Declare, p.8
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       Declare, p.8

           Tim Powers
 
Page 8

 

  In spite of the glasses, the headwind battered tears out of the corners of Hale's eyes as the motorcycle left behind the mediocre modern buildings of 1963 London and leaned alarmingly fast to the right around the north side of Westminster Abbey and then left up St. Margaret and Parliament streets to Whitehall; Hale pressed his face against his own shoulder to keep the moustache from being peeled off. When they passed the Cenotaph monument in the middle of the street, the rider began rapidly downshifting, and he pulled in to the curb by the new Cabinet Office in the old Treasury building, not far from Downing Street. As Hale shakily got off the back of the machine, his sweaty trousers clinging to his thighs, the rider nodded toward the entry stairs.

  A familiar white-haired figure in an overcoat and a homburg hat was just then strolling up the pavement, and in spite of himself Hale had to suppress a smile at the neatness of it all as he followed Theodora through a door marked PRIVY COUNCIL OFFICE below the main steps.

  "Anchors aweigh," whispered Theodora after the door had closed and audibly locked behind them. He pulled a black iron ankh from his overcoat pocket and waved it at the pair of guards who stood behind a desk at the side of the fluorescent-lit passage; when they had nodded he tucked the thing into a vest pocket and then shrugged out of his overcoat and hat and laid them them across the papers on the desk with thoughtless Etonian arrogance.

  Hale obediently fumbled the ankh out of his new jacket and held it up as he passed the two men, who stared at it as carefully as if it were a top-security pass.

  The Foreign Office was at the far end of this building, and Hale wondered if they had come here with such elaborate precautions merely to help get permission for some proposed SIS-connected operation. Hale recalled that, in his day, FO permission for routine projects like infiltrating an agent into a hostile country could be taken for granted; planting a microphone in a consulate required that C consult the FO liaison, who would likely call on the Permanent Secretary to authorize it. Only if bad political consequences looked possible would C have to clear an operation with the Foreign Secretary in person. Who was Chief of SIS these days? Not still Menzies, surely.

  "Who's C now?" he whispered to Theodora as he dropped the ankh into his pocket and wiped his hand on his lapel. A moment later he took off the glasses and tucked them in after it.

  "You don't need to-oh hell, it's Dick White. He was in MI5 when you were a player. "

  Hale raised his eyebrows; MI5 was the domestic Security Service, generally looked down on by the cowboys in SIS.

  "Bothering the Foreign Secretary for this, are we?" Hale said.

  Theodora gave him a blank stare. "We're going through the green door for this. "

  "Oh," said Hale humbly. They weren't going to the Foreign Office at all; even the Cabinet Secretary, who was the one responsible for all the secret services, the one who accounted for Parliament's Secret Vote funding of them and who oversaw the Joint Intelligence Secretariat, was not the ultimate authority. And though the Cabinet Office was separated from Number 10 Downing Street only by a connecting green baize door, the door was always locked, and even the Cabinet Secretary had to telephone the Prime Minister's Principal Private Secretary to get clearance to step through.

  The approval of the Prime Minister himself was required for the most secret, most robust operations-big sabotage, substantial loss of life, serious risk of war. "We're to see Macmillan?" whispered Hale, wishing he had been allowed to keep his own coat.

  "This is nothing. " Theodora's withered old face creased in a strained smile. "Know, O Papist, that White was in the Vatican two weeks ago, having a secret audience with Pius XII. "

  In fact, they did not literally go "through the green door"-the glossy plaster walls of the downward-slanting corridor soon gave way to old Tudor brick, and by the time they arrived at a set of ascending stone stairs, Hale thought they must have traversed the fabled eighteenth-century Cockpit Passage, and even skirted whatever might remain of Henry VIII's tennis court, a wall of which had been revealed by a 1940 bomb. The stairs led up to a tiny ivy-hung garden under a plane tree; a red-roofed building blocked the view in front of them, and Hale realized that the door Theodora now knocked at must be a side entrance to Number 10. His right hand instinctively sprang up to make the sign of the cross, but after a momentary hesitation he covered the twitch by pulling off the false moustache.

  It was the Prime Minister himself, Harold Macmillan, who opened the door. The lean old patrician face was expressionless, but Hale thought there was banked fury behind the hooded eyes. Macmillan apparently recognized Theodora, and wordlessly stood aside to let them enter.

  Theodora led the way down a hall to a small windowless room that was paneled up to waist height, with white plaster and framed portraits above; a couple of middle-aged men already sat in two of the tall green leather chairs around the narrow table, and as he followed Theodora's example and joined them, Hale supposed that one of them must be Dick White. Sconces on the walls threw yellow electric light across the bare, gleaming tabletop.

  Macmillan didn't sit down, but stood behind one of the chairs with his arms crossed over the top of it. The air in the room was warm and smelled faintly of furniture polish.

  "We haven't all been introduced to one another," said Theodora, "and I think we can leave it that way. We're here to deal with the culmination, one way or another, of Operation Declare. "

  The ankh was suddenly heavier in Hale's pocket. "Declare is still live?" he burst out, almost irritably; he had been confident that it had been closed as a failure nearly fifteen years ago. Then, abashed at having spoken up, he sat back and mumbled, "That's a. . . long-running operation. "

  Theodora smiled lazily at him. "It was an old operation before any of us were born, my dear. Lawrence of Arabia," he said, in a patronizing drawl that probably indicated distaste for the popular David Lean movie of the year before, "was a second-or third-generation agent in it. "

  Hale had never seen Theodora this relaxed before, and it occurred to him that the old man was in some trouble here; and that therefore he himself probably was too. Theodora reached into his coat pocket and pulled out an ivory stick, which proved to be a folding Chinese fan when he flicked it open and began waving it under his sagging chin. The fan rattled faintly at each stroke.

  One of the men who had already been at the table leaned forward now, his lean face creased in a frown. "You are still bound by the Official Secrets Act, at the very least," he said quietly to Hale. He pursed his lips and then went on, "In fact our Registry books now indicate that you never left the force, that you've been taking your full pay all along, in the capacity of deep-cover recruiter and safe-house proprietor, working out of your Weybridge college. Salary in cash, of course, no endorsed checks needed to be forged. So you've got more than twenty years of uninterrupted service, on paper. Are you still a willing player?"

  "Yes, of course," said Hale stiffly. This was evidently the current C, Dick White, who according to Theodora had come out of plodding MI5.

  "You didn't need to wave the pension at him before you asked," said Theodora to the man who had spoken. "Andrew has always been the Crown's good servant. "

  Across from Theodora sat a lean red-headed man whose well-cut gray wool suit was somehow made to look flashy by his tan and the deep lines in his cheeks. His quick and obviously characteristic grin flicked back to a squinting frown, and Hale wondered if he was frightened, and who he was in all this.

  White blinked, then nodded. "I-do apologize!" He ran his fingers through his graying hair. "Mr. Theodora will give you the details of your final assignment, after the rest of us leave here. Suffice to say right now that Moscow is the entity behind Nasser's recent, ostensibly Egyptian, imperialism in the Middle East-three months ago his Yemeni rebels seized our main gulf fueling station at Aden, and in Cairo Nasser's men are obediently painting Turkish insignia over the Soviet markings on Tupelov TU-16 aircraft, and Russian p
ilots are flying them to Ankara. We've even traced the distinctive radar echo of the eight-blade propellers on the big Tupelov TU-95 Bear bombers over Kurdistan, but that's stopped in the last month-probably just because they've developed non-metallic composite propellers. The Arab countries are mostly using the Swiss Hagelin cipher machines, and even a lot of the old wartime German Enigma machines; we can break their traffic, but everything they imagine they know is soapy Soviet front-story-the Soviets themselves are using the new Albatross-class cipher machine, and just in the last ten days the Soviet residencies have all switched to new call signs and cipher keys. "

  Hale nodded. This looked like prelude to a big Communist takeover in the Arab states; bad enough, certainly, but where precisely did Declare come in? Why had White consulted the Pope?

  "This government won't be able to weather it," growled Macmillan, leaning on the chair across from Hale. "The wage-freezes in '61 hurt us politically, and it looks too likely that de Gaulle will veto Britain 's entry into the European Economic Community within the month, because we've agreed to take American nuclear missiles on our submarines; but since the Suez Canal fiasco the Americans won't support us very far. And if our Conservative government falls, and the Liberals do step into power in Whitehall, the Soviets will have no substantial difficulty in taking what they've wanted to get ever since the Versailles Treaty-the Bosporus and the Dardanelles and thus free passage of shipping from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean-and all the most oil-rich countries in the world!-in fact, the Ottoman Empire, all of Moslem Asia as it existed before the First World War. " He stared at Dick White, and then, alarmingly, straight at Hale. "I wasn't in the government in 1948, when this unsanctioned Declare operation was somehow. . . exercised, in eastern Turkey; I've simply inherited it. You commanded it, I think. "

  And saw the five men in my charge driven mad or killed, thought Hale; along with some number of Russians. "That 1948 operation, yes. " Not for the first time, he wondered what had become of the two members of his party whom he had briefly seen on the road down out of the Ahora Gorge, on that night. Beds in British military mental asylums? Begging bowls, or unmarked graves, in the Kurdish villages around Lake Van?

  " Britain needs you to end the damned misbegotten thing now," said Macmillan, with a sweeping gesture that took in all three of his listeners. "Silently and invisibly, and taking your Soviet opposite numbers and their filthy agenda with you. "

  "We do have a sort of agent-in-place," said Theodora, "closely involved in this Soviet enterprise. A somewhat shaky agent, but. . . " He looked around at Macmillan and the other two. "Quis?"

  Macmillan just scowled.

  "Ego," said the red-haired man. He leaned back in his chair and smiled at Hale. "I was Head of Station in Turkey in '51-summers in the old consulate building in Constantinople, but winters up in Ankara. Kim Philby had been gone for three years, but his old jeep was still in the Ankara embassy motor pool, and there was still a yard-long length of rope tied to a hook on the dashboard; everybody said Philby put it there so his drunk Foreign Office chum Burgess could hang on, when the two of them went surveying in the mountains out beyond Erzurum. Being mere SIS, of course, we didn't know about Declare. "

  He had paused, so Hale shifted in his chair. "I remember the rope," he said cautiously. He was disoriented by the incongruous public school Quis? and Ego exchange, which roughly meant Who wants this? and I'll take it. A cigarette would have been a godsend, but there were no ashtrays in sight.

  Theodora raised a lean finger. "And several of us don't want to hear about it," he said.

  The red-haired man nodded, conceding the point. "I'm told," he went on, still speaking to Hale, "that after the bash in '48 you reported Philby as a double agent, one secretly working for Moscow. "

  "His suspicions were, of course, not reported to my predecessor," said White to the room at large, staring at the high plaster ceiling.

  As if he were being cross-examined in a courtroom, Hale waited for an objection. When no one spoke, he said, "I filed a report to. . . my superior officer, stating my reasons for suspecting that. But," he went on, forcing himself not to glance at the glowering Macmillan, "Philby has been exonerated since. "

  Just from having read the newspapers Hale knew that Kim Philby had been working in Washington under some diplomatic cover until 1951, and that after his friend Guy Burgess and another Foreign Office diplomat named Maclean had fled to Moscow, Philby had been suspected of having been a spy himself, and of having warned Maclean that MI5 was about to arrest him for espionage. Philby had apparently been relieved of his SIS duties after that, though not formally charged with anything, and in 1955 an MP in the House of Commons had challenged Macmillan, Foreign Secretary at the time, to answer the accusation that Philby had been the "third man" in the alleged Soviet spy ring. Macmillan had subsequently read a prepared statement saying that the British government had no reason to suspect Philby of any collusion or wrongdoing.

  At the moment Macmillan's hands were clenched on the green leather chair back; Hale didn't dare look up into the man's face. "As far as SIS knew to advise," said White stiffly, "that exoneration seven years ago was valid. No one in Broadway knew that the old wartime Special Operations Executive had covertly survived its official dissolution and was still doing intelligence work. "

  White's face was stiff with obvious suppressed anger, but the red-headed onetime Head of Station in Turkey flashed his brief grin again.

  Hale blinked and didn't change his expression-he had certainly known that a core group in SOE had ignored its shutdown order at the end of the war; he himself had gone on working for the divergent branch of the service for another three years-but he was chilled to hear his suspicion about Kim Philby apparently confirmed, after all this time. It had been one thing to be convinced, but it was quite another to virtually hear it from the Prime Minister.

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