Declare, p.75
Larger Font   Reset Font Size   Smaller Font       Night Mode Off   Night Mode

       Declare, p.75

           Tim Powers
 
Page 75

 

  On the Moskva River embankment he stared at the twelve-foot-by-thirty-foot movie posters, trying to puzzle out the names of the stars, whose faces he didn't recognize; farther up the embankment, outside the Kremlin wall by the Taynitskaya Tower, he could sometimes hear the scuffleand-thump of a volleyball game, presumably among the guards, on the other side of the high wall; and for half an hour one day he watched a flock of crows busily dropping chestnuts down the top of a drainpipe on the tower and flying down to the pavement to retreive the nuts when they rolled out at the bottom, and then flying up to do it again.

  He felt like one of the birds. He had two things to do-and now that he was so close to defining the course of the rest of his life, he was postponing considering either of them.

  When he had gone to the GUM department store he had seen the colorful spires and onion domes of St. Basil's Cathedral, standing like some fantastic Walt Disney island hundreds of yards away at the south end of Red Square, and he had stared at its crimson walls and gold-and-blue spiraled domes. And when he realized that he was so anxious about his imminent intrusion there-on the twenty-second of April, forty years after 1924, only a week away now-that he was afraid to approach it, he made himself walk all the way across the plain of the cobblestoned square, past the ranked snow-plow trucks and the raised cement ring of the Lobinoye Mesto where criminals had been publicly beheaded in the tsarist days, to the the cathedral's rococo north arch. He walked up the stone stairs beyond and found that the tall doors stood open, with the cavernous aisles of the sixteenth-century church dimly visible inside.

  With one finger he made a tiny, furtive sign of the cross on the front of his overcoat, and he stepped over the threshold onto the polished stone floor; and then-defensively, afraid to hope-he occupied himself with noting the placement of the doors in the far walls and the width and separation of the towering pillars, only peripherally aware of the chandeliers and the ranks of saints painted in luminous fresco on the high walls.

  His heart was thudding alarmingly in his chest as he left the church and strode away across Red Square, and in his head he was telling himself, She may not be able to come, she may have forgotten, she may be dead, she certainly hates you.

  But he had brought along a package from the remote Zagros mountain village of Siamand Barakat Khan, and he did need to find Kim Philby-though not in order to kill him: Hale also had two Scandinavian Airlines tickets that he had purchased with a casse gueule passport in Finland late in March. The names and passport numbers for the tickets had not yet been filled in.

  Philby's was of course a famous name in Moscow, especially among the Western journalists, some of whom had known him during his six years as a correspondent for The Economist and The Observer in Beirut. It had only been in July of last year that British Secretary of State Edward Heath confirmed that Philby had been the legendary "third man" in the Burgess and Maclean spy scandal of 1951, and Philby had arrived in Moscow in a season when spies were trendy-everyone was reading Vadim Kozhevnikov's Shield and Sword, a novel about a brave Soviet spy in World War II, and the youth newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda was running a serial about the adventures of a beautiful KGB girl named Natasha-but Philby seemed to have become a recluse.

  None of the journalists could tell Hale how to find Philby, and he didn't dare to show more than casual, morbid interest. A New York Times man told Hale that he had seen Philby dining at the Aragvy Restaurant by the Bolshoi Theatre with two KGB men, who were distinguishable as such because they had been wearing the new pale-green fedoras available only in the privileged hard-currency stores; and a woman from The Saturday Evening Post told Hale that she had seen a man who looked like Kim Philby trying, speaking English, to order a new Pagoda brand washing machine in a parking-lot black market on the southern loop of the Sad Sam.

  The most recent Moscow telephone directory had been published in 1958, and the four-volume set had gone out of print immediately and had never been reprinted. Journalists and Muscovites amassed private telephone directories by writing down and sharing the names of all the parties they had got by wrong number connections-which were frequent-but none of these informal telephone books that Hale could get a look at had a listing for Philby.

  Hale made no effort to live his journalistic cover story. He walked by the Aragvy Restaurant every day at noon and dusk, hoping to glimpse Philby, and in the evenings he nibbled cucumber-and-tomato zakusi in the bar of the Metropol, drank vodka at the Sovietskaya and purple vermouth koktels at the Moskva-but he did not succeed in catching a glimpse of his half-brother.

  When there were only three days left until the twenty-second of April, Hale reluctantly decided to look for Philby among the Gray People. This was the name given by the Sad Sam journalists to the Western expatriates who had defected and become Soviet citizens, and who all seemed to work for the Foreign Languages Publishing House, paid by the line for translating the speeches of Party members into English. They were said to be a furtive colony, inordinately proud of their various shabby treasons, and sure that the CIA or the SIS or the SDECE would pay dearly for the chance of arresting them. And all of them would reportedly turn pale with envy at the sight of a valid Western passport.

  It was bad form to try to socialize with them, and Hale understood too that any such efforts were likely to draw the attention of the KGB, with the probable consequence of revocation of one's visa, and speedy expulsion from the U. S. S. R.

  Hale had considered simply going to St. Basil's Cathedral on Wednesday the twenty-second of April, without visiting Philby first. But he did want to be able to fly out of the Soviet Union, afterward.

  And Hale finally found the Gray People on the afternoon of Tuesday the twenty-first, in Khokhlovskaya Square on the eastern loop of the Sadovaya Samotechnaya ring road, at the black market for books. Here, unmolested even by the city police, the Moscow intellectuals in their shapeless clothes sorted through stacks of books in the watery sunlight, looking for Arthur Miller's The Crucible and Benjamin Spock's Baby and Child Care and illegal mimeographed copies of Pasternak's Doctor Zhivago. The many mimeograph texts, stapled or sewn with yarn, were known as samizdat and were illegal, lacking the Glavlit stamp of approval; aside from the Pasternak, these blurry texts seemed to be mostly modern poetry, anti-government satire, crude witchcraft, and pornography.

  The native Muscovites were easily distinguishable from the Gray People. The latter tended either to cluster together in threes and fours or to visibly avoid their fellows, and their voices were quieter, petulant, and nervous.

  Hale picked out one middle-aged man who had snapped, "Leave me alone, will you?" to another man in English, and Hale followed him when he began shambling away alone with-good sign!-a samizdat copy of Mikhail Bulgakov's satire of the Stalinist regime, The Master and Margarita, wrapped tightly in brown paper.

  Hale managed to hurry around through the linden trees in front of his quarry, so as to approach him from ahead; and he made sure to have a British ten-pound note in his hand when he spoke.

  "Excuse me," Hale said, smiling, "I appear to be lost. Do you know the city well?"

  The man had flinched at the English sentences, but his eyes were caught by the banknote-Hale had been in Moscow long enough to know that this hard currency, unlike the flimsy rubles, would be honored in the elite Berioska stores in the downtown hotels, where it would buy fabulous items like American cigarettes and Scotch whiskey.

  "Where did you want to go?" the man asked finally, in a south-of-the-Thames British accent. His face was pale, and he didn't look around. On the broad lanes of the Sadovaya ring road to Hale's right, a few drab Moskvich and Zhiguli-Fiat sedans roared past, but no pedestrians were nearby.

  "I need to find an old pal of mine-his name is Kim Philby. I can't seem to get his phone number from Information. "

  "I-don't know him. "

  "Well, you don't need to know him to have heard where he lives, right? This tenner is
yours if you can tell me. "

  The man sighed, blowing stale vodka fumes at Hale. "I know who he is, of course. I suppose you're a journalist-or an SIS assassin. It's as much as my life is worth to tell you where he lives. "

  "No doubt. But it's also worth a British ten-pound note. Which would you rather be sure of having?"

  The man licked his lips nervously, his fingers flexing on the paper-wrapped book he carried.

  Hale was watching his eyes, and from long practice saw the flicker that meant he would lie. "'O fish,'" said Hale then, impulsively, "'are you constant to the old covenant?'"

  The man blushed deeply. "I was never-out there I was never-damn you! No, I don't mean that, it's only-" His hairline was suddenly beaded with sweat, and he appeared to be blinking away tears. "I was a clerk in the Admiralty Military Branch, and I only photographed documents having to do with NATO naval policy. I thought I was doing it for the WPO, the World Peace Organization, in Austria! NATO is just a tool of American imperialism. . . " He had been looking at the pavement, but now he met Hale's gaze, sickly. He sighed, and then in a hoarse voice said, "'Return, and we return. Keep faith, and so will we. '"

  Hale spoke gently. "Where does Philby live?"

  "Is this a test? You must know. " He shrugged. "I don't know the address. At Patriarch's Pond, they say. " He yawned, and Hale recognized it as a reflex of tension, not boredom.

  Hale knew he should leave now, but he was shaken at how well his gambit had worked. "You weren't working for the WPO," he said. "When did you learn who you were really working for?"

  "Even when I defected," the man said in an injured tone, "I thought I was working for the KGB. All of us did, or for the GRU, or the Comintern, or something. Something rational. It's only when we've surrendered our passports and we're here, for life, that we learn we work for. . . "

  "For. . . ?" pressed Hale, impatient now to get away from this doomed specimen.

  The man looked up at Hale with a bent smile. "You know who she is. "

  Hale nodded reluctantly. "Machikha Nash," he said.

  The pale man gave a whinnying cry, and he glanced anxiously past Hale at the lanes of the ring road; and almost immediately his face blanched as white as bone, and the eyes rolled up in his head a moment before his knees, his book, and then his forehead smacked the sidewalk pavement.

  The chilly spring breeze was suddenly rancid in Hale's nostrils with the smell of metallic oil.

  As the man's still-shivering body toppled over onto one hip, Hale stepped away from him and glanced over his shoulder at the street.

  Sunlight glittered on the teeth of the robed, dark-eyed woman on the far pavement-but Hale could see the individual gold rings and teeth strung around her neck, so she must actually have been much closer than that; and then it seemed that the ring road was rotating on the axis of the Kremlin, in fact on the axis of the tomb in which Lenin's preserved body defied decomposition-the image had sprung into his head-and although the woman's black, hungry eyes held his gaze, he was aware that the white sun was moving around the horizon.

  He opened his mouth to speak the first words of the Our Father, but realized that he had forgotten them; and so he quoted the words he remembered Elena saying, on the deck of the Arab boat on the east side of the Brandenburg Gate, in Berlin in 1945: "Santa Maria, Madre de Dios, ruega por nosotros pecadores-"

  The dark woman was more clearly on the far side of the lanes now; and her teeth were bared in a snarl. The street had stopped seeming to spin. Hale was able to break his gaze free from hers, and he walked away heavily, as clumsy as if his legs had gone to sleep.

  The first time he looked back she seemed to be closer, seemed to be standing between him and the body of the unfortunate Admiralty clerk; and Hale tried to make his numb legs work faster. But when he peered over his shoulder again, a few seconds later, she was nowhere to be seen-the sidewalk was empty except for the tumbled body a hundred feet back, and no figures at all stood between him and the bleak windows of the office buildings on the far side of the street.

  He walked until he saw a northbound bus unloading passengers, and he hastily climbed aboard, paid his five kopeks, and then during the course of an hour rode the bus for one and a half circuits of the Sadovaya ring, counterclockwise.

  He climbed down from the bus by the Tchaikovsky Concert Hall at the Gorky Street intersection. He recognized the nineteenth-century stone steeples and office buildings, for he was only eight blocks northwest of the Aragvy Restaurant; and the old residential neighborhood known as Patriarch's Pond was two blocks further south on the Sad Sam ring, in a warren of narrow lanes around the pond that was filled every winter to provide a rink for skating.

  The sun was already sinking behind the tall pines of the zoo park, and the sky had begun to take on the soft silvery glow of far-northern sunsets, with only the faintest tinges of pink.

  As he began walking south along the sidewalk, Hale reached inside his overcoat to pat the pocket of his jacket, and he was reassured to feel his passport and press credentials; if he was stopped by the police or the KGB, his journalism cover would stand up here-Pushkin Square, the lovely old narrow lanes, the graybeards playing dominoes under the linden trees. . .

  He turned right, into a cobbled street overhung by Muscovy plane trees, and he felt as though he were fencing. He knew that if Philby lived in this area every pedestrian would be watched, and he walked down the center of the cobblestone street for now, not making any feints toward the shingle-roofed stone houses on either side. Prewar apartment buildings were looming through the budding branches ahead, and it was likely that Philby would be put up in one of those places, where tighter security could be maintained.

  The lane zigzagged past tiny parks with cement tables set out on the grass, though any dominoes players had by now retired for the evening. Hale could smell wood smoke from the old chimneys, and boiling cabbage, but he didn't see any pedestrians until he stepped into the littered entryway of one of the apartment buidings; as soon as he was in out of the wind, a man in a black overcoat strode down the sidewalk on the other side of the street, and Hale suppressed a smile at the sight of the green fedora on the man's head.
Turn Navi Off
Turn Navi On
Scroll Up
Scroll
Add comment

Add comment