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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Hall Adam
 

«Quiller KGB», ADAM HALL

1: BERLIN

My arm was getting numb but I didn't move. I wanted her to go on sleeping for as long as she could, dreaming of God knew what. The worst wasn't over yet, I knew that.

The next time she woke up she began shaking all over and I held her more tightly, telling her it was all right, though of course it wasn't. Then the sobbing came and she tried to stop it, burying her face against me while her whole body shook and the tears began falling onto my hand.

'Let it come,' I said, 'don't hold it in.'

It helped, I think; she was making more noise now. A stewardess came over with a box of Kleenex and I pulled out a handful.

'Is there anything she needs?'

I shook my head, and held the tissues against Corrine's hand so she could feel them.

'Oh, Christ,' she kept moaning.

We'd reached our ceiling and levelled off; the jets were quieter now. One of the people across the aisle was looking back, glancing across us with his eyes deliberately blank, wasn't even seeing us, just looking at the view. No one else was taking any notice; London had booked us first class for the sake of more privacy; decent of someone, or perhaps it had to do with guilt.

'All I want to know…' Corrine was saying now, a lot of it muffled, 'All I want to know is whether he'd been sleeping with her…'

I tried to understand why it mattered.

'No,' I told her at once, lying, or probably lying. 'She was just someone in his courier line, that was all.'

That was all, but sex too, probably; he'd been moving in to the end-phase and it was going to be dangerous. 'He didn't,' Holmes had told me over the phone yesterday, 'fancy his chances.' And when we don't fancy our chances, my friend, we look for the good graces of a woman, any woman, to help take the edge off and allow us to go in relaxed, less tense, less vulnerable. But no, that's a lie too — lies come easily to us in this trade. The truth is that we want it on the principle of just-one-more-time, if that's all there's going to be.

'I suppose it doesn't make any sense,' Corrine was saying, her head off my shoulder now as she messed about with the tissues.

I moved my arm at last and felt the tingling as the circulation got going again.

'I mean, he won't ever be able to — ' But that thought broke her up again, expectedly.

When she'd calmed down I said, 'It doesn't matter why it's important to you. The thing is, she was just a courier, and that was all.'

We're trained to lie in our teeth but this time it wasn't to get me out of a death trap or anything; it was for personal reasons. I'd got the idea now: she couldn't let herself go, couldn't cry over the coffin and things like that, if she thought he'd gone out doing it with someone else. I suppose there was a certain raw logic in that.

'How do you know?' she asked me.

'Because I knew him.' A bit of false anger: 'Do you think we ever have time, for Christ's sake, when we're pushing a mission at that pace?'

After a while she said, so softly that I only just caught it, 'I so much want to believe you.'

'Then you can.'

I had to protect him, too.

They were sending him back on a freight plane in the morning, the coffin, anyway, though God knew what they could have found to put in it. The opposition had set up an ambush and blown the car apart, both of them in it, the girl too, the courier, bits of her in the same coffin with him, unavoidably, and if that wasn't the ultimate act of intimacy, what was it, what did the sex thing matter?

But Corrine was his wife — widow, yes — not just a girl-friend, so she'd expected some kind of fidelity from him, not knowing much about the job we do, the kind of stress we work under. The shadow executives don't often marry; there are no promises we stand much chance of keeping.

One of the flight crew, three rings, put his head through the doorway and spoke to a stewardess and went back onto the deck.

'He was good,' Corrine said, 'wasn't he?'

'One of the best.'

'They told me he helped someone get through, once.'

'Yes.' But there hadn't been much point because Thompson had spent the rest of his life — three weeks — in a hospital linked up with tubes and monitors until he'd got someone to smuggle a capsule in to his room.

'Not many people do that,' Corrine said.

Save lives. 'Very few.'

I suppose this was the way her grief was taking her: she had to create the idol she could later venerate, a hero, faithful to the last.

She uncrossed her legs and half-turned to look at me, her eyes puffy from crying. 'If you knew him like you say, this isn't much of a fun trip for you either, is it?'

'Not really.'


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