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Authors: Bill Granger

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The November Man

BOOK: The November Man
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This book is for Herman Kogan, a ferocious editor and writer in Chicago, who once told a young man that he should write books.

If you think we are worked by strings,

Like a Japanese marionette,

You don’t understand these things:

It is simply Court etiquette.

Perhaps you suppose this throng

Can’t keep it up all day long?

If that’s your idea, you’re wrong.

—W. S. G


This book reflects a struggle going on in the world of intelligence between those who deny the usefulness of agents, contractors, case officers, and all the other personnel involved in the business of espionage and those who defend the worth of HUMINT (human intelligence and analysis) in the face of the technological revolution.

New York Times
gathered estimates by intelligence officials, who agree that 85 percent of all information gained by the various U.S. intelligence agencies comes from ELINT (electronic signal intelligence), SIGINT (signal intelligence), PHOTINT (photo intelligence), RADINT (radar intelligence), and all the “hardware” sources, opposed to the information gained by spies (HUMINT).

Intelligence analyst Walter Laqueur noted in
A World of Secrets
that “the need for HUMINT has not decreased, but it has become fashionable to denigrate the importance of human assets because technical means are politically and intellectually more comfortable. On the other hand, the opportunities for hostile intelligence agents operating
in democratic societies are incomparably greater than for their Western counterparts.”

In 1985, there was a furious exchange of spies between East and West before the Reagan–Gorbachev summit. In every case of a mole’s “defection” to his true side, another agent in the field was picked up by the side sinned against. In one bizarre case, a Soviet KGB agent who “defected” West later “redefected” to the Soviet embassy in Washington, claiming he had been kidnapped. Central Intelligence Agency denied his claims. In 1986, a Chinese double agent buried inside CIA claimed he had worked for China for two decades to improve relations between the countries and not for monetary gain—though he had to take the money to convince the Chinese he was a legitimate traitor. He committed suicide, according to official reports, by putting a plastic bag over his head in his cell and voluntarily suffocating himself.

These things are all true; these things are all reflected in this book.

—Bill Granger

Chicago, 1986


n a little while, she had to go away. There were assignments in the East, in the Philippines, then back to Washington… She gave him the itinerary, she fussed about him. It was a way of making love to him.

This was the other way. Rita moved beneath him and her belly bumped his belly. They were tangles of arms, they were tastes and smells; they mingled with each other. Devereaux was never so lost as when he made love to her. Never so abandoned. There were no cold places in him when he made love to her. He cried out like a lost child when he came. She held his shuddering body with legs, arms, hands, pressed him into her. She closed her eyes very tight to feel the wonder of this very common act they shared with nearly every other member of the species.

Let me be lost in you.

They shivered in pleasure in each other and then fell away like flowers thrown on a still pond. They never spoke when they made love; lovemaking was too true for
words. He didn’t trust words. Words lied. You could say anything.

And they both heard the telephone ringing from the next room, though it was in the middle of the morning, in Lausanne, at the edge of the world they had fled from…


ired,” Hanley said on the third Tuesday in February. He repeated the word several times to himself, alone in his windowless cubicle that was the office of the director of operations. He blinked, looked around at the white walls of the cold, bare room, and said the word again. It was as though everything familiar to him had drained his life away.

He said the word again to Miss Smurtty in the outer office and by then he had his hat on. He shrugged into his overcoat as he walked along the hall to the elevator bank on the sixth floor. He repeated the word to the security policeman at the elevator bank. The policeman said nothing.

Hanley said the word like a man searching memory for words to a song at the edge of the mind.

He went home and it wasn’t even noon yet.

He took to his bed.

Each morning thereafter, he called in by nine. He talked to the same woman in personnel and recorded his absence. He said he was ill because he felt so tired. He explained to the woman in personnel how tired he felt.
And he stayed out sick the rest of the month of February. It was the first time in twenty-one years that Hanley had missed a day of work.

He was the good civil servant. As director of operations for R Section, he had a love for the Section that transcended mere identification with a job or mission.

The tiredness colored all his thoughts. He would lie in bed at night and listen to the roar of traffic beneath his apartment windows. He lived on the third floor of a large apartment building at the juncture of Massachusetts and Wisconsin avenues in northwest Washington. The rooms were large and airy but all the light was gray because it was spring in Washington and always raining.

Hanley sat by the window in his apartment in the afternoons and looked down at the cars climbing up the hill from DuPont Circle and around the Naval Observatory grounds where the Vice President’s white house sat in splendid isolation. Hanley thought too much. He thought about the Vice President having a better view and neighborhood to live in than the President trapped in the tangle of the central city. Hanley thought the traffic was very thick and very loud; it was like undergrowth around a neglected house. The weeds had grown and grown until one day there was nothing to be done but burn them off and tear the old house down and start again.

Hanley wept when he thought such things.

He had been growing more and more tired for weeks before he decided to take sick leave. Dr. Thompson’s pills did not seem to help him but he took them with precise faithfulness. He was a man of habits. He was cold and thin and his voice was flat as the Nebraska plains he had come from.

He thought of the child he had been. He wept when he thought of himself.

Once in a while he thought he would have to get better. He was director of operations for R Section and that meant he was director of spies. The master of the marionettes. But he was ill now and the spies were being left to dance without direction. This couldn’t go on. It mustn’t go on.

On March 1, the doctor came.

Dr. Thompson was vetted twice a year. He had taken his annual lie detector test in January. He was thirty-four years old and very nearly incompetent, which is why he was only employable by a government agency. Before joining the Section, he had nearly been stripped of his license to practice in his native Oregon because of some damned business involving surgery on a woman where the wrong organs had been removed. It had not been his fault.

Thompson carried a top secret clearance and had access to secrets to the level of N. He was a jolly young man with a pink face and a hearty, almost English manner. He slapped his hands together when he talked; he resembled Alec Guinness in early films.

Hanley allowed the prodding. It was government procedure. Thompson talked and poked and made Hanley cough; he tapped at his back and asked him to urinate into a jar and took a blood sample and talked about the Washington Redskins and laughed too much. Hanley endured it. He wanted not to feel so tired.

For no reason, Hanley began to weep. Thompson stared at him and asked him why he was crying. Hanley excused himself, went to the bathroom, wiped his eyes, and looked at his thin, cold, old sallow face.

“Why are you crying?” he asked himself.

When the ordeal was over, Hanley buttoned his pajama shirt and slipped the gray bathrobe over his thin shoulders and resumed his seat in the large chair by the front windows.

There were books strewn on the floor around the chair. He had been reading Somerset Maugham. He had been reading autobiography disguised as fiction in which Maugham, who had been a British agent in the First War, describes himself as “Ashenden, the secret agent.” And Ashenden takes a ferry one day across Lake Geneva, from France to neutral Switzerland, and…

Hanley had read the story over and over. He didn’t understand why. He didn’t understand why he was so tired.

“You need rest,” Dr. Thompson said. “You need to get some sun, get some color into those cheeks. Stop moping about. You took the pills I prescribed?”

“They seem to make me more tired.”

“They’re supposed to relax you,” Thompson said. “Listen to your doctor.” Smiled. “Go to Florida. Get some sun. Plenty of sun down there. Shouldn’t mope around here.”

Hanley thought of Florida. He had never been there. He blinked and looked out the window at his city, a place he had used and grown to love through use. They were going to tear down the café down on Fourteenth Street where he had gone to lunch every working day. Every working day of thirty-five years of work and they were going to tear it down.

He blinked and his vision was as wet as the rain-streaked windows. Thompson was talking to him. The voice droned.

Hanley thought of all the places he knew so intimately
and had never seen. Like Number 2, Dhzerzhinski Square, Moscow. That ugly gray building—the headquarters of Committee for State Security. KGB. He knew it as an old enemy. It was nearly the same as knowing an old friend.

“What do you say to that?”

Hanley looked up and Thompson was beaming his professional beam.

“What do I say to what?”

“Hospitalization. A complete rest cure.”

“No.” Hanley’s voice was quick. “No. If I’m sick, I’m sick. If I’m not sick, I don’t need a hospital.”

“You need rest.”

“You can’t get rest in a hospital.”

Dr. Thompson frowned.

Hanley turned away, stared at the street below, stared at the traffic. The goddamn traffic. The noise pounded at his thoughts day and night. No wonder he was tired. Where were all those people going to? Did they live in their cars?

Hanley blinked and felt his eyes moisten again. He had never noticed the traffic before. His thoughts seemed to go in circles. What had he been thinking of—he had to get well, get back to Operations, see to the delicate business of Nutcracker.

He thought of Nutcracker.

He thought of the toy nutcracker from Germany he had owned as a child. Given to him one Christmas by a long-ago great-aunt. A child’s toy. Fierce and bristling in guard’s uniform, with a mustache and horrible large teeth.

He smiled as suddenly as he wept. He felt warm. He wanted Thompson to go away. The warmth of memory filled him. He had to get back to Section, back to seeing
what was wrong with Nutcracker. Director of spies. To play the great game as he saw it in his mind.

“… medication,” Thompson concluded.

Hanley nodded, said nothing. He took the prescription sheet and looked at it. He waited for Thompson to leave.

Yackley listened to Thompson, asked him two questions and dismissed him.

It was the same afternoon. It had stopped raining. The sky was full of clouds and warm winds billowed along Fourteenth Street, cracking the flags on government buildings. Yackley’s office on the sixth floor of the south Department of Agriculture building had a large window that looked across the street at the dour Bureau of Engraving building.

Yackley was not pleased by anything Thompson told him about Hanley.

Yackley was director of R Section. Hanley worked for him. Hanley was letting the Section down.

Yackley stood at his window, looked down at his view, and thought about his Section. He was a political appointment from the early Reagan days. He was an attorney, a Republican, wealthy enough to work for the government. He took a Level Four polygraph examination once a year to maintain his Ultra clearance. He had access to level X in security and in the computer system called Tinkertoy.

Yackley was called the New Man by his derisive subordinates, including Hanley. They thought he was an ass; he knew that. He had replaced Rear Admiral Galloway (USN Retired) as head of Section because Galloway had stubbed his toes badly in some Section business in Florida. Galloway had been the Old Man.

Thompson had told him: “He won’t go.”

“Damn. He won’t go. Did you talk to him?”

“He wasn’t listening to me.”

“This was important,
.” Yackley had put heavy emphasis on the last word, as though he didn’t believe it. He could have saved the sarcasm; Thompson was immune.

He would have to do something else.

Yackley felt nervous when he had to do something. Something on his own. Maybe he needed advice. Maybe he should consult his “rabbi.” Maybe he didn’t have to act right away.

The thoughts flung themselves one after the other through his mind. Yackley went back to his rosewood desk and sat down in the $455 leather swivel chair. He swiveled and put his hands behind his head to aid thought. He frowned. He thought about Hanley and the goddamn agent Devereaux and the business in Florida in which Galloway had stubbed his toes and been fired. It had been Hanley’s doing. And Devereaux’s. Hanley wanted to be head of Section. That’s what Yackley thought from time to time: A goddamned civil servant wanted to be head of Section.

Scheming. Hanley was scheming and it was all against Yackley because Hanley hated Yackley’s success. Yackley had issued a directive saying that, in order to “downtrim” the budget of Section, “cutbacks were needed in every sector” and that the effort would succeed only “if we all realize we are in this boat together and help pull each other’s oars.”

There had been any number of obscene drawings on Section bathroom walls showing Yackley pulling the oars of others.

It wasn’t funny. And Hanley—that was something Hanley would have dreamed up. To undermine his authority.

So Yackley had tapped Hanley for six months. Home and away. The taps were designed by the National Security Agency, which is the “hardware” supplier to the other intelligence services, including R Section. The taps were perfected and installed by Richfield, the Section’s own ELINT man and resident “hardware” genius. As well as the supreme loyalist.

Yackley squinted at the words of the transcript of the taps. Damned good thing he had tapped Hanley; should have done it years before.

February 21, time: 1:02
Electronic count indicates the telephone number is: Country—Switzerland; City—Lausanne; Number 28-23-56.


(Silence for five seconds.)

Hello? Hello?

(Silence for two seconds.)

Hello? Someone say something.

What do you want?

There’s a problem and I think I am beginning to understand it and I have to tell someone. I’ve discovered—

I don’t care. I’m not in the trade. (Pause.) There is no November.

That’s just it. No November. There are no spies. I think I can tell you. I need to tell you. And did you know that your duplicate November is on his way to Moscow?

(Silence for five seconds.)


I’m not in the trade, Hanley. That was our agreement. I don’t exist. November is some man running away from a wet contract.

A wet contract from Moscow. And now the man you tagged November is running right into the arms of the Opposition. Why is that?

I don’t care. Don’t call me anymore.

(Broken connection.)

February 23, time: 1:13
Electronic count indicates the same country, city, and telephone number as previous conversation.


I’m not interested in talking to you.

Listen. For just one minute. I’ve got to tell someone this, I’ve got to talk it out to someone who understands. Who understands what’s going on in Section. Someone who isn’t in Section anymore.

Are you drunk, Hanley? Has the one-martini lunch finally gotten out of control after all these years?

(garbled) has to be at the highest levels. Do you understand?

I am not in the trade. That was our agreement.


The pills. I stopped taking them and I don’t feel as bad. Are the pills… something wrong? I sleep all the time and then I wake up and I can’t sleep. I never knew there was so much traffic, all day and
night, you can’t sleep. Where are all those people going?

Home. You go home, too.

I am home.

Then have a drink and go to sleep.

My lunch. They are going to tear down the place on Fourteenth Street. I went there every day of my life. A martini straight up and a cheeseburger with raw onion. One martini. I knew all the people there. And Mr. Sianis said to me, “Mr. Hanley, I have to sell the place because they are going to put up a trade center.”

Why are you calling me? Leave me alone. Everything is over.

Damnit. You never leave the service. You know that. You’re in for life. And I’ve told you that.

November is going to Moscow. You said it. November does not exist.

(portion missing) the secret, the point of the thing, when it comes down to it, it might just be that simple.

What are you talking about?

I read Somerset Maugham over and over.
About the secret agent in World War I, he reminded me that you were in Lausanne and that you probably took the same ferry boats between France and Switzerland that he did. All those years ago. When it was accepted finally. The need for spies. Reilly. Maugham. The people in BritIntell—I thought about you when I read those stories. Because of the location. You took that ferry.


I am not insane. I am not going insane. I am tired and I have time to think about things. I mean, sanity is understanding where your feet are planted, isn’t it? But I’m off my feet, I don’t have perspective anymore.

Seek professional help.

Sarcasm. You have to help—


(interrupted) secret. I think of one thing and think of another. I had a nutcracker when I was a child and—

Good-bye, Hanley.

Wait. There are no spies. That’s what it means. There are no spies at all. But that’s not true. That’s the one thing I realize now. That’s not true.


BOOK: The November Man
9.93Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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