Chapter Twenty-Eight

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As arranged the previous evening, David and Maria met Hans in the dining room for breakfast on Wednesday morning. While they waited for service, Hans said, "I've asked for a report on road conditions, both yours and mine. It should be here shortly. I've received a wire ordering me to Bern to meet with the new Military Attaché at the Embassy."

"We met Colonel Wyndcom briefly last week," David said. "He seemed a bit abrupt."

Maria snorted a laugh, then covered her mouth as she tried to recover.

David continued. "Likely from his unfamiliarity with his new duties. He had just arrived."

"I was told he had been at the Belgian Front, and that he's been declared unfit to continue the fighting. He's from a titled family with a long record of military service, and he might be uncomfortable with the idea of a desk."

Maria nodded as Hans spoke, then she said, "That explains his brusqueness and his pompous attitude. He was..." Maria paused as a man approached the table.

"The road to Bern is open only to vehicles with snow chains. It might be best if you took the train, Sir."

"What did you find out about the road to Zürich?" Hans asked.

"It's clear as far as Brugg, though chains are required on it also. But the Limmat Valley road is closed. I'm told the Rhine Valley is clear of snow and it's possible to get to Zürich through Winterthur."

"And from Brugg to the Rhine?"

"That's also clear."

"Thank you, François." Hans lifted a finger as he paused a short while, then he continued. "Have Loic fit the snow chains to my car."

"Yes, Sir."

After David had watched François nod, turn and leave, he said, "My father fabricated snow chains for his truck. Where would I find someone to do that here? All we have now is wraps of ropes."

"Most of the garages have ready-made chains for the popular tyre sizes." He chuckled. "Though Bienne is usually snow-free, getting into and out of here in the winter often requires driving through snow. I can direct you to the one I use."

David pulled the map from his breast pocket.

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Shortly past ten thirty, David and Maria drove slowly eastward out of Bienne, the chains making a racket on the dry road. "I'll be able to speed up a bit once we reach the snow."

"That seems such backwards thinking until I analyse it; the damage to the chains striking the hard surface at speed. Where will we meet the snow?"

"It was less than ten kilometres from town when we came in. Likely close to the same now. It made more sense to have them installed by the garage men, rather than stopping on the roadside to do it."

They encountered the snow a few minutes later, and they made good time into Solothurn and through the town. Maria pointed to the turn to Bern. "I hope Hans can get beyond the bluster of Colonel Windbag."

David chuckled. "Appropriate name, but it's best you stop using it lest you slip at an embarrassingly inappropriate moment."

"True. But it does fit with what we saw."

"And what we saw was only a minute or less, so we know little about him, nor do we know anything about what he had experienced either at the Front or immediately before we arrived. I'm sure there is much more to him than the glimpse we had."

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