Authors: Evelyn Anthony
Tags: #Fiction, #Espionage, #Mystery & Detective, #General
“You told me this yesterday if you’re worried I’ll send someone down.”
“I am worried,” she said.
“I want to try an experiment. He needs to get away from here: he’s going crazy shut up with me all the time. As I told you, last night he was talking about going home. And I don’t think it was a bluff. Will you give me permission to take him home for the weekend?”
“What? Good God, Miss. Graham, what an extraordinary idea! Why should that amuse him?”
“Because he needs freedom,” she said.
“He knows nothing about life in England. He feels lonely and cut off. I think it might work. He’d trust me more if the visit was a success. Let me try it. He won’t go off; he’s nowhere to go to. You can have a man down there if you want him watched.” There was a pause.
“How will you explain him to your family?”
“Leave that to me,” she said.
“Can I go ahead?”
“Yes.” He sounded more reasonable.
“Yes, if you think it’s the right thing. Give my regards to your father.”
“Thank you, sir, I will.” She hurried down to breakfast. Sasanov was sitting at the table drinking coffee and smoking.
“Good morning,” he said. She saw the puffy skin under his eyes and the look of fatigue.
“Did you sleep well?”
“I saw you out in the garden very early this morning.”
“I needed fresh air.”
“You need more than that,” she said.
“You need to get away from here.
I’m going to arrange it after breakfast. “
“Harry, Davina’s coming down this evening. She’s bringing some man with her.” Harold Graham looked like a retired naval officer; he had the bright blue eyes and weathered skin of men who have spent years at sea. The sea had left its imprint upon him, as clearly as the sky subtly changes the men who fly. Harry Graham was a naval’type’ and old gardening clothes didn’t alter the aura of the quarterdeck he carried with him. He was a handsome man, not very tall, but very upright. He had a keen, humorous face, and a marvelous simplicity which ignored changing values in a changing world. He had been married for thirty-seven years, and had enjoyed a satisfying, happy marriage, which had never been threatened by the occasional love affair when he was away during the war. He lived an active life in retirement, devoted to charitable work and the running of the village where they lived. He was on the Parish Council, read the lesson in the Anglican church, was president of the local British Legion, and spent two days a week in London working for the Ex-Services Mental Health Association, Naval Section. He had some private money apart from his pension, and was proud of the fact that they were able to keep their house and garden properly. His wife was standing on the terrace outside the drawing-room, shading her eyes from the bright sunlight with one hand. She was taller than he was, and very thin; she showed traces of great prettiness, with fine grey eyes and clear features. Her face was webbed with tiny lines, and her fair hair was nearly white. She was still so surprised by her daughter’s telephone call that she repeated the message.
“Davina’s coming down… with a man.”
“Is she really?” Captain Graham said.
“It’s rather last-minute, isn’t it?”
“No, darling no more than Charley. She rang last night.”
“Yes, all right, so she did.” He came to her and put his arm round her for a moment.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing her, aren’t you? She’s such fun. I wonder what she’s been up to, naughty girl. “
“Goodness only knows,” his wife said.
“Who do you suppose this man is, that Davina’s bringing down? She said he was a Pole.”
“A Pole what on earth is she doing with a Pole? And why does she have to bring him here? What time did Charley say she was arriving?”
“In time for drinks,” Betty Graham said. They walked into the house together.
“It was very hot out there,” he said.
“We’re going to have a good summer. Everything’s coming out ahead of itself. We’ll have to watch out there isn’t a sharp frost. We’d lose a lot of bedding plants if we got a frost now. I feel like a gin and tonic. We’ve got time before lunch, haven’t..we?” His wife smiled at him.
“Since I’m doing the cooking, of course we have. I’ll get some ice.” Later, while they were finishing their drinks, Betty Graham said gently! “Harry darling, promise me you’ll be nice to Davina.” His eyebrows rose, and he registered a pained surprise.
“I’m always nice to her. Why shouldn’t I be?”
“Because you much prefer Charley,” his wife said.
“But I don’t show it,” he maintained.
“I just find Davina rather difficult.”
“She was never any trouble,” his wife reminded him.
“It can’t have been easy being Charley’s sister.”
“Well, yes, but she never made an effort, did she? And look at the fuss she kicked up when Richard broke it off. Didn’t come near us for over a year. Who is this fellow she’s bringing along don’t tell me she’s going to take up with a Pole. “
“We’ve got to be very nice to him too,” Betty said firmly.
“It would be marvelous if she got married and settled down. I wish she wasn’t so tied up in that dreary Ministry job. These career girls never seem to get married.” He gave a mischievous laugh.
“I should think you’d had enough weddings with Charley,” he said.
“You’re hopeless,” his wife said.
“You’d forgive Charley anything.”
“I think it’s time Davina forgave her too,” he said.
“After all Richard was no damned good. Perhaps it’s a good thing they’re coming both together. Did you tell her Charley would be here?”
“Yes, I did,” Betty Graham said.
“She said she didn’t mind; she said she’d be glad to see her, actually.”
“Then let’s hope it all goes off well. I don’t want the weekend spoilt. They don’t come down that often.”
“No,” she said.
“I’m sure it will be all right. Now finish that drink and we’ll have our lunch. I arranged for Mrs. Dixon to come in and cook over the weekend. I don’t want to spend my time in the kitchen.” After lunch, she went into the garden with the wicker trug over her arm, and cut flowers to put in the girls’ bedrooms. Long sprays of forsythia arched among the daffodils; she was clever with flowers and had always arranged them. Even when she was alone in the house and Harry was at sea during the war, Betty Graham kept the vases filled, as if she were preparing for him to walk through the door. Their only son had been killed in the Fleet Air Arm, long after the war had ended. He was only twenty; that was when she began to look old. They had grieved, she and Harry. Arranging a big bowl of forsythia in Davina’s bedroom, Betty Graham remembered how differently her two daughters had shown their feelings at their brother’s death. Davina was twenty-four, and Charley seventeen. The love child of the immediate post war, when she and Harry took up their life again, not expecting that she would have a pregnancy at forty-two Charley had wept and clung to each of them in turn; they had been a trinity of sorrow, she and Harry and their younger daughter. Davina had looked grey for weeks, but they never saw her cry. She had never shown her feelings; that was the reason she and Harry found it difficult to love her as much as Charlotte. She smiled quietly, thinking how Charlotte had been impossible for the little girl to say; she had shortened her name, and she was Charley to everyone who knew her. What a pity that Davina was so different. And then when Richard asked her to marry him, and she seemed so happy and outgoing at last that had been terribly difficult for them all. She put the memory aside and carried a vase of flowers into her younger daughter’s room. It would be lovely having them together for the weekend. She did hope the Pole would fit in. Brigadier White didn’t like going to see the Home Secretary. He avoided it whenever possible, sending a deputy to make the routine report. He considered the incumbent of the principal post at the Home Office to be a liberal intellectual, who disapproved of him and his department and frustrated him when he most needed support. In White’s opinion he was soft. He was an abolitionist, which the Brigadier thought ridiculous, with the crime rate, and especially violent crime, murder, armed robbery and terrorism, on the increase every year. White believed in death as a deterrent. It was also much cheaper to hang a man than to keep him for twenty years at the taxpayers’ expense. His department would have welcomed a tenth of the subsidy spent on locking up bombers and child murderers in top security jails. This time he decided to see the Home Secretary himself because there had been a sudden stream of irritating notes from the Foreign Office about Russian protests at Britain’s failure to find Sasanov, or a body, since it was asserted he must have killed himself. Nobody was serious, of course;
the KGB knew perfectly well that Sasanov was under his protection. They were just trying to be awkward, and stir up trouble for White. The Home Secretary was not sympathetic to White’s clandestine operations. He objected to laws being broken in the name of security, and he carried his obsession about personal freedom so far that White had to mount some of his less savoury operations very carefully. There was a lot the Home Secretary didn’t know, but there was no way White could have concealed Sasanov. The defection of someone so important was of interest to the Prime Minister, who asked the Home Secretary for information on what was happening, so that he in turn asked White. Now that the Foreign Office was meddling, because of the Russians, White felt that positive action was needed. Unfortunately he couldn’t implement it without the Home Secretary’s agreement. He drove along Whitehall in his blue Flat, with a Special Branch man at the wheel; he used different cars during the day, and never travelled to his office or his home by a regular route. He was a prime target for terrorists. Although he took precautions, he wasn’t frightened. He had never been afraid of anything in his life, and didn’t understand or sympathize with anyone who was. He hastened into the Home Office, and sped up in the lift to the first floor and the Home Secretary’s office. He was shown into the room, which was empty. He strolled over to the windows and looked out onto Horse Guards Parade, flanked by the elegance of the old Palace of Whitehall. As a serving officer, James White had trooped the colour of his regiment on the sovereign’s official birthday. It was an occasion that moved and thrilled him, with its pageantry, colour and superb precision. All the more dramatic now, since the monarch was a queen. He was a man for whom his country meant the traditions implicit in his regiment, the Cold-stream Guards, regarded as the oldest-established regiment of the Line and founded by General Monck who had helped bring Charles the Second back to his murdered father’s throne. James White had been a dedicated soldier, who retired early because his skills were needed in the Intelligence Service, at that time demoralized by lack of funds, the shattering scandal of Philby’s treachery, and the prevailing political climate that considered spies and the Secret Service as outmoded and rather immoral. White had changed the image. He didn’t try to court the politicians, but he kept on the best of terms with the Treasury. The Foreign Office had been hypersensitive to investigation on even the most harmless level after Burgess and MacLean. He had proceeded with tact outside his department, and with total ruthlessness inside it. He knew how to get the best out of people by being courteous and unruffled, and pitiless if they failed. White had known Davina Graham’s father because they were members of the same club, and their family backgrounds had merged at one point through cousins marrying. He had employed Davina as his secretary because he knew that there was no question of a security risk there. And he had seen her true potential. She was far too clever to waste her time being a good secretary. Taking Sasanov to Marchwood for the weekend showed imagination and courage. He admired her for the idea, but he hoped for her sake that it didn’t go wrong. He heard a distant flushing sound, and smiled. Home Secretaries went to the lavatory like lesser men; there was a separate bathroom and lavatory adjoining the office. White was sitting in an armchair, looking relaxed, when the Home Secretary came in. They shook hands, and exchanged banalities about the weather. Neither man was at ease with the other; a truce existed, but the threat of open war was always there. The Minister was an academic who had come late into politics. He was a gentle man, steeped in the humanities, trusted completely by the Prime Minister who valued his loyalty and integrity in public life. These virtues were said to offset his dislike of authoritarian methods, and a penchant towards mercy. He offered the Brigadier a cigarette, and took his place behind the desk. The Brigadier was a type of man he abhorred. Hard, ambitious, lacking in scruple, capable of anything. The Minister had once heard James White described as a man of honour, and had almost lost his temper with the speaker. There was an imperialist attitude in the Brigadier’s approach to problems that the Home Secretary found not only offensive, but positively dangerous He settled into his leather chair and took up a defensive position.
“Could we come to the point of your visit, Brigadier? I don’t want to seem discourteous, but I have a hellish morning and a dozen people to see.”
“I appreciate your giving me the time, Home Secretary,” James White responded.
“Actually it’s concerned with the Soviet defector, Ivan Sasanov.”
“Oh? What’s happened to him?”
“Happened why nothing. He’s in excellent health and enjoying a stay in our place in the country. I assure you, he’s our guest, not a prisoner.” He allowed himself a slight sneer.
“He did come to us of his own accord.”
“So you informed me.” The answer was brisk.
“Which was about eight months ago, as I recall. I’ve had interim reports since then, to pass on to the PM. But so far he seems to be marking time. You led me to believe that he was the most important Soviet official since Perekov to come over to the West. Otherwise it hardly seems worth while to have antagonized the Russians to the extent that we did. Isn’t it time we had some results?” The Brigadier kept the half-smile on his face; his eyes gleamed with dislike for a second or two, long enough to convey it to the man opposite to him. He called him a contemptuous obscenity in his mind, and answered with infuriating patience, as if he were explaining something simple to someone unusually stupid.