Re: NEED TO KNOW - A collection of short stories.
It was dark when Bond arrived in Allsdorf. He had tailed the Mercedes at a safe distance for over three hours through the continuing rainstorm. Now, within the confines of this neat little town, he proceeded slowly, leaving a suitable distance between himself & the target vehicle so as to ensure he remain unseen, nosing his car through the confines of the now familiar narrow streets. His ear had become attuned to the pattern of tones emanating from the tracker & he noted that the Mercedes appeared to have stopped. Following the LED indicator & crossgraining a couple of streets with lights off, he finally turned left then brought the Fastback to a halt at the roadside. From the information being passed to him via the tracker he concluded the Mercedes had come to rest some three hundred yards or so to his front. It was still raining just as heavily as it had been for the past hours. The wind, ebbing & flowing, was driving the ice cold rain in sheets so as to obscure detail of all except that in close proximity. Looking out towards where the trackers LED arrow was pointing, he could see a cluster of lights beyond the perimeter of the built up area some distance away in the darkness & it was here he believed that the Mercedes had come to rest. Bond had left the engine & the windscreen wipers running & was staring hard out towards the lights but the driving wind & rain meant he still could not make out the scene in enough detail to identify it. All he could tell was that it was set against the the base of the mountain which towered over the whole scene. Bond thought it best to make the final approach on foot lest his car be spotted by Van Der Byl so, scanning the way ahead, he soon picked out the best avenue of approach. Stealth was now paramount. In contrast to the distant light show the road running out from the edge of the village towards it was dimly lit, with no street lamps. The occasional headlights of a passing car aside, the only ambient light was the overspill from windows & porch lanterns of the few houses running along it, this served to create pinpoints of light surrounded by areas of deep shadow which petered out approximately half way to his objective. Bond was satisfied he could bypass these & remain in the darkness all the way to his target. He climbed out of the car & pulled on his overcoat, took the tracker & placed it in his pocket. Moving quickly now & clinging to the verge while remaining on high alert, the tracker was telling him Van Der Byl was fairly close, perhaps within 150 yards. Unexpectedly, as he looked on, a blob of yellow light detached itself from the main area of illumination & began to climb slowly at a most precarious angle up the mountainside. Bond guessed what he was witnessing but, because of the rain lashing his face, he still could not confirm. Onward he pressed until the pattern of light transformed from the abstract into the obvious. As Bond had guessed here was the lower terminus of a funicular railway. The light he had seen was indeed the small single carriage beginning its climb. Still in the shadows Bond watched & waited. Soon the tracker began to indicate that the target was moving away from his location. Bond knew which way - upwards. Van Der Byl had taken the carriage up the mountain, but where was he heading? Bond broke cover & jogged the remaining fifty or so yards to the bottom of the line There, at the entrance to a graveled car park, he got his answer. A large display board announced that here was the car park & the railway which led up the side of the Der Alte Mann mountain to the Schloss Hotel. Bond looked upwards, he could see the second carriage on its descent. Briefly he turned his attention to the car park. The scene was quite well lit by some rather old fashioned looking street lamps, casting a yellow sodium tint across the area. There, tucked discreetly out of obvious view, was Van Der Byls Mercedes. Bond approached the platform, a simple stone structure, raised four feet or so from the car park floor & accessed by a short flight of steps. It had a small wooden shelter at one end & its perimeter was secured by a white painted picket fence. Bond waited in the open & watched the tram like carriage slow as it made its final approach, stopping just short of the buffer. He had expected it to be full however only the conductor was aboard. "Sorry Sir" He said as he opened the door & stepped off onto the platform "But you've missed the last train. The next run won't be until eight AM tomorrow." "Ah, I see" replied Bond. He looked on as the conductor locked the carriage door "Tell me, is there another hotel nearby?" "Yes sir" said the conductor. "just follow the road back into the village, take the first right Then straight on. Hotel Herschen is on the right, you can't miss it." "One more thing, is there a petrol station open at this time?" "No sir" said the man waving Bond down the steps before closing the gate. That won't be open until tomorrow morning either." "Thank you anyway & goodnight" Said Bond as he retreated back across the car park. The conductor was obviously too busy attending to his duties to notice Bond return to the shadows. He watched the conductor climb into a little Fiat &, after a couple of attempts, start the engine. Bond waited for the car to drive away before approaching the Mercedes. He felt for the bonnet catch, pulled it & raised the hood. The engine was still ticking as it cooled & using his Ronson for light, Bond found then removed the distributor cap. He felt for his handkerchief then immersed it in the nearest puddle before squeezing out the contents onto the rotor arm. He repeated this process a couple more times before replacing the cap & closing the bonnet. Now Van Der Byls car was immobilised & done so in such a fashion that it would be impossible to point to sabotage. If he knew about cars then he would in all likelihood be able to diagnose & fix the problem, if not - & Bond was hoping he wasn't mechanically minded - he would face a wait for a mechanic who would then tell him that water had gotten into the electrics. After all it had been raining hard all these hours so the possibility of this happening was entirely feasible. However the situation played out, Van Der Byl would be delayed, perhaps for a matter of hours. satisfied that he had done all he could for now, Bond turned to retrace his steps back to his own car.
The Hotel Herschen was rather small, faced with wood & constructed in the chalet style, unusually though with a gable end to each elevation. it was located in what appeared to be the main thoroughfare of Allsdorf, which itself was an ordered collection of elderly cream coloured typically alpinesque buildings, most with brightly shuttered windows, squatting beneath blue or brown tiled roofs overlooking the cobbled road.The whole street was brightly illuminated, as seen through his windscreen the rain gave the scene a vaguely impressionist watercolour feel to the scene. Despite the weather there were quite a few pedestrians out & about. Bond quickly surveyed the Herschen & counted four stories, the upper two balconied. He parked the Fastback nose in into one of the roadside bays in front of the hotel & retrieved his bags from the boot before stepping smartly up to & through the entrance. A cursory glance about the lobby told him what he already suspected. The hotel was obviously catering for the lower end of the tourist market. It was functional as opposed to luxurious, yet it would suit his purpose.
Bond followed the porter to his room, the grandly named 'Alpine Suite' on the forth floor. He had asked for a room with a view of the Der Alte Mann &, under the pretext of being a railway enthusiast, the funicular line. Pressing a particularly handsome tip into the porters outstretched hand, Bond asked if the hotel could loan him a pair of binoculars. Seeing his prize the porter eagerly replied "I can do better than that sir. I'll bring up a telescope. We keep it locked away for use by our more favoured guests. It's very powerful so you'll be able to see the railway in all its detail."Thank you," smiled Bond. "that's most kind. Also could you arrange to have my suit & shirt laundered & shoes polished? I shall need them first thing tomorrow morning though." "Certainly sir." Replied the porter, the prospect of more generous tips spurring him on. "Anything else sir?" "Yes" Said Bond "Bring me a menu. I''ll be dining in my room." After the porter had left Bond changed out of his wet clothes & into a hotel dressing gown. No sooner had he done so than the porter was back. Bond answered the tap at the door with a call to enter. The porter appeared carrying a large telescope on a wooden tripod. "Shall I set it up for you sir?" "No, thank you. I'll attend to it myself. That's all." Bond pointed to his clothes after the porter laid the menu on the small table by the french window. "Very good sir. If you need anything, anything at all, I shall be on duty until nine o'clock in the morning. Just call reception & ask for Dietmar." The power of a weeks tips delivered in one shot had indeed sharpened Dietmars senses. "I will. Thank you again. Oh & by the way, can I make direct calls from here?" "Indeed sir" Smiled Dietmar "just dial nine then your number. Would you like me to demonstrate?" "I'll manage" Replied Bond, "now if you don't mind...." "Yes sir. Goodnight sir."
Bond locked the door, picked up the menu then sat on the edge of the bed & picked up his Ronson & cigarette case from where he had left them on the pillow while he was undressing. Retrieving then lighting a Morland, he reached over to the bedside table & plucked the telephone receiver from its cradle. The number for Station CH had been committed to memory before his departure from the UK. It was now after eight PM, so he was expecting the call to be answered by the duty officer. Sure enough a young yet efficient sounding voice came on the line. Bond identified himself using the codeword 'Zulu Five Tango' & passed a situation report followed by a list of instructions down the line. After ringing off he studied the menu. Far from haute cuisine it was nonetheless appetising to the eye. Lifting the receiver once more Bond said "Good evening I'd like a meal brought to my room. My name? Mr Grey, the alpine suite. Could I have the Zürcher Eintopf. I should also like a whisky please. What do you have?............. Ah. I'll have the Macallan, a double, neat. Thank you." Bond was travelling with false papers which gave his identity as one Mr Stuart Grey & it was under this alias that he had signed into the hotel. Bond undressed & stepped into the shower, setting the flow as hot as he was able to tolerate he quickly washed himself before standing motionless for a few moments to allow the water to steam away the last vestiges of what had been an eventful day then flicked the taps to cold to assault his senses under a million ice like pinpricks. Bond had barely dried himself & changed into a royal blue sea island cotton shirt & navy slacks when the telephone Rang. It was the Deputy Head of Station CH. He asked Bond to confirm his requests then replied that they would be attended to in full. Lighting another cigarette Bond called reception. "Could I speak to Dietmar please? Thank You" He held the line momentarily before "Dietmar? this is Herr Grey. I am expecting some visitors early tomorrow. About six thirty AM. Could you see to it that they are shown to my room?.............. Yes I am aware that it is irregular however I trust that you will be able to arrange things?..................... Splendid. Also I should like an alarm call at five forty five.................... Thank you Dietmar." Bond looked at his watch, nine fifteen, his plan was to eat then retire to bed. He knew he had a very long day ahead of him & would need all the rest he could get. Bond took to the armchair in the corner of the room & had just stubbed out another Morland into the ashtray on top of the nearby coffee table when there was a knock at the door. He stood & crossed the room to unlock & open the door. The maid was young & rather pretty in a strangely plain sort of way, with big blue eyes & long blonde hair constrained into a braid which was wrapped, band fashion, around her head. "Your meal Herr Grey." She said softly as she steered the trolly into the room. "Shall I serve?" "Yes please" Replied Bond. The food was soon laid out before she retreated, Bond presented her with a tip & she curtsied in thanks. Locking the door Bond made his way to the table. The food, like the maid, looked plain yet appetising & he consumed it with relish. His hunger thoroughly quenched Bond returned to the armchair & lit another cigarette which he devoured with equal enthusiasm while attending to the whisky as he slowly dissected the days events. Van Der Byl was a professional, there was no doubt about that, though Bond could expect no less from a former member of the South African intelligence service BOSS, however he had made his first mistake & a huge one at that. By allowing himself to become contained in this fashion he had handed the initiative back to Bond, who now determined to take full advantage. Bond reasoned that the choice of venue was not Van Der Byls but his contacts so he would have both of them bottled up & ripe for the taking. He also reasoned that van Der Byl would not be overly concerned as he would have convinced himself he had shaken his tail. Unless he was possessed of serious climbing skills, there was only one way off the mountain for the South African & his associate so Bond intended to bolt the door so neither of them would escape......................
The brittle peal of the telephone woke Bond from his slumber. "This is your wake up call Mister Grey." "Thank you." said Bond hoarsely. Throwing back the covers He stepped out onto the carpet & padded barefoot to the bathroom. After attending to his ablutions Bond pulled on the dressing gown & took his first cigarette of the day. The strong coffee, & Swiss breakfast of cheese & bread he had ordered arrived shortly thereafter & he ate in silence, looking contemplatively out of the window at the Der Alte Mann. It appeared strangely foreboding in the muted colours of early morning, Bond shook away this foolish notion & turned to ponder the permutations of the day ahead. He then opened the french windows & set up the telescope on the balcony. It was quite cold, a breeze laden with autumn striking him with some force as soon as he stepped out. He took several deep breaths as he delighted in the sensation of mountain air against his body then found himself shivering as he peered through the viewfinder. He found his target easily. Adjusting the focus knob he zeroed in on the distant lower terminus. The funicular carriage was still there, tethered silently while awaiting another days work, more importantly, so was the Mercedes. Bond regarded the scene for a while before the soft tap at the door shook him from his thoughts. "Come in." He Said. Dieter entered carrying his freshly dry cleaned suit, shirt & polished shoes. "Good morning Mister Grey. The Gentlemen who you are expecting are here." Bond motioned for Dieter to lay the suit & shoes on the bed, as he straightened up &, closing the french windows behind him, took a few steps forward to greet his three visitors. "Thank You Dieter. Take this for your trouble." Bond handed the porter a small wad of notes. Dieters eyes sparkled as he realised just how much money he had been awarded. "No. thank you sir!" He beamed as he withdrew. "Just one more thing. could you arrange for some sandwiches & four bottles of beer to be sent up before seven thirty? Also I shall be leaving within the next hour or so, please arrange my bill." Dieter nodded enthusiastically before exiting the room. Bond waited a few seconds before opening the door to glance along the corridor. It was empty. "Hello gentlemen" he said extending his arm to shake each mans hand."Commander Bond?" Said the voice belonging to the big outstretched hand. Bond nodded as he took the hand in greeting & found its grasp surprisingly firm. "The name's Major Frost, deputy head of station. We spoke on the telephone." Frost was was not what he had been expecting, a short, plump man in his late forties with a mop of thinning yet unruly greying hair & the ruddy complexion more associated with a farmer than an administrator. It seemed to Bond more by luck than design that Frosts overly rotund figure somehow seemed to fit the crumpled blue suit. His decidedly unmilitary cut was somehow at odds with the Hussars regimental tie. "This is Sergeant Travers & Corporal Knox." Hello sir." each man said in turn, nodding acknowledgement as they shook Bonds hand. "Who are your men?" Bond asked the Major. "Are they station?" "No" said Frost. "They're Military Police from a special surveillance cadre of the SIB in Bielefeld. Because we're in effect a sub station, at least in terms of size, we don't have the manpower available when anything out of the ordinary crops up. We sometimes use the MPs for security duties & suchlike at the embassy as well as having them available for the occasional special task such as this. More often than not we have at least three men seconded. It's quite a handy little relationship actually. Obviously whilst working for Station they operate unofficially, however however they've grown used to our methods & I can assure you they are good at what they do." In stark contrast to the Major, both Travers & Knox looked the part. They were both tall, around Bonds height, obviously physically fit & tough looking. "Good." Said Bond after a pause, nodding his approval. "Now Major I take it you have brought my shopping list?" "I certainly have" Smiled Frost as he tapped the grey backpack which was slung over his shoulder. "Then let's see." Bond took the pack & placed it on the table, Unbuckling the flap he dug inside. "The clothes took some getting hold of at such short notice I can tell you. After all it's not easy finding a gents outfitters who are open in the middle of the night! I had to call in a favour from an ex pat friend of mine who owns an outdoor pursuits shop in Bern. He wasn't impressed when I asked him to open up for me!" "Well done anyway." Said Bond vaguely as he pulled the clothes out & laid them on the table. As requested here was a stout pair of hiking boots, a pair of heavy brown corduroy trousers, a T shirt, a thick grey woolen turtleneck sweater, a green canvas headover anorak complete with a hood & large chest map pocket, a pair of thick grey hiking socks & a green felt alpine hat. Next out was a pager, a simple device, roughly the size of a pack of cigarettes which would give off a bleep if initiated by a telephone call. the British driving licence in the name of John Smith came next followed by a small contraption which looked at first glance like a Swiss army knife, indeed it did contain a blade but the rest of the fold out attachments were in fact master keys, each cut in such a way as to act in the same fashion as a hotel passkey. At least one of the ten profiles would be sure to fit the locks used commonly used in hotels giving the user the ability to open any hotel room anywhere in the world. Bond next took out the torch, it was chrome plated & the two D cell batteries made it quite heavy, aside from providing light this innocuous looking gadget held a small yet deadly secret, the bezel had been especially strengthened with stainless steel & weighted in such a fashion as to create a very effective cosh, one wholly capable of fracturing a skull if used with the required venom. "Where's the gun?" Bond asked with a hint of impatience. "I have it here." said Frost. "I thought it best to keep it about my person. We don't have much call for firearms at the Bern Station. The only silenced one I could get my hands on at short notice was this" Frost rather clumsily pulled an 1895 Nagant revolver from his trouser band & handed it to Bond "Well well well!" Bond smiled mirthlessly as he weighed the revolver in his hand "Where on earth did you find this?" "It's been laying in the office safe for an age" Replied the Major. "It was 'bequeathed' to us don't you know, one careless owner & all that." Frost then handed the silencer & seventeen rounds of 7.62mm ammunition. "Those are all we have" He said before Bond had a chance to question him. "I believe the chap had call to use the thing before he was, ahem, relieved of it" It was Bonds experience that most silenced pistols weren't actually silenced at all. It was more a case of disguising the report of the gun to some extent so it couldn't be recognised as gunfire as opposed to silencing in the true sense of the word. Silencing a revolver was nothing less than an exercise in futility, however the Nagant was a wholly different beast. Due to its special design & ammunition when employed with a good silencer all that could be heard was little more than the drop of the hammer. He placed it carefully onto the table as if he were handling a piece of priceless china then strode across to the bed to retrieve the airweight from beneath his pillow. He made it safe by opening the cylinder & dumping the rounds onto the bed cover. "I take it you know how to handle one of these Sergeant?" Bond said, offering the revolver to Travers. "Not that model but yes sir." came the reply. "Then here. But use it only as a last resort mind. The safety's in the grip. You can't male chicken it, just squeeze the trigger. Familiarise yourself with it then reload it. You'll be able to carry it safely in your pocket or waistband. You'll notice it carries no identifying marks. If in the unlikely event you have to use it, dispose of it afterwards, somewhere it can't be recovered, a lake or river perhaps. Whatever you do don't hang onto it, then get back to Station as soon as possible." Bond turned to Frost & speaking in German said. "Major, you are to take the Volkswagen & return to Bern but before you do I may have one last task for you. Tell me, how well do you speak German?" "Fluently." Replied Frost. "Any accent?" "No." "Could you pass for Swiss German over the telephone?" "I believe so, yes." "Good, then here's what I want you to do." After Bond had finished his explanation he handed the telephone receiver to Frost. "Are you sure it will work?" Frost said with more than a hint of uncertainty in his voice. "It's simple psychology," Replied Bond. "taking people at face value plus the inherent need of the Swiss to comply with authority. Anyway there's only one way to find out so let's try shall we? Remember, be officious." Bond dialled the number he had taken from the notice board in the car park the evening before which would connect them directly with the Schloss Hotel "Hello" Began the Major. "This is Kriminalispecktor Gessel of the Bundesamt für Polize. May I speak to the manager please?" There was a long pause. "Good Morning. Yes, Kriminalispecktor Gessel here. I wonder if you could help me? I have reason to believe you have a guest staying with you by the name of Van Der Byl? Yes........... That's right,................. christian name Anton. Could you tell me how long he has checked in for?................ Two nights? Good. Also in which room is he staying? Good. Thank you................There is no need to worry, however the canton police may arrive to talk to you in more detail you at some stage......... Yes......... Until then you must not speak about this to anyone. Again I must stress that there is no need for you to worry, this is purely a routine police matter............ If I require any further information I will contact you by telephone again. In the meantime I thank you for your cooperation. Goodbye." Frost handed the receiver back to Bond who replaced it on the cradle. "He took the bait then?" He said, already knowing the answer. Frost nodded. "As you heard, Van Der Byl has checked in for two days. He is staying in room 48. Quite a good wrinkle that." Smiled a visibly relieved Frost. Bond turned to the MPs & continued in English "Sergeant, you & the Corporal will take me to the railway where I will catch the first train of the day up to the Schloss Hotel. You will then remain in the car park, tuck yourselves out of sight as much as you are able & keep watch on those trains arriving from the hotel. Just because he has checked in for a couple of nights doesn't necessarily mean he will stay that long. Major, I take it you had a telephoto of the target subject wired from London?" Frost nodded taking the photograph from his jacket pocket. He handed it to Bond who glanced at it before passing it to the Sergeant. "This is the man you are keeping watch for. He's about six foot four & of stocky built. He's driving a black Mercedes, I'll point it out to you once we reach the car park. Stay on duty until after the last train of the day has come in, then head off & find another hotel. Be sure to be back at the car park the following day before 0800. If for any reason Van Der Byl appears you are to arrest him, best do it at gunpoint as I expect otherwise he would wish to make a fight of it. Remember, the area will probably be crowded so exercise extreme discretion, we don't want any passersby to become embroiled, indeed we don't want any witnesses to the event. Let him get into his car, it won't start as I've put water into the distributor, he'll be unable to resist you as effectively as if he were on his feet. Show him the pistol & explain that you are under orders to kill him if he resists or attempts to escape & make sure you sound like you mean it but for gods sake don't use the gun unless you feel your lives are in danger. You will then contact me via the bleeper from the telephone kiosk at the entrance to the car park. If it is activated I will take it that Van Der Byl has been intercepted. If possible I will call the payphone to find out what has happened, though if you need to get out of the area quickly don't wait for me or my call. Is all that clear?" "Yes sir." Both men said in unison. "Alright then, any questions?" There weren't. Bond plucked the telephone handset & dialled the Schloss Hotel once more. "Hello Schloss Hotel? I should like to make a reservation please.............. Today...................A double room......................One night..................Yes that's right..................My name? Mister John Smith........................Thank You. Good bye."
"I suggest you get a little rest gentlemen. I'm going to change. We begin in forty minutes."
Bond retired to the bathroom taking the backpack with him. Slowly he dressed, transforming himself into just another tourist out on a trekking expedition. He was confident he wouldn't look out of place riding the railway to the Schloss Hotel or making his way around once there. This disguise was far more complete than his last so, hopefully, in the event he was spotted by Van Der Byl he would go unrecognised. He had the Nagant & carefully inspected it making sure it was empty, unscrewing the thread protector from the end of the barrel & fitting the silencer. Once satisfied all was correct Bond removed the silencer & placed it in the bottom of the pack then refitted the protector. He worked the action, dry firing the weapon a couple of times, as he expected the trigger pull was very heavy. Opening the loading gate, he slid the cartridges into the cylinder. The Nagant had many unusual features & one of them was its ammunition capacity. Instead of the usual six rounds held by most revolvers, the Nagant took seven. To the casual observer the ammunition looked like spent cartridge cases but what helped to make it so effective when used in conjunction with a silencer was the fact that the projectiles were set within the case & worked in conjunction with the gas seal system. all in all the Nagant was an unsatisfactory weapon to be employed in a gunfight situation yet, unless he had picked a pistol up from his contact, Bond was sure Van Der Byl wasn't armed. He definitely hadn't taken a firearm from the UK, however he couldn't afford to be complacent. As for his contact - or contacts - he had to assume the worst. As far as he, Bond, was concerned he only had what ammunition was loaded into his pistol, he could not afford to expend it then be forced to reload as reloading was a slow & awkward process with the Nagant & not to be attempted whilst under fire. He would have to ensure that he took both Van Der Byl & whomever he was meeting by surprise. The contact was to be killed, those were his orders. As for Van Der Byl, there was little prospect of Bond being able to effect an arrest of sorts & take him down the mountain without the big South African resisting. Should he do so then he would not only endanger himself & any onlookers but compromise the mission. The last thing needed in a situation such as this would be for anyone to witness anything which could lead back to Bond or indeed SIS. In that second, Bond concluded that Van Der Byls fate was also sealed. It would be nothing short of a cold blooded double murder. He contemplated what he was about to do for a brief moment, weighing the pistol in his hand & stared himself square in the eye through the bathroom mirror. The prospect of gunning down two men in this fashion unsettled him & no amount of logic could ease the slightly sick feeling which gripped him at the pit of his stomach.
By the time Bond emerged from the bathroom the sandwiches & beers had arrived. "Eat something now if you like." Said Bond as he packed away his belongings into his weekend bag. "You two men take the rest of the sandwiches & the beer with you in the car. They should keep you going for the rest of the day" The MPs nodded. "Major" He continued "take my bag, I'll collect it from Station or have it sent for. You'd best go now. Drive straight back to Bern." Bond handed the car keys to Frost "Good Luck Commander." He said, his expression deadpan. "Thank you. Good bye." Frost turned on his heel & scooping up Bonds bag, left the room. Bond turned to the two MPs. "Alright gentlemen, gather your things. Corporal, you'll leave the hotel first, then you Sergeant. Wait in the car for me & I shall join you presently. What vehicle are you driving?" "A white Opel Rekord sir," Said Travers. "It's parked on the street a couple of doors down." "Good," Bond nodded "very well Corporal, you head off now." Knox left the room. "Remember what I said about using the gun Sergeant." " I will sir." Travers replied "What happens if you get into trouble up there?" "Then that's my problem, you & Knox are here unofficially so so cannot afford to become embroiled in anything beyond what I have already instructed. If things do go wrong, even if you suspect it, the police turning up to take the train up the mountain for example, you are to leave the scene & head back to Station. Don't hesitate, just get out of there immediately." A few minutes later Bond ordered Travers to leave. When he was on his own Bond carefully swept the room to ensure nothing which could link him or any of the others to the scene had been left behind. When he had satisfied himself all was in order, he shouldered the backpack, lit a cigarette & withdrew.
The Mercedes was still parked in the same spot where Bond had last seen it. From the back seat Bond pointed to the telephone kiosk on the edge of the car park. "Park near enough to that so you are able to hear it should it ring. I'm going to take the number &, should anything untoward happen, I will endeavour to make contact. In all likelihood this may not possible though. I will also call after I check in to give you my room number so stand by for that. You then may be able to speak to me should you need to. Don't leave any messages or such though. To initiate the pager, use the call box to ring this number." Bond recited a seven digit code to them & asked them to repeat. "I suggest one of you move to the back seat, it will look less obvious, the one in the back can rest so rotate at intervals." By this time a few vehicles had entered the car park, their occupants alighting & heading towards the platform. "Right, I'm off." Said Bond as he opened the door. "Good luck sir." Said Travers.
Bond counted nine other passengers. They would provide useful cover as they were sure to make their way to the hotel reception in some semblance of a group, a group in which Bond could hide. He busied himself reading the small information board at the rear of the platform which gave details of the railway. According to what he read this was an uncommonly steep example of the type & it would take approximately ten minutes to ascend the 2,500 meters to the hotel. Readers were advised to be on the lookout for certain landmarks during the journey which could be seen if the weather was kind enough to allow it. Today it looked as if the gods were smiling as gone was the foul weather of the previous twenty four hours to be replaced by glorious sunshine. However sightseeing was the last thing on Bonds mind. In order that the guard didn't recognise him as the man he had spoken to yesterday, Bond had pulled down his hat so that the narrow brim served to obscure this eyes somewhat. He also rounded his shoulders & bent slightly at the knees in an effort to alter his gait & overall physical appearance. At 7.50 the conductor appeared, parking his Fiat close to the platform steps. Bond watched as he unlocked the carriage & stepped inside to prepare himself & it for the first trip of the day. Soon afterwards he invited the passengers to board & they did so eagerly passing their few Rappens fare to him & receiving a ticket in exchange. The carriage was soon filled with exited chatter in at least three different tongues as the conductor consulted his pocket watch. Regarding the sweep hand intently he pressed the button thrice which signalled to his colleagues at the upper terminus that he was ready to begin the journey. The carriage jolted away from its moorings causing a yelp of surprise from some of the passengers. Bond glanced at his watch, exactly 8AM. The talk continued as those aboard pointed out various views to each other. Bond was staring out of the window & to the casual onlooker could have been joining in the sightseeing, but in actual fact his mind was far away, focused intensely on what was to come..............................
TO BE CONTINUED...................................