`I've just told you – a bomb, presumably with a quick-acting timer, was attached to the entrance to a bank. It blew the door but no one followed it up. The driver of the tram which was stopped saw nothing because smoke bombs were used…'
'What about the Rolls Royce that stopped him by driving across his bows?'
'I don't know anything about that. On the pavement we found a small silver badge shaped like a triangle-or a delta…'
'Send out an all points bulletin alarm for Claire Hofer.'
Martel was checking the length of the call by the second-hand on his watch. I'm very worried about her…'
'You can stop worrying.' Arnold paused and there was something in his tone Martel didn't like. 'We know what happened to her part of the story anyway.'
'Then for Christ's sake tell me -and fast. In the short time we were together I came to like – admire – the girl…'
'Her body was discovered floating down the Limmat less than half an hour ago. She had been brutally and professionally tortured before they dumped her in the river. I want you to come in, Martel. I want you to come to an address in Berne…'
Arnold stopped speaking. Martel had broken the connection.CHAPTER 5
Wednesday May 27
If Arnold had kept the conversation going so his tracers could locate the source of the call Martel was confident he had rung off in time. He was no happier about the real Arnold knowing his whereabouts than he was for the fake Arnold to obtain the same information. And the news of Claire Hofer had hit him hard.
Leaving the booth he walked round the huge Hauptbahnhof, stopping to study the departure board like a man waiting for his train. This great station – along with its counterpart in Munich – had fascinated the murdered Warner. Why?
Martel made a swift inventory of the place. Gleise 1-16: sixteen platforms, all of the tracks ending here. The long row of phone booths for communication and, he realised as he strolled round the hushed concourse, numerous exits. There was a kino – cinema – the Cine-Rex, and a Snack-Buffet.
He walked down one of the broad aisles leading away from the platforms past a large luggage storage counter facing a door marked Kanton-Polzzei. Two men emerged dressed in blue uniforms with berets, their trousers tucked into boots. They had the look of paratroopers.
He passed Quick, a first-class restaurant which provided two more exits and came out into the street. The Hauptbahnhof was a place you could get out of swiftly – a place you could linger inside for a long time unobtrusively. An idea formed at the back of his mind and receded. He crossed two roads and gazed down into the back water of the Limmat river. Dizzying reflections from street lamps danced in the night.
These were the waters which within the past hour had carried the mutilated body of poor Claire Hofer. Martel was not a sentimental man but he decided someone was going to pay for that barbaric act.
Glancing round he noticed the huge greystone bulk of a four-storey building to his right on the Bahnhofquai. The Stacitpolizei – police headquarters. The working quarters of a friend, David Nagel, Chief Inspector of Intelligence. He checked his watch. 2245 hours.
While at the Hotel Schweizerhof he had borrowed a rail timetable and found that the last train from the Hauptbahnhof left at 2339, reaching St. Gallen at 0049 hours. He had less than one hour to catch that train – to get out of Zurich which was becoming a death-trap.
He entered police headquarters through the double doors in Lindenhofstrasse. The receptionist, a stocky policeman in shirt sleeves, confirmed that Chief Inspector Nagel was in his office. He asked Martel to fill in a printed form.
Just tell him I'm here, for God's sake,' Martel snapped. 'If you keep me waiting you won't be popular. This is an emergency.'
'And he's expecting me,' the Englishman lied. 'My name is all. he will need…'
Within minutes he was inside Nagel's third-floor office overlooking the Limmat. The windows were wide open, letting in dense clammy air. There were the usual heavy net curtains, the usual neon lighting, harsh and uninviting, the usual filing cabinets along one wall.
'I've been hoping you would contact me,' Nagel said when they had shaken hands. `Tweed called from London and warned me you were coming in. He said you might need help…'
'I think I do…'
David Nagel was a well-built Swiss with a thick moustache, humorous eyes and a mass of dark hair he kept well-brushed. Some of his colleagues dismissed him as a bit of a dandy whose greatest interest in life was women.
'No, that is my second greatest interest,' he would correct them when they hinted as much. 'My first is my work – which is why I'm not married. What wife could stand the hours I keep? So, being normal, my second greatest interest is… Now get the hell out of here.'
Martel liked him. Tweed said he had the most acute brain in the Swiss police and security system – and Intelligence had one foot in both camps. Nagel came straight to the point – as he – always did.
'You didn't fill in a form before you came up here, I hope?' He looked worried as he asked the question, and Nagel rarely showed anxiety no matter how critical the situation. 'You were dressed like that?' the Swiss continued, speaking rapidly. `And not using that blasted cigarette holder…'
`No to all your, questions – and yes I was wearing these glasses.' Martel removed a pair of horn-rimmed glasses fitted with plain lenses. 'I had to give my bloody name to get through to you. Are you going to nag about that…'
`Please, please, Keith.:.!' Nagel held up a restraining hand in a pacific gesture. 'But from your point of view your whereabouts might be best left unknown. Ferdy Arnold's security mob is moving heaven and earth to locate you.'
Martel lit a cigarette and indulged himself in the luxury of. employing his holder. He knew that Nagel disliked Arnold, that he had once told Tweed it 'was purely a political appointment'. The Swiss continued talking.
'Your name doesn't matter. When you have gone I shall tell the man at reception you are one of my key informants, that you used a code-name – that officially you never entered these premises. With no written record you will be safe from Arnold's hard men.'
'That's reassuring at any rate…' Martel was about to refer to the debacle in Bahnhofstrasse when Nagel again went on speaking.
'I have a number here you must phone urgently. She called me only ten minutes ago – knowing we are good friends. Despite my reservations about her chief, I like and trust Claire Hofer…'
Martel felt himself spinning, the whirlpool whipping him round. Faster.CHAPTER 6
Wednesday May 27
Stunned, Martel's teeth clenched tight on the cigarette-holder. To mask his reaction he took the holder out of his mouth and readjusted the position of cigarette in holder. She called me only ten minutes ago.
What the hell was wrong with the timing? Thirty minutes earlier Arnold had told him on the phone that 'less than half an hour ago' her body had been found in the Limmat. That meant Hofer had been found about one hour from this moment. And now Nagel – the most precise Swiss – had clearly stated the call from Claire Hofer had come through 'ten minutes ago'. On the scrap of paper Nagel had handed to him was written a St Gallen phone number.
Nagel would know the girl's voice well. Being Nagel he would have wanted proof of the identity of his caller. Irrevocable proof. Martel began to consider whether he could be going out of his mind.
'Something wrong?' Nagel enquired softly.
'Yes, I'm tired.' Martel folded the scrap of paper and put it in his wallet. 'What sort of a night are you having?'
'Routine so far.'
Again Martel was stunned. David Nagel, chief of. police Intelligence, had no knowledge of the traumatic event which had taken place in Bahnhofstrasse. There was no reason for him to conceal such knowledge – Martel felt certain of this. He had to tread damned carefully.
'Why do you mistrust Ferdy Arnold?' he asked.
'It was a political appointment – not a professional one…' 'And why does Claire Hofer-who works for Arnold -call you when she has a message for me?'
'Because she knows you and I are close friends.' The Swiss paused. 'I also employed her before she transferred to counterespionage…'
'You said you've had a routine night so far,' Martel probed.
'Except for the explosion aboard some tourist's launch out on the lake. Some poor idiot who obviously knew nothing about engines or boats – so he had an accident and lost his life. We did hear the faint boom of the detonation…' He pointed towards the open windows behind curtains which hung motionless in the airless night. The sound came up the Limmat from the lake…'
No, it didn't, Martel thought. It came straight up the funnel of Bahnhofstrasse and then down Uraniastrasse, the side street leading towards police headquarters. He was watching Nagel and the extraordinary thing was he was convinced the Intelligence man was not lying. Someone was trying to cover up the incident, to pretend it had never happened.
'Good to see you, David,' Martel said and stood up. 'And I'll call Claire Hofer soon but there's something I have to attend to, and you don't want to know about it…'
'That is a direct line which bypasses the switchboard,' Nagel suggested, pointing to one of three phones on his desk. 'I can leave you on your own…'
'It isn't that, David. I'm just short of time.'
'Enjoy yourself while you're in Zurich…'
It was 2310 hours when Martel left police headquarters. He had half an hour to catch the 2339 train to St. Gallen, but he still had things to deal with. He walked past a patrol car parked outside, a cream Volvo with a red trim. Two uniformed men sat in the front with the windows open. Where the devil had they been when all hell broke loose in nearby Bahnhofstrasse?
And he had lied to Nagel he recalled as he hurried back to the Hauptbahnhof. He felt certain he could rely on the Swiss but he had mistrusted the offered phone which passed through no switchboard. He was now gripped by a feeling of insecurity and determined to take no chances.
'Maybe I'm getting paranoid,' he told himself as he slipped inside one of the empty phone booths in the station. These were safe. Again he remembered the dead Warner who apparently had also haunted Hauptbahnhofs. As he dialled the number Nagel had given him he began to sympathise with Charles Warner. Martel himself felt hunted.
The receptionist at the Hotel Hecht in St. Gallen confirmed that Claire Hofer was staying with them. She asked him to hold while she tried her room. A girl's voice came on the line – decisive, sharp and wary.
'Who is this?'
'Our mutual friend, Nagel, passed on your message and I want you to take certain action very fast. Can you get to an outside payphone? Good. Get there immediately and call me at this number.' He read out the booth number from the dial. 'It's Zurich code,' he added tersely. 'I'm very short of time…'
Martel found he was sweating. The atmosphere inside the booth was oppressive. He felt both exposed and trapped in the confined space. The phone rang in an astonishingly short time.
He snatched up the receiver. The same voice asked the question crisply.
'Is that…? Please confirm name of our mutual friend… 'Nagel. David Nagel…'
'Claire Hofer speaking…'
'Again do what I tell you without questioning my judgement – as fast as you can. Pay your bill at the Hotel Hecht – make up some plausible reason why you have to…'
'All right, I'm not stupid! What then?'
'Book in at another hotel in St. Gallen. Reserve a room for me. Warn them I'll arrive about one o'clock in the morning…'. 'You need parking space for a car?'
'No. I'm coming in by train…'
'I'll call back in minutes. I have to find accommodation and tell you where to come. Goodbye!'
Martel was left staring at a dead receiver. More precious time was being consumed. But she sounded good, damned good. He had to give her that. The whirlpool was gyrating faster. He felt he had been talking to a ghost. Claire Hofer had just been dragged out of the Limmat – according to Arnold…
Despite the growing heat inside the kiosk he inserted a cigarette into his holder, cursed, removed the cigarette and placed it between his lips minus holder. While talking he had turned round with his back to the coin box so he could watch the deserted concourse. He took several deep drags and the phone was ringing a second time. Her voice…
'Is that…? Good. Our mutual friend…'
'Nagel. Martel here…'
'I got lucky. Two twin-bedded rooms on the first floor. Hotel Metropol. Faces the station exit. Staring at you as you come out. I'll leave a note at the desk with just my room number inside the envelope.
In the next few minutes Martel moved very fast. He bought his rail ticket for St. Gallen. At the Hotel Schweizerhof he paid for the room he no longer needed. He did his best, to make the cancellation seem normal.
`I'm a consultant – medical – and I'm urgently needed in Basle by a patient…' Consultant was the word he had filled in on the 'occupation' section of the registration form when he had arrived. The term was impressive and totally vague.
He had not unpacked his bag a precaution he always took when arriving at a fresh destination – so all he had to do was to shove his shaving kit and toothbrush inside and snap the catches. Running down the stairs – the night clerk would see nothing odd now in his speedy departure – he hurried across to the first of the taxis waiting outside the station.
`I want you to take me to Paradeplatz. Can you then wait a few minutes by the tram stop while I deliver something? Then drive me straight back here?'
`Please get in…'
He was using up his last few minutes before the St. Gallen train departed but – knowing Zurich and the quietness of the streets at this hour-he believed he could just manage it. Because he had to check the state of Bahnhofstrasse where shots had been fired, blood spilt all over the sidewalk, and a bomb detonated against a bank.