Cloak of DarknessHelen Macinnes
ALSO BY HELEN MacINNES
AND AVAILABLE FROM TITAN BOOKS
Pray for a Brave Heart
Assignment in Brittany
North From Rome
Decision at Delphi
The Venetian Affair
The Salzburg Connection
Message from Málaga
While We Still Live
The Double Image
Neither Five Nor Three
Snare of the Hunter
Agent in Place
Ride a Pale Horse
Prelude to Terror
The Hidden Target
I and My True Love
Rest and Be Thankful (December 2013)
Friends and Lovers (January 2014)
Home is the Hunter (February 2014)
Cloak of Darkness
Print edition ISBN: 9781781163375
E-book edition ISBN: 9781781164310
Published by Titan Books
A division of Titan Publishing Group Ltd
144 Southwark Street, London SE1 0UP
First edition: November 2013
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
© 1982, 2013 by the Estate of Helen MacInnes. All rights reserved.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.
Did you enjoy this book?
We love to hear from our readers. Please email us at: [email protected], or write to us at the above address.
To receive advance information, news, competitions, and exclusive offers online, please sign up for the Titan newsletter on our website.
For Keith and Nancy, with love
Table of Contents
It was the usual Monday-morning fever in Robert Renwick’s office. After a slow week-end with scarcely a report coming in, there was a deluge of cryptic messages—most by shortwave radio, some by coded cable or Telex, and even two by scrambled phone calls from Berlin and Rome requiring immediate attention.
But now it was five o’clock, the working day drawing to an end, his desk almost free of questions needing answers, of memoranda and suggestions to be considered. The easy replies would go out tonight; the difficult problems would need more computer research and analysis, perhaps further queries to agents in the field, certainly some scrambled phone discussions with agencies in various capitals. The Intelligence services, not only of the NATO countries but also of those that had allied themselves with the West, were finding the London headquarters of Interintell a useful clearing house of information.
Interintell—or International Intelligence against Terrorism. It had been Renwick’s brain child, conceived in Brussels, set up in London, staffed by ex-NATO Intelligence men like Renwick himself. As an American, he would have been pleased to see Washington as Interintell’s headquarters for shared information on terrorist conspiracies and connections. But he had decided on London for several valid reasons. Western Europe had been under savage attack by organised terrorism; the United States— so far—hadn’t experienced the same intensity. Then there was the matter of co-operation between Intelligence services, and that came more willingly from Europeans: they had felt the need. The United States—so far, again—had not.
But then, America had been having its own headaches: the CIA under attack at home, in danger abroad from the exposure of its agents. Small wonder that Washington, overloaded with bureaucrats and competing agencies, had been in a foot-dragging mood when Renwick put forward his tentative idea almost three years ago: the necessity for pro-NATO countries to share Intelligence information if terrorism was ever to be challenged successfully.
France, of course, had been interested—it was already establishing its own counter-terrorism department. But even though Paris had its attractions, it also had the headquarters of Interpol, the International Police Organisation that tracked the criminals who once thought crossing a frontier would solve their problems. Fair was fair, Renwick had decided, and so London was the choice. In the two years since Interintell had been established, in a quiet house on Grace Street with the modest plate of J.P. Merriman & Co., Consultant Engineers marking its front entrance, it had prospered. Business, alas, was booming: too many damned terrorists, Renwick was thinking as he rearranged three remaining reports on the desk in front of him.
He would read and compare them once more—they were succinct, only a page to each of them—and then go home, still brooding about them, to be ready by tomorrow morning for a conference with Gilman and Claudel. (They were reading the duplicates right now.) He glanced at the clock, looked at Nina’s photograph smiling at him across the small room. “Tonight,” he told her, “I’ll even be home in time for dinner.”
And then the telephone rang, the green one, his own private line to the outside world without benefit of the telephone switchboard downstairs. Serious business, he thought with a frown as he picked up the receiver. A man’s voice asked, “Renwick?”
“Say a few words, will you?” The voice was strong, confident, American.
Someone who knows me, a careful type, making sure. Renwick said, “‘O what a tangled web we weave when first we practise to deceive.’”
There was a pause, then a smothered laugh. “Yes, Colonel, sir. You’re Renwick all right.”
“And who are you?”
“That doesn’t matter. What I know, does. Is this line safe?”
“It should be.”
“No other connection? No one listening?” The questions were tense.
“No one.” And who the hell was this? Not more than twenty people had Renwick’s private number, and the voice didn’t belong to any of them.
The man’s brief anxiety was over. He spoke more easily now. “I’ll take your word for it. Meet me at six o’clock. In your favourite pub.”
“Sorry. I’m meeting a friend there for a quick drink this evening. Why not join us?” Renwick would like to see this character who had ferreted out his private number. But not alone. He would get Ronald Gilman or Pierre Claudel to accompany him.
“I’m not joining you there. Just passing by your table. I’ll stop to light a cigarette—a red throwaway lighter. Y
ou’ll see a heavy gold ring on my right hand. Give me five minutes— five exactly—and then follow. Alone. Take a cab. Drive to Paddington Station. I’ll be waiting just inside the main entrance. Follow me again. We’ll stop at a newsstand, and I’ll slip you a ticket. Then trail behind me, and we’ll have us a little train ride. An empty compartment is a good place for serious talk.”
“If it’s empty.” A compartment? Did they exist any more? This must be an amateur, and a stranger to Britain, too, who had worked out his own security plans.
“Leave that to me. You just leave your friend sitting in the Red Lion. Got that?”
“Which Red Lion? There must be fifty of them.” On Bridle Lane? If so, this man had been watching him. A disquieting thought.
“Come on, Renwick! Your favourite pub. Not too far from the office.”
So Bridle Lane it was.
“Six o’clock. Prepare for a short stay. But your friend stays there. No one follows you outside. No one follows me. I’ve got your word on that?”
“No one follows us into the street.”
“And no one waits for us outside, either. Agreed?”
Renwick glanced at the reports in front of him. “Agreed, but I’ve some work to finish. Make it seven o’clock.” And what have I to lose? he thought. If I sense something wrong about this man, I don’t have to walk out of the Red Lion after him. He seems to know me. I feel I’ve heard that voice before, can’t quite place it, but if I can see him I may remember where we’ve met. And was that what he wanted, my recognition? So that I’d follow him, have confidence in him?
“Six o’clock. There’s a train to catch. And I hold you to your promise. No one watching the Red Lion. Remember!”
Renwick restrained a surge of annoyance, kept his voice cool. “Why should I go through all these antics? I don’t know who you are or your credentials, or even—”
“Three weeks ago, I met a man who had just escaped from a prison in India—sentenced for murder in Bombay, 1979.”
Renwick’s spine stiffened. That was Erik—it had to be. News of his escape had reached Interintell six weeks ago. Since then, silence. And it had been Interintell (chiefly Renwick and Claudel) who had tracked Erik in 1979 through Europe and the Mideast and Iran, through Pakistan and India to Bombay, where the long chase had ended. Erik, the founder and leader of a West German group of anarchists calling themselves “Direct Action”. Erik, or Kurt Leitner, or James Kiley, or a dozen other identities that he had used in his ten years of dedicated terrorism... Renwick recovered. “You met him where?”
“I’ll tell you when we meet. I’ll tell you that and more important things, too.” The call ended.
More important than Erik wandering free? Renwick replaced the receiver. He picked up the three sheets of paper, placed them in a folder in his safe and locked it. (Tomorrow he would come into the office before nine, finish his homework on their problem before the meeting with Gilman and Claudel at ten o’clock.) The rest of the litter on his desk was gathered into neat piles, placed methodically in a drawer with a dependable lock: nothing of much importance there. The room was orderly once more.
Antiseptic, Renwick called it. Apart from the large maps on the walls above the low bookcases, the only decoration was Nina’s photograph. The one comfortable item was the black leather armchair with its footrest. Everything else was practical: desk, two chairs, three telephones, good lamps, wall safe, filing cabinet with a radio on top, an electric fire, and windows close to the ceiling with plenty of air and daylight and even more privacy than the room already possessed. Nina had suggested colour for the walls, a bright carpet on the floor, but he had kept the room as plain as possible—white walls, wooden floors, nothing to distract or seduce him from the work on hand.
He called Nina on his regular outside line. “Honey—I’ll be late tonight. Sorry. Terribly sorry, darling. Don’t keep dinner— I’ll have a sandwich. And get to bed, will you? Early?”
Nina took it well. She always did. It was as if she could sense some real urgency whenever he was forced to alter their plans. Now, she only said, “Take care, darling. Please?”
“Sure. I love you, don’t I?” He was the luckiest guy, he told himself for the thousandth time.
There was no need to call Gilman on the interoffice phone. Their doors were always open to each other. He lifted his Burberry off its hook on the wall, checked his hat in its pocket, and entered the passage that led into the main house. The filing room, vast with its steadily increasing data, was still at work. Next door, the computer room had its two experts busy with their question-and-answer games. And at the end of the corridor was Ronald Gilman’s office. He was the director of this establishment, elected by Renwick as much for his diplomatic connections as for his expert knowledge. It was Gilman who had arranged for the lease of this building, for the initial acquiring of equipment, and had managed to attract the unobtrusive support of his own government. The English had a quiet way in such matters.
Gilman, busy comparing the three reports, looked up in surprise. “Finished?” he asked. “Well, it looks as if you were right in your prediction two years ago.” He tapped the pages in front of him. “Right-wing terrorism is now as ruthless as left-wing. Joining each other, too, in some cases. An unholy alliance.”
“But I didn’t foresee any right-wing terrorists being trained in Communist camps.” That was what the three reports, each from a different source—France, Turkey, Lebanon—had indicated. “I’ll have to finish studying the evidence tomorrow morning. Something else has come up.”
Gilman looked at the American’s quiet face. Nothing there to show any worry or alarm: thoughtful grey eyes, brown hair slightly greying at the temples, even features, a pleasant mouth relaxing into one of his reassuring smiles. Yet Renwick’s voice had been too casual, always a small storm signal. “Something interesting?”
“I don’t know. It’s the damnedest thing.” Renwick began pacing the room, no larger than his own and just as sparingly furnished. “I had a call—my green line—” He halted, frowning at the floor, and began an accurate but brief account of that strange conversation.
Gilman was a good listener, silent, expressionless, but as Renwick ended, he said quite flatly, “I don’t like it, Bob. It could be a trap.”
“It could also be important.”
“The man knows you?”
“Seemingly. He certainly knows my phone number. How did he get that? And where did he meet Erik? He didn’t just see Erik. He met him. Exact word.”
“Three weeks ago...” Gilman’s glasses were off, his hair— blond, thinning on top—was ruffled and smoothed and ruffled again. “Erik will have moved on by this time.”
“At least we get a direction. We don’t know, now, whether Erik left India, or travelled east or north or west.”
“Certainly not south,” Gilman said, “unless he was taking a header into the Indian Ocean.” Then he looked at his watch, began gathering the pages in front of him. “You go ahead. I’ll take my car and join you in the Red Lion.”
“I hoped you would. Just as well for two of us to see this man.”
“He had no objection to someone meeting you?”
“No. Only to being followed.”
From the pub or from the street, Gilman remembered. “He didn’t mention anything about being followed at Paddington, did he?”
“No.” Renwick raised an eyebrow.
“Start moving, old boy.” Gilman locked up the three agents’ reports, “I’ll see you at six.”
Renwick left, still speculating. Why should Ron choose to delay, then take his car instead of walking the short distance to the Red Lion? Renwick could guess the answer, and felt the better for it. Gilman would now be on the phone to Claudel. And Renwick wouldn’t be heading out on a train, as yet unknown, to some benighted part of the country without someone nearby as a backup. Of course, if Gilman’s first objections were true, then he could be trapped. A train, to quote the man on the phone, might be a good pl
ace for a serious talk, but it was also a useful place for throwing out a body.
Renwick stopped, hurried back to his office, unlocked its door. Quickly, he opened the filing cabinet, found his Biretta and its lightweight holster. Almost two years of marriage and the sweet life had turned him—what? Soft? Careless? Not altogether, he decided as he made sure the Biretta was loaded and slipped it into the holster, now under his tweed jacket. Cigarette case and lighter were in his pocket. All set. He left, using the rear staircase and avoiding the main-floor offices of J.P. Merriman & Co., whose full-time surveyors and practical engineering advice brought in, and legitimately, the profits that kept Interintell expanding.
It was raining hard.
Twelve minutes at a smart pace brought Renwick in good time to the lower end of Bridle Lane. It stretched northward for a hundred yards, even less, close-packed on either side by low-storied buildings, before it was obliterated by the blare and bustle of Fleet Street. Up there, as in all the main arteries this evening, the roadway would be jammed with traffic and bad tempers, the sidewalks filled with umbrellas and sodden raincoats. The calendar might say June; today’s onslaught of cold wind and rain made it feel like March. But there was no need to approach the Red Lion by an overcrowded highway; there were shortcuts if you knew this part of the city, a loose haphazard web of short and narrow streets that merged and separated and changed their names as unexpectedly as their direction. And Renwick knew this area.
Each day after lunch, usually a sandwich in his office, he seized half an hour for a couple of miles in various directions and got the tension of too much desk-sitting out of his shoulder muscles. This evening he could even take a brief detour once he left Merriman’s by its inconspicuous rear exit, and still have six minutes to spare when he reached the pint-sized square where Bridle Lane began. So he slowed his step, making note of everything around him: no one loitering, no one following—the footsteps behind him hurried on, drew ahead, passed into the lane, kept hurrying. The shops and businesses, all small-scale, were closed, and if people lived up above them, then this was a night to stay indoors. The café at the corner of the square had its usual enticing suggestions on the hand-printed card displayed in its window, chief among them “Hot Peas and Vinegar”. That possibly explained the empty taxi, desolate and abandoned, that had been parked in front of the café while its driver enjoyed some sausages and mash. But it also reminded Renwick that taxis were scarce on a wet evening like this, and he wondered how—in this place, at this time of day—he would find a cab to take him to Paddington. That was one detail forgotten, perhaps not even imagined, by the man who had telephoned with such precise instructions. It was a revealing omission. The man might know the name and location of the Red Lion, but he didn’t know this district. So how did he get the address? From someone who had met Renwick there? Someone who also had access to Renwick’s private number? If so, decided Renwick, that narrowed down the field: few of his contacts possessed both pieces of information, very few. In grim mood, he entered the Red Lion.