“What’s your idea?” Apple had released the corporal, but kept his hands menacingly on the top of the seat.
“Same as yours,” replied Pear. “Take the sentry at midpoint; less chance of his being seen there. Once he’s out we walk south to the wind sock, where, I trust, a Corsican or two will show themselves.”
They crossed the ocean road into an alley that led to the dock complex. The smell of fish and the sounds of half a hundred boats creaking in rhythmic rest in their slips filled the darkness. Nets were hung everywhere; the wash of the sea could be heard beyond the planked walkway that fronted the piers. A few lanterns were swaying on ropes over decks; a concertina played a simple tune in the distance.
Vittorio and Pear walked casually out of the alley, their footsteps muted by moist planks. Apple and the corporal remained in the shadows. The walkway was bordered by a railing of metal tubing above the lapping water.
“Do you see the sentry?” asked Fontini-Cristi softly.
“No. But I hear him,” answered the agent. “He’s rapping the pipe as he walks. Listen.”
It took Vittorio several seconds before he could distinguish the faint metal sounds among the rhythmic creakings of wood on water. But they were there. The unconscious, irregular tattoo of a bored man performing a dull task.
Several hundred feet south on the walkway, the figure of the soldier came under the spill of a pier light, his rifle angled down to the deck through his left arm. He was beside the railing, his right hand aimlessly tapping out his steps.
“When he gets here, ask him for a cigarette,” said Pear calmly. “Pretend you’re drunk. I will, too.”
The sentry approached. The instant he saw them he snapped up his rifle and cracked the bolt, holding his position fifteen feet away.
“Two fishermen without cigarettes,” replied Fontini-Cristi, slurring his words. “Be a nice fellow and give us a couple. Even one; we’ll share it.”
“You’re drunk,” said the soldier. “There’s a curfew tonight on the piers. How come you’re here? It was on the loudspeakers all day.”
“We’ve been with two whores in Albisolla,” answered Vittorio, lurching, steadying himself on the railing. “Only things we heard were music on a phonograph and creaking beds.”
“Very nice,” mumbled Pear.
The sentry shook his head in disapproval. He lowered his rifle and approached, reaching into the pocket of his tunic for cigarettes. “You
are worse than the
. I’ve done duty there.”
Behind the soldier, Vittorio could see Apple coming out of the shadows. He had forced the corporal to lie down on his back in the corner of the alley; the corporal would not move. In Apple’s hands were two spools.
Before Vittorio could realize what was happening, Apple sprang out of the passageway, his arms stretched, angled upward. In two swift moves, the agent’s hands whipped over the sentry’s head, and with his knee jammed into the small of the soldier’s back, he yanked violently, causing the guard to arch spastically and then collapse.
The only noise was an abrupt, horrible expunging of air,and the quiet fall of the man’s body into the soft, moist wood.
Pear rushed to the corporal; he held his pistol against the soldier’s temple. “Not a sound. Understood?” It was a command that left no room for debate. The corporal rose silently.
Fontini-Cristi looked down in the dim light at the guard on the walkway. What he could see he wished he had not seen. The man’s neck was severed half off his body, the blood was pouring out in a dark-red stream from what had been the man’s throat. Apple rolled the body through a wide space in the railing. It hit the water with a muffled splash. Pear picked up his rifle and spoke in English.
“Off we go. Down this way.”
“Come on,” said Fontini-Cristi, his hand on the trembling corporal’s arm. “You have no choice.”