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Authors: Evelyn Anthony

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‘Oh I don't know,' Loder sounded quite genial. ‘Things have a way of turning out for the best. Let's suppose I'm right, and Sverdlov thinks he'll set you up as an agent. We could pass him a whole lot of dud information through you. It could be very useful.'

‘I've told you,' Judith said wearily, ‘you're wrong. You're so wrong it's ridiculous. He'll never try to do that. I know him.'

‘Do you?' Loder looked at her, his mouth pursed up. ‘I doubt that, Mrs. Farrow. I doubt that very much. Now just forget I've been to see you, understand? Go to your work, see your friends, do everything you usually do, and don't get worried if your phone's tapped. It'll be the Yanks. If Sverdlov doesn't contact you, then I'll apologise. But I don't think I'll have to—the moment you hear from him, you call me at this number. You'll do that, won't you?' He put a card with a Washington exchange and number printed on it, propped against the cigarette box on the table beside her. ‘Won't you? You won't do anything silly and try playing with fire, like seeing Sverdlov and not telling us?'

‘No,' Judith said. ‘I promise I won't do that. But I'm going to tell you something else. If he gets in touch with me I'll let you know. If you're right and he tries to involve me in anything, I'll tell you. At once. But I won't be used to spy on him. And you can tell that to the CIA. Nothing you can say will make me do anything like that.'

‘Fair enough.' Loder went to the door and opened it. ‘Goodbye, Mrs. Farrow. Thank you for talking to me. And not a word to your friend Miss Nielson. Nor Mr. Nielson. Just keep this in the family. Goodbye again.'

He went out. Joseph was waiting a few feet from the doorway. They left the apartment together, slamming the door so Judith could hear.

‘Well, Joe—did you hear all that?'

He was Loder's immediate junior, a bright, coldly intelligent man with a love for his work.

‘Yes,' he said. ‘I heard. Put up quite an argument, didn't she?'

‘Yes.' Loder stepped out of the elevator and walked rapidly across the lobby to the entrance. ‘I think we're too late. I think that bastard's got to her already. I wouldn't trust a bloody word she said.'

As soon as he returned, Sverdlov was immersed in his work. He had a first floor office in the Soviet Embassy with large windows overlooking the trees and lawns of the extensive garden. The Ambassador's office was two doors away. Golitsyn and three junior officers worked in a row on the same floor, but only Sverdlov had the view over the gardens. He was glad of the volume of work he found waiting for him; he had never regarded Sunday as a holiday, and after a restless sleep on the Saturday of his return from Barbados, he had gone into his office the next morning. He was tired; it would have been untrue to say he slept as badly as before his holiday, but it was spasmodic and shallow, alternating with periods when he found himself awake for an hour or more before he drifted back into an uneasy limbo. His head ached, and he felt a distaste for food. He shut his office door and took refuge in the files and letters which were laid out neatly on his desk. He had an excellent secretary. Kalinin had been with him since his appointment. Sverdlov had chosen him in preference to a woman. He was too shrewd to take on an attractive girl, because experience showed that it was difficult to maintain an impersonal relationship when working in close contact every day, and he refused to look at some efficient harpy with a face like a battleship's rear for hours on end. Kalinin suited him perfectly. He was twenty-seven, very intelligent, efficient, and he had a sense of humour, which Sverdlov appreciated. He was not on duty that Sunday. When Sverdlov rang through to Kalinin's office to call him in, a young woman came in carrying a dictation pad.

‘Who are you?'

‘Anna Skriabine, Comrade Sverdlov.' She looked away quickly, as if he made her nervous. She remembered General Golitsyn's instructions and tried to retrieve her mistake by smiling at him.

‘Where is Kalinin? Why are you in his office?'

‘He is sick,' the girl said. ‘I am a temporary replacement. I hope you'll find me satisfactory, Comrade Sverdlov. I'll do my best.'

She carried it off quite well. Sverdlov gave her credit for the shy smile, the diffident look. He felt his headache progress from a tired ache to an angry pounding.

‘What is wrong with Kalinin? Where is he?'

‘I don't know, Comrade Sverdlov,' the girl said. She had blue eyes, outlined with dark shadow. She opened them wide. ‘I was just told to report to you.'

‘All right,' he said. ‘I see there was a meeting between the Ambassador and the Czechoslovakian chargé, on the 11th. I can't find a full report in my papers. Do you know where it is?'

‘It should be there,' the girl said. She came to the desk. Her timidity was not all pretence. Sverdlov watched her sort through the thick file of papers. She took several sheets clipped together and handed them to him. ‘This is the report, Comrade. I'm sorry it was not in its proper place.'

‘It's not good policy to make a mistake on your first morning,' he said. ‘But as you are only temporary, I will overlook it. Don't make another one. I'll ring through when I want some dictation. And bring me some tea.'

When she had gone, he read through the report. Everything which was conducted at Ambassadorial level had to be reported to him. The Czechs had asked for an interview because they had been approached by
Time
with a very delicate enquiry. How would the present government in Prague view any attempt to interview the deposed Prime Minister Dubjeck? As Dubjeck was living in retirement in the country, the editor was extremely anxious not to do anything which might put him in a false position with his own Party. The Embassy had been approached and asked to send a tentative request to Prague. Since the government in Prague was even less anxious to give their Moscow colleagues any cause for complaint than the Americans were on behalf of the former Prime Minister, they had promptly referred to the Soviet Ambassador and asked for his advice.

Sverdlov read through the transcript of the meeting. The Ambassador had advised against any interview being granted. Dubjeck was only permitted to remain under house arrest because he had promised to disappear from the public scene completely, and to say nothing to anyone.

On the other hand—the Ambassador was a cautious man, and with moderate leanings—it must not be refused in such a way as to make America suspicious that Dubjeck was not in good health and was subject to restrictions. There was a lot of talk, occupying several pages.

The Czech chargé didn't want to grant
Time's
team of reporter and photographer visas. It would be difficult to prevent them speaking to others when they were at liberty in the country, but playing into the hands of Capitalist propagandists by having them escorted on the trip. The Soviet Ambassador had suggested a solution. Make no objection to Dubjeck being interviewed. But reject the choice of team to be sent out. And do the same with the replacement. In this way the project could be postponed until the magazine lost interest. Sverdlov initialled each paper as a sign of his approval. At one moment the girl came in with his tea; he didn't look up or speak. He worked through a lengthy correspondence on the question of an American proposal to invite the Israeli Premier to send a representative outside the United Nations to meet an accredited Egyptian agent. This was of major importance to Russia. Sverdlov began to concentrate. The correspondence was a copy taken from the originals which had been through the State Department, the Israeli Embassy and the British, with copious comments from the British Foreign Secretary. Reading and digesting this occupied Sverdlov for the rest of the morning. He had seen at least half a dozen similar folios of stolen papers, all covered in the same hessian file, marked Very Confidential, Grade I. Each had contained information of major political significance, and they all came from the same source. ‘Blue'. He had often wondered whether, hidden within the ranks of Soviet officialdom, there existed an agent who betrayed to the West the kind of explosive secrets which their spy passed on to them. There had been Penkovsky; he had caused a lot of damage. Sverdlov had met him several times in Moscow. He had been a spectator at his trial, seated out of sight in the body of the court with the picked audience. It had been a contemptible charade. The judges condemned a man who had been induced to convict himself. Sverdlov appreciated the point about propaganda, but he despised the hypocrisy. He would have taken Penkovsky out of his cell and had him shot without the gruesome play in court.

No one in the Embassy knew the identity of ‘Blue'. This alone indicated his importance. That secret was kept in Moscow, known to General Alexander Panyushkin the head of the K.G.B.

Sverdlov rang the bell and the girl came back. She smiled and without speaking sat down, her knees together under a respectable length of skirt, and waited to take his dictation.

Sverdlov referred to the file by the code name for their source of intelligence. He dictated a long cable which was to be coded and relayed to Moscow. Its content was to authenticate the information sent by ‘Blue', and to suggest that in view of the Cambodian escalation it might be prudent to encourage a temporary peace move between Israel and the Arab states.

Why had Kalinin so conveniently fallen sick? He kept asking that question while he gave the girl his dictation. Why had Golitsyn replaced him with such an untypical member of the secretarial staff?… Was Anna Skriabine one of the ‘doves'? Doves were used for several purposes. Often for meeting and entrapping men from outside. They were all trained in professions; some were manicurists who operated in the luxury hotels, others, like this girl, were excellent secretaries who could be attached to someone who was under surveillance. Someone in allied Embassies; even in their own Chancery. Sverdlov took a cigarette and lit it. What was she doing in Kalinin's place?

‘Where is Comrade Kalinin?' he asked her again.

‘I don't know,' she gave the same answer. ‘Shall I put a call through and see if he's in his quarters?'

Sverdlov let her do it. One of Kalinin's colleagues answered. The girl turned towards him, holding the telephone covered with one hand.

‘That is Comrade Tretchin. He says Igor Kalinin has been flown home on sick leave. He says he was very ill while you were away.'

‘I'm sorry to hear that.' Sverdlov blew smoke into the air. ‘But it's very inconvenient. That's all, you can ring off. You wouldn't know what was the matter with Kalinin, would you?'

‘No, Comrade. He just said he had been very ill.' She wet her lips with her tongue; they were full and painted with the fashionable translucent lip colour. All the ‘doves' were trained in every kind of sexual deviation. He smiled at the girl, his mouth twisted sharply to the side.

‘Perhaps I shall keep you permanently,' he said. He looked at her, deliberately taking stock. She lowered her arms so that he could see the shape of her breasts; she wore a dark sweater and skirt, her hair was blonde and drawn back simply. A big freshwater pearl gleamed in each small ear. Very nice. Very appetising, like a little fondant cake, with soft pink icing on the top. The type that melted in a man's mouth. If he had had any doubt, that calculated movement to expose her bosom, silenced it. Golitsyn had planted a ‘dove' on him, hoping to catch him off guard after his holiday and trap him into keeping her. Sverdlov had long mastered the art of appearing to be the victim of someone else's cleverness. He would certainly keep her. Because as they had got rid of Kalinin, who would never have been turned against him, she would only be replaced by another kind of spy.

‘Would you like that?' he enquired. ‘Would you like this job with me?'

‘Oh, yes.'

‘You'll have to work very hard. No mistakes.'

‘I will do my best to please you, Comrade Sverdlov.'

‘Yes,' he said. He was still smiling at her. ‘I am sure you will.'

CHAPTER FIVE

‘Sit down, Richard. Sorry I had to ask you to come up this morning but I have to go to New York this afternoon.'

Fergus Stephenson opened the big crested box and pushed is across his desk. Richard Paterson took a cigarette and lit it. That's quite all right, sir. Lovely morning, isn't it?'

‘Yes,' Fergus said. ‘Beautiful. Let's hope we have a nice spring. Last year was very disappointing. But you weren't here, of course.'

‘No,' Paterson answered. He went on smoking, waiting for the Minister to come to the point. The technique was different to that used in the services. He passed the few moments in speculating on the origins of the word ‘diplomatic' and its connotations; tact, social sensitivity. It had passed into common use outside its original limitations. It was used to describe someone with a knack for saying the unpleasant in a painless way. Which was exactly what Fergus Stephenson was about to do. It was so English, so typical to talk about the weather, as if the sudden burst of sunshine made the slightest difference to either of them. He watched Stephenson, and noticed with surprise that a film of sweat showed through his hairline at the forehead. He was going through agonies, as if he, and not Paterson, were on the wrong side of his imposing desk.

‘Have you been happy here? I expect you missed your wife when you first arrived. It's not easy being a grass widower.'

‘I'm very happy, thank you,' Richard said. ‘And as you say, I'm really settled now that Rachel is here too. She loves Washington; everyone's been very kind to her. Especially your wife. Rachel adores her.'

‘She's very fond of Rachel,' Fergus said. It was coming along in the right direction; it was almost as if Paterson knew where he wanted to go and was giving him the cues he needed.

‘I had a couple of postings myself when Margaret couldn't join me; I remember I got very lonely and rather bored, especially in the evenings. I expect you did too, when you first arrived.'

BOOK: The Tamarind Seed
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