Declare, p.40
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       Declare, p.40

           Tim Powers
 
Page 40

 

  When they had walked a hundred feet away from the Renault, Theodora turned around and fixed Hale with a chilly stare. "Well?"

  "The stone is buried under fresh cement, sir," said Hale, "about two hundred feet from the Brandenburg Gate on the western side, pretty much centered. I've done drawings," he added, reaching into his pocket for the diagrams he had made that morning, "indicating the exact position-I can amplify them to make them more precise, now. "

  Theodora took the papers and glanced at them. "Good, I think this is clear. " Again he turned his cold eyes on Hale. "Go on. Tell me every detail. "

  Hale began easily by telling him about his visit with the American Flannery and hearing that Kim Philby was in Berlin; then he recounted the pursuit of the fugitive from the Soviet Sector, and told Theodora how the man had seemed to be herded to the spot where the stone would soon be buried, and how the fugitive had been killed there. Hale became aware of a reluctance when he came to describing meeting Elena and Cassagnac at the restaurant by the Reichstag, and Philby's intrusion and odd behavior with the insecticide. And when his narrative got to the point when he had stood up from the table to go get food, he abandoned the story he had concocted on the drive west to Helmstedt and just stopped talking.

  "Food," said Theodora impatiently, "right. Did you get some bloody food, or what?"

  "No, sir, not then. " Hale felt dizzy, and he didn't even know whether he hoped he was ending his SIS career here, or not. At last, slowly and deliberately, he went on: "There was a radio playing in the restaurant, and the music it had been playing was interrupted by-by an interference which I had learned in Paris meant-supernatural-attention-being paid. " He was sweating again, and he discovered that it was no easier going on with this than it had been starting. "Magic, that is, sir," he said, feeling as if the words were coins he had tried to smuggle out, surrendered now as he pushed them out past his lips. "I think I should amplify the report I made to you concerning my three months in occupied Paris in '41," he added, "by the way. "

  Theodora exhaled, and Hale wondered how long the man had been holding his breath. "Good lad. Good lad. So many promising agents manage to convince even themselves that they didn't see what they saw-but go on. And don't tell me, in tones of apology, that 'It gets more weird'-I do know that. "

  "Right. Well. . . " Hale ground out the story of the rest of the night, omitting only the gallows-marriage on the boat and going to bed with Elena-in this version of the story, he and Elena had parted outside the restaurant.

  The sun was high when at last, with relief, he described ditching the gun and driving back up the hole to the Helmstedt checkpoint.

  Theodora strode away across the mud, careless now of his shoes. He was nodding, and after a few paces he turned around again to face Hale. "Good. I did want to know where the stone was put, and I'm glad to learn of Philby's participation-oh, he was there about the stone too, lad, don't doubt it-and I think I'm alarmed at how aware the French DGSS is-but this was a test, too, to find out if you're worth all the years and money we've expended on you. Happily, you are. And I trust you are discreet with your little Spanish judy, no secrets revealed over the pillow. Eunuchs for agents would be best, I sometimes think. Impossible to get it past the Foreign Secretary, of course. Your work will be-of a different nature, now that you're an initiate. You've learned all you can from the old files, I expect, and it's time to put you in the field. When you get back to Broadway, you'll be sent to Fort Monkton for a six-week training course in the paramilitary arts, and then you'll be posted to the Middle East, Kuwait probably, under the cover of the Combined Research Planning Office, known jocularly as Creepo. "

  "The Middle East," said Hale thoughtfully. He had been hungry all morning, but now he felt distinctly nauseated; and he knew that it was fear that had quickened his heartbeat-but this was the next step farther in, on the way to learning the very deepest secrets of the world, of the most powerful and most hidden world. He flexed his right hand, remembering how the whirlwind had bowed in the rain when he had waved the ankh. . .

  Theodora nodded. "Not totally a surprise, I daresay. Before you go, I will acquaint you with the big picture, the biggest picture-and then, finally, indoctrinate you for clearance to what we have called Operation Declare. "

  BOOK TWO. Know, Not Think It

  Beirut, 1963

  And the two of them, laying him east and west, that the mysterious earth currents which thrill the clay of our bodies might help and not hinder, took him to pieces all one long afternoon-bone by bone, muscle by muscle, ligament by ligament, and lastly, nerve by nerve.

  - Rudyard Kipling, Kim

  Chapter Eleven

  Kim Philby sat back in his chair by the window-side table in the Normandy Hotel bar, and he licked his lips, tasting her lipstick. The woman on the other side of the table simply stared at him for a moment, then took a long inhalation on her cigarette. Out beyond the window glass the late afternoon sky was gold over the purple sea.

  Philby smiled at her, but he was nettled. He found her prematurely bone-white hair very erotic, but her lips had been as inert as the back of her hand would have been; and he wished his head were not ludicrously wrapped in white bandages. "I do b-beg your p-pardon, Miss C-B. My Sovoviet handler was in the l-lobby, with some cadaverous specimen, j-just now. They d-didden did not come in, but if you do in-snit-insist on meeting me in my-office this way, we had b-better pretend to be h-having an extramerry-extramartial-extramarital-"

  "I understand," said Elena Teresa Ceniza-Bendiga in careful English. She sighed out a puff of smoke, then picked up her glass of Dubonnet. "In our work we have to emulate Judas sometimes. " She finished the red drink in two gulps, raising her disconcertingly dark eyebrows at him over the rim. "Your office, this hotel bar is?" she asked when she had put the glass down.

  "I g-get my mail here, and the c-concierge keeps a tah-tah-typewriter here, for my use. I'm a j-journalist, you know, these days. " He picked up his own glass, swirling the gin among the diminished ice cubes. "But Judas, you say? The outfit I pro-propose to b-b-b-betray!-is hardly the aqua-equi-equivalent of the Son of man, even in my atheistic c-consideration. " He smiled more broadly. "Or maybe you mean I turn out to have betrayed you?"

  Elena stubbed out her cigarette. "I haven't seen you since Turkey in 1948," she said, getting to her feet and smoothing her skirt. "If you and I had a-had anything at all-then, I'm sure I can't recall it. " She glanced around at the tables and the beaded curtain that led into the lobby. "Is there another way out of here? I'd never have been so careless as to approach you here, if I'd known you still had a-damned handler about. Bad craft, I apologize-we assumed you were in retirement here in Beirut. " She spoke calmly, but he could see a quicker pulse in the side of her neck.

  Philby tipped up his glass for the last mouthful of gin. " Beirut is a neutral city," he told her. "And my employers are not ee-eager right now to be doing any such-con-conspicuously robust operations-as k-kidnapping agents of a f-f-foreign power. But you're right, we probably shhh-should not be seen together. " He waved toward the bar. "Anwar will let us leave by the delivery dock in back. " He set down his glass, reached under the table to be sure the snub-nose. 38 was still secure in the elastic ankle holster and that his trouser cuff was tugged over it, and then he stood up.

  As they walked across the tile floor toward the mahogany-and-brass bar, he said, "'If we had anything at all, then-you're sure y-you can't recall it. ' I have a fucking b-bullet-hole in my head; do take note of the f-fact that you have n-n-not got one in yours. "

  He was pleased to see her face redden, at that.

  "I-I know," she said as she stepped behind the bar and nodded distractedly at the simpering moustached Anwar. "I do remember. "

  They walked out the back door and down the alley behind the Normandy Hotel, past the fire escapes and the hot-air fan vents, and when they emerged into the early twilight on the main street sidewalk Philby
waved at a passing Service taxi and called "Serveece!" The taxi pulled in to the curb, and for once there were no other passengers already inside. Philby opened the back door for Elena, then went around to the street side and climbed in himself. He gave the driver 125 piastres, and said, in quick French, "I'm paying for all five spaces, right? No other passengers, right? Take us to Chouran Street, by the Pigeon Rock. " He beamed at Elena and draped his right arm over the seat back behind her. In German, he said, "I'm fascinated that the"-the French SDECE, he thought, Pompidou's secret service; but the driver might speak German-"that they chose to send you. "

  She answered in the same language. "The thinking was that since I have known you in the past, I would be best able to gauge whether your offer is genuine or not. And I'm an off-paper operative-if your offer is a trap, if I am arrested, then I am disownable, not traceably in their employ. But if I judge that it is genuine"-the German word she used was richtig-"my employers will exfiltrate you from here immediately, and give you a new identity and much money in my country. If you renege in any way, we will. . . give you the truth, as your people say. "

  Philby folded his arm back and clasped his hands in his lap. They could kill him, if they worked at it. In English he said, softly, "Oh, it's richtig, all r-right. "

  I have got to jump somewhere, he thought-and damned soon. The British SIS is being very slow in responding to old Flora Solomon's kind and timely betrayal of my past to MI5-don't they want the confession of their most damaging spy?-and Angleton's CIA wouldn't trust me to give them a recipe for Borscht, and Indian citizenship isn't possible. And Theodora's old SOE deal was for me to go on working for Moscow! But somebody's got to take me out of Burgess's control, out of Moscow 's control-I will kill myself before I'll go up onto Ararat, alone as I am now. Our Hajji which art in Hell, now.

  The driver steered the taxi up the Rue Kantari on the way to Hamra Street, and Philby leaned forward to hide his bandaged head well under the taxi's roof, in case his wife might be looking out from their fifth-floor balcony. I'll tell you about it if it works out, Eleanor my love, he thought. I won't trouble you with advance notice-and you'd enjoy living in France.

  At last they had doglegged south on Chouran Street and were driving along the cliff road, past Lord's Hotel and the Yildizlar Restaurant, with the dark-indigo Mediterranean on their right. Philby could see the two enormous rocks out in St. George's Bay -traditionally the site where England 's patron saint had killed the dragon. The weary St. Kim, he thought, will settle for just hiding from the dragon.

  A crowd of Arab and European tourists was waiting at a taxi rank by the Pigeon Grotto pavilion on the cliff, and after Philby and Elena had got out of the taxi he took her bare elbow and led her south along the railed cliff-top sidewalk. To their left, under the modern white façade of the Carlton Hotel, Rolls-Royces and Volkswagens slowed as an Arab on a donkey plodded away across the lanes. Only a few of the cars had turned on their headlamps, and the clean smell of surf spray in the air was still faintly perfumed with the afternoon aroma of suntan oil.

  Seagulls spun in the darkening blue sky overhead, but their shrill cries were muffled by the gauze taped over Philby's ears.

  He turned toward the sea, where a quarter of a mile out across the water a motorboat had just shot through the tunnel at the base of the bigger rock, with a water skier just visible bouncing along in the spreading white fan of the wake. The four-hundred-foot-tall rock was flat on top, a remote backlit meadow furred with wild grasses, and he wondered forlornly if anyone had ever climbed up there.

  "I'll m-miss Beirut," he said in English. "I've b-been here six years. "

  "You'll like France," Elena told him. The red sun was low over the horizon beyond the rocks, and she fished a pair of sunglasses out of her purse and slipped them on. "Why do you want to leave the Soviet service? I gather you're still an active player, not just selling your memoirs. "

  "My f-father is d-d-dead. " Our Hajji which art in Hell, now, he thought again. "He died here t-two years ago, and he was my. . . recruiter, in a, in an unspecific but v-very real sense, into the G-Great Game. He wasn't a t-traitor-in spite of being j-jailed during the war for making pro-Hitler talk, 'activities prejudicial to the safety of the Realm'!-and he never p-pushed me toward the S-S-Soviet services per se, but in the twenties and thirties he was studying under one of the S-Soviet illegals who were all eventually p-purged by Stalin in '37 and '38-a p-para-do-doxical old Soviet Moslem called Hassim Hakimoff Khan, in J-Jidda, which is the port city for Mecca. "

  "I-I met one of the great old illegals," said Elena quietly. "In France, when I was quite young. What was your father studying?"

  Philby barked out one syllable of a mirthless laugh. "Oh-what was he not. Did you know that a g-god called al-Lah was worshipped in the Ka'bah in Mecca a thousand years before Mohammed? According to the Koran, the Thamud tribes refused to w-worship him, and were annihilated by something remembered as both a thu-thunderbolt and an earthquake. My father f-found and deciphered more than ten thousand Thamudic inscriptions, and he didn't t-turn over all of them to the scholars. And he studied the Gilgamesh v-version of the Biblical flood story in the Chaldean cuneiform tablets at the B-British Museum, supplemented by others that he had f-found for h-himself in Baghdad. " More slowly, he went on, "In 1921 he was appointed Chief B-British Representative in Jordan, ruh-ruh-replacing T. E. Lawrence, who w-was being p-posted to Iraq; my father-s-s-s-stole Lawrence's old files, and from reading them c-carefully one c-could deduce quite a lot about the files that were m-missing, the ones Lawrence had apparently dddestroyed: the tr-translations of some ancient d-documents he had found in one of the Qumran Wadi caves by the Dead Sea in 1918. "
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