Declare, p.57
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       Declare, p.57

           Tim Powers
 
Page 57

 

  The right-wing Nationalists had taken Spain 's army with them when they had rebelled, and the Loyalist army was just men in rope-soled shoes and coveralls and token red sashes, and women in smocks and forage caps, all equipped with unfamiliar rifles. Elena could still recall the sporadic banging of amateur target practice echoing in the streets-and she could recall too driving out the north road in a requisitioned Ford truck one morning in the summer of 1936, shouting Viva la Republica with everyone else, to stop the rebel army at the pass in the Sierra de Guadalarrama.

  And the ragged militia had stopped the army, for a while. Twelve-year-old Elena had fired her rifle at a soldier that day, and had seen him fall; and that night she had not slept, and by the next morning she had come to the endurable conclusion that her parents had been fools, and that all priests were liars, and that there was, as Tia Dolores insisted, no God at all besides Man himself.

  Her aunt was killed while crossing the Puerta del Sol one afternoon in August, struck in the spine by a stray Loyalist bullet.

  Children were recruited for spy work because of their anonymity; Elena joined one of the International Brigades and learned the uses of wireless telegraphy and code groups and one-time pads, and she met the Communist Andre Marty in Albacete. She watched Marty shoot a British spy, and from Marty she learned more about the Communist Party which had replaced God in her chilled heart.

  She had become an agent of the Soviet Red Army at the age of twelve-and in November of 1936, when the Nationalists had advanced all the way up to the Carabanchel suburb of Madrid, she had been ordered by Moscow Centre to take up new duties in Paris.

  Escorted by a gruff old Soviet military advisor whose name she never learned, she traveled with hundreds of other fugitives north to Jaca in the foothills of the snowy Pyrenees, where they got on a bus full of Soviet officers and foreign journalists. Elena had sat by a window and watched the fir trees along the steep road disappear in the thickening mists as the bus labored up the Portalet Pass to halt at the French border, and while the Customs officers searched the bus, she had got out to sniff the cold mountain air and stare at the surrounding mountains-but when the bus had got under way again, and had driven down the Route des Pyrenees on the French side of the mountain range and stopped for petrol at Lourdes, she did not get out. The Blessed Virgin, Mary the Mother of God, was said to have appeared to a French peasant girl in a grotto at Lourdes eighty years earlier, and miraculous cures were now common here-and Elena was superstitiously afraid that her atheism might be cured by some supernatural intervention of the Virgin, and that her little red forage cap with its red star might be left among the stacks of discarded crutches and wheelchairs that were supposed to line the path to the grotto where Mary had appeared.

  Elena stood up out of the hotel bed and crossed the carpeted floor to pull back the curtains-the Mediterranean Sea was purple, and the sky was red in the east over the Normandy Hotel. From the balcony outside her door she would be able to look down on the terrace where Philby would be meeting his Soviet controllers later this morning.

  She thought of the CIA men who had braced her and Philby last night at the Carlton Hotel, and she considered the idea of using her radio to muster the SDECE team and exfiltrate Philby today, right after his meeting here, as he had suggested last night. She had dismissed the idea then, but now it seemed to be the prudent course. If she left him in play here, it was too likely that the CIA would kidnap him, or that the Soviets would pull up stakes and shift their base of operations out of Beirut, or even that Philby would crack, and have to be killed by one side or the other.

  She did have to admit, against huge reluctance, that Philby's offer to defect seemed genuine after all. When she had tried to kill him a week ago, she had planned to report that his offer had been a trap, a Soviet plot calculated to embarrass the French Pompidou Cabinet. And even after her ill-considered assassination attempt had failed, she had still hoped to find actual evidence that he was Soviet bait. She had wanted-she still wanted-an excuse to kill him, and thus erase the most shameful episode of her life; if she brought him home alive, that episode would surely be part of his recorded biography, and she would almost certainly have to resign.

  She sat down on the bed and picked up her purse. Down behind the long-barrel. 38 revolver was a pack of Gauloises with a book of matches tucked into the cellophane, and she lit a cigarette and drew the smoke deep into her lungs.

  But if she brought Philby back alive, and if his deposition proved to be as valuable as it seemed likely to be, she would have delivered a damaging blow to Moscow, even as she ended her own career. And truly she hated Moscow as much-and as personally-as she hated Philby.

  She didn't want to let herself think, yet, about Andrew Hale; late last night she had composed a crash-priority inquiry about his current status to SDECE headquarters at the Quai d'Orsay in Paris, and tonight she would tune in the Paris bandwidth for an answer.

  On New Year's Day of 1942 she had left Andrew sleeping in the room on the ile de la Cite and begun the first leg of her trip to Moscow. Her introduction to the Workers' Paradise had been the Tupelov ANT-35 two-engine airplane that had flown her out of Tbilisi-the pilot told the passengers in halting German that the plane had been built without a lot of Eitelkeit, vanity, and this had proven to mean that there were no upholstered seats or safety belts or, apparently, wing-flaps; in order to take off, he ordered all the passengers to crowd up to the front of the plane so that he would be able to get the tail up, and even so the airplane cleared the fence at the end of the airfield with so little room to spare that Elena, pressed against a window, was able to see the individual barbs on the wire as it whipped past under them. Instruments too were apparently an Eitelkeit, for the pilot never took the plane higher than five hundred feet and was clearly following the highways visible below.

  When the plane landed at a small snow-plowed airfield on the outskirts of Moscow, she was met by Leonid Moroz, the Moscow council member and Red Army intelligence liaison who was to be her boss. Elena quickly learned that she had not, in fact, been called to Moscow to be killed-Moroz was working with Section II of the Operations Division of the GRU, and he had been ordered to construct a new identity for Elena as an expatriate Spanish heiress, and to infiltrate her into Berlin. Moroz was pitifully anxious that the plan should succeed.

  Elena was given a couple of furnished rooms on the Izvoznia Ulitza, a street of gray five-story buildings outside the Sadovaya ring road on the banks of the western loop of the Moskva River. She soon gathered that her flatblock was a prestigious address-the forty or fifty other flats in her building were occupied by wives of Soviet officers who were stationed at the front-but she also noticed that the walls of the concrete structure were four feet thick and that its narrow windows faced the Mojaisk Chaussee thoroughfare and the Kiev railway station; clearly the place had been built as a defensive fortress. And she hoped that if the Germans were to approach Moscow she would be given a rifle and allowed to participate in the defense.

  Leonid Moroz was a Party member and took pains to look like one. The dark pouches under his eyes were a sign not only of virtue-indicating that he worked at his desk until the small hours-but of status as well. Party members were beyond having to bother with dressing as the common people did, and Moroz was vain about the double-breasted jacket he always wore with all three buttons fastened-it was too tight, but it had a velvet collar. His only concession to the proletariat was his cloth cap, and Lenin was always portrayed wearing one.

  Moroz frequently called Elena to his office to describe in vague terms the studying she would have to do to perfect her cover, and to discuss with her the current state of the war, and to ask her to type letters. His office was always so cold that Elena had to wear an overcoat and scarf; Moroz had three telephones on his bare desk, though he never made any calls and they never rang, and the only furnishings aside from an implausible dozen straight-backed chairs were framed pho
tographs of Stalin, Marx, and Molotov.

  The GRU, or Razvedupr-the Chief Intelligence Directorate of the Army General Staff-had been purged to the ground in 1937; and then after the Army had assembled a completely new staff for its intelligence directorate, all of its residencies abroad had been purged again in 1940-and Elena knew at first hand that the Razvedupr illegal networks in Paris were being rolled up last year, in 1941. The man behind the purges was Lavrenti Beria of the NKVD, and Moroz lived in fear of him. Moroz often made lunch of the pickled herring and vodka he kept in his desk, and once after drinking several inches of the vodka he told Elena that Beria was personally charming, an urbane little bald-headed flatterer in spectacles-but that he used the NKVD to kidnap attractive young women off the Moscow streets so that he could rape them; husbands or fathers who protested were never seen again. Moroz had been given the GRU-liaison post when he had become a member of the Moscow council, and he was desperate not to be connected with any error that might draw the placid, murderous gaze of Beria.

  "Why does he want to uproot any plant, any feeblest seedling, that grows out of the Army's intelligence efforts?" mourned Moroz more than once. "Is there truly something inherently perilous in an Army intelligence agency, so that it needs to be exterminated to the last man every few years? Beria is Stalin's man, as the monster Yezhov was before him. The Army was founded by Trotsky-do you suppose that's why Stalin must at every season sow salt in that scorched earth?" Moroz had already confessed to Elena that he wrote poetry.

  Elena knew that Trotsky had been killed more than a year ago in Mexico; but she knew too that Stalin feared the man's posthumous influences. Trotsky had been the founder of the Red Army, directly after the Revolution, as well as Lenin's commissar of foreign affairs; and he had been a close confidant of Lenin's, and was rumored to have helped Lenin organize a number of Soviet agencies so independent and secret that now Stalin himself could only guess at them. Perhaps there was some subterranean agency that Stalin especially feared, one that consistently tended to surface in the GRU, which was the agency founded to deal with threats against Mother Russia from abroad. Had some defensive posture proven more horrifying to Stalin than the foreign threat it was meant to counter?

  Elena remembered Andre Marty executing alleged Trotskyites in Spain, and she remembered her suspicion that Marty was actually eliminating agents who had drifted into some transcendent order.

  Sometimes Moroz thrust his hand into his pocket as he voiced his worries about Beria and the NKVD, and Elena guessed he was making the gesture known as fig v karmane, the fig in the pocket-the fig was the thumb thrust between the first two fingers in a clenched fist, expressing the universal "fuck you" defiance; but v karmane meant in the pocket-furtive, fearful. For all his frail charm, Moroz lived by the Soviet bureaucrat's maxim: ugadat, ugodit, utselet, pay attention, ingratiate, survive.

  "Nichevo," Moroz would say, dismissing the subject-she gathered that the word expressed something like a despairing What's the use, and a fatalistic So be it.

  But Elena made a determined effort to love Moscow. She was allowed to supplement the basic diet of black bread and cabbage by buying food at a restricted General Staff shop, and she tried to buy only Russian items such as garlic sausage and eggs and Caucasian tea, and ignore the powdered milk and peanut butter, which were likely to be United States Army rations donated through the Lend-Lease program. But nearly half of the cars on the boulevards were American Lend-Lease Studebakers and Dodges. She never saw refrigerators in the shops and never saw a refrigerator car in the trains at the Kiev station.

  She got used to the street loudspeakers that played the "Internationale" every morning at dawn and broadcast incomprehensible speeches all over the city all day long; and she made allowances for railings that came loose under her hand and new brick walls that had no mortar at all in some spots and were lumpy with excess in others; but she couldn't bear the smell and the crowds at the public baths, and made do with towels and cold water in her room-but a dated chit from a bathhouse was necessary to buy a train ticket, and when heavy snow forced her to take the train to Moroz's office she would buy a bath-chit on the black market. When the trains broke down, a porter would walk through the cars and take the electric lightbulbs out of the lamps so that they wouldn't be stolen.

  Elena learned to scan the newspapers that were posted in display cases on the street, looking for the Cyrillic symbols for Moroz's name in the lists of Party officials; she had noticed that the lists weren't arranged alphabetically, and gathered that the order of the names indicated their current standing with the Politburo.

  And she noticed that Moroz's name had fallen to the bottom of the list on the day after she met the Middle Eastern woman on the Sadovaya ring road by Arbat Street.

  Elena had stopped at a sidewalk kiosk to spend a ruble on a scant shot of vodka, when she noticed the metallic glint of jewelry on a woman standing beside her; the popular costume jewelry was stamped out of colored plastic, so Elena assumed the gleam had come from one of the state medals that Muscovites always wore. But when she turned to look, the exotic face of the woman distracted her-it was a dark face, veiled across the nose and mouth so that only the glittering brown eyes could be seen under the black braided hair, and in spite of the intense cold the woman was dressed in a length of dark blue cloth draped over the shoulders and wound around the waist to hang in folds like a skirt. Her feet were bare on the pavement.

  And even as Elena told herself that she must help this lost foreigner, must get her indoors somewhere out of the snow and find shoes and a coat for her, she noticed that the woman's bare feet were in the center of a patch of cleared wet pavement; the woman's feet had melted the snow on the sidewalk to a distance of nearly a yard; and now Elena could feel the heat that radiated from her, as palpable as radiant energy from a furnace.
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