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Authors: Evelyn Anthony

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

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BOOK: The Defector
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“Not just because he is replacing me. It’s the way he treats me.” She could imagine how a man like Spencer Barr would trample Peter underfoot. When they had lunch she would ask him for more details. Spencer-Barr was a ministerial protege, everyone knew that. He had arrived to work in the lower echelons of the Department, flourishing a first-class honours degree in economics and modern languages; he spoke French, German, Russian, Hungarian and Swedish with fluency and had a strong working knowledge of Arabic and Farsi. His reputation as an academic was brilliant; he had backed up his university career with a course in the Harvard Business School, where he had graduated top of his year, and served a four-year apprenticeship with one of the best-known merchant banks in the City. His uncle was an under-secretary in the Treasury, and the Minister who had personally recommended him to Brigadier White was his godfather and a close family friend. It was only natural that everyone who had come into the Department without such an august introduction, and with a less dazzling previous record, waited for the superman with suspicion and hostility.

She remembered him sitting in the Brigadier’s office during the meeting to decide who should take over Ivan Sasanov. He was a rather small man, slightly built, with a smooth face and smooth fair hair that was a shade below his collar. He had excellent manners, but there was an arrogance about him which made him appear rude even when he was opening a door or offering her a chair. He had put his case for taking on Sasanov, and it sounded very difficult to fault. He had perfect Russian; he could insinuate himself into his confidence; he knew Russia, having travelled on a visa through Intourist with two separate parties in two years. He could play chess, which was Sasanov’s hobby, and he was young enough not to be alarming. Brigadier White had listened with his patient half-smile, nodded and said! “Thank you, Spencer-Barr,” and then turned to Davina.

“Well, Miss. Graham, what qualifications would you have that are better than Mr. Spencer Barr impressive list? Do you speak Russian? “

“No,” she had answered.

“You know I don’t. But Sasanov speaks English.

I can play backgammon, but my chess is so bad that he can’t help beating me. These are superfluous details, if you don’t mind my saying so. ” She had seen Spencer-Barr stiffen, but she went on without pausing.

“Three experts have been debriefing Sasanov since he arrived at the end of August, more than three months ago. In that time he hasn’t given anything of real importance. Shutting him up with another man is just continuing the pattern on a more intimate scale. Which hasn’t worked so far. I think a woman might catch him off guard.” The Brigadier had said nothing for a moment; his two immediate subordinates were present at the interview. It was Spencer-Barr who spoke first.

“If I may suggest, sir, Sasanov isn’t the type of man to take a woman seriously. He would only think she’d been sent for a quite different purpose.”

“He might indeed,” the Brigadier said, and the two heads of department nodded and said “Yes’ together. Davina saw the young man’s hand come up and smooth his glossy yellow hair. He thought he had won, and the gesture was irritatingly smug.

“Which strengthens Miss. Graham’s case,” the Brigadier said.

“She could well gain his confidence where even someone as talented as you, Mr. Spencer-Barr, would fail. One question, however. If this extra dimension to your duties should be required, would you object, Miss. Graham?”

“I wouldn’t welcome it,” she said.

“But I would bear it in mind.” They had all looked at her then, seeing her objectively as a woman who might tempt the most valuable Russian defector since Perekov. Her mind, trained in the tortuous reasoning of men like James White and his colleagues, followed the same route. If a beautiful or desirable woman had been introduced to Sasanov he would instantly suspect that her purpose was to seduce him; he would avail himself and tell her nothing. But Davina Graham didn’t suffer om being either beautiful or desirable. If he did sleep with her in the end, it would be because she had involved him, and emotion, not sex, was the key that unlocked the door to secrets. The Brigadier could imagine a strangely tantalizing situation developing between the clever, intellectual woman and Colonel Ivan Sasanov of Russian Security. She and Spencer-Barr had been dismissed and thanked, and the next morning she was given the job. The Brigadier’s advice was simple.

“Get close to him, Miss. Graham. By whatever means you can. But remember; you must never get involved with him yourself. I don’t favour too close a relationship beyond the meeting of your mind with his. But if it should develop, which personally I think unlikely, I know you can cope with it efficiently. Good luck.”

“Thank you,” Davina had said, and shaken hands. She couldn’t decide whether he’d said he thought a sexual relationship unlikely in order to reassure her or to spur her on. The word that really stung was’efficiently’. He obviously thought her as inhuman as he was himself. But that was nearly five months ago, and the dull cold winter months spent in the house in Sussex had gone by at the pace of a cripple climbing stairs. It was April now, unusually mild and warm for the beginning of an English spring. The daffodils were out, waving their yellow heads in defiance of a late frost, and the countryside was burgeoning with fresh growth and buds eager to flower. She had left the short stretch of motorway behind and was nearing the turn-off towards Haywards Heath. The house was a mere twenty minutes away. She glanced at her watch and saw that it was nearly ten to eight. She had altered the times of meals, delaying everything by half an hour. Dinner was moved from seven-thirty to eight; it gave them time apart after the long walks in the afternoon and the ritual tea which Sasanov appreciated, with a samovar and little Russian wheat cakes. She always wore something different in the evening, if only a long tartan skirt and sweater or a pair of dark slacks. It was a lifetime’s habit for her, and he seemed to adjust to it quite easily. They had a drink before dinner, and she made sure the wines were good and the food excellent. And then after dinner they played backgammon, since he was too good at chess to enjoy a game with a bad player, or they watched the television. And they talked. Millions of words over the last four months and two weeks, all of them recorded and sent away to be analysed. Experts examined their conversations like miners searching pans of grit for diamonds. She saw the red-brick wall on the left of the road and slowed down before the gates. A sign said “Halldale Manor Nursing Home’. There was a man on the gates and, when she hooted, he came out and opened them. She called out “Good evening’ and drove on. Halldale Manor was a sprawling late Victorian mansion, its ugliness compensated for by magnificent formal gardens; it had been requisitioned by the War Office during the war, when it was used as headquarters for Southern Command. Its clandestine role was to accommodate agents leaving for missions in France from Bolney airport. The Home Office had later bought the house and its twenty acres of grounds; it had been used as a rehabilitation centre for men whose nerves had been wrecked on active service, for the pathetic brain damaged victims of high explosives. When it became a nursing-home for the elderly in the late sixties, it was still the property of the Home Office. The separate wing occupied by Ivan Sasanov had housed other important refugees from Eastern Europe for periods of months while they were being debriefed. The wing was staffed by security personnel, and the genuine geriatric patients in the main building provided excellent cover for people coming and going. The nursing-home was run by a Department of Health doctor, with a former QARANC matron in charge. The wing where Davina Graham lived with Sasanov was accepted by the outside nursing staff as reserved for the treatment of violent patients. She drove round the sweep in the drive, and on to the back entrance, marked “Ambulance’. There were four garages reserved under the sign” Doctor’; she parked the Cortina in one of them, locked it, and walked across the yard to a gate set in the wall. Her key unlocked it, and it secured automatically when she pushed it shut. The private garden was surrounded by a red-brick wall; two lights set above the entrance to the wing illuminated every step in the spring darkness. She rang the bell and a security man opened the door for her.

“Good evening, Miss. Graham.”

“Good evening, Jim. Everything all right?”

“Fine. Gets chilly at night, though.”

“Yes, it does. Let’s hope summer comes early.” He watched her cross the hall and go up the stairs. Nice legs, good figure. Always polite. About as approachable as the austere stone statues dotted round the gardens. He wondered how the’guest’ upstairs got on with her or didn’t. He let his mind dwell on erotic possibilities, grinned to himself and then forgot about it. He had been working at Halldale Manor for ten years; his perquisites included a nice little house in the vihagc for his wife and younger child, and the use of a car. The pay was generous, too. He had long abandoned curiosity. The wing consisted of a sitting-room, a small dining-room, five bedrooms and three bathrooms. It was comfortably furnished in the style of a country hotel; it had its own kitchen and domestic offices. Every room was electronically monitored for conversation, and there were twoway mirrors in the bedroom and bathroom assigned to’guests’. The telephones passed through a private switchboard, and all calls were recorded. Davina went to her own bedroom first, and rang through to the kitchen.

“He complained about the tea,” she was told.

“I sent up vodka and lemon at six, as usual. He asked for more, and the decanter came down empty.”

“Did he go out this afternoon?” Davina asked.

“No. Roberts went upstairs to check and he was just sitting, looking out of the window. Not in a good mood, Roberts said.”

“Thank you,” Davina hung up. Everything Sasanov drank was monitored like his appetite for food, the amount of exercise he took, the change in his moods when he was left alone. It had been a bad day. She looked at herself briefly in the mirror, combed her hair so that it swept back from her forehead; it was long and she hated it to be untidy. There wasn’t time to change out of her London coat and skirt. He’d had a bad day. She thought quickly and phoned down to the kitchen again.

“Keep dinner till I ring.” Then she hurried out of the room and down the passage to the sitting-room. She opened the door and saw him leaning forward in a chair, his back towards her. The outline was tense.

“Hello,” she said.

“I’m sorry I’m late. The traffic was terrible.” He turned round to look at her as she came in;

he didn’t speak.

“I’d like a drink,” she said.

“Let’s have one together.” She came and stood opposite him; there was a fire burning in the grate. The room was warm, and brightened by vases of daffodils she had arranged. She poured vodka into a glass for him, and squeezed the little piece of cut lemon peel into it. He didn’t like ice. She filled her own glass with cubes to disguise the small amount of vodka. She handed him his drink.

“I’m sorry if you’ve been bored,” she said.

“I did try to get back early.” He had strong, large hands, and the little glass disappeared as he held it between them. The piercing blue eyes made her think of snow and bitter winds; he had a bleak, hard face to match his eyes.

“My daughter keeps a canary,” he said. Drink had made his accent thicker; his speech was a little too deliberate.

“She keeps it in a cage in our kitchen. I want you to get a message to her. Tell her to let it out… Free. I know how that canary feels.”

“We can’t communicate with your family,” Davina said quietly.

“You know that… Besides, you’re not really like that canary, are you? You wanted to come here. Nobody kidnapped you.” Ivan Sasanov leaned back in his chair, and swallowed the glass of vodka.

“What did they say in London? When am I going to get news” I told you,” she said.

“Your family are perfectly well and safe. No action has been taken against them. You’ve no need to worry. You do trust me, don’t you? I wouldn’t lie to you about that.” He laughed.

“You’d lie about anything if you were told to,” he said.

“They could be in prison or dead, and you’d go on lying. You are a bloody woman.” Davina smiled.

“If you say so… and you’re drunk.”

“No.” He laughed again and shook his head. He had fair hair which was greying and he wore it cut close.

“No, I’m not. When I’m drunk I sleep. Like that!” He snapped his fingers.

“I have a little vodka inside. It speaks to me.”

“How poetic,” she said. She had experienced his moods and coped with them. She knew them all, from depression to truculence, to his normal swift intelligence parrying her own. There were times when he was relaxed, and she discovered that he had a keen sense of the ridiculous. His mood was-now wavering between truculence and something more disturbing; she responded lightly, hoping to divert the bad temper aggravated by drink.

“What does it speak about?” He looked at her, and she saw suddenly that he was very sober.

“Home,” he said. She didn’t register surprise, much less the dismay she felt.

“Are you so unhappy here? If you are, it must be my fault.” He got up; he was tall for a Russian. He began to walk about, kicking the coals in the fireplace, inspecting the decanter of vodka with disgust. It was nearly empty.

“It’s not your fault,” he said.

“You’ve done your best to make my time here pleasant. You have a job to do.

I’m a professional too, Vina. I understand. ” Unlike Brigadier White he used her Christian name; he couldn’t pronounce it properly and shortened it. He had pointed out to her once when they were out walking, that it was an anagram of his own name.

“I’ll try again,” she said

“I promise. I’ll see if we can get some kind of message about them that you will believe… Now, won’t you have some dinner?” She had become so sensitive to him that she knew what he was doing without watching. He didn’t eat well; he crumbled bread and drank wine, and when he looked at her, he wasn’t seeing her at all. Restless that was how she had described him to the Brigadier. It was an under statement. She felt that for the first time since he defected to the West some kind of breaking-point was near. But which direction it took was her responsibility. If he turned sour, then his information would be suspect, and he himself an expensive mistake. Their relationship with the Soviet Union was already cool, because Colonel Ivan Sasanov had apparently vanished off the surface of the British Isles while on an official visit to the Foreign Office. Nobody was fooled, but it suited both sides to keep up the fiction that everyone was looking for him for the first few weeks. The British explanation that he must have killed himself, and that no doubt his corpse would be found in due time, saved his own government the political embarrassment of admitting they’d lost one of their top men. In the meantime, in exchange for the asylum he’d arranged when still in Moscow, Sasanov had given the department details of the Soviet Intelligence network operating in the Low Countries, and a list of sympathizers in NATO, some of whom were already being watched. Three months with his male interrogators had disclosed only what he was prepared to give them; it was accepted by the Brigadier that Sasanov was bargaining, and that the final deal had not been made. So Davina Graham, who didn’t play good chess, had spent the last five months shut up with him to draw from him scraps of information which could be assembled. The picture the experts put together could indicate much more than he meant to disclose at this stage. They drank coffee at the table. He asked for brandy; she had reached a level of intimacy with him when she could say, “Don’t drink too much. Let’s have a serious talk tonight. “

BOOK: The Defector
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