Declare, p.65
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       Declare, p.65

           Tim Powers
 
Page 65

 

  "It's the Rabkrin exchange, Kim. You answered it correctly. We proceed. "

  Philby stirred and began walking again. "B-But that's-that's old. How l-l-long have you been-? You? And it's very high; not many p-people know that challenge. I don't think Mammalian knows the exchange. " Hoarsely he said, "Who-are you?"

  "It's higher than you suppose, Kim. I'm not Rabkrin. Have you forgotten the bargain you made with Theodora in '52, at the Turkish-Soviet border? I've been sent to remind you of it. An SIS representative will shortly be contacting you here, offering you immunity in exchange for your total memoirs. You will pretend to cooperate, but you will not tell him anything about Rabkrin or the Ararat operation, and you will not return to England. "

  Philby had stopped again. "You can get g-guns at one of the import shops on Allenby," he said absently. "Jimmie's anachronistic SOE. . . that was t-t-ten years ago. And now you-has there truly b-been a British secret s-service that I was not aware of, all along? Was L-Lawrence one of you? How far in-" Philby's pale face had lost all expression, but Hale could recognize baffled rage. "Are you with the fabled D-D-Declare? You?" He held out his hands and slowly closed them into fists. "Cassagnac's murder!-your old ccrimes-your flight from England last week-this has all been c-cover?"

  They were on the Weygand Street sidewalk now, and the wind from the north carried the salt smell of the Mediterranean, and Hale stared at Kim Philby in the late-morning sunight and didn't bother to keep scorn out of his voice. "I was recruited by Captain Sir Mansfield Cummings in 1929, when the SIS headquarters was in Whitehall Court. I've been a Declare agent since the age of seven. " He held up one hand. "And you have been one, since the SOE doubled you in 1952. You agreed to participate in any operation the Soviets might want you for, as a covert British operative; the alternative offered then was that you would be killed, and that is still the only alternative. Are we clear on that? You won't fly back to England -you won't defect to France -Mammalian won't cancel the Ararat operation-and you and I will go up the mountain with him. And immediately that's done, you will defect to the U. S. S. R. -cross at the Aras River -and live out the rest of your life behind the Iron Curtain. " Hale's lip quivered as he resisted an impulse to spit. "There won't be any pay; you won't need it in Utopia. "

  Philby had recovered himself and begun chuckling while Hale spoke, and now he laughed out loud. "'O Bre'r Fox!'" he said, "'just don' throw me into yonder briar patch!' Defect to France! My dear f-fellow, as I understand this, you're ordering me-on pain of d-death, no less!-to go to Ararat and become something akin to a g-g-god, and then retire to the c-country that has been my motherland since I was a b-boy!"

  But Hale had noticed the beads of sweat on Philby's hairline. "A half-wit god," Hale said, not without sympathy, "Pa Fox being dead. "

  Philby's smile was gone, though his mouth was still open. "True," he snapped finally. "And frankly Moscow d-does sound like 'the house whence no one issues, whose inhabitants live in darkness, dust their bread and clay their meat, where over the bolted gate lie dust and silence. '" He gave Hale a squinting smile as he resumed walking, and in a particularly Oxbridge accent he said, "You seem awfully confident that I will not elect to be killed, rather. Do you remember Thomas Browne's remark in Religio Medici?-'I am not so much afraid of death, as ashamed thereof. '"

  But Hale remembered the words of the half-stone king of Wabar: I am still secure from judgment. We do not go on, we do not face. . . leveling. And he guessed that Philby had always arrogantly lived on the assumption that although he might airily betray his country, he would never be so ill-bred as to. . . use the wrong fork, not be able to hold his liquor, not be able to quote Euripides in a proper Attic accent, be afraid to die. For all his treason, Philby was a product of the old British Raj, a graduate of Westminster and Cambridge accustomed to upper-class privilege, at home in the Athenaeum and Reform clubs of Pall Mall. But Hale suspected that, having renounced loyalty and honesty and faith, Philby would find that courage had correspondingly become an undercut platform, not able to take his weight. Philby might hate the idea of being a living prole in Moscow, but not as much as he hated the idea of being a dead aristocrat in Beirut.

  "Yes," remarked Hale, trudging along beside his half-brother, "I am awfully confident of that. "

  Philby was silent for several steps, and then his only reply was a cry of "Serveece!" to one of the white taxicabs cruising past on Weygand Street; and there were already three Arab passengers in the cab as Hale and Philby climbed into the back seat, so it was only natural that the two spies did not speak until they had alighted on the curb at the Normandy Hotel.

  "B-brace yourself for f-forty lashes," said Philby to Hale as they climbed out of the cab.

  Hakob Mammalian was waiting for them on the steps to the lobby, but he hurried across the sidewalk to where Hale and Philby stood, and without speaking he took hold of each of them by an elbow and turned them back toward the lanes of the Avenue des Français, and the blue sea beyond.

  The three of them strode out across the breezy street, Philby and then Hale waving their free hands in apology as cars honked at them and donkey drivers shouted.

  When they had reached the far sidewalk and stepped down from the pavement onto the hot pale sand, Mammalian turned to Hale and stared angrily into his face. Mammalian's right hand was inside his blue-striped robe. After several seconds he reached up with his free hand and prodded Hale's bruised cheek with one finger, and then scratched with his nail at the fresh cut.

  Hale flinched back. Even though he was only wearing a shirt, he was already sweating in the direct sunlight. "What the hell, Hakob!" he protested.

  "My hand is on a gun," said Mammalian curtly. "Open your shirt. "

  Hale sighed. "I assume you'll tell me why," he said as he began unbuttoning his coffee-stained shirt.

  Mammalian prodded Hale's bare stomach, looking into his eyes as Hale winced.

  "When the surete was questioning you," Mammalian snapped, "you said the arrest was like a dog. What kind of dog?"

  "I, I told them it was a dog that wouldn't hunt," said Hale, remembering the remark from the hastily scrawled transcription he had read before leaving Hartsik's office. It had in fact not struck him as the sort of thing he would say.

  "What did you mean by that?"

  "It's an-ow," Hale said, for Mammalian was still palpating his stomach. "Would you stop? It's a saying. It means a plan that won't work out; I meant that their arrest would not stand up-I wasn't guilty of anything. "

  Mammalian squinted at Philby. "Is that a common saying?"

  Philby blew out air through his pursed lips. "Sure, one h-hears it. "

  At last Mammalian stepped back from Hale, his right hand still inside his robe. "You were out of our sight for an hour. In a police station. Tell me one reason why I should not abort this mission. "

  "Yes, yes," said Hale, nodding, "I do see your point of view. I would worry too, in your place. " He shrugged and looked up and down the beach. "Let's see-you know some of what was said. Do you know it all? Did it sound as if the police and I were talking in a code? Any of the three of us here could recognize code exchanges, I think. "

  "No," said Mammalian. "It did not sound like a code. But if you are an SIS plant, a Declare plant!-then there might have been only one thing you needed to learn or convey; and any one phrase could have accomplished that. A dog that won't hunt!"

  Hale mentally cursed his double for not speaking more simply. "If we were exchanging a code phrase, why would we choose something so awkward?" He touched his cheek. "I don't care if you do abort it-as long as that doesn't involve giving me the truth. "

  "It would involve that. And right now I am inclined to abort it. "

  "He w-wanted to buy a g-gun, after he was released," put in Philby helpfully. "S-several guns. "

  Hale didn't bother to comment on that; and Mammalian flicked his fingers in the air impatiently. "Of course he wo
uld want to be armed, in any case. " After scowling at Hale for ten more seconds, Mammalian turned to Philby. "You have experience with the British secret service, and with this man-and it is in your interests that this Ararat plan not fail. Is it your feeling that we should abort it, or go ahead?"

  Hale did not look at Philby-live prole or dead aristocrat? he thought-and finally, after a pause, he heard Philby sigh and then mutter, "I-" Peripherally Hale saw him wave a hand as if uncertain how to proceed. "Declare?-low on the l-list of likelihoods, I think. If H-Hale was really b-being run by Theodora, there wouldn't be any n-need for a last-minute c-conference at a police station. Let's-ah, God!-let's proceed with it as p-p-planned. "

  In Philby's hesitant speech Hale had caught the phrase, I declare low. And he knew that the three words had been a reference, for him, to the interrupted high-low poker game the two of them had played in the bomb shelter below Mount Ararat nearly fifteen years earlier; Philby was conveying his decision, his cowardly decision, to choose life.

  "Well, I do concur," Hale said, trying not to breathe any more deeply than he had been doing a moment earlier; and he glanced at his wristwatch to be sure the hands were set for the correct local time.

  BOOK THREE. Mount Ararat

  Mount Ararat, 1963

  He pointed throught the window-opening into space that was filled with moonlight reflected from the snow-and threw out an empty whisky bottle.

  "No need to listen for the fall. This is the world's end," he said, and swung off. The lama looked forth, a hand on either sill, with eyes that shone like yellow opals. From the enormous pit before him white peaks lifted themselves yearning to the moonlight. The rest was as the darkness of interstellar space.

  - Rudyard Kipling, Kim

  Chapter Seventeen

  The morning breeze down from the high glaciers was positively Arctic.

  Kim Philby had photographed Mount Ararat extensively during his posting as SIS Head of Station for Turkey, a job that had lasted from February of 1947 through September of 1949. Using as cover the SIS surveying operation code-named Spyglass, he had taken pictures of the Ahora Gorge from every angle, climbing as high as the 8,000-foot level to get clear pictures of the bottom slopes of the valley over the gorge, the glacier-choked Cehennem Dere. He had studied the accounts of previous explorers-Archbishop Nouri of the Nestorian Church in India, who at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893 had made a plausible claim to have found the Ark on Ararat five years earlier; Hardwicke Knight, who in 1936 had climbed the western face of the Ahora Gorge in search of a legendary ruined Armenian monastery and found instead, at about the 14,000-foot level, a huge structure of ancient black timbers protruding from the glacial moraine; and the American Carveth Wells, who was reportedly led to the Ark by Armenian shepherds in 1943. Philby had not been able to fly a helicopter so near to the Iranian border, but Guy Burgess had relayed to him a sheaf of photographs taken in the mid-'40s from Mikoyan-Gurevich fighter planes out of the Soviet air base at Erivan-prints that clearly showed a boxy black shape overhanging a glacier lake near the Cehennem Dere, at the foot of the higher glacier known as Abich I. Each of these photographs included in the frame another MiG, flying at a lower altitude, as if to establish a Soviet claim.

  The MiG photographs had been taken during the summer-the lake would be frozen now, in late January.

  Mount Ararat was of primordial volcanic origin, and its slopes were littered with "pillow lava," smooth igneous stones formed when the magma had flowed out under sea water. And although the mountain had sunk, so that it was now surrounded by a moat-like caldera of snake-infested marshes, its nearly 17,000-foot height was imposing because it stood virtually alone on the Kars-Van plain, the northernmost sentinel of the Zagros mountain range.

  Until the death of the fox in September of last year, Kim Philby had lived for the day when he should finally climb up to the structure that folklore had mis-identified as Noah's Ark, and take at last his destined role as human emissary to the djinn-rafiq to the spirits of the air.

  Now that his father was irretrievably lost, though, his only hope was that Hale's Declare operation would ignobly succeed and that the djinn would all be killed before he could be subjected to the devastating recognition of the inhuman powers that inhabited the high glaciers.

  Standing now on the broad face of the Cehennem Dere glacier above the Ahora Gorge, Philby looked back at the two white nylon tents, and at the two motionless Spetsnaz commandos in their white parkas, holding their white-painted automatic rifles; and he leaned his weight against the bitter wind and tried to comprehend the fact that the rest of his life lay north of this point-and east.

  He shuffled around in the snow to peer through his goggles in that direction, the heels of his boots squeaking on the compacted dry powder; mists in the middle distance blurred the cliffs of the Ahora Gorge below him, and against the white blur of the winter sun he could not see the Aras River, twenty miles away to the northeast. But if today's climb were successful, he would be crossing that river, that Rubicon, tomorrow, never again to recross it. He would be greeted as a hero in Moscow, no doubt-he had been honorarily awarded the Soviet Order of the Red Banner after his assistance in placing the drogue-stone in Berlin in 1945, and had even been shown a photograph of the medal, with its red-and-white striped ribbon, gold-wreathed medallion, and enameled banner. He would be able to take physical possession of it, soon, and wear it to. . . state dinners at the Kremlin. Evenings at the Bolshoi.

Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up
Scroll
Add comment

Add comment