Authors: Evelyn Anthony
Tags: #Fiction, #Espionage, #Mystery & Detective, #General
“Another one? What is the subject this time-how did I manage to get an agent into the Dutch Security Service? We talked about that yesterday, Vina.
I’m sick of saying the same things. Again and again.”
“I’m sick of hearing them,” she said.
“I don’t suppose you’ve thought of that. So let’s leave business till tomorrow, shall we?” He peered into the brandy, holding the glass up to the light.
“Whatever you say to me is business. Everything is business, pretending to be talk. We are playing a game… Tonight, I’m tired.
I want to drink this and then sleep. ” He challenged her with a look.
“Not even about your family?” she asked quietly.
“About your daughter and the canary and your wife, Fedya? You spent today on your own, with no one to play the game with you, as you call it, and you’ve been thinking about them and worrying. Haven’t you?”
“I’ve been asking for news for weeks now,” he said angrily.
“Nothing, nothing since the New Year one photograph taken in the street to prove they’re not arrested. And you sit there, so calm and English and hold out hope of news one day and then, so sorry, nothing. A bargaining counter, aren’t they, my wife and child? I’ll think of another agent’s name to give you, two or three names, then perhaps I’ll see another photograph, eh?”
“That’s not true,” Davina said.
“Your family are watched day and night. One contact from outside, and they’d be taken in. You know that, Ivan. You know how Internal Security works. Watching the dissidents and the Jews the way your family’s being watched now ‘ The art of debriefing wasn’t all sweetness and light. She had needled him before, and with some success. Now he swore at her in Russian. She had a sudden thought of Jeremy Spencer-Barr, who would have understood.
“All right,” she said.
“You miss them. But you reckoned on that when you came over; you told me you were disillusioned, that you’d lost faith in the Soviet system, that you saw no point in your work, no point in going on…” She paused, and then said more quietly, “Have you forgotten all that? Have you forgotten Jacob Belezky?”
“No,” he said.
“That’s why I’m here; because of Jacob.”
“And Scherensky and Bokov and Yemetova?”
“Yes!” he shouted at her.
“Yes, because of them and what we were doing to them. You think you have the monopoly of conscience in the West? You think that Russians aren’t capable of moral courage or a love of justice?
Davina looked at him.
“You’ve proved they are,” she said.
“What you did is just as brave as Scherensky and the others.” He gestured contemptuously at the room.
“This isn’t Camp 10 in the Archipelago,” he said.
“I’m in a cage, but a comfortable cage; I’m not getting drugs and shock treatment to send me mad! No, no, Vina you can’t catch me that way. Jacob didn’t run away to the West.”
“Jacob is dead,” she reminded him gently.
“There’s nothing he can do to help anyone. But you can help the others…”
“Perhaps I could help them more by going back,” he said. Davina got up from the table; she stepped on the bell hidden under the carpet for Roberts to come and clear away. She didn’t want Sasanov to see her face. She was right, the breaking-point was very near. And it wasn’t going to be in the Department’s favour. She shut the sitting-room door. He stood with his back to her, looking at the dying fire.
“Put on another log,” she said.
“It’s cold in here.” The fire blazed up; he lit a cigarette, and they sat without speaking. He was leaning back, and the light of a standard lamp placed near for reading shone on his face. His eyes were closed and he looked tired and grim. She couldn’t back away. That would show weakness; the remark was either genuine or a new move in the game. A build-up to the final bargain with the Brigadier and the Foreign Office.
“Do you really want to go back?” He opened his eyes and raised himself till he sat leaning forward.
“I see that worries you. “
“Not in the least,” she said.
“It’s always been a possibility.”
“A possibility that your people could send me back not that I went of my own free will. I could refuse to tell you anything more, and what I have told you isn’t important. Not what you were hoping for all the big stuff that’s still in here.” He touched his forehead.
“I know when you’re worried, because you have a little frown that comes, and you don’t know it. I see it there now. “
“What’s made you think like this?” she asked him.
“What’s made you change your mind? I leave you alone for an afternoon and when I come back you’re sulking and making stupid threats.” She shrugged.
“You can go if you like. You’re no damned use to us as things are. Anyway, you think it over. I’m tired and I’m going to bed.”
“Oh,” Sasanov said, ‘it’s a big frown now. Would you ever believe me if I told you the truth? ” She was on her feet.
“I could try,” she said.
“If you’d ever really trust me.” Sasanov got up, threw his cigarette into the grate. She was a tidy person and the habit irritated her.
“We can’t trust each other,” he said flatly.
“But I can tell you, there are times when I could go mad in this place. Today was a bad day. I thought of F’edya and my daughter and the canary. And I missed you.” She felt the colour rising in her face. He was forcing her to look at him; forcing her to acknowledge the gap he had made in her de fences
“I missed you.” There was no mistaking the way he had said it. Not, “I was bored, or worried, or had nothing to do’, but “I missed you.” The emphasis was on the last word.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
“I’m sorry I was away so long.” It sounded very lame.
“It’s not your fault,” the Russian said.
“Are we still quarrelling?”
“No,” she said.
“Then come and sit down. Don’t go to bed yet.” She didn’t want to sit close to him, but he held out his hand and, rather than take it, she slipped into the seat beside him.
“Does he want a woman?” The Brigadier’s question nagged at her. She knew the answer; she had sensed it for some time. She felt it again as their bodies touched for a moment, and then drew away. He was too male; it frightened her. In her imagination his sexuality held a tinge of menace. She didn’t dare think what he would be like as a lover. She had known only one man, and he was nothing like Ivan Sasanov. If the occasion arises, they had said at the interview, you’ll know how to cope with it. They had been wrong. The occasion hadn’t merely arisen;
in the last months it had lurked like an actor awaiting his cue in the wings. She had seen it from the corner of her eye, and had resolutely turned away. Sitting beside him in front of the fire, she felt the brooding restlessness in him, and the unspoken question. He did want a woman; he wanted to forget himself, he wanted flesh and blood instead of cool companionship. She should have offered herself. She should have given him sex the way she provided toothpaste and cigarettes. But it was impossible. She had gone to bed with a man she loved and had suffered the ultimate humiliation rejection, a very special rejection. She couldn’t propose herself to Sasanov, and know that he only took her because there wasn’t anyone else. She didn’t want to think of him as a man, naked, making love. She said very calmly, “Would you like someone to spend the night with you? You must feel very lonely.” She knew at once she had made a terrible mistake. The look of surprise on his face changed to anger, and then contempt. He sprang up from the sofa.
“When I want one of your department whores, I’ll let you know!” He turned his back on her before she could answer, and slammed the door after him.
“Oh, you fool,” she said out loud.
“You tactless, stupid fool…” Five months had established between them a relationship which had taken root. He had become dependent upon her; the trust he denied had begun to exist between them. Even their few quarrels were a kind of intimacy. All that was missing was the intimacy of the night. And she had panicked when she imagined what was coming next, had ruined everything by offering him a paid whore, as if he was suffering from toothache and needed a dentist. She had never seen him look so angry;
his contempt was bitter, and it stung her.
But no less than her contempt for herself. She had been in his life for nearly five months, had seen him go through the stages of homesickness, anxiety for his family, uncertainty about the rightness of what he had done, and had guided him gently to the point where the end was very near. Near to breaking, or near to committing himself wholly to the West. And he wanted more from her now than mere company. She hadn’t been able to cope with that need without losing her head. To provide him with a woman would destroy their delicately balanced relationship; it would put her back on the Brigadier’s side. She got up, set the screen in front of the fire, and went down the corridor to his room. She knocked on the door. He called out and she came in. He was in his dressing-gown and it made him look younger.
“I came to say I was sorry,” she said.
“I shouldn’t have said such a thing to you. It was very crude of me.” His expression was still set and angry.
“Why not? You’re supposed to keep me happy, aren’t you?”
“That’s not the point. I don’t know why I did it.” He came towards her; she was standing in the doorway, holding on to the handle.
“They suggested it in London, didn’t they? ” He was close enough to touch her.
“Yes. Try to forget it, will you please?”
“I don’t want someone like that,” Sasanov said.
“And if I did, I don’t want it arranged by you.” He leaned his hand on the door as if to shut it.
“Do you understand that? There are some men who don’t like making love to just any woman.” She held the door open against him.
“I do understand. I’d better go to bed myself.” She heard the nervousness in her own voice.
“I’m tired, it’s been a long day.” The pressure on the door ceased. He stepped away from her.
“Good night,” she said.
“Goodnight.” Sasanov heard her steps fading down the corridor, and the little click of her bedroom door closing. He lit a cigarette and sat on the edge of the bed. He wasn’t angry any longer. He had never seen her cool professionalism ruffled like that before. Embarrassment suited her;
she had blushed when he said he missed her, turned really red when she came to his room. He had stopped being angry because he believed her. London had suggested she get him a paid woman. She hadn’t been told to offer herself. He was glad about that. He smoked quietly, thinking about her. For a long time she had puzzled him. He knew exactly what her official purpose was, but Davina Graham was a human puzzle. She was exceptionally clever, with an incisive intuitive mind, a woman who could hold her place in any intellectual contest with a man. A challenge to someone like himself; they had been very clever to send a human puzzle to a man who played chess. Yet she was sensitive and feminine in a shy way. The shyness appealed to him and her sexual remoteness intrigued him. Over the last five months he had grown very close to her. And very aware of her as a woman, instead of an opponent trying to win him over to the West. Thinking about her diverted his mind; he dreaded the night hours when the issues of his life confronted him, and he was defenceless against his own doubts. When he left Russia it had seemed so clear in his mind. He had left his homeland and his family because the death of his friend Jacob Belezky had broken his heart and the ties of loyalty to his own political system. As Davina had reminded him, he had lost faith in the Soviet system and his part in maintaining it. Jacob’s death was a culmination of doubt and revulsion which had been eroding his ambitions and poisoning his life for the last four years. He had used his power to arrange his own escape; the months preceding his trip to London had been endurable because he saw an end in sight. But he had been one of the best Intelligence officers in the complex hierarchy of the KGB. He wasn’t going to give his old enemies what they wanted until he had time to plan ahead for himself and his family. His family were the bargaining-counter that he intended to exchange for the information Brigadier White was waiting for. Not a second-rate network in Norway or a few spies scattered in the outer circles of NATO; they had merely bought him time to think. But the detailed plans for Soviet operations against the oil kingdoms of the Middle East. The longer he kept the Brigadier and his people waiting, the stronger his position became. Yet now he wondered whether it was a’ position that he really wanted. Life in the capitalist West:
plastic surgery, an assured income for life, a manufactured identity among strangers, a home in a country so different from his own. He could still go back. The propaganda value of his return in disillusionment from the West would balance out the trivial information he had given away. The British wouldn’t murder him or keep him if he declared his intention to return. They didn’t operate like that. They even allowed their own traitors to escape. Unless he was a willing collaborator, he was useless to White’s Intelligence Service. He finished the cigarette, got into bed and switched off the light. He lay in the darkness, thinking. He was no longer sure of his own motives. Longing for Russia plagued him, uncertainty about his wife and daughter gave rise to paranoid suspicions that they were dead or arrested, and the news was being kept from him. If it hadn’t been for the challenge of Davina Graham he might already have decided to go back long before the spring came. He settled down to sleep, but his mind roamed restlessly. He hadn’t slept well for some weeks. The luminous dial on his watch showed a few minutes before three, when he drifted into an uneasy doze, and he woke just after dawn. He drew back the curtains to watch the sun rise, and opened his window to the joyously singing birds. The sound made him heavy and sad. Another day walking with her through the grounds. Eating lunch, talking, reading the English newspapers. The evening creeping over him like a shroud. He was dressed and pacing the garden in the dew, when Davina looked out of her bedroom window and saw him. She put a call through to the Brigadier at his private number, and woke him an hour before his breakfast. He was irritable and uncooperative.