Authors: Evelyn Anthony
Tags: #Fiction, #Espionage, #Mystery & Detective, #General
“I won’t be back till late,” she said.
“I’m having dinner here.”
“Why? I am expecting you.” She heard the irritation and allowed herself a little smile.
“I’m trying to make arrangements,” she said.
I’ll be back about twelve. I’ll look in to see if you’re awake. “
“I’ll wait for you,” Sasanov said.
“In your room.”
“No,” Davina said hurriedly.
“No, don’t do that. I’ll explain later.
I’ll come to you. ” She hung up. Explain-about the bugs and the two-way mirror, monitored by Roberts and his assistant. She thought of the word Sasanov used. A cage. Now it was a cage for them both. She went back and sat down with Peter Harrington. She managed a cheerful smile.
“That’s fixed,” she said.
“Good,” he looked pleased.
“Tell me one thing don’t you get sick of having to hold his hand?” Davina shook her head.
“No comment; that’s classified information. Where are we going to eat? I feel like spaghetti and red wine. “
“And that is what you’ll have,” he said.
“Let’s go, shall we? I know a nice little place in Lower Belgrave Street.” Outside in the street he took her arm.
“But I’m right about one thing,” he said, guiding her across the road.
“There’s something wrong with Spencer Barr Elizabeth Cole had worked as a filing-clerk in the Moscow Embassy for three years. She was a plump, friendly girl with a regular boyfriend on the security staff; she blended well into her background, and was regarded as efficient but not too intelligent. She had worked for SIS since she was twenty-two, and had been recruited into White’s organization by an uncle. Her uncle had parachuted into France with the Special Operations Group, and he remained in close contact with his colleagues. Like all her paternal family, Elizabeth Cole was bilingual in French;
her grandmother came from La Boule, and her children and grandchildren maintained their French language and affiliations. Outwardly there was nothing Gallic about Elizabeth; she was as typically English as cheese and pickles it was a description she published about herself. She worked in the filing section of the Embassy and her true function was to maintain contacts with the Russian dissidents in the capital. She was given her instructions by the chief Intelligence Officer in the Embassy and at three o’clock on Tuesday afternoon she set off. She shopped at Gum first, spending a long time on buying a poor-quality sweater which she didn’t want. Then she took a bus and went a little cafe. She chose an empty table, ordered tea and sweet cakes, and opened her Russian newspaper while she waited. Fifteen minutes later, a young woman joined her. She too, ordered tea. The cafe was filling up with casual customers, tired and thirsty. The volume of noise increased, as the two women talked. Elizabeth knew that the girl was a former lecturer in economics at Moscow University. She had been suspended for signing a petition for the release of the imprisoned poet Vladimir Bokov. She was in disfavour but not yet deeply suspect. It was hoped to rehabilitate her at the University.
“What news of Sasanov’s family?” Elizabeth asked her in French. The other girl didn’t speak good English.
“They haven’t been harmed. They’re still living in their apartment. The daughter is still allowed to go to her classes. “
“Can you get a message to them?”
“I don’t know. It would be very difficult. I can’t approach them myself.”
“Could you find somebody else?” Elizabeth asked.
“We don’t want to risk one of our people.”
“Nobody goes near them but police spies.”
“What is the daughter’s attitude? Can you find that out?”
“I have friends in the University,” she said.
“They are trying to get me reinstated. I have to publish a retraction and an apology.” Her eyes filled with tears.
“If I’m going to fight them, it has to be done from inside. I will do what they want. I can make inquiries about Sasanov’s daughter. If she’s safe to contact, I can maybe get a message to her in the University. Otherwise, it can’t be done. They are being watched at home, and Sasanov’s wife hardly ever goes out.”
“If you can find someone we can trust, someone in the University,” Elizabeth Cole murmured.
“This is very important.”
“I know it is,” the Russian girl answered.
“We know that Sasanov tried to help poor Jacob Belezky. Wherever he is or whatever has happened to him, it’s our duty to help his family if we can.
I’ll meet you here next week and tell you what progress I’ve made.”
“Thank you,” Elizabeth said.
“And take care.” The girl smiled sadly.
“I’ll do my best. It’s the hypocrisy, the lies, thinking what Bokov will feel when he hears I’ve abandoned him. “
“He’ll understand,” Elizabeth said.
“I’ll go now. I’ll be here at the same time next Tuesday. Good luck.” She paid for her tea, gathered her shopping-bag and newspaper and went out into the sunny Moscow streets. The Security Police had stopped following her a long time ago. She had established a routine of buying something at Gum on her day off and relaxing in the same cafe over a cup of Russian tea. She had never met anyone there, or varied her routine for the first year of her posting. By which time she was classified as filing-clerk, and of no political importance. The word that she was clear took a little time and a very circuitous route to reach London. When it did, the cafe was chosen as her rendezvous with fellow agents. The Soviet dissidents were part of a closed circle of Russian society, where the different grades tended to mix exclusively with their own kind. The dissidents came from the upper intelligentsia, from those artists and scientists whose privileged position in the Soviet hierarchy encouraged them to challenge authority. What the humble people thought of liberty and human rights had no chance of being heard. Jacob Belezky became the friend and confident of Bokov the poet and Scherensky the physicist. The dissidents had become a group and they were making their opinions public to the West. Arrests, imprisonment, false accusations of treason and heavy punishments failed to silence their protests. The infamy of psychiatric punishment had replaced the traditional agony of Siberia as the worst fate for a Russian. But a few brave voices cried for justice; as one was silenced, so another spoke up. The young lecturer was a rarity. She was going to renounce her dissident views and become an agent for the West. When she was fully recruited Elizabeth Cole would pass her on to another controller. She signed herself into the Embassy, humming cheerfully and later she added the sweater to a trunkful of shoddy clothes that she would never wear. Sasanov was bored by television. He had eaten alone, complaining to Roberts about the food and demanding more drink to be sent up. He read the newspapers again and threw them aside. The television news was full of gloomy economic predictions and followed by a turgid drama with four-letter words instead of dialogue. He was irritable and uneasy because Davina hadn’t come back. She was talking about travel arrangements. The meaning was obvious and he suspected it was not true. The delay was part of a campaign to undermine him; she was waiting for the Brigadier’s answer, and either he hadn’t given the assurance Sasanov wanted, or he was preparing a counterproposal, which Sasanov decided to reject on principle. Pessimism had been gaining on him throughout the day. It had begun on the drive back from Wiltshire, when the frustrations of life at Halldale were already closing in on him. He felt unsettled and suspicious, and the longer he waited for her the more uncompromising his attitude became. He knew he had deliberately chosen to defect to England rather than the States; it had seemed marginally less treacherous to ally himself with a country that was only a secondary enemy of his own. He had fled when the opportunity arose; what he now had to give the head of SIS, in exchange for his resettlement with his family, was the key to Western recovery, if not to its survival. He could make his gesture in memory of Jacob Belezky and all the other victims of totalitarian tyranny. He could rank in his own eyes with the Russian patriots who had defied the Tsarist autocracy only to be betrayed by the beneficiaries of their struggle. He could live at peace with himself if he could strike that vital blow at his country’s political system. But he wasn’t going to give it for nothing. He got up and began to pace round the room. Where was she? And why did she warn him not to go to her room? Was even that comfort to be denied him, just because they thought he had weakened and pledged himself too quickly. He poured a vodka and drank it down; on an impulse of bad temper, he tossed the glass into the grate. He looked at his watch;
it didn’t seem to be late, but it felt as if he had been waiting for hours. He was damned if he was going to bed, and let Roberts and his cronies tuck themselves away for the night. He rang the bell and Roberts appeared in the doorway.
“I want vodka, pickles, black bread and sausage,” Sasanov said.
“I’ll bring it up,” Roberts said woodenly. Sasanov snarled at him under his breath and turned away. How well he knew that type; the concrete face, the toneless voice, the over-developed muscles under the jacket. When the tray was put in front of him, he didn’t look up or speak. Very clever of them to send a woman to soften him. She had a way of meeting his moods and providing the right stimulus. He ate some of the food and drank the vodka. When he came home in the evening, his wife always had tea, black bread and vodka ready for him. She used to pour out the drink and cut the bread, and dip it into the salt for him. He had always found her loving and protective; there were times when he liked to be a child and let her pet him. His daughter spoiled him, too. His home was a bastion against doubt and self-disgust; his wife understood, without needing to be told, how he was ripping himself to pieces because of Belezky. She would come to the West. He was certain she would come. He pretended not to hear the door opening; he let Davina reach the sofa before he looked up.
“You shouldn’t have waited,” she said.
“I drove back as quickly as I could.”
“You seem pleased,” he said.
“You’re smiling. I hope you can make me smile too.”
“I think I can,” she said.
“Why are you eating at this hour; didn’t you have any dinner?” Her concern mollified him. He held out his hand to her, and when she took it, he pulled her down to the sofa beside him.
“I missed your company,” he said.
“You are prettier than Roberts.”
“Thank you.” Davina bowed her head.
“I can see you’ve been in a perfectly bloody mood. Never mind. Give me a drink and I’ll tell you what happened.” Sasanov listened without interrupting.
“So we meet next Thursday. Is this club a safe place? Will you be there?”
“No, I’m the driver, that’s all. The club is a marvelous rendezvous. No one is going to expect you to walk in, I can promise you. And he’s very receptive; I made it clear that you wanted your family, and that unless they came, you would prefer to go back and take your chance. He knows exactly what the position is, and he didn’t quibble at all. “
“What does quibble mean?” he asked.
“I don’t know that word.”
“I’m sorry; it means hesitate, argue. Your English is so good I take it for granted.”
“Five months of talking with you has helped,” he said.
“We find English very difficult.”
“Well, you can see things are moving,” she said.
“You won’t be in this cage for long. Aren’t you happy about it?”
“Yes,” he answered slowly, ‘yes, I think I am happy. Now we can go to bed. ” She put a finger to her lips and shook her head. She found paper and a biro in her bag and wrote on it.
“We must be discreet. The rooms are bugged. I didn’t say anything about that.
“He read it and wrote underneath.
“I’ll come to you later. Why didn’t you tell him?” She scribbled a sentence in reply.
“Because it’s none of his business.” He looked up at her and then screwed the paper into a long twill. She thrust it into the fire. He came behind her and kissed the back of her neck.
“Goodnight,” he said.
“Goodnight,” she answered.
“Sleep well.” They went to their separate rooms and the security staff allowed a decent interval and then retired to bed. While Davina waited for him, she justified to herself her reasons for not telling White that she was sleeping with Sasanov. It was not relevant; it was incidental, and she was therefore entitled to withhold it. The fact that they were lovers had nothing to do with Sasanov’s decision, or the terms on which he would cooperate fully with the SIS. Quite the reverse, if you considered his insistence on his wife and daughter joining him. What happened between him and Davina was an interlude before that reunion. Professionally she was just as detached as she had ever been. The fact that they were lovers need not affect or concern anyone but themselves. She didn’t switch on the light or speak when he opened the door. He climbed into bed beside her and she put her arms round him. The porter at the Garrick Club was a jovial, bearded man with a sense of humour and an individual style of dealing with the members. He approached the big foreign-looking man standing in the outer hallway. Hearing the Brigadier’s name, he nodded and led the guest up the short flight of steps to the main hall.
“He’s in the members’ room upstairs, sir. Up the main staircase; it’s the door on your right.”
“Thank you,” Sasanov said. He didn’t hurry; he appraised his surroundings with interest. There was no comparable institution in Russia, no relic of the Tsarist past that compared with the supremely English institution of a gentleman’s club. The Garrick itself was a magnificent building, the interior of the main hall decorated with busts in bronze and marble with inscriptions underneath that made no sense to Sasanov as he paused to read them. The main staircase was majestic, and hung with portraits and scenes from famous plays of the past. He paused on the top landing beside a display case glittering with paste jewellery and objects of extraordinary variety, from a lady’s fan to a lock of greying hair. There was nothing of great value in the glass cases, but references to Shakespeare enlightened him a little; the Brigadier’s club had connections with the theatre. Sasanov couldn’t imagine anything less appropriate to the head of Britain’s Intelligence Service than a setting of eighteenthcentury flamboyance. He went into the room the hall porter had described, and found it enormous, with a high, gilded ceiling, walls covered in pictures, and a few ugly mahogany tables and red leather chairs and settees. A central table displayed the latest newspapers. He saw a man rise from the far end of the room and recognized Brigadier James White. They had met briefly on his arrival in England. Little had been said on that occasion; they had circled each other mentally, in readiness for the encounter that had now come. There were only two other people in the room besides themselves; an old grey-haired man talking earnestly to a younger one. The acoustics of the room made it impossible to distinguish a word of their conversation. James White held out his hand, and Sasanov shook it.