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Authors: Evelyn Anthony

Tags: #Fiction, #Espionage, #Mystery & Detective, #General

The Defector (10 page)

BOOK: The Defector
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“Do you have to go so early?” Captain Graham couldn’t hide his disappointment. Charley leaned towards him; she was balanced on the arm of his big chair, with one arm resting on the back. They made a charming picture; age and beauty smiling at each other. Her announcement that she was leaving after tea had changed her father’s smile to a reproachful frown.

“You haven’t been for such a long time, and you’re dashing off so quickly. Why don’t you at least stay for dinner?”

“I would, darling,” she said, ‘but I promised this girl friend of mine I’d go to a party she’s giving. She’d be so upset if I didn’t go. Don’t be cross with me. ” She murmured quietly,” I’ll come down next weekend I promise. If Davy isn’t here. “

“Let’s go outside,” her father said.

“A quick stroll in the garden.” Davina saw them leave together; she was reading the newspaper and Sasanov was dozing in an armchair. His face looked tired and gaunt in repose. She noted her father and her sister walking past the window a minute later, arm-in-arm and talking earnestly. He had never been intimate with her, or taken her arm. She didn’t care, she thought; she wasn’t jealous any more or hurt because he made such a display of favouritism. She had her own life, her own world. She could shut him out now. She was glad Sasanov had relaxed enough to fall asleep. She kept her sense of triumph and excitement to herself, confident that nothing showed. And it was more than just professional satisfaction. She had proved something to herself, or rather the Russian had proved it to her. She had something to offer a man. His dismissal of her sister was devastating in its perception. He hadn’t been fooled by the beauty and charm and sexual magnetism that had made idiots of clever men before.

“A woman who would only take from a man…” And with that assessment, Sasanov had discarded Charley. “I wanted a woman who could give.” She had given gladly, and she would go on, if he wanted it. She could help him get the best possible terms from the Brigadier, insist on his wife and daughter being smuggled out of Russia. And feel no jealousy that he wanted them. She knelt by the fire and lit it, watching the little flames flickering among the wood and catching hold. The room was still and peaceful, and the fire warmed her as she sat on the floor, still holding the matches. She wanted Sasanov to be happy. They were allies now, instead of adversaries, and she felt a tremendous relief. There was a movement behind her and she turned. He was awake, watching her.

“You look like a little girl, sitting on the floor,” he said.

“You slept for a bit,” she said.

“Do you want some tea?”

“I hate English tea.”

“Don’t be bad-tempered. I’ll put lemon in it.”

“Where has everyone gone?”

“My mother’s in the garden I think, and my father and Charley are out walking.”

“You have an obsession in this country,” he remarked.

“Every minute you go for a walk.” Davina saw the provocative look in his eye and stood up.

“I’ll get some tea for you,” she said blandly.

“Don’t let the fire go down.” In the garden, Charley was explaining her reason for going back to London.

“It’s not just my girlfriend, darling,” she said.

“I don’t like to say it to you, but it’s difficult for me with Davina here. It’s nearly two years since I’ve seen her, and she’s just as angry over Richard. You’d think after five years she’d have stopped hating me for it. “

“I was afraid this might happen,” her father said grimly.

“I warned your mother she’d be awkward. The trouble is, she’s never found anyone else. He was her one chance, I suppose.” He sighed.

“You can’t help it if Richard fell in love with you. The pity is, you married him. She can’t get over that anyway that’s what your mother says and she’s probably right. But it’s a damned nuisance. I’d been looking forward to you coming down and spending a nice weekend at home. After all, it’s her own fault if she wants to be an old maid! She’s never made an effort with anyone else. But she won’t come down again, not for a time, anyway. So you come next weekend, Charley darling, and we’ll have you to ourselves.” She squeezed his arm affectionately.

“I will; I promise. And don’t say anything to Mother about this, will you?

I don’t want to upset her.”

“I won’t,” her father said.

“Let’s go in, shall we? It’s turning cold. Have some tea before you go? ” She saw the pleading in his face, and said, “Of course I will. We’ll have some together in the kitchen. Then I’ll pack and be on my way.” They had always been intimates; even as a tiny child, she felt a sympathy with her father that was closer than with anyone else. He gave her a feeling of comfort and reassurance; when she was naughty as a little girl, she never doubted his forgiveness and she had the same certainty in adult life. He hadn’t reproached her for taking Davina’s fiance and marrying him, even against her family’s advice. When that marriage ended in under two years, with her husband drinking and near-bankrupt, Captain Graham had welcomed her home and set his solicitors on the unfortunate Richard. Her second attempt had seemed more promising; this time the man was not an infatuated young architect, but a very rich man some ten years older, with a property and investment company. When that marriage too fell to pieces, Charley sped home to be comforted and reassured that for the second time she was in the right. Yet she only believed it when she was with her parents. Or when she was at the beginning of a new love-affair, and it seemed that she was going to find the same unequivocal adoration she associated with her father. Then her self-assurance and optimism overcame her commonsense, and the new adventure was begun without a thought for the outcome. Love for Charley was a constant search that always promised perfect happiness, and ultimately always disappointed. She was devoted to her parents, but she couldn’t stay with them too long, unless she was hurt or unhappy and needed to be set right. She had never understood the need to run away from them after a time; she merely followed her impulse, and felt vaguely guilty. She made tea now for her father in the kitchen, and they shared it like conspirators. Then she said she must pack and start the drive back. At the kitchen door, Charley slipped an arm round her father’s neck and, reaching up, she kissed him.

“I’m sorry the weekend’s been so short,” she said “And don’t forget you’re my best beau!” It was her way of saying goodnight to him when she was very young, and going to a party or a dance with some admirer fidgeting by the front door. She didn’t recognize that, unfortunately for her, it was the truth. She said a brief and casual goodbye to Davina. She and the Pole were crouching over the fire with teacups in their hands, and for a moment Charley had a feeling she was intruding. She didn’t approach Davina;

she stood in the doorway, displaying another facet of her amazing good looks. The beautiful traveller about to embark, suitcase in one hand, the other raised in a graceful wave. She saw them turn from each other and look at her, and there was something close, almost intimate, about them, although they were not sitting together, not touching in any way. The Pole stood up, but didn’t move towards her like most men did, looking for an excuse to hold her hand while they said goodbye. He loomed with his back to the fire, and the lamplight behind him. He seemed solid, menacing, not the easy captive she had first judged him. And her sister’s face held something secret, and yet triumphant.

“Goodbye,” they said, one after the other; she echoed it with a gaiety she didn’t feel, and quickly shut the door on them.

“Well,” Davina said loudly.

“That was a short visit. She must have some poor devil in tow in London. Let’s have a drink.” Sasanov pressed heavily on her shoulder with his hand. The fingers hurt.

“Let’s go upstairs,” he said. Normally, Jeremy Spencer-Barr avoided beautiful girls. They made him uncomfortable, with their expectation that he was going to be attracted to them. He spent the first half hour at the drinks party that evening talking to a man who was in a City merchant bank, and getting Mary to introduce him to a playboy financier much mentioned in Private Eye. He sought contacts and information wherever he went, storing up the most trivial information in case it should link up with something else. His appetite for conspiracy was whetted by the merchant banker’s remarks about the financier, and by rumours that he was involved in arms deals from America enroute to the IRA.

“Oh, there’s Charley Ransom,” Mary said, tugging at his arm.

“I don’t think I’ll introduce you, darling. She’s a real man-eater.” Jeremy looked across at the girl who had just come in. He didn’t like red hair, but she was startlingly beautiful. The description of a man-eater didn’t recommend her.

“You don’t have to worry about me,” he said.

“Her sister works in the Ministry too,” Mary said.

“There was quite a scandal in the Graham family when Charley walked off with the sister’s fiance.”

“Did you say Graham?” he asked her.

“Yes, she was Charlotte Graham before she got married. I’ve never met the sister; she’s some kind of high-powered secretary. Come on, darling, of course I’ll introduce you I was only joking.”

“All right,” Jeremy said casually. He followed Mary and found himself standing next to the beautiful girl with the hair he didn’t like. There were several men circling round her. He saw Mary kiss her; it was a habit that mystified him. He disliked the social kiss between men and women; when two females did it, it was either hypocritical or pointless.

“Jeremy Spencer-Barr, this is Charlotte Ransom.”

“Charley, please,” the girl said.

“Charlotte’s such a mouthful.” She gave him a dazzling, friendly smile. Graham, a high-powered secretary in the Ministry of Defence. He just wanted to make sure. He was mentally recalling Davina Graham on the one occasion they had met, and he couldn’t see any family likeness to Charlotte Ransom. Except, of course, the hair. Not as red or as abundant, but similar in colour. Darker, more auburn.

“I hear you have a sister who works in the Defence Ministry,” he said.

“I work there too. I wonder if we’ve met.”

“I don’t know have you? Davina never talks about her work. Funnily enough I’ve seen her this weekend at home.”

“Really. It’s a big place and there must be a lot of Grahams working there. Who’s her boss?”

“An old family friend. Brigadier James White. Have you been away or do you spend the weekends in London?” she asked. Men didn’t usually talk about a third person when they met her. She thought-him quite goodlooking, but rather cool.

“Yes, unfortunately. I don’t go away all that often. I think I have met your sister-what a coincidence. She isn’t like you, if I may say so.” Charley accepted the compliment and decided not to move away just yet.

“We’re not really alike,” she said and laughed.

“She’s the serious one. I’m the one who gets into mischief.”

“Lucky mischief,” Jeremy responded quickly. He saw the gratification in her smile and called her a silly cow in private. He hated women who demanded flattery.

“Where have you been then?” he said.

“Where’s home?”

“My parents live near Salisbury,” Charley answered.

“We’ve got a darling old house there, where Davy and I were brought up. I adore going back whenever I can tear myself away. I’m just in the middle of a divorce, and it’s too depressing and dreary. You’re Mary’s friend, aren’t you? I’ve heard a lot about you.”

“I hope it’s good,” he said.

“Oh, yes apparently you’re quite something, Mr. Spencer-Barr. Lucky Mary.”

“Yes, aren’t I?” Mary Walker said. She slipped her arm through Jeremy’s and gave Charley a sweet smile.

“I’m trying to think when or where I met your sister,” Jeremy said. What the hell was she doing away for the weekend did that mean she’d been taken off Sasanov, and if so, who had replaced her?

“She’s not married, is she? Some people go on using their maiden names when they’re working.”

“No,” Charley said.

“She’s not married.” She was becoming bored again with the return to Davina as a subject, and poor Mary Walker standing guard over her property in case he was lured away. The remark that followed was defensive, because Mary Walker knew what had happened with Richard; also there was a pause, and Charley liked to keep a conversation going.

“She had a rather peculiar Pole staying the weekend too,” she said gaily.

“I just had a feeling romance was in the air. Not that she’d admit anything, of course. Next thing we know, she’ll be whizzed behind the Iron Curtain.” There was a general laugh in which Jeremy joined. A Pole. good God above could it be? He needed a moment to think and recover himself. He offered to get them drinks and slipped away. A Pole. it must be Sasanov; there was no other explanation. A weekend away from supervision, introduction to a family. Romance in the air. He must have broken and committed himself to cooperating with the West. And if that supremely vain and superficial girl was right, the minder had become the mistress. He went back with three glasses and a bright smile. The rest of the platitudes and party conversation floated over him. He let Mary steer him away, and then pretended to be going to the lavatory to get away from her. He came back into the room and passed Charlotte Ransom who was holding court over a group of grinning men. He touched her lightly on the arm.

“We’re leaving in a minute,” he said.

“Could I phone you some time?” It was such a normal occurrence for other women’s men to make approaches to her, that Charley didn’t even hesitate.

“I’d love that,” she said.

“I’m in the book. Portman Place.”

“I’ll be in touch,” Jeremy murmured, and passed on. A few minutes later he left the party. He took Mary out to dinner and was especially nice to her. Compared to women like Davina Graham’s sister, she was pure gold. If it hadn’t been for his career, he really would have married her. As it was, he was going to telephone Charlotte Ransom and take her out to dinner. He was going to New York in a fortnight and he hadn’t any time to waste. Davina took Sasanov back early on Monday morning. Both parents stood outside the front door, waving politely as they drove away. Her father had been noticeably cool to her, and her mother fussed to make up for it. The last part of the visit had been less successful than the beginning, and she connected the change in atmosphere with her sister’s early departure. If Sasanov was aware of a strain between them, he didn’t comment. He had accompanied Mrs. Graham on a long tour of her garden, and she whispered to Davina later that she found him really charming and most interested in plants. He rumpled his bed in the morning to pretend that he had slept in it, having spent the Sunday night with Davina. She glanced in the driving mirror as they swung out onto the main road, and noticed a grey Audi following them. It had picked them up as soon as they drove out of Marchwood; it would remain with them until they were safely behind the gates of Halldale Manor. Sasanov had seen her look in the mirror and he had noticed the escorting car.

BOOK: The Defector
12.25Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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