Authors: Evelyn Anthony
Tags: #Fiction, #Espionage, #Mystery & Detective, #General
“Sit down,” the Brigadier said.
“Can I offer you some coffee, and a brandy perhaps?”
“Coffee, thank you,” Sasanov said. He could have the brandy later. James White leaned back in his chair and looked at the Russian with an expression of calm satisfaction.
“I’m very pleased to hear you have reached a decision, Colonel,” he said.
“Miss. Graham gave me a most encouraging report.”
“Miss. Graham is always optimistic,” Sasanov said.
“She has a cheerful nature.”
“I’m glad you found it so.” The Brigadier smiled.
“She’s a very intelligent and dedicated person. I felt sure you and she would reach an understanding. She tells me you have decided to cooperate with us and remain in the West. I hope that wasn’t the optimism you mean?”
“No,” Sasanov said’. “She hasn’t exaggerated, Brigadier. That is my decision; depending upon one thing, of course.” He lit a cigarette, offering the packet to White, who refused.
“Your wife and daughter’s safe arrival in the West,” James White said.
“And a choice of final home and identity for all of you after two years.” Sasanov blew smoke and watched it rise and disappear.
“Are these conditions acceptable?”
“Acceptable, certainly,” James White answered.
“But possible is another matter. We’re both professionals, Colonel, and you know even better than I do how difficult it is to extract Soviet citizens from Russia.”
“It is not impossible,” Sasanov said flatly.
“You’ve done it before.”
“With people like yourself,” White reminded him.
“Not a woman and a girl.”
“I know it’s difficult,” Sasanov answered, ‘but it’s your business to overcome the difficulties if you want the information I can give you. “
“Oh, we want it,” White said quietly.
“We want it very badly, Colonel. But before I commit my Service to such a dangerous enterprise inside the Soviet Union, I would like more details of this information. ” Sasanov leaned back in his chair, and puffed the last of his cigarette.
“In the last seven years the West’s sphere of influence in the Middle East has been steadily declining. Zionist sympathies in America were resented by the Arab world; Soviet hostility to Israel opened doors to us which had been closed before. We made very good use of the opportunities given to us by the Yom Kippur war; our military advisers were followed by technicians and they joined the political experts who were already in Egypt, Syria, Libya and Iraq. War against Israel had nearly been won;
the Arab world intended to win the next time, and we were going to help them. British influence was low, America was suspect; the training of the Palestinians had resulted in a powerful terror weapon which was used to harass Israel and its friends in the West. We were coming nearer and nearer to your oil supplies, Brigadier, and if it hadn’t been for Sadat and Egypt, we would have got them.
“You know all this; you know how America succeeded in dividing Egypt from the rest of the Arab world, except for the Saudis and Iran, so Sadat made peace with Israel and threw our people out. He went to the West and our work was destroyed. Our sympathizers and undercover agents were arrested and imprisoned. Egypt was lost to us. So a very important decision was made in Russia, at the highest level. A new campaign to disrupt Western economy was mapped out and the details finalized. Libya we had, Iraq and Syria were still ours. The appeal of Arab nationalism had been weakened, because of Sadat. Another cause had to be found, Brigadier, and we found it-Islam.” James White was watching Sasanov as he talked; his expression was calm and interested, as if they were discussing matters of no importance the price of cigars or the merits of the club clarets.
“Iran,” he said.
“That was a blow to us, certainly. But I can’t accept that it was achieved in Moscow and not in Paris and New York, Colonel.” Sasanov smiled.
“The mistakes of our enemies are our good fortune, Brigadier. That’s an old Russian proverb. Khruschev used to quote it to annoy your people. But it was true. France sheltered Khomeini because she wanted to embarrass the Americans and then when it seemed the Shah was going to fall and the Ayatollah come back in triumph, France supported him, to safeguard her own oil supplies. America allowed the Shah to fall; not because they didn’t know the revolution was gathering, but because they thought it would succeed, and they too wanted to be in favour with the winning side. We had a lot of luck, Brigadier, but it was our plan and you know very well how successful it has been. It was the first move in a whole series. “
“And what is the second move?” White asked him.
“That is what I have to offer,” Sasanov said.
“I will give you the details of Soviet intentions in the Middle East for the next two years, and I will interpret events as they take place and explain to you the sequences which will follow. This much I’ll give as a proof of good-will. The next target is the Saudi royal family.”
“I see,” White said.
“A complete encirclement of the Middle East oil supply, one source after another, with a strike at NATO in the heart of it? Colonel, I think we will be able to reunite you with your wife and daughter, if I have to go to Moscow myself. Shall we shake hands on it?” Sasanov reached out and they shook hands. Both had a hard dry grip.
“One more thing, Brigadier.”
“I would like to move from my lunatic asylum.”
“Oh dear,” the Brigadier said, “I’m sorry you feel like that about it.
I thought you were quite comfortable. Miss. Graham should have told me.”
“I am comfortable,” Sasanov said.
“But I am sick of the same little cage, day after day for eight months. And I have no privacy.”
“Well, of course, if Miss. Graham is getting on your nerves” Not Miss. Graham. Roberts and the others. I want a safe house, not a cage. No bugs, no trick mirrors. I have to trust you, so you must trust me. “
“That’s only reasonable,” the Brigadier said.
“We have a place which I think would suit you while we get this business organized. A change all round would be a good thing for you. I have an excellent colleague, a first-class chess player as it happens. ” He saw the quick scowl on Sasanov’s face.
“I don’t want a chess-player. Miss. Graham suits me very well. I don’t want anyone else.”
“Very well,” James White smiled.
“Just as you wish, Colonel. We’ll walk down together and you leave first. She’s parked outside waiting for you, I believe.” He saw Sasanov pass through the outer door, while he took his time putting on a light overcoat and a bowler hat. Davina Graham had done a very good job indeed, if the Russian’s reaction was any guide. A better job, perhaps, than she’d admitted to him. He went down the steps and through the little hall out into the street. There were no cars outside the entrance, only a warden advancing ominously towards a van parked on the opposite side of the road. Sasanov had gone. The Brigadier liked walking, and he walked through the garish no-man’s-land of Piccadilly and down towards St. James’s Park. He had a number of discreet little houses and flats at his disposal. He had decided on one which would suit Sasanov. A little love-nest for him and the austere Miss. Graham? The idea amused him and he smiled as he strode along. But she should have told him how much Sasanov depended upon her. Her reticence was a mistake. The little smile lingered on his lips; it was not reflected in his eyes. James Spencer-Barr booked a table in the restaurant of the Connaught Hotel. It was one of the most expensive places to eat in London, but undeniably one of the very best. Its food and service justified the cost, and besides, this would go down as expenses. He collected Charley Ransom at 7. 30, had a drink in her flat, which interested him, because he liked to see a person against their own background. Charley’s background surprised him; she had discreet good taste, and the furniture and modern pictures were exceptionally good. He had to admit that she looked beautiful;
instinctively he resisted her attempts to charm him. A woman with her sex-appeal would certainly expect from him more than he could possibly give. But if he dismissed the laughing mouth and the huge, seductive grey eyes, he allowed himself to admire the simple, elegant black silk dress, the mass of gleaming hair that looked less red in the artificial light. They talked about trivialities, and discussed her pictures.
“Presents from my last mistake,” she said gaily.
“I chose them, he paid for them. He loathed modern art; I had a lot of trouble getting rid of his Neapolitan flower-girls and those ghastly cardinals merrymaking!” They both laughed. By the time they were settled at their table in the Connaught, he decided that she was very amusing.
“I love this place,” she said, looking round her. The way the head waiter had greeted her showed that she was a constant client.
“It’s got such a restful atmosphere, and my goodness, they do spoil you! I adore being spoiled.” Jeremy was sure she did, but he only smiled and said, “I’m sure people adore spoiling you,” which she rewarded with a sweet smile. They were drinking coffee, and she was deciding to have Cointreau instead of brandy, when he brought the conversation round to her sister and the Pole who had stayed the weekend.
“It’s extraordinary,” he said, ‘how different you and your sister Davina are not just to look at, that’s obvious, but as people. “
“Is that in my favour or not?” she asked.
“I hope it’s not an odious comparison!”
“Quite the reverse,” he said.
“She’s rather a forbidding type-very cool, I thought. They think a lot of her, you know. She’s terribly efficient. I don’t think she’d refer to her ex-husband as a” mistake”.” They both laughed.
“No, poor lamb, she wouldn’t,” Charley agreed.
“But then she hasn’t had a husband; I’m afraid that was rather my fault.”
“Oh? Why?” She made a little grimace; he thought for a moment she was genuinely embarrassed.
“Her fiance fell in love with me,” she said at last.
“I honestly didn’t encourage it, but he just wouldn’t leave me alone. I never wanted to marry him either, but he talked me into it. Davina’s never forgiven me. I suppose I can’t blame her.”
“Oh, I suppose not Jeremy conceded. He hoped he had kept his amazement properly concealed.
“But you’ve been married twice?”
“Richard-that was Davina’s boyfriend- Richard and I got divorced after a couple of years. He started drinking and his business went to pieces; we quarrelled all the time. It was too awful. I think he knew he’d made a mistake in choosing me and leaving her. I rather hoped he’d go back to her, but he didn’t. This Cointreau is good. She never made an effort after that. My father says she turned her back on men deliberately and set out to make a success of her job. I must say being a secretary can’t be very exciting, even if your boss is James White. Anyway, that was years ago and we’ve kept out of each other’s way since. She didn’t come to my second wedding. Then there she was at home that weekend, and with this rather attractive man.”
“Tell me about him Jeremy said.
“Didn’t he fall for you too?” The big eyes opened wide in innocence, but the giggle redeemed her.
“No, damn it, he didn’t! I quite liked him, too. He was so different from the people I normally meet. Terribly square and rather overpoweringly male. You know what I mean the Slav type.”
“Yes,” he said.
“I think I can picture him. Fair and blue eyes; gold teeth?”
“No, not at all. Greyish hair, actually, and funny-coloured eyes, certainly not blue. And his teeth were perfect.” Jeremy grinned at her, as if he were teasing.
“Short and squat then?”
“Taller than you,” she answered.
“And much bigger.”
“He sounds like one of those Russian villains in long overcoats and felt hats in a TV thriller. ” He dismissed the Pole, offered her a cigarette and ordered himself a second brandy. She drank very sparingly, and he approved of that. He hated women who tried to keep pace with men, or even to outpace them. He was, and he admitted it, rather a prude at heart.
“And do you think your sister is mixed up with the Pole, then?” Charley frowned slightly. She felt less awkward talking about Davina than she had done for a long time. It helped to confess to strangers. And this smooth-talking man would never be anything else.
“I think so, yes,” she said.
“My parents didn’t; I think my mother was hoping so; she’s terrified Davina won’t get married. It’s rather sweet and old-fashioned, really. You’d think she’d had enough marriages with me making a mess of it twice. But anyway, she didn’t think there was anything there but friendship. I thought there was. And I’m not a bad judge when it comes to lovers.”
“Meaning you’ve had quite a few?” he challenged. She nodded, and smiled straight into his face.
“I’ve had a lot,” she said.
“I love men, and I like them to love me. I always hope I’m going to find the one-and-only, every time. So far I haven’t. But it’s been great fun and I don’t regret a thing.” There was nothing he could say to that. The epithet floated to the surface of his mind and just as quickly disappeared.
“Getting back to your sister,” he said.
“Do you think they were living together?”
“You’re terribly interested in her, aren’t you?” Charley said lightly.
“You’ve talked about her most of the evening.”
“I know,” he said.
“You see, I remembered all about meeting her after I met you at that party.
I knew the name rang a bell, and of course I’d done more than just bump into her. In fact, she and I were interviewed for the same job. We spent some time together waiting for the interview. I thought she was a confirmed bachelor-girl, and pretty tough, if you don’t mind my saying so. She told me she lived in a service flat off the Fulham Road. I can’t marry this Pole up with the woman I met. That’s what’s so fascinating. Especially as she got the job instead of me.
“He finished his brandy.
“She wouldn’t have been chosen if they’d known she was having it off with a man,” he said.
“What was the job?” Charley asked.
“I didn’t know she’d been promoted.”