The cold rays of the moon streaked down from the night sky and bounced off the rolling surf, which burst into suspended sprays of white where isolated waves crashed into the rocks of the shoreline. The stretch of beach between the towering boulders of the Costa Brava was the execution ground. It had to be. May God damn this goddamned world—it had to be!
He could see her now. And hear her through the sounds of the sea and the breaking surf. She was running wildly, screaming hysterically: “Pro boha ivého! Proï! Co to dêláš! P¡estañ! Proï! Proï!”
Her blond hair was caught in the moonlight, her racing silhouette given substance by the beam of a powerful flashlight fifty yards behind her. She fell; the gap closed and a staccato burst of gunfire abruptly, insolently split the night air, bullets exploding the sand and the wild grass all around her. She would be dead in a matter of seconds.
His love would be gone.
They were high on the hill overlooking the Moldau, the boats on the river plowing the waters north and south, their wakes furrows. The curling smoke from the factories below diffused in the bright afternoon sky, obscuring the mountains in the distance, and Michael watched, wondering if the winds above Prague would come along and blow the smoke away so the mountains could be seen again. His head was on Jenna’s lap, his long legs stretched out, touching the wicker basket she had packed with sandwiches and iced wine. She sat on the grass, her back against the smooth bark of a birch tree; she stroked his hair, her fingers circling his face, gently outlining his lips and cheekbones.
“Mikhail, my darling, I was thinking. Those tweed jackets and dark trousers you wear, and that very proper English which must come from your very proper university, will never remove the Havlíïek from Havelock.”
“I don’t think they were meant to. One’s a uniform of sorts, and the other you kind of learn in self-defense.” He smiled, touching her hand. “Besides, that university was a long time ago.”
“So much was a long time ago, wasn’t it? Right down there.”
“You were there, my poor darling.”
“It’s history. I survived.”
“Many did not.”
The blond woman rose, spinning in the sand, pulling at the wild grass, plunging to her right, for several seconds eluding the beam of light. She headed toward the dirt road above the beach, staying in darkness, crouching, lunging, using the cover of night and the patches of tall grass to conceal her body.
It would not do her any good, thought the tall man in the black sweater at his post between two trees above the road, above the terrible violence that was taking place below, above the panicked woman who would be dead in moments. He had looked down at her once before, not so very long ago. She had not been panicked then; she had been magnificent.
He folded the curtain back slowly, carefully in the dark office, his back pressed against the wall, his face inching toward the window. He could see her below, crossing the floodlit courtyard, the tattoo of her high heels against the cobblestones echoing martially up between the surrounding buildings. The guards were recessed in shadows—outlines of sullen marionettes in their Soviet-style uniforms. Heads turned, signifying appreciative glances directed at the figure striding confidently toward the iron gate in the center of the iron fence enclosing the stone compound that was the core of Prague’s secret police. The thoughts behind the glances were clear: this was no mere secretary working overtime, this was a privileged kurva who took dictation on a commissar’s couch till all hours of the night.
But others, too, were watching—from other darkened windows. One break in her confident stride, one instant of hesitation, and a phone would be picked up and orders of detention issued to the gate. Embarrassments, of course, were to be avoided where commissars were concerned, but not if there appeared to be substance behind suspicions. Everything was appearance.
There was no break, no hesitation. She was carrying it off . . . carrying it out! They had done it! Suddenly he felt a jolt of pain in his chest; he knew what it was. Fear. Pure, raw, sickening fear. He was remembering—memories within memories. As he watched her his mind went back to a city in rubble, to the terrible sounds of mass execution. Lidice. And a child—one of many children—scurrying through the billowing gray smoke of burning debris, carrying messages and pockets full of plastic explosives. One break, one hesitation, then . . . history.
She reached the gate. An obsequious guard was permitted to leer. She was magnificent. God, he loved her!
She had reached the shoulder of the road, legs and arms working furiously, digging into the sand and the dirt, clawing for survival. With no wild grass to conceal her, she would be seen; the beam of light would find her, and the end would come quickly.
He watched, suspending emotion, erasing pain, a human litmus accepting impressions without comment. He had to—professionally. He had learned the truth, the stretch of beach on the Costa Brava was confirmation of her guilt, proof of her crimes. The hysterical woman below was a killer, an agent for the infamous Voennaya Kontra Razvedka, the savage branch of the Soviet KGB that spawned terrorism everywhere. That was the truth; it was undeniable. He had seen it all, talked with Washington from Madrid. The rendezvous that night had been ordered by Moscow, the purpose being the delivery by VKR Field Officer Jenna Karas of a schedule of assassinations to a faction of the Baader-Meinhof at an isolated beach called Montebello, north of the town of Blanes. That was the truth.
It did not set him free. Instead, it bound him to another truth, an obligation of his profession. Those who betrayed the living and brokered death had to die. No matter who, no matter . . . Michael Havelock had made the decision, and it was irrevocable. He had set the last phase of the trap himself, for the death of the woman who briefly had given him more happiness than any other person on earth. His love was a killer; to permit her to live would mean the killing of hundreds, perhaps thousands.
What Moscow did not know was that Langley had broken the VKR codes. He himself had sent the last transmission to a boat a half-mile off the Costa Brava shoreline. KGB confirmation. Officer contact compromised by U.S. Intelligence. Schedules false. Eliminate. The codes were among the most unbreakable; they would guarantee elimination.
She was rising now. Her slender body rose above the shoulder of sand and dirt. It was going to happen! The woman about to die was his love: they had held each other and there had been quiet talk of a lifetime together, of children, of peace and the splendid comfort of being one—together. Once he had believed it all, but it was not to be.
They were in bed, her head on his chest, her soft blond hair falling across her face. He brushed it aside, lifting up the strands that concealed her eyes, and laughed.
“You’re hiding,” he said.
“It seems we’re always hiding,” she replied, smiling sadly. “Except when we wish to be seen by people who should see us. We do nothing that we simply want to. Everything is calculated, Mikhail. Regimented. We live in a movable prison.”
“It hasn’t been that long, and it won’t last forever.”
“I suppose not. One day they’ll find they don’t need us, don’t want us any longer, perhaps. Will they let us go, do you think? Or will we disappear?”
“Washington’s not Prague. Or Moscow. We’ll walk out of our movable prison, me with a gold watch, you with some kind of silent decoration with your papers.”
“Are you sure? We know a great deal. Too much, perhaps.”
“Our protection lies in what we do know. What I know. They’ll always wonder: Did he write it down somewhere? Take care, watch him, be good to him . . . It’s not unusual, really. We’ll walk out.”
“Always protection,” she said, tracing his eyebrows. “You never forget, do you? The early days, the terrible days.”
“History. I’ve forgotten.”
“What will we do?”
“Live. I love you.”
“Do you think we’ll have children? Watch them going off to school; hold them, scold them. Go to hockey-ball games.”
“Football . . . or baseball. Not hockey-ball. Yes, I hope so.”
“What will you do, Mikhail?”
“Teach, I suppose. At a college somewhere. I’ve a couple of starched degrees that say I’m qualified. We’ll be happy, I know that. I’m counting on it.”
“What will you teach?”
He looked at her, touching her face, then his eyes wandered up to the shabby ceiling in the run-down hotel room. “History,” he said. And then he reached for her, taking her in his arms.