The Spy Who Came in From The Cold

Taking two pounds from his hip pocket, Leamas put them into the waiting hand of the man at the door.

“Two quid,” said Leamas, “for the guests,” and ignoring the astonished protests of Ashe he guided them through the curtained doorway into the dim hallway of the club. He turned to the doorman.

“Find us a table,” said Leamas, “and a bottle of Scotch. And see we’re left alone.”

The doorman hesitated for a moment, decided not to argue, and escorted them downstairs. As they descended they heard the subdued moan of unintelligible music. They got a table on their own at the back of the room. A two-piece band was playing and girls sat around in twos and threes. Two got up as they came in but the big doorman shook his head.

Ashe glanced at Leamas uneasily while they waited for the whisky. Kiever seemed slightly bored. The waiter brought a bottle and three tumblers and they watched in silence as he poured a little whisky into each glass. Leamas took the bottle from the waiter and added as much again to each. This done, he leaned across the table and said to Ashe, “Now perhaps you’ll tell me what the bloody hell’s going on.”

“What do you mean?” Ashe sounded uncertain. “What _do_ you mean, Alec?”

“You followed me from prison the day I was released,” he began quietly, “with some bloody silly story of meeting me in Berlin. You gave me money you didn’t owe me. You’ve bought me expensive meals and you’re putting me up in your flat.”

Ashe colored and said, “If that’s the–”

“Don’t interrupt,” said Leamas fiercely. “Just damn well wait till I’ve finished, do you mind? Your membership card for this place is made out for someone called Murphy. Is that your name?”

“No, it is not.”

“I suppose a friend called Murphy lent you his membership card?”

“No, he didn’t as a matter of fact. If you must know, I come here occasionally to find a girl. I used a phony name to join the club.”

“Then why,” Leamas persisted ruthlessly, “is Murphy registered as the tenant of your flat?”

It was Kiever who finally spoke.

“You run along home,” he said to Ashe. “I’ll look after this.”

A girl performed a striptease, a young, drab girl with a dark bruise on her thigh. She had that pitiful, spindly nakedness which is embarrassing because it is not erotic; because it is artless and undesiring. She turned slowly, jerking sporadically with her arms and legs as if she only heard the music in snatches, and all the time she looked at them with the precocious interest of a child in adult company. The tempo of the music increased abruptly, and the girl responded like a dog to the whistle, scampering back and forth. Removing her brassiere on the last note, she held it above her head, displaying her meager body with its three tawdry patches of tinsel hanging from it like old Christmas tree decorations.

They watched in silence, Leamas and Kiever.

“I suppose you’re going to tell me that we’ve seen better in Berlin,” Leamas suggested at last, and Kiever saw that he was stifi very angry.

“I expect _you_ have,” Kiever replied pleasantly. “I have often been to Berlin, but I am afraid I dislike night clubs.”

Leamas said nothing.

“I’m no prude, mind, just rational. If I want a woman I know cheaper ways of finding one; if I want to dance I know better places to do it.”

Leamas might not have been listening. “Perhaps you’ll tell me why that sissy picked me up,” he suggested. Kiever nodded.

“By all means. I told him to.”


“I am interested in you. I want to make you a proposition, a journalistic proposition.”

There was a pause.

“Journalistic,” Leamas repeated. “I see.”

“I run an agency, an international feature service. It pays well–very well–for interesting material.”

“Who publishes the material?”

“It pays so well, in fact, that a man with your kind of experience of . . . the international scene, a man with your background, you understand, who provided convincing, factual material, could free himself in a comparatively short time from further financial worry.”

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Categories: LaCarre, John