فصل 11

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فصل 11

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CHAPTER ELEVEN

After long hours of unconsciousness. Tommy woke up with an aching head. Slowly he became aware of other things - of cold, stiff arms and legs, of hunger, of not being able to move his lips. And that his head was resting on solid stone. Yes, he was lying on hard stones, and he was in pain, unable to move, extremely hungry, cold and uncomfortable. Surely, although Mrs Perenna’s beds had never been soft, this could not be… Then he remembered. Of course - Haydock! The transmitter! The German waiter! Turning in at the gates of Sans Souci… Someone had struck him down. So Haydock hadn’t been quite such a fool! Either he’d followed him or maybe Appledore had.

His eyes, accustomed to the darkness, could just see a small rectangle of pale light. A tiny window, slightly open. It was cold and the air smelt damp. He was, he thought, lying in a cellar. His hands and feet were tied and there was a gag in his mouth secured by a bandage.

‘I’m really in trouble now,’ thought Tommy.

At that moment a door was pushed open. Appledore came in and set a candle on the ground and a tray on which was a jug of water, a glass, and some bread and cheese. He said in a quiet voice, ‘I am about to take the gag off. You will then be able to eat and drink. If, however, you make the slightest sound, I will replace it immediately.’

As soon as Tommy’s mouth was free, Appledore held the glass to his lips. The water did him the world of good.

He murmured stiffly, ‘That’s better. I’m not quite so young as I was. Now for the food, Fritz - or is it Franz?’

The man said quietly, ‘My name here is Appledore.’ He held the slice of bread and cheese up and Tommy ate it hungrily.

After another drink of water, Tommy asked, ‘And what’s the next part of the programme?’

For an answer, Appledore replaced the gag and went out. Tommy was left in darkness. Sometime later he was awakened from a confused sleep by the sound of the door opening. This time Haydock and Appledore came in together. The gag was removed and the ropes that held his arms were loosened so that he could sit up and stretch his arms.

Haydock had a pistol with him. Tommy, without much inner confidence, began to play his part. He said indignantly, ‘Look here, Haydock, what’s the meaning of all this? I’ve been attacked - kidnapped!’

The Commander was shaking his head. He remarked coldly, ‘Don’t waste your breath. You play your role very well, but it’s of no importance to me whether you’re a member of the British Intelligence, or merely a clever amateur…’

‘How dare you…’

‘That’s enough, Meadowes.’

‘I tell you…’

Haydock thrust his angry face forwards. ‘Be quiet, damn you. Earlier on it would have mattered to find out who you were and who sent you. Now it doesn’t. The time’s short, you see. And you didn’t have the chance to report to anyone what you’d found out.’

‘The police will be looking for me as soon as I’m reported missing.’

Haydock showed his teeth in a sudden smile. ‘I’ve had the police here. Good men - both friends of mine. They were very concerned about your disappearance, but it’s quite clear that you left this house well and alive. They would never dream of looking for you here.’

‘You can’t keep me here forever,’ Tommy said.

Haydock said, putting on his most British manner, ‘It won’t be necessary, my dear fellow. Only until tomorrow night. A boat will arrive at my little cove - and we’re sending you on a voyage for your health - though I don’t think you’ll be alive, or even on board, when it arrives at its destination.’

‘Why didn’t you kill me straight away?’

‘It’s such hot weather, my dear fellow. Just occasionally our sea communications are interrupted, and if that were to happen - well, in this heat, if there was a delay, a dead body would soon become very obvious.’

‘I see,’ said Tommy.

He did see. He was to be kept alive until the boat arrived. Then he would be killed and his dead body taken out to sea. Nothing would ever connect his body, when found, with Smugglers’ Rest.

‘I just came along,’ continued Haydock, ‘to ask whether there is anything we could do for you - afterwards?’

Tommy reflected. Then he said, ‘Thanks - but I won’t ask you to take a lock of my hair to my wife or anything of that kind. She’ll only miss me when I stop paying the bills - but I dare say she’ll soon find a friend elsewhere.’

He felt he must create the impression that he was operating alone. If no one became suspicious of Tuppence, then the game might still be won.

‘As you please,’ said Haydock. ‘If you did wish to send a message to - your friend - we would see that it was delivered.’ So he was anxious to get a little information. Tommy shook his head.

‘Nothing. No message.’

‘Very well.’ Haydock nodded to Appledore. The latter replaced the ropes and the gag. The two men went out, locking the door behind them.

Tommy felt anything but cheerful. He faced a rapidly approaching death with no means of leaving any clue behind him about the information he had discovered. His body was completely helpless. His brain felt completely inactive.

There was, of course, still Tuppence. But whoever Tuppence might suspect, it would not be Haydock - two witnesses had proved that Tommy had left Smugglers’ Rest alive and well. Damn it all, if only he had been more on his guard…

If only he could get his mouth free, he could shout for help! Somebody might hear through that tiny window high up in one corner of the room, though it was very unlikely.

For the next half-hour he tried to loosen the ropes that they had tied him up with, and bite through the gag. It was all hopeless, however. Haydock and Appledore knew their business.

It was, he judged, late afternoon. Haydock, he guessed, had gone out; he had heard no sounds from overhead. He was probably playing golf, discussing with his friends at the clubhouse the mystery of what had happened to Meadowes!

‘He dined with me that night and seemed quite normal. Then he just disappeared into the blue.’

Tommy groaned with fury. That cheerful English manner! It was wonderful what a first-class actor could convince people of. So here he was, a complete failure, tied up like a chicken.

What was that?

He strained his ears listening to a far-off sound. Only some man singing a song. And here he was, unable to make a sound to attract anyone’s attention. The singing came nearer. A most untuneful noise. But the song was recognisable. It dated from the last war - and had been revived for this one.

‘If you were the only girl in the world and I was the only boy.’

How often he had sung that in 1917 - but this fellow simply couldn’t sing in tune! Suddenly Tommy’s body grew tense. Surely there was only one person who always went wrong in that particular way!

‘Albert!’ thought Tommy.

Albert, prowling round Smugglers’ Rest. And here he was, unable to move hand or foot, unable to make a sound… Wait a minute. Was he? There was just one sound - not so easy with the mouth shut as with the mouth open, but it could be done.

Desperately Tommy began to snore. He snored and snored - short snore, short snore, short snore - pause - long snore, long snore, long snore - pause - short snore, short snore, short snore…

Tommy was snoring the Morse Code.

‘Dot, dot, dot, dash, dash, dash, dot, dot, dot.’

SOS - the international signal that someone heeded help.

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