Читать онлайн "Waiting for Sunrise" автора Бойд Уильям - RuLit - Страница 54

 
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I was sitting on a bench in the front quad this afternoon, around the corner from the porter’s lodge, reading a newspaper in the sun, when one of the nurses appeared. ‘Ah, there you are, Mr Rief. You’ve just had a visitor in your room. We didn’t know where you were.’ And stepping diffidently into view came Massinger, in civilian clothes.

He sat beside me on the bench, very tense and awkward, and seemingly unwilling to look me in the eye.

‘I never thanked you properly,’ I said, wanting to ease the mood. ‘Whisking me off to Rouen. Private ambulance and all that. The best of care, really.’

‘I owe you an apology, Rief,’ he said, looking down at his hands in his lap, fingers laced as if he were at prayer. ‘I can’t tell you how glad I was to see you alive in Evian. How glad I am today.’

‘Thank you,’ I said. Then, curious, asked, ‘Why so? Particularly.’

‘Because I think – I have this horrible feeling that I ordered you killed. Terrible error, I admit. I got it all wrong.’

He explained. There had been a rapid exchange of telegrams between him and Madame Duchesne on the Monday morning after Glockner’s death had been discovered and reported. Madame Duchesne had been very suspicious, convinced that it had something to do with me and my meeting with him. They had even spoken by telephone about an hour before my steamer was due to depart. Massinger had received my telegram by then and knew from the steamer timetable when I would be leaving. At this point he had ordered Madame Duchesne to accompany me on the boat, interrogate me and, if she had any reason to believe I was a traitor, she was to take the necessary steps to bring me to justice.

I listened to this in some shock.

‘Then when I saw her at Evian she told me she’d shot you,’ Massinger said. ‘You can imagine how I felt.’

‘Saw her?’

‘We met on the quayside. She said you had lied about the cipher-key – the source text. She said you were hiding something. She was convinced that you had murdered Glockner. She was incredibly suspicious of you. I think your disguise was enough proof for her.’

‘Yes, how did you know that I’d disguise myself?’

Massinger looked a little taken aback at this, confused.

‘Munro told me. Or was it Fyfe-Miller? About what happened in Vienna when I saw them there.’

‘You were in Vienna?’

‘Off and on. Mainly last year before the war began – while I was setting up the network in Switzerland. Everybody spoke about your escape.’

‘I see . . .’ I was puzzled to learn about my notoriety. I put it to the back of my mind. ‘Anyway, I didn’t think I was obliged to tell Madame Duchesne everything. Why should I? I was about to meet you and report in full, for Christ’s sake – on French soil. And all the while you’d ordered me killed.’

Massinger looked a bit sick and grimaced.

‘Actually, I didn’t in so many words. Madame Duchesne was going on and on, raising her suspicions about you. So I said –’ he paused. ‘My French is a bit rusty, you see. I don’t know if I made myself totally clear to her. I tried to reassure her and I said words to the effect that we cannot assume he – you – is not a traitor. It’s unlikely, but, in the event it was confirmed, you would be treated without compunction.’

‘Pretty difficult to say that in French even if you were fluent,’ I said.

‘I was a bit out of my depth, you’re right. I got confused with “traître” and “traiter”, I think.’ He looked at me sorrowfully. ‘I have this ghastly feeling I said you were a “traître sans pitié” . . .’

‘That’s fairly unequivocal. A “merciless traitor”.’

‘Whereas I was trying to say –’

‘I can see where the confusion arose.’

‘I’ve lain awake for nights going through what I might actually have said to her. We were all rather thrown by Glockner’s death. Panic stations, you know.’

‘That’s all very well. The woman shot me three times. Point-blank range. All because of your schoolboy French.’

‘How did Glockner die?’ he asked, clearly very keen to change the subject.

‘A heart attack – so Madame Duchesne told me.’

‘And he was fine when you left him.’

‘Yes. Counting his money.’

Why do I keep on lying? Something tells me that the less I tell everyone, the better. We chatted on a bit more and he informed me that Munro was coming to see me about the decryption of the letters. Finally he stood and shook my hand.

‘My sincere apologies, Rief.’

‘There’s not much I can say, in the circumstances. What happened to Madame Duchesne?’

‘She took a train back to Geneva. She’s back there now, working away as Agent Bonfire. Worth her weight in gold.’

‘Does she know I survived?’

‘I’m pretty sure she thinks you’re dead, actually. I thought it best not to raise the matter – I didn’t want to upset her unnecessarily, you see. She thought she was acting on my orders, after all. She couldn’t really be blamed.’

‘That’s very considerate of you.’

My mother had brought my mail from Claverleigh, including the letter I’d sent myself from Geneva containing the Glockner decrypts. I made fresh copies of all six and gave them to Munro when he came to see me yesterday.

We sat in what used to be the Junior Common Room. There was a foursome playing bridge but otherwise it was quiet. A rainy, fresh day, the first inklings of autumn in the air.

I spread the transcripts on the table in front of us. Munro looked serious.

‘What’s disturbing me is that this man seems to know everything,’ he said. ‘Look – construction of two gun spurs on the Hazebrouk–Ypres railway line . . .’ He pointed to another letter. ‘Here – the number of ambulance trains in France, where the ammunition-only railheads are . . .’

‘Something to do with the railway organization?’

‘You’d think so – but look at all this stuff about forage.’

‘Yes,’ I said. ‘I don’t get that.’

‘There’s one horse for every three men in France,’ Munro said. ‘Hundreds of thousands – and they all have to be fed.’

‘Ah. So, follow the forage trail and you’ll find the troop build-up.’

Munro mused on. ‘Yes, where is he? Ministry of Munitions? Directorate of Railway Transport? Quartermaster-General’s Secretariat? General Headquarters? War Office? But look at this.’ He picked up letter number five and quoted, ‘“Two thou refrig vans ordered from Canada.” Refrigerated vans. How can he know that?’

‘Yes. What are they for?’

‘You want your meat fresh in the front line, don’t you, soldier?’

Munro smoothed his neat moustache with the palp of his forefinger, thinking hard. Then he turned and looked at me with his clear enquiring gaze.

‘What do you want to do, Rief?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Do you want to return to your battalion? They’re still in Swansea – but you can’t keep your rank. Or you can have an honourable discharge. You’ve more than done your duty – we recognize that and we’re very grateful.’

It didn’t take much thought. ‘I’ll take the honourable discharge, thank you,’ I said, knowing I couldn’t go back to the 2/5th E.S.L.I. ‘I should be out of here in a couple of weeks,’ I added.

Then he stiffened, as though he’d just thought of something.

‘Or you could do one more job for us, here in London. What do you say?’

‘I really think I’ve more than –’

‘I’m phrasing it as a question, Rief, to allow you to reply in the affirmative.’ He smiled, but it was not a warm smile. ‘You’ll stay a lieutenant, same pay.’

     

 

2011 - 2018