Read The Old Boys Online

Authors: Charles McCarry

Tags: #Espionage, #Fiction

The Old Boys

BOOK: The Old Boys
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O
THER NOVELS BY
C
HARLES
M
C
C
ARRY

Lucky Bastard

Shelley’s Heart

Second Sight

The Bride of the Wilderness

The Last Supper

The Better Angels

The Secret Lovers

The Tears of Autumn

The Miernik Dossier

Copyright

First published in the United States in 2004 by
The Overlook Press, Peter Mayer Publishers, Inc.
Woodstock & New York

W
OODSTOCK:

One Overlook Drive

Woodstock, NY 12498

www.overlookpress.com

[for individual orders, bulk and special sales, contact our Woodstock office]

N
EW
Y
ORK:

141 Wooster Street

New York, NY 10012

Copyright © 2004 by Charles McCarry

All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system now known or to be invented without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who wishes to quote brief passages in connection with a review written for inclusion in a magazine, newspaper, or broadcast.

ISBN 978-1-4683-0030-7

For E. F. L. and N. C. S.

Contents

Other Novels By Charles Mccarry

Copyright

Prologue

One

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Two

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Three

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Four

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Five

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Six

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Seven

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Eight

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Nine

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Ten

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Epilogue

To The Reader

PROLOGUE

On the night that Paul Christopher vanished, he and I dined together at his house on O Street: cold watercress soup, very rare cold roast beef, undercooked asparagus, pears and cheese, a respectable bottle of Oregonian pinot noir. It was a fine evening in May. The windows were open. We smelled azaleas in the garden and saw reflected in mirrors and window glass the last bruised colors of the sunset. There was nothing special about the occasion. Paul and I are cousins who lived around the corner from each other, and before he went away we used to join up for dinner a couple of times a month. My name is Horace Christopher Hubbard. His middle name is Hubbard.

The dinner was the usual one: small portions, small noises of cutlery on china, small talk. Paul’s stomach had been shrunk by the decade he spent in a Chinese prison, and his appetite for deep conversation, never large, was extinguished altogether by Maoist interrogators. This reluctance to waste words drove away his much younger second wife, a woman who never found a bone she did not want to worry. He lived alone now, visited from time to time by his two daughters, whom he loved, and a few friends who were not interested in asking questions. Paul is fifteen years older than me—too large a difference to make equality possible. Since childhood I have admired him greatly—his intelligence, his courage, his adeptness above all; seldom a wrong move or word from Paul. As a youngster I tried to be like him in as many ways as possible.

Of
course this was hopeless. Nevertheless, there are many connections besides blood between us. We both served for many years in the Outfit, as we Old Boys call the U.S. intelligence service, never among ourselves referring to it by the three vulgar initials employed by headline writers and other outsiders. I doubt that I would have become a spy if Paul had not led the way. And unless you count a remote ancestor who was captured by the Mohawk Indians, Paul and I are the only members of our families to have gone to jail— even though he was innocent of the charges the Chinese laid against him, whereas I was as guilty as sin. I broke not only the law but also all the rules by confessing, as a witness in a presidential impeachment trial in the United States Senate, that I had used a supercomputer belonging to the Outfit to steal a presidential election. After pleading guilty I was sentenced to five years behind bars and served every day of my term in a federal prison for gentlemen in Pennsylvania. I was deprived by the court of my government pension, frog-marched through the media, and taken to the cleaners by lawyers—just deserts in all cases. I was able to pay the legal bills because Paul loaned me the money. He visited me in prison twice a month, bringing books, magazines, and gourmet snacks from fancy grocers. Underneath all that self-control, Paul is a bit of a sybarite.

The Paul Christopher who disappeared was in his seventies but still in excellent condition—not a gray hair in his dark blond thatch, not an extra pound on his body. He looked not at all like my side of the family, but like pictures of his mother. She looked like someone Dürer would have drawn. Paul had always been good at games and he still looked and in fact was athletic, playing tennis with younger opponents, running every morning in the park, and in summer digging and then refilling ditches in the stony soil of the family’s summer place in Massachusetts. In China, as part of the hard labor to which he had been sentenced, he had single-handedly dug a perfectly straight ditch several miles long in the flinty earth near his prison. It has since been covered over, but if you know what to look for you can see it in old spy satellite photos.
I suppose he developed a liking for this kind of solitary hard labor, or a need to be reminded of it. His mind remained as it had always been, contemplative yet swirling with neatly filed arcane facts, haunted by memories that I myself could not have borne, and against all odds, utterly sane.

It was dark by the time we finished our meal. As the light failed the many pictures in the long room suddenly were illuminated by little frame lights switched on by automatic timers. In Paul’s paintings, mostly inherited and mostly romantic, honeyed shafts of sunlight fell through windows, revealing a beautiful face or a perfect pear or some other trick of pigment—images the two of us had known all our lives. In an Edward Hicks painting I had never liked, vacant-eyed cows and sheep grazed among lamblike wolves and lions in the Peaceable Kingdom. Though not present in these pictures, our childhood also became in some way present: spectral cats of my boyhood, long ago gone to cat heaven, curled up beneath the paintings on sofas and chairs. Ghostly old dogs snored on old familiar rugs.

Finishing the wine, sitting in the dark surrounded by these pools of light and color, Paul and I talked for a while about the Christophers and the Hubbards, who have married one another for generations, sowing confusion at baptisms. Paul’s father and mine, born on the same day of boy-girl Christopher twins who married Hubbards, looked so much alike—tall bony horse-faced men like me—that strangers mistook
them
for twins even though one was dark and the other blond.

Around nine o’clock we ran out of things to say. Paul suggested that he walk me home. This was unusual; I supposed he had some errand to run after dropping me off, a bottle of milk, a newspaper. On the front steps, after twisting the key in the lock, he handed it to me. “New key,” he said. New alarm code, too.” He told me the code, a familiar name easy to remember, easy to enter on the alphanumeric pad. “Got it?”

“Yes.”

Paul nodded, as if something important had been settled. We
walked on narrow frost-heaved pavement through quiet streets, sniffed by small dogs whose leashes were held by lofty government servants and two-hundred-dollar-an-hour lawyers. It was a Friday night. Once or twice we were crowded off the sidewalk by halfnaked, lovely teenage girls from the suburbs who had driven into the city to make the Georgetown scene.

In front of my house, a very small wooden one, Paul said, “Horace, I have a favor to ask.”

He spoke in an unusually strong voice. I was apprehensive. First the key and the alarm code. Now this.

I said, “Go on.”

“I want you to be the executor of my will.”

I felt a certain relief. “Gladly,” I said. “But I’m a convicted felon.” “That makes no difference; I’ve checked. I’ve already paid Stephanie her share and set up trusts for Zarah and Lori. All that’s left is remnants from the past. Things the girls shouldn’t be bothered with.”

“All right. What are your instructions?”

“I’ve put them in writing,” Paul replied. “You’ll find a notarized letter addressed to yourself and my will in a safe under the desk in my study.” He smiled.”You’ll have to use all your old secret powers to find the safe. It’s hidden.”

“I don’t doubt it. And to open it?”

He handed me half a notebook page with the combination written across the top in his spidery foreign handwriting, learned as a child in German schools.

“Do you expect I may have to open the safe any time soon?” I asked.

Paul said,”I’m healthy as a horse. The combination is a date.”

I looked. So it was—a year from tomorrow.

“Open it on that day.” Paul said, “or before, if circumstances seem to warrant it.”

“What circumstances?”

“You’ll know, Cousin,” said Paul. He shook my hand, gave a little salute that turned into a wave, and walked away.

Dramatic
gestures were not Paul Christopher’s style. His behavior worried me. What on earth was he up to? I knew that it was impossible to follow Paul without being detected, so I went inside my house, switched on the television set, and sat down in the dark to watch
Key Largo
. Half an hour later, about the time Lauren Bacall spits in Edward G. Robinson’s face, I left by the back door, got into my car, and working to strict rules of tradecraft as I might have done in Beijing thirty years before, drove by a circuitous route to Paul’s house.

There was no more light inside the house than there had been when I left, but through the window I could see that Paul was talking to a slender black man, not an American. They were standing. The man was very tall, he towered over Paul, with a handsome Arab face and a beautifully barbered white beard. The suit he wore fit his whiplike body perfectly, and could only have been cut in London.

The man inside handed Paul a large yellow envelope. Paul opened it and withdrew a piece of paper. No, a photograph. I focused the glasses. I thought I saw a face in the photograph. No, a hand. Holding something. A book? A letter?

Inside, Paul carried the photograph to one of the picture lamps and studied it for a long moment. He looked away, studied it again. And when he lifted his impassive face it seemed to me, impossible though such a thing might be, that tears glistened in his eyes.

A
trick of the light and the mind, I thought. What right had I to see him so? I went away. When I came back in the morning, Paul was gone, like the cats that were no more.

BOOK: The Old Boys
3.96Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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