The Spy Who Came in From The Cold

“But what about Fiedler–don’t you feel anything for him?”

“This is a war,” Leamas replied. “It’s graphic and unpleasant because it’s fought on a tiny scale, at close range; fought with a wastage of innocent life sometimes, I admit. But it’s nothing, nothing at all beside other wars–the last or the next.”

“Oh God,” said Liz softly. “You don’t understand. You don’t want to. You’re trying to persuade yourself. It’s far more terrible, what they are doing; to find the humanity in people, in me and whoever else they use, to turn it like a weapon in their hands, and use it to hurt and kill–”

“Christ Almighty!” Leamas cried. “What else have men done since the world began? I don’t believe in anything, don’t you see–not even destruction or anarchy. Fm sick, sick of killing but I don’t see what else they can do. They don’t proselytize; they don’t stand in pulpits or on party platforms and tell us to fight for Peace or for God or whatever it is. They’re the poor sods who try to keep the preachers from blowing each other sky high.”

“You’re wrong,” Liz declared hopelessly; “they’re more wicked than all of us.”

“Because I made love to you when you thought I was a tramp?” Leamas asked savagely.

“Because of their contempt,” Liz replied; “contempt for what is real and good; contempt for love, contempt for. . .”

“Yes,” Leamas agreed, suddenly weary. “That is the price they pay; to despise God and Karl Marx in the same sentence. If that is what you mean.”

“It makes you the same,” Liz continued; “the same as Mundt and all the rest. . . . I should know, I was the one who was kicked about, wasn’t I? By them, by you because you don’t care. Only Fiedler didn’t. But the rest of you. . . you all treated me as if I was. . . nothing. . . just currency to pay with…. You’re all the same, Alec.”

“Oh Liz,” he said desperately, “for God’s sake believe me. I hate it, I hate it all, Fm tired. But it’s the world, it’s mankind that’s gone mad. We’re a tiny price to pay . . . but everywhere’s the same, people cheated and misled, whole lives thrown away, people shot and in prison, whole groups and classes of men written off for nothing. And you, your Party–God knows it was built on the bodies of ordinary people. You’ve never seen men die as I have, Liz. . . .”

As he spoke Liz remembered the drab prison courtyard, and the wardress saying, “It is a prison for those who slow down the march . . . for those who think they have the right to err.”

Leamas was suddenly tense, peering forward through the windshield. In the headlights of the car Liz discerned a figure standing in the road. In his hand was a tiny light which he turned on and off as the car approached. “That’s him,” Leamas muttered; switched ofE the headlights and engine, and coasted silently forward. As they drew up, Leamas leaned back and opened the rear door.

Liz did not turn around to look at him as he got in. She was staring stiffly forward, down the street at the falling rain.

“Drive at thirty kilometers,” the man said. His voice was taut, frightened. “I’ll tell you the way. When we reach the place you must get out and run to the wall. The searchlight will be shining at the point where you must climb. Stand in the beam of the searchlight. When the beam moves away begin to climb. You will have ninety seconds to get over. You go first,” he said to Leamas, “and the girl follows. There are iron rungs in the lower part–after that you must pull yourself up as best you can. You’ll have to sit on top and pull the girl up. Do you understand?”

“We understand,” said Leamas. “How long have we got?”

“If you drive at thirty kilometers we shall be there in about nine minutes. The searchlight will be on the wall at five past one exactly. They can give you ninety seconds. Not more.”

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Categories: LaCarre, John