A valet hurried up when Hale and Mammalian climbed out of the Volvo, and as the car was driven away the Armenian led Hale up the steps and through the glass doors into the carpeted hotel lobby.
"You will want to shave and…freshen up," observed Mammalian, "but we could certainly have a drink, first."
Hale followed the man's pointing finger and saw the hotel bar, off to the side of the lobby behind a beaded curtain.
" Arak, I suppose," he growled, nevertheless starting toward the bar archway. Anything at all, actually, he thought-any ethanol at all, at all. Hale reached the arch before Mammalian and pulled back the rattling curtain-and then he stopped, the breath stilled in his throat.
A man and a woman sat with their heads close together in intimate conversation at a table by the street-side window. The man appeared to be in his late forties, and under a white bandage his face was deeply lined and pouchy; he looked fit enough, though, and his rumpled jacket was clearly a product of British tailoring. But it was the woman that Hale stared at-slim and still youthful-looking in spite of her salt-white hair, she was smoothing her linen skirt with one hand and tapping the ash from a cigarette with the other.
She was Elena-Elena Teresa Ceniza-Bendiga, ETC, Hale's beloved partner during the fugitive months in occupied Paris, the woman whom Claude Cassagnac had whimsically pronounced Hale's bride on a perilous night in Berlin in 1945. Kiss the bride quick, Andrew, before you die. Hale could taste the remembered kiss now, rusty with blood and earnest with love and the imminent prospect of merciless violent death. He ached to run between these little tables to her now, as he had done when he had first seen her on that night in Berlin, and tell her who he was, and take her hands in his and just babble out his whole truthful story to her.
But the man with her was Kim Philby. At least from across the dim room he looked no older now than he had when he had been the SIS Head of Station in Turkey in 1948-secretly in the pay of Moscow even then, it had turned out, and responsible for the betrayal of Declare. But Hale's instant memory was of his first encounter with Philby, in early 1942, when Hale had been a prisoner at the MI5 compound at Ham Common in Richmond and Philby had been trying to get custody of him, very likely in order to kill him.
Three nights ago Ishmael had asked Hale where Elena was-and she was here, with Philby, who evidently didn't know she was the one who had shot him in the head. Did Philby know the Rabkrin was looking for her? Was Mammalian aware of her, and who did he think she was? Again Hale wondered what he would have been told at the canceled briefing in Kuwait.
Now Philby raised his bandaged head and glanced around the bar-his gaze didn't pause on this hollow-cheeked, dark-haired figure silhouetted in the doorway-and he leaned over the table to kiss Elena on the lips. She might or might not have responded-in any case she did not push him away.
Hale let the beaded curtain swing across his view of the bar as he took a step back into the hotel lobby, bumping into Mammalian.
"I'm…too filthy," he said hoarsely, "for…"
"Well," said Mammalian in a judicious tone, "it's true, you are. You smell like an Iraqi Bedouin, my friend. I will take you to your room."
Hale let himself be led away past the couches and the registration desk toward the stairs; he didn't look back, but he felt as though this were a ghost that the Armenian was leading away, and that the real, physical Andrew Hale was still standing back there, transfixed with dismay, staring in through the bar archway.
It was said once to me that it is inexpedient to write the names of strangers concerned in any matter, because by the naming of names many good plans are brought to confusion.
– Rudyard Kipling, Kim
Hale's second encounter with Kim Philby had been in February of 1942, a month after their brief and hostile first meeting in the Latchmere House dining room at Ham Common.
Hale had been working at the SIS headquarters in Broadway Buildings in London for only three days, and he was startled to see striding toward him down the linoleum hallway the same stuttering man who had berated him on that well-remembered occasion. Philby was wearing the brown wool tunic of an Army uniform now, but without any badges of rank on the epaulettes, and he was deep in conversation with an older man in shirtsleeves.
But the intelligent eyes in the blunt face lit up on seeing Hale. "Why it's J-Jimmie's boy!" Philby drawled; and then in an affected, whining voice he quoted what Hale had told the interrogation panel a month earlier: "'But I wasn't doing anything the Theodora person had told me to do!'" In his normal Oxbridge accent he went on, "And yet I d-discover that you are somehow working in S-Section One, on loan from Juh-Jimmie's det-te-test-able SOE!" He turned toward the older man beside him, whom Hale belatedly recognized as his own boss, David Footman, the head of SIS Section One. "What work is our dishonest boy here d-d-doing for you, David?"
Footman peered uncertainly at Hale. "It's 1-K, isn't it?" he said.
"Yes, sir," said Hale. 1-K was the code designation of the misplaced person whose job Hale had taken over.
"What are you working on, 1-K?" asked Footman.
Hale swallowed, but said levelly, "At the moment, statistics on infant death and insanity, sir, in the Kirov and Arbat districts of Moscow…uh, in the period from 1884 through 1890."
"Oh no, d-don't t-tell me, 1-K!" Philby was laughing so hard that he could barely speak. "You never n-know, I might be a sp-spy! Loose lips-sink ships, b-boy! Insane Russian in-fin-fants in the 1880s! I trust the Church"-he had to draw a hitching breath to finish the sentence-"the Churchill g-government is being advised daily of your p-progress!"
Hale's face was hot, but he nodded civilly and stepped past the two men to push open the door to the electrically lit white-tiled stairway. And as he tapped down the steps toward the third floor, he heard Philby's echoing voice say to Footman, "Do you know why the st-stairs in this place look like a p-public lavatory? Because only sh-shits ever come in here!"
Philby's laughter rang on the tile until the door clanked shut.
In fact, it was not to be until the war had been over for six weeks, and he was sent to Berlin, that Hale himself took his SIS job seriously.
Broadway Buildings was a nine-story office building at 54 Broadway, two streets south of St. James's Park and just across the street from the St. James's Park tube station. A brass plaque by the front entrance read Minimax Fire Extinguisher Company, though the only such precautions Hale noticed in the dark corridors of the place were red-painted fire buckets filled with sand and hung on hooks beside each of the frosted-glass office doors.
On Hale's first morning at Broadway, Theodora had taken him in to Footman's fourth-floor office.
"David!" Theodora had said jovially. "What vacancies have you got on the Section One staff?"
Footman had looked at Theodora and Hale with caution. "Well, 1-K never responded to the Reserve call-up."
"Then here he is at last. This is Andrew Hale, and he's on loan from the Special Operations Executive. We'll see to his pay-all you need do is tell the War Office that 1-K is onboard and has been seconded to SOE for special duties."
And so Hale had been given the identity of the missing 1-K, complete with an in-house lapel badge that gave his birth-date as having been in 1870, which would make him seventy-two years old now. The twenty-year-old Hale supposed that the real 1-K had probably died of old age.
Immediately after his release from the Ham Common compound, Hale had given Theodora a long and nearly complete account of his three months in occupied Paris-though he had found himself unable to tell the older man about things like the scorched garret floor, the quasi-voices from the radio head-phones, and the way his ankh belt had appeared to carry him across the gap between the rooftops-and he was still far too Catholic and young to tell Theodora that he had gone to bed with a Red Army agent-and now he wondered if his reticences at that interview had been noticed and had somehow led to this dead-end position.
He often had to remind himself, We also serve who only stand and wait.
Out in the world, the German Panzers fought their way east toward Stalingrad and the British Eighth Army defeated Rommel at El Alamein, but through some apparently random bureaucratic fiat Hale's time was spent in becoming an expert on obscure facets of late-nineteenth-century Moscow. The SIS mathematicians at Bletchley Park were rumored to have cracked a high-level German code, and the SOE cowboys were reportedly blowing up bridges in North Africa and parachuting agents into the Balkans, but the files routed to Hale's desk were all…treatises like "Evidences of Secret Construction in the Basement of the Anchor Insurance Company in Moscow in 1884" and "Coriolis Force Singularities: Incidence of Anomalous Rotational Meteorological Phenomena in Moscow, 1910-1930" and "Metallic Debris in Moscow Rainstorms (Spec.: Wedding Rings and Tooth-Fillings)."
Many of these files were addenda to older investigations, and in order to sign them off in good conscience Hale frequently had to locate and read as much as he could of the primary work. The SIS registry was a chaotic mess, with operational and personal files just stacked in boxes along the corridors, so he often took a car from the motor-pool garage and drove north to St. Albans, where the tidy MI5 Registry archives were kept in a Victorian mansion in King Harry Lane. To his initial surprise, his SOE/SIS credentials got him access to even the most-secret files, many of which were kept in cellophane envelopes and handled with tweezers because of having been charred in a 1940 bombing.
And for getting Russian documents translated he found himself having to consult the weird old women in the MI5 Soviet Transcription Center. This was located in another St. Albans house, in a tiny room which these fugitive White Russians had converted into a little anachronistic corner of Tsarist St. Petersburg, with carved wooden saint-icons standing among the dictaphone cylinders and acetate gramophone disks on the shelves, and a perpetual perfume of tea from the steaming samovar in the corner. To these wizened babushkas the NKVD was still the Cheka or even the pre-revolution Okhrana, and they took a particularly intense interest in Hale's researches, often pausing to cross themselves as they translated some musty old report of a Russian expedition to Turkey in 1883 or a description of burned grass around little coin-sized eruption holes in the grave plots of Moscow cemeteries. All of these old grandmothers were of the Russian Orthodox faith, but Hale noticed-uneasily-that their use of the term guardian angel was hesitant and fearful, and always accompanied by them splashing their lumpy old fingers in the holy water font by the locked door.
When carbon-copy transcripts of current SOE interrogations began to be delivered to his desk, relayed to him because of their being cross-referenced under the "Ararat" or "Lubyanka" or "Tsar Alexander III" categories, he felt that he had no honest choice but to visit the SOE establishments where the prisoners and refugees were being kept, and through translators ask the rootless foreigners about his antique concerns. The SOE had rented so many old country estates, in Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire and Surrey, that the acronym was said to stand for "Stately 'Omes of England," and Hale became accustomed to the sight of sandbags and steel tripods on old Tudor stairways, and trestle tables and wire baskets in paneled bedrooms, and cheap colored photographs of the King on walls where pale patches indicated grander pictures recently taken away.
Most of the foreigners he questioned knew nothing relevant to his disjointed researches, and the SOE personnel were sometimes impatient with his interruptions of operational interrogations, but his credentials led them all to believe that at the very least he was compiling some sort of official history, and they were often respectful and generally civil.
Ultimately Hale did begin to suspect that there was a single story behind many of the old reports and rumors he was investigating: from Armenian fugitives he learned that an earthquake had shaken Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey in 1883 and knocked down a lot of ancient standing stones around the 17,000-foot level; Russian and Turkish scientists had visited the site, and subsequently a Russian team went to the mountain with wagons, and then went away by train to Moscow; and until the Turkish Army evacuated all the Armenians from the area in 1915, Armenian blacksmiths had hammered on their anvils every day, even on Sundays and holidays, hoping by their staccato ringing noise to keep something from descending the mountain. And from White Russians and exiled Trotskyites he heard stories about ancient carved stones set up in the deepest cellars of the Yakor or Anchor Insurance Company at Bolshaya Lubyanka 11, which in 1918 became the headquarters of the Cheka and was known and dreaded forever after as the Lubyanka.
And there were clues that seemed related, but which he couldn't connect. He was told that an effigy had been made of the tunic and death mask and plaster-cast hands of Feliks Dzerzhinsky, the first head of the Cheka, and set up in a glass coffin at the NKVD Officers' Club near Red Square; and that novice NKVD officers were required to lay flowers and wreaths before the thing in certain seasons and pray to it, and that the thing sometimes shifted its plaster hands or even spoke through the parted plaster lips in response, though not in Russian. And he learned that the ancient name of Ankara might have been a Greek word for anchor, and that ancient Turkish coins bore the bas-relief of an Egyptian anchor, which was a rectangle with a loop at the top; the Egyptian anchors had been carved out of stone, and one of his informants drew a picture of one for him, and even drew a cross on the rectangle, so that the resemblance to the Egyptian looped cross, the ankh, was obvious. And many of the Muscovite fugitives mentioned the peculiar rancid, metallic smell of Moscow air, which was attributed to cheap Soviet diesel oil.