Percy slept soundly as the passenger aircraft carried him comfortably away to Switzerland. Percy was at liberty to have holidays whenever it suited him. He was not missing Donna Connolly. This is not to say that his affections for Donna Connolly were in any way declining. Percy Dale was a man who possessed significant degrees of self discipline. When separated from his lady, he could enjoy himself to the fullest, without pining for somebody who could not be with him at the time.
He had allowed Donna to live in his house at 66 Burnseid Street Wahroonga during the period of his absence.
"After all," he had thought, "Somebody might as well use this house while I am gone, and Donna does like a change from living in Manly. She could go to the local church and see some of my friends."
The aircraft landed at a Swiss airport. Because of the delicate nature of the outcome of this story, its precise location has been withheld from the readers. It will have no bearing on the clarity of the details of the adventure in which the Sneaky Spy was involved.
Percy had been awoken by a stewardess in order to prepare himself for the landing, and he was eagerly anticipating a breath of fresh Swiss morning air. He had planned the details of his travels carefully, to be sure that, no matter what the time was in Australia, he could commence his visit to Switzerland at the beginning of a Swiss day, after a few hours of healthy slumber.
He had booked into a hotel in a small Swiss town, and decided to practice the moderate portions of the local language that he knew, by conversing with the driver of the taxi which bore him on its way to the hotel.
I hear they're getting very strict at the borders now.
The chronicler does not for one moment wish to assert, by his shortening of the account of what actually took place in the taxi, that all Swiss taxi drivers possess as little enthusiasm for
making conversation as the driver who has been briefly mentioned here. One would not consider it economically or in any other way constructively fruitful to devote numerous nouns, verbs and adjectives towards the unnecessary procedure of describing the features of the taxi and its driver in great detail. To write line upon line of carefully scripted text would most likely place the reader in a similar position to that in which Percy had been while he was making most of his journey in the aeroplane.
Percy was shown to his room, and then permitted the solitude so desired by any lone tourist who has just arrived at a hotel. He unpacked his materials systematically, with the exception of what Percy inwardly thought of as his tool kit.
Percy's childhood fascination with the creation of secret compartments in which to hide things had proven extremely useful in recent days. Percy had concealed every small portable gadget and weapon that any man could ever concieve into the various innocent looking items which were packed in the case. There were monitoring devices in the soles of his shoes, tranquiliser guns between the covers of hollowed out biographies of famous movie stars; tranquiliser needle darts packed solidly into an empty tube which could be opened if necessary, a packet of pens all with the writing mechanisms removed and replaced with various technical gadgets. There was even a knife with a handle shaped and coloured like a pen, and a secure click-on top to conceal the blade.
Similar pens were actually screwdrivers of all different sizes. Percy did not foresee any need for his secluded arsenal. Yet he had often found uses for portions of its contents in the past, and if his motives were among the purest, then who was any customs officer to deny him the liberty of transporting such a practical collection of paraphernalia into the country of Switzerland?
He dressed himself in long but loose clothes and set out for a picnic. As he travelled out of the town and into the open country, he did not even feel the presence of the small haversack secured to his person. It contained his lunch, among other things. He walked for an hour that day, along the country roads, humming tunes to himself from the soundtracks of movies, and eventually came to a picnic area.
He began to enjoy three ham and lettuce sandwiches, but was required to abandon this process, when he was approached by a frantic Austrian gentleman in his mid twenties, although Percy did not know these details yet.
I need help, Sir. Kidnappers have my sister. If I do not give them an expensive collection of jewellery passed down through the generations of our family, they will kill her.
Percy explained that his knowledge of the spoken language was limited, and acquired a slow and detailed account of the plight of his frustrated new associate. The man, one Hugh Chaskun had managed to disguise the fact that he was still in his house at the time when his sister was kidnapped. He had entered her captors' getaway truck unseen from the rear, as it started away. The truck was, by outer labling, a removalist vehicle, and a fruitful search had revealed his sister Audreye to be hidden in a hollow piano.
The kidnapping had occurred in the early evening at the Chaskun's residence in Austria. They lived close to the border. Percy's hotel was close to the border on the Swiss side. A long drive, lasting well into the night had seen the truck to the Swiss border. Had he been able to see or hear out of the truck, Hugh may well have taken advantage of the customs inspection. However, when the vehicle came to a halt, Hugh had simply done the first thing that it occurred to him to do. He had concealed himself in the piano with his sister. When the Swiss kidnappers had stopped the truck at a petrol station, Hugh had attempted to escape with his sister, but he was unable to open the piano from the inside, and his noisy attempts to do so had come to the attention of the kidnappers who had found him in the piano, knocked him unconscious and thrown him out onto the snow beside the country road, where he had later regained consciousness.
He had wandered aimlessly until he had come upon the picnic table where Percy was eating his lunch. However, at one time during that whole ordeal, he had taken a grip on his emotions and acted rationally. During the time in which he had shared the insides of the piano with his sister, he had removed the cloth that bound her mouth, and asked where they were taking her. She had told him what little had been revealed to her, about a castle belonging to a gangster and extortionist high up in the Swiss Alps. He had then replaced the cloth, hoping that should their attempts to escape fail, which they did, he could successfully disguise the fact that Audreye had revealed to him the destination of her captors. She had told him that they had left a ransom note at the house, demanding the jewellery, during the kidnapping operation, but he now had no need to return home and read it.
You see, they must have had passports or fake ones. I have none. Is there anything we can do?
I don't know any castles in the Swiss Alps myself. Perhaps, if you can ski, we could have a look for it.
I am no expert, but I have done some downhill skiing every year, during my holidays, said Hugh.
Percy offered the man his last sandwich and the fruit in his haversack for sustenance, and walked with him, until they acquired transport back to Percy's hotel. Percy had an ample supply of winter clothing for himself, and a few purchases provided Hugh with the same, along with two sets of skis and ski boots. This occuppied them until dinner, after which they slept, and set off for the Alps in the morning.
The cable car took them to the highest peak of the Swiss Alps. Its attendant informed them that they were the only two people in several days who had gone that high. Hugh's haversack contained only food and walking boots. Percy's haversack and various parts of his person were also equipped with a selection of items from his secret tool kit. He took out an apple and began to eat it, until the cable car had returned down a significant portion of the mountain behind the many pine trees which supplemented the beauty of the snow.
I was not going to tell that attendant that we plan to ski around the top, rather than downhill, said Percy, although if he recognises cross country skis, our attendant may well work that one out for himself. I must advise you that these are much lighter than downhill skis. If you manoevre with them properly, you will find movements easy, without the constant need for downward momentum required by a downhill skier.
What if we don't find the castle?
Then we ski to the nearest cable car boarding point, take a return trip, and try in a different area tomorrow.
Fortunately this was not necessary. The castle had an adequate number of pine trees to hide it from anyone who was not looking for a castle. However, Percy and Hugh discovered the castle's location at half past two in the afternoon. They were well hidden in the pine trees.
Percy instructed Hugh to remove both his skis and his ski boots. From their haversacks they then clad their feet in walking boots, and Percy set about the task of hiding the skis and the ski boots. Firstly, he attached the boots to the skis, as they would be when the wearer is skiing; and then he took some leather straps from his haversack and went in search of a thick bushy vine.
Upon finding the most suitable inanimate candidate to play the role of the desired plant life, Percy disappeared into its centre and strapped the skis and boots to the trunk. When he emerged from within, he looked at the tree and was convinced that nobody would spot the hidden skis.
"Good," he thought to himself, "We may well need those for a rapid escape."
He then led Hugh on a long but necessary path, spiralling inwards through the trees around the castle, until they had selected the castle wall with the largest amount of surrounding trees, and made their way towards the wall.
It hardly helps us at all, Hugh. Proprietors of near arctic chateaus do not generally leave doors ajar for easy outside access.
But we will still encourage you to come in.
The source of the voice was rounding a corner of the castle wall. It began to elaborate:
We are not prepared for everything, but for spies we are ready. You must be proud of our little electric eye system in the trees.
The source of the voice had a gun in its hand, and Percy knew that the most fruitless action of all would involve any attempt either to aggravate that source or retreat from it.
As instructed by the Swiss gunman, the Sneaky Spy pointed his hands skyward and cautioned Hugh to do the same. They were led into the castle's equivalent of a living room, where the gunman proclaimed the success of his capture. His superior delivered a brief monologue:
I expect that one of you must be Hugh Chaskun. We persuaded Audreye to detail the incident in the piano. You might as well know who I am. Sit down.
They did so.
My name is Rico Treperachi. Which of you is Hugh Chaskun?
I am, and my friend is Mister Percy Dale, an Australian, said Hugh, What have you done with my dear little sister?
I had hoped to extract your family's jewellery collection from you in order to assure her safe return, but now that you know where we are, it makes things a little ... difficult. I have no alternative to imprisoning the three of you for the moment.
Percy's eyes fell upon Rico's chess table.
How can any man with sufficient intelligence to play the game of chess be stupid enough to kidnap a young girl for ransom?
Are you skilled in the playing of chess? asked Rico.
I've never lost more than one game each year, except to my computer, said Percy.
Then I suggest that we lock Mister Chaskun in one of the upstairs rooms, and ourselves partake of a game of chess. I have waited a long time for a formidable opponent. If you are as competent as I suspect, I shall enjoy this game immensely. Ausgang, you will watch over our little game, as soon as you have locked Hugh away.
Rico held his gun trained on Percy until Ausgang returned.
They then sat down at the chess table, and Percy chose the white pieces to be his own for the duration of the game.
The game was an interesting one.
Rico was relaxed, and yet calculating every move with singleminded devotion. Percy played mechanically, while his mind sought for a way to find the Chaskuns and free all three of them from the confines of the castle.
Readers who understand chess codes may wish to set up a board and move the pieces to see exactly what the flow of the game looked like. Otherwise, they can still enjoy the story.
Percy opened by moving his pawn to queen four.
Rico did the same.
Percy brought his queen up to queen three.
Yes. I think I can see what you are trying to do already. I have a different mode of attack, said Rico.
Rico: pawn to king three.
Percy: bishop to king three.
"Upstairs rooms," thought the Sneaky Spy, "That means that we either use the windows or attempt to pass down the stairs unnoticed."
Rico: knight to king's bishop three.
Percy: knight to queen's bishop three.
Rico did the same.
Percy began to see something in the man's eyes. Rico felt that he had to win. There were no stakes, and yet his pride could not cope with the prospect of losing to Percy Dale, especially in front of his minion Ausgang.
Percy castled on the queen's side.
He turned his head and noticed the steady eyes of the gunman Ausgang, who raised his gun from where it rested in his hand against his knee.
Do not think foolishly about escape, Mister Dale.
Not me, Rico.
Percy's reply would have contained elements of wit and flippancy, had he been a master of the foreign language required for any form of conversation between the two.
Rico: bishop to queen three.
Percy: bishop to king's knight five.
Rico castled on the king's side.
Percy caught his eyes again, and wondered if the man would have been as eager to win the game in Ausgang's absence.
Percy: pawn to king's rook four.
Rico: pawn to king four.
Percy: pawn to king's rook five.
Rico: pawn to queen five, taking Percy's pawn.
A partial victory, Mister Dale. The first piece to be taken.
I am not given to accepting the statement that nothing is won without sacrifice, but I do believe that some things simply are not.
Percy moved his pawn to king's rook six, modestly proud of his ability to contribute at last to the verbal fencing match in foreign tongue.
Rico: pawn to queen's bishop six, taking Percy's knight.
"That's it, little piranha," thought Percy, "Continue to snap at the bait. I have now thought out the entire sequence of moves that will lead to your downfall, while you are led to believe that you are capturing all of my valuable pieces one by one, thereby leaving my army too weak to check-mate you."
Check-mate is the state of victory at the conclusion of a game of chess.
Percy: pawn to queen's bishop three, taking Rico's pawn.
As if to feed more of the line out to Rico, Percy lined up the captured pieces to enforce the comparison. He could see the effect on Rico's ego, as the man began to fully relish his considered victory of one knight. Yet people who played chess with a view to capturing pieces as the prime objective were most likely to lose against somebody who set out to achieve the game's true purpose of trapping the opponent's king.
"And you'll feast on one more of my good pieces prior to your embarrassing defeat," thought Percy, as Rico moved his rook to king one.
An eye for an eye, a pawn for a pawn, said Percy, moving his pawn to king's knight seven and hence taking Rico's pawn.
If Rico now took Percy's pawn, his king would be exposed. Percy could see the man attempting to conceal his concern that he should defeat Percy Dale.
Rico: knight to king four.
Percy: queen to queen's knight five.
Rico: bishop to queen's rook six.
Check, said Rico, which was a word that fulfilled the compulsory obligation of warning the opponent when making a move that would directly threaten his king.
"So you don't want the pawn yet," thought Percy, "Not too worry. I can escape from your 'check'."
He did so by moving his king to queen's knight one.
Then Rico did it: king to king's knight two, taking Percy's pawn.
"Why try to escape from this castle now?" thought the Sneaky Spy, "It is just like this game of chess. I will let him lock me up too. He will think that he has me perfectly captured. The paraphernalia of undetected equipment in the pens inside my inner pocket should be able to work that door or the windows of my room into a state of submission. Got you Rico, in more ways than one."
Percy: bishop to king's rook six.
Check, said Percy.
Still Rico did not see it coming. He callously opted to back his king into the corner denoted, from his point of view, as king's rook one.
Percy: king's rook to king's rook five.
"You're welcome to it," Percy thought.
Rico took it: knight to king's rook four, taking Percy's rook.
"I will let him think that I am trying my best and nothing more," thought Percy, moving his queen's rook to queen five, taking Rico's pawn.
Rico: bishop to queen three.
Percy: pawn to king's bishop four.
"Worry about this one," he thought, "It will stop you from worrying about the real danger."
Rico responded to the threatening of his knight by unleashing a threat of his own upon Percy's queen. To do that, Rico moved his pawn to queen's rook three.
"I wondered when he would go after my queen," thought Percy, "At last I can move it into the killing position, disguising the move as a retreat from his threats to me. Just continue threatening my dear queen, Mister Treperachi."
The queen is the most powerful piece in the game of chess, while the king is generally a powerlesss figurehead protected by all of the other pieces of his colour.
Percy: queen to queen's rook five.
"Rico won't even think about it, if I start off in the opposite direction. The checkmate that gets him will be the one that he does not even see coming until after it is done."
Rico: pawn to queen's knight three.
Percy: queen to queen's rook four. Another apparent retreat.
Percy enjoyed the paradox that he was creating for this arrogant chess fanatic.
Rico: bishop to queen two.
Percy mentally cheered again.
"Good boy, Rico. Another threat."
Percy moved his queen to king four.
Rico moved his knight to king's bishop three. He was still trying to capture Percy's queen. Percy's postioning of his queen for the final assault was improving move by move.
Percy: queen to king three.
Rico: knight to queen four, taking Percy's rook.
"And now you think you can't loose, with both my castles gone," thought Percy, because a rook is shaped like a miniature castle, "but I will leave your Alpine castle retreat behind, before too much else happens."
Percy: queen to king's knight three.
Rico: bishop to queen's bishop four, threatening Percy's knight.
Rico had only lost three paltry pawns. Percy was now without two pawns, a knight, and two rooks.
But you will never be able to take my knight, said the Sneaky Spy, advancing his queen to king's knight seven, I have been reasonably liberal about rook sacrifices, but that's checkmate, Rico.
Rico stood up, sighed, and then gazed down at the board, pondering the scene in the desperate hope that his opponent had made a mistake. He could not determine how it had been sprung on him so effectively.
After an infinitesimal period of thought, he spoke.
Lock him in a room of his own, Ausgang.
This was the first time that Ausgang had spoken since the game had commenced. He knew nothing about chess. His training included such mentally limited skills as shooting, killing, and standing on guard. Throughout the game, he had stared with admiration and fascination at the miniature warfare being simulated between these two men, each of whom seemed to be a mental colossus; failing to comprehend the complicated detail of the intellectual strategies behind it all.
Now he was back in his element, on solid ground once again. He pointed the business end of his gun at Percy and motioned him towards the door.