Declare, p.79
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       Declare, p.79

           Tim Powers
 
Page 79

 

  During his years as a lecturer at the University College of Weybridge, he had imagined one day meeting her again, and courting her, and marrying her; but under the gaze of the police in this cold Moscow church, those daydreams seemed all-of-a-piece with the bright, naive ambitions of his Cotswolds boyhood, and he didn't dare to hope for anything at all now, not even continued liberty.

  He stirred himself and walked forward, digging into the pocket of his corduroy trousers for Philby's two kopeks. The women were kneeling on a black leather kneeler in front of the candles, and Hale lowered himself down onto the yard of it to Elena's right, so that she was between him and the nearest policeman; and Hale reached out to drop the two coins into the slot in the iron money box.

  They fell to the floor of the box with a noise that seemed as loud as a couple of. 22 shots.

  From the corner of his left eye he could see that she was looking at him, and he was resentful that he dared not meet her gaze.

  He saw her right hand move-she had made the sign of the cross. He crossed himself in turn, and he was genuinely praying to God too when he said softly, "Segne mich. "

  The words were German for Bless me.

  It was the old GRU Rote Kapelle code phrase: Things are not what they seem-trust me. Though he had spoken in a near-whisper, the words echoed back down at him from the remote arched ceiling.

  He forced his hand not to tremble as he reached out and picked up one of the matchboxes on the iron table, and he managed to light one of the matches on the first strike. He held it to the curled black wick of one of the candles that had been extinguished, and shook it out when the wick flared in a tall yellow flame.

  He made the sign of the cross again and stood up, staring at the candle flame and trying to see Elena as clearly as he could in his peripheral vision. Her white hair was conspicuous under the black hood, and he could make out her big Castilian eyes and the smooth, graceful sweep of her jaw.

  God knew what she made of him, with his graying hair and strange, blood-spotted clothing.

  He turned away and began walking toward the south entrance, where the tall doors stood open and he could see a segment of distant gray overcast indented by the Moscow skyline south of the river.

  No one stopped him as he scuffed across the stone floor past the massive pillars. He stepped out between the open doors into the cold breeze, and walked down the first couple of steps, and then he heard someone's footsteps behind him.

  Two or three of the uniformed men stood at the foot of the stairs, but Hale slowed and let the person behind him gradually catch up. It was Elena, heartbreakingly slim and straight in a long black dress. He let himself look into her face finally, and though there were new lines under her eyes and down her cheeks, her blue eyes were still youthful, and vulnerable.

  He let his left eyelid flutter in a faint wink, and then he had stepped ahead and was leading the way left, toward the sidewalk on the eastern side of the cathedral island. He could hear the tap of her shoe-soles on the cement behind him, and he didn't look around to see if the policemen were watching them.

  When they had reached the sidewalk, where the wind was swirled into eddies by the curtained black ZIL limousines that swept past, one of them possibly transporting Brezhnev himself from some meeting of the Communist Party Presidium at the Kremlin Palace, Hale whispered back over his shoulder, "I'm Varnum Leonard, journalist for the London Evening Standard. Solid cover until this morning, but now Philby's talked to me, I'm compromised. " He was dizzy, and he took a deep breath. "I did not kill Cassagnac. "

  From behind him she said softly, "Gitana Sandoval, Spanish movie producer, location-scouting via Intourist. "

  And both of us, Hale thought, are in the old GRU records, and certainly in the more recent KGB records too-not to mention Rabkrin-if anybody should be interested in checking.

  He could hear clocking footsteps approaching from some distance behind, and he shuffled for two paces and nearly tripped, for he had instinctively begun to tap out the old clochard nothing-right-here rhythm-but in nearly the same instant he had remembered the uses those rhythms had been put to in the Ahora Gorge fifteen years ago, and he had awkwardly tried to resume his former pace.

  Elena's shoes had scuffled on the pavement too, for a moment; and now she was again walking normally. Ultimately, Hale thought with a sort of solemn pleasure, we both know which way to declare.

  The footsteps behind were closer, and sounded like boots. Elena was walking beside Hale on his right now, and she took hold of his hand, and squeezed. "I knew, after a while, that you had not," she said quietly. "I knew when I ordered the helicopter to veer east. "

  She was holding his hand so tightly that he could feel the fast beat of her pulse; and a moment later he realized that it was precisely matching his own, as if they were one person on the sidewalk.

  With her free hand she fetched up from her coat pocket a little mirror-apparently the same old tortoise-backed one she had had in Paris-and when she held it out in front of them, Hale could see her face and his, half-overlapped in the cracked glass.

  The footsteps from behind faltered, and then broke from a concerted group into unmatched individuals-and then the policemen had passed them and were craning their necks to peer up and down the lanes of this south end of Red Square, as if, Hale thought giddily, they were watching for a taxi.

  "Grace," said Elena. "Not magic. "

  "I have airline tickets," said Hale, "but I can't fly and I can't go back to England. I'm more or less going to have to walk out, and God knows across which border. "

  "You remembered my birthday," she said, still holding his hand tightly, though she was staring past him at the cathedral. "Did-did Philby?"

  "Yes. We played a game of cards, to decide which of us would come to meet you in the cathedral. The loser to win three of the inhabited amomon roots. "

  "Immortality!" she said. "He was happy to lose. "

  "Not happy-resigned. I was happy to win. I would have come even if I had not won. "

  She laughed, and it was the first time he had heard her laugh since Berlin in 1945, nearly twenty years ago. "Walking out," she said, "would be easier for a couple than for one person alone. "

  They were a peculiar-looking couple-the man in the clownish overcoat, who had fired the shot that would one day topple the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, and the woman dressed in black like a Spanish duena, who would at long last become his wife-but they attracted no attention at all as they strolled away hand-in-hand past the southernmost corner of the Kremlin Wall and on to the embankments of the Moskva River.

  AFTERWORD

  Kim Philby died in the early morning of May 11, 1988, of arrhythmia of the heart, at the KGB clinic in Moscow. His last words were in reply to a telephoned congratulations on the anniversary of the Soviet victory of 1945: "What victory?" Philby said.

  He was buried in the Novodiverchy cemetery near Red Square.

  The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics collapsed three and a half years later, in December of 1991; Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as Soviet President on Christmas Day.

 
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