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Passenger to Frankfurt Agatha Christie A middle-aged diplomat is accosted in an airport lounge and his identity stolen…Sir Stafford Nye’s journey home from Malaya to London takes an unexpected twist in the passnger loungs at Frankfurt – a young woman confides in him that someone is trying to kill her.Yet their paths are to cross again and again – and each time the mystery woman is introduced as a different person. Equally at home in any guise in any society she draws Sir Stafford into a game of political intrigue more dangerous than he could possibly imagine.In an arena where no-one can be sure of anyone, Nye must do battle with a well-armed, well-financed, well-trained – and invisble – enemy… Copyright (#udc706b63-8e95-5be4-9273-085032bb1de9) Published by HarperCollinsPublishers Ltd 1 London Bridge Street London SE1 9GF www.harpercollins.co.uk (http://www.harpercollins.co.uk) First published in Great Britain by Collins, The Crime Club 1970 Passenger to Frankfurt™ is a trade mark of Agatha Christie Limited and Agatha Christie and the Agatha Christie Signature are registered trade marks of Agatha Christie Limited in the UK and elsewhere. Copyright © 1970 Agatha Christie Limited. All rights reserved. www.agathachristie.com (http://www.agathachristie.com) Cover by designedbydavid.co.uk (http://designedbydavid.co.uk) © HarperCollins/Agatha Christie Ltd 2017 Agatha Christie asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work. A catalogue copy of this book is available from the British Library. This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. By payment of the required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this e-book on screen. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, down-loaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented, without the express written permission of HarperCollins. Source ISBN: 9780008196400 Ebook Edition © March 2017 ISBN: 9780007422685 Version: 2017-04-12 Dedication (#udc706b63-8e95-5be4-9273-085032bb1de9) To Margaret Guillaume Epigraph (#udc706b63-8e95-5be4-9273-085032bb1de9) ‘Leadership, besides being a great creative force, can be diabolical …’ Jan Smuts Contents Cover (#uf994edd7-8a51-59f5-a51e-61243cb09a53) Title Page (#ucd107689-75e3-5561-a20a-95c634b69f19) Copyright Dedication Epigraph Introduction BOOK I: Interrupted Journey 1. Passenger to Frankfurt 2. London 3. The Man from the Cleaners 4. Dinner with Eric 5. Wagnerian Motif 6. Portrait of a Lady 7. Advice from Great-Aunt Matilda 8. An Embassy Dinner 9. The House near Godalming BOOK II: Journey to Siegfried 10. The Woman in the Schloss 11. The Young and the Lovely 12. Court Jester BOOK III: At Home and Abroad 13. Conference in Paris 14. Conference in London 15. Aunt Matilda Takes a Cure 16. Pikeaway Talks 17. Herr Heinrich Spiess 18. Pikeaway’s Postscript 19. Sir Stafford Nye has Visitors 20. The Admiral Visits an Old Friend 21. Project Benvo 22. Juanita 23. Journey to Scotland Epilogue Also by Agatha Christie About the Publisher Introduction (#udc706b63-8e95-5be4-9273-085032bb1de9) The Author speaks: The first question put to an author, personally, or through the post, is: ‘Where do you get your ideas from?’ The temptation is great to reply: ‘I always go to Harrods,’ or ‘I get them mostly at the Army & Navy Stores,’ or, snappily, ‘Try Marks and Spencer.’ The universal opinion seems firmly established that there is a magic source of ideas which authors have discovered how to tap. One can hardly send one’s questioners back to Elizabethan times, with Shakespeare’s: Tell me, where is fancy bred, Or in the heart or in the head? How begot, how nourished? Reply, reply. You merely say firmly: ‘My own head.’ That, of course, is no help to anybody. If you like the look of your questioner you relent and go a little further. ‘If one idea in particular seems attractive, and you feel you could do something with it, then you toss it around, play tricks with it, work it up, tone it down, and gradually get it into shape. Then, of course, you have to start writing it. That’s not nearly such fun—it becomes hard work. Alternatively, you can tuck it carefully away, in storage, for perhaps using in a year or two years’ time.’ A second question—or rather a statement—is then likely to be: ‘I suppose you take most of your characters from real life?’ An indignant denial to that monstrous suggestion. ‘No, I don’t. I invent them. They are mine. They’ve got to be my characters—doing what I want them to do, being what I want them to be—coming alive for me, having their own ideas sometimes, but only because I’ve made them become real.’ So the author has produced the ideas, and the characters—but now comes the third necessity—the setting. The first two come from inside sources, but the third is outside—it must be there—waiting—in existence already. You don’t invent that—it’s there—it’s real. You have been perhaps for a cruise on the Nile—you remember it all—just the setting you want for this particular story. You have had a meal at a Chelsea café. A quarrel was going on—one girl pulled out a handful of another girl’s hair. An excellent start for the book you are going to write next. You travel on the Orient Express. What fun to make it the scene for a plot you are considering. You go to tea with a friend. As you arrive her brother closes a book he is reading—throws it aside, says: ‘Not bad, but why on earth didn’t they ask Evans?’ So you decide immediately a book of yours shortly to be written will bear the title, Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? You don’t know yet who Evans is going to be. Never mind. Evans will come in due course—the title is fixed. So, in a sense, you don’t invent your settings. They are outside you, all around you, in existence—you have only to stretch out your hand and pick and choose. A railway train, a hospital, a London hotel, a Caribbean beach, a country village, a cocktail party, a girls’ school. But one thing only applies—they must be there—in existence. Real people, real places. A definite place in time and space. If here and now—how shall you get full information—apart from the evidence of your own eyes and ears? The answer is frighteningly simple. It is what the Press brings to you every day, served up in your morning paper under the general heading of News. Collect it from the front page. What is going on in the world today? What is everyone saying, thinking, doing? Hold up a mirror to 1970 in England. Look at that front page every day for a month, make notes, consider and classify. Every day there is a killing. A girl strangled. Elderly woman attacked and robbed of her meagre savings. Young men or boys—attacking or attacked. Buildings and telephone kiosks smashed and gutted. Drug smuggling. Robbery and assault. Children missing and children’s murdered bodies found not far from their homes. Can this be England? Is England really like this? One feels—no—not yet, but it could be. Fear is awakening—fear of what may be. Not so much because of actual happenings but because of the possible causes behind them. Some known, some unknown, but felt. And not only in our own country. There are smaller paragraphs on other pages—giving news from Europe—from Asia—from the Americas—Worldwide News. Hi-jacking of planes. Kidnapping. Violence. Riots. Hate. Anarchy—all growing stronger. All seeming to lead to worship of destruction, pleasure in cruelty. What does it all mean? An Elizabethan phrase echoes from the past, speaking of Life: … it is a tale Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, Signifying nothing. And yet one knows—of one’s own knowledge—how much goodness there is in this world of ours—the kindnesses done, the goodness of heart, the acts of compassion, the kindness of neighbour to neighbour, the helpful actions of girls and boys. Then why this fantastic atmosphere of daily news—of things that happen—that are actual facts? To write a story in this year of Our Lord 1970—you must come to terms with your background. If the background is fantastic, then the story must accept its background. It, too, must be a fantasy—an extravaganza. The setting must include the fantastic facts of daily life. Can one envisage a fantastic cause? A secret Campaign for Power? Can a maniacal desire for destruction create a new world? Can one go a step further and suggest deliverance by fantastic and impossible-sounding means? Nothing is impossible, science has taught us that. This story is in essence a fantasy. It pretends to be nothing more. But most of the things that happen in it are happening, or giving promise of happening in the world of today. It is not an impossible story—it is only a fantastic one. BOOK I (#udc706b63-8e95-5be4-9273-085032bb1de9) CHAPTER 1 (#udc706b63-8e95-5be4-9273-085032bb1de9) Passenger to Frankfurt (#udc706b63-8e95-5be4-9273-085032bb1de9) ‘Fasten your seat-belts, please.’ The diverse passengers in the plane were slow to obey. There was a general feeling that they couldn’t possibly be arriving at Geneva yet. The drowsy groaned and yawned. The more than drowsy had to be gently roused by an authoritative stewardess. ‘Your seat-belts, please.’ The dry voice came authoritatively over the Tannoy. It explained in German, in French, and in English that a short period of rough weather would shortly be experienced. Sir Stafford Nye opened his mouth to its full extent, yawned and pulled himself upright in his seat. He had been dreaming very happily of fishing an English river. He was a man of forty-five, of medium height, with a smooth, olive, clean-shaven face. In dress he rather liked to affect the bizarre. A man of excellent family, he felt fully at ease indulging any such sartorial whims. If it made the more conventionally dressed of his colleagues wince occasionally, that was merely a source of malicious pleasure to him. There was something about him of the eighteenth-century buck. He liked to be noticed. His particular kind of affectation when travelling was a kind of bandit’s cloak which he had once purchased in Corsica. It was of a very dark purply-blue, had a scarlet lining and had a kind of burnous hanging down behind which he could draw up over his head when he wished to, so as to obviate draughts. Sir Stafford Nye had been a disappointment in diplomatic circles. Marked out in early youth by his gifts for great things, he had singularly failed to fulfil his early promise. A peculiar and diabolical sense of humour was wont to afflict him in what should have been his most serious moments. When it came to the point, he found that he always preferred to indulge his delicate Puckish malice to boring himself. He was a well-known figure in public life without ever having reached eminence. It was felt that Stafford Nye, though definitely brilliant, was not—and presumably never would be—a safe man. In these days of tangled politics and tangled foreign relations, safety, especially if one were to reach ambassadorial rank, was preferable to brilliance. Sir Stafford Nye was relegated to the shelf, though he was occasionally entrusted with such missions as needed the art of intrigue, but were not of too important or public a nature. Journalists sometimes referred to him as the dark horse of diplomacy. Whether Sir Stafford himself was disappointed with his own career, nobody ever knew. Probably not even Sir Stafford himself. He was a man of a certain vanity, but he was also a man who very much enjoyed indulging his own proclivities for mischief. He was returning now from a commission of inquiry in Malaya. He had found it singularly lacking in interest. His colleagues had, in his opinion, made up their minds beforehand what their findings were going to be. They saw and they listened, but their preconceived views were not affected. Sir Stafford had thrown a few spanners into the works, more for the hell of it than from any pronounced convictions. At all events, he thought, it had livened things up. He wished there were more possibilities of doing that sort of thing. His fellow members of the commission had been sound, dependable fellows, and remarkably dull. Even the well-known Mrs Nathaniel Edge, the only woman member, well known as having bees in her bonnet, was no fool when it came down to plain facts. She saw, she listened and she played safe. He had met her before on the occasion of a problem to be solved in one of the Balkan capitals. It was there that Sir Stafford Nye had not been able to refrain from embarking on a few interesting suggestions. In that scandal-loving periodical Inside News it was insinuated that Sir Stafford Nye’s presence in that Balkan capital was intimately connected with Balkan problems, and that his mission was a secret one of the greatest delicacy. A kind of friend had sent Sir Stafford a copy of this with the relevant passage marked. Sir Stafford was not taken aback. He read it with a delighted grin. It amused him very much to reflect how ludicrously far from the truth the journalists were on this occasion. His presence in Sofiagrad had been due entirely to a blameless interest in the rarer wild flowers and to the urgencies of an elderly friend of his, Lady Lucy Cleghorn, who was indefatigable in her quest for these shy floral rarities, and who at any moment would scale a rock cliff or leap joyously into a bog at the sight of some flowerlet, the length of whose Latin name was in inverse proportion to its size. A small band of enthusiasts had been pursuing this botanical search on the slopes of mountains for about ten days when it occurred to Sir Stafford that it was a pity the paragraph was not true. He was a little—just a little—tired of wild flowers and, fond as he was of dear Lucy, her ability despite her sixty-odd years to race up hills at top speed, easily outpacing him, sometimes annoyed him. Always just in front of him he saw the seat of those bright royal blue trousers and Lucy, though scraggy enough elsewhere, goodness knows, was decidedly too broad in the beam to wear royal blue corduroy trousers. A nice little international pie, he had thought, in which to dip his fingers, in which to play about … In the aeroplane the metallic Tannoy voice spoke again. It told the passengers that owing to heavy fog at Geneva, the plane would be diverted to Frankfurt airport and proceed from there to London. Passengers to Geneva would be re-routed from Frankfurt as soon as possible. It made no difference to Sir Stafford Nye. If there was fog in London, he supposed they would re-route the plane to Prestwick. He hoped that would not happen. He had been to Prestwick once or twice too often. Life, he thought, and journeys by air, were really excessively boring. If only—he didn’t know—if only—what? It was warm in the Transit Passenger Lounge at Frankfurt, so Sir Stafford Nye slipped back his cloak, allowing its crimson lining to drape itself spectacularly round his shoulders. He was drinking a glass of beer and listening with half an ear to the various announcements as they were made. ‘Flight 4387. Flying to Moscow. Flight 2381 bound for Egypt and Calcutta.’ Journeys all over the globe. How romantic it ought to be. But there was something about the atmosphere of a Passengers’ Lounge in an airport that chilled romance. It was too full of people, too full of things to buy, too full of similarly coloured seats, too full of plastic, too full of human beings, too full of crying children. He tried to remember who had said: I wish I loved the Human Race; I wish I loved its silly face. Chesterton perhaps? It was undoubtedly true. Put enough people together and they looked so painfully alike that one could hardly bear it. An interesting face now, thought Sir Stafford. What a difference it would make. He looked disparagingly at two young women, splendidly made up, dressed in the national uniform of their country—England he presumed—of shorter and shorter miniskirts, and another young woman, even better made up—in fact quite good-looking—who was wearing what he believed to be called a culotte suit. She had gone a little further along the road of fashion. He wasn’t very interested in nice-looking girls who looked like all the other nice-looking girls. He would like someone to be different. Someone sat down beside him on the plastic-covered artificial leather settee on which he was sitting. Her face attracted his attention at once. Not precisely because it was different, in fact he almost seemed to recognize it as a face he knew. Here was someone he had seen before. He couldn’t remember where or when but it was certainly familiar. Twenty-five or six, he thought, possibly, as to age. A delicate high-bridged aquiline nose, a black heavy bush of hair reaching to her shoulders. She had a magazine in front of her but she was not paying attention to it. She was, in fact, looking with something that was almost eagerness at him. Quite suddenly she spoke. It was a deep contralto voice, almost as deep as a man’s. It had a very faint foreign accent. She said, ‘Can I speak to you?’ He studied her for a moment before replying. No—not what one might have thought—this wasn’t a pick-up. This was something else. ‘I see no reason,’ he said, ‘why you should not do so. We have time to waste here, it seems.’ ‘Fog,’ said the woman, ‘fog in Geneva, fog in London, perhaps. Fog everywhere. I don’t know what to do.’ ‘Oh, you mustn’t worry,’ he said reassuringly, ‘they’ll land you somewhere all right. They’re quite efficient, you know. Where are you going?’ ‘I was going to Geneva.’ ‘Well, I expect you’ll get there in the end.’ ‘I have to get there now. If I can get to Geneva, it will be all right. There is someone who will meet me there. I can be safe.’ ‘Safe?’ He smiled a little. She said, ‘Safe is a four-letter word but not the kind of four-letter word that people are interested in nowadays. And yet it can mean a lot. It means a lot to me.’ Then she said, ‘You see, if I can’t get to Geneva, if I have to leave this plane here, or go on in this plane to London with no arrangements made, I shall be killed.’ She looked at him sharply. ‘I suppose you don’t believe that.’ ‘I’m afraid I don’t.’ ‘It’s quite true. People can be. They are, every day.’ ‘Who wants to kill you?’ ‘Does it matter?’ ‘Not to me.’ ‘You can believe me if you wish to believe me. I am speaking the truth. I want help. Help to get to London safely.’ ‘And why should you select me to help you?’ ‘Because I think that you know something about death. You have known of death, perhaps seen death happen.’ He looked sharply at her and then away again. ‘Any other reason?’ he said. ‘Yes. This.’ She stretched out her narrow olive-skinned hand and touched the folds of the voluminous cloak. ‘This,’ she said. For the first time his interest was aroused. ‘Now what do you mean by that?’ ‘It’s unusual—characteristic. It’s not what everyone wears.’ ‘True enough. It’s one of my affectations, shall we say?’ ‘It’s an affectation that could be useful to me.’ ‘What do you mean?’ ‘I am asking you something. Probably you will refuse but you might not refuse because I think you are a man who is ready to take risks. Just as I am a woman who takes risks.’ ‘I’ll listen to your project,’ he said, with a faint smile. ‘I want your cloak to wear. I want your passport. I want your boarding ticket for the plane. Presently, in twenty minutes or so, say, the flight for London will be called. I shall have your passport, I shall wear your cloak. And so I shall travel to London and arrive safely.’ ‘You mean you’ll pass yourself off as me? My dear girl.’ She opened a handbag. From it she took a small square mirror. ‘Look there,’ she said. ‘Look at me and then look at your own face.’ He saw then, saw what had been vaguely nagging at his mind. His sister, Pamela, who had died about twenty years ago. They had always been very alike, he and Pamela. A strong family resemblance. She had had a slightly masculine type of face. His face, perhaps, had been, certainly in early life, of a slightly effeminate type. They had both had the high-bridged nose, the tilt of eyebrows, the slightly sideways smile of the lips. Pamela had been tall, five foot eight, he himself five foot ten. He looked at the woman who had tendered him the mirror. ‘There is a facial likeness between us, that’s what you mean, isn’t it? But my dear girl, it wouldn’t deceive anyone who knew me or knew you.’ ‘Of course it wouldn’t. Don’t you understand? It doesn’t need to. I am travelling wearing slacks. You have been travelling with the hood of your cloak drawn up round your face. All I have to do is to cut off my hair, wrap it up in a twist of newspaper, throw it in one of the litter-baskets here. Then I put on your burnous, I have your boarding card, ticket, and passport. Unless there is someone who knows you well on this plane, and I presume there is not or they would have spoken to you already, then I can safely travel as you. Showing your passport when it’s necessary, keeping the burnous and cloak drawn up so that my nose and eyes and mouth are about all that are seen. I can walk out safely when the plane reaches its destination because no one will know I have travelled by it. Walk out safely and disappear into the crowds of the city of London.’ ‘And what do I do?’ asked Sir Stafford, with a slight smile. ‘I can make a suggestion if you have the nerve to face it.’ ‘Suggest,’ he said. ‘I always like to hear suggestions.’ ‘You get up from here, you go away and buy a magazine or a newspaper, or a gift at the gift counter. You leave your cloak hanging here on the seat. When you come back with whatever it is, you sit down somewhere else—say at the end of that bench opposite here. There will be a glass in front of you, this glass still. In it there will be something that will send you to sleep. Sleep in a quiet corner.’ ‘What happens next?’ ‘You will have been presumably the victim of a robbery,’ she said. ‘Somebody will have added a few knock-out drops to your drink, and will have stolen your wallet from you. Something of that kind. You declare your identity, say that your passport and things are stolen. You can easily establish your identity.’ ‘You know who I am? My name, I mean?’ ‘Not yet,’ she said. ‘I haven’t seen your passport yet. I’ve no idea who you are.’ ‘And yet you say I can establish my identity easily.’ ‘I am a good judge of people. I know who is important or who isn’t. You are an important person.’ ‘And why should I do all this?’ ‘Perhaps to save the life of a fellow human being.’ ‘Isn’t that rather a highly coloured story?’ ‘Oh yes. Quite easily not believed. Do you believe it?’ He looked at her thoughtfully. ‘You know what you’re talking like? A beautiful spy in a thriller.’ ‘Yes, perhaps. But I am not beautiful.’ ‘And you’re not a spy?’ ‘I might be so described, perhaps. I have certain information. Information I want to preserve. You will have to take my word for it, it is information that would be valuable to your country.’ ‘Don’t you think you’re being rather absurd?’ ‘Yes I do. If this was written down it would look absurd. But so many absurd things are true, aren’t they?’ He looked at her again. She was very like Pamela. Her voice, although foreign in intonation, was like Pamela’s. What she proposed was ridiculous, absurd, quite impossible, and probably dangerous. Dangerous to him. Unfortunately, though, that was what attracted him. To have the nerve to suggest such a thing to him! What would come of it all? It would be interesting, certainly, to find out. ‘What do I get out of it?’ he said. ‘That’s what I’d like to know.’ She looked at him consideringly. ‘Diversion,’ she said. ‘Something out of the everyday happenings? An antidote to boredom, perhaps. We’ve not got very long. It’s up to you.’ ‘And what happens to your passport? Do I have to buy myself a wig, if they sell such a thing, at the counter? Do I have to impersonate a female?’ ‘No. There’s no question of exchanging places. You have been robbed and drugged but you remain yourself. Make up your mind. There isn’t long. Time is passing very quickly. I have to do my own transformation.’ ‘You win,’ he said. ‘One mustn’t refuse the unusual, if it is offered to one.’ ‘I hoped you might feel that way, but it was a toss-up.’ From his pocket Stafford Nye took out his passport. He slipped it into the outer pocket of the cloak he had been wearing. He rose to his feet, yawned, looked round him, looked at his watch, and strolled over to the counter where various goods were displayed for sale. He did not even look back. He bought a paperback book and fingered some small woolly animals, a suitable gift for some child. Finally he chose a panda. He looked round the lounge, came back to where he had been sitting. The cloak was gone and so had the girl. A half glass of beer was on the table still. Here, he thought, is where I take the risk. He picked up the glass, moved away a little, and drank it. Not quickly. Quite slowly. It tasted much the same as it had tasted before. ‘Now I wonder,’ said Sir Stafford. ‘Now I wonder.’ He walked across the lounge to a far corner. There was a somewhat noisy family sitting there, laughing and talking together. He sat down near them, yawned, let his head fall back on the edge of the cushion. A flight was announced leaving for Teheran. A large number of passengers got up and went to queue by the requisite numbered gate. The lounge still remained half full. He opened his paperback book. He yawned again. He was really sleepy now, yes, he was very sleepy … He must just think out where it was best for him to go off to sleep. Somewhere he could remain … Trans-European Airways announced the departure of their plane, Flight 309 for London. Quite a good sprinkling of passengers rose to their feet to obey the summons. By this time though, more passengers had entered the transit lounge waiting for other planes. Announcements followed as to fog at Geneva and other disabilities of travel. A slim man of middle height wearing a dark blue cloak with its red lining showing and with a hood drawn up over a close-cropped head, not noticeably more untidy than many of the heads of young men nowadays, walked across the floor to take his place in the queue for the plane. Showing a boarding ticket, he passed out through gate No. 9. More announcements followed. Swissair flying to Zürich. BEA to Athens and Cyprus—and then a different type of announcement. ‘Will Miss Daphne Theodofanous, passenger to Geneva, kindly come to the flight desk. Plane to Geneva is delayed owing to fog. Passengers will travel by way of Athens. The aeroplane is now ready to leave.’ Other announcements followed dealing with passengers to Japan, to Egypt, to South Africa, air lines spanning the world. Mr Sidney Cook, passenger to South Africa, was urged to come to the flight desk where there was a message for him. Daphne Theodofanous was called for again. ‘This is the last call before the departure of Flight 309.’ In a corner of the lounge a little girl was looking up at a man in a dark suit who was fast asleep, his head resting against the cushion of the red settee. In his hand he held a small woolly panda. The little girl’s hand stretched out towards the panda. Her mother said: ‘Now, Joan, don’t touch that. The poor gentleman’s asleep.’ ‘Where is he going?’ ‘Perhaps he’s going to Australia too,’ said her mother, ‘like we are.’ ‘Has he got a little girl like me?’ ‘I think he must have,’ said her mother. The little girl sighed and looked at the panda again. Sir Stafford Nye continued to sleep. He was dreaming that he was trying to shoot a leopard. A very dangerous animal, he was saying to the safari guide who was accompanying him. ‘A very dangerous animal, so I’ve always heard. You can’t trust a leopard.’ The dream switched at that moment, as dreams have a habit of doing, and he was having tea with his Great-Aunt Matilda, and trying to make her hear. She was deafer than ever! He had not heard any of the announcements except the first one for Miss Daphne Theodofanous. The little girl’s mother said: ‘I’ve always wondered, you know, about a passenger that’s missing. Nearly always, whenever you go anywhere by air, you hear it. Somebody they can’t find. Somebody who hasn’t heard the call or isn’t on the plane or something like that. I always wonder who it is and what they’re doing, and why they haven’t come. I suppose this Miss What’s-a-name or whatever it is will just have missed her plane. What will they do with her then?’ Nobody was able to answer her question because nobody had the proper information. CHAPTER 2 (#ulink_8625f44f-a0b5-5a1f-9048-7db9638cad04) London (#ulink_8625f44f-a0b5-5a1f-9048-7db9638cad04) Sir Stafford Nye’s flat was a very pleasant one. It looked out upon Green Park. He switched on the coffee percolator and went to see what the post had left him this morning. It did not appear to have left him anything very interesting. He sorted through the letters, a bill or two, a receipt and letters with rather uninteresting postmarks. He shuffled them together and placed them on the table where some mail was already lying, accumulating from the last two days. He’d have to get down to things soon, he supposed. His secretary would be coming in some time or other this afternoon. He went back to the kitchen, poured coffee into a cup and brought it to the table. He picked up the two or three letters that he had opened late last night when he arrived. One of them he referred to, and smiled a little as he read it. ‘Eleven-thirty,’ he said. ‘Quite a suitable time. I wonder now. I expect I’d better just think things over, and get prepared for Chetwynd.’ Somebody pushed something through the letter-box. He went out into the hall and got the morning paper. There was very little news in the paper. A political crisis, an item of foreign news which might have been disquieting, but he didn’t think it was. It was merely a journalist letting off steam and trying to make things rather more important than they were. Must give the people something to read. A girl had been strangled in the park. Girls were always being strangled. One a day, he thought callously. No child had been kidnapped or raped this morning. That was a nice surprise. He made himself a piece of toast and drank his coffee. Later, he went out of the building, down into the street, and walked through the park in the direction of Whitehall. He was smiling to himself. Life, he felt, was rather good this morning. He began to think about Chetwynd. Chetwynd was a silly fool if there ever was one. A good façade, important-seeming, and a nicely suspicious mind. He’d rather enjoy talking to Chetwynd. He reached Whitehall a comfortable seven minutes late. That was only due to his own importance compared with that of Chetwynd, he thought. He walked into the room. Chetwynd was sitting behind his desk and had a lot of papers on it and a secretary there. He was looking properly important, as he always did when he could make it. ‘Hullo, Nye,’ said Chetwynd, smiling all over his impressively handsome face. ‘Glad to be back? How was Malaya?’ ‘Hot,’ said Stafford Nye. ‘Yes. Well, I suppose it always is. You meant atmospherically, I suppose, not politically?’ ‘Oh, purely atmospherically,’ said Stafford Nye. He accepted a cigarette and sat down. ‘Get any results to speak of?’ ‘Oh, hardly. Not what you’d call results. I’ve sent in my report. All a lot of talky-talky as usual. How’s Lazenby?’ ‘Oh, a nuisance as he always is. He’ll never change,’ said Chetwynd. ‘No, that would seem too much to hope for. I haven’t served on anything with Bascombe before. He can be quite fun when he likes.’ ‘Can he? I don’t know him very well. Yes. I suppose he can.’ ‘Well, well, well. No other news, I suppose?’ ‘No, nothing. Nothing I think that would interest you.’ ‘You didn’t mention in your letter quite why you wanted to see me.’ ‘Oh, just to go over a few things, that’s all. You know, in case you’d brought any special dope home with you. Anything we ought to be prepared for, you know. Questions in the House. Anything like that.’ ‘Yes, of course.’ ‘Came home by air, didn’t you? Had a bit of trouble, I gather.’ Stafford Nye put on the face he had been determined to put on beforehand. It was slightly rueful, with a faint tinge of annoyance. ‘Oh, so you heard about that, did you?’ he said. ‘Silly business.’ ‘Yes. Yes, must have been.’ ‘Extraordinary,’ said Stafford Nye, ‘how things always get into the press. There was a paragraph in the stop press this morning.’ ‘You’d rather they wouldn’t have, I suppose?’ ‘Well, makes me look a bit of an ass, doesn’t it?’ said Stafford Nye. ‘Got to admit it. At my age too!’ ‘What happened exactly? I wondered if the report in the paper had been exaggerating.’ ‘Well, I suppose they made the most of it, that’s all. You know what these journeys are. Damn boring. There was fog at Geneva so they had to re-route the plane. Then there was two hours’ delay at Frankfurt.’ ‘Is that when it happened?’ ‘Yes. One’s bored stiff in these airports. Planes coming, planes going. Tannoy going full steam ahead. Flight 302 leaving for Hong Kong, Flight 109 going to Ireland. This, that and the other. People getting up, people leaving. And you just sit there yawning.’ ‘What happened exactly?’ said Chetwynd. ‘Well, I’d got a drink in front of me, Pilsner as a matter of fact, then I thought I’d got to get something else to read. I’d read everything I’d got with me so I went over to the counter and bought some wretched paperback or other. Detective story, I think it was, and I bought a woolly animal for one of my nieces. Then I came back, finished my drink, opened my paperback and then I went to sleep.’ ‘Yes, I see. You went to sleep.’ ‘Well, a very natural thing to do, isn’t it? I suppose they called my flight but if they did I didn’t hear it. I didn’t hear it apparently for the best of reasons. I’m capable of going to sleep in an airport any time but I’m also capable of hearing an announcement that concerns me. This time I didn’t. When I woke up, or came to, however you like to put it, I was having a bit of medical attention. Somebody apparently had dropped a Mickey Finn or something or other in my drink. Must have done it when I was away getting the paperback.’ ‘Rather an extraordinary things to happen, wasn’t it?’ said Chetwynd. ‘Well, it’s never happened to me before,’ said Stafford Nye. ‘I hope it never will again. It makes you feel an awful fool, you know. Besides having a hangover. There was a doctor and some nurse creature, or something. Anyway, there was no great harm done apparently. My wallet had been pinched with some money in it and my passport. It was awkward of course. Fortunately, I hadn’t got much money. My travellers’ cheques were in an inner pocket. There always has to be a bit of red tape and all that if you lose your passport. Anyway, I had letters and things and identification was not difficult. And in due course things were squared up and I resumed my flight.’ ‘Still, very annoying for you,’ said Chetwynd. ‘A person of your status, I mean.’ His tone was disapproving. ‘Yes,’ said Stafford Nye. ‘It doesn’t show me in a very good light, does it? I mean, not as bright as a fellow of my—er—status ought to be.’ The idea seemed to amuse him. ‘Does this often happen, did you find out?’ ‘I don’t think it’s a matter of general occurrence. It could be. I suppose any person with a pick-pocket trend could notice a fellow asleep and slip a hand into a pocket, and if he’s accomplished in his profession, get hold of a wallet or a pocket-book or something like that, and hope for some luck.’ ‘Pretty awkward to lose a passport.’ ‘Yes, I shall have to put in for another one now. Make a lot of explanations, I suppose. As I say, the whole thing’s a damn silly business. And let’s face it, Chetwynd, it doesn’t show me in a very favourable light, does it?’ ‘Oh, not your fault, my dear boy, not your fault. It could happen to anybody, anybody at all.’ ‘Very nice of you to say so,’ said Stafford Nye, smiling at him agreeably. ‘Teach me a sharp lesson, won’t it?’ ‘You don’t think anyone wanted your passport specially?’ ‘I shouldn’t think so,’ said Stafford Nye. ‘Why should they want my passport? Unless it was a matter of someone who wished to annoy me and that hardly seems likely. Or somebody who took a fancy to my passport photo—and that seems even less likely!’ ‘Did you see anyone you knew at this—where did you say you were—Frankfurt?’ ‘No, no. Nobody at all.’ ‘Talk to anyone?’ ‘Not particularly. Said something to a nice fat woman who’d got a small child she was trying to amuse. Came from Wigan, I think. Going to Australia. Don’t remember anybody else.’ ‘You’re sure?’ ‘There was some woman or other who wanted to know what she did if she wanted to study archaeology in Egypt. Said I didn’t know anything about that. I told her she’d better go and ask the British Museum. And I had a word or two with a man who I think was an anti-vivisectionist. Very passionate about it.’ ‘One always feels,’ said Chetwynd, ‘that there might be something behind things like this.’ ‘Things like what?’ ‘Well, things like what happened to you.’ ‘I don’t see what can be behind this,’ said Sir Stafford. ‘I dare say journalists could make up some story, they’re so clever at that sort of thing. Still, it’s a silly business. For goodness’ sake, let’s forget it. I suppose now it’s been mentioned in the press, all my friends will start asking me about it. How’s old Leyland? What’s he up to nowadays? I heard one or two things about him out there. Leyland always talks a bit too much.’ The two men talked amiable shop for ten minutes or so, then Sir Stafford got up and went out. ‘I’ve got a lot of things to do this morning,’ he said. ‘Presents to buy for my relations. The trouble is that if one goes to Malaya, all one’s relations expect you to bring exotic presents to them. I’ll go round to Liberty’s, I think. They have a nice stock of Eastern goods there.’ He went out cheerfully, nodding to a couple of men he knew in the corridor outside. After he had gone, Chetwynd spoke through the telephone to his secretary. ‘Ask Colonel Munro if he can come to me.’ Colonel Munro came in, bringing another tall middle-aged man with him. ‘Don’t know whether you know Horsham,’ he said, ‘in Security.’ ‘Think I’ve met you,’ said Chetwynd. ‘Nye’s just left you, hasn’t he?’ said Colonel Munro. ‘Anything in this story about Frankfurt? Anything, I mean, that we ought to take any notice of?’ ‘Doesn’t seem so,’ said Chetwynd. ‘He’s a bit put out about it. Thinks it makes him look a silly ass. Which it does, of course.’ The man called Horsham nodded his head. ‘That’s the way he takes it, is it?’ ‘Well, he tried to put a good face upon it,’ said Chetwynd. ‘All the same, you know,’ said Horsham, ‘he’s not really a silly ass, is he?’ Chetwynd shrugged his shoulders. ‘These things happen,’ he said. ‘I know,’ said Colonel Munro, ‘yes, yes, I know. All the same, well, I’ve always felt in some ways that Nye is a bit unpredictable. That in some ways, you know, he mightn’t be really sound in his views.’ The man called Horsham spoke. ‘Nothing against him,’ he said. ‘Nothing at all as far as we know.’ ‘Oh, I didn’t mean there was. I didn’t mean that at all,’ said Chetwynd. ‘It’s just—how shall I put it?—he’s not always very serious about things.’ Mr Horsham had a moustache. He found it useful to have a moustache. It concealed moments when he found it difficult to avoid smiling. ‘He’s not a stupid man,’ said Munro. ‘Got brains, you know. You don’t think that—well, I mean you don’t think there could be anything at all doubtful about this?’ ‘On his part? It doesn’t seem so.’ ‘You’ve been into it all, Horsham?’ ‘Well, we haven’t had very much time yet. But as far as it goes it’s all right. But his passport was used.’ ‘Used? In what way?’ ‘It passed through Heathrow.’ ‘You mean someone represented himself as Sir Stafford Nye?’ ‘No, no,’ said Horsham, ‘not in so many words. We could hardly hope for that. It went through with other passports. There was no alarm out, you know. He hadn’t even woken up, I gather, at that time, from the dope or whatever it was he was given. He was still at Frankfurt.’ ‘But someone could have stolen that passport and come on the plane and so got into England?’ ‘Yes,’ said Munro, ‘that’s the presumption. Either someone took a wallet which had money in it and a passport, or else someone wanted a passport and settled on Sir Stafford Nye as a convenient person to take it from. A drink was waiting on a table, put a pinch in that, wait till the man went off to sleep, take the passport and chance it.’ ‘But after all, they look at a passport. Must have seen it wasn’t the right man,’ said Chetwynd. ‘Well, there must have been a certain resemblance, certainly,’ said Horsham. ‘But it isn’t as though there was any notice of his being missing, any special attention drawn to that particular passport in any way. A large crowd comes through on a plane that’s overdue. A man looks reasonably like the photograph in his passport. That’s all. Brief glance, handed back, pass it on. Anyway what they’re looking for usually is the foreigners that are coming in, not the British lot. Dark hair, dark blue eyes, clean shaven, five foot ten or whatever it is. That’s about all you want to see. Not on a list of undesirable aliens or anything like that.’ ‘I know, I know. Still, you’d say if anybody wanted merely to pinch a wallet or some money or that, they wouldn’t use the passport, would they. Too much risk.’ ‘Yes,’ said Horsham. ‘Yes, that is the interesting part of it. Of course,’ he said, ‘we’re making investigations, asking a few questions here and there.’ ‘And what’s your own opinion?’ ‘I wouldn’t like to say yet,’ said Horsham. ‘It takes a little time, you know. One can’t hurry things.’ ‘They’re all the same,’ said Colonel Munro, when Horsham had left the room. ‘They never will tell you anything, those damned security people. If they think they’re on the trail of anything, they won’t admit it.’ ‘Well, that’s natural,’ said Chetwynd, ‘because they might be wrong.’ It seemed a typically political view. ‘Horsham’s a pretty good man,’ said Munro. ‘They think very highly of him at headquarters. He’s not likely to be wrong.’ CHAPTER 3 (#ulink_8a5be6c0-0d82-596f-a3d1-fdec98b2bcd4) The Man from the Cleaners (#ulink_8a5be6c0-0d82-596f-a3d1-fdec98b2bcd4) Sir Stafford Nye returned to his flat. A large woman bounced out of the small kitchen with welcoming words. ‘See you got back all right, sir. Those nasty planes. You never know, do you?’ ‘Quite true, Mrs Worrit,’ said Sir Stafford Nye. ‘Two hours late, the plane was.’ ‘Same as cars, aren’t they,’ said Mrs Worrit. ‘I mean, you never know, do you, what’s going to go wrong with them. Only it’s more worrying, so to speak, being up in the air, isn’t it? Can’t just draw up to the kerb, not the same way, can you? I mean, there you are. I wouldn’t go by one myself, not if it was ever so.’ She went on, ‘I’ve ordered in a few things. I hope that’s all right. Eggs, butter, coffee, tea—’ She ran off the words with the loquacity of a Near Eastern guide showing a Pharaoh’s palace. ‘There,’ said Mrs Worrit, pausing to take breath, ‘I think that’s all as you’re likely to want. I’ve ordered the French mustard.’ ‘Not Dijon, is it? They always try and give you Dijon.’ ‘I don’t know who he was, but it’s Esther Dragon, the one you like, isn’t it?’ ‘Quite right,’ said Sir Stafford, ‘you’re a wonder.’ Mrs Worrit looked pleased. She retired into the kitchen again, as Sir Stafford Nye put his hand on his bedroom door handle preparatory to going into the bedroom. ‘All right to give your clothes to the gentleman what called for them, I suppose, sir? You hadn’t said or left word or anything like that.’ ‘What clothes?’ said Sir Stafford Nye, pausing. ‘Two suits, it was, the gentleman said as called for them. Twiss and Bonywork it was, think that’s the same name as called before. We’d had a bit of a dispute with the White Swan laundry if I remember rightly.’ ‘Two suits?’ said Sir Stafford Nye. ‘Which suits?’ ‘Well, there was the one you travelled home in, sir. I made out that would be one of them. I wasn’t quite so sure about the other, but there was the blue pinstripe that you didn’t leave no orders about when you went away. It could do with cleaning, and there was a repair wanted doing to the right-hand cuff, but I didn’t like to take it on myself while you were away. I never likes to do that,’ said Mrs Worrit with an air of palpable virtue. ‘So the chap, whoever he was, took those suits away?’ ‘I hope I didn’t do wrong, sir.’ Mrs Worrit became worried. ‘I don’t mind the blue pinstripe. I daresay it’s all for the best. The suit I came home in, well—’ ‘It’s a bit thin, that suit, sir, for this time of year, you know, sir. All right for those parts as you’ve been in where it’s hot. And it could do with a clean. He said as you’d rung up about them. That’s what the gentleman said as called for them.’ ‘Did he go into my room and pick them out himself?’ ‘Yes, sir. I thought that was best.’ ‘Very interesting,’ said Sir Stafford. ‘Yes, very interesting.’ He went into his bedroom and looked round it. It was neat and tidy. The bed was made, the hand of Mrs Worrit was apparent, his electic razor was on charge, the things on the dressing-table were neatly arranged. He went to the wardrobe and looked inside. He looked in the drawers of the tallboy that stood against the wall near the window. It was all quite tidy. It was tidier indeed than it should have been. He had done a little unpacking last night and what little he had done had been of a cursory nature. He had thrown underclothing and various odds and ends in the appropriate drawer but he had not arranged them neatly. He would have done that himself either today or tomorrow. He would not have expected Mrs Worrit to do it for him. He expected her merely to keep things as she found them. Then, when he came back from abroad, there would be a time for rearrangements and readjustments because of climate and other matters. So someone had looked round here, someone had taken out drawers, looked through them quickly, hurriedly, had replaced things, partly because of his hurry, more tidily and neatly than he should have done. A quick careful job and he had gone away with two suits and a plausible explanation. One suit obviously worn by Sir Stafford when travelling and a suit of thin material which might have been one taken abroad and brought home. So why? ‘Because,’ said Sir Stafford thoughtfully, to himself, ‘because somebody was looking for something. But what? And who? And also perhaps why?’ Yes, it was interesting. He sat down in a chair and thought about it. Presently his eyes strayed to the table by the bed on which sat, rather pertly, a small furry panda. It started a train of thought. He went to the telephone and rang a number. ‘That you, Aunt Matilda?’ he said. ‘Stafford here.’ ‘Ah, my dear boy, so you’re back. I’m so glad. I read in the paper they’d got cholera in Malaya yesterday, at least I think it was Malaya. I always get so mixed up with those places. I hope you’re coming to see me soon? Don’t pretend you’re busy. You can’t be busy all the time. One really only accepts that sort of thing from tycoons, people in industry, you know, in the middle of mergers and takeovers. I never know what it all really means. It used to mean doing your work properly but now it means things all tied up with atom bombs and factories in concrete,’ said Aunt Matilda, rather wildly. ‘And those terrible computers that get all one’s figures wrong, to say nothing of making them the wrong shape. Really, they have made life so difficult for us nowadays. You wouldn’t believe the things they’ve done to my bank account. And to my postal address too. Well, I suppose I’ve lived too long.’ ‘Don’t you believe it! All right if I come down next week?’ ‘Come down tomorrow if you like. I’ve got the vicar coming to dinner, but I can easily put him off.’ ‘Oh, look here, no need to do that.’ ‘Yes there is, every need. He’s a most irritating man and he wants a new organ too. This one does quite well as it is. I mean the trouble is with the organist, really, not the organ. An absolutely abominable musician. The vicar’s sorry for him because he lost his mother whom he was very fond of. But really, being fond of your mother doesn’t make you play the organ any better, does it? I mean, one has to look at things as they are.’ ‘Quite right. It will have to be next week—I’ve got a few things to see to. How’s Sybil?’ ‘Dear child! Very naughty but such fun.’ ‘I brought her home a woolly panda,’ said Sir Stafford Nye. ‘Well, that was very nice of you, dear.’ ‘I hope she’ll like it,’ said Sir Stafford, catching the panda’s eye and feeling slightly nervous. ‘Well, at any rate, she’s got very good manners,’ said Aunt Matilda, which seemed a somewhat doubtful answer, the meaning of which Sir Stafford did not quite appreciate. Aunt Matilda suggested likely trains for next week with the warning that they very often did not run, or changed their plans, and also commanded that he should bring her down a Camembert cheese and half a Stilton. ‘Impossible to get anything down here now. Our own grocer—such a nice man, so thoughtful and such good taste in what we all liked—turned suddenly into a supermarket, six times the size, all rebuilt, baskets and wire trays to carry round and try to fill up with things you don’t want and mothers always losing their babies, and crying and having hysterics. Most exhausting. Well, I’ll be expecting you, dear boy.’ She rang off. The telephone rang again at once. ‘Hullo? Stafford? Eric Pugh here. Heard you were back from Malaya—what about dining tonight?’ ‘Like to very much.’ ‘Good—Limpits Club—eight-fifteen?’ Mrs Worrit panted into the room as Sir Stafford replaced the receiver. ‘A gentleman downstairs wanting to see you, sir,’ she said. ‘At least I mean, I suppose he’s that. Anyway he said he was sure you wouldn’t mind.’ ‘What’s his name?’ ‘Horsham, sir, like the place on the way to Brighton.’ ‘Horsham.’ Sir Stafford Nye was a little surprised. He went out of his bedroom, down a half flight of stairs that led to the big sitting-room on the lower floor. Mrs Worrit had made no mistake. Horsham it was, looking as he had looked half an hour ago, stalwart, trustworthy, cleft chin, rubicund cheeks, bushy grey moustache and a general air of imperturbability. ‘Hope you don’t mind,’ he said agreeably, rising to his feet. ‘Hope I don’t mind what?’ said Sir Stafford Nye. ‘Seeing me again so soon. We met in the passage outside Mr Gordon Chetwynd’s door—if you remember?’ ‘No objections at all,’ said Sir Stafford Nye. He pushed a cigarette-box along the table. ‘Sit down. Something forgotten, something left unsaid?’ ‘Very nice man, Mr Chetwynd,’ said Horsham. ‘We’ve got him quietened down, I think. He and Colonel Munro. They’re a bit upset about it all, you know. About you, I mean.’ ‘Really?’ Sir Stafford Nye sat down too. He smiled, he smoked, and he looked thoughtfully at Henry Horsham. ‘And where do we go from here?’ he asked. ‘I was just wondering if I might ask, without undue curiosity, where you’re going from here?’ ‘Delighted to tell you,’ said Sir Stafford Nye. ‘I’m going to stay with an aunt of mine, Lady Matilda Cleckheaton. I’ll give you the address if you like.’ ‘I know it,’ said Henry Horsham. ‘Well, I expect that’s a very good idea. She’ll be glad to see you’ve come home safely all right. Might have been a near thing, mightn’t it?’ ‘Is that what Colonel Munro thinks and Mr Chetwynd?’ ‘Well, you know what it is, sir,’ said Horsham. ‘You know well enough. They’re always in a state, gentlemen in that department. They’re not sure whether they trust you or not.’ ‘Trust me?’ said Sir Stafford Nye in an offended voice. ‘What do you mean by that, Mr Horsham?’ Mr Horsham was not taken aback. He merely grinned. ‘You see,’ he said, ‘you’ve got a reputation for not taking things seriously.’ ‘Oh. I thought you meant I was a fellow traveller or a convert to the wrong side. Something of that kind.’ ‘Oh no, sir, they just don’t think you’re serious. They think you like having a bit of a joke now and again.’ ‘One cannot go entirely through life taking oneself and other people seriously,’ said Sir Stafford Nye, disapprovingly. ‘No. But you took a pretty good risk, as I’ve said before, didn’t you?’ ‘I wonder if I know in the least what you are talking about.’ ‘I’ll tell you. Things go wrong, sir, sometimes, and they don’t always go wrong because people have made them go wrong. What you might call the Almighty takes a hand, or the other gentleman—the one with the tail, I mean.’ Sir Stafford Nye was slightly diverted. ‘Are you referring to fog at Geneva?’ he said. ‘Exactly, sir. There was fog at Geneva and that upset people’s plans. Somebody was in a nasty hole.’ ‘Tell me all about it,’ said Sir Stafford Nye. ‘I really would like to know.’ ‘Well, a passenger was missing when that plane of yours left Frankfurt yesterday. You’d drunk your beer and you were sitting in a corner snoring nicely and comfortably by yourself. One passenger didn’t report and they called her and they called her again. In the end, presumably, the plane left without her.’ ‘Ah. And what had happened to her?’ ‘It would be interesting to know. In any case, your passport arrived at Heathrow even if you didn’t.’ ‘And where is it now? Am I supposed to have got it?’ ‘No. I don’t think so. That would be rather too quick work. Good reliable stuff, that dope. Just right, if I may say so. It put you out and it didn’t produce any particularly bad effects.’ ‘It gave me a very nasty hangover,’ said Sir Stafford. ‘Ah well, you can’t avoid that. Not in the circumstances.’ ‘What would have happened,’ Sir Stafford asked, ‘since you seem to know all about everything, if I had refused to accept the proposition that may—I will only say may—have been put up to me?’ ‘It’s quite possible that it would have been curtains for Mary Ann.’ ‘Mary Ann? Who’s Mary Ann?’ ‘Miss Daphne Theodofanous.’ ‘That’s the name I do seem to have heard—being summoned as a missing traveller?’ ‘Yes, that’s the name she was travelling under. We call her Mary Ann.’ ‘Who is she—just as a matter of interest?’ ‘In her own line she’s more or less the tops.’ ‘And what is her line? Is she ours or is she theirs, if you know who “theirs” is? I must say I find a little difficulty myself when making my mind up about that.’ ‘Yes, it’s not so easy, is it? What with the Chinese and the Russkies and the rather queer crowd that’s behind all the student troubles and the New Mafia and the rather odd lot in South America. And the nice little nest of financiers who seem to have got something funny up their sleeves. Yes, it’s not easy to say.’ ‘Mary Ann,’ said Sir Stafford Nye thoughtfully. ‘It seems a curious name to have for her if her real one is Daphne Theodofanous.’ ‘Well, her mother’s Greek, her father was an Englishman, and her grandfather was an Austrian subject.’ ‘What would have happened if I hadn’t made her a—loan of a certain garment?’ ‘She might have been killed.’ ‘Come, come. Not really?’ ‘We’re worried about the airport at Heathrow. Things have happened there lately, things that need a bit of explaining. If the plane had gone via Geneva as planned, it would have been all right. She’d have had full protection all arranged. But this other way—there wouldn’t have been time to arrange anything and you don’t know who’s who always, nowadays. Everyone’s playing a double game or a treble or a quadruple one.’ ‘You alarm me,’ said Sir Stafford Nye. ‘But she’s all right, is she? Is that what you’re telling me?’ ‘I hope she’s all right. We haven’t heard anything to the contrary.’ ‘If it’s any help to you,’ said Sir Stafford Nye, ‘somebody called here this morning while I was out talking to my little pals in Whitehall. He represented that I telephoned a firm of cleaners and he removed the suit that I wore yesterday, and also another suit. Of course it may have been merely that he took a fancy to the other suit, or he may have made a practice of collecting various gentlemen’s suitings who have recently returned from abroad. Or—well, perhaps you’ve got an “or” to add?’ ‘He might have been looking for something.’ ‘Yes, I think he was. Somebody’s been looking for something. All very nice and tidily arranged again. Not the way I left it. All right, he was looking for something. What was he looking for?’ ‘I’m not sure myself,’ said Horsham, slowly. ‘I wish I was. There’s something going on—somewhere. There are bits of it sticking out, you know, like a badly done up parcel. You get a peep here and a peep there. One moment you think it’s going on at the Bayreuth Festival and the next minute you think it’s tucking out of a South American estancia and then you get a bit of a lead in the USA. There’s a lot of nasty business going on in different places, working up to something. Maybe politics, maybe something quite different from politics. It’s probably money.’ He added: ‘You know Mr Robinson, don’t you? Or rather Mr Robinson knows you, I think he said.’ ‘Robinson?’ Sir Stafford Nye considered. ‘Robinson. Nice English name.’ He looked across to Horsham. ‘Large, yellow face?’ he said. ‘Fat? Finger in financial pies generally?’ He asked: ‘Is he, too, on the side of the angels—is that what you’re telling me?’ ‘I don’t know about angels,’ said Henry Horsham. ‘He’s pulled us out of a hole in this country more than once. People like Mr Chetwynd don’t go for him much. Think he’s too expensive, I suppose. Inclined to be a mean man, Mr Chetwynd. A great one for making enemies in the wrong place.’ ‘One used to say “Poor but honest”,’ said Sir Stafford Nye thoughtfully. ‘I take it that you would put it differently. You would describe our Mr Robinson as expensive but honest. Or shall we put it, honest but expensive.’ He sighed. ‘I wish you could tell me what all this is about,’ he said plaintively. ‘Here I seem to be mixed up in something and no idea what it is.’ He looked at Henry Horsham hopefully, but Horsham shook his head. ‘None of us knows. Not exactly,’ he said. ‘What am I supposed to have got hidden here that someone comes fiddling and looking for?’ ‘Frankly, I haven’t the least idea, Sir Stafford.’ ‘Well, that’s a pity because I haven’t either.’ ‘As far as you know you haven’t got anything. Nobody gave you anything to keep, to take anywhere, to look after?’ ‘Nothing whatsoever. If you mean Mary Ann, she said she wanted her life saved, that’s all.’ ‘And unless there’s a paragraph in the evening papers, you have saved her life.’ ‘It seems rather the end of the chapter, doesn’t it? A pity. My curiosity is rising. I find I want to know very much what’s going to happen next. All you people seem very pessimistic.’ ‘Frankly, we are. Things are going badly in this country. Can you wonder?’ ‘I know what you mean. I sometimes wonder myself—’ CHAPTER 4 (#ulink_55c52d07-fe26-56ed-ad81-e3ace656b61b) Dinner with Eric (#ulink_55c52d07-fe26-56ed-ad81-e3ace656b61b) ‘Do you mind if I tell you something, old man?’ said Eric Pugh. Sir Stafford Nye looked at him. He had known Eric Pugh for a good many years. They had not been close friends. Old Eric, or so Sir Stafford thought, was rather a boring friend. He was, on the other hand, faithful. And he was the type of man who, though not amusing, had a knack of knowing things. People said things to him and he remembered what they said and stored them up. Sometimes he could push out a useful bit of information. ‘Come back from that Malay Conference, haven’t you?’ ‘Yes,’ said Sir Stafford. ‘Anything particular turn up there?’ ‘Just the usual,’ said Sir Stafford. ‘Oh. I wondered if something had—well, you know what I mean. Anything had occurred to put the cat among the pigeons.’ ‘What, at the Conference? No, just painfully predictable. Everyone said just what you thought they’d say only they said it unfortunately at rather greater length than you could have imagined possible. I don’t know why I go on these things.’ Eric Pugh made a rather tedious remark or two as to what the Chinese were really up to. ‘I don’t think they’re really up to anything,’ said Sir Stafford. ‘All the usual rumours, you know, about the diseases poor old Mao has got and who’s intriguing against him and why.’ ‘And what about the Arab-Israeli business?’ ‘That’s proceeding according to plan also. Their plan, that is to say. And anyway, what’s that got to do with Malaya?’ ‘Well, I didn’t really mean so much Malaya.’ ‘You’re looking rather like the Mock Turtle,’ said Sir Stafford Nye. ‘“Soup of the evening, beautiful soup.” Wherefore this gloom?’ ‘Well, I just wondered if you’d—you’ll forgive me, won’t you?—I mean you haven’t done anything to blot your copybook, have you, in any way?’ ‘Me?’ said Sir Stafford, looking highly surprised. ‘Well, you know what you’re like, Staff. You like giving people a jolt sometimes, don’t you?’ ‘I have behaved impeccably of late,’ said Sir Stafford. ‘What have you been hearing about me?’ ‘I hear there was some trouble about something that happened in a plane on your way home.’ ‘Oh?’ Who did you hear that from?’ ‘Well, you know, I saw old Cartison.’ ‘Terrible old bore. Always imagining things that haven’t happened.’ ‘Yes, I know. I know he is like that. But he was just saying that somebody or other—Winterton, at least—seemed to think you’d been up to something.’ ‘Up to something? I wish I had,’ said Sir Stafford Nye. ‘There’s some espionage racket going on somewhere and he got a bit worried about certain people.’ ‘What do they think I am—another Philby, something of that kind?’ ‘You know you’re very unwise sometimes in the things you say, the things you make jokes about.’ ‘It’s very hard to resist sometimes,’ his friend told him. ‘All these politicians and diplomats and the rest of them. They’re so bloody solemn. You’d like to give them a bit of a stir up now and again.’ ‘Your sense of fun is very distorted, my boy. It really is. I worry about you sometimes. They wanted to ask you some questions about something that happened on the flight back and they seem to think that you didn’t, well—that perhaps you didn’t exactly speak the truth about it all.’ ‘Ah, that’s what they think, is it? Interesting. I think I must work that up a bit.’ ‘Now don’t do anything rash.’ ‘I must have my moments of fun sometimes.’ ‘Look here, old fellow, you don’t want to go and ruin your career just by indulging your sense of humour.’ ‘I am quickly coming to the conclusion that there is nothing so boring as having a career.’ ‘I know, I know. You are always inclined to take that point of view, and you haven’t got on as far as you ought to have, you know. You were in the running for Vienna at one time. I don’t like to see you muck up things.’ ‘I am behaving with the utmost sobriety and virtue, I assure you,’ said Sir Stafford Nye. He added, ‘Cheer up, Eric. You’re a good friend, but really, I’m not guilty of fun and games.’ Eric shook his head doubtfully. It was a fine evening. Sir Stafford walked home across Green Park. As he crossed the road in Birdcage Walk, a car leaping down the street missed him by a few inches. Sir Stafford was an athletic man. His leap took him safely on to the pavement. The car disappeared down the street. He wondered. Just for a moment he could have sworn that that car had deliberately tried to run him down. An interesting thought. First his flat had been searched, and now he himself might have been marked down. Probably a mere coincidence. And yet, in the course of his life, some of which had been spent in wild neighbourhoods and places, Sir Stafford Nye had come in contact with danger. He knew, as it were, the touch and feel and smell of danger. He felt it now. Someone, somewhere was gunning for him. But why? For what reason? As far as he knew, he had not stuck his neck out in any way. He wondered. He let himself into his flat and picked up the mail that lay on the floor inside. Nothing much. A couple of bills and copy of Lifeboat periodical. He threw the bills on to his desk and put a finger through the wrapper of Lifeboat. It was a cause to which he occasionally contributed. He turned the pages without much attention because he was still absorbed in what he was thinking. Then he stopped the action of his fingers abruptly. Something was taped between two of the pages. Taped with adhesive tape. He looked at it closely. It was his passport returned to him unexpectedly in this fashion. He tore it free and looked at it. The last stamp on it was the arrival stamp at Heathrow the day before. She had used his passport, getting back here safely, and had chosen this way to return it to him. Where was she now? He would like to know. He wondered if he would ever see her again. Who was she? Where had she gone, and why? It was like waiting for the second act of a play. Indeed, he felt the first act had hardly been played yet. What had he seen? An old-fashioned curtain-raiser, perhaps. A girl who had ridiculously wanted to dress herself up and pass herself off as of the male sex, who had passed the passport control of Heathrow without attracting suspicion of any kind to herself and who had now disappeared through that gateway into London. No, he would probably never see her again. It annoyed him. But why, he thought, why do I want to? She wasn’t particularly attractive, she wasn’t anything. No, that wasn’t quite true. She was something, or someone, or she could not have induced him, with no particular persuasion, with no overt sex stimulation, nothing except a plain demand for help, to do what she wanted. A demand from one human being to another human being because, or so she had intimated, not precisely in words, but nevertheless it was what she had intimated, she knew people and she recognized in him a man who was willing to take a risk to help another human being. And he had taken a risk, too, thought Sir Stafford Nye. She could have put anything in that beer glass of his. He could have been found, if she had so willed it, found as a dead body in a seat tucked away in the corner of a departure lounge in an airport. And if she had, as no doubt she must have had, a knowledgeable recourse to drugs, his death might have been passed off as an attack of heart trouble due to altitude or difficult pressurizing—something or other like that. Oh well, why think about it? He wasn’t likely to see her again and he was annoyed. Yes, he was annoyed, and he didn’t like being annoyed. He considered the matter for some minutes. Then he wrote out an advertisement, to be repeated three times. ‘Passenger to Frankfurt. November 3rd. Please communicate with fellow traveller to London.’ No more than that. Either she would or she wouldn’t. If it ever came to her eyes she would know by whom that advertisement had been inserted. She had had his passport, she knew his name. She could look him up. He might hear from her. He might not. Probably not. If not, the curtain-raiser would remain a curtain-raiser, a silly little play that received late-comers to the theatre and diverted them until the real business of the evening began. Very useful in pre-war times. In all probability, though, he would not hear from her again and one of the reasons might be that she might have accomplished whatever it was she had come to do in London, and have now left the country once more, flying abroad to Geneva, or the Middle East, or to Russia or to China or to South America, or to the United States. And why, thought Sir Stafford, do I include South America? There must be a reason. She had not mentioned South America. Nobody had mentioned South America. Except Horsham, that was true. And even Horsham had only mentioned South America among a lot of other mentions. On the following morning as he walked slowly homeward, after handing in his advertisement, along the pathway across St James’s Park his eye picked out, half unseeing, the autumn flowers. The chrysanthemums looking by now stiff and leggy with their button tops of gold and bronze. Their smell came to him faintly, a rather goatlike smell, he had always thought, a smell that reminded him of hillsides in Greece. He must remember to keep his eye on the Personal Column. Not yet. Two or three days at least would have to pass before his own advertisement was put in and before there had been time for anyone to put in one in answer. He must not miss it if there was an answer because, after all, it was irritating not to know—not to have any idea what all this was about. He tried to recall not the girl at the airport but his sister Pamela’s face. A long time since her death. He remembered her. Of course he remembered her, but he could not somehow picture her face. It irritated him not to be able to do so. He had paused just when he was about to cross one of the roads. There was no traffic except for a car jigging slowly along with the solemn demeanour of a bored dowager. An elderly car, he thought. An old-fashioned Daimler limousine. He shook his shoulders. Why stand here in this idiotic way, lost in thought? He took an abrupt step to cross the road and suddenly with surprising vigour the dowager limousine, as he had thought of it in his mind, accelerated. Accelerated with a sudden astonishing speed. It bore down on him with such swiftness that he only just had time to leap across on to the opposite pavement. It disappeared with a flash, turning round the curve of the road further on. ‘I wonder,’ said Sir Stafford to himself. ‘Now I wonder. Could it be that there is someone that doesn’t like me? Someone following me, perhaps, watching me take my way home, waiting for an opportunity?’ Colonel Pikeaway, his bulk sprawled out in his chair in the small room in Bloomsbury where he sat from ten to five with a short interval for lunch, was surrounded as usual by an atmosphere of thick cigar smoke; with his eyes closed, only an occasional blink showed that he was awake and not asleep. He seldom raised his head. Somebody had said that he looked like a cross between an ancient Buddha and a large blue frog, with perhaps, as some impudent youngster had added, just a touch of a bar sinister from a hippopotamus in his ancestry. The gentle buzz of the intercom on his desk roused him. He blinked three times and opened his eyes. He stretched forth a rather weary-looking hand and picked up the receiver. ‘Well?’ he said. His secretary’s voice spoke. ‘The Minister is here waiting to see you.’ ‘Is he now?’ said Colonel Pikeaway. ‘And what Minister is that? The Baptist minister from the church round the corner?’ ‘Oh no, Colonel Pikeaway, it’s Sir George Packham.’ ‘Pity,’ said Colonel Pikeaway, breathing asthmatically. ‘Great pity. The Reverend McGill is far more amusing. There’s a splendid touch of hell fire about him.’ ‘Shall I bring him in, Colonel Pikeaway?’ ‘I suppose he will expect to be brought in at once. Under Secretaries are far more touchy than Secretaries of State,’ said Colonel Pikeaway gloomily. ‘All these Ministers insist on coming in and having kittens all over the place.’ Sir George Packham was shown in. He coughed and wheezed. Most people did. The windows of the small room were tightly closed. Colonel Pikeaway reclined in his chair, completely smothered in cigar ash. The atmosphere was almost unbearable and the room was known in official circles as the ‘small cat-house’. ‘Ah, my dear fellow,’ said Sir George, speaking briskly and cheerfully in a way that did not match his ascetic and sad appearance. ‘Quite a long time since we’ve met, I think.’ ‘Sit down, sit down do,’ said Pikeaway. ‘Have a cigar?’ Sir George shuddered slightly. ‘No, thank you,’ he said, ‘no, thanks very much.’ He looked hard at the windows. Colonel Pikeaway did not take the hint. Sir George cleared his throat and coughed again before saying: ‘Er—I believe Horsham has been to see you.’ ‘Yes, Horsham’s been and said his piece,’ said Colonel Pikeaway, slowly allowing his eyes to close again. ‘I thought it was the best way. I mean, that he should call upon you here. It’s most important that things shouldn’t get round anywhere.’ ‘Ah,’ said Colonel Pikeaway, ‘but they will, won’t they?’ ‘I beg your pardon?’ ‘They will,’ said Colonel Pikeaway. ‘I don’t know how much you—er—well, know about this last business.’ ‘We know everything here,’ said Colonel Pikeaway. ‘That’s what we’re for.’ ‘Oh—oh yes, yes certainly. About Sir S.N.—you know who I mean?’ ‘Recently a passenger from Frankfurt,’ said Colonel Pikeaway. ‘Most extraordinary business. Most extraordinary. One wonders—one really does not know, one can’t begin to imagine …’ Colonel Pikeaway listened kindly. ‘What is one to think?’ pursued Sir George. ‘Do you know him personally?’ ‘I’ve come across him once or twice,’ said Colonel Pikeaway. ‘One really cannot help wondering—’ Colonel Pikeaway subdued a yawn with some difficulty. He was rather tired of Sir George’s thinking, wondering, and imagining. He had a poor opinion anyway of Sir George’s process of thought. A cautious man, a man who could be relied upon to run his department in a cautious manner. Not a man of scintillating intellect. Perhaps, thought Colonel Pikeaway, all the better for that. At any rate, those who think and wonder and are not quite sure are reasonably safe in the place where God and the electors have put them. ‘One cannot quite forget,’ continued Sir George, ‘the disillusionment we have suffered in the past.’ Colonel Pikeaway smiled kindly. ‘Charleston, Conway and Courtfold,’ he said. ‘Fully trusted, vetted and approved of. All beginning with C, all crooked as sin.’ ‘Sometimes I wonder if we can trust anyone,’ said Sir George unhappily. ‘That’s easy,’ said Colonel Pikeaway, ‘you can’t.’ ‘Now take Stafford Nye,’ said Sir George. ‘Good family, excellent family, knew his father, his grandfather.’ ‘Often a slip-up in the third generation,’ said Colonel Pikeaway. The remark did not help Sir George. ‘I cannot help doubting—I mean, sometimes he doesn’t really seem serious.’ ‘Took my two nieces to see the châteaux of the Loire when I was a young man,’ said Colonel Pikeaway unexpectedly. ‘Man fishing on the bank. I had my fishing-rod with me, too. He said to me, “Vous n’êtes pas un pêcheur sérieux. Vous avez des femmes avec vous.”’ ‘You mean you think Sir Stafford—?’ ‘No, no, never been mixed up with women much. Irony’s his trouble. Likes surprising people. He can’t help liking to score off people.’ ‘Well, that’s not very satisfactory, is it?’ ‘Why not?’ said Colonel Pikeaway. ‘Liking a private joke is much better than having some deal with a defector.’ ‘If one could feel that he was really sound. What would you say—your personal opinion?’ ‘Sound as a bell,’ said Colonel Pikeaway. ‘If a bell is sound. It makes a sound, but that’s different, isn’t it?’ He smiled kindly. ‘Shouldn’t worry, if I were you,’ he said. Sir Stafford Nye pushed aside his cup of coffee. He picked up the newspaper, glancing over the headlines, then he turned it carefully to the page which gave Personal advertisements. He’d looked down that particular column for seven days now. It was disappointing but not surprising. Why on earth should he expect to find an answer? His eye went slowly down miscellaneous peculiarities which had always made that particular page rather fascinating in his eyes. They were not so strictly personal. Half of them or even more than half were disguised advertisements or offers of things for sale or wanted for sale. They should perhaps have been put under a different heading but they had found their way here considering that they were more likely to catch the eye that way. They included one or two of the hopeful variety. ‘Young man who objects to hard work and who would like an easy life would be glad to undertake a job that would suit him.’ ‘Girl wants to travel to Cambodia. Refuses to look after children.’ ‘Firearm used at Waterloo. What offers.’ ‘Glorious fun-fur coat. Must be sold immediately. Owner going abroad.’ ‘Do you know Jenny Capstan? Her cakes are superb. Come to 14 Lizzard Street, S.W.3.’ For a moment Stafford Nye’s finger came to a stop. Jenny Capstan. He liked the name. Was there any Lizzard Street? He supposed so. He had never heard of it. With a sigh, the finger went down the column and almost at once was arrested once more. ‘Passenger from Frankfurt, Thursday Nov. 11, Hungerford Bridge 7.20.’ Thursday, November 11th. That was—yes, that was today. Sir Stafford Nye leaned back in his chair and drank more coffee. He was excited, stimulated. Hungerford. Hungerford Bridge. He got up and went into the kitchenette. Mrs Worrit was cutting potatoes into strips and throwing them into a large bowl of water. She looked up with some slight surprise. ‘Anything you want, sir?’ ‘Yes,’ said Sir Stafford Nye. ‘If anyone said Hungerford Bridge to you, where would you go?’ ‘Where should I go?’ Mrs Worrit considered. ‘You mean if I wanted to go, do you?’ ‘We can proceed on that assumption.’ ‘Well, then, I suppose I’d go to Hungerford Bridge, wouldn’t I?’ ‘You mean you would go to Hungerford in Berkshire?’ ‘Where is that?’ said Mrs Worrit. ‘Eight miles beyond Newbury.’ ‘I’ve heard of Newbury. My old man backed a horse there last year. Did well, too.’ ‘So you’d go to Hungerford near Newbury?’ ‘No, of course I wouldn’t,’ said Mrs Worrit. ‘Go all that way—what for? I’d go to Hungerford Bridge, of course.’ ‘You mean—?’ ‘Well, it’s near Charing Cross. You know where it is. Over the Thames.’ ‘Yes,’ said Sir Stafford Nye. ‘Yes, I do know where it is quite well. Thank you, Mrs Worrit.’ It had been, he felt, rather like tossing a penny heads or tails. An advertisement in a morning paper in London meant Hungerford Railway Bridge in London. Presumably therefore that is what the advertiser meant, although about this particular advertiser Sir Stafford Nye was not at all sure. Her ideas, from the brief experience he had had of her, were original ideas. They were not the normal responses to be expected. But still, what else could one do. Besides, there were probably other Hungerfords, and possibly they would also have bridges, in various parts of England. But today, well, today he would see. It was a cold windy evening with occasional bursts of thin misty rain. Sir Stafford Nye turned up the collar of his mackintosh and plodded on. It was not the first time he had gone across Hungerford Bridge, but it had never seemed to him a walk to take for pleasure. Beneath him was the river and crossing the bridge were large quantities of hurrying figures like himself. Their mackintoshes pulled round them, their hats pulled down and on the part of one and all of them an earnest desire to get home and out of the wind and rain as soon as possible. It would be, thought Sir Stafford Nye, very difficult to recognize anybody in this scurrying crowd. 7.20. Not a good moment to choose for a rendezvous of any kind. Perhaps it was Hungerford Bridge in Berkshire. Anyway, it seemed very odd. He plodded on. He kept an even pace, not overtaking those ahead of him, pushing past those coming the opposite way. He went fast enough not to be overtaken by the others behind him, though it would be possible for them to do so if they wanted to. A joke, perhaps, thought Stafford Nye. Not quite his kind of joke, but someone else’s. And yet—not her brand of humour either, he would have thought. Hurrying figures passed him again, pushing him slightly aside. A woman in a mackintosh was coming along, walking heavily. She collided with him, slipped, dropped to her knees. He assisted her up. ‘All right?’ ‘Yes, thanks.’ She hurried on, but as she passed him, her wet hand, by which he had held her as he pulled her to her feet, slipped something into the palm of his hand, closing the fingers over it. Then she was gone, vanishing behind him, mingling with the crowd. Stafford Nye went on. He couldn’t overtake her. She did not wish to be overtaken, either. He hurried on and his hand held something firmly. And so, at long last it seemed, he came to the end of the bridge on the Surrey side. A few minutes later he had turned into a small café and sat there behind a table, ordering coffee. Then he looked at what was in his hand. It was a very thin oilskin envelope. Inside it was a cheap quality white envelope. That too he opened. What was inside surprised him. It was a ticket. A ticket for the Festival Hall for the following evening. CHAPTER 5 (#ulink_8ebeecf7-ad64-57a1-bdcc-4e49c5021b20) Wagnerian Motif (#ulink_8ebeecf7-ad64-57a1-bdcc-4e49c5021b20) Sir Stafford Nye adjusted himself more comfortably in his seat and listened to the persistent hammering of the Nibelungen, with which the programme began. Though he enjoyed Wagnerian opera, Siegfried was by no means his favourite of the operas composing the Ring. Rheingold and Götterdämmerung were his two preferences. The music of the young Siegfried, listening to the songs of the birds, had always for some strange reason irritated him instead of filling him with melodic satisfaction. It might have been because he went to a performance in Munich in his young days which had displayed a magnificent tenor of unfortunately over-magnificent proportions, and he had been too young to divorce the joy of music from the visual joy of seeing a young Siegfried that looked even passably young. The fact of an outsized tenor rolling about on the ground in an access of boyishness had revolted him. He was also not particularly fond of birds and forest murmurs. No, give him the Rhine Maidens every time, although in Munich even the Rhine Maidens in those days had been of fairly solid proportions. But that mattered less. Carried away by the melodic flow of water and the joyous impersonal song, he had not allowed visual appreciation to matter. From time to time he looked about him casually. He had taken his seat fairly early. It was a full house, as it usually was. The intermission came. Sir Stafford rose and looked about him. The seat beside his had remained empty. Someone who was supposed to have arrived had not arrived. Was that the answer, or was it merely a case of being excluded because someone had arrived late, which practice still held on the occasions when Wagnerian music was listened to? He went out, strolled about, drank a cup of coffee, smoked a cigarette, and returned when the summons came. This time, as he drew near, he saw that the seat next to his was filled. Immediately his excitement returned. He regained his seat and sat down. Yes, it was the woman of the Frankfurt Air Lounge. She did not look at him, she was looking straight ahead. Her face in profile was as clean-cut and pure as he remembered it. Her head turned slightly, and her eyes passed over him but without recognition. So intent was that non-recognition that it was as good as a word spoken. This was a meeting that was not to be acknowledged. Not now, at any event. The lights began to dim. The woman beside him turned. ‘Excuse me, could I look at your programme? I have dropped mine, I’m afraid, coming to my seat.’ ‘Of course,’ he said. He handed over the programme and she took it from him. She opened it, studied the items. The lights went lower. The second half of the programme began. It started with the overture to Lohengrin. At the end of it she handed back the programme to him with a few words of thanks. ‘Thank you so much. It was very kind of you.’ The next item was the Siegfried forest murmur music. He consulted the programme she had returned to him. It was then that he noticed something faintly pencilled at the foot of a page. He did not attempt to read it now. Indeed, the light would have not been sufficient. He merely closed the programme and held it. He had not, he was quite sure, written anything there himself. Not, that is, in his own programme. She had, he thought, had her own programme ready, folded perhaps in her handbag and had already written some message ready to pass to him. Altogether, it seemed to him, there was still that atmosphere of secrecy, of danger. The meeting on Hungerford Bridge and the envelope with the ticket forced into his hand. And now the silent woman who sat beside him. He glanced at her once or twice with the quick, careless glance that one gives to a stranger sitting next to one. She lolled back in her seat; her high-necked dress was of dull black crêpe, an antique torque of gold encircled her neck. Her dark hair was cropped closely and shaped to her head. She did not glance at him or return any look. He wondered. Was there someone in the seats of the Festival Hall watching her—or watching him? Noting whether they looked or spoke to each other? Presumably there must be, or there must be at least the possibility of such a thing. She had answered his appeal in the newspaper advertisement. Let that be enough for him. His curiosity was unimpaired, but he did at least know now that Daphne Theodofanous—alias Mary Ann—was here in London. There were possibilities in the future of his learning more of what was afoot. But the plan of campaign must be left to her. He must follow her lead. As he had obeyed her in the airport, so he would obey her now and—let him admit it—life had become suddenly more interesting. This was better than the boring conferences of his political life. Had a car really tried to run him down the other night? He thought it had. Two attempts—not only one. It was easy enough to imagine that one was the target of assault, people drove so recklessly nowadays that you could easily fancy malice aforethought when it was not so. He folded his programme, did not look at it again. The music came to its end. The woman next to him spoke. She did not turn her head or appear to speak to him, but she spoke aloud, with a little sigh between the words as though she was communing with herself or possibly to her neighbour on the other side. ‘The young Siegfried,’ she said, and sighed again. The programme ended with the March from Die Meistersinger. After enthusiastic applause, people began to leave their seats. He waited to see if she would give him any lead, but she did not. She gathered up her wrap, moved out of the row of chairs, and with a slightly accelerated step, moved along with other people and disappeared in the crowd. Stafford Nye regained his car and drove home. Arrived there, he spread out the Festival Hall programme on his desk and examined it carefully, after putting the coffee to percolate. The programme was disappointing to say the least of it. There did not appear to be any message inside. Only on one page above the list of the items, were the pencil marks that he had vaguely observed. But they were not words or letters or even figures. They appeared to be merely a musical notation. It was as though someone had scribbled a phrase of music with a somewhat inadequate pencil. For a moment it occurred to Stafford Nye there might perhaps be a secret message he could bring out by applying heat. Rather gingerly, and in a way rather ashamed of his melodramatic fancy, he held it towards the bar of the electric fire but nothing resulted. With a sigh he tossed the programme back on to the table. But he felt justifiably annoyed. All this rigmarole, a rendezvous on a windy and rainy bridge overlooking the river! Sitting through a concert by the side of a woman of whom he yearned to ask at least a dozen questions—and at the end of it? Nothing! No further on. Still, she had met him. But why? If she didn’t want to speak to him, to make further arrangements with him, why had she come at all? His eyes passed idly across the room to his bookcase which he reserved for various thrillers, works of detective fiction and an occasional volume of science fiction; he shook his head. Fiction, he thought, was infinitely superior to real life. Dead bodies, mysterious telephone calls, beautiful foreign spies in profusion! However, this particular elusive lady might not have done with him yet. Next time, he thought, he would make some arrangements of his own. Two could play at the game that she was playing. He pushed aside the programme and drank another cup of coffee and went to the window. He had the programme still in his hand. As he looked out towards the street below his eyes fell back again on the open programme in his hand and he hummed to himself, almost unconsciously. He had a good ear for music and he could hum the notes that were scrawled there quite easily. Vaguely they sounded familiar as he hummed them. He increased his voice a little. What was it now? Tum, tum, tum tum ti-tum. Tum. Yes, definitely familiar. He started opening his letters. They were mostly uninteresting. A couple of invitations, one from the American Embassy, one from Lady Athelhampton, a Charity Variety performance which Royalty would attend and for which it was suggested five guineas would not be an exorbitant fee to obtain a seat. He threw them aside lightly. He doubted very much whether he wished to accept any of them. He decided that instead of remaining in London he would without more ado go and see his Aunt Matilda, as he had promised. He was fond of his Aunt Matilda though he did not visit her very often. She lived in a rehabilitated apartment consisting of a series of rooms in one wing of a large Georgian manor house in the country which she had inherited from his grandfather. She had a large, beautifully proportioned sitting-room, a small oval dining-room, a new kitchen made from the old housekeeper’s room, two bedrooms for guests, a large comfortable bedroom for herself with an adjoining bathroom, and adequate quarters for a patient companion who shared her daily life. The remains of a faithful domestic staff were well provided for and housed. The rest of the house remained under dust sheets with periodical cleaning. Stafford Nye was fond of the place, having spent holidays there as a boy. It had been a gay house then. His eldest uncle had lived there with his wife and their two children. Yes, it had been pleasant there then. There had been money and a sufficient staff to run it. He had not specially noticed in those days the portraits and pictures. There had been large-sized examples of Victorian art occupying pride of place—overcrowding the walls, but there had been other masters of an older age. Yes, there had been some good portraits there. A Raeburn, two Lawrences, a Gainsborough, a Lely, two rather dubious Van Dycks. A couple of Turners, too. Some of them had had to be sold to provide the family with money. He still enjoyed when visiting there strolling about and studying the family pictures. His Aunt Matilda was a great chatterbox but she always enjoyed his visits. He was fond of her in a desultory way, but he was not quite sure why it was that he had suddenly wanted to visit her now. And what it was that had brought family portraits into his mind? Could it have been because there was a portrait of his sister Pamela by one of the leading artists of the day twenty years ago? He would like to see that portrait of Pamela and look at it more closely. See how close the resemblance had been between the stranger who had disrupted his life in this really outrageous fashion and his sister. He picked up the Festival Hall programme again with some irritation and began to hum the pencilled notes. Tum, tum, ti tum—Then it came to him and he knew what it was. It was the Siegfried motif. Siegfried’s Horn. The Young Siegfried motif. That was what the woman had said last night. Not apparently to him, not apparently to anybody. But it had been the message, a message that would have meant nothing to anyone around since it would have seemed to refer to the music that had just been played. And the motif had been written on his programme also in musical terms. The Young Siegfried. It must have meant something. Well, perhaps further enlightenment would come. The Young Siegfried. What the hell did Конец ознакомительного фрагмента. Текст предоставлен ООО «ЛитРес». Прочитайте эту книгу целиком, купив полную легальную версию (https://www.litres.ru/agata-kristi/passenger-to-frankfurt/?lfrom=334617187) на ЛитРес. Безопасно оплатить книгу можно банковской картой Visa, MasterCard, Maestro, со счета мобильного телефона, с платежного терминала, в салоне МТС или Связной, через PayPal, WebMoney, Яндекс.Деньги, QIWI Кошелек, бонусными картами или другим удобным Вам способом.
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