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Jul/Aug 2018 Fiction

A Student Deferment

by David Rich

Image courtesy of British Library Photostream

Image courtesy of British Library Photostream


"There's a tear in your umbrella. Not much good with a tear is it?"

Enright straightened his umbrella so the short woman would no longer be able to see the tear.

"I put it there on purpose," he said. "So I know if it's still raining."

She smiled at him. "And I suppose you put a hole in your shoe to check for a puddle." The light turned green, and he hurried across to Victoria Station. Water leaked onto his shoulder. Enright had not bothered to consult the forecast, but a rough crossing suited him. The spectre of passengers recently wretched might make the customs officials sympathetic. Enright considered himself expert at pretending he had been sick. Like an actor summoning tears, to give the appearance of misery he pictured scenes from his four years in the Royal Navy, much of it spent shivering in the North Sea. I should have started my spying then, he thought. I would have some security by now. He chuckled at that thought. A bald man with a mustache looked at him with disdain. Enright closed his umbrella, tossed it into the bin, and entered the station.

Enright checked the board. His train was scheduled for platform 12 in 32 minutes. Though he had been through the station hundreds of times, Enright made a show of looking around for the track like a worried tourist. The thin man wearing the gray houndstooth hat had followed him into the station. Enright first noticed him near Trafalgar Square. A pretty young woman whose open coat revealed her red mini skirt and tight blue angora sweater marched past the houndstooth man and captured Enright's gaze until she disappeared onto a platform. She was a dab of color in a world so thick with gray, Enright wondered if the skylights were letting the gray in or out. The colors on the cigarette and clothing adverts seemed to dissipate a few feet out, overwhelmed by the haze. Perhaps clouds seem clear from the inside, thought Enright, and wondered for a moment if he could sell an article about points of view.

But if this deal went through, he would not have to write any pathetic, straining articles for some time, long enough to finish a book, even two if he was at his best. He had never been a top journalist, but he could put words on paper fast enough when he had to. Now he was selling pictures, and he smiled at the knowledge that, indeed, each one was worth much more than a thousand words.

At the kiosk the tea lady smiled at him and showed a chipped front tooth. She looked tired. Enright asked for a cup of tea. "Are the cheese rolls fresh?" he said.

"You'll have to pay to find out, won't you love?" She was Welsh. She winked at him and showed her chipped tooth again. She slid the cup toward him and then reached into the covered dish for the roll. "Two and six."

Enright fished out the coins unhappily. The pound devaluation was already showing up in the smallest ways. Another sign of the inevitable decline of the West. Enright could write that article without pausing to think: the brink of chaos, leading to fascism, war, hunger. But he could write the counter argument with equal ease and sophisticated superficiality: a better life for all, competition will out, boost for England in the end. Enright needed money, and the article, either side of it, paid little more than the cost of a good dinner. The undeveloped photos in his pocket were worth 1,000 quid. Enright squeezed the cheese roll, and crumbs flaked off the hard, stale bread.

The tea lady said, "Wait until you get to France and see what it costs."

"How do you know that's where I'm going?"

"Got to do something with my spare time, don't I? I watch the people. See that girl in the white coat and white hat? Weekend in Brighton for her with her boyfriend, I bet."

"Lucky man," Enright said softly. He watched the girl's firm thighs flex as she strode toward the platform. A tall young man with dark, curly hair and a wispy beard walked toward the woman, staring at her openly. The woman stared back at him. In the three years since his wife had finally left him, Enright had been with one woman, a barmaid who got herself drunk and stayed sober enough to make sure Enright was not the same man she had bedded the night before. Mini skirts: another sign of the end, a taunt directed at the poor—look but don't touch. And calling it the sexual revolution was a purposeful sneer. You still needed money to get near those women. They could not be had for a cheese roll. Someone had to buy those boots. It was the counter revolution. But Enright had grown tired of writing pieces that ignored human nature.

The tall young man stopped beside Enright at the kiosk. He bought a Kit-Kat bar and put it in his backpack next to his camera. "For later. Is that cheese roll fresh?" He was an American.

The tea lady said, "You'll have to buy it to find out."

"And then it's too late," said Enright.

"Thanks." The American fiddled with his backpack, taking out the camera, a Pentax. He removed the film inside and opened a box and expertly threaded another roll.

Enright lit a cigarette. When the American had gone, the tea lady said, "Yanks. I like 'em. Can't help it." She shrugged.

"What about that one? With the checkered hat. Where's he going?" Enright said to the tea lady.

"Copper, ini't he? They don't go overseas."

She did have a good eye. "What about me? What do I do?"

She looked him in the eye. Another customer arrived and leaned toward her, but she kept her gaze on Enright. "You'll never tell—not the truth anyhow, now wouldya?"

Enright took a last bite of his cheese roll and smiled at the tea lady. "I'm Peter Sellers. In disguise for a new film." He winked at her. As he left he thought, now I'm down to charming tea ladies.

He followed the girl in white, the one with the firm thighs, down the platform. She entered the fourth car, first class. Enright had sprung for first class himself. He believed the customs men treated the first class passengers with greater deference. He wanted to look fresh and ready for the Russians as well. This was a job interview; Enright looked on it as a new phase of his career. First class was a solid investment. From the front car he walked back through the first class cars. The seat next to the woman in white was open. She glanced at Enright with her face set, expressionless and unwelcoming. He sat across the aisle from her.

A moment later the American came up the aisle from behind Enright. He stopped, looked at the empty seat next to the woman in white and said, "Thanks for saving that for me."

"I didn't," she said.

"But you weren't saving it for anyone else, were you?"

She laughed. Enright saw her smile for the first time: white, and a gap between her front teeth. Before the American sat down, he took off his new-looking, fleece-lined coat. Enright could feel the American's ease like a rebuke. The low murmur of his voice wafted across the aisle, interrupted by the girl's purring replies and laughter.

Enright thought, I could make sounds like those if I knew I had the money to back them up. But when he tried to imagine exactly what the American was saying, he could not be more specific than telling the woman she was beautiful and that her thighs were haunting him. The stories he might tell all veered toward bitterness: an unappreciative boss, his wife's duplicity, the insolence of ambitious colleagues. He had stories of victories, too, but they were small, and time made them sound hollow even to Enright.

He would not be able to brag of this triumph. It had all come so easily—a phone call from Phillips who once owned a club in Soho but lost it. "I have something," Phillips said. "Bit out of my line, but it fits a story you worked on." Phillips's line was blackmail. He had two or three young prostitutes and a flat in Belgravia where he could hide and photograph the johns. He sold the photos to them over dinner in an Indian restaurant in Beauchamp Place.

This time the john was an MP, Marley, Labour, from a district in Birmingham. Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, but slated for greater heights. Enright had interviewed him a year ago and questioned his commitment to party principles. Enright arrived late to Phillips's flat and only saw Marley getting dressed and the prostitute lounging under the sheets. Phillips handed over the roll of film and said Enright could decide best how to use it, but he would hate to see good material like this go to waste. Enright asked how much Phillips wanted, but Phillips said he would be happy with a small cut of whatever Enright got for them.

The first enquiry Enright made resulted in a reproach from the editor. He wanted nothing to do with what amounted to blackmail. "It isn't news, Enright. Dog bites man. Bring me photos of an MP refusing a prostitute. Unless you have a Christine Keeler here. Do you?"

Enright dreaded the work involved in discovering the prostitute's past and connections. Phillips would demand to have the film roll back if Enright asked him for information. Enright stopped for a drink to plan his next call. Go straight to the point, he thought, not all the way, no names, but something less vague. He decided to contact the editor of a conservative magazine and mention that an opposition party leader was involved. He left the pub and used a call box down the street.

The editor wanted to hear it over the phone. Enright fumbled, admitted he had not seen the photos. The editor hinted he thought Enright might be setting him up. "I have no illusions about you, Enright," he said.

Back at the pub, film burning a hole in his pocket, the bell rang and Enright ordered another double whiskey from the barmaid.

A man two seats along the wall said, "Same for me. In fact, I'll have two of those. Him, too." He turned to Enright. "On me. One of those days. Dinner tonight with the wife's sister and her son. Takes all day to prepare." He was in his 60s, jowly and red faced and jovial.

The man was fascinated by the state of journalism in the western world. He knew Enright's work, praised his reputation, remembered details from his piece on Willy Brandt and DeGaulle. He counted editors all across Europe as friends. "What are you working on now?"

The next afternoon Enright went to a flat in Kensington to meet the publisher of a German magazine. The publisher was intent on making a splash with the debut issue. He offered Enright 1,000 pounds, if the pictures were clear. Enright was ready to turn them over on the spot, but the publisher asked that he deliver then to the office in Berlin, undeveloped.

"I wouldn't want to risk anyone else getting a first glimpse. You understand," he said.

Enright did understand. "Where is the office in Berlin?'

"Not far from the Friedrichstrasse station," said the publisher and slipped an envelope with a 100 pound advance into Enright's hand. "Take the train. It's the best way."

Enright understood: you did not need vows or promises or declarations to take a step, just a drunken tumble, a caress, a casual cruelty or crude dismissal. Or an envelope slid across a tabletop. There would be no objections about newsworthiness or relevance or inquiries about the prostitute's other clients. There would be no publication. There was no magazine.

The strained voice of the conductor announcing Dover in ten minutes pulled Enright back onto the train. He felt in his pocket for the film and pulled his hand out self consciously. When the conductor passed their row, the woman whispered to the American and they both turned to Enright. He was caught staring at them, but the American's smile held him and kept him from turning away.

"Excuse me, do you know if they serve drinks on the ferry?"

 

The American introduced himself as Carson. The woman was Katya, a German. She could barely put two words in English together, and Enright thought she might be pretending to understand. He bought the first round in the barroom crowded with Belgian football fans celebrating a victory over England. The Belgians pushed them toward the outside edge of the room. A bench padded in worn blue cloth ran along the wall. Carson set his backpack down and tossed his coat over it.

"I've never been to Germany," Carson said. "Katya is going to show me around. Aren't you?"

Katya flashed the gap in her teeth.

"Berlin?"

"Yes," said Carson. "She has relatives in the east, and we can visit them. That sounds so cool."

"I'm going to Berlin, as well. Always take the train. I enjoy the gradual immersion. Like a hot bath."

Katya took her cue from Carson and chuckled along. Enright began planning other lies to cover the first, adventures from previous train trips. But the boat bobbed, and with each crest and trough Enright could feel customs inspectors bringing him into focus. The man with the houndstooth hat entered the room and battled his way through the Belgians to the bar. Enright started to put his hand in his pocket to feel the film and stopped. He was sure the man was from MI5 or MI6. He was sure the man would have the customs officials search him.

He tried focusing on the story Carson was telling about his life as a graduate student of Anthropology. "My specialty is primitive myths. I made a trip with Levi Strauss. Know him? We paddled up the Orinoco, as peaceful and beautiful as any trip on earth. Toucans and parrots, marmosets, caiman. Unspoiled. Then we heard a small tap, tap, tap. Our canoes started taking on water. Slowly, so slowly that we denied it was meaningful. But soon it reached our ankles..."

Enright could not concentrate. The Belgians were all shouting—except for those who were singing. Carson's story went on. Indians had shot darts into the canoes. He is a bigger liar than I am, thought Enright. There was more.

"Why London," Enright said. "No primitive tribes there. Why not just go to the jungle?"

"I need my student deferment," Carson said. "Otherwise I go to another jungle." He smiled. "And I would never have met Katya."

She seemed to understand that, and she got on her toes to kiss his cheek. Her arms held his shoulders, and that motion hiked her skirt up. Carson smiled at Enright like a boy who filched the extra chocolates.

Two Belgians moved aggressively, without warning, toward Carson, like the caiman in his story.

"American?" The fatter Belgian said in a high, smoky voice.

"Yes," Carson said. "American." He showed no fear or self consciousness.

"Vietnam, no?"

"Noooo," said Carson.

The Belgians looked at each other wide eyed, turned as one to Carson, and shouted, "Whiskey!"

As the Belgians guided Carson toward the bar, he looked back at Enright apologetically. Another Belgian pulled Katya along. Enright shrugged and sat down. The noise seemed to dim, travel above him. He could not see Carson. He could not see the man in the houndstooth hat. Enright felt cloaked. Two middle aged women huddled in close conference on his right. An old man dozed, pint in hand, to his left.

Carson's backpack sat next to Enright's right hand. He reached into his pocket and fingered the film. Then he palmed it and slipped it inside the small pocket of the backpack. I'll retrieve it after customs, he thought. He'll never know. He'll doze from all the liquor. It's a long trip to Berlin. There will be plenty of time.

The cry went up, dampened, as if from a stadium blocks away, "Vietnam, no?"

"Noooo."

"Whiskey!"

The urge to take the film back, to rescind his decision, gripped Enright. He could barely swallow his drink. He dared not glance toward the backpack. If I stand up, he thought, that will stop me. He stood and looked toward the bar but did not see Carson with the Belgians. Enright gulped the rest of his drink. He looked toward the door. There he saw Carson talking with the man in the houndstooth hat.

As they debarked, Carson said, "I think he's following you." Enright bothered to play dumb. "That's why I was talking to him. He denied it, of course. He said his name is Riley. But I doubt it. Do you know him?"

"Why would he follow me?"

They waited in Calais, bags on the long table, for the customs men to give them the nod. Katya smiled at the bald headed customs man, but that just seemed to make him delay her. When he lifted a bra from her case, she grabbed it and gestured angrily and swore in German. The man with the thick mustache waved Carson through.

Enright knew he was in the clear, but he worried anyway. They could plant anything—and certainly did at times. How was that decision made? How do I present myself in a way that makes them let me pass? Riley passed with a nod. When everything from Enright's valise was on the table, he said, "If you're looking for something specific, maybe I can help you." The customs man sneered and walked away.

The pavement outside the Gare du Nord looked clean, rinsed by the rain. The night was clear, and Paris smelled of bread and cigarettes and roasted chestnuts. Carson slowed down to admire a shop window. When Riley came along, Carson said, "There's plenty of time for a meal. Why don't you join us?"

They chose a bistro near Gare de l'est. Riley seemed less like a cop now that Enright could hear him talk. He knew his way around Paris and regarded the city with a sardonic affection. Enright told a story about the time he interviewed Bridgit Bardot, who only wanted to talk about her dog's sex life. "Now I can't think of her without thinking of dogs stuck together."

Carson wanted to know about Enright's career. "Are you working on a story now? In Berlin?"

"I am," said Enright. "Unfortunately, I can't talk about it. My sources are very sensitive."

"You're lying. I think you're lying. Are you a spy, Enright? Katya thinks you are. Don't you, Katya?"

Katya sipped her wine and looked out the window.

Carson went on. "What do you think, Riley?"

Riley said, "They say the best spies are the ones who are most obvious. Think of Philby."

"I think you're just hanging out with us for cover," Carson said to Enright.

"I thought you were doing the same, using me." Enright held up his glass as if to toast.

Carson laughed. He sipped his wine and became serious. "That's the beauty of the game, isn't it? No one tells the truth. Everyone has to guess all the time. That means there's room for an outsider to step between the lines and profit."

"Profit?"

"I study primitive tribes and their customs, and I think the spy services operate very much like those tribes. They have arcane rules of warfare that only insiders can grasp, shifting priorities, peculiar alliances. They even use the equivalent of blow darts."

Riley broke into a short silence. "You might be right in one case in a thousand, but that leaves plenty of people caught in between and not getting out."

Carson held up his glass. "To the one in a thousand."

Enright was buoyed by Carson's attitude, which complemented his own disgust with the arrogance he had encountered whenever he dealt with the bureaucrats connected to the secret services. Riley seemed benign, even pleasant. The wine, the delicious food, Carson's rebellious energy, and Katya's lovely thighs combined to dissolve London's gray gauze from Enright's consciousness. He reached for the check. Carson grabbed it away from him and insisted. Enright hid his relief by offering to buy a round of brandies. I want to make sure he sleeps, Enright thought. But he was not worried anymore. Everything was moving along in the right direction.

Even the train was better, more comfortable and less austere than Enright had anticipated. Soldiers filled the third class cars. A few officers came forward. Enright placed his bag on the rack next to Carson's backpack and sat across the aisle from Carson and Katya. Riley had excused himself and gone into another car.

Enright thought of the article he might sell to a travel magazine, maybe the Sunday Times, about train travel to Berlin, French style: the luxury, the alternative to the Orient Express, the drama. He looked around for officers to interview. Better to invent the interviews, he thought. I don't want any of these soldiers watching what I do. He closed his eyes and tried to break down some of the unspoken rules of this cold war clandestine world. Carson's dinner conversation filled the space between waking and sleeping: play the middle, hover above the fray, exploit tribal warfare and voodoo; ignore the rules, rather than guess at them poorly. No more working as a partisan shill. He forced his eyes open. Katya was snuggled against Carson, his arm draped around her, resting between her breast and her hip. She had slipped off her white boots and curled her feet up on the seat. The pangs of resentment and envy stabbed Enright, but he smiled. Carson had given him a gift—insight—and with it came the promise of a life with a stream of mini-skirted Katyas.

He stood and without looking around, reached over the sleeping couple and removed the film from the pocket of the backpack where he had placed it. He palmed it and slipped it into his coat pocket. He thought, perhaps I am good at this. He sat down again, taking one more longing look at Katya, then drifted back into wonderland and his vaguely bright future.

Greppos invaded the train at Marienbord. The first announcement came in German. Enright could understand enough of it: they were entering the German Democratic Republic and no one would be allowed off the train until it reached Friedrichstrasse station in Berlin. That information was repeated in French and English. It occurred to Enright that East Germany was a safe zone for him now. Danger lurked in England.

Carson startled him out of his meditation on exile. "How long is it usually before we get going again? The border guards look nasty."

Enright remembered his lie. "About 30 minutes. But you never know with these boys. They might decide to show their muscle."

Two Greppos, young and sullen, AK-47s slung over their shoulders, made their way down the aisle, gesturing wordlessly for the passports. They were already expert at staring threateningly at the passengers. This shift is probably punishment, thought Enright. Maybe they were suspected of Western weaknesses.

By the time they reached Brandenburg, the sun had risen and begun waking the passengers. Katya pulled on her boots and went forward to use the toilet. A moment later, Carson opened his eyes and stretched. "Where are you staying in Berlin?"

Enright had not booked a room for fear his movements could be traced. "The Kempinski," he said. "What about you?" It was the only hotel Enright could name.

"Is it nice? Maybe I'll try that, too," Carson said.

"I have to meet someone first thing on arrival," Enright said. "I'll look you up when I get in."

Friedrichstrasse train station was larger than Victoria Station and busier. It seemed that everyone getting off the train was going to West Berlin except for Enright, who explained he was meeting his source in the shops below the station. To go west they had to walk to platform B where they could catch a U-Bahn train.

Carson stopped to take a photo. "Ah, the jungle. Look at it, Enright. It even has a canopy. And all the natives going their ways, every one of them trained in the dangers, everyone hoping not to be singled out before he returns to his own side. I could spend a lifetime documenting their habits. But... I think there might be more interesting approaches. See you soon, Enright. Don't step in any traps."

Soldiers stood by every few feet, wearing different uniforms from the Greppos but holding the same rifles the Greppos had. Some Stasi men were easy to identify, hands in pockets, openly staring at whatever passengers caught their attention. The signs confused Enright. He did not know U-Bahn from S-Bahn. He stopped to make sure Riley was not following him, then turned down a long, crowded hallway.

He felt a tap on his shoulder and turned angrily. One of the men he had identified as Stasi faced him. "Mr. Enright? I think you would rather go this way. It will be much faster. You can call me Willi."

"Yes, but what's your name?" Enright said and smiled.

Willi smiled back. "Please give me your passport, and I will see to everything."

The office was on the fourth floor of an old stone building on Dorotheenstrasse, just a ten-minute walk from the station. The door was smoked glass, unmarked and there was no plaque on the wall identifying the occupants. Willi opened the door courteously and said, "I will wait here to escort you back."

The first room held only two chairs and a small table between them. Enright was about to knock on the door to the inner office, but it opened first and young woman said, "May I have the film, please?"

A wave of suspicion hit Enright. He leaned forward, trying to peek inside the next office. The woman put a hand on his chest. "How do I know..." Enright said.

"You will be paid when we have developed the photos. It is the way this is done."

Enright had resolved not to go along with the way things are done. He felt like a prisoner. Willi was guarding the door, and Enright did not know the way back to the west anyway. He wished someone would enter the room, someone he could attempt to charm—or complain to. I would be better off if I did not understand the rules. Better off if I made my own. It's the money, again, the money. I just want that and to get out.

Enright missed Carson's casual cynicism and tried to repeat the tropes as he had begun to do on the train. As an hour passed, the questions Enright had eluded shuffled in, and he fended them off with rationalizations: who was he betraying; was cooperating with the enemy the same as betraying your country; did the level of harm matter? After all, this politician was not England. And the West was about money. They admitted as much. But it was not betrayal, Enright realized with a shudder, that was haunting him; it was commitment. He had chosen a side at last. And the commitment was not something gained because his only early ambition had been to hang above the fray, disinterested, even indifferent.

When the door opened, a tall, dignified man in a three-piece suit beckoned Enright to the inner office. Spread on the table were photos: Victoria Station, inside and out, from various angles; the National Gallery; Trafalgar Square; Riley in his hat; Katya; Enright biting into his cheese roll.

 

Carson was smiling when he answered the door to his suite at the Kempinski. "So you are a spy after all, Enright. But I knew that as soon as I found the film. And Riley was following you all along. Tribes. Jungle wars."

"I need the photos, please."

Carson moved aside and waved Enright in. The living room was vast, five times—at least—the size of Enright's bedsitter. It was decorated in gold and silver, and the light streaming in the huge windows made the wall paper seem worth mining.

"You let me hump the photos. I own them."

"That sounds like Vietnam talk," said Riley.

"Please. I promised them," said Enright.

"How much are you getting?"

Enright did not want to talk in front of Riley.

"It's okay. Riley, if that's his name, seems to know a lot. I've offered him the photos for 2,500 quid. I'll see you get your share. He's MI5 after all, something, one of them. A real spy. Could be Stasi for all I know."

"Please, Carson. They're serious."

Carson squinted at Enright and then smiled. "Enright, you don't even know what you've got, do you? Come here."

Carson taunted Riley with a smile and pulled two photos from a large envelope. He placed them on the sideboard and moved out of the way so Enright could approach.

The first photo showed the prostitute in close up on the bed. The sheets had been pulled down and they were splotched with her blood. She had been beaten. The side of her head was just a dark mass of blood.

The second photo showed Marley, the politician, in the foreground without his shirt and the prostitute behind him on the sullied sheets.

Fear flared through Enright's body like an infection unleashed. He fought to hide it and knew he failed. Though he could see the two men plainly, the room felt draped in blackness so thick he dared not move.

"Just forget you saw the photos, Enright," Riley said. "Force yourself."

"She was alive when I was there, when he handed me the film."

Riley turned away.

"I told you, walk between the sides and ignore the rules." Carson said. "You're too obedient, Enright. It'll get you in trouble." He turned to Riley. "Twenty-five hundred and the cost of this suite."

Riley said, "I'll pay the twenty-five. But you have to accompany Enright to deliver the pictures. He has to have a reason to show why he didn't have them. Otherwise they'll suspect tampering or a set up."

"You want me to deliver the pictures?"

"Do you accept?"

"Why not?"

Riley left. The hour Enright spent in the East German office was bathed in regret, but the time spent waiting for Riley in the suite was a bottomless sea of confusion. "I don't get it. Who is he? I can't piece this together. Maybe we should get out of here."

"MI5 or MI6 I suppose. He wants you to sell the pictures to the Russians or Germans or whoever it is. I don't know, and it doesn't matter."

Carson's charm seemed to have evaporated. He sounded like a simpleton. Both Riley and Carson advocated willful ignorance, but from Riley it sounded like wisdom and from Carson like foolishness. Enright almost chuckled: the decision was clear, only his perception of it remained to be determined.

While Carson showered and changed, Enright paced and wondered how to escape. But Riley soon returned with Carson's money. "I'll wait here, if that's alright with you," he said.

Carson's first stop was the front desk where he had deposited the developed photos in the safe. They walked along Kurfurstendamm toward Tiergarten.

"You keep the money the Germans give you, and I'll kick in another five hundred," Carson said.

"Maybe you shouldn't take all that money to the east."

"I'm a rich American to them. Forget the rules, Enright. Who are these people? They're the same ones sending my friends to die in Vietnam. The only way to fight them is to find the gaps, change the game on them. They're the old guard, Enright. The past. Do you really think the world would be a worse place if they stopped playing altogether? We're going to make out very well on this."

A blur of white caught Enright's eye across the street. Katya. Carson insisted they follow her. "She can't come with us," Enright said.

"But after we get back I'm going to want to know where she is. We'll have to celebrate."

They followed her into a small hotel just yards from the U-Bahn station. Carson called out to her. She flashed the gap in her teeth and waved for them to follow her. She passed through the bar. Carson followed. Enright looked to the bartender for some sort of reprimand, but the bartender busied himself drying the wine glasses.

Katya waved for them to follow her down a dim staircase. "Come. I'm meeting ein freund," she said.

"We only have a few minutes," Carson said. "Slow down." But he followed her, and Enright went along.

Katya disappeared into a room at the bottom of the stairs.

By the time Enright entered, two men were holding Carson by his arms. Enright turned to face a large, stone-faced man wearing an overcoat. Riley entered from a door at the rear of the room. Carson spoke first to Katya, asking what was going on. She shrugged as if she could not understand, but this time her smile seemed taunting.

Riley ordered the men to take the photos and the money from Carson. "Do keep quiet, Carson. No one will hear you." Carson was no longer an entertaining travel companion; he was a nuisance, a bore.

Carson spit at Riley but missed. "I'll tell the world who you are. I'll end you. You're a roach, and I'm gonna shine a light on you, Riley, or whatever your name is. What do you have? Is it a law that says you can act like this? A policy? I doubt it. It's a notion you had. You sensed you could get away with it and intimidate anyone who challenged you by calling it secret and important. You're just an overindulged little boy. I'll shine a light on you."

Riley nodded and one of the men let go of Carson's arm. The man hit Carson in the gut, and when Carson doubled over, the man smashed his elbow into Carson's jaw. A tooth fell onto the floor.

"No one can hear you now, Carson," Riley said. "No one will believe you later. You were mugged, or you tried to chat up the wrong woman. We'll let you decide the story. But do not mention these photos. Not ever. We will find you."

Riley led Enright out of the room, and they stood, with Katya, on the landing at the bottom of the staircase. Carson's shouts came through as a slight humming sound.

"One in a thousand. I tried to explain that to him," Riley said.

Enright said, "You changed the roll of film even before Carson did. I've been played from the start."

"That's alright, Enright. You've done fine so far without understanding a thing. Perhaps you'll figure it out, perhaps you won't. It doesn't matter. You have a role to play, so listen carefully." Riley handed him the envelope of photos, "You will say you were delayed because you decided to develop the pictures. You didn't want any mistakes this time. And you will ask for more money. Now you see how valuable they are. Ask for 1,500 pounds. Be insistent. Don't worry, they won't hurt you. Make the best deal you can."

Enright nodded along. He looked toward the closed door, hoping for sounds, but there were none. He looked up the staircase.

"Follow Katya. She'll lead you to the correct station. Cheer up, Enright. There were many candidates, and you were chosen. And you've impressed me. Stashing the film to get through customs—well, you were unlucky. Lesson learned, I hope. You're a spy now. You're in the game.

Enright stood still. "But the girl, the prostitute... is she dead?"

"Don't put yourself in the middle, Enright. It doesn't pay."

Katya walked up stairs without waiting for more—white boots, short white skirt, white jacket—and Enright followed her.

 

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