Authors: Evelyn Anthony
Tags: #Fiction, #Espionage, #Mystery & Detective, #General
“I hope this was a good idea,” Davina said at last.
“If you want to go early tomorrow I can make an excuse…”
“I’m enjoying myself,” Sasanov answered.
“It’s a new world to me. I find it interesting. Everything about the way you live is different;
the way your family thinks and talks, the customs here. It’s like another planet to a Russian. “
“I wanted you to see a little of what life in England could be like,” she said quietly.
“You and your wife and daughter could have a place in the country. Or in a town if you prefer. You could all be happy here. They could be free too.” He stopped and looked down at her.
“I wouldn’t know what to do with your freedom. Nor would my wife and child. Russians have never been free. We need a strong hand over us, if we’re going to be happy. You wouldn’t understand that. You wouldn’t understand that in Russia men like your father don’t talk about their government. They never have done. Not in Tsarist times and not now.”
“You’re closing your mind,” she said.
“You’re prejudiced because my father talked politics to you after dinner.” Sasanov protested.
“That’s not true; I was expecting it. I like political discussions; but there was no challenge, no risk.”
“Now that / don’t understand,” Davina said.
“I don’t see any fun in being frightened to speak your mind, and I don’t think you do either. You’re just being bloody-minded! ” They faced each other in the middle of the path.
“And you are trying to pick a quarrel,” Sasanov said.
“Why?” Because it’s not working out, she wanted to say; because I’ve made a mistake bringing you down here. You can’t see yourself or your family fitting into English life. And I know you’ll go to bed with my sister before the weekend is over, unless I can get you away. And that I cannot bear. A bank of cloud covered the moon. Suddenly they were in darkness.
“I’m going in,” she said.
“I hope you sleep. Maybe you’ll be in a better mood tomorrow.” She began to walk away, and promptly tripped over the edge of the path. She heard him laugh behind her. He caught her by the elbow.
“Don’t be stupid,” he said.
“You can’t see.”
“Nor can you!”
“I didn’t fall over,” he remarked. She tried to pull away but he wouldn’t let go. They proceeded slowly and carefully back towards the lighted windows of the house. Then the moon slipped free and she broke away from him. He barred the way to the house. She couldn’t see his face.
“Wait, Vina. Don’t go in. I miss my wife,” he said slowly.
“More than ever. I don’t want to be alone tonight.” She answered before she could stop herself. She felt frozen and empty.
“You won’t be, if I know my sister.” He put both hands on her shoulders.
“I don’t want your sister,” Sasanov said. There was a little clock on her dressing-table; the dial was luminous and the hands showed five minutes to three. It was impossible to sleep in her narrow bed, although they had both dozed for a time and then awoken. She had never felt so exhausted in her life. She had slept with her fiance, Richard, and found sex tender and fulfilling. There had been a lot of love in their lovemaking. At least on her part. But it was a poor preparation for going to bed with Sasanov. She didn’t want to remember Richard, but he came into her thoughts, and with the Russian’s heavy arms around her the memory was of a feeble, ineffectual lover. It was a strange revelation, and the implications were disturbing. She would consider them tomorrow, she decided, and then realized that tomorrow had become today, and the man beside her was stirring and active again. Sasanov leaned over her and kissed her afterwards.
“Are you all right?”
“I feel I’ve been run over by a bus.” And she laughed softly.
“I’m sorry. Am I such a bad lover?”
“No, no, no don’t apologize. It’s just I’ve never had a man who was so impatient. It’s very flattering.” She twisted her arms round his neck; she couldn’t see him in the darkness. She kissed him.
“I feel ridiculously happy,” she said.
“Every woman should have someone like you for Christmas.” Oh, Brigadier White, she thought suddenly, if you could see me now. and my lovely sister who hops in and out of bed like a chestnut on a hot griddle.
“You can’t sleep in here,” she said.
“Do you want to go back to your own bed?”
“No,” Sasanov said.
“I want to talk; I like to talk afterwards. Do you mind?”
“Of course not,” Davina reached out and switched on the bedside lamp. He blinked and, stretching over her, he turned it out.
“That’s horrible,” he said.
“I’ll pull the curtains back if you want light.” The sky was cloudless and the bright moon shone into the room. His naked body turned to silver. She made what room for him she could, and he slid into the bed again.
“What do you want to talk about?” Davina asked him. Her own body had a complacent, lazy life of its own, enjoying its exhaustion. Now her mind snapped to attention. “I want to talk.”
“Do you want a cigarette?” she asked him.
“No. Next time, we will have some vodka in the room. Then we can drink together. That’s very good; you’ll like it.”
“I’ll get some,” she promised. She waited, not taking the initiative.
“Jacob Belezky was my friend since we were children,” Sasanov said suddenly.
“We went to the same village school, and I wanted to marry his sister when I was fourteen. Did you know that, Vina?”
“No,” she said.
“You actually grew up together?”
“He was very clever, clever as a Jew, we say in Russia. He went on to the Science College in Moscow, while I took a course of political studies in Leningrad. His sister became a doctor, with a practice in Moscow. I used to take her out, before I met my wife.” His face was turned away from her, looking at the window.
“I didn’t know you were that close,” she said.
“I don’t think anyone did.”
“He became a physicist,” Sasanov went on.
“He had a brilliant brain, a great future. He was moved to Moscow, where I was posted to the Ministry for External Affairs. We took up our old friendship. Our wives were friends too. He would come to our apartment on Nevsky Street and we’d all sit round and eat and drink and talk all night. I thought of it this evening, sitting with your family. It was so different, so calm and formal, like a play in the theatre.
I tried to explain to you in the garden, how different it was. In my apartment we have a big table in the kitchen. The family lives there;
our samovar is in the middle of it, like a god; there’s always food and tea and vodka, or wine. When our friends come, we all sit together, round the table and the samovar. I have a very good apartment, with three bedrooms, and a dacha out at Zhukova. But we live and eat and enjoy ourselves in the room with the samovar. It is the heart of the Russian home. You would find it very noisy; everybody shouts. And it’s the place where people speak their thoughts out loud. You can’t do it in restaurants or public places. You have to be careful. “
I’ve done it, she was thinking, I’ve broken through. He’s really talking to me now.
“But Belezky felt safe with you,” she murmured.
“Yes, he trusted me. He wanted to change me, so he took the risk.”
“How change you?”
“Make me see our way of life through his eyes. We used to sit up all night, arguing about so many things. The rights of the individual; he was always saying how important they were… the freedoms, he called them. Freedom to worship a god, if you believed in one; freedom to speak, to read and write, to travel. Freedom to take work or change your job without permission.”
“And what did you say?” she asked.
“How did you answer him?”
“I told him the truth,” Sasanov said.
“Those freedoms were impossible for Russians. The Soviet system can’t operate without controls. I made a good case; it seemed good at the time. Freedom to work where you want means unemployment for another man. Religion perverts the minds of the young and teaches them superstition. To write and read and speak freely means that our people are exposed to propaganda from outside, that error and subversion can undermine the State. Besides, as I said in the garden, we have never been free in the way you mean.” He raised his arms above his head and stretched; he brought the right one round her shoulders.
“We need a tyrant,” he said slowly.
“A Tsar, a Stalin. We need the protection of a strong man. Then we can find our own way to get round the laws when it’s needed. Jacob couldn’t accept that.”
“I find it difficult too,” Davina said.
“Difficult to believe you accept it either.”
“I did,” he countered.
“I was part of the tyranny; I helped to keep it in power. Jacob made me see it in terms of people. Of himself and his wife and the friends they were making who thought the same.”
“According to what you say,” she pointed out, ‘you should have denounced him.
He said something in Russian which sounded like a curse.
“I kept trying to persuade him to keep his mouth shut! He had everything he wanted a top post in the space-research programme, a wife he loved, a good salary he’d have a dacha soon, I told him. What did the rest matter? Why not enjoy life? He wouldn’t listen. He had that Jewish soul which isn’t satisfied unless it suffers. And then he asked to go to Israel. Of course he was refused. He must have known he was too valuable to be allowed to leave the country. He was provoking the authorities. Demonstrating that he wasn’t a free man. And he started to say these things openly. He was dismissed from his post; they were turned out of their apartment. Jacob couldn’t get a job except as a low-paid manual worker. Everybody shunned him. “
“You too?” Davina asked him quietly. The pattern he described was so familiar.
“He was my friend,” Sasanov said angrily.
“It was safe for me to see him, because I said I was watching him. Then he signed the declaration monitoring the abuse of human rights in Russia. He and Scherensky and Bokov. You know what happened” to them. He doomed himself. When he was arrested I tried to help. I went to see him, I tried to persuade him to plead guilty, to ask for mercy. All they needed was a public confession that he had been wrong. ” He paused, and Davina noted his use of the word’they’ when he was talking about Belezky’s persecutors. That was when he had really severed the link with his colleagues in the KGB.
“He didn’t do it,” she said.
“He committed suicide.” She felt Savanov stiffen.
“He was sent to a mental hospital, two months before the trial they diagnosed a personality disorder.” She felt the rigid muscles in his arm, the tension in his whole body.
“He didn’t kill himself,” he said flatly.
“They killed him. So many shock treatments he had a heart-attack and died.”
“My God,” she whispered.
“What a dreadful thing.”
“Jacob was lucky,” Sasanov said.
“Scherensky and Bokov are still in the place. They’ll never come out. The others are being arrested one by one. Jacob’s wife was charged with malpractice and sent to prison for twelve years. I remember looking round our kitchen, and thinking we’d never see them again. No more arguments, no more evenings together. That was when Jacob won. He had to die to make me see that he was right.”
“I’m sorry.” She reached up and touched his face. His cheek was wet.
“I’m so sorry. I didn’t know it was as bad as this.”
“You’ll have a lot to tell your Chief,” he said.
“Don’t say that please.”
“I don’t mind,” he said.
“I understand. I knew what I was doing when I asked you to take me into your bed. I had come to the end. I needed you, Vina.”
“I’m glad,” Davina said.
“I’m really glad. And I’ll do everything I can to help.”
“I can’t see what to do,” he said.
“To stay, to make a new life here. I think of Russia and my family, and this place seems like the moon.”
“Wait till the morning,” she whispered to him.
“Don’t try and think about it now.”
“It is the morning,” he answered.
“Look, there’s a grey light in the sky. It’s five o’clock. You will be tired today.
I must go and let you sleep. ” She moved herself upright against him;
the covers had fallen away from them, and he looked at her; he traced the outline of her breast.
“You have a beautiful body,” he said. She laid her hand on his chest;
he had a lot of hair, wiry hair that came to a point at the base of his throat. She pulled at a strand of it.
“I thought you had fallen for my sister,” she said.
“Don’t you think she’s beautiful?”
“Very beautiful,” he agreed quietly.
“But all she would do with a man is take. I needed a woman who could give.” She looked up at him.
“Don’t go back just yet,” she said.
“Stay with me.” Jeremy Spencer-Barr looked at his reflection in the bathroom mirror. He was pleased with what he saw. A clean-shaven, regular-featured face, with wavy fair hair, fashionably cut a little long, brown eyes that were bright with health. A goodlooking man in his early thirties, possessing a fit, lean body and a mind that matched it. He smiled slightly at himself. There was a blister on his lower lip, where the girl still asleep in his bedroom had bitten him. They had been living together for the past eighteen months and she had begun showing signs of wanting to get married. It was a pity, because she was very attractive and he was fond of her. But marriage was not among his plans. It was lucky from that point of view that he was going to the States. But it wasn’t the job he really wanted. Taking over from a has-been like Peter Harrington in New York wasn’t the same as being minder to Ivan Sasanov. The sharp-faced Graham girl had landed that fish. He could only speculate on how she was progressing; it was impossible to find out anything positive about Sasanov. He was looking forward to New York; he liked the pace of life in the States; it stimulated him, and he had made friends while he was at Harvard. Ambition ran in the family. His father was the head of a prestigious stockbroking firm in the City, his uncle’s Civil Service career had been just as brilliant; and he, Jeremy, with a younger brother and sister at Cambridge, was the most promising of them all. He had never spared himself. The young man in the bathroom mirror, putting toothpaste on a brush, was the result of remorseless self-discipline and demonic drive. He concealed the less attractive side of his personality beneath impeccable manners and a sort of boyish charm which older women found appealing. But he was driven by fiends;