Authors: Jeremy Duns
Jeremy Duns grew up in Africa and Asia, and his journalism has been published by
The Daily Telegraph
The Sunday Times
. He lives in Stockholm, Sweden.
Published by the Penguin Group
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First published in Great Britain by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd 2009
First published in the United States of America by Viking Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc. 2009
Published in Penguin Books 2010
Song of Treason:
First published in Great Britain as
by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd 2010
The Moscow Option:
First published in Great Britain by Simon & Schuster UK Ltd 2012
This omnibus edition published in Penguin Books 2012
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Copyright © JJD Productions, 2009
All rights reserved
Song of Treason:
Copyright © JJD Productions, 2010
All rights reserved
The Moscow Option:
Copyright © JJD Productions, 2012
All rights reserved
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
LIBRARY OF CONGRESS CATALOGING-IN-PUBLICATION DATA
Duns, Jeremy, 1973–
The Dark chronicles : a spy trilogy : Free agent, Song of treason, The Moscow option / Jeremy Duns. —Omnibus ed.
p. cm—(A Penguin mystery)
1. Intelligence officers—Fiction. I. Title.
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For Johanna, Rebecca and Astrid
‘Man is not the creature of circumstances; circumstances are the creatures of men. We are free agents, and man is more powerful than matter.’
by Benjamin Disraeli
As I edged the car onto the gravel, the front door of the house swung open and Chief’s steely grey eyes stared down at me. ‘What the hell took you so long?’ he hissed as I made my way up the steps. But before I could answer, he had turned on his heels.
I followed the sound of his slippers gently slapping against the floorboards, down the dark oak-lined corridor. I knew from years of working for him that the best thing to do when he was in this sort of mood was not to react – his gruff tone usually gave way quite quickly, and more often than not he ended our sessions treating me like the son he’d never had. So I resisted the temptation to tell him I had driven up in record time, and instead hung my coat on one of the hooks in the hallway. Then I walked into the living room and seated myself in the nearest armchair.
It had been a while since I’d last visited Chief out here, but little had changed. There were a couple of porcelain birds I didn’t remember, and a new
bookcase that looked similar to the one he had in his office. But the framed photographs on the piano, the portrait of his father above the mantelpiece and the golf bag propped against the fireplace were all still in place. A selection of books and papers were spread across a garish Turkish carpet at the foot of one of the armchairs, and a sideboard within easy reach was home to a telephone, an inkwell and what looked like a half-eaten egg sandwich. He still hadn’t learned to cook since Joan’s death, it seemed.
I imagined him nibbling the sandwich as he had barked down the telephone at me less than two hours earlier. He had refused to give any hints as to what he wanted to discuss, and I was naturally intrigued. What could be so urgent that it couldn’t wait for tomorrow’s nine o’clock meeting? One possibility that had nagged at me all the way from London was that he had somehow found out I was seeing Vanessa and was so furious he wanted to dismiss me on the spot.
I thought back over the day. Had I been careless somewhere? We had visited a small art gallery in Hampstead in the morning but there hadn’t been another soul in the place apart from the owner, and after that we had spent the entire afternoon at her flat, pushing the sheets to the bottom of the bed. Then I’d headed to mine for a quick shave and change of clothes. We had arranged to meet at Ronnie Scott’s at midnight: there was a hot young group from the States she wanted to see. But then the call had come through, with the request to come and see him at my ‘earliest convenience’.
It wasn’t convenient at all, of course. Vanessa and I rarely had a whole weekend together, and it had taken careful planning – perhaps not careful enough, though.
‘Something to drink?’ Chief called over his shoulder from the sideboard. ‘I have some Becherovka, which I remember you used to enjoy.’
going on? A few moments ago he had been furious; now he was buttering me up. When he’d been Head of Station in Czechoslovakia in ’62, we had often shared a few glasses of this local liqueur in his office.
‘Good times,’ I said. ‘Have you kept some back since then? I can’t imagine anyone stocks it in the village shop.’
He poured a few glugs of the stuff into a tumbler and passed it over. ‘Barnes finds it for me,’ he said.
Barnes was a Mau Mau veteran he had reluctantly taken on as a minder when he had been appointed Chief. He had resisted all entreaties for Barnes to be allowed to move into the house, claiming
that the place had been his weekend retreat for years and he wasn’t about to have it invaded by a stranger. So Barnes rented a cottage in the neighbouring village, and popped his head in as regularly as he could without annoying the old bugger too much. Apparently, he also made sure he never ran out of booze.
Chief settled back into his armchair and raised his glass solemnly towards me, seemingly in a toast. As I lifted mine in return, I was surprised to catch the scent of Vanessa’s sex still on my fingertips. I breathed it in, and its rawness overcame me for a moment.
‘One never quite gets used to it,’ he said softly, ‘does one?’
I looked at him blankly. ‘I’m sorry, sir?’
He pointed at his glass. ‘My Prague poison, Joan used to call it. Do you remember?’
He gave a short uncharacteristic laugh, which I did my best to imitate.
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘I do remember.’
I was relieved, but also, I realized, a little disappointed that he apparently wasn’t about to sack me, after all. I’d become so bloody soft I had actually been looking forward to a bit of drama.
Chief was leaning down, running his hand through the papers at his feet. Then he gave a triumphant snort and edged a manila folder out from beneath a copy of
. He fished it up and placed it on his knees. It was a file from the office – a new one, by the look of it.
‘Bad news, I’m afraid,’ he said, handing it to me. ‘Traitor country.’
The folder had been sent by diplomatic bag from our station in Nigeria and concerned one Vladimir Mikhailovich Slavin, a cultural attaché at the Soviet Embassy in Lagos. He had turned up at our High Commission there on Friday evening and announced that he wanted to defect.
It was a slim folder: as well as a transcript of the interview with Slavin in Russian and an English translation of the same, it contained
a page of notes by the Chief of Station, Manning, and two grainy, passport-sized photographs that had been taken at some point in the previous two years as part of the station’s routine surveillance of foreign diplomatic staff. It had a very restricted distribution: just Chief and Heads of Section.
It took me a good ten minutes to get through it. I found that I desperately wanted a cigarette, but as there was nothing more certain to get Chief’s dander up than that, I made do with drumming my hands on the arms of the chair.
‘High stakes,’ he muttered, tapping his glass with his fingers.
That was an understatement. Slavin claimed to be a colonel in the KGB and was asking to be smuggled out of Nigeria to a new home in England. In return, he was promising to reveal information about a British agent who had been recruited by Moscow in 1945.
Since Burgess and Maclean had fled to Moscow in ’51, several Soviet agents had been uncovered in the Service, Five and elsewhere. Philby had been the biggest blow – he had been tipped by many for the top. In the six years since his disappearance, the Service had become almost paralysed by the fear that other traitors remained undetected. I’d lost count of the number of officers whose pasts had been put under the microscope; I had even faced questioning myself.
‘Has Henry seen this yet, sir?’ I asked. Henry Pritchard headed up Africa Section; as Slavin was in Nigeria, he would be heavily involved.
Chief nodded. ‘I had it hand-delivered to the homes of all Heads of Section a few hours ago, apart from Edmund, who’s still away – his went to Smale instead. Because you and Henry will be taking the lead on this, I attached invitations to your copies asking you to come round this evening. Station 12 told me you’d been out when they called round, which is why I rang you up myself.’
Station 12 was the messenger service. ‘I see,’ I said. ‘Sorry about that – I was at a concert for most of the afternoon. Was Henry not in either, then?’
He shook his head briskly. ‘No, he got it. I scheduled him for a
bit later, though, because I wanted to talk it through with you first. See what you made of it.’
I stood up and walked over to the fireplace, trying to think of a suitable answer.
‘Could Slavin be a plant?’ I asked, but when I turned round I saw he was already shaking his head. It surprised me he felt so certain: several recent defectors were suspected of being Trojan horses, sent over by Moscow to make outrageous allegations so the Service would chase its own tail.