Declare, p.76
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       Declare, p.76

           Tim Powers
 
Page 76

 

  A twitch of the blade, Hale thought, but not a full parry. This isn't the building. He dug a pack of Trud cigarettes out of a pocket and shook one out and struck a match to it. Half the length of the black cigarette was an empty cardboard tube.

  He stepped back out onto the sidewalk and resumed walking in the direction of the pond. Soon the street curved away to the west, and an alley was the only route by which to move farther south, but he didn't hesitate before stepping into the shadows between the high brick walls.

  The windows he passed were painted over, though he heard voices behind a couple of them, and the vertical iron pipes radiated heat. Just as he came out the far end of the alley, he heard a soft scuff echo behind him.

  Hale was in a cul-de-sac now, with flower gardens in the gaps between the old yellow-brick houses on his left. The view to his right was blocked by one of the prewar apartment buildings, an eight-story gray-faced stone edifice with butcher-paper packages and milk bottles visible in the windows, between the insulating double panes of glass.

  Hale took a deep draw on his Russian cigarette, and a throat-full of hot air let him know that he had used up all the tobacco in it. He ground it out under his heel and began walking out across the pavement toward the apartment building.

  Immediately two men in green fedoras had stepped up from a set of basement stairs, and they made straight for Hale. One of them asked a question in Russian.

  "Dobriy vyechyir," said Hale amiably. It meant Good evening. "Vi gavrarityeh pa angliski?" he went on. "Nyimyetski? Frantsuski?" Do you speak English? German? French?

  In German the KGB officer said, "Let me see your passport. What are you doing here?" His companion had stepped to the side, probably to have a clear shot at Hale.

  "I am an English journalist for the London Evening Standard," replied Hale in German. With his right hand he pulled open his overcoat, and with two fingers of his left hand he slowly drew out his passport. "I wish to write an article about Pushkin Square and the picturesque old neighborhoods around it. "

  "This is a restricted area," the KGB agent said, handing the passport to his companion. "You are staying at the hotel on the Sadovaya Samotechnaya?"

  "Var-noom Leeyonard," said the agent with Hale's passport, and it took Hale a moment to realize that the man was pronouncing the name on the passport, Varnum Leonard.

  Hale nodded. "That's right. "

  "Joor-nalist," the man added.

  "Right again. "

  "Do not come here again," said the first man, waving Hale back the way he had come.

  Hale retrieved his passport, nodded apologetically, and walked back toward the alley. The cul-de-sac was in deepening shadow, and he noticed that there were no streetlamps.

  A committed parry, he thought with satisfaction. That's the place. And probably there'll be a new shift of guards tomorrow morning.

  At the alley-mouth he glanced back, and he saw a pair of lighted windows on the eighth floor of the apartment building. Are you at home, Kim? he thought. I hope you're an early riser-I need to be at St. Basil's Cathedral at noon.

  The prospect of his visit to the cathedral was much more troubling than the thought of cornering Kim Philby tomorrow morning.

  That night Hale sat up drinking Glenlivet Scotch whiskey with the New York Times man, watching Russian television on the fourteen-inch black-and-white television set in the lobby of their Sad Sam hotel. One of the two available channels was airing a special on collective farms in the Ukraine, with lots of footage of modern harvest combines moving through fields of wheat; the other channel featured a show about steel-workers, and Hale and his companion stared befuddled at a view of white-hot steel ingots bumping down a ramp.

  "I've got to get out again soon," the New York Times man mumbled as he switched off the set and got up to stagger toward his room. "I'm starting to root for their Five-Year Plans. "

  Hale nodded sympathetically, but sat for a while with his whiskey and stared at the dark television screen. From another room he could hear a radio playing some rock-and-roll-a song called "Sie Liebt Dich," by a Hamburg group called, apparently, The Beetles.

  She loves you, the lyrics meant. Ja, ja, ja.

  Nein, nein, nein, he thought bleakly, refilling his glass. She loved me, she loves me not.

  Entschuldig Dich, the lyrics advised. Apologize. But I didn't do what she believes I did, he thought; and if I had done it, no apology would be possible.

  Hale wondered if Theodora could have set it up that way deliberately: killing Claude Cassagnac and then blaming Hale for the death, just to preclude any renewal of intimacy between Hale and Elena in Beirut. Theodora would have wanted to minimize any involvement by the French SDECE-though in fact the SDECE did manage at least to blow the Black Ark site to smithereens, moments after Hale had delivered the death-blow to the djinn. Once again he wondered if Elena had been aboard that unmarked French Alouette III helicopter, and if she had been the pilot who had veered off or the machine-gunner who had nearly given Hale the last truth; and he wondered if she believed he died there. She must know Philby survived-anybody in the world who read newspapers knew that.

  For the first time in many years, he let his mind dwell freely on his last night in Paris in '41 and on his last night in Berlin in '45.

  I can't not try, he thought, putting down his glass and struggling to his feet to climb the stairs to his room.

  He wound his alarm clock, set the alarm hand at six o'clock and fell asleep in his clothes. In his dreams he took Elena's hand and ran across the bumpy pavement of Red Square, fleeing from KGB agents in green hats, but when he paused by the river embankment and looked back at her, the creature he had by the hand was the dark-eyed Arabic woman with the wedding-ring necklace, and she lifted his hand to her lips and began to bite off his fingers.

  At eight the next morning Hale stood in chilly sunlight over two old men playing dominoes on one of the cement tables near Philby's apartment building. Hale had managed to nick his chin while shaving, and now a blob of white cotton was stuck below his lip; he consoled himself with the thought that it was a disguise of sorts-or at least a distraction. And his graying sandy hair had not cooperated with the comb, and now stood up in spikes in the back.

  Hale had brought along a Russian-language edition of Tolstoi and a bottle of vodka in a paper bag; and he had borrowed a shapeless wool coat, a leather hat with ear-flaps, and an ill-fitting old pair of bell-bottom trousers. Altogether he felt that he looked like a native, not worth special scrutiny by the KGB.

  The spring thaw had definitely arrived upon Moscow. Green buds and even tiny pink flowers dotted the black boughs of the apple trees; Patriarch's Pond itself, which he could see through a gap between two houses, had thawed out in the middle, with broken ice clinging around the grassy shore.

  At nine Hale saw two alert men emerge from the basement stairs at the foot of Philby's building, and though they were wearing snap-brim felt hats, with the eccentricity of having no dents in the crowns, he guessed they were KGB; and it was confirmed when Philby himself came blinking up into the sunlight right behind them.

  Hale realized that in spite of his pouchy face Philby had always been slim; he wasn't any longer. It was a stocky, gray-haired figure that came lumbering across the pavement, and his features were coarser, blunter, now. Hale had been sitting on a bench, trying to puzzle out the Cyrillic syllables in the Tolstoi and taking an occasional mouthful of the chilly vodka, and now he stood up. He opened his book and folded it around with the pages on the outside, and then closed it again, to make a furtive white flash. It was a standard SIS sign.

  And Philby saw it from thirty feet away. The man's eyes lifted from the book to Hale's face, and Hale caught a gleam of surprised recognition, quickly concealed. Kim Philby stopped walking and frowned up at the sky for a moment, then shrugged out of his heavy overcoat-and while he was getting his arm out of the sleeve, he gave Hale the
old SIS hand-signal that meant Follow, at a distance.

  Fair enough, thought Hale cautiously as he ambled across the cul-de-sac at an angle behind Philby. I've got three hours before high noon. As soon as he saw that Philby intended to walk down Spiridonovka Street, Hale hurried around a block to get in front of Philby and his KGB escorts. Now Philby could see him and cooperate in maintaining visual contact, and the KGB men, for all their deadpan vigilance, had apparently not considered that someone might be following Philby from in front.

  This neighborhood, inside the Sadovaya ring and south of Patriarch's Pond, was all foreign embassies-the American Embassy was only a block or two ahead-and Hale wondered if Philby intended to dart into one and ask for asylum. Hale could have told him that all the embassy chauffeurs and maids would be Burobin agents, KGB.

  But Hale kept walking ahead, glancing into windows or up at the street-spanning rooftop banners in order to glance back peripherally and make sure that Philby was still behind him. He knew enough Russian to translate the text of only one of the huge red banners-GLORY TO WORK. It seemed a depressing thought.

  When Hale had walked past the crenellated bell tower of a Russian Orthodox church, he glanced up at the clock and then let his gaze fall behind him-and he saw that Philby had stopped on the sidewalk by an arch that led into the church grounds.

  Hale paused to lift his bagged bottle and take a sip, feeling safe in facing back along his track to do it, and two full seconds later Philby stepped through the arch. The two KGB men followed, though Hale thought he saw them exchange a glance before they too disappeared.

  Hale quickly shuffled sidways into the recessed doorway of a restaurant on the other side of the street, and after putting down his bottle and tossing his leather hat and the blob of cotton, he shrugged out of his coat and pulled its sleeves inside-out before putting it back on; then, hatless, and with the coat's pink-satin lining on the outside now so that he seemed to be wearing a decrepit Oriental smoking jacket, he retrieved his bottle and emerged from the doorway and strode purposefully across the street to the stone arch. He took a deep breath and stepped through.

  The arch led into an old walled cemetery, and Hale walked forward out of the shadow of the wall into a patch of still sunlight. For a moment he smelled the grass and the tulips, but then he caught the familiar whiff of rancid oil. His eyes were watering in the sun glare.

  He was suddenly dizzy, and after only a few more steps along the gravel walk he gripped a bronze double-barred cross on the nearest gravestone to keep from falling. A thought that was not his own echoed in his head: What brings thee in to me?

  Hale glanced around for Philby-and he saw only the two KGB men, who were striding between the upright stones in evident alarm.

  Philby had evaded them-but where was he? Hale took a deep breath and stepped away from the gravestone.

  And he noticed with a sort of ringing tunnel vision that he was casting two shadows across the gravel-or, rather, that he stood between two shadows, with no evidence that his own body was stopping the sunlight at all. He raised his arm, and so did the shadow a foot away to his right. He looked up to his left, where the person casting the other shadow should be standing, and for a moment he saw the back of his own head, with the hair still standing up in spikes, and saw below it the shoulders of the crazy-looking quilted pink-satin coat.

  A moment later the vision was gone, and aside from his two shadows he seemed to be alone on the gravel path.

  His left leg flexed forward into an involuntary step, and in his left ear he heard a whisper: "Walk back out. Drink your vodka as you go. "

  In his disorientation Hale would have gone along with almost any proposal, and he obediently lurched back toward the arch, tipping the bottle up for a slug of vodka.

  He saw bubbles wobble up through the clear liquor, and heard them gurgling, but no liquid reached his mouth. Then his arm was pulled back down, and the whispering voice in his ear said, "Ahh," and Hale could smell vodka fumes over the metallic oil reek. "Straight ahead, across the street," the voice went on, "there's a park where drunks sun themselves, two blocks away, just alleys to get there. "

  Hale stumbled out through the arch and swayed and shuffled across the street like a man with a concussion. When he had stumbled up onto the far sidewalk his left leg flexed again, and he wobbled away in that direction. If the KGB men had observed him at all, they must have dismissed him as an unsignifying drunk.

  Within a few steps Hale had turned right, off the Spiridonovka; and when he had walked one block down an alley that led away to the north, past windowsill flower boxes and the back doors of old wooden houses, he regained his balance. Out of the corner of his left eye he could see Philby walking along beside him now, and he could hear Philby's boots crunching on the pavement; but Hale didn't look directly at him for fear of overlapping him again. Hale did notice with relief that his own shadow stretched ahead properly from his own feet now, and that Philby's was moving normally beside it, not alarmingly close to it.

  As if this ordinary sight were a signal, Hale's heartbeat was suddenly very fast in his chest, and he was panting. "What-" he said hoarsely, "-happened?"

  "I often duck in there, or into any cemetery," said Philby quietly, his own voice sounding a little strained, "when I want to lose my escorts. The guardian angel is present in such places, and when she is focusing on me, other people seem to have difficulty doing it. " He took a deep breath and sighed gustily. "I guess you're my other half, right enough, my ten-years-delayed twin-today she obviously mistook you and I, authoritatively, for one person. " Hale saw the shadow of Philby's head lift and turn in profile toward him. "Not very flattering to me, I must say," Philby added. "What is that garment?"

  "Overcoat," said Hale shortly. "Inside-out. "
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