Declare, p.43
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       Declare, p.43

           Tim Powers
 
Page 43

 

  She was not deflected. "Well," he said with affected mildness, "to me it seemed as if they had g-given me a ticking time bomb to hold. Two G-Gordon's gins, please, neat," he said then to the waiter who had finally come to the table. "Those are for me," he added, giving Elena his most charming grin. "What will you have? I believe you were drinking b-brandy, in Berlin. "

  "Can the bartender make a Berliner Weisse mit Schuss?" Elena asked the waiter. "That's beer with raspberry syrup," she added.

  The waiter concealed any repugnance and simply said, "Mais oui, madame," and bowed and stepped away.

  Philby remembered the mug of odd pink beer that had been on the table in Berlin. "That was your drink, that night?"

  "Do you disapprove? As I recall, you were drinking insecticide. "

  Philby nodded glumly. "Djinn repellent, the old Cairo hands used to call it. If my f-father had thought to give me a glass of insecticide before we flew over Lake Tiberias, I would not have c-contracted 'malaria. ' They. . . bud off, like cactus, in periods of activity, and the l-little. . . djinnlings!. . . can be attracted to and c-cling to someone who has-someone who bears the m-mark of previous djinn-recognition. They get in through your m-mouth, and they interfere with your thoughts, and exorcising them later is a tiresome bother. My father t-told me that some of the old lads in the Arab Bureau in Cairo would even rinse their m-mouths with a shot of petrol, if they were going out to some place where the m-monsters were likely to be. Volatile smells repel them, the y-young ones, at least, and a couple of shots of warm jjj-gin here ought to drive off any who came up over the cliff just now with the b-birds. "

  Elena was blushing, and Philby remembered asking her if she had not found this business vaguely shameful. "That was a, a female one, in Berlin," she said.

  Philby could feel the hairs standing up on his arms, even at this late and cynical date, as he said softly, "That was Russia's very g-guardian angel, my dear-Machikha Nash, Our Stepmother-inspecting the n-new boundaries of her k-kingdom in person, in stormy person. I was there to monitor the installation of her boundary stone, and I watched it all from a parked car in the Charlottenburg Chaussee on the western side. She was. . . splendid, wasn't she? I remember thinking of Byron's line, 'She walks in Beauty, like the night/Of cloudless climes and starry skies. ' What w-were you doing there?"

  Philby didn't look away from her, but he was aware of the two men who walked into the bar, and he simply shrugged and gave her a frail smile when they stopped in front of his table.

  One of the men seemed to say, "Allah, beastly ass," but a moment later Philby realized that he had said, in an American accent, I'll obviously ask; and the man went on, "Who's your girlfriend, Kim?"

  Philby looked up at his CIA inquisitors. Both were sandy-haired Americans in gray suits with wide lapels, and they both seemed offensively fit and young.

  "Miss Weiss is a French m-magazine editor," Philby said. "I'm t-trying to sell her s-some non-fiction work. "

  "We'd love to read some of your non-fiction work, Kim," said the taller of the two. "Scoot over, Miss Weiss. " When Elena shifted away across the booth seat, the man sat down beside her.

  His companion folded himself into the booth beside Philby, so that Philby and Elena were both blocked in. "I'm Dr. Tarr," said the man beside Philby, "and my colleague there is Professor Feather. Our boss across the water is very curious about this gathering of the old hands that's going on here in Beirut. "

  "I'm not aware of it," said Philby carefully. He wanted to pant with relief, for clearly this was not to be a kidnap. With some confidence he went on, "Are you g-going to have the surete h-h-haul me in to their p-p-police station one more time, just so I can s-say the same th-thing there for a few hours?"

  "More like watch-and-wait," said the man identified as Professor Feather. "You still do odd jobs for your old firm, don't you, Kim? Peter Lunn gives you off-paper travel assignments?"

  Lunn was the SIS Head of Station in Beirut now, and in fact he had not had any professional conversation with Philby at all. But until three months ago the Head of Station had been Nicholas Elliott, an old friend of Philby's and one of his loyal defenders in the Burgess defection scandal that had cost Philby his SIS job in 1951. And in these last two years Elliott had indeed given Philby all kinds of off-paper assignments-to Riyadh, and Cairo, and Baghdad, and a dozen other Middle East cities-to mingle with the Arabs who had known Philby's father, and gauge the extent and purpose of the huge increase in the number of Soviet military advisors throughout the Arab nations.

  Philby had been in a quandary: it had been starkly clear that Burgess at the Rabkrin headquarters in Moscow, as well as Petrukhov, Philby's more pedestrian KGB handler in Beirut, both required him to pass on immediately any information he might learn about the SIS response to the Soviet escalation-but Philby had been aware too that the SIS chiefs in London who believed him guilty of espionage would see to it that he was given "barium meal" information, custom-scripted false data that might later be detected in monitored Moscow traffic. If that were to happen, Philby would logically be isolated as the only possible source of the information, and the SIS could then arrest him for treason; and until this last September, when Philby's pet fox had been intolerably killed and further work with the Rabkrin had become unthinkable, Philby had not wanted the SIS to arrest him. Even now, he wanted to surrender only on specific terms, what he thought of as his three nonnegotiable "itties": immunity, a new identity, and a comfortable annuity. Definitely not the deal Theodora's old fugitive SOE had offered him in '52.

  "Or isn't it for Lunn?" went on Professor Feather. "Are you still running errands for-" He looked across the table at Dr. Tarr. "What was his name?"

  "Petrukhov," said Dr. Tarr. "Of the Soviet trade mission in Lebanon. He's the local handler, runner. "

  "Any t-traveling I do," Philby said mildly, "has b-been for the stories I write. "

  "That's odd, you know," said Dr. Tarr. "You always charge your airline tickets on your IATA card, don't you? Well, we've clocked your stories in The Observer and The Economist, and compared them to the records from the International Air Transport Association in Montreal, and we find that your travel grossly outweighs your journalistic output. Could I have a bourbon-and-water, please," he said to the waiter, who had just then walked up with the two gins and the pink beer on a tray.

  "Same here," said Dr. Tarr.

  The waiter set the drinks on the table, nodded and strode back toward the bar.

  Ignoring her ludicrous drink, Elena picked up her purse from beside her and said, "The dealings of the American Internal Revenue Service do not interest me. Mr. Philby, I'll be in touch-"

  Professor Feather didn't budge. "Stay, Miss Weiss," he said coldly. "You play a musical instrument, don't you? Something about the size of a saxophone?"

  "The U. S. government will pick up the drinks tab," added Dr. Tarr cheerfully, "though not precisely in its IRS capacity. "

  Philby thought the saxophone remark had seemed to jar her; but now she just sighed and said, "No, I don't play any instrument. But-I suppose I can't resist the opportunity to deplete the American treasury. " She put her purse back down.

  "And we even took your pseudonyms into account," said Professor Feather to Philby. "Charles Garner and all. It still doesn't add up. "

  Philby had already begun shaking his head dismissively, and he didn't stop now-but he was chilled by this new factor. The CIA knew that Charles Garner was one of his pseudonyms!-and Mammalian's new agent was to be using that identity as cover! Philby wondered if he should warn Mammalian, or let the CIA discover the Garner impostor; if Elena's SDECE people could "exfiltrate" him very soon, it wouldn't matter.

  "You obviously know n-nothing about j-journalistic work," said Philby, picking up one of his glasses of gin. "Some of the seeds fall upon st-stony places, and w-wither in the sun because they have no root. For every story I file, a d-dozen prove to be false alarms.
" He lifted the glass to his lips and swirled the warm liquor over his tongue.

  "That's from the thirteenth chapter of Matthew," said Dr. Tarr, "your seed analogy is. It properly refers to people, of course-and do remember the next verse: 'And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up, and choked them. '"

  And to Philby's embarrassment, a trickle of the gin slipped down his windpipe, and he coughed gin out through his nostrils; the stinging liquor burned in his nose and brought tears to his eyes, and the CIA men laughed as he continued coughing.

  "Oh, a palpable hit!" said Dr. Tarr. "You like to act as if you're out of play these days, Kim-the retired cold warrior-but lately Moscow is scrambling to make the Red Sea a Red Army sea, and make the Persian Gulf a. . . "

  "Potemkin bluff?" suggested Elena. She was staring at Philby with distaste.

  "Too reached-for," said Professor Feather, shaking his head.

  "Anyway," Dr. Tarr went on, "they were ready to make the Caribbean a Soviet pond too, until Kennedy made them back down two months ago. Now the last time the Soviets tried a big grab like this was in '48, when they blockaded Berlin and incidentally annexed Czechoslovakia and got a Communist Party member in as president of Hungary. Less overtly, there was also some action at that time around the Aras River, between Turkey and Soviet Armenia-specifically in the Ahora Gorge on Mount Ararat. And there are a lot of people in Beirut right now who were there then; including Miss Elena Teresa Ceniza-Bendiga herself. "

  Elena lifted her glass of pink beer in a tired salute and took a gulp of it.

  "A couple of the old cast are not here, though," said Professor Feather, "or not obviously or not yet. Your old housemate Burgess is unlikely to show up, I suppose, Kim; our Brit colleagues would arrest him if he strayed out of the Soviet Union. But Andrew Hale fled England on Wednesday, the second, and the SIS managed to track him to Kuwait, but lost him the next day. It seems timely. Have you heard anything about him?"

  "N-no," said Philby, "I s-scarcely remember the boy. " But his mind was whirling, trying to figure out how this new piece on the chessboard might change the lines of consequence. Hale was Theodora's star protege, Philby thought, and he appeared to be fired after his failure on Ararat; was that a feint? God help me if Theodora is still in this in any way. Surely that old ultimatum with the SOE no longer applies! He remembered Theodora's words at the Turkish-Soviet border in 1952: Report to us any contact from the Soviets; and participate in any action they order you into; and report it all to us; or die.

  Elena took another sip of her polluted beer. "'Fled England,'" she said; "'lost him the next day. ' Is he a fugitive?" And with a chill Philby remembered that Hale had been bitterly in love with her, in '48, and he remembered the high-low seven-card stud game he had played with Hale in the Anderson bomb shelter on that last terrible night: Low hand wins Maly's amomon instructions.

  "The news is five days old, even at newspaper-level," said Professor Feather; "I'm surprised the SDECE hasn't relayed it to you. Hale was to be arrested for old embezzlements committed during his residency in Kuwait right after the war-on Wednesday MI5 sent an agent to negotiate a possible immunity deal with him, contingent on doing some work for the SIS, and Hale killed the agent and fled. He killed a cop too. "

  "Claude Cassagnac," said Dr. Tarr.

  "What about Claude Cassagnac?" asked Elena quickly.

  Philby recalled that she had mentioned the name Cassagnac earlier this evening: Maly did talk to me about this! I will have to tell old Cassagnac that my answer in 1941 was not accurate.

  "That was the MI5 agent Hale killed," said Dr. Tarr. "I gather he was more a consultant than an agent, actually. "

  "What proof is this?" demanded Elena, quaintly using in English what Philby recognized as an old bit of Spanish Civil War slang.

  "This is two hundred proof, ma'am, solid spirit right over the top of the still," said Professor Feather, staring curiously at her. "Like I said, it's even newspaper-level. " He stood up out of the booth, unblocking her way. "If you're through with your drink, you can leave. "

  "I'm not through with my drink," she said.

  "Kim's not really for sale right now, Miss Ceniza-Bendiga. " Professor Feather looked across the table to where Philby sat hemmed in by Dr. Tarr. "We intend to read your non-fiction, Kim. And not as. . . excerpts, in a French translation. "

  Right, you haven't got a "special relationship" with the SDECE, thought Philby, the way you have with the SIS. But neither you fellows nor, apparently, my disappointing old SIS colleagues, are offering me any itties. Tout au contraire, in fact.

  The prolonged nervous strain of this evening, along with the cumulative effects of drink and his throbbing, wounded head, was goading Philby toward something like hysteria. I've got to end this, he thought.

  "Oh well," he said with desperately affected breeziness, "Miss Weiss is only interested in-d-d-domestic reminiscences, human-interest m-material. Travels with my f-father, the traumas of a raw-raw-religious education, the d-death of my pet ffffox-upon my honor, nothing that would attain to your 'n-newspaper level. '" He finished his first gin and picked up the second. "And now if you'll both excuse us. . . "

  Dr. Tarr stood up from beside Philby and leaned down over Philby's bandaged head. "Applewhite doesn't think you were ever a spy for the Soviets," he said; Applewhite was the CIA station chief in Beirut. "The Philbys and the Applewhites go out together for picnics in the mountains by Ajaltoun. Applewhite thinks we're scoundrels for hassling you and rousting you all the time. "
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