The Spy Who Came in From The Cold

As they entered the “passengers only” enclosure Leamas caught sight of a bookstall. A selection of international newspapers was on show: _Figaro_, _Monde_, _Neue Zürcher Zeitung_, _die Welt_, and half a dozen British dailies and weeklies. As he watched, the girl came around to the front of the kiosk and pushed an _Evening Standard_ into the rack. Leamas hurried across to the bookstall and took the paper from the rack.

“How much?” he asked. Thrusting his hand into his trouser pocket he suddenly realized that he had no Dutch currency.

“Thirty cents,” the girl replied. She was rather pretty; dark and jolly.

“I’ve only got two English shillings. That’s a guilder. Will you take them?”

“Yes, please,” she replied, and Leamas gave her the florin. He looked back. Peters was still at the passport desk, his back turned. Without hesitation Leamas made straight for the men’s lavatory. There he glanced rapidly but thoroughly at each page, then shoved the paper in the litter basket and re-emerged. It was true: there was his photograph with the vague little passage underneath. He wondered if Liz had seen it. He made his way thoughtfully to the passengers’ lounge. Ten minutes later they boarded the plane for Hamburg and Berlin. For the first time since it all began. Leamas was frightened.

* * 11 * Friends of Alec

The men called on Liz the same evening. Liz Gold’s room was at the northern end of Bayswater. It had a sofa-bed in it, and a gas fire–rather a pretty one in charcoal gray, which made a modem hiss instead of an old-fashioned bubble. She used to gaze into it sometimes when Leamas was there, when the gas fire shed the only light in the room. He would lie on the sofa, and she would sit beside him and kiss him, or watch the gas fire with her face pressed against his. She was afraid to think of him too much now because she had forgot what he looked like, so she let her mind think of him for brief moments like running her eyes across a faint horizon, and then she would remember some small thing he had said or done, some way he had looked at her, or more often, ignored her. That was the terrible thing, when her mind dwelled on it: she had nothing to remember him by–no photograph, no souvenir, nothing. Not even a mutual friend–only Miss Crail in the library, whose hatred of him had been vindicated by his spectacular departure. Liz had been around to his room once and seen the landlord. She didn’t know why she did it quite, but she plucked up courage and went. The landlord was very kind about Alec; Mr. Leamas had paid his rent like a gentleman, right till the end, then there’d been a week or two owing and a chum of Mr. Leamas’ had dropped in and paid up handsome, no queries or nothing. He’d always said it of Mr. Leamas, always would, he was a gent. Not public school, mind, nothing arsy-tarsy but a real gent. He liked to scowl a bit occasionally, and of course he drank a drop more than was good for him, though he never acted tight when he came home. But this little bloke who come round, funny little shy chap with specs, _he_ said Mr. Leamas had particularly requested, quite particularly, that the rent owing should be settled up. And if _that_ wasn’t gentlemanly, the landlord was damned if he knew what was. Where he got the money from heaven knows, but that Mr. Leamas was a deep one and no mistake. He only did to Ford the grocer what a good many had been wanting to do ever since the war. The room? Yes, the room had been taken–a gentleman from Korea, two days after they took Mr. Leamas away.

That was probably why she went on working at the library–because there, at least, he still existed; the ladders, shelves, the books, the card index, were things he had known and touched, and one day he might come back to them. He had said he would never come back, but she didn’t believe it. It was like saying you would never get better to believe a thing like that. Miss Crail thought he would come back: she had discovered she owed him some money–wages underpaid–and it infuriated her that her monster had been so unmonstrous as not to collect it. After Leamas had gone, Liz had never given up asking herself the same question; why had he hit Mr. Ford? She knew he had a terrible temper, but that was different. He had intended to do it right from the start as soon as he had got rid of his fever. Why else had he said good-bye to her the night before? He knew that he would hit Mr. Ford on the following day. She refused to accept the only other possible interpretation: that he had grown tired of her and said good-bye, and the next day, still under the emotional strain of their parting, had lost his temper with Mr. Ford and struck him. She knew, she had always known, that there was something Alec had got to do. He’d even told her that himself. What it was she could only guess.

Page: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89

Categories: LaCarre, John