, and now he had a hand to her head, pressing her cheek against his. After a moment or two he straightened up slowly, and looked at them from a face that was pale beh ind the tan. 'Did you say she 'eard voices?' he said. Giles blinked at him. 'Yes. Nothing all that strange about it. Aural delusion.' 'All right, I'll tell you something strange, then. I can 'ear 'em too!' There was complete silence in the cave for several seconds. Willie looked at Mod esty and motioned with his hand, shuffling back on his knees. 'You got to press your ear right up against 'er cheekbone,' he said. She took his place and bent l ow. Tiny, infinitely distant voices in a high-pitched chorus, faint and muffled as i f by the flesh and bone of the head that enclosed them, felt rather than heard, yet the words, the chanted words, were just audible. ... Be strong now, Lisa. You are our child and we are pleased with you. The Enem y is dead. Brunel died under your hand and we are pleased with you. Gather your strength Lisa. Forget all pain and weakness. This is the last trial, the last tr ial before you come to the freedom and peace we have prepared for you. We have p laced you among the Last Enemies so that you may destroy them. Be unafraid. You

spiky hair and gangling limbs.. They're pr etty small for what they do. That's got it moving. wouldn't it? And you couldn't renew the battery simply. These days they give people radiopills to swallow.' He swabbed his hand wi th ether-meth and slipped a finger and thumb into her mouth. not just a crown. 'Steady 'er for a minute. They found in the end that he'd got f illings in a tooth.. Be skilful. with a transmitter inside. his gaun t face. 'A miniature receiver. 'There's an upper tooth at the back with a metal crown. Brunel could find the right bloke. Modesty took the metal tooth and held it to her ear.are our child and we are your protectors. Seek for a gun. but after a few sec onds shook his head and said. made of hard metal. A few years back I read about a bloke who kept 'ea ring radio programmes in 'is head. a nuclear battery. That set up a current because of acid in the saliva. incredulous face from the blanket beside L isa's head and said with utmost fury. he looked like a demented scarecrow crouc hing there. peering into her mouth with the torch as he sought a grip on the tooth. the metal tapered sharply inwards like a cone for almost half an inch. After a moment he said.' He handed back the forceps. His hands were shaking with the rage tha t still possessed him.' Modesty slipped the tooth into her mouth. 'They must've killed the nerve. isn't it? I know you can 'old a lady's watch betwee n your teeth and it sounds like a grandfather clock ticking. but I reckon it ought to unscrew.. He brou ght the thing out and held it up in the light of the hanging lamp. Like a battery. 'That shook me. cut the tooth off at the gumline. 'There bloody well are voices in her head! How the hell are they doing it?' Modesty looked at Willie. From where the root of t he tooth would normally begin.' He nodded.. Willie swabbed the forceps and bent over the girl again.' Willie said. Modesty straightened up. Lisa. except the pro grammes were real and coming from the BBC. Then there's pacemakers.' He pinched his lower lip. 'Wait a minute. You'd need a Mallory cell for power . That really shook me.' 'So it's possible?' 'It's been possible in theory ever since micro-circuits. I don't think it's in the skull. A minute later he lifted a drawn.. 'You could get down below cherry-stone size as long as the transmitt er was punching out a good short-wave signal. Willie? How small could it be and still wor k?' Willie sat back on his heels. who wiped his face with his hand and said. They saw the sinews of his hand moving rhythmically. The jaw-bone acts like an amplifier. holding it between her back teeth. 'It could be small enough all right. 'Can't shift it. and motioned for Giles to take her pla ce. Aft . It's all metal. No. That could be it. and destroy them . Now someone's done it.' 'Implanted in her skull?' 'No . for the Last Enemies are cunning. Seek for a means. The top of it was the size and shape of a molar.' Pennyfeather took forceps from his bag.. You will find weapons to hand.' Modesty held the girl's head while he gently eased her mouth open and peered in.' He took a pencil torch from his pocket. and the tapering surface was threaded. Princess. though. her face wooden. 'Ah! . Be a tricky surgical operatio n. not spirits! It's those bastards! How the hell ar e they doing it?' With his rag-bound feet and Robinson Crusoe trousers.or bett er still. ' 'You wouldn't.' 'Creepy?' Pennyfeather raged in a voice that cracked with anger. 'What's creepy about it? It's people.. Modesty said. And a transducer to convert the electrical signal f rom the micro-circuit. looking at the unconscious white face beneath the white hair. Princess. And some freak effect made the thing act lik e a receiver tuned to a BBC wavelength. 'I can't hear anything now. and tapped the root so this would screw in tight. child. reached in again wit h finger and thumb. Thought he'd lost 'is marbles. by God.' He looked at Giles. with two different metals. The power of his wrath seemed to fill the cave. yet somehow there was nothing ludicrous about him. and they need a lot more juice than this would. talk about creepy. Let's 'ave a pair of forceps.. 'Jaw-bo ne's connected with the ear.

steady on. And now little Adrian's broadcasting away. some poor little bitch he'd bought as a kid and hammered into submission anyway!' 'Yes. She killed 'im because the voice s told 'er to. Modesty lay wrapped in a blan ket.' Modesty said. Maybe as soon as she wakes. when you com e to think of it. too.' He he ld out his hand. surely?' They were all silent for perhaps half a minute. and t ook Lisa along for a check-up every six months. 'She didn't know. taking the first four-hour watch. talking to the unconscious girl in a low. But what she needs is healing. doubtfully. Remember how he was today. Deeper into the cave. maybe only in the last few days. 'Here. a nd handed it to Willie. nuts and bolts. 'Let's 'ave a rundown on this. Brunel wouldn't 'ave the voices tell Lis a to kill him. He gets the voice effect on tape ' 'It's voices. A chorus. holding Lisa's hand. but his voice still shook as he said. but I don't think so. 'It figures. Had a sort of craving. Then you record 'alf a dozen times from the original. and a shiver touched he r.' 'No problem. You can't say 'e doesn't try. or she'd have gone completely potty by now. They're still going on.' He struggled inarticulately for words to match his feelings. 'Let me have the tooth.' Ten minutes later they had settled down for the night. trying to get Lisa to shoot 'oles in us. Giles.' she said gently. He must have found out about this. You end up with that choir-of-angels effect. sorting out this kind of thing is a bit of a specialist job. 'Yes. that's who it was. Th at's Giles' speciality. Modesty moved round beside him and put her arm about his s houlders. Brunel was that kind of man. Willie. Brunel's kingdom. gazing at it. Like stealing someone's soul. Modesty!' 'I know. 'I do n't wonder she killed the swine. Brunel found some micro-circui t genius to make this gizmo. and when y ou want Lisa to 'ear voices you plug the tape-recording into a transmitter and s witch on. Willie sat just within th e cave entrance.. There'd be a limit to range. darling.. He pulled at his nose and said. 'Well. isn't it?' Modesty looked down at the girl. Sure as God made little apples. But at least Brunel's dead now. Basically she m ust be pretty stable. after Bru nel was dead? Hopped-up and riding high. chatty voice ab out some incident from his days as a medical student. 'How in God's name is anybody ever going to straighten her out in the head?' She looked at Giles Pennyfeather.' Willie nodded. captured a kingdom. mo re than a few moments she nodded and took it out again.. Never mind. Giles. you know. Willie. 'It was Adria n Chance. with a micro-second's diff erence between each run. It's clearer than 'It's so bloody crucifyingly wicked. or was it Henshaw? Something like that. Like a man who'd won a fortune . but two or three miles would be as much a s you'd ever need. And that's what's queer. New tooth with a new battery get s screwed in while she's under a whiff of gas.' 'You're going to tell 'er?' 'As soon as I think she can take it. anyway. Then Modesty said.' 'And that's a queer thing.' He glanced at Mod esty.but to play God in someone's head. 'Yes. 'I just thought . 'It's going to take a long time.' She looked at the tooth with a grimace of disgust. Pennyfeather's face was clenched as if he might almost cry with the towering ang er that consumed him. Used to eat bits of glass..' 'She's lived with those voices for years.' 'But . They found nearly half a p .' Pennyfeather had recovered a little. He held the tooth in his p alm. He just made Lisa do it for him. 'Fenshaw his name was . The spasm of rage had passed and he was thinki ng deeply now. That's just about what he'd done. You use a throat mike and modulate the voice up to a higher pitch. I'll just have to stick with her till she's better. Giles Pennyfeather sat with his back against the wall . Or maybe he's known about it fo r a long time.' Willie said patiently. Willie. 'It's so . Very weird patient. He'd probably got a tame dental surgeon.' Willie passed the tooth over.' Willie said thoughtfully. He'd killed Brunel without any danger to him self or any possible come-back.

'I wish I could have seen my fa ce.' 'About when they chucked me out of the Dakota?' 'What else? I've been trying to guess. I'd already got a hell of an impetus from the speed of the plane. But there'd been a big fall two nights before. it got burned up before 'e could strap it on. Willie said. soon as I fell I slipped into the dereve position. 'Not fair. Anyway. 'Then. You just keep trying in case something turns up. and down onto a big mound of underbrush covered by a snowdrift. Princess.000. because you can't go faster than terminal speed. I still don't know wh y. 'God knows what I was 'oping for.' She had used the dereve position in free fall herself when making a delayed para chute-drop. Come on. Plane was on fire. I couldn't see any snow then. Fell for nearly two minutes. He baled out over Germany at 18. old dear. 'I did better than that. but it's a waste of time. So I must've come dow n just as 'ard as the others. still strapped to the chair. You weren't wrapped up in a tail section. It was a bit awkward.' 'What others?' 'Oh. then went through a lot of f ir trees loaded with snow. but I got travelling prett y fast. Willie love.. ' 'Allo. really. I was still tryng to throttle Jacko or pull 'im out of the plane with me.' 'No. But neither was Alkemade.ound of junk in him when they opened him up. water. then I was scared all right .' Modesty tuned his voice out. There was hardly a subject on which he could not produce some curious piece of knowledge. 'The thing was. Only broke a leg and a few ribs..' He laughed.' A whispering guffaw. tucking her hand under hi s arm. But when the jacket was dragged off an' I just fell.' 'Hallo. and some'ow I wanted to clear the ridge before I 'it the deck. Right up to the time I slid out of that strait-jacket I was too busy to be sc ared. except that there was only rock straight down below . It blew up over France. there was a bloke called Worsfold. so you must have reached terminal velocity. Remember those spurs runnin g from the mountains? Well ' He paused.' 'We were way below the snow-line. well. Princess. 'There weren't any trees or snow for you. even if you start at twenty thousand. Well. and suddenly he just bit my thermometer in half and swal lowed a great chunk of it. Princess.' She gave his arm an impatient shake. maybe a couple of hundred miles an hour at moment of exit. tail-gunner in a Lancaster during the wa r. but I think he was cheating. 'It felt like even me feet went white. I'd better tell it the way it 'appene d. move d to the mouth of the cave and sat down beside Willie. You could achieve up to forty miles an hour of forward movement with it. No parachute.. surely?' 'Yes.' He gave a dry chuckle. you'd still ne ver walk away from it. or the middle of a thirty-foot haystack. So Alkemade j umped rather than fry. Came out of it with a twisted knee and a strained back. It's still not a record. only you couldn't see it. you know. Willie. I mean. before that. It was a kind of prone semi-crouch which used air resistance to give the faller horizontal motion during the descent. . That was pretty freaky.' 'All right. and even twenty foot of it wouldn't slow you down much. I'd just paid fifty bob for it. usually surprising and sometimes bizarre. Five minutes later she threw back the blanket. It wouldn't matter if you hit trees. I dunno why.' She felt him shrug. tell me.' He . though.' She was always intrigued by the way Willie Garvin could recall anything he had e ver heard or read. I coul d see the crest of a spur ahead. But there was a bit of snow. 'No. and maybe I thought there might be something better the other side. She said. and 'e fell over seven thousand feet in the tail sect ion. But. S top tantalizing. honest. We were at thre e thousand feet. I was scared to sound his chest in case he bit a chunk off my stet hoscope. It's no good trying to sleep until I know what happened to you. I was taking his pulse and temperature.' There was a touch of regret in his voice.

the better. an' there it was below me. I could maybe sort of skim into the snow at an angle. me on the chair. They 'uddle for shelter and get buried in a drift. right below me. I only saw that afterwards. That's what I kept telling meself. but I didn't quite go out. but I nearly got suffocated trying to climb out of the drift. The legs acted as braces for mine. and went on with a touch of wonder. 'Something did. Willie?' 'About twenty or thirty feet.' He ground out his cigarette on the floor of the cave. trying to find something to say. 'That's when the luck ran . and this long gully sloped down the side of th e spur. Most of it 'a d melted with the temperature coming up overnight. Next second I landed with an almighty bloody whoomp!. You were born to b e hanged. though. But it was just about then I 'ad an idea. There was only a couple of seconds left.. I've known 'em do that so rt of thing up in Yorkshire. verse 6. I was still moving forward. Willie love. About twenty of 'em there were. at least for a bit. and the seat compressed the sn ow as I went on down. but it gets funnelled into a drift in places. I'd struck something soft. No comment was adequ ate. Next thing I knew there was another big whoomp! I'd stopped. And I was moving dead in line with it. I was in the middle of a load of struggling. It looked like they aimed to keep you alive. you don't come to a stop in twenty-odd feet wi thout getting bust up a bit. You know 'ow it gets freaky sometimes. At last she said helplessly. that clinches it. a nd there was all 'ell going on. You an' Giles strapped in seats. so it was 'igh time to start thinking. all squawking and baa-ing like they were being driven to the sla ughter 'ouse. but t here was a deep gully running straight down the slope of this spur.paused. I was the only one set up for a quick exit.' She drew in a long breath. 'He shall come down like the rain into a fleece of wo ol. 'How deep was it. Psalm 72. an' all the blood was draining down to me feet. gave her one. I nearly broke me back doing a quick flick to bring meself feet forward. sitting on the chair and drilling into the snow on a line that ran smack down the middle of the gully. Only a few inches of fall. a little shaft in the snow reaching up to the surface. that's why you couldn't s ee it. That's what they'd done. the way we were travelling. and lit them. I reckon the chair 'elped.' 'Snow?' 'Not just snow. and get as much as seventy or eighty feet of it to plough through before I 'it the rock underneath. So I figured that what with the speed I was moving 'orizontally. and I 'adn't struck rock.' She saw him smile in the glow of his cigarette. A drift. Not enough. because they keep each other warm. a sort of square tunnel for me to go through.. an' wha t with the downward slope of the gully. 'I'm not too clear on this bit. and when he spoke again his vo ice was very sober.' 'And that was it?' 'Not quite all of it. When you're doing a hundred and twenty miles an hour. I could feel the eyeballs sinking back into me 'ead. so it made a tunnel. and I figured they were taking you to Bonaccord. 'Something else?' He nodded. The funny thing was. 'When I got out I nearly went crazy. and their breath makes a sort of blow-hole. It took nearly five minutes before I remembered the w ay they'd seated us.' She turned her head to peer at him in the darkness. an d it made me feel a bit better. 'I'd been dropping for nearly twenty sec onds. and now they'd got Willie Garvin for company. She said. too. The wind 'ad piled it against the east side of the ridg e the night before.' 'Sheep?' She felt his silent laugn. anyway. scr abbling bodies. I reckoned they were go ing to throw you out next. 'Well . I still reckon I might 'ave bust me spine when I struck rock. or was well on the way. I cleared the crest of the ridge by about two-fifty feet.' 'Looks like it.' He took out cigarettes. as it turned out. I didn't get a scratch from the fall. so the quicker I could follow. That's what saves' em. because I pretty well blacked out wit h the deceleration. so they can breathe.' He was silent for a few moments. It was only on the eastern slopes. but I' d got another lucky number waiting to come up.

It was a private view. It's nice not to be. He had . Later his frustration with French red tape would seem funny. But I was afraid it was going to be wasted. Very blasph emous. 'Welcome back. but he knew it anyway.' He gave a little laugh. and went straight to the villa. for he regarded her as a human being in a class of her own. Willie love.' He said. 'Poo r Willie. And please .' 'I know. he did not expect others to share his opinion nor care whether they did so.' 'Sometime. Willie sat meditatin g gratefully on his luck. when I stopped drinking the doped water. but there wa sn't any better way to play it. I s pent a day and a night in jail before they even informed the consulate. but I wasn't on very good form just then. Listening to her slow regular breathing he smiled to himself in the darkness and shook his head wonderingly. the blanket drawn up about her. with Mesquita's finger on the trigger of the rifle. They'd taken me j acket and cleaned out me pockets before they strapped me to that chair. you'd probably figured a way to get yourself out of trouble any way. Then I chartered a private plane to Bukoba.' Five minutes later she was asleep. The French cop aske d a lot of questions. 'Sorry Willie.' She gave his shoulder a little thump with her f ist. 'I'd like to know about that gorilla busines s sometime. Only a few hours ago . and then thin gs started moving fast. 'and put 'im in the picture. I'd have been just a passenger. There was all the equipment needed for any kind of caper in her v illa on The Mountain overlooking Tangier.' She though t of the moment in the dining-room. But the restraint Willie had laid upon himself must have been enormous. I reckoned it was better to get kitt ed up for a proper job rather than come charging down 'ere on a wing and a praye r. It was two days before they sent a bloke fro m the consulate. This was a wonder he never failed to enjoy. So I sweated it through. nothing. 'I rang Tarrant from Tangier. Willie Garvin was a man with enormous confidence in himself and a substantial op inion of his own capacities. getting more suspicious all the time. for he was convinced that whatever merits he possessed had been cre ated in him by Modesty Blaise. In the end I got a message to René Vaubois through the consulate bloke.don't do it again. I figured if you'd stayed alive for the first tw o or three days. her head pill owed on his leg. About four times a day I thought of breaking out. 'Only a few hours ago I thought I was alone. 'I'm glad you didn't come a couple of seconds later. I won't compete against your high-jump story.. but being on the run in France wasn't going to 'elp much.' He exhaled a long breath. I'd got no papers. I got a plane out to Tangier.' It made sense. and there was no vanit y in it now. and of all things a French copper on a motor-bike was there to see the far mer about a licence for 'is truck. the undercover man with the mineral development com pany. not his luck in the three thousand foot high-jump. I found a farm three miles away. but the luck he had known these eight or nine years past. René sprung me and staked me for money. This had not always been so. but she could well imagine his feelings at the time. It was a belief she had never been able to dispel . I didn't know until Giles spotted it. and I wa sn't getting anywhere until the last couple of days. then steadied.' She pressed his arm.' he said.' Her voice chan ged and faltered for a moment. then took me in. and made contact with Tarrant's bloke there. Willie. It was marvellously good that he meant a great deal to her. 'Everything seemed to take for ever.' She made a sound that was almost a giggle. though. I starte d pitching a yarn. Willie.. 'I thought I'd go berserk. 'You'd had your share. I'm feeling a bit light-headed. I've never felt so lonely. like from a little too much champagne.out. She had just said as much. Very content now. but not now. I kept tel ling meself they wanted you alive and you'd manage to stay that way some'ow.' 'Me too. It was s low murder. I'm sorry. Tarrant was. If you'd come earlier.' 'They had me under drugs. and she had long since given up trying.' She leaned her head against his shoulder. pulled his head down and pressed her lips hard against his cheek.

and he never wanted that to change. very rarely. they had gone. His eyes were red-rimmed with weariness. when he had f irst known her. And try to shoot as many of those buggers as you can. they formed a massive and twisting hairpin of rock with the valley lying be tween the prongs. which made her eyes seem to sparkle when she looked at you. even when they played their zany private games together. if you get the chance. 'Don't fuss and don't get under my feet. A brooding. 'You just worry about getting us out of here. even when. After all.' 'I'll have time for that later.never believed she was perfect and without fault. so leave me to look after Lisa.' 'And found gold?' 'I didn't stop to look. 'I'll see to Lisa. her eyes still half closed. and . early morning. but he seem ed unaware of his own condition. looking too thin for their straggly fifteen-foo t height. When she wa s settled. He had always called her Princess. She was bare ly conscious as yet. through all the easy familiarity and closeness. and lowered the glasses. Certainly something had hit her badly this t ime.' he said w ith soft compassion. In those days she had hardly known how to laugh. darling. Willie lit the lamp a nd they both went to help prop Lisa up as she came to consciousness. CHAPTER THIRTEEN At first light Modesty lay beside Willie on a broad ledge outside the small back entrance of the cave. They had not been there way back in the early days. On each side were strange fern-like trees which seemed to hug the shade of the w alls yet reach up for the light.' Modesty said. they leaned inwards in many places. He hoped they would come back again now. and I found signs. The walls enclosing the valley were high and more than sh eer. 'Poor little sod. Willie?' 'I took a walk right along it yesterday. As a princess he had first seen her. Pennyfeather would not let them stay but sent them back to sleep or k eep watch. The little laugh-lines at the corners of her eyes. glaring a little. Modesty studied the grey walls hung with gnarled roots a nd dark green foliage. checking it as a way out . Some time later Pennyfeather called. oppressive atmosphere hung over the valley. 'So that's Novikov's golden mile.' He looked up. Perha ps what had hit her hardest was his own seemingly certain death. From the ledge.' Modesty said. that the little laugh-line s were of his making. 'But you need some rest yourself.' He looked at the pale face under the white hair. It was Willie's secret pride that laughter had been his gift to her. The valley bottom was dank with moisture that could come only from heavy condensation between the leaning walls. Somebody was down there not so many weeks ago. Modesty woke at once. he thought. This was the junction of the two long ridges which formed the legs of The Impossible Virgin. They had given her a bad time. He would hear more about that later. but this had never become a meaningless name to him. Her head lay back against a fol ded towel on one of the canvas containers propped against the wall. They're just human bloody poison. Together with the cliff where the cave lay. as they pleased. Pennyfeather squeezed the limp hand he was holding. As far as he was concerned she remained a princess. Or if not gone. but I'm no use for that. broad -leaved bushes in the thin soil where the underlying rock could be seen breaking through here and there. But I knew this was the location marked on that map of T arrant's. and s till saw her. 'You'v e been down there. Binoculars to her eyes. she turned to him in weariness or hurt to be comforted like a child. were no longe r laugh-lines. the ground sloped down into the deep valley below. I'd like to join i n. I'm going to get her better if it's the last thing I do. Brunel and the others. But she had always been able to ride out bad times.' he said with curt authority. they had been together a long time now. simply that she was unique in a very special way. yet it was sufficient to gather in little puddles and to keep alive the coarse grass and some low.

I've found out what the joke is. Smell of new-mown grass. Had a degree and all that. but they've got a nasty temper and a sting to match. I suppose the natives know it. Princess.' 'Wasps? Just ordinary wasps?' 'No.' She gazed down the twisting length of the silent. 'How do you know.' He was pleased to have amused her. Bright girl. You can walk through the valley all right. dead-looking valley. a special kind. There were smaller nests hanging from some of the bushes. and all that nymph and satyr stuff. Willie.' He shook his head slowly. and put me right off. First I got stung. She called them Polybioides. Princess.' 'Ah well. I never went back. and the y're a hell of a sight more vicious even than 'ornets. and I don't suppose anyone's ever 'ad on e. Looking down into the valley where time seeme d to have died he said. The insec . about twenty-eight. remember? Well. 'This is the bottom 'alf of The Impossibl e Virgin. and they steer clear. Like walking on the moon. because it's full of about a million wasps.' 'That's a nasty moment to get stung. 'Who was this she-expert who told you about African wasps?' 'Brenda. She'd got bees and wasps and 'ornets there. 'Was it very bad?' 'Bloody wicked.they'd been scratching around here an' there quite a bit. It's a place where nobody goes. two .' 'Just trying not to. she did.' She looked at him curiously. Anyone w ho stirs those little black devils up is going to be wearing a wasp overcoat in two minutes. I think you're laughing. She 'ad a little cottage in Devon I went t o. She's got a special kind of chastity belt. One . You get a fe eling it's never changed since I don't know when. Liked a romp in the open air. she was a hymenopterist. W illie?' He grinned again..' 'I 'ad the same thought. 'Got me on the rump. and suddenly it took on a new and more tangible menace . She lost count. That's when I saw pictu res of these wasps we've got down 'ere.' She raised the glasses and focused carefully. Told 'er I'd found out one of their 'abits and that was enough for me .. 'I learnt from an expert. a dozen.' 'Why not?' He turned his head to her and grinned. 'It's pretty weird down there. The valley was full of them. She was a wasp-lady. At once she saw the nest. Very passionate she turned out to be. why she's impossible. mayb e.' Modesty pressed knuckles to her lips to su ppress a bubble of laughter. Might've given me a complex that ruined my love-life. Anyway.' 'That sounds indecent. six. Probably been like that for a good few thousand years. so she could study them live. Africa doesn't change much. Went rabbiting on about them quite a bit . When you walk down that valley you f ind yourself 'olding your breath. Three feet long and half as wide. the whisper of the breeze . and lowered the glasses.. Must've been Novikov. Take another look at the walls and those straggly trees. 'A special kind of wasp?' she said.' 'And you think that's why nobody ever goes there?' 'I think you'd need a damn good reason. and then she tol d me. I'm sorry. Willie.. And they're like the rest of the place.. b lack. and I was sitting sideways all the time. Less than an inch long. It's stiff with nests.' he said feelingly. thin-bodied. we were in a nice warm tangle in the g arden one summer afternoon when she told me. A fter she'd doctored me I 'ad to go and look at all 'er colour-slides. Seemed to think I'd be fascinated by wasps and their 'abits. 'I'm not saying they're just waiting to pounce. they h ung like blackish bombs from the trees and from the roots and foliage on the inw ard leaning walls.. You might even knock a nest down an' get away with a bad stinging if you moved quick enough. You feel they've be en there since before we started walking upright. But if you went down there and f ired a shot I don't reckon you'd come out alive. Went on fo r hours it did. Studied them. but it's not about hymens. till Novikov came along.' 'About the wasps.

He must be.' Watching the girl. across the plateau to the cave. Modesty saw tears brim from the pink-tinged eyes and run down her cheeks. living and breed ing and dying. 'Yes.' He smiled. 'Sorry.' Giles said. said. 'And that's the way you want us to take Lisa out when it's time to go? ' 'It's the best way. He'll probably be a wizard at it. Willie took a sip from his water-bottle and looked at his watch. She wondered if Giles had been wise to hit Lisa with such a massive shock so soon. You got nothing to be sorry for.' 'Neither would I. She can have a little diluted and warmed up when she wakes next time. 'I'm awake now. The cave itself would be a death-trap. most direct and the easiest terrain. He said. She would not have dared to herself. 'He could never guess that you're alive.' She looked at Willie. Giles. looking down the long incline they had mounted durin g the night.' He knelt beside her and looked at Giles. We'll be all right as long as we keep pretty quiet and don't disturb a nest. rolling small b oulders to various parts of the rim at the top of the pebbly slope.' 'Don't keep saying that.' Lisa opened her eyes slowly and said. the rim of the plateau.ts.' 'So he'll come searching. She made a feeble attempt to smile. each w ith an M16 rifle and spare magazines of ammunition.' Willie started to reach out. Modesty said. I've told her. Nearly one-thir ty. had perhaps been there before man walke d the earth and might well be there long after he had vanished. He g lanced behind him. and found Willie. please. I mean. was better absorbed while she was distracted by physical pain and under seda tion. except that van Pienaar brought in a tracker yesterday for hun ting a lion they've seen signs of. And perhaps the impact.' Before dawn. they were sorrowful. It seemed that Chance and his boys were looking in the wrong direction. but h ere they could cover the whole approach to it at long range. It was his kind of miracle. love.' They went back into the cave. It's certainly a lot less exposed than going out the front way. 'She's going pretty well.' His eyes wandered. It wasn't your f ault. Lisa gone.' Willie said. just a bent bar. 'She knows about the voices. 'Chance must be wondering what the hell has happened. Lisa closed her eyes again and whispered. He lay fi fty feet away from Modesty. It's going t o be a long day. but it was for Giles Pennyfeather's hand that she was groping. then into the distance ahead where the volcanic hills forming the breasts of the Virgin stood out clearly. She said.' 'All right. m ore hollow-eyed than ever. He gets back from fighting the fire to find Mesquita dead. the frightful impact of having the false mainspring of her being so abruptly shatter ed. but don't cut it too fine.' 'So am I. or he wouldn't have recorded a tape of the voices to make her stir up trouble. and still there was no sign of pursuit.' 'Say. But the tears were a good s ign.. Then the grin vanished. He looked down the s . and no dead bodies in the gorilla's cage. Now the sun was high and the morning past. We mustn't miss that chopper. Willie had been out on the crescent-shaped plateau. and now he's assuming we've had to hole up because of Lisa. Lisa seemed to be in a natural sleep now. five o'clock?' 'Yes. but he 's bound to guess that somebody turned up to get us out of trouble. 'Giles is all for shooting 'em. They were not hysterical. Both lay with heads on the shadowed side of a small boulder. Leave it to Giles. Have we got any milk?' 'I've got a tin of condensed. but never changing over countless millenia. Giles. Let's hope we don't get into a fight before then. 'Good. lifting an eyebrow in query. Princess. This was the best position f or defence. but we'll come back for that. 'I'll see to the milk. Princess?' He saw her grin without turning her head.. Willie. I don't fancy 'is luck. then we'll all have breakfast. the vicious little stinging insects. What time should we start? I'd like to stay in the cave as long as we can. 'Hold my hand.' She thought for a moment. 'D'you realize we're lying right on the mons veneris. I've given her some O mnopon for the pain. Mentally Modesty shrugged.

wriggling on his stomach until he was far enough fro m the rim of the plateau to stand up unseen. They were easy targets.lope and saw a little group emerge from the broad cleft five hundred yards away. but she did not shoot. but. I'm sure you can figure something.' 'Yes. Van Pienaar's probably sending back for reinforcements before following up.' It took an hour and a half.' 'That's good. . no. led by Selby. The white man looked slowly r ound. and put a bullet through Selby's head.' Under his breath Willie said. Killing Chance was important. 'I don't think we'll have too much trouble until we have to diseng age. Chance climbed down from beside the driver.' Willie moved away. and if they try to rush we'll wipe them out on that slope. but within mi nutes he had nosed his way to the foot of the slope. Tha t was only a small party. Over five hundred yard s. The tracker reappeared. The white man was van Pienaar. and then they'll have pretty fair odds. She saw him trot back and forth. adjusted the sig ht.. And tell hi m to take a look out at the back every five minutes. Too far for accuracy with this rifle. Modesty checked that her M16 was on semiautomatic. then gave an order. Then a half-track vehicle from the farms nosed out o f the cleft. They reached the foot of the hundred yard slope and started up. You'd need timing devices or some sort of clockwo rk gadget.' Willie rubbed his chin.' She reflected for a while. Chance stood half hidden by the vehicle. who in turn spoke to van Pienaar. quart ering the ground. All fo ur moved back round the shoulder of the cleft. She turned her head and saw Willie wriggling back across the plateau. 'Slip back and warn Giles that we'll be shooting soon. I guess Chance will aim at keeping us pinned down here till sundown.. She heard a few bullets sing overhead.' 'We've got to be gone before then. Modesty estimated the range again. the Kikuyu carried rifles and had machetes at their belts. two Kikuyu in shirts and jeans. Modesty said. They can't outflank us. The firing stopped . single-shot and automatic. Modesty lifted the glasses to her eyes. A whi te man. studied the slope to the bluff for a long time. then ran back across the open ground as fast as he could go. She guess ed that the smaller native was the tracker. then go down on one knee. Anything to stop them knowing we've snaked a way. a single whining ricochet. Princess. He eased h imself into position behind one of the boulders. pointing up the slope. anyway.' 'Right.' and grinned. If they've split up it'll take them time to get together. He seemed apprehensive. 'Looks as if Chance didn't just rely on the tracker. not Chance or Jacko. The three Kikuyu turned and ran like hares. They had not been found y et. and kept glancing all about him. Modesty said. She lowered the glasses.. waving Camacho and seve ral Kikuyu into cover. I 'aven't got any gear I could modify for that. A pity he had been on hand. Three Kikuyu. There were times when sh e displayed an almost alarming faith in his ingenuity. 'Willie. I don't think he liked the idea of pressing on up this slope. He stood there and waved to Chance. but time was of greater importance now. Very flattering. There was a good scattering of them. Selby carried a sub-machine gun. He went rolling down the foot of the slope. and even with glasses it would be hard for anybody on the far side of the strip of plain to pick out a target. Think about it. They've probably got four or five parties casting arou nd for us. After a moment or two he spoke to on e of the Kikuyu.. From beyond the half-trac k came a burst of fire. and a smaller nativ e in a loin cloth. a few hitting the slope. can you rig up something to fire a sh ot once every few minutes after we've gone?' 'You mean at them? Blimey. emerged from cover and began to trot across the open ground. 'They're on our trail . and bad tactics anyway. 'Jesus! .' 'Just the sound of a shot would do. for the city Kikuyu would have little bush skill. which opened into the far side of the narrow green and brown plain below. looked across at Willie and said. The tracker set to work. Modesty put the glasses to her eyes again.

'Willie love.' .e. who scram bled frantically to get behind it again. 'Nothing? In all this load of ancient salves and nostrums?' 'Look. I saw him through the glasses as he got in. and he accepted it without thought of argument. would uric acid do?' 'Yes. using p.' Back in the cave Pennyfeather was giving Lisa some more milk.' Willie said patiently. Somebody was crouched down out of sight i n the seat. but not enough slow fuse to make a rig f or setting off bullets at longish intervals. and a plastic bottle. to set off a bullet would produce the wrong sort of noise. 'Look. The half -track had lumbered straight into the wall near the cleft and stopped. He did not see where the other s hit. 'Yes. A hundred and fifty yards.' He sorted out a plastic jar with a screw cap. Willi e put a bullet into Loeb just under the lifted arm. blue eyes bright as the sky.' Willie stared. 'Gile s. if it came to a cr unch.' 'Why the hell would I carry vinegar?' 'Just something like it. Modesty said. Presumably they were calli ng directions to guide the driver. he thought. so let's not sign them off while we can avoid it. You got some?' Pennyfeather grinned tiredly. Giles.' 'It's Loeb. He said. or lemon juice. 'All I want now is a bit of acid. you got some permanganate crystals in your case. They're a vicious bunch and they enjoy ed stripping me off and strapping me over that oil-drum. The machine ground on . I saw the jar. don't a ct dead next time you get an idea. Any glycerine ?' 'Eh? Yes. Can you manage okay while I go an' see Giles?' She relaxed. One bullet caug ht the edge of the steel chassis and howled away. 'We've all got some. She would pull no punches then. The bullets after we'v e gone. Again there came a burst of fire from the cleft. It was moving away now. 'I thin k it's one of the whites driving. I haven't got anything like that. there's about half a bottle. But they're just doing what Chance says. no matter who they were.' He had barely sighted when he heard the crack-crack-crack of her rifle. But she was a bit weird about this sort of thi ng. The man fell sideways and hung limply over the trackguard.' 'What sort of acid?' 'Any sort.' She looked down at the plain below. Why d'you thin k God gave us bladders?' Willie gaped. trying to use it as a shield and at the same time avoid being run down. you've got 'alf a chemist's shop in 'ere. Men coming after you with guns and machetes were fair game. exposing the group of Kikuyu. Mind you.' Willie grimaced. you silly sod. Loeb's head and shoulders showed for a moment as he lifted himself slig htly. Not that I'm crazy about this lot. seeing that W illie lay flat with his head bowed on one forearm. driverless. and you nail him if he shows. Willie said. I'll fire three rounds r apid into the cab. Like vinegar. both labelled in Pennyfeather's sprawling hand. W illie. and mingled with it was the heavier sound of a hunting rifle. Nothing m oved. That'll do. Weak acid 'll do. Modesty said slowly. I can manage. 'Any acid. I suppose so. then gave a hoot of laughter. 'Jesus. The Kikuyu scampered ahead of it in panic. and wiped the back of a hand across dry lips.He had some fuse and plastic explosive. driving blind. What for?' 'Tell you later. He saw that the half-track was moving. The half-track was still turning.' Willie rummaged in the big shabby bag. 'Better change our positions a little ' She broke off. God help the lot of them. It wasn't on.' 'Sorry. shouting and waving an arm at the Kikuyu. Chance and his crew knew wha t a bullet sounded like. 'Willie! Are you all right?' He looked up. A burst of auto matic fire just then would lower the odds drastically. trying for a ricochet. I just 'ad an idea about that thing you wanted. Willie's finger itched. I don't want to kill any Kikuyu unless we have to. And in any case. Half a dozen Kikuyu were bunched behind the half-trac k. 'Eh? I'm fine. with only a foot or a shoulder showing fleetingly. an astonished grin on his face. but the half-truck lurched round. back to the point it had started from.

. to signal their continued presence. 'I'll show you when we pull out. Willie. two grenades laid ready in front of her . Every five minutes they threw a few shots towards the cleft or at the half-track . 'They've dug up a machine-gun. Three times he heard Mo desty fire a few shots. she put three shots into the half-track and three int . so they can fire on a fixed trajectory after dark. the acid content. 'I think they're just getting the range right. There was another long burst of fire. Sounded like a Lewis. to let them know we're here. then up at the sun. That first bit of slope down into the valley isn't too good fo r a stretcher.' They hugged the ground suddenly as there came a long burst of heavy fire from ac ross the strip of plain.. What about the phys ical thing.' 'That suits us. I doubt if he remembers what the text-books say. Is Giles keeping an eye on the back entrance?' 'Keeps checking every few minutes. Sort of unwound. Leave whatever you think we won't need.' He looked at her open-mouthed for a moment. As the echo faded Willie said. I don't suppose he'd remember. pleased. 'Can't take 'er eyes off Giles. Princess. 'It's funny. You go and carry Lisa down in your arms. 'Was that you?' He nodded. Her own would be for use at shorter range if necessary.' Giles said doubtfully. Willie also had grenades ready. come back. 'Only about 'alf an hour now.' 'Yes. but what he does has a knack of being right.' He considered for a momen t.' 'Giles .' He began to wriggle away towards the cave. how on earth have you worked it. 'My God. A sort of bridge till sh e can get 'er bearings. then she looked at him with widening eyes.' He looked at his watch. though.' The next move would probably be a rush under prolonged covering fire from the ma chine-gun. 'I mean. waiting for his signal.' 'Lisa? Is she getting panicky?' 'No. But there's masses of bird-shit on the rocks just outside.' 'He'd know. but he'd know. It ne eds something like that to stop 'er cracking. I can't guarantee the timing.'It's jolly weak. When you 're all set.' She said wonderingly. If we work it like that we can be heading down th at valley only a couple of minutes after I've fired the final burst. Bullets spattered against the screen of rocks in a slow traverse.' Modesty said slowly. he would wait until it was on the slope before he threw his first grenade. Willie said. That's full of uric acid. Willie s urveyed the ground. Sighting carefully.' Willie said. Giles can manage his medical bag if you tie it on his back. take the poles and sacks down. Modesty watched him. I've just been putting a f ew shots into the half-track now and then. I reckon. come back for me. As a doctor Giles hardly knows what he's doing half the time. Willie? I didn't think it was possible. Maybe he's replaced the voices for 'er. He crawled back to join Modesty.' For the next half hour Willie was busy with experiments. In fact it was just over seventeen minutes later when she heard him wh istle. nothing more happened. Under test. the bird-dung proved to be the most effective medium for providing what he wanted. then laughed. Using a pocket mirror fixed in a split stick as a periscope. Did you work something out?' As she finished speaking there came the sound of a shot from behind them. If an attack came. After twenty minutes Modesty said. but Lisa remin ds 'im. 'Just a single shot for demonstration.' She lifted her rifle. you're better than Pasteur ever was. and fix up the stretcher. 'I'll need about twenty minutes. Better let them know we're still here. she just looks quiet. Her he ad snapped round as she searched the empty plateau. 'Le t's make a start. but she did not call for him. the operation?' 'Giles seems to think she's going on fine. If you half fill a pan with the st uff and top it up with water you'll get a decent concentration. but it'll be good enough. She said. but no figures emerged on to the open grou nd. 'Nothing's happening. I d on't know if it'll do for what you want. Apart from an occasional burst of fire fro m the machine-gun.

lifting her eyes from the ground immediately ahead. 'What the hell is it?' she said. you walk be'ind me. and saw a longish straight stretch ahead bef ore the walls twisted again. At the head of the stretcher Modesty picked her way with care. and he followed h er. They hung from the spindly trees. The M16 was slung across her back now. hunched under the weight of his bag. Gets practically incandescent. it really burns.' 'We can't 'ave anybody being stung. and it starts spontaneous's acid?' He grinned. She said. Giles stood beside her.' Pennyfeather looked baffled. large or small. and saw the men . O n the rock. I used it to set fire to Dicer's bed the night I scarpe red. 'Permanganate crystals mixed with glycerine. The Virgin's legs. 'Don't tell me some female firework expert taught you that.o the shadowed cleft. 'That dirty water . She saw that the liqui d had begun to creep along the strips of lint. 'Are you sure these wasp things are safe? I can't have Lisa being stung. and we're not going to march through 'em singing We Sha ll Overcome. keeping to the middle of the valley. or something like that. I reckon.62 mm cartridges had been stood upright in an irregula r circle round a pan containing a dirty grey liquid. And blimey. They reached the first slight bend. 'They'll be all right i f they're not disturbed. Come on. 'That's a bloody extraordinary thing to say.' The air in the valley was oppressive. Princess'. man or beast. and felt the sweat run down he r body. and for Christ's sake don't do an y of your falling-down tricks. He said. It was like searching the sky at dusk for stars. I read it in a book at the orphanage. From the pan radiated l ong strips of twisted lint of different lengths. No.' Faintly she heard the sound of the first cartridge exploding. You put a couple of drops of acid o n it. then bursts in to flame. Each cartridge was planted in a blob of dark brown mush. and bent to lift the front of the stretcher. let's g o home. as if the spirit of some measurelessly ancient god-insect slept within the grey-green walls. I'll explain later. and then she was hurrying on to the cave with Will ie beside her. the moisture would reach each blob of mush at a different time. building to a crescendo of sound. and they began to move. prepared to attack whatever might disturb the m. That was Giles' idea. Modesty imagined the effect of a shot echoing down the valley. darling. 'What's the joke?' 'You and Willie and the bird-dung. then turned and snaked away across the little plateau unti l it was safe to stand up. yet nobody spoke now. You don't need it strong. She paused only for one look. There was a sullen menace. an d from the inward-leaning walls. a vast colony of colonies housing the absolute masters of this valley. Willi e lifted the other end. or putting your foot in it.' 'No. are we? Look. One end of each strip rested in the liquid. like moist Barbados sugar. fascinated. Lisa lay on the stretcher. even in a whisper. It was absurd to imagine that voices in ordinary conversation would rous e the fury of the black hordes. She said. More than a few. from the taller bushes. A Hundred Things a Bright Boy Can Do. Giles said.' Willie said. Here and there a few darting black bodies danced in the air. Princess. seen in close-up. Since they varied in length. The soft throbbing hum that pervaded the valley might have been the slow heart-beat of a sleeping giant. The longer you looked the more you saw. who lived their complex and mindless lives at a level fa r below the threshold of any fear.' She was still giggling as they reached the bottom of the slope. More than 'ot enough to explode a cartridge. you know.' She ducked through the small aperture at the back of the cave. Wor th a Nobel prize. matey. were hardly sh apely.' There was something about the whole conception that awoke her sense of the absur d.' She stopped. Bubbles up like lava. some twenty 7. reverberating fro m wall to wall. but it held something beyond heat and humi dity. Each nest was suspended by a single pedicel which seemed too fragile for the gre at bulk it carried. Willie was waiting for her by a flat piece of rock a little way from the cave. 'From bird-dung. the other end vanished under a blob of mush. It was as they came to the next bend that she heard W illie say urgently.

They'll manage all right. You' ll die for being soft one day. She heard him snap a command. picking their way with care round a few nest-hung bus hes. Evidently Chance did not tru st them to keep their fingers from the trigger in the heat of battle. The bare patch of rock they were heading for made as goo d an arena as any. Put a point on those staves.' She took one of the staves from him and started to run. t hen he knelt and took Lisa's hand. she could hear it in the sound of their panting. The sun glint ed redly on the long blades. She could not do the vital job that he was about to do. Giles watched them go. and the group of Kikuyu star ted forward. They were a little thicker than the normal quarter-staff . That patch of bare rock.a hundred yards away. Fool. From well to the rear. At fir st the Kikuyu came slowly. and providing there was . they're terri bly good at this sort of thing. And he acknowledged without envy that she was better equipped than he was to meet th e massed onslaught. She said . and fancied she could hear Chance's quick yelp of rage as he slammed the bar rel sideways with a sweep of his hand. Her briefing had been short. And the others too. she told herself. and the footing was sound. To other eyes she would have looke d a pathetically small and lonely figure. You stay here with Lisa. Van Pienaar must have been left behind with the heavy mac hine-gun to maintain the pretence of attack. even though his ability with the quarter-staff was greater. aren't there?' Without turning t o look at him Modesty said. bracing herself aga inst the bitter shock. With his machete he began to shape the tips of each staff to a short sharp point. machetes swinging. He waited for it now almost eagerly. Willie. He was goi ng to send them in with machetes. W illie. Two hours ago she could have picked of f most of the Kikuyu during their running retreats. She felt a wave of anger towards herself. Willie touched the machete at his belt and the knives strapped on his chest under the shirt. the quarter-staff poi sed in her hands. The madness of blood-lust was upon the Kikuyu. see it in the gleaming faces and wh ite-rolling eyes. We play this for keeps from now on. Maybe today.' He did not believe hi mself. She saw one of the Kikuyu swing up his rif le. stopped ten paces short of the arena and began to sco ur the ground for fist-sized rocks. Modesty was looking along the valley. Camacho and ten or eleven Kikuyu.' She laid her gun down on the ground. 'There are too many of them. As he ran. 'Put her down. 'Look. and a few inches longer. In combat. Adrian Chance and Jacko Muktar. CHAPTER FOURTEEN She said. you needn't worry. She ran on another thirty pace s and stopped on the far side of the flat stretch of rock.' He grunted an affirmative. watching. Willie. Willie Garvin watched. but they would do. old dear. It was clear of nests. but for him it set out the complete tactics of the coming fight. Giles said slowly. Her face looked grey with fear. From somewher e he dredged up a haggard smile and said. Modesty said. one that never failed to fascin ate him. gesticulating . to bring them round into the far end of t he valley. Ch ance's mob can't do any shooting. without hope of lasting for a second a gainst the frenzied stampede.' and lowered the stretcher. They mustn't get round us. Chance was ready now. The run became a pounding charge. For a moment Willie himself felt sudden horror at having allowed her to take the first onrush. 'It won't take long to find out. then he excluded all horror and ala rm ruthlessly from his mind and watched with clinical appraisal. 'All right. Her plan was right. The three white men stood fast. while the rest had been making a lo oping march for the last hour or more. you see. And Modesty and Willie. Willie bent and drew out the two po les from the stretcher. All right. then they broke into a run. 'Better if I meet the first rush and you bowl them out on the flan ks. She could see him speaking. for among her skills was one he believed unique. The Kikuyu began to stack their rifles in a pile. When she turned to Willie he saw that her eyes had become black as jet.

slithering along the ground.' and sprinted forward. to hold her distance an d take advantage of the staff's long reach. spreading out. the hiss of a swung blade. check. foam on his lips. the moment had come. eager interest as he launched into the combination moves he had worked out and practised with so much thought and care over the years. a great wound under the heart. so that the darting. maintaining precise distance for striking. Wi llie turned. He went down without a sound. This was when she suddenly wasn't there . and his skill in throwing was not limited to the knife. whimpering. He saw her flex her legs. He knew from his own experience in practice combat with her how disconcerting an d dangerous this skill was. The attack had become three irregular lines. chop. then threw. The Kikuyu who had outflanked him lay . always flowing in smoo th sequence. From the corner of her eye she saw his face cave in as a two-pound rock hit his cheek with terrible force. and split a six inch sapling at fifty feet. He felt intense. for though she moved back almost at sprinting pace she was on the offensi ve the whole time. The quarter-staff whirled in a controlled blurr of motion. parry. the most clumsy and ill-balanced of missiles . against opponents al ways much heavier and stronger. she could move backwards in retreat as fast as an opponent could run at h er. This was it. another with a shattered knee. But there were five left. Eleven men brandishing machetes cannot strike in a wedge. and now. 'Back off. footwork blending with every move of body and weapon. and the man with the broken shoulder. and lean forward slight ly. whatever her weapo n or even with no weapon at all but hands and feet. a choking grunt and a soft thud. incredibly. machete swinging. In front of him there were only two men left standing. His throwing action had the flickering snap of a whip. Then there was no movement at all. yet somehow she kept getting through to yo u and hammering the starch out of you. No doubt she had developed this in childhood and youth. flowing. because the ro lling echoes of a bullet in the valley would bring death to all. the staff poised. rise on the balls of her feet. You kept going on and on but you never quite made co ntact. A third was f olding forward. Adrian Chance. He hurled his third and last ro ck. thrust again. looping to come in from the rear. parry... She slithered back ten paces in the first three seconds. Jacko Muktar and Camacho stood like statues. The lone survivor had frozen in a crouch. weighed it briefly in his hand to ass ess the balance and rate of revolution in relation to distance. but she ignored them.. and a slashing machete had sliced three feet from one end of Modesty's staff. Willie moved forward and swung his staff twice. A broken skull. And this time she had the long-reaching q uarter-staff as a weapon. Princess. He turned and began to run. Willie dre w the machete from the sheath at his belt. Some of the Kikuyu were moving wide on her flanks. Now one. slashing staff was never for an ins tant stilled. Flank swing. Willie Garvi n was in action. The machete made one revolution in the air and thudded home between the running man' s shoulderblades. parry. One man was down with his larynx stove in. The only movement now came from the man whose knee Modesty had shattered in the first rush. Willie ignored him. Fifty yards away. holding a shoulder broken by another rock. One of the me n had run clear. ducking under the swing of his staff as the five Kikuyu came afte r her. reverse. H e heard the scuffle of feet on dry rock behind him. one behind the other. She was using only deflection-parrie s against the machetes. No more concessions she had once seen him throw a felling-axe. leaving h im to Modesty. She ran back. She was already back ing fast when the first men came within distance. then froze. On her left now a man was darting in. It was astonishing to watch and painful to exper ience. and the rock whistled in a flat trajectory to bounce three feet high from a Kikuyu's skull. A second man was down on her right . Thrust. The range for Willie was only fifteen paces now. started to speak. because your timing was wrong. reverse and thrust. For several years now Willie had dreamed without hope of testing the quarter-sta ff in real combat to prove his belief in it. Willie said.

Blood welled slowly from the cut.. 'But it's all right. the lips drawn ba ck in a grotesque. The eyes were wild. Willie gripped her arm and worked the flesh with his thumbs. the second into Camacho's at six. He was dead. I always said so. both here and on the plain where Selby and Loeb had died. She looked up at the sky .' 'That's what you always said. like a scene from an old silent film. Wait for it. Princess. then opened her shirt and pulled it down over one shoulder. He said. taking her gently by the shoulders to turn her. waiting. He quivered with shock. By dawn there would be only bones left. He laid her down and began to tear off his shirt with frantic haste. Jacko and Camacho have picked up a machete api ece. Looking back no w. She must have worked it out even as she was dealing with the la st Kikuyu. That blow with th e kongo was a killer. 'They're coming. alive. On her arm was a thin red line from shoulder almost to elbow. a hand flashing to the twin knives lying in echelon on his left breast. The old quarter-staff. Before he cou ld keel over she swung the kongo in her clenched fist. kneeling. and with it came the old sense of q uick admiration. dreading to find the frightful wound of a machete blade. You take Jacko first and the n Camacho. if they got clear of the wasp-infested valley and waited in hiding with their guns. bu t she was so fast that he had not begun to lift the knife when she reached him i n a long striding jump like a hurdler. startled grimace..' She looked about her and made a weary gri mace of disgust. it works. Chance hasn't bothered. that Jacko and Camacho had died in the last second. and by God she was dead right. Modesty came past him like a sprinter from the starting-blocks. only a sixteen th deep.' he said. They had turned on their masters. coming in fast. wait. She had got him with the shortened staff in the larynx. the two he had stunned. turning. As they went down. frowning. He did not trouble to go and look at Chance.' Relief washed over him like a breaking wave.' Willie nodded. The first knife drove into Jacko's heart at eight paces. Willie. and she had meant it. the toe of her boot driving into his body just under the heart. In that case the bones in the valley might never be fo und. 'Hold that posit ion. She said. 'You can still 'ear 'im banging away on .face up. 'There won't be much for anybody to find. came round and dragged themselves away. eyes almost closed. Now!' He came smoothly to his feet. and he toppled sideways. The scything hammerblow e xploded on his temple. the skin sliced as if with a razor. they would probably disappear into the bush rather tha n crawl back to Bonaccord and face eventual questioning when the ramshackle poli ce force got round to it. Already three vultures were circling lazily against the red-gold glow of the s un. un-moving. Willie. he realized that it had been an eerily soundless battle. as if he still could not believe that this was really Willie Garvin. The K ikuyu would probably be blamed for everything. Don't turn round. The three men were only ten paces away.. Willie saw that Chance's face beneath the silver hair had t he imprint of madness stamped upon it now. When the surviving Kikuyu. If Chance and the others ran for it no w. 'There's one of 'em left. the vultures would float down. Willie. She lay with her head turned sideways. B ut Modesty lay half-sprawled across him. the light going out of his eyes a s he took two tottering paces back and folded slowly to his knees. Her head fell back on his arm and she whispered. Trying to move fast without mak ing a noise. If the injured Kikuyu survived. they're carrying guns and they just might be crazy enough to use them . On clear ground now. He was still moving forward under momentum and there was a knife in his hand. 'You were playing the deflections too fine. Got to bring Chance and the others in reach. perhaps during a hunt. 'Well.' Willie said. as if for a pad to staunch a deep wound. A few curio us wasps were already investigating open wounds in still bodies. he's just got a knife.. Willie Garvin pushed a hand through his hair and surveyed the scene. and whispered. but had disturbed the wasps and paid the penalty.' He took an antiseptic field dressing from his thigh pocket and began t o pull it apart so that it would spread over the wound. Willie Garvin was beside her in half-a-dozen great strides. that the machete-swinging killers had been put down.

Well. if you ask me! I really thought you'd copped it. Thank you. and a full mile from the point where the Virgin's splayed l egs ended. and that life f or her would begin anew tomorrow. it held a muted bay of excitement.' Willie finished taping the dressing in place. And good for him. . e ven skilled in them. Giles . The horizon was lifting to hide the deep red glow in the western sky. Perhaps already Giles had given her the healing self-absolution she would so desperately need. Together they walked slowly back to where Giles waited. seen Modesty Blaise and Willie Garvin kill. But she had seen the battle in the va lley. The voices had made her do it. like ch opping off the giant's head and so on.the Lewis every now an' then. 'Feeling okay. Her eyes were closed but there was no fear in her face now. 'Not much longer. He thought he understood it now. he reflected. That seemed to put them off. He had been going to pat her hand or touch her cheek in a simple caress. and moved to pick up his shirt.' Willie laughed. I didn't think. held it. Tell you what. Lisa had been made to kill. It was all right rescuing beautiful damsels in distress . you didn't half go. 'I expect we've 'ad worse problems if only we could remember 'em .suppose I lash the bits together?' Forty minutes later. This was the pick-up area Willie had arranged. He'll just head for somewhere a long way off and h ope to be thought dead with the rest.' Carrying her on the stretcher during the last half hour he had looked down at he r from time to time and spoken a word or two of encouragement. The fairy tales misse d a point.' he said. a shadowy hint of recoil. now look what you've done. holding her ha nd. Sh e knew now that Brunel was the killer behind the voices. Giles sat beside the stretcher. but still it placed them among those capable of such things. We're on the last lap now. asleep. knew what had been done to her.' She said gravely. Though he tried to keep his voice down. even though it saved their lives. He had enjoyed being with her. ears cocked. 'Tummy all right?' 'Yes. When he comes here to find out what's happened he won't hang around to be asked questions.' He drew breath for a guffaw. but only as long as they didn't see you doing the necessary gory bits. It had been diffi cult to read the look on her face. But it would not happen again now. He smiled ruefully to himself. That was good. darling. Pity about that. too. ready to signal when he heard the helicopter . The real Lisa was a nice kid. saw the two pieces of severed pole that Modesty carried. He carried a r ubber-covered long-beam flash-lamp. so that in her eyes now they were to some degree tainted as being of the same breed as the enemies they had fought. 'I say. and frowned in exasperation.and that last bit was jolly cunning. Modesty lay face down on the ground. sleeping with her. trying to tell her without words that the past was dead. So did that silver-haired sod and his mates. Instead he gave her an amiable grin and said. 'I'll fix it better when we can ge t at Giles' bag. 'I'm sorry. you know. love?' 'Yes.' Her voice was small. there was a thing for you. She must know that there had b een no other way. They probably couldn't help remembering it whenever they l ooked at you. and had hoped vaguely to repeat the pleasure some time. they rested beside a tangle of bush edging a triangle of flat stony g round which dipped to a small river half a mile away. We needed t hat for the stretcher.' Then he got up and moved slowly aw ay. He looked up as they drew near.' 'It's van Pienaar. but he had fancied there was a hint of fear i n her eyes whenever she took them from Pennyfeather and looked up at him. you two! I told Lisa those buggers were in for a sho ck . Not ex actly fear. red-eyed scarecrow with a grin splitting his grimed f ace. and hated it. a haggard. After a while he moved to crouch beside Lisa and said. 'Oh Christ. but a shrinking away. Willie prowled a little anxiously. perhaps. He still squatted beside Lisa. Now he saw it clearly. though she was trying to hide it by forcing a smile to he r pallid lips. head pillowed on her forearms.

He described it as a grievous and vexatious caper. 'This arrived today. chewing a dry blade of grass. Not from Giles.. Princess?' He felt her shrug. 'Are we going to do anything about Novikov's golden mile. You loo k enchanting. He sat cross-legged beside Mo desty. watching her sleeping face. he thought.' 'He's been reading Winston Churchill again.' Tarrant said smugly. We made a horrible mess of it. Willie love. Annoyed with herself. in the penthouse. 'You're welcome to read it.' He looked at her.' 'It's for me to apologize for calling unannounced. Until I started using Sexpot I could never get helicopters to land in Rwanda.' 'I spent a very pleasant Sunday with him at The Treadmill soon after you got bac k. Her feet and legs were bare. 'I suppose he told y ou what happened in Pelissol and Rwanda?' 'He gave me a bare outline. She said. But I did ask Willie to make a point of seeing you. but I w asn't expecting you. giving her the l ook of a Victorian child. but wasn't inclined to be reminiscent.' She looked slightly annoyed. I n his normal voice he said.' She looked disappointed for a moment. after all the fascinating experiences I've provided for you.' Six weeks later. I do f eel you might have made contact with me sooner. nasal voice.' 'The salient features were there. slipping her own arm abo ut his waist. Modesty had been sitting at the projector. Two minutes later they saw the helicopter coming in across the riv er at three hundred feet. 'After all I've d one for you. close to her. Tarrant said reproachfully. To call Willie lucky isn't enough by half. 'You're lucky to be alive.. They were there first.' 'I see. 'You've got a nerve. felt the sudden weariness in her now that to be weary no long er mattered. moving his hand in a little circle. and had a long chat with him. until he turned up again.' and took a letter from the pocket of her bathrob e. Princess. That part of it must have hit you very hard. then smiled. I can't imagine it was a very coherent story.' She laughed. She lifted his arm and put it round her shoulders.' 'Oh. The look vanished and she said. Do you mind if I finish these slides?' 'Please.' They walked out a little way on to the stony plain and wai ted. 'Yes.' Although it was only mid-afternoon the room was rather dark because the curtains had been partly drawn. folk s. 'That's a welcome sight.' Lifting the flash-lamp he pointed it a t the helicopter and switched on the beam.' . W hen he heard the distant clatter of the helicopter's rotor he laid a hand on her shoulder and she lifted her head at once. On a table at the far end a colour-slide projector had b een set up and there was a screen on the wall. The red glow had gone and the sky was dark purple. her hair was down and h ad been clipped in two loose pigtails which stuck out slightly. On time. writing in an indexed notebook. I know all the details. I've been down to the pool for a swim and haven't bothered to change yet. I'm sorry I didn't get in touch.' 'Very. but I'm not going to. I've been rather taken up with one thing and another. 'Sorry to be dressed like this. the new-formula aft ershave lotion that makes a man masterful.' 'Oh. You don't know where he is now?' 'I'm afraid not. good. 'I went down to your cottage in Wiltshire where Pennyfeather was nursing the albino girl through her convales cence. I'll go and signal. He was going off somewhere next day. 'Let's leave it to the wasps. 'I owe it all to Sexpot. When Tarrant arrived. but muddled through.' He said in an earnest. What's happened to Giles and the girl?' She said. But it's a fair description.' 'I'll come with you. You'd need to invent a new word. 'The chopper. She said. Let's have a big hand for Willie Garvin.Ah well. She was wearing a white towelling bathrobe. That was strange.

Dear Miss Blaise. Another good thing is that Lisa's going to be a pretty rich girl one day. She hasn't any experience. 'I should think you a nd Willie must feel somewhat unappreciated. my thanks to you both. and all the patients like him. Yours sincerely. I'd have left her behind if Giles ha dn't insisted. The address was simply. 'It's shameful. Seated at the table. Not Bonaccord. I think everything that happened in Rwanda. It all just happened. and the name of a town or village he had never heard of. he'll go and work as a doctor there. I hope that you and Willie are in good health. "Your great kindness.' 'Then what do they live on?' She made a note in the indexed book. Giles is a volunteer with the medical emerg ency section of the Red Cross now. 'It's perfect for him. Giles could marry a hundred girls and b e happy. The Rwanda govern ment is taking that over. The writing was neat and regular. 'Good God. and Giles is very busy. but it was all fixed by then. 'Well." That's a cool way to sum up t aking her appendix out in a cave.' 'He didn't protest?' 'Yes. He said.' Tarrant said drily.' 'Oh. It was my idea and I'm rather pleased with it . He's also dug up securities .' He got up an d walked to where Modesty sat.The envelope bore a Peruvian stamp.' 'It sounds very promising for them. He works without pay. The Hospital. 'It isn't shameful at all. 1 had not fully recovered at the time. wondering at her logic. don't be stuffy. I am writing to thank you for the great kindness you have shown me. He asks me to send his regards to you and to Willie. I didn 't think I could take an appendix out until he made me. And I pointed out that it wasn't my money an yway. And Lisa's acting as a nurse for him. He is a wonderful p erson. and I think it'll work out for her.' She looked up. Once agai n. It's more o f a miracle. and says he will write as soon as he can find time. but I've had a smart lawyer out there for the last fiv e weeks. quite apart from the rest of it. has dwindled almost to a sort of pre-natal memory. I expect they'll marry s oon. I bought G iles a ten-year annuity with it. and ma de a note. We have settled in now. Tarrant drew out the letter and unfolded it. and everything before t hat. and it looks as if she'll inhe rit whatever they can track down of his estate. He's right in his element. you'd think the girl was thanking the vicar for a nice Sunday School outing. so he'll have about two thousand a year coming in. You say he's a volunteer?' 'Yes. And without the stretcher.' 'With a little help from his friends. The Distressed Gentlefolk will have to wait till next time. we wouldn't have had a quarter-staff a piece when it came to the big crunch. Lisa. and to apolo gize for not being able to express my gratitude on the occasion when you called on me at the cottage you so kindly lent to Giles for my convalescence. looked at the screen. Modesty pressed the slide-change switch.' 'Why is she going to be rich?' 'Because she's Brunel's legally adopted daughter. but if you're with Giles you soon learn. amused at his indignation. She's been reborn.' She switche d to another slide. Tarrant's eyebrows were almost touching his hairline as he looked up. but I fancy he's the only possible man for her.' Tarrant sighed and put down the letter. I won't have to worry about Giles being on the bread-line. The equipment is rather primitiv e and there is not much of it. So she doesn't owe us anything. working un der conditions that would terrify most doctors. but he does not seem to mind. We are very happy here. I used that money we took from Brune l's safe. 'What e xactly are they doing in Peru?' 'Dealing with earthquake casualties. Wherever there's a disaster. He'll screw some compensation out of them. He said. and G iles was the midwife.

It showed a small blue flower in close-up.. I couldn't help it. He looked at the screen. I knew he was dead. I never get tired of roaming over the cliffs and down in the valleys. frowning though tfully. I'm just checking what we've got so far. No stealing a march on the other. well.' 'My dear. I suppose. These are slides of Maltese wildflowers. Now he's been gone so long I'm beginning to get vexed with him. and very common.' Tarrant said. 'But enough is enough. And it made poor Willie uneasy. 'But he might have known it would soon pass. It's just that .' He handed her an envelope. amused. It's too bad of him. But I haven't heard from Willie for quite a while.' Tarrant was only mildly surprised. went to the window a nd drew back the curtains. it was my fault.' 'As intended. I said flowers and plants won't grow for me. of course I don't mind. 'For over a week I thought he was dead.' Her expression changed. He said .' said Tarrant solemnly. but switched off the projector. W e like that. He's probably sunning himself in Bermuda with a gorgeous redh ead.' She stood with hands deep in the pockets of her bathrobe. ' 'I see why you've been busy and elusive. and Lisa's the only one in the field. Miss Blaise. but Malta has hundreds of different wildflowers. 'He's goading you back to normal. After a little while he quietly pushed off. singly or together. But we've become highly competi tive in finding the rare and the very rare species. When she looked at him he saw that her smile was rath er crestfallen. so we have a gentleman's agreement that we only go hunting together.. It was so marvellous. watching the door s. 'you have a gentleman's agreement not to do so . That's a blue pimpernel. She said nothing. He said. It just arrived. The lift stopped and Weng emerged.' 'Not quite. It was stiffened with cardboard inside.' 'It doesn't really sound like Willie.and sent from Malta!' Inside there was a single colour-slide but no message.' 'And you take these photographs?' 'It's a sort of project Willie and I started a year or so ago.' said Tarrant. He knows very well I'm not to be trusted.' 'It probably doesn't sound much like me. The thing's developed into q uite a needle match. We have a little villa out there.' 'Willie? Of course he wouldn't.' she said. I've a damn good mind to go out to Malta and hunt up a few specimens on my own. He thought he detected a hint of p . She looked at the envelope. 'Yes. He'd be greatly shocked if you broke it. That means several hundred.' 'You?' She did not answer at once. I'm sure.' They heard the sound of the lift. but Tar rant saw indignation suddenly widen her eyes. 'It's the best time of year for them just no w. ' 'Yes. Nobody else has a claim.' 'You almost sound as if you mind. hunting for them. But when we got home I kept fussing over him. and we're trying to find specimens of all the different wildflo wers. because that just isn't the way we are. When we get together. There's go ing to be plenty. 'There was a special delivery for you down at the desk. and some of them a re rare. I don't think they like my aura. I expect him to. we usuall y take a break somewhere together after we've come through a patch of trouble.and holdings of gold in Swiss banks. Then he came back. It wou ld just serve him right. greeted Tarrant politely.' She stared at the screen. 'I t's from Willie .' 'No. She looked puzzled and a little aggrieved. I suppose. When are you going out there a gain?' 'I don't know. either. 'That's very pretty. and went out along the passage to his room. But I spoilt it this time. And a numbered account passbook. He had long ceased to wonder at the unexpecte d ways in which Modesty and Willie spent their time. To let me get over it. and waited without speaking. You once told m e you didn't like horticulture. 'It sounds a nice healthy and harmless pursuit. It's lovely. She said. You've never minded before.

a large handbag hanging on a strap fro m her shoulder. There's a plane about five-thirty from Heathrow. switched it on. She had plaited her hair in two pigtails and tied the ends with scraps of green ribbon matching the tunic. Tarrant blinked. then went to the phone. 'There are plenty of taxis at Luqa. but I'm not going to miss having a Jensen for a while. a camel-hair coat over her arm.' 'And take a holiday yourself. The ticket will be at the desk. She moved to the projector. but when he goes hunting Purple Viper's Bugloss without me it's an outrage. Where's your l uggage?' 'I travel light. 'Will you be an absolute honey and ring the BEA desk for me ? I'll only be a few minutes.' 'Fuss him?' Her frown held dark menace and her foot tapped the floor impatiently . You have to pick it up by five. 'It's Purple Viper's Bugloss!' she said. if there's a seat. a small purple trumpet-shaped flower with a hairy s tem appeared. I'll be in Malta from about eight o'clock onwards if yo u need to ring me about anything. We s pent a whole week hunting for it last year. 'Weng! Clear all th is stuff away. 'I'll take the Jensen. Would you like to come with me and drive it back? Then you could look after it for me whil e I'm away.leasurable excitement also. .' Tarra nt said gravely. She looked at her watch with narrowed eyes.' She turned to Tarrant. He knows damn well he's put a squib under m e. will you.' 'Transport from the airport at the other end?' She laughed.' Tarrant laughed. It was just under seven minutes later when she emerged wearing slacks and a jers ey tunic. 'I'm going to scorch his ears. 'Yes. 'Oh. On the screen.' 'Did you get me a seat?' 'Yes.' She started towards her bedroom. 'You'll only be charged half-fare.' She turned to Tarrant. Or are you too busy just now?' 'I'm busy.' She was gone. I don't mind him toying with a redhead in Bermu da. looking like that. Miss Blaise. Tarrant said.' Weng appeared.' 'Give him my best. 'Have a lovely time/ he said.' 'You're my favourite middle-aged man. showing no surprise.' She touched the handbag. 'And I've everything I need at the vi lla.' They entered the lift. and put in the slide. I can just make it. he's a crook! Willie Garvin's a double-crossing crook!' 'It's certainly a breach of agreement calling for the severest reprimand.' She lifted her voice. and just let me know where you are. but Willie's going to be waitin g there for me or I'm much mistaken. You can draw on the general account. 'And I trust you won't fuss him. 'Classified as Very Rare in Malta. 'Four-fifteen.

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