He watched the Tempelhof runway sink beneath him. Leamas was not a reflective man and not a particularly philosophical one. He knew he was written off—it was a fact of life which he would henceforth live with, as a man must live with cancer or imprisonment. He knew there was no kind of preparation which could have bridged the gap between then and now. He met failure as one day he would probably meet death, with cynical resentment and the courage of a solitary. He’d lasted longer than most; now he was beaten. It is said a dog lives as long as its teeth; metaphorically, Leamas’ teeth had been drawn: and it was Mundt who had drawn them.
Ten years ago he could have taken the other path—there were desk jobs in that anonymous government building in Cambridge Circus which Leamas could have taken and kept till he was God knows how old; but Leamas wasn’t made that way. You might as well have asked a jockey to become a totalisator clerk as expect Leamas to abandon operational life for the tendentious theorising and clandestine self-interest of Whitehall. He had stayed on in Berlin, conscious that Personnel had marked his file for review at the end of every year—stubborn, wilful, contemptuous of instruction, telling himself that something would turn up. Intelligence work has one moral law—it is justified by results. Even the sophistry of Whitehall paid court to that law, and Leamas got results. Until Mundt came.
It was odd how soon Leamas had realised that Mundt was the writing on the wall.
Hans-Dieter Mundt, born forty-two years ago in Leipzig. Leamas knew his dossier, knew the photograph on the inside of the cover; the blank, hard face beneath the flaxen hair; knew by heart the story of Mundt’s rise to power as second man in the Abteilung and effective head of operations. Mundt was hated even within his own department. Leamas knew that from the evidence of defectors, and from Riemeck, who as a member of the SED Praesidium sat on security committees with Mundt, and dreaded him. Rightly as it turned out, for Mundt had killed him.
Until 1959 Mundt had been a minor functionary of the Abteilung, operating in London under the cover of the East German Steel Mission. He returned to Germany in a hurry after murdering two of his own agents to save his skin and was not heard of for more than a year. Quite suddenly he reappeared at the Abteilung’s headquarters in Leipzig as head of the Ways and Means Department, responsible for allocating currency, equipment and personnel for special tasks. At the end of that year came the big struggle for power within the Abteilung. The number and influence of Soviet liaison officers were drastically reduced, several of the old guard were dismissed on ideological grounds and three men emerged: Fiedler as head of counter intelligence, Jahn took over from Mundt as head of facilities, and Mundt himself got the plum—deputy director of operations—at the age of forty-one. Then the new style began. The first agent Leamas lost was a girl. She was only a small link in the network; she was used for courier jobs. They shot her dead in the street as she left a West Berlin cinema. The police never found the murderer and Leamas was at first inclined to write the incident off as unconnected with her work. A month later a railway porter in Dresden, a discarded agent from Peter Guillam’s network, was found dead and mutilated beside a railway track. Leamas knew it wasn’t coincidence any longer. Soon after that two members of another network under Leamas’ control were arrested and summarily sentenced to death. So it went on: remorseless and unnerving.
And now they had Karl, and Leamas was leaving Berlin as he had come—without a single agent worth a farthing. Mundt had won.
Leamas was a short man with close, iron-grey hair, and the physique of a swimmer. He was very strong. This strength was discernible in his back and shoulders, in his neck, and in the stubby formation of his hands and fingers.
He had a utilitarian approach to clothes, as he did to most other things, and even the spectacles he occasionally wore had steel rims. Most of his suits were of artificial fibre, none of them had waistcoats. He favoured shirts of the American kind with buttons on the points of the collars, and suede shoes with rubber soles.
He had an attractive face, muscular, and a stubborn line to his thin mouth. His eyes were brown and small; Irish, some said. It was hard to place Leamas. If he were to walk into a London club the porter would certainly not mistake him for a member; in a Berlin night club they usually gave him the best table. He looked like a man who could make trouble, a man who looked after his money, a man who was not quite a gentleman.
The air hostess thought he was interesting. She guessed he was North Country, which he might have been, and rich, which he was not. She put his age at fifty, which was about right. She guessed he was single, which was half true. Somewhere long ago there had been a divorce; somewhere there were children, now in their teens, who received their allowance from a rather odd private bank in the City.
‘If you want another whisky,’ said the air hostess, ‘you’d better hurry. We shall be at London airport in twenty minutes.’
‘No more.’ He didn’t look at her; he was looking out of the window at the grey-green fields of Kent.
Fawley met him at the airport and drove him to London.
‘Control’s pretty cross about Karl,’ he said, looking sideways at Leamas. Leamas nodded.
‘How did it happen?’ asked Fawley.
‘He was shot. Mundt got him.’
‘I should think so, by now. He’d better be. He nearly made it. He should never have hurried, they couldn’t have been sure. The Abteilung got to the checkpoint just after he’d been let through. They started the siren and a Vopo shot him twenty yards short of the line. He moved on the ground for a moment, then lay still.’
‘Precisely,’ said Leamas.
Fawley didn’t like Leamas, and if Leamas knew he didn’t care. Fawley was a man who belonged to Clubs and wore representative ties, pontificated on the skills of sportsmen and assumed a service rank in office correspondence. He thought Leamas suspect, and Leamas thought him a fool.
‘What section are you in?’ asked Leamas.
‘Where do I go now? On ice?’
‘Better let Control tell you, old boy.’
‘Do you know?’
‘Then why the hell don’t you tell me?’
‘Sorry, old man,’ Fawley replied, and Leamas suddenly very nearly lost his temper. Then he reflected that Fawley was probably lying anyway.
‘Well, tell me one thing, do you mind? Have I got to look for a bloody flat in London?’
Fawley scratched at his ear: ‘I don’t think so, old man, no.’
‘No? Thank God for that.’
They parked near Cambridge Circus, at a parking meter, and went together into the hall.
‘You haven’t got a pass, have you? You’d better fill in a slip, old man.’
‘Since when have we had passes? McCall knows me as well as his own mother.’
‘Just a new routine. Circus is growing, you know.’
Leamas aid nothing, nodded at McCall and got into the lift without a pass.
Control shook his hand rather carefully, like a doctor feeling the bones.
‘You must be awfully tired,’ he said apologetically, ‘do sit down.’ That same dreary voice, the donnish bray.
Leamas sat down in a chair facing an olive green electric fire with a bowl of water balanced on the top of it.
‘Do you find it cold?’ Control asked. He was stooping over the fire rubbing his hands together. He wore a cardigan under his black jacket, a shabby brown one. Leamas remembered Control’s wife, a stupid little woman called Mandy who seemed to think her husband was in the Coal Board. He supposed she had knitted it.
‘It’s so dry, that’s the trouble,’ Control continued. ‘Beat the cold and you parch the atmosphere. Just as dangerous.’ He went to the desk and pressed a button. ‘We’ll try and get some coffee,’ he said, ‘Ginnie’s on leave, that’s the trouble. They’ve given me some new girl. It really is too bad.’
He was shorter than Leamas remembered him: otherwise, just the same. The same affected detachment, the same donnish conceits; the same horror of draughts; courteous according to a formula miles removed from Leamas’ experience. The same milk-and-water smile, the same elaborate diffidence, the same apologetic adherence to a code of behaviour which he pretended to find ridiculous. The same banality.
He brought a packet of cigarettes from the desk and gave one to Leamas.
‘You’re going to find these more expensive,’ he said, and Leamas nodded dutifully. Slipping the cigarettes into his pocket, Control sat down. There was a pause; finally Leamas said:
‘Yes, indeed,’ Control declared, as if Leamas had made a good point. ‘It is very unfortunate. Most . . . I suppose the girl blew him—Elvira?’
‘I suppose so.’ Leamas wasn’t going to ask him how he knew about Elvira.
‘And Mundt had him shot,’ Control added.
Control got up and drifted round the room looking for an ash-tray. He found one and put it awkwardly on the floor between their two chairs.
‘How did you feel? When Riemeck was shot, I mean? You saw it, didn’t you?’
Leamas shrugged. ‘I was bloody annoyed,’ he said.
Control put his head on one side and half closed his eyes. ‘Surely you felt more than that? Surely you were upset? That would be more natural.’
‘I was upset. Who wouldn’t be?’
‘Did you like Riemeck—as a man?’
‘I suppose so,’ said Leamas helplessly. ‘There doesn’t seem much point in going into it,’ he added.
‘How did you spend the night, what was left of it, after Riemeck had been shot?’
‘Look, what is this?’ Leamas asked hotly; ‘what are you getting at?’
‘Riemeck was the last,’ Control reflected, ‘the last of a series of deaths. If my memory is right it began with the girl, the one they shot in Wedding, outside the cinema. Then there was the Dresden man, and the arrests at Jena. Like the ten little niggers. Now Paul, Viereck and Ländser—all dead. And finally Riemeck.’ He smiled deprecatingly; ‘that is quite a heavy rate of expenditure. I wondered if you’d had enough.’
‘What do you mean—enough?’
‘I wondered whether you were tired. Burnt out.’ There was a long silence.
‘That’s up to you,’ Leamas said at last.
‘We have to live without sympathy, don’t we? That’s impossible of course. We act it to one another, all this hardness; but we aren’t like that really, I mean . . . one can’t be out in the cold all the time; one has to come in from the cold . . . d’you see what I mean?’
Leamas saw. He saw the long road outside Rotterdam, the long straight road beside the dunes, and the stream of refugees moving along it; saw the little aeroplane miles away, the procession stop and look towards it; and the plane coming in, nearly over the dunes; saw the chaos, the meaningless hell, as the bombs hit the road.
‘I can’t talk like this, Control,’ Leamas said at last. ‘What do you want me to do?’
‘I want you to stay out in the cold a little longer.’ Leamas said nothing, so Control went on: ‘The ethic of our work, as I understand it, is based on a single assumption. That is, we are never going to be aggressors. Do you think that’s fair?’
Leamas nodded. Anything to avoid talking.
‘Thus we do disagreeable things, but we are defensive. That, I think, is still fair. We do disagreeable things so that ordinary people here and elsewhere can sleep safely in their beds at night. Is that too romantic? Of course, we occasionally do very wicked things’; he grinned like a schoolboy. ‘And in weighing up the moralities, we rather go in for dishonest comparisons; after all, you can’t compare the ideals of one side with the methods of the other, can you, now?’
Leamas was lost. He’d heard the man talked a lot of drivel before getting the knife in, but he’d never heard anything like this before.
‘I mean you’ve got to compare method with method, and ideal with ideal. I would say that since the war, our methods—ours and those of the opposition—have become much the same. I mean you can’t be less ruthless than the opposition simply because your government’s policy is benevolent, can you now?’ He laughed quietly to himself: ‘That would never do,’ he said.
For God’s sake, thought Leamas, it’s like working for a bloody clergyman. What is he up to?
‘That is why,’ Control continued, ‘I think we ought to try and get rid of Mundt . . . Oh really,’ he said, turning irritably towards the door, ‘Where is that damned coffee?’
Control crossed to the door, opened it and talked to some unseen girl in the outer room. As he returned he said:
‘I really think we ought to get rid of him if we can manage it.’
‘Why? We’ve got nothing left in East Germany, nothing at all. You just said so—Riemeck was the last. We’ve nothing left to protect.’
Control sat down and looked at his hands for a while.
‘That is not altogether true,’ he said finally; ‘but I don’t think I need to bore you with the details.’
‘Tell me,’ Control continued, ‘are you tired of spying? Forgive me if I repeat the question. I mean that is a phenomenon we understand here, you know. Like aircraft designers . . . metal fatigue, I think the term is. Do say if you are.’
Leamas remembered the flight home that morning and wondered.
‘If you were,’ Control added, ‘we would have to find some other way of taking care of Mundt. What I have in mind is a little out of the ordinary.’
The girl came in with the coffee. She put the tray on the desk and poured out two cups. Control waited till she had left the room.
‘Such a silly girl,’ he said, almost to himself. ‘It seems extraordinary they can’t find good ones any more. I do wish Ginnie wouldn’t go on holiday at times like this.’ He stirred his coffee disconsolately for a while.
‘We really must discredit Mundt,’ he said. ‘Tell me, do you drink a lot? Whisky and that kind of thing?’
Leamas had thought he was used to Control.
‘I drink a bit. More than most I suppose.’
Control nodded understandingly. ‘What do you know about Mundt?’
‘He’s a killer. He was here a year or two back with the East German Steel Mission. We had an Adviser here then: Maston.’
‘Mundt was running an agent, the wife of an FO man. He killed her.’
‘He tried to kill George Smiley. And of course he shot the woman’s husband. He is a very distasteful man. Ex Hitler-Youth and all that kind of thing. Not at all the intellectual kind of Communist. A practitioner of the cold war.’
‘Like us,’ Leamas observed drily. Control didn’t smile.
‘George Smiley knew the case well. He isn’t with us any more, but I think you ought to ferret him out. He’s doing things on seventeenth-century Germany. He lives in Chelsea, just behind Sloane Square. Bywater Street, do you know it?’
‘And Guillam was on the case as well. He’s in Satellites Four, on the first floor. I’m afraid everything’s changed since your day.’
‘Spend a day or two with them. They know what I have in mind. Then I wondered if you’d care to stay with me for the weekend. My wife,’ he added hastily, ‘is looking after her mother, I’m afraid. It will be just you and I.’
‘Thanks. I’d like to.’
‘We can talk about things in comfort then. It would be very nice. I think you might make a lot of money out of it. You can have whatever you make.’
‘That is, of course, if you’re sure you want to . . . no metal fatigue or anything?’
‘If it’s a question of killing Mundt, I’m game.’
‘Do you really feel that?’ Control enquired politely. And then, having looked at Leamas thoughtfully for a moment he observed:
‘Yes, I really think you do. But you mustn’t feel you have to say it. I mean in our world we pass so quickly out of the register of hate or love—like certain sounds a dog can’t hear. All that’s left in the end is a kind of nausea; you never want to cause suffering again. Forgive me, but isn’t that rather what you felt when Karl Riemeck was shot? Not hate for Mundt, nor love for Karl, but a sickening jolt like a blow on a numb body . . . They tell me you walked all night—just walked through the streets of Berlin. Is that right?’
‘It’s right that I went for a walk.’
‘What happened to Elvira?’
‘God knows . . . I’d like to take a swing at Mundt,’ he said.
‘Good . . . good. Incidentally, if you should meet any old friends in the meantime, I don’t think there’s any point in discussing this with them. In fact,’ Control added after a moment, ‘I should be rather short with them. Let them think we’ve treated you badly. It’s as well to begin as one intends to continue, isn’t it?’