Authors: Len Deighton
Werner prodded the body with the toe of his shoe, and kicked it to tip it into the ditch. He'd chosen this spot because of that deep ditch. He moved the motor cycle too. It would be found eventually – someone would spot the dollar bills beflagging the fields – but it was better to get the bike out of sight. He pushed the leather case into the grass, and the rest of the money fluttered aside. He didn't pick any of it up. The notes were probably marked, or counterfeit. London Central had provided the money and the British were very careful about money, it was one of the things he'd discovered soon after starting to work for them.
Bret Rensselaer was at La Buona Nova, the hillside estate in Ventura County, California. He was having an early breakfast by the pool when the coded message came telling him that Fiona and Bernard Samson were on the way to join him in California.
It was a truly beautiful morning. Bret drank his orange juice and poured himself the first cup of coffee of the day. He so enjoyed sitting outdoors inhaling the clear cool air that came off the ocean. Around the pool there were whitewashed walls where the jasmine, roses and bougainvillaea seemed to bloom almost all the year round. There were trees bearing oranges, trees bearing lemons and trees bearing the maja fruit that his hostess called 'Brets'. It looked like a lemon but tasted like an orange, and calling it a Bret was perhaps her way of saying that Bret was sweet and sour. Or British yet American too. Bret didn't know what was implied but he went along with her joke: they had known each other a long long time.
People who had known Bret for a long time would say that he'd aged since being badly wounded at the Berlin shoot-out, but to the casual observer he was as trim and fit and agile as a senior citizen had any right to be. He was swimming and skiing and doing a routine of exercises. He wanted to look good when the visitors arrived.
He could not suppress a smile of satisfaction: they were coming. His plan to get an agent in the Kremlin, as Nikki had sardonically put it, had worked exactly as he'd predicted it would when he first took it to the D-G just after she ran out on him. Now there was only the long and interesting work of debriefing.
Bernard Samson would be here too. He had tried to get the old man to send Bernard elsewhere but it was good security to have him here where he could be supervised. Tessa's disappearance had to be accounted for; the idea that she had run away with Bernard was in every way believable.
This morning Bret would go right through all his notes again so as to be prepared for Fiona's arrival. This would be the last job he'd ever do for London Central and he was determined that it should end perfectly. Werner Volkmann's last report said that Fiona was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, but Bret didn't give it much credence. He'd heard that too often about other working agents: it was usually the preamble to a demand for more money. Fiona would be all right. Good food, sleep and the California air would soon bring her back to being her old self again.
Bernard Samson would go nowhere, of course. His career was at an end. It was strange to think how near Bernard had come to a senior position on the SIS staff. That evening long ago when Bret had gone to see the D-G, he had been all set to promote Bernard to German Stations
Controller. From there he would have gone to the top floor and perhaps ended up as Director-General. Heaven knows, he wouldn't be facing any fierce opposition from the line-up of deadbeats that now occupied the top floor. Would Sir Henry and Silas and Frank Harrington, and the rest of that cabal which really ran things, have gone along with Bernard Samson in a top job? They were always saying what a splendid fellow Bernard was, and many of them thought that the Department owed him something for the shabby way his father had been treated. But D-G? Any chance of Bernard as D-G had been eliminated that night when Sir Henry had revealed that Fiona was his choice to go over there.
Bret put down his coffee cup as a sudden thought came to him. The D-G must have known that choosing Fiona meant eliminating Bernard. There were others he could have chosen instead of Fiona: good people, he'd admitted that many times. So, had the D-G's choice of Fiona been influenced by the fact that it would prevent Bernard getting the top job?
Bret drank his coffee and thought about it. There was always another layer of onion no matter how deep you went. Well, if it was true, the old man would never admit it, and he was the only one who knew the answer. Bret knew that he could never really become English. They were very strange people: tribal in their complex allegiances. He finished his coffee and dismissed such thoughts from his mind. There was a lot of work to do.
Len Deighton was born in London in 1929. He worked as a railway clerk before doing his National Service in the RAF as a photographer attached to the Special Investigation Branch.
After his discharge in 1949, he went to art school – first to the St Martin's School of Art, and then to the Royal College of Art on a scholarship. It was while working as a waiter in the evenings that he developed an interest in cookery – a subject he was later to make his own in an animated strip for the
and in two cookery books. He worked for a while as an illustrator in New York and as art director of an advertising agency in London.
Deciding it was time to settle down, Deighton moved to the Dordogne where he started work on his first book,
The Ipcress File.
Published in 1962
the book was an immediate and spectacular success. Since then he has published twenty books of fiction and non-fiction – including spy stories, and highly-researched war novels and histories – all of which have appeared to international acclaim.
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