He looked at Martel, ignoring Hofer. 'Phone me at this number at ten in the morning…' He scribbled a number, on a small pad, tore off the sheet and handed it to the Englishman. 'I've left off the Zurich code in case you lose the paper…'
Arnold, smartly dressed in a dark blue suit, looked at Martel with a wry smile. 'It isn't that I don't trust you…'
`But one English agent, Warner, was spotted – even posing as a German – so you're playing it to cover all angles. And why do I phone at ten in the morning? Surely you'll only just have started Zobel's daily interrogation…'
'On the contrary, we shall just have finished since she will be interrogated throughout the night without a break…'
Martel was not happy. There was an atmosphere which did not ring true. Something in the relationship between Ferdy Arnold and his 'top operative', Hofer. He was damned if he could detect why he sensed he was being tricked – but his instincts had never let him down yet.
`Come into the bedroom,' Arnold suggested, glancing at Gisela Zobel, who sat motionless watching and listening. 'Keep an eye on her,' he told Hofer. When he had closed the bedroom door he accepted a cigarette from Martel.
`All that I said in there was strictly for Zobel's ears. It can help the breaking-down process if they worry about what is in store for them.'
`She admitted she was working for Reinhard Dietrich,' Martel told him.
Arnold showed no interest in the statement. Martel recalled a remark Tweed had made in London. Al arm's length… you know the Swiss. Policy of neutrality… It was understandable – that the Swiss counter-espionage should not want an open war with a German neo-Nazi movement. Understandable but unhelpful. Arnold was, he suspected, maintaining a watching brief.
'Berne,' Arnold commented, 'is disturbed about rumours that an underground organisation has spread its tentacles into northern Switzerland…'
`What made you mention that place?' Arnold enquired. `Because it is one of the chief towns in north-eastern Switzer land,' Martel replied casually. 'I find the choice of the word delta interesting – the Rhine delta is located just beyond your border with Austria. The Vorarlberg province…'
He watched Arnold's reaction closely. One of the references in Warner's tiny notebook had been to Bregenz. This was the only port Austria had on its narrow frontage of lake shore at the eastern end of Lake Konstanz.
`We've been in touch with Austrian counter-espionage,' Arnold commented vaguely. `Nothing has come of it so far. Berne is sensitive about the recent unprecedented student riots here in Zurich. It is suspected they are organised by a secret Delta cell.' He checked his watch and seemed disinclined to linger. 'I must go now.'
He left without saying a. word to the girl except for a brief exchange before walking out. Martel frowned as he looked round the living-room. Gisela Zobel had disappeared. Hofer explained before he could ask.
'A team dressed like ambulance men came. They took her away on a stretcher.'
'Arnold doesn't waste much time, does he? By the way, as he was leaving he said something to you. Did you mention that we are on our way to St. Gallen?'
'No.' She looked surprised. 'Is something wrong? I'm beginning to know your intonations…'
Martel passed it off lightly as he picked up both bags in the hall. 'When you get to know me better you'll realise I often ask random questions. We board one of the trams for the Hauptbahnhof?'
'It will be quicker – the tram goes straight to the station. A number eight. And it's an unobtrusive way of travelling.. 'Warner thought that, too…'
The brutal assault – the insane shock – commenced as soon as they closed the street door to the apartment and emerged from the archway leading into Bahnhofstrasse. Ten o'clock at night. Illuminated by the street lights, the trees lining one of the most famous thoroughfares in the world cast patches of shadow on the wide pavement. It was very quiet and few people were about.
One essential addition to Martel's equipment since he arrived at the Centralhof apartment was the Colt. 45 he now carried in a spring-loaded shoulder holster. Hofer had provided this, taking it from a secret compartment in the floor of the wardrobe cupboard where she had been imprisoned. She had also given him ammunition.
Martel was committing a strictly illegal act carrying the gun but they would cross no frontiers on their way to St. Gallen. He had asked her not to mention to Ferdy Arnold the fact that he was now armed. He was not sure why he made this request.
'The ticket machine is over here,' Hofer said and he followed her with the two cases. 'I'll take my own case once we're on the tram.'
He watched her inserting coins. Light from a lamp shone down directly on her. She really was a very beautiful girl and he wondered why she had ever joined the service. He'd try to find out when he knew her better,…
A tram was coming in the distance from the lake direction so, if it was the right number, it would take them to the top of the street which faced the Hauptbahnhof. That was the reason he stood with a case in each hand, ready to board the tram – which put him at an initial disadvantage.
He was listening to the rumble of the approaching tram, the faint hiss of the traction wires, when the huge six-seater Mercedes appeared and charged like a tank. It came out of nowhere and swung up on to the sidewalk alongside the ticket machine, alongside the girl…
The shock hit Martel like a physical blow. Men were pouring out of the Mercedes, men dressed in respectable business suits and wearing dark glasses. He saw two of them grab Hofer, one of them pressing a cloth over the upper part of her face. Beneath the glare of the street light they had another common denominator – a triangular silver badge like the Greek letter delta in their coat lapels.
He heard the oncoming tram ringing its warning bell – the car was positioned diagonally, its front on the sidewalk, its rear in the street, blocking the tramline. A second car appeared, a Rolls Royce, and swung across the tramline blocking it completely. The tram's bell continued clanging as the driver jammed on his brakes and stopped a few feet from the Rolls Royce.
Martel had dropped his bags and was moving. The Colt. 45 was in his hand as the Rolls turned slightly and swivelled the glare of its undipped headlights full on him. Shielding his eyes with one hand he snapped off two shots. There was a tinkling of glass and both lights died. One of the men from the Mercedes produced an automatic and aimed point-blank at Martel. The Englishman shot him and the gunman sagged back against the Mercedes, blood cascading from his forehead.
Martel ran towards the two men still grappling with Hofer. She had torn the cloth away from her face and in the clammy night air a waft of chloroform reached Martel's nostrils. The first man was turning towards Martel when the Englishman lashed out. The savage kick reached its target – the assailant's kneecap. He screamed and dropped in a heap. More men appeared from the far side of the Mercedes and now Hofer was screaming at the top of-her voice.
Martel found it a nightmare. This was anarchy, violence, kidnapping on the main street in Zurich. Another attacker levelled an automatic at Martel who fired in a reflex movement, still trying to reach the girl. The man clutched at his chest and his hand came away covered in blood as he toppled forward.
More men were appearing – from inside the Rolls. Martel ducked and weaved, never still for a moment, lashing out with the barrel of his Colt, catching one man a terrible blow on the side of his face, raking him from his ear to the tip of his jaw.
The arrival of reinforcements distracted Martel. He was fighting for his life. He went on using the Colt as a club, preserving his remaining bullets. He took refuge with his back to the ticket machine so they could only come at him from the front – and something very hard struck his skull, blurring his vision. As his sight cleared he saw an appalling sight. Hofer was being dragged head first inside the rear of the Mercedes, her legs kicking until another man grabbed her ankles and twisted them viciously over each other. She looked as-though she were being sucked inside the maw of a shark.
And now there was smoke. One of them had thrown a smoke bomb – probably several – in the direction of the tram. The street began to fill with fog. A car engine started up. A man grappling with Martel let go and tried to flee. They had Hofer inside the Mercedes. He lwd to reach the Mercedes! As the man ran Martel shot him and he sprawled with a crash on the flagstones.
The Mercedes backed off the sidewalk. The injured and the dead had been collected and taken inside the two cars – except for the man on the flagstones. The Rolls Royce also was moving. With the Mercedes leading both cars sped off up Bahnhofstrasse, then turned left at the Paradeplatz.
It was suddenly very quiet and the stationary tram was still hidden in drifting smoke. Martel slithered in a pool of blood. He stumbled back to the man they had abandoned, the one who had grappled with him.
The body was lying on its face and Martel quickly felt the neck pulse, cursing when he realised the man was dead. As he would. have been had Hofer not given him the Colt. He shoved the weapon back into the holster, bent down and heaved the man over on his back. Yes, he also wore the silver badge in his coat lapel. Martel ripped it free and dropped it in his pocket.
A ten-second search of the man's pockets revealed they were empty. No means of identification – except for the badge. He had no doubt all clothing identity such as maker's tabs had been removed. He straightened up and looked around, frustrated and dazed.
The tram was still hidden in the smoke but its silhouette was becoming clearer. No sign of the driver. Sensibly he had remained inside his cab. Martel felt sure he had kept the automatic doors closed to protect his passengers. Nearby was a pathetic sight – two cases standing on the pavement.
At any moment the tram driver was going to emerge from his cab. Martel scraped his shoes back and forth on the edge of the kerb to remove blood from the soles. Then he picked up the two suitcases and left the scene of the nightmare as he heard the distant scream of a patrol-car siren.
The blast from the explosion sent a shock wave down the funnel of Bahnhofstrasse which thumped Martel in the back. He turned down a side street towards the Old Town, taking a roundabout route to the Hauptbahnhof. He didn't think anyone aboard the tram had seen him but a man carrying two suitcases at that hour was conspicuous.
What had caused the explosion he had no idea. He wasn't too interested. At that moment he had three objectives. To hide Hofer's suitcase in a left-luggage locker at the station. Next, to book himself temporarily into a hotel near the station – if he returned to the Baur au Lac he could walk straight into the arms of the opposition. Finally, to phone Ferdy Arnold's headquarters in Berne.
Martel felt he was on the edge of a whirlpool. He could hardly credit what had happened in Bahnhofstrasse. And Swiss security was renowned for its ruthless efficiency. What the hell had gone so horribly wrong?
When a woman replied to his call to the Berne number Arnold had given him he opened with the identification phrase and she didn't react.
`What was that you said? Who are you calling? You know what time of night it is…'
'I'm sorry,' Martel replied. 'I was calling…' He repeated the number Arnold had provided him and risked it: after all. Arnold was a common name.
`No one here of that name – you have the wrong number. This is the number you said you were calling but – for the second time – there is no one here of that name. Good night!'
Martel sat staring at the receiver and replaced it. He was inside a third-floor bedroom he had booked at the Schweizer hof – which faced the Hauptbahnhof. Hofer's suitcase was parked in one of the station lockers, the key for which he had in his pocket. Why had Ferdy Arnold given him a meaningless phone number when he visited the apartment in Centralhof? The obvious conclusion was that he was not the real Ferdy Arnold – whom Martel had never met.
If this same man had organised the savage onslaught on himself and Hofer it explained his anxiety to leave the apartment urgently: He had known what was waiting for them outside. So he had to be well clear of the place when Martel came out with Hofer. But in that case why had Hofer accepted him as Arnold? Martel felt the sensation of being swept inside a whirlpool growing.
Leaving his room, he went down the staircase, again instinctively ignoring the lift. Crossing the street to the station he found a row of phone booths, went inside one and dialled the Ferdy Arnold number Tweed had given him in London.
He had realised 'Arnold' had provided a different number, but he had assumed it was a security precaution and Tweed had not been immediately informed of the change. This time the reaction at the Berne number was different. He used the code-phrase, a girl asked him to wait just a moment.
'Who is this?'
The voice was crisp, almost curt, and had a ring of competence, of no nonsense about it. Martel identified himself. 'Where are you calling from?' Arnold demanded.
'That doesn't matter at the moment,' Martel replied. 'I have regretfully to report that your assistant, Claire Hofer, has been kidnapped by Delta…'
'You were part of that massacre in Bahnhofstrasse in Zurich?' `Massacre?'
'Delta – if it was Delta – bungled a major bank raid. A limpet mine was attached to the main door of a certain bank. It detonated and some people alighting from a tram which had been stopped were badly injured. What was that about Claire Hofer? And I'd still like to know where you're calling from…'
'Skip that. This call is going through your switchboard…'
`That's crazy.' Ferdy Arnold's voice reflected indignation and disbelief. 'Our security…'
'You said something about a bungled bank raid.' Martel was bewildered. `I'm limiting this call to two minutes so talk…'