The Impossible Virgin
From this printing: A vein of gold is the prize and the race will not necessarily go to the swiftest. Strength, fearlessness, and ingenuity - all part of Modesty Blaises awesome arsenal - are far more important attributes in her battles with a gang of professional killers, savage warriors, and the ferocious
guardians of the treasure.
Modesty said without expression, "So what you want us to put into the partnership is Dr Pennyfeather? Then we help you torture him to stimulate his memory. Is that it?"
Brunel considered. "I'm not sure that we would have to use painful methods. But yes, it might be necessary in the end. Would that distress you?" He sounded mildly surprised.
Modesty looked at Willie, then at Brunel again. She said, "Let's put it this way. If Chance and Muktar come after Dr Pennyfeather again, if they try to lay a finger on him, I'll kill them this time. And then you. That's a promise."
Willie Garvin said, "I'm underwriting it, Brunel."
The small man tapped his fingertips gently together. "I'm afraid I've come here under a false impression," he said at last. "I thought you were in the same line of business as myself, broadly speaking."
"Very broadly speaking, we used to be," Modesty said. "But even then there was quite a difference. We'd wipe out people like you, Brunel, if we stumbled across them."
"I find it hard to follow you, but no matter. I take it you're rejecting my offer out of hand?"
"I did that to start with."
"And you're not tempted by the prospect of enormous returns in due time?"
She said reflectively, "The only temptation I have is to put you down now. I really should." She studied him silently for several seconds, then pressed a bell-push set in the wall. "You'd better go now."
* * *
Giles appeared warily from the passage leading to Modesty's workroom, peered round and said, "He's gone? My God, I didn't like him at all, you know."
"You saw him?" Modesty took her glass of wine to Giles and gave it to him. Willie poured another for her.
"Yes, as a matter of fact I did. I was pretty intrigued, you see, so I crept along the passage and peeked round the corner. But I got down on my hands and knees first, so my face was right down on the floor. I was pretty sure he wouldn't spot me. Then when he got up to go, I sort of darted nimbly back."
"You're a cunning little MD," said Willie.
"Yes, I was a bit." Pennyfeather drank half the wine in his glass and thought for a moment. "The way he talked about torturing people was simply bloody."
Modesty said, "Torturing you, specifically, darling."
"Well yes, me. But it doesn't matter who. To tell you the truth, I kept hoping you'd shoot him. I still wish you had." Pennyfeather nodded his head slowly with an air of regret. "I don't usually wish people any harm, but I've never run into anyone like him before. You ought to have put that bugger down, you know."
Willie said gravely, "Getting rid of the body's always a bit of a problem."
"M'mm, I suppose so." Pennyfeather nodded judicially. "Still, you had me on hand."
Modesty looked at Willie, who gave a baffled shrug. She said, "What's that to do with it, Giles?"
"Well, after all, I'm a doctor. I could have cut him up in the bath for you, or something."
Willie Garvin choked massively on a sip of wine, blew it out in a fine spray, and staggered about thumping his chest, coughing and apologizing. Modesty sat down, staring dazedly at Pennyfeather, suppressed laughter shaking her hand so much that she had to set down her glass. She said, "Giles … are you joking?"
"Eh? No, certainly not. It's nothing to joke about."
"But.. . She gestured helplessly.
"Well, good lord, a body's only a body, and I'd hate you to get into any trouble just for doing in a rotten swine like that. Public service, if you ask me."
Tears in his eyes, still wheezing a little, Willie croaked, "We could've shoved "im down the Tweeny. You're lovely, Giles. I mean it, matey. Honest to God, you're lovely."
"I know one thing," Pennyfeather said with solemn conviction. "You can laugh, but he's so bad he's dangerous, that chap. Brunel, I mean. I can tell, you know."
Peter O´Donnell, The Impossible Virgin, 1971