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“How did she end up in the illegals program?” asked Gabriel.
“In much the same way I did.”
“Her father was KGB?”
“Her mother, actually.”
“And the father?”
“He was a German intelligence officer who’d been targeted for sexual entrapment. Katerina was the offspring of the relationship.”
“Why didn’t the mother have an abortion?”
“She wanted the baby. They took it from her. And then they took her life.”
“And the scar?”
Madeline didn’t answer. Instead, she picked up the photograph again—the photograph of the girl she had known as Katerina standing on a balcony in Lisbon.
“What was she doing there?” she asked. “And why did she leave a bomb on Brompton Road?”
“She was in Lisbon because her controllers knew we were watching the apartment.”
“And the bomb?”
“It was meant for me.”
She looked up sharply. “Why were they trying to kill you?”
Gabriel hesitated, and then said, “Because of you, Madeline.”
A silence fell between them.
“What did you think would happen,” she said finally, “if you killed a KGB officer on Russian soil and then helped me to defect to the West?”
“I thought the Russian president would be angry. But I didn’t think he would set off a bomb on Brompton Road.”
“You underestimate the Russian president.”
“Never,” replied Gabriel. “The Russian president and I have a long history.”
“He’s tried to kill you before?”
“Yes,” said Gabriel. “But this is the first time he’s ever succeeded.”
Her blue-gray eyes flashed over him quizzically. And then she understood.
“When did you die?” she asked.
“Several hours ago, at a British military hospital. I fought hard, but it was no use. My injuries were too severe.”
“Who else knows?”
“My service, of course, and my wife has been quietly notified of my passing.”
“What about Moscow Center?”
“If, as I suspect, they’ve been reading MI6’s mail, they’re already raising glasses of vodka to my demise. But just to make sure, I’m going to make it abundantly clear.”
“Is there anything I can do?”
“Say nice things about me at my funeral. And take more than one bodyguard when you go walking on the beach.”
“There were two, actually.”
“The fisherman?”
“We’re having roast sea bass for dinner.” She smiled and asked, “What are you going to do with all your free time now that you’re dead?”
“I’m going to find the men who killed me.”
Madeline picked up the photograph of Katerina on the balcony. “What about her?” she asked.
Gabriel was silent for a moment. Then he said, “You never told me about the scar on her arm.”
“It happened during a training exercise.”
“What kind of training?”
“Silent killing.” She looked at Gabriel and added darkly, “The KGB starts early.”
“You?”
“I was too young,” she said, shaking her head. “But Katerina was older and they had other plans for her. Her instructor handed her a knife one day and told her to kill him. Katerina obeyed. Katerina always obeyed.”
“Go on.”
“Even after he disarmed her, she kept coming at him. Eventually, she cut herself on her own weapon. She’s lucky she didn’t bleed to death.” Madeline looked down at the photograph. “Where do you think she is now?”
“I suppose she’s somewhere in Russia.”
“In a town without a name.” Madeline returned the photograph to Gabriel. “Let’s hope she stays there.”
When Gabriel returned to Wormwood Cottage, he climbed the stairs to his room and fell exhausted into his bed. He longed to telephone his wife but didn’t dare. Surely, his enemies were prowling the grid for traces of his voice. Dead men didn’t make phone calls.
When sleep finally claimed him, he was made restless by dreams. In one he was crossing the nave of a cathedral in Vienna, carrying a wooden case filled with his restoration supplies. A German girl waited in the doorway to engage him in conversation, as she had done that night, but in his dream she was Katerina and blood flowed freely from a deep wound to her arm. “Can you repair it?” she asked, showing him the wound, but he slipped past her without a word and made his way through quiet Viennese streets, to a square in the old Jewish Quarter. The square was blanketed with snow and jammed with London buses. A woman was trying to start the engine of a Mercedes sedan but the engine wouldn’t turn over because the bomb was pulling power from the battery. His son was strapped into his car seat in the back, but the woman behind the wheel was not his wife. It was Madeline Hart. “How did you find me?” she asked through the broken glass of her window. And then the bomb exploded.
He must have called out in his sleep because Keller was standing in the doorway of his room when he woke. Miss Coventry served them breakfast in the kitchen and then saw them into the cold foggy morning as they set off for a hike across the moor. Gabriel’s legs were weak with inactivity, but Keller took mercy on him. They passed the first mile at a moderate pace that increased gradually as Gabriel spoke of Madeline and the offspring of a KGB honey trap named Katerina. They were going to find her, said Gabriel. And then they were going to send a message to the Kremlin that needed no translation.
“Don’t forget Quinn,” said Keller.
“Maybe there was no Quinn. Maybe Quinn was just a name and a track record. Maybe he was just a piece of bait they tossed into the water to lure us to the surface.”
“You don’t really believe that, do you?”
“It’s crossed my mind.”
“Quinn murdered the princess.”
“According to a source inside Iranian intelligence,” said Gabriel pointedly.
“How soon can we move?”
“After my funeral.”
Returning to Wormwood Cottage, he found a change of clothing lying folded at the foot of his bed. He showered, dressed, and climbed once more into the back of the paneled van. This time, it bore him eastward to a safe house in Highgate. The house was familiar to him; he had operated there before. Entering, he tossed his coat over the back of a chair in the sitting room and climbed the stairs to a small study on the second floor. It had an arrow slit of a window overlooking the cul-de-sac, a dead man’s view. Rain gurgled in the gutters, pigeons wept in the eaves. Thirty minutes passed, long enough for darkness to fall and a row of streetlamps to flicker hesitantly to life. Then a gray car came crawling up the slope of the hill, driven with what appeared to be inordinate care. It parked in front of the safe house and the driver, a young, harmless-looking man, climbed out. A woman climbed out, too—the woman who would inform the world of his tragic death. He looked at his watch and smiled. She was late. She always was.
36
HIGHGATE, LONDON
ABSOLUTELY NOT,” said Samantha Cooke. “Not now, not ever. Not in a million bloody years.”
“Why not?”
“Shall I count the reasons?”
She was standing in the middle of the sitting room, one hand suspended, the palm upturned, the inquisitor awaiting her answer. Upon entering, she had dropped her handbag onto the seat of a faded wing chair, but she had yet to remove her sodden coat. Her hair was ash blond and shoulder length, her eyes were blue and naturally probing. At present, they were fixed incredulously on Gabriel’s face. A year earlier he had given Samantha Cooke and her newspaper, the Telegraph, one of the biggest exclusives in the history of British journalism—an interview with Madeline Hart, the Russian spy who had been the prime minister’s secret lover. Now he was asking for a favor in return. Another exclusive, this one concerning his death.
“For starters,” she was saying, “it
wouldn’t be ethical. Not by a mile.”
“I do love it when British journalists talk about ethics.”
“I don’t work for a tabloid. I work for a quality broadsheet.”
“Which is why I need you. If the story appears in the Telegraph, people will think it’s true. If it appears in the—”
“You’ve made your point.” She shed her coat and tossed it atop her handbag. “I think I need a drink.”
Gabriel nodded toward the trolley.
“Join me?”
“It’s a bit early in the day for me, Samantha.”
“Me, too. I have a story to write.”
“What’s it about?”
“Jonathan Lancaster’s newest plan to fix the National Health Service. Truly riveting stuff.”
“I have a better story.”
“I’m sure you do.” She picked up a bottle of Beefeater, hesitated, and went for the Dewar’s instead: two fingers in a cut-glass tumbler, ice, enough water to keep her wits about her. “Who does this house belong to?”
“It’s been in the family for many years.”
“I never realized you were an English Jew.” She lifted a decorative bowl from an end table and turned it over.
“What are you looking for?”
“Bugs.”
“The pest control people came last week.”
“I was referring to listening devices.”
“Oh.”
She peered into a lampshade.
“Don’t bother.”
She lifted her eyes to him but said nothing.
“Have you never published a story that turned out to be wrong?”
“Not intentionally.”
“Really?”
“Not of this magnitude,” she elaborated.
“I see.”
“On occasion,” she said, the glass hovering beneath her lips, “I have found it necessary to put an incomplete story into print so that the target of the story feels compelled to finish it.”
“Interrogators do the same thing.”
“But I don’t waterboard my subjects or pull out their fingernails.”
“You should. You’d get better stories.”
She smiled in spite of herself. “Why?” she asked. “Why do you want me to kill you in print?”
“I’m afraid I can’t tell you that.”
“But you have to tell me. Otherwise, there’s no story.” She was right, and she knew it. “Let’s start with the basics, shall we? When did you die?”
“Yesterday afternoon.”
“Where?”
“A British military hospital.”
“Which one?”
“Can’t say.”
“Long illness?”
“Actually, I was severely injured in a bombing.”
Her smile evaporated. She placed her drink carefully on the end table. “Where do the lies end and the truth begin?”
“Not lies, Samantha. Deception.”
“Where?” she asked again.
“I was the operative who warned British intelligence about the bomb on Brompton Road. I was one of the men who tried to move the pedestrians to safety before it exploded.” He paused, then added, “And I was the target.”
“Can you prove it?”
“Look at the CCTV video.”
“I’ve seen it. It could be anyone.”
“But it isn’t anyone, Samantha. It was Gabriel Allon. And now he’s dead.”
She finished her drink and made another: more Dewar’s, less water.
“I’d have to tell my editor.”
“Impossible.”
“I’d trust my editor with my life.”
“But it’s not your life we’re talking about. It’s mine.”
“You don’t have a life anymore, remember? You’re dead.”
Gabriel stared at the ceiling and exhaled slowly. He was growing weary of the fencing match.
“I’m sorry I brought you all the way here,” he said after a moment. “Mr. Davies will run you back to your office. Let’s pretend this never happened.”
“But I haven’t finished my drink.”
“What about your piece on Jonathan Lancaster’s plan to save the NHS?”
“It’s rubbish.”
“The plan or the piece?”
“Both.” She walked over to the drinks trolley and used the silver tongs to lift a lump of ice from the bucket. “You’ve already given me a rather good story, you know.”
“Trust me, Samantha. There’s more.”
“How did you know there was a bomb in that car?”
“I can’t tell you that yet.”
“Who was the woman?”
“She wasn’t Anna Huber. And she wasn’t from Germany.”
“Where was she from?”
“A bit farther to the east.”
Samantha Cooke allowed the ice to fall into her drink and then laid the tongs thoughtfully upon the trolley. Her back was turned to Gabriel. Even so, he could see that she was engaged in a profound struggle with her journalistic conscience.
“She’s Russian? Is that what you’re saying?”
Gabriel didn’t respond.
“I’ll take your silence as a yes. The question is, why would a Russian leave a car bomb on Brompton Road?”
“You tell me.”
She made a show of thought. “I suppose they wanted to send a message to Jonathan Lancaster.”
“And the nature of the message?”
“Don’t fuck with us,” she said coldly. “Especially when it comes to matters of money. Those drilling rights in the North Sea would have been worth billions to the Kremlin. And Lancaster snatched them away.”
“Actually, I was the one who snatched them away. Which is why the Russian president and his henchmen wanted me dead.”
“And now you want to make them think they succeeded?”
He nodded.
“Why?”
“Because it will make my job easier.”
“What job?”
He said nothing.
“I see,” she said softly. She sat down and drank some of her whisky. “If it were ever to become public that I—”
“I think you know me better than that.”
“How would you want it sourced?”
“British intelligence.”
“Another lie.”
“Deception,” he corrected her gently.
“And if I call your service?”
“They won’t answer. But if you call this number,” he said, handing her a slip of paper, “a rather taciturn gentleman will confirm my untimely passing.”
“Does he have a name?”
“Uzi Navot.”
“The chief of the Office?”
Gabriel nodded. “Call him on an open line. And whatever you do, don’t mention the fact that you spoke to the decedent recently. Moscow Center will be listening.”
“I’ll need a British source. A real one.”
He handed her another slip of paper. Another telephone number. “It’s his private line. Don’t abuse the privilege.”
She tucked both numbers into her handbag.
“How quickly can you get it into print?”
“If I crash it, I can do it for tomorrow’s paper.”
“What time will it appear on the Web site?”
“Midnight or so.”
A silence fell between them. She raised the drink to her lips but stopped. She had a long night ahead of her.
“What happens when the world discovers you’re not dead?” she asked.
“Who says they will?”
“You don’t intend to stay dead, do you?”
“There’s one major advantage,” he said.
“What’s that?”
“No one will ever try to kill me again.”
She placed her drink on the end table and rose. “Is there anything special you want me to say about you?”
“Say that I loved my country and my people. And say that I was very fond of Englan
d, too.”
Gabriel helped her into her coat. She slung her handbag over her shoulder and extended her hand. “It was a pleasure almost getting to know you,” she said. “I think I’m going to miss you.”
“No more tears now, Samantha.”
“No,” she said. “We will think upon revenge.”
37
WORMWOOD COTTAGE, DARTMOOR
WHEN GABRIEL RETURNED TO Wormwood Cottage that evening, he found an official-looking sedan parked in the drive. In the kitchen Miss Coventry was clearing dinner from the table, and in the study two men were hunched over a heated game of chess. Both combatants were smoking. The pieces looked like soldiers lost in the fog of war.
“Who’s winning?” asked Gabriel.
“Who do you think?” replied Ari Shamron. He looked at Keller and asked, “Are you ever going to move?”
Keller did. Shamron exhaled sadly and added Keller’s second knight to his tiny prisoner-of-war camp. The pieces stood in two neat rows next to the ashtray. Shamron had always imposed a certain discipline on those unfortunate enough to fall into his hands.
“Eat something,” he said to Gabriel. “This won’t take long.”
Miss Coventry had left a plate of lamb and peas in a warm oven. He ate alone at the kitchen table and listened to the game unfolding in the next room. The click of the chess pieces, the snap of Shamron’s old Zippo lighter: it was oddly comforting. From Keller’s agonized silence he inferred the battle was not going well. He washed his plate and cutlery, placed them on the rack to dry, and returned to the sitting room. Shamron was warming his hands against the coal-and-wood fire in the grate. He wore pressed khaki trousers, a white oxford cloth shirt, and an old leather bomber jacket with a tear in the left shoulder. Firelight reflected in the lenses of his ugly steel spectacles.
“Well?” asked Gabriel.
“He fought hard, but to no avail.”
“How’s his game?”
“Courageous, skillful, but lacking in strategic vision. He takes great pleasure in killing, but hasn’t the sense to realize that sometimes it’s better to let an enemy live than put him to the sword.” Shamron glanced at Gabriel and smiled. “He’s an operator, not a planner.”
Shamron returned his gaze to the fire. “Is this how you imagined it would be?”

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