Berlin Blind, страница 1
© Alan Scholefield 1980
Alan Scholefield has asserted his rights under the Copyright, Design and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.
First published in 2017 by Endeavour Press Ltd.
Table of Contents
For Hugh Toomer
‘It appears that of the hundreds of thousands of prisoners of war in Germany only thirty-odd volunteered for the corps (the British Free Corps). But even so small a number, split into groups and sent into the German towns, drunken and with prostitutes on their arms, did something to raise national morale...’
‘There were also the children among the traitors, the ones who thought like children, and felt like children, and were treacherous as children are, without malice... most of these were children with men’s bodies; but some were children in body as well as mind.’
Rebecca West, The Meaning of Treason
A little before full dark on an early autumn evening in London a Volkswagen microbus with German tourist plates pulled off the carriageway in Hyde Park and stopped in the deserted parking area overlooking the Serpentine. Two men sat in the front seat. The driver was twenty-eight years old, a big man who wore a heavy black beard and long hair. He was dressed in jeans, a white T-shirt, and a camouflage jacket; on his feet he wore Adidas running shoes. His name was Jurgen Muller and he had been born in Hanover in West Germany. He sat for some moments, his big hands resting on top of the steering-wheel, and stared out over the darkling water; then he looked at his watch and said to his companion: ‘He’ll be late tonight.’
The second man was shorter, with a nervous face, darting eyes and a mustache. His name was Louis Tellier, he was four years older than Muller, and had been born in Lyons. He wore dark grey pir.-cords, a green polo-neck and, like his companion, Adidas running shoes. He had a mountaineer’s beanie on his head.
‘What time is it?’ he said in English, their only common language.
‘Did Inge phone?’
‘An hour ago.’
‘Everything under control.’
A little drizzle began to fall, sweeping across the park from the north-east. It was not much more than a heavy mist but soon the beech trees and horse-chestnuts — already losing their leaves — began to glisten in the light from the lamps on the Serpentine bridge. The rain was not heavy enough to pucker the surface of the water and the lake shone like a black-lacquered road that ended in the misty cliffs of Park Lane.
Tellier rolled down his window and held his hand out into the night, feeling the drizzle.
‘Do you think he will come?’
‘Not if it is wet.’
‘I know him better than you.’
Tellier looked at his watch. ‘How long do you think?’
‘Half an hour. Perhaps a little more.’
‘You saw him go into the hotel?’
‘I was parked across the street.’ For the first time a note of impatience entered Muller’s voice. ‘Don’t worry, he never misses. I’ve seen him go out in a thunderstorm. He’ll come.’
They sat in silence for a while then Tellier said, ‘Do you think he knows?’
‘About us? Never.’
‘Sometimes I have the feeling... he went to the newspaper library at Colin-dale.’ He pronounced it carefully as two words. ‘I know. So?’
‘He looked back. Two times, three times.’
‘In the street?’
‘You didn’t go into the library?’
‘No. But maybe he see me in the street?’
‘You were on the other side?’
‘A hundred metres away, almost.’
‘Your own mother wouldn’t recognize you with a moustache and that thing on your head.’
‘You do not like it?’
‘A cap, a hat, something to cover your head. No one talked of mountain-climbing.’
‘I did not have a hat.’
‘Christ, man, there are shops.’
‘The English wear these.’ Tellier took off the beanie, examined it, and pulled it on again. Without it he was completely bald. ‘He did not seem strange to you?’
‘Normal. Everything the same. He went to Scotland Yard again. For more than an hour. A meeting, I suppose. Then I picked him up. Taxi to Kensington’ — he, too, split the word — ‘and here we are. We wait.’
‘Why does it have to be this way?’
‘Like this, in the park. All dressed up.’
‘You want to go up to him in the street. “Good day, Herr Riemeck...” Is that your way?’
‘His hotel room.’
‘The noise, Tellier, the noise. Anyway, what if he recognized us? He’s a professional, you know. It is better in the dark. I’m glad it’s raining. Look around you. No one.’
Again there was a pause, then Tellier said, ‘Shouldn’t we get ready?’
Muller looked at his watch. ‘All right.’
They got out, opened the vehicle’s wide side doors and climbed into the roomy interior. It was fitted up as a camper and there were two high-back seats facing each other like a booth in a bar. There was also a small wardrobe, a gas stove, a cupboard, and space for a table. From the wardrobe Muller took two coat-hangers; each held a dark-coloured track-suit. They began to change into them.
Less than twenty miles away at London Airport the drizzle had stopped and the big lights shone down on the glistening black tarmac. Inside Terminal Three it was impossible to tell whether it was day or night, wet or dry. Luggage from the New York Jumbo that had landed twenty minutes before was beginning to come down on Carousel Two and the passengers moved closer. John Spencer had gone off to get a trolley, and now, as the suitcases began to tumble down the chute he pushed forward, finding a way between the others, so that soon he was standing next to the Carousel itself. One or two people had turned round with irritation as the trolley brushed their legs and had seen a man of medium height, strongly built, with dark hair beginning to turn grey except for a line of white above one ear, and cold blue eyes. His hands on the trolley were blunt, square and powerful and he had an air of authority. He was completely unaware of the irritation he had caused. His mind was already probing at the hour that lay ahead: the car journey along the motorway then fighting the last of the rush-hour traffic through central London until finally he reached Hampstead and Sue. He wanted to see her so badly he could almost smell her and taste her.
His suitcase was one of the first to come down and he caught it up and put it on the trolley with his executive case, his coat and the plastic bag with the two half bottles of Remy Martin and the ounce of Miss Dior he had bought on the plane.
‘Excuse me,’ he said and pushed his way through towards the green customs exit.
Robert Calland was waiting for him in the arrivals hall. ‘Hello, John. Good to have you back.’
‘Hello, Bob.’ They shook hands. ‘Let’s get the hell out of here. Where’s the car?’
‘Out front. Let me take that.’
‘No I can manage.’ He picked up the suitcase and strode off across the hall to the glass exit doors. Armstrong had the Mercedes half over a pedestrian crossing and a policeman was making his way towards them. Spencer threw his suitcase into the trunk, slammed it shut and they took off hurriedly into the traffic.
‘Good trip?’ Calland said.
‘So, so. I think we’ve got the Goddard contract.’
‘God, that’s marvellous
‘Yes. Not only for Britain but France and Belgium as well. I tried to get Holland but no dice.’
‘But that’s great, John. It’s more than we hoped for.’
‘It may have been more than you hoped for but I’d have liked Holland.’
Spencer smiled. In spite of the chilly blue eyes the smile had warmth. It gave him a boyish, youthful look. He knew it and used it to his advantage whenever he could.
They left the airport lights behind and swung out on to the motorway. ‘That must have taken some talking,’ Calland said.
Spencer looked sideways at him under his eyelids. Calland was a good-looking young man on the way up and Spencer was never quite certain whether there wasn’t a bit too much of the yes-man about him. He agreed with a lot of Spencer’s thinking but then as Spencer had said to himself that might just be good sense. He was pushy and sometimes just a little too familiar. But Spencer did not mind. Calland was what, twenty-seven, twenty-eight, and Spencer had been as pushy, as ambitious at that age. Just as long as he didn’t think he could trample on John Spencer.
‘What do we pay?’ Calland said.
‘That’s the part we haven’t ironed out yet. They want six, I offered four, six if we got Holland.’
‘What are they like?’
‘Pretty hard. Typical American business men.’ He thought of the big glass office in downtown Houston where they had had their meetings. There were none of the liquid lunches that the same sort of business discussion would have meant in London. There they worked in their shirt sleeves starting at eight in the morning, and some of them did not knock off until seven or eight in the evening. It was a sandwich and a glass of milk for lunch. Of course in the evening it had been different; then there had been the booze and the girls and he’d had his share of the booze but he had not been interested in the girls and he’d gone back to his room in the Ramada Inn near the Six-ten Loop, where he was staying so he could be close to the factory, and the first thing he’d done every evening was to phone Sue.
He’d only gone out twice during his fortnight in Houston, once to old man Goddard’s mansion in River Oaks where there had been a black butler and three black maids serving at table, and the second time to Quail Valley to the home of a young executive about Calland’s age where the houses were all grouped round a golf course and you took your martinis in a basket and put them on the golf cart; eighteen holes on a Sunday morning had very little to do with healthy exercise.
They were running into London now and the traffic was getting heavier. ‘Tell me about Metcalfe,’ Spencer said.
Calland looked away and then shrugged slightly. ‘No change.’
‘Well that’s it then.’
‘Yes I know he’s good.’
Metcalfe was the new works manager at the factory in Slough where they made pressure valves of all kinds. Spencer had taken him off the shop floor and brought him up through the ranks of middle management. But his new position seemed to have gone to his head. He’d bought a second-hand Jaguar and for the past two months had been coming in late and leaving early. Spencer had spoken to Metcalfe about it and had asked Calland to reinforce the warning. It obviously hadn’t worked and now they’d have to get rid of Metcalfe. ‘Oh, shit,’ he said. ‘I don’t want to talk about it, I don’t want to think about it.’ Armstrong was taking them through the back-streets, threading their way between the traffic jams towards north London.
‘Did you see Susan?’ Spencer said.
‘We had her to dinner twice.’
‘That was kind of you.’
‘It was our pleasure, you know how Joan likes her. Then on Sunday we went down to Brighton for the day.’
‘Well it was sunny and Sue said she felt like a breath of sea air. Anyway, I like Brighton.’
Spencer nodded. ‘Thanks, Bob. It took a load off my mind. How did you think she was looking?’
‘Marvellous. You know what they say about pregnant women.’
Armstrong drove Spencer to work every day and knew the by-ways of Belsize Park and Hampstead like a map and soon he was drawing up before one of the houses in Cannon Place. For the past five minutes Spencer had been wondering whether he could let Calland go without offering him a drink and had decided he couldn’t. ‘Are you coming in for a quick one?’
‘Thanks John, some other time.’
Spencer could have kissed him. ‘OK, Bob, I’ll see you first thing in the morning and give you a run down on the whole operation.’
He stood on the pavement and watched the car disappear down the short street and then he picked up his suitcase and walked through the garden gate and up the steps to the front door. He felt excited, like a kid. Sue’s light was on and he wanted to shout or throw a stone against her window, but instead he gave three short rings on the bell. The door opened almost immediately and there she was standing in the hall with her arms outstretched to greet him, the great bulge of her belly threatening to pull her off balance.
‘Darling. Darling. Darling,’ she said and put her arms round his neck and pulled him towards her.
‘Careful,’ he said, breaking free after some moments. ‘You’ll squeeze what’s its name.’ He patted her tummy. ‘God it’s good to see you.’
‘I heard the car. I came down. I knew you’d ring.’
He left his suitcase in the hall and put his arm round her waist and they went into the drawing-room. There she turned and kissed him again. ‘It’s been so long,’ she said. ‘The longest two weeks I’ve ever known.’
She pushed him down onto the big sofa. ‘Sit. You must be tired. I’ll get you a drink.’
He watched her mix the Scotch and water and put in the ice. Everything had been ready for his homecoming. His mind went back to other trips and other years before his first wife Margaret had died. Things had been very different then, specially the last years. Then she would have been up in her own room and the only Scotch available would have been in the bottle she was drinking from. In those days he had spent as much time away from home as he could; he’d had no urge to get back. Business trips had been spun out long beyond their usefulness. He had looked forward to leaving and been depressed about returning. Now things were different; now Calland was taking over more and more on the foreign side and Spencer was only doing the major trips; no more than two or three a year.
He looked at Susan. Calland was right, she was looking marvellous. She was a tall woman, about Spencer’s own height with dark hair and a pale oval face. Normally she would have had slight hollows in her cheeks — she was on the thin side — but she had put on weight and her face had filled out and Spencer thought he had never seen her looking so beautiful. She was thirty-one, just over twenty years younger than Spencer, yet her skin was unlined and as fresh as it had been at twenty-five. She was wearing a long black kaftan with a chunky gold chain round her neck, gold earrings, and heavy gold dress rings on both her hands. He thought she looked exotic, Italianate. He told himself: ‘She’s yours, she’s your wife. Remember this moment. Remember how happy you are.’
She poured herself a glass of tonic water — she was off alcohol now because of the baby — and sat beside him. ‘Tell me about it. But first, did you miss me?’
He took her hand and brought it up to his lips. ‘Every single minute of every day.’
‘I bet you didn’t. What about these blonde bombshells that business men are supposed to organize on their trips abroad?’
‘Oh, those. I had lots of those. I still missed you.’
She laughed. ‘Why, what have I got that they haven’t got?
‘Your figure.’ He patted her tummy again. ‘I’ve got used to ladies with large tummies.’
They talked for a while and he told her about the trip and she told him how she had been and about her blood-pressure — up slightly — and how she had been out to dinner twice with the Callands and down to B
‘Couldn’t be better. I’m up to here with tacos and enchiladas and hamburgers and things called chicken-fried steaks — ’
‘What on earth are those?’
‘God knows, some sort of ground meat. They grind up everything in America. I asked for a wiener schnitzel one night and that was ground up too. But first of all a shower.’
‘And another drink?’
‘Of course. Don’t forget I’m drinking for three of us now.’
‘I’ll bring it up.’
He went upstairs and had his shower and came into the bedroom towelling himself. She was sitting on the edge of the bed holding his whisky. He took it from her and bent to kiss her forehead and she put her arms up and pulled him down beside her. She kissed him and this time there were both affection and passion in it.
‘Now?’ he said.
She unzipped the kaftan and took it off and she was wearing nothing underneath it. She lay on her side next to him propping her head up on her hand and he thought she looked like a piece of modern sculpture, all convoluted rounds and curves. Her breasts had enlarged and her nipples were a deep pink. Blue veins stood out both on her breasts and her stomach, and her navel had inverted. He bent and kissed her stomach. This was one of the wonders of Susan, that throughout her pregnancy she had felt the physical need of sex. It had been quite the opposite with Margaret. She had felt ill for a lot of the time and perhaps because subconsciously she blamed sex for feeling so wretched, had grown to think of it with distaste, a distaste which had lasted for several months after the birth of their son, Dick.
He held Sue in his arms now and kissed her and they moved easily to a position where she lay half on top of him so that the pressure on her stomach was lessened. After it was over he lay in the softly lit room by her side, drowsy and content, as though suspended in time and space, weightless.
‘How do you feel?’ Sue said.