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"What was it he said about Fiedler? Alec, why is he letting us go?"
"He's letting us go because we've done our job. Get into the car; quick!" Under the compulsion of his extraordinary will she got into the car and closed the door. Leamas got in beside her.
"What bargain have you struck with him?" she persisted, suspicion and fear rising in her voice. "They said you had tried to conspire against him, you and Fiedler. Then why is he letting you go?"
Leamas had started the car and was soon driving fast along the narrow road. On either side, bare fields; in the distance, dark monotonous hills were mingling with the gathering darkness. Leamas looked at his watch.
"We're five hours from Berlin," he said. "We've got to make Kopenick by quarter to one. We should do it easily."
For a time Liz said nothing; she stared through the windshield down the empty road, confused and lost in a labyrinth of half-formed thoughts. A full moon had risen and the frost hovered in long shrouds across the fields. They turned onto an autobahn.
"Was I on your conscience, Alec?" she said at last. "Is that why you made Mundt let me go?"
Leamas said nothing.
"You and Mundt are enemies, aren't you?"
Still he said nothing. He was driving fast now, the speedometer showed a hundred and twenty kilometers; the autobahn was pitted and b.u.mpy. He had his headlights on full, she noticed, and didn't bother to dip for oncoming traffic on the other lane. He drove roughly, leaning forward, his elbows almost on the wheel.
"What will happen to Fiedler?" Liz asked suddenly and this time Leamas answered.
"He'll be shot."
"Then why didn't they shoot you?" Liz continued quickly. "You conspired with Fiedler against Mundt, that's what they said. You killed a guard. Why has Mundt let you go?"
"All right!" Leamas shouted suddenly. "I'll tell you. I'll tell you what you were never, never to know, neither you nor I. Listen: Mundt is London's man, their agent; they bought him when he was in England. We are witnessing the lousy end to a filthy, lousy operation to save Mundt's skin. To save him from a clever little Jew in his own Department who had begun to suspect the truth. They made us kill him, do you see, kill the Jew. Now you know, and G.o.d help us both."
* * 25 * The Wall
"If that is so, Alec," she said at last, "what was my part in all this?" Her voice was quite calm, almost matter-of-fact.
"I can only guess, Liz, from what I know and what Mundt told me before we left. Fiedler suspected Mundt; had suspected him ever since Mundt came back from England; he thought Mundt was playing a double game. He hated him, of course--why shouldn't he--but he was right, too: Mundt was London's man. Fiedler was too powerful for Mundt to eliminate alone, so London decided to do it for him. I can see them working it out, they're so d.a.m.ned academic; I can see them sitting around a fire in one of their smart b.l.o.o.d.y clubs. They knew it was no good just elimb.u.t.ting Fiedler--he might have told friends, published accusations: they had to eliminate suspicion. Public rehabilitation, that's what they organized for Mundt."
He swung into the left-hand lane to overtake a lorry and trailer. As he did so the lorry unexpectedly pulled out in front of him, so that he had to brake violently on the pitted road to avoid being forced into the crashfence on his left.
"They told me to frame Mundt," he said simply, "they said he had to be killed, and I was game. It was going to be my last job. So I went to seed, and punched the grocer-- You know all that."
"And made love?" she asked quietly.
Leamas shook his head. "But this is the point, you see," he continued. "Mundt knew it all, he knew the plan, he had me picked up, he and Fiedler. Then he let Fiedler take over, because he knew in the end Fiedler would hang himself. My job was to let them think what in fact was the truth: that Mundt was a British spy." He hesitated. "Your job was to discredit me. Fiedler was shot and Mundt was saved, mercifully delivered from a fascist plot. It's the old principle of love on the rebound."
"But how could they know about me; how could they know we would come together?" Liz cried. "Heavens above, Alec, can they even tell when people will fall in love?"
"It didn't matter--it didn't depend on that. They chose you because you were young and pretty and in the Party, because they knew you would come to Germany if they rigged an invitation. That man in the Labour Exchange, Pitt, he sent me up there, they knew Fd work at the library. Pitt was in the Service during the war and they squared him, I suppose. They only had to put you and me in contact, even for a day, it didn't matter, then afterwards they could call on you, send you the money, make it look like an affair even if it wasn't, don't you see? Make it look like an infatuation, perhaps. The only material point was that after bringing us together they should send you money as if it came at my request. As it was, we made it very easy for them. . . ."
"Yes, we did." And then she added, "I feel dirty, Alec, as if I'd been put out to stud."
Leamas said nothing.
"Did it ease your Department's conscience at all? Exploiting . . . somebody in the Party, rather than just anybody?" Liz continued.
Leamas said, "Perhaps. They don't really think in those terms. It was an operational convenience."
"I might have stayed in that prison, mightn't I? That's what Mundt wanted, wasn't it? He saw no point in taking the risk--I might have heard too much, guessed too much. After all, Fiedler was innocent, wasn't he? But then he's a Jew," she added excitedly, "so that doesn't matter so much, does it?"
"Oh, for G.o.d's sake!" Leamas exclaimed.
"It seems odd that Mundt let me go, all the same--even as part of the bargain with you," she mused. "I'm a risk now, aren't I? When we get back to England, I mean: a Party member knowing all this. .. . It doesn't seem logical that he should let me go."
"I expect," Leamas replied, "he is going to use our escape to demonstrate to the Praesidium that there are other Fiedlers in his Department who must be hunted down."
"And other Jews?"
"It gives him a chance to secure his position," Leamas replied curtly.
"By killing more innocent people? It doesn't seem to worry you much."
"Of course it worries me. It makes me sick with shame and anger and. . . But I've been brought up differently, Liz; I can't see it in black and white. People who play this game take risks. Fielder lost and Mundt won. London won--that's the point. It was a foul, foul operation. But it's paid off, and that's the only rule." As he spoke his voice rose, until finally he was nearly shouting.
"You're trying to convince yourself," Liz cried. "They've done a wicked thing. How can you kill Fiedler? He was good, Alec; I know he was. And Mundt--"
"What the h.e.l.l are you complaining about?" Leamas demanded roughly. "Your Party's always at war, isn't it? Sacrificing the individual to the ma.s.s. That's what it says. Socialist reality: fighting night and day--the relentless battle-that's what they say, isn't it? At least you've survived. I never heard that Communists preached the sanct.i.ty of human life--perhaps I've got it wrong," he added sarcastically. "I agree, yes I agree, you might have been destroyed. That was in the cards. Mundt's a vicious swine; he saw no point in letting you survive. His promise-I suppose he gave a promise to do his best by you--isn't worth a great deal. So you might have died--today, next year or twenty years from now--in a prison in the worker's paradise. And so might I. But I seem to remember the Party is aiming at the destruction of a whole cla.s.s. Or have I got it wrong?" Extracting a packet of cigarettes from his jacket he handed her two, together with a box of matches. Her fingers trembled as she lit them and pa.s.sed one back to Leamas.
"You've thought it all out, haven't you?" she asked.
"We happened to fit the mold," Leamas persisted, "and I'm sorry. I'm sorry for the others too--the others who fit the mold. But don't complain about the terms, Liz; they're Party terms. A small price for a big return. One sacrificed for many. It's not pretty, I know, choosing who it'll be--turning the plan into people."
She listened in the darkness, for a moment scarcely conscious of anything except the vanishing road before them, and the numb horror in her mind.
"But they let me love you," she said at last. "And you let me believe in you and love you."
"They used us," Leamas replied pitilessly. "They cheated us both because it was necessary. It was the only way. Fiedler was b.l.o.o.d.y nearly home already, don't you see? Mundt would have been caught; can't you understand that?"
"How can you turn the world upside down?" Liz shouted suddenly. "Fiedler was kind and decent, he was only doing his job, and now you've killed him. Mundt is a spy and a traitor and you protect him. Mundt is a n.a.z.i, do you know that? He hates Jews. What side are you on? How can you. . . ."
"There's only one law in this game," Leamas retorted. "Mundt is their man; he gives them what they need. That's easy enough to understand, isn't it? Leninism--the expediency of temporary alliances. What do you think spies are: priests, saints and martyrs? They're a squalid procession of vain fools, traitors too, yes; pansies, s.a.d.i.s.ts and drunkards, people who play cowboys and Indians to brighten their rotten lives. Do you think they sit like monks in London, balancing the rights and wrongs? I'd have killed Mundt if I could, I hate his guts; but not now. It so happens that they need him. They need him so that the great moronic ma.s.s you admire can sleep soundly in their beds at night. They need him for the safety of ordinary, crummy people like you and me."
"But what about Fiedler--don't you feel anything for him?"
"This is a war," Leamas replied. "It's graphic and unpleasant because it's fought on a tiny scale, at close range; fought with a wastage of innocent life sometimes, I admit. But it's nothing, nothing at all beside other wars--the last or the next."
"Oh G.o.d," said Liz softly. "You don't understand. You don't want to. You're trying to persuade yourself. It's far more terrible, what they are doing; to find the humanity in people, in me and whoever else they use, to turn it like a weapon in their hands, and use it to hurt and kill--"
"Christ Almighty!" Leamas cried. "What else have men done since the world began? I don't believe in anything, don't you see--not even destruction or anarchy. Fm sick, sick of killing but I don't see what else they can do. They don't proselytize; they don't stand in pulpits or on party platforms and tell us to fight for Peace or for G.o.d or whatever it is. They're the poor sods who try to keep the preachers from blowing each other sky high."
"You're wrong," Liz declared hopelessly; "they're more wicked than all of us."
"Because I made love to you when you thought I was a tramp?" Leamas asked savagely.
"Because of their contempt," Liz replied; "contempt for what is real and good; contempt for love, contempt for. . ."
"Yes," Leamas agreed, suddenly weary. "That is the price they pay; to despise G.o.d and Karl Marx in the same sentence. If that is what you mean."
"It makes you the same," Liz continued; "the same as Mundt and all the rest. . . . I should know, I was the one who was kicked about, wasn't I? By them, by you because you don't care. Only Fiedler didn't. But the rest of you. . . you all treated me as if I was. . . nothing. . . just currency to pay with.... You're all the same, Alec."
"Oh Liz," he said desperately, "for G.o.d's sake believe me. I hate it, I hate it all, Fm tired. But it's the world, it's mankind that's gone mad. We're a tiny price to pay . . . but everywhere's the same, people cheated and misled, whole lives thrown away, people shot and in prison, whole groups and cla.s.ses of men written off for nothing. And you, your Party--G.o.d knows it was built on the bodies of ordinary people. You've never seen men die as I have, Liz. . . ."
As he spoke Liz remembered the drab prison courtyard, and the wardress saying, "It is a prison for those who slow down the march . . . for those who think they have the right to err."
Leamas was suddenly tense, peering forward through the windshield. In the headlights of the car Liz discerned a figure standing in the road. In his hand was a tiny light which he turned on and off as the car approached. "That's him," Leamas muttered; switched ofE the headlights and engine, and coasted silently forward. As they drew up, Leamas leaned back and opened the rear door.
Liz did not turn around to look at him as he got in. She was staring stiffly forward, down the street at the falling rain.
"Drive at thirty kilometers," the man said. His voice was taut, frightened. "I'll tell you the way. When we reach the place you must get out and run to the wall. The searchlight will be shining at the point where you must climb. Stand in the beam of the searchlight. When the beam moves away begin to climb. You will have ninety seconds to get over. You go first," he said to Leamas, "and the girl follows. There are iron rungs in the lower part--after that you must pull yourself up as best you can. You'll have to sit on top and pull the girl up. Do you understand?"
"We understand," said Leamas. "How long have we got?"
"If you drive at thirty kilometers we shall be there in about nine minutes. The searchlight will be on the wall at five past one exactly. They can give you ninety seconds. Not more."
"What happens after ninety seconds?" Leamas asked.
"They can only give you ninety seconds," the man repeated; "otherwise it is too dangerous. Only one detachment has been briefed. They think you are being infiltrated into West Berlin. They've been told not to make it too easy. Ninety seconds are enough."
"I b.l.o.o.d.y well hope so," said Leamas drily. "What time do you make it?"
"I checked my watch with the sergeant in charge of the detachment," the man replied. A light went on and off briefly in the back of the car. "It is twelve forty-eight. We must leave at five to one. Seven minutes to wait."
They sat in total silence save for the rain pattering on the roof. The cobblestone road reached out straight before them, staged by dingy streetlights every hundred meters. There was no one about. Above them the sky was lit with the unnatural glow of arcights. Occasionally the beam of a searchlight flickered overhead, and disappeared. Far to the left Leamas caught sight of a fluctuating light just above the skyline, constantly altering in strength, like the reflection of a fire.
"What's that?" he asked, pointing toward it.
"Information Service," the man replied. "A scaffolding of lights. It flashes news headlines into East Berlin."
"Of course," Leamas muttered. They were very near theend of the road.
"There is no turning back," the man conthued. "He told you that? There is no second chance."
"I know," Leamas replied.
"If something goes wrong--if you fall or get hurt-- don't turn back. They shoot on sight within the area of the wall. You _must_ get over."
"We know," Leanias repeated; "he told me."
"From the moment you get out of the car you are in the area."
"We know. Now shut up," Leamas retorted. And then he added, "Are you taking the car back?"
"As soon as you get out of the car I shall drive it away. It is a danger for me, too," the man replied.
"Too bad," said Leanias drily.
Again there was silence. Then Leamas asked, "Do you have a gun?"
"Yes," said the man, "but I can't give it to you; he said I shouldn't give it to you. . . that you were sure to ask for it."
Leamas laughed quietly. "He would," he said.
Leamas pulled the starter. With a noise that seemed to fill the street the car moved slowly forward.
They had gone about three hundred yards when the man whispered excitedly, "Go right here, then left." They swung into a narrow side street. There were empty market stalls on either side so that the car barely pa.s.sed between them.
"Left here, now!"
They turned again, fast, this time between two tall buildings into what looked like a cul-de-sac. There was washing strung across the street, and Liz wondered whether they would pa.s.s under It. As they approached what seemed to be the dead end the man said, "Left again--follow the path." Leamas mounted the curb, crossed the pavement and they followed a broad footpath bordered by a broken fence to their left, and a tall, windowless building to their right. They heard a shout from somewhere above them, a woman's voice, and Leamas muttered "Oh, shut up" as he steered clumsily around a right-angle bend in the path and came almost immediately upon a major road.
"Which way?" be demanded.
"Straight across--past the chemist--between the chemist and the post office--there!" The man was leaning so far forward that his face was almost level with theirs. He pointed now, reaching past Leamas, the tip of his finger pressed against the windshield.
"Get back," Leamas hissed. "Get your hand away. How the h.e.l.l can I see if you wave your band around like that?" Slamming the car into first gear, he drove fast across the wide road. Glancing to his left, he was astonished to glimpse the plump silhouette of the Brandenburg Gate three hundred yards away, and the sinister grouping of military vehicles at the foot of it.
"Where are we going?" asked Leamas suddenly.
"We're nearly there. Go slowly now--left, left, go _left!_" he cried, and Leamas jerked the wheel in the nick of time; they pa.s.sed under a narrow archway into a courtyard. Half the windows were missing or boarded up; the empty doorways gaped sightlessly at them. At the other end of the yard was an open gateway. "Through there," came the whispered command, urgent in the darkness; "then hard right. You'll see a streetlamp on your right. The one beyond it is broken. When you reach the second lamp, switch off the engine and coast until you see a fire hydrant. That's the place."
"Why the h.e.l.l didn't you drive yourself?"
"He said you should drive; he said it was safer."
They pa.s.sed through the gate and turned sharply to the right. They were in a narrow street, pitch-dark.
Leamas switched off the car lights, drove slowly forward toward the first streetlamp. Ahead, they could just see the second. It was unlit. Switching off the engine they coasted silently past it, until, twenty yards ahead of them, they discerned the dim outline of the fire hydrant. Leamas braked; the car rolled to a standstill.
"Where are we?" Leamas whispered. "We crossed the Leninallee, didn't we?"
"Greifswalder Stra.s.se. Then we turned north. We're north of Bernauerstra.s.se."
"Just about. Look." The man pointed down a side street to the left. At the far end they saw a brief stretch of wall, gray-brown in the weary arclight. Along the top ran a triple strand of barbed wire.