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Authors: Evelyn Anthony

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

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BOOK: The Defector
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“I did see it,” he said.

“I just wanted to find out how you play. You must know your opponent’s mind if you want to beat him.” She had laughed and set the pieces in place. She had a laugh he found difficult to describe. There was an old-fashioned word for it. Merry. Carefree and full of enjoyment. They played a second time, and they were in the middle of the game when Davina came in. She poured herself a drink and stood watching them for a few minutes. She looked rather pale and stiff; Sasanov felt emotion play like lightning between the two sisters, and then it was hidden by a veneer of friendliness which didn’t deceive him. Davina hated her; he hadn’t gauged how Charley reciprocated. She showed less of her feelings because they appeared to be so obvious. She laughed and joked, and teased him, glittering like a star in the family circle, whilst Davina’s hatred glowed around her like a nimbus. He beat Charley the second time, and brought them to checkmate just as dinner was ready. He didn’t like English food; he found it too bland. His tastes were catered for by the private cook at Halldale Manor. He viewed the chicken dish in a wine sauce, and the inevitable dull vegetables, without much appetite. He ate more than he wanted, to be polite, and allowed Captain Graham to keep his glass filled with wine. He was surrounded by a high degree of comfort and good taste; the dining-room, its table bright with family silver, the pictures and the furniture were uniquely English. Nothing ostentatious or new; slight shabbiness was in order. Nothing offended the Grahams and their kind more than vulgarity and display. Mrs. Graham had asked him a few polite questions and then launched into a long discourse about gardening. He wasn’t bored, because no effort was required of him. He merely smiled and nodded, not quite listening. He heard Davina’s father say, “This is quite a treat, my dear. We haven’t had a visit from you for a long time. How is Jim White?”

“Very well,” Davina answered him. There was a slight formality between the father and elder daughter, embedded in their tones of voice like a tiny splinter of glass. Sasanov concentrated, smiling at Mrs. Graham’s description of layering carnations.

“Does he bully you? Or have you got him under your thumb like a good secretary should?”

“Nobody bullies me, Father,” she said.

“And I can assure you, the Brigadier is not under my thumb or anybody else’s.” It shouldn’t have sounded sharp but it did. So that was what she was supposed to be. White’s secretary. And that was how her family thought of her. The spinster secretary, efficient, brisk and sexless. He was beginning to understand the puzzle better, just by sitting within her family. He finished his wine, and found that Charley’s hand lay like a dove on his sleeve. She leaned across him, and the voluptuous scent was strong.

“Mummy darling, you mustn’t monopolize Pavel - let me get a word in.”

“I’m sorry,” Mrs. Graham apologized to him, “I love my garden and I do get carried away when anyone lets me;

I’ll take you round tomorrow if it’s a nice morning. “

“I would like that very much,” Sasanov said. He had a small dacha outside Moscow at a place called Zhukova. It was one of the privileges that went with his rank and importance. Fedya and his daughter Irina loved spending the weekends there; they used to go for long walks together, his daughter’s dog bounding beside them, barking and dashing to and fro with excitement. But they didn’t have a garden. Not a cultivated work of art like the gardens he had seen from the terrace at Marchwood. The memory of the dacha blotted out his surroundings for a few seconds;

he could smell the pine trees and the crisp fresh air. The pain was sharp, like a stab wound. He looked across and saw Davina Graham watching him. Her sister’s hand still lay on his sleeve as she was talking to him. He smiled and didn’t listen. Instead he watched Davina gauging his reactions. She had a calm detachment that sometimes goaded him, and sometimes soothed his nerves. Her eyes were not normally expressive;

she showed only those feelings he was meant to see. But now her face was a sad mask, and the polite little smile was full of hurt. He moved his arm, and the sister’s white hand fell away. He turned to Harry Graham and lifted his wineglass.

“To your wife’s beautiful garden. And her charming daughters.” Charley answered the compliment in a low murmur.

“I hope you’ll see more of both,” she said.

“Mother,” Davina said.

“Don’t you think we should leave Pavel and Father for a few minutes?”

“Yes, of course.” Both men stood up as the three women left the room. Captain Graham carried a decanter of port and two glasses to the table and sat beside Sasanov.

“I’ve got brandy if you prefer it, but this is rather a good Cockburn’s ‘62.” He looked gratified when his guest accepted the port.

“Would it be indiscreet if I asked you what you thought of our present government? I don’t suppose you approve of it, but I’d like to hear a view from outside. And one does have the feeling that Poland is friendly to Britain deep down we fought a damned good war together.”

“Indeed, yes,” Sasanov agreed. Captain Graham settled down to enjoy himself. Davina went to her own room; she was putting a little powder on her face, thinking that she was already too pale, when she saw her sister reflected in the mirror. She turned round.

“Davy her sister said.

“Can I come in?” That was why she hated the masculine abbreviation other name. Charley always kept it up.

“Of course,” she said.

“I won’t be a minute here.”

“That’s all right,” her sister said.

“I don’t want to do anything to my face. I just wanted to talk while we have a chance.” She took a cigarette out of her bag and lit it.

“How are you?” she said.

“I mean, how are you really!”

“I’m fine,” Davina answered.

“Very busy. I gather you and Brian are splitting up.”

“Yes, we are; it’s unfortunate, but we weren’t good marriage material.” She smiled her beautiful smile.

“Too selfish, I suppose. He likes his way and I like mine. We’re better apart, but the details are always a bore.”

“They must be,” Davina said.

“Why do you keep marrying Wouldn’t it save a lot of trouble and expense if you just lived together till you got fed up?”

“I’m not the one who insists on marriage,” Charley answered

“It was never my idea to marry Richard. I tried to tell you that at the time.

I wish I felt you’d forgiven me. “

“I might have been able to, if you’d loved him,” Davina said.

“But you took him away from me for fun. Dull old Davy had a fiance and you didn’t fancy being out of the limelight, did you? So you made a dead set at him.”

“I didn’t,” her sister said.

“I told you, but you wouldn’t listen to me. He never left me alone. I never wanted to marry him; I didn’t know how to get out of it after he broke off with you. Davy, for God’s sake can’t we bury the past? After all, you didn’t miss much. You saw how he turned out.”

“I saw what you made of him,” Davina said. There was silence then. She expected her sister to get up and go out, but she didn’t. She sat on the bed and smoked.

“Your Pole seems nice,” she said at last.

“Just so I don’t put my foot in it, is he a boy friend?”

“No,” Davina said.

“Just a friend.”

“I think he likes you,” Charley remarked.

“He keeps looking at you. That’s a sure sign. ” Davina got up.

“There’s nothing in it; he’s just a friend.”

“Mother thinks he’s most attractive,” Charley said.

“Why don’t you encourage him a bit, Davy? You’re so remote with men; they get frightened off.”

“You live your life, Charley, and I’ll live mine,” she said flatly.

“I’m going downstairs. Are you coming? And try not to drop that filthy cigarette-ash all over the floor.” Her sister shrugged.

“If you don’t relax,” she said, ‘you’ll never get a man. You’re turning into a real spinster, Davy. And I’m not being a bitch. I’m just telling you the truth. “

“One day,” Davina said quietly, ‘you’re going to face the truth about yourself. I’d rather be a spinster than a tramp. ” She hurried out and down the stairs; her father and Sasanov had come into the sitting-room and were standing by the fire, talking. Her mother was sitting in her armchair beside a lamp, wearing spectacles and sewing; she looked serene and she gave her elder daughter a tender smile as she came towards her.

“Come and sit down near me,” she said.

“Tell me what you think of this pattern.” Mrs. Graham was an accomplished needlewoman; cushion covers and chair-seats were examples of her work. Davina sat beside her.

“It’s lovely,” she said, looking at the embroidery-frame.

“That’s the Bargello pattern, isn’t it?”

“Yes, darling. I’m covering the two hall-chair seats they’ve got rather tatty. You ought to do this, you know… it’s so soothing.”

“I don’t have the time,” Davina answered.

“Or the patience. I never could sew anything properly.”

“No, you couldn’t.” Her mother smiled.

“That’s quite right. You look a little tired are you working very hard?”

“Quite hard,” she admitted. Day and night, in fact, locked in combat with another human being. The hardest work of all.

“I wish you’d come down and see us more,” her mother murmured. It wasn’t a reproach.

“Your father was so delighted when I told him you and Charley were coming this weekend.”

“I’m sure he was,” Davina said; her mother didn’t notice the gentle sarcasm, or if she did, she ignored it and went on.

“He likes your friend Pavel. I think he’s charming I remember some of the Polish army officers in the war they were such dashing young men. We all fell in love with them…” She didn’t look up or interrupt her sewing.

“Is there anything between you anything serious?”

“No, Mother,” Davina said.

“Charley asked me the same thing. We’re just friends, that’s all. He’s rather lonely in London and I thought he’d like to meet you and spend a weekend in a family. Don’t start marrying me off to Pavel, for heaven’s sake.”

“Of course not,” Mrs. Graham said. She put the embroidery-frame aside.

“Davina darling, having a career isn’t everything, you know. You ought to think about getting married. There must be some nice men around in London you can bring anyone down here you like, you know that.” Davina put a hand on her mother’s arm.

“I know,” she said.

“Don’t worry about me, I’m perfectly happy. I’ve got a very full life.”

“It’s not still Richard, is it?” The faded blue eyes were anxious.

“No,” Davina shook her head.

“I got over that a long time ago.”

“Are you still angry with Charley? I feel there’s an atmosphere between you.

I wish you could forget it and be your old happy selves again. Blood’s thicker than water, and you are sisters.”

“We’re all right, Mother,” she said.

“He was no damned good or he wouldn’t have run off with her in the first place. I never gave it a thought.”

“I’m so glad,” her mother said.

“I do wish she’d meet someone and settle down for good. I thought Brian would be the answer but all he thinks about is his career, apparently. He’s made Charley really miserable.”

“That’s a shame,” Davina said. Her sister was talking to Sasanov; he and her father laughed at something she said. She had never heard him laugh aloud before. She felt a little colour burning on both cheeks.

“He likes you. He keeps looking at you.” Charley’s words floated into her mind. Mocking, patronizing-she didn’t know which. He wasn’t looking at anyone but her sister, and besides his laughter, there was an air of excitement about him. A full-blooded man responding to the challenge of a desirable woman. The room seemed suffocatingly hot. Surely they didn’t need a fire at this time of year. She had offered him a woman; why should she mind so much that he had found one for himself. Jealousy, she chided herself angrily. You’re jealous because it’s your sister. And you offered him a professional whore sent by the Department. Because you didn’t have the courage to go to him yourself. Remember how angry he was, how you nearly unbalanced the whole carefully constructed pas-de-deux you’ve shadow-danced with him for the past five months. He didn’t want clinical sex. He wanted you and you backed off. Now you’ve lost him to Charley. Like Richard, who left you to marry her;

like all the men who ever met her. She got up and went over to the group by the fireplace. She slipped her arm through Sasanov’s, and saw the look of surprise on her father’s face. She smiled at him and at her sister.

“I’m going to take Pavel for a walk in the moonlight,” she announced.

“It’s got so stuffy in here.” Charley and her father were so unprepared that for a moment they just stared at her. Davina had never been intimate with any man in public. She had never claimed Richard, even when they were engaged, the way she was now claiming the Pole. Davina did not take men for walks in the moonlight.

“How romantic,” her sister said.

“Don’t stay out too long,” her father said. He looked embarrassed.

“It’s getting late and I want to lock up the house.” She steered Sasanov out of the room; at the door to the terrace she dropped his arm.

“I hope you didn’t mind,” she said.

“I thought you might need a break from them. Father and Charley together can be quite overpowering.”

“I like your father,” he said.

“We talked politics after you left the dining-room. He is an amazing reactionary; I was most interested.”

“He’s the only grass-roots Tory you’ll ever meet,” Davina said.

“There aren’t that many of them left. And I’m afraid Charley is rather a flirt.” She couldn’t stop herself saying it. They were standing in the passage; she hadn’t opened the terrace door. Sasanov reached and turned the handle.

“You said we would walk,” he reminded her.

“That was just an excuse,” she protested.

“You don’t have to go outside.”

“I would like to,” he said.

“Fresh air helps me to sleep.” There was a full moon and the garden was silver and black in the translucent light. He walked beside her along the brick paths round the flower-beds. It was a still, sound less night. They didn’t touch each other; there were no steps and they could see the garden quite clearly.

BOOK: The Defector
4.82Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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