Authors: Evelyn Anthony
Tags: #Fiction, #Espionage, #Mystery & Detective, #General
“Sasanov is even more important than Perekov. He was the coordinating officer in charge of that section of the Soviet Ministry of External Affairs that deals with the Middle East. His section is, of course, the KGB. Soviet activity in that part of the world has increased in terms of expenditure and agents in operation by fifty percent since last year since the overthrow of the Shah. They are aiming at the oil sheikdoms, Home Secretary. And Sasanov knows the details of the operation being mounted against Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.”
“Then why hasn’t he told us?” the Minister demanded.
“Because he wants to be in the best possible bargaining position before he plays a hand of such importance. Defection is not an easy thing to adjust to; it entails a great deal more than catching a taxi and presenting yourself at Scotland Yard, asking for asylum. The psychological upheaval is acute; it takes months before a man like Sasanov can orientate himself to betraying his own country. Properly betraying, anyway. He’s given us a few snippets of information; enough to whet the appetite, so to speak. He has been acclimatizing, as we call it. Settling in, coming to terms with himself and the decision he’s made. You can’t hurry this process; I’m sure you’d be the last person to authorize forceful methods to get the information.” He gave his opponent a cool stare. The Home Secretary said freezingly, “No such permission would ever be given. In any circumstances. I hope that’s understood.”
“Of course, of course, it is,” White protested.
“Apart from which it would be criminally stupid. The kind of information we will get from Sasanov in due course-and we will get it, I am quite confident needs to be interpreted by him over a period. That, my dear Home Secretary, is where his real worth lies. He knows the minds of our opponents, he can gauge their feel for a situation as it changes hourly. That was Philby’s value to the Russians. He knew the people at home because he’d been one of them for years. He’s still interpreting Western Intelligence for them.”
“Yes. I know this of course; but at least I can say to the Prime Minister that you are confident of enlisting Sasanov as an active adviser to our own Service. No indication of time, I suppose? It would help to have some guide…”
“Weeks,” the Brigadier said affably.
“Not months. I have a very talented operative with him at the moment. I’m delighted with her progress.”
“Her? Do you mean you’ve used a woman to debrief him?”
“I have indeed,” White said.
“Women have proved very able in my service. And now, after all, we have a lady in Downing Street.
“He gave the Minister a sly look, daring him to disparage the female sex. He shifted in his seat and said briskly,” But I’m wandering from the purpose of my call. Briefly, the Russians have been making a fuss through their Embassy. It’s just tiresomeness on their part, because they know perfectly well Sasanov is with us. But they’re complaining because while our people insist he killed himself, we haven’t produced a body. I would like your authority to take the necessary steps to satisfy them. “
“You’re going to find a body? How can you?” The Brigadier gave his little bark of a laugh. He was thoroughly enjoying himself.
“Oh, we’re not going to kill anybody! Oh, lord no. I just want to be able to show them a dead man and keep them quiet. All I need is authorization to satisfy the local health authority if we hear of someone suitable. That’s all.”
“I’ll send you the necessary memo,” the Home Secretary said. He pushed back his chair.
“Now, I’m afraid I have someone waiting.” His expression indicated chill distaste. The Brigadier thanked him for his time and help, and walked out of the office with a springy step. He would get the memo, and it would be safely filed away. No politician would ever be able to accuse him of acting without authorization. Not on a trivial thing like substituting a corpse for a living man. Another make of car was waiting at the entrance; he jumped in, and told the driver to take him to his office. There he telephoned an old friend at the Special Branch of Scotland Yard. He invited him to lunch. Later that afternoon, sniffing a good Armagnac, the SB man asked the Brigadier what he meant by a favour. White was rubbing a cigar close to his ear, judging the tobacco by the crackle that it made. The old myth about the best Havanas being those rolled by the Cuban girls between their thighs still died a slow death among the older generation.
“I need a corpse,” he said.
“Damn good these. Try one.”
“Too strong for me,” the policeman said.
“I’ll stick to my cheap cigarettes.” They both chuckled. Long association and many off-colour deals had brought them to a curious condition of trust and friendship.
“Cheap? There’s nothing cheap about you, Tim. You’ve cost me enough at times!” James White bit off the end of his cigar and lit it. He despised the fiddling tool for cutting them. Better men than he would ever be had used their teeth.
“How much am I going to cost you this time, then?” The man puffing on his cigarette was a professional policeman, risen through ability from the ranks then on to the branch of (he CID that coped with terrorism, treason and subversion. He was a pleasant man, with a bluff sense of humour and a comfortable middle-class background. He could have been a businessman, a broker, a solid citizen with a solid career. But like James White, he was above all a true professional. Some men, he had said once, when they were lunching together and working out a particularly difficult security operation where his branch’s help was needed, some men were hunters by nature. He and the Brigadier belonged in that category. They couldn’t help themselves. It was in the blood. He was also a patriot, and he used the word without embarrassment. To his colleagues in the Yard, criminals were the enemy. Or the quarry. He was honest enough to admit the ambivalence. To him, the enemy was the subversive, the terrorist, the traitor. There was no compromise, no excuse.
“Seek and destroy.” That was his own directive to his highly trained men. He admired and liked James White. They were akin. The Brigadier shook his head.
“Nothing, I hope, Tim. I need a corpse, that’s all. Shouldn’t be too difficult. People are always dying.”
“What kind of corpse?” he asked. The Armagnac was very good indeed. There was a bite to it he appreciated.
“Natural causes, I suppose?”
“No,” the Brigadier said, pleased to have forestalled him.
“Drowning. Been in the sea for some time. “
“Ah,” the policeman said.
“Difficult to recognize, eh? I see.”
“No fingerprints,” James White said.
“That’s essential. No hands. The rest doesn’t matter. We can fudge that. But fingerprints we don’t want. Give it a thought, will you, Tim? I’d be most grateful. I’ve got our friend at the Home Office breathing down my neck.” He finished the brandy. His companion scowled.
“Oh, that bugger! Do you know he’s the most hostile Home Secretary we’ve had in twenty years! One thing we’ll never bloody well forgive was quashing the conviction on that little rat Jim French.”
“The man who kicked a P C to death in the Walthamstow riots?” the Brigadier said.
“I remember that very well.”
“We knew he was guilty. We bloody well knew it. He was seen laying into our man when he was on the ground. Three separate witnesses saw him do it. But they wouldn’t identify him. Too scared. Two were women, living in council flats. The other witness was a policeman. And he quashed the conviction on a technicality. Don’t worry, James, this won’t cost you anything. I’ll get some inquiries going when I get back to the office. Drowning victim. Give me the details.”
“Male,” the Brigadier said.
“About forty-five. Five feet ten inches tall, and not a nigger.” They laughed together at the joke.
“Don’t worry,” the policeman said again.
“We’ll find you something.”
“Salisbury Plain I love this part of England,” Davina said. She glanced sideways at Sasanov. He was looking out of the car window; she was relieved to see signs of interest.
“It’s rather beautiful,” he said.
“So much space. I’ve always thought of England as a little, cramped place.”
“Some of it is,” she said.
“That’s part of its charm. And it changes so rapidly; you go from one county to the next and everything’s different-the countryside, the villages, the architecture. Red brick in the South, lath and plaster and black beams in the Midlands, yellow stone in the Cotswolds, grey stone in Oxfordshire. Pebble and flint farther north, thatch in the South-East. You get rolling hills and dead flat country, and even mountains, a few hundred miles from each other. I never get tired of England,” she said.
“You sound like a Russian talking about Russia,” Sasanov said.
“Except that to us, it’s thousands of miles. A whole continent; so many races, colours, cultures, all in the borders of Mother Russia. Your little country is like a doll’s village, compared to mine.” She smiled and said, “But the weather’s better. You must give us that.”
“You’ve never spent a summer on the Black Sea,” he answered.
“Nor a winter in Siberia,” she countered.
“There’s Stonehenge up on the right. Would you like to stop and look at it?”
“And what is Stonehenge?”
“An ancient ruin,” she said, slowing down.
“I used to come here as a child. There’s always a wind blowing.” They parked behind a row of cars, with brightly painted coaches catering for tours. There was a garish souvenir-shop selling postcards, coloured slides and plastic models of the circle of great stones. They joined a group of people filing round the rope barrier which separated them from the inner ring.
“It looks much bigger; from the road it was small. You’re right,” Sasanov said, buttoning his jacket.
“There is a wind.”
“The Druids worshipped here,” Davina said. Her hair was breaking free of its pins and beginning to fly in wisps round her face.
“But the people who erected the stones were much, much earlier. It was two circles originally, but the inner one is all that’s left. You see that big stone in the centre there?” He followed her pointing finger. He nodded.
“Yes. I see it.”
“That’s the altar stone,” Davina said.
“The rays of the rising sun touch the exact centre of it. That’s when the Druids offered human sacrifice to the sun. They killed the victims on the stone. “
“There’s a reconstruction of it, over there,” Sasanov said.
“And a view from the air. It’s very symmetrical for something so primitive.”
“Yes, it is,” Davina answered.
“It’s also the exact centre of England;
all lines north, south, east and west converge on this spot. Some people believe it is evidence of spacemen landing like those places in Central America. Photographed from the air there are definite lines and patterns that aren’t accidental. “
“Don’t tell me,” Sasanov said, ‘that you believe that. “
“I don’t know,” she said.
“But I feel something here some kind of energy.”
“It’s the wind, and the space all round you,” he said.
“It’s an illusion. There is no significance to this, it’s just a primitive temple. But it’s unusual. I’m glad I saw it.”
“It’s such a pity you can’t go any closer,” Davina steered him back to the car park.
“When I used to come here there weren’t any barriers. You could walk all round it; I even sat on the altar stone. People came up here to watch the sun rise and see the first rays lighting on the stone. Now the great British public just wants to carve their initials all over it. ” Sasanov stopped.
“I would like a postcard,” he said suddenly. Davina stared at him.
“Would you? Really?”
“Yes, I would. But I have no money.”
“I’ve got plenty,” she said.
“Come on then, you choose what you want.” She watched him deciding on which view to take; he seemed more relaxed than she had known him to be in five whole months.
“This one,” he said.
“It will remind me of you.” It was a photograph of the sunrise, with a brilliant shaft of light touching the centre of the altar stone.
“You must have been a bloodthirsty child,” he said.
“What did you imagine when you sat there?”
“Oh, I don’t know. I suppose I tried to imagine what it had been like with some terrifying Druid standing over you with a knife. I believe they sacrificed virgins, male and female. It’s horrible, if you think about it.”
“Yes, but it’s very common. It answers a human need, to satisfy an angry god… And after all, if the sacrifice has any value, it must be pure.” She didn’t answer, but the adjective struck her as odd. So he regarded virginity as a virtue. Pure. it was a strangely old-fashioned word, seldom heard applied to anything but consumer goods. Pure wool, pure silk, pure skin food. She hadn’t thought of a pure person since she grew up, and the Christian ethic joined the fairy stories. It was a pointer to remember. Sasanov was a prude. Insights like that brought his personality more into focus; when you could see the personality in three dimensions, the task of winning him over became easier. She hummed a little tune to herself as they drove. It was a beautiful spring afternoon; she felt confident and cheerful. It was a feeling she associated with going to Marchwood, the house where she had been born and grown up. Like coming back at the end of the school term, there was a flutter of excitement as they reached the turn-off that had since become the motorway, and Marchwood village was signposted as three miles away. She had never told anyone how she felt about the house; it seemed pointless, because it was going to be left to her brother, and then when he was killed, she was sure her father had left the house to Charley. Because of course her sister didn’t make a secret other love for the house. She’d never touched the walls and talked to it as if it were a living entity. Everything Charley felt was very public. Not that she minded now, Davina thought, and didn’t realize that she had stopped humming the little song. What would a single woman do, rattling about on her own in a house that size Charley was certain to marry again. She could regard her family with affection, understanding and objectivity. She had her own life, and she didn’t need them any more. And because she didn’t need them, she would be glad to see them, and make the best use possible of the weekend. She wanted the man beside her to relax, to drop his guard. Not to think of her as an opponent.