It was the difference between the eucharist and what the breadman delivered. Crammed, like bread, into tunic and trouser pockets, were the Innes beard and the Innes passport, the ampoules and syringe (needle capped for protection), dollars from Theodorescu and black-market roubles from Pulj, a packet of White Sea Canal from the dead-out police-officer, as well as his card of identity (S.R. Polotski, aged 39, born Kerch, married, the dirty swine). The Tigr, safety-caught, snarled from his hip. He marched down the gangplank noisily, barking jocular Russian at the young constable at its foot ('Bit of all right here, son. Bags of wallop and some very nice-looking tarts. Any sign of any suspicious characters, eh? No, I thought not. Load of codswallop that report was. All right, carry on, carry on') and, having play-punched the bewildered youth on the chest, he marched oft towards the ramp that led up to the little terminal. It was nicely dark on the quay, only a few working-lamps staring imbecilically, but it was brighter inside the terminal, though the customs-hall was in shadow, not being in use. A girl was serving beer at a little bar, the only customers Tartar dock-labourers; there was another girl at a souvenir kiosk, doing no trade. Near the landward door were a couple of constables, smoking. They stiffened when they saw Hillier, ready to throw him a salute, but he waved at them jollily as he marched through, singing. He sang S. R. Polotski's song about the little doggies in the snow, lah-lahing where he had forgotten the words. One of the constables called to his back: 'Find anybody, comrade captain?' but he sang over his shoulder: 'Niktooooh, false alarm.' And then he clomped down steps, entering a little area of bales and packing-cases and a few parked lorries.
The night was delicious and smelt of strawberries. A light wind blew straight down from the mother land-mass, a reminder that the Kremlin was up there, despite the subtropical nonsense of warmth and oranges on that little southern uvula.
It was darker than it ought to be by the dock-gates and guardroom. If Hillier were what he pretended to be he would do something about that: not easy to check true face with passport parody in that light. A man in uniform with a rifle, shabby as a leftover from the Crimean War, came to attention for Hillier. In the guardroom two men played cards, one of them moaning about the deal. A very simple game, without guile; the comrades were hopeless at poker. A third man was, with sour face, mixing something with hot water in a jug. Hillier marched through. It struck him that there ought to be a police-car somewhere, but he inhaled and exhaled with a show of pleasure to the empty street that led out of dockland: he was walking for his health. On either side of the street were little gardens, grudgingly lighted to show cypress and bougainvillea and lots of roses. On a bench inside the right-hand garden a young couple sat, furtively embracing. That did Hillier's heart good. Deeper within the garden someone cleared his throat with vigour. A dog barked, miles away, and set other dogs barking. These, and the smell of roses touched (or did he imagine this?) with the zest of lemons, were pledges that life went on in universal patterns below the horrors of power and language. Hillier had to find the Chornoye Morye Hotel. He thanked distant Theodorescu for that bit of information about Roper's whereabouts. He was supposed, of course, to know very well where that hotel was. But even police-officers could be strangers in a town. Indeed, the stranger they were the more they were respected. He marched on.
He was aware of fertile champaigns to the north, and hills beyond those: country scents blew down, unimpeded by traffic-smells. But at the end of the street which led from the docks he saw traffic and heard trolley-hissing and clanks. Trams, of course. He had always liked trams. He saw no unpredestined traffic: this blessed country with its shortage of motor-cars, where a drunk could lie down between kerb and tramlines and not be run over. Hillier arrived at the corner and looked on a fine boulevard, very Continental. The trees were, he thought, mulberries, and their crowns susurrated in the breeze. It was not late, but there were not many people about, only a few lads and girls, dressed skimpily for summer, aimless in pairs or groups. Of course, there would be an esplanade somewhere, looking out at winking lights on the water. Perhaps a band played the state-directed circus-music of Khatchaturian from a Byzantine iron bandstand, people around listening, drinking state beer. He hesitated, wondering which way to turn.
He turned left, and saw that a souvenir-shop was open, though it had no customers. In the ill-lit window were matrioshkas, wooden bears, cheap barbaric necklaces and Czech enamel brooches. There were also china drinking-mugs and Hillier frowned at these, sure he had seen them somewhere before, though not, so far as he could remember, on Soviet territory. On each mug a woman's face had been crudely painted: black hair screwed into a bun, the eyes wrinkled in evil smiling, the nose and chin conspiring to frame a cackle of age. Where the hell had that been? It came to him: some watering-place in Italy where the medicinal waters (magnesium sulphate? heptahydrated?) were grossly purgative, the bitter draught served sniggeringly in a mug like these, with, however, a younger, more beautiful, Italianate face. And, yes, the legend had been: 'Io sono Beatrice chi ti faccio andare'. A low joke: I am Beatrice who makes you go. Straight out of Dante, that line, but she had been leading him up to the glory of the stars, purgatory one of the stages not the terminus. Now this had something to do with him, Hillier, but what?
He knew right away. It was Clara, clear bright one. He was becoming respiritualised, made aware of an immortal soul again after all these many years. And yet his dirty body could not be purged for her through this one last adventure, a breath-held entry into the flames then out again with his salvaged burden. It was not enough: domina, non sum dignus. A thousand clumps of pubic hair had tangled and locked in his, of all colours from Baltic honey to Oriental tar. His flesh had been scored by innumerable teeth, some false. And he had gorged and swilled, grunting. And then consider the lies and betrayals to serve a factitious end. He shook his head: he had not been a good man. He needed, in a single muscular gesture, to throw that luggage of his past self (blood-and-beer-stained cheap^suitcases full of nameless filth wrapped in old Daily Mirrors) on to the refuse cart which, after a single telephone-call, would readily come to his gate, driven by a man with brown eyes and a beard who would smile away a gratuity (This is my job, sir). He was creaking towards a regeneration.
He turned to look at the street. From a closed shop which called itself an atelier a man came out limping. He wore an open-necked dirty shirt and khaki trousers. His face was lined but he was not old. A tram clanked eastwards, almost empty. To the man he said, 'Pozhal'sta, tovarishch. Gdye Chornoye MoryeV 'You are making a joke? The Black Sea is all behind you.' He made a two-armed gesture as of throwing the sea there out of his own bosom.
'Stupid of me.' Hillier smiled. 'I mean the Black Sea Hotel.'
The man looked closely at Hillier. He had a faint smell of coarse raspberry liqueur. 'What is this?' he said. 'What's the game? Everybody knows where that is. You're not a real policeman, asking that question. You're what I'd call a samozvanyets.' Impostor, that meant. The woman who kept the souvenir-shop was at the door, listening. Hillier groaned to himself. H'e blustered: 'Don't insult the uniform, tovarishch. There's a law against that.'
'There's a law against everything, isn't there? But there are some laws we're not going to have. Secret police masquerading as ordinary police. What will they think of next? If you're trying to get me to incriminate myself you've got another think coming.' He was loud now. A young couple, blond giant and dumpy brunette, stopped to hear, the girl giggling. 'Where are you from? Moscow? You don't sound like a Yarylyuk man.'
'You're drunk,' said Hillier. 'You're not responsible for what you're saying.' And he took a chance and began to walk towards the few rags of red left in the west. In the unfamiliar big boots, he stumbled against a broken bit of paving. A child had appeared from nowhere in the gutter, a girl with a snot-wet upper lip. The child laughed.
'Not too drunk,' cried the man, 'to know when I'm being got at. I've nothing to hide. There, you see,' he told everybody. 'He didn't want the Black Sea Hotel after all. He's going the opposite way.' Hillier walked quickly past a redolent but empty fish-restaurant, a shuttered state butcher's, and a branch of the Gosbank that looked like a small prison for money. 'Getting at us,' called the man. 'All we want is to be left alone.' All I want too, thought Hillier. He crossed diagonally to a side-street opening, totally un-lighted, and got himself out of the way. Here a hill began. He trudged up broken cobbles, looking for a right turning. On either side were mean houses, in one of which a blue television screen did a rapid stichomythia of shot and dialogue, the window wide open for the heat. The other houses were dead, perhaps everyone out on the esplanade. Hillier wanted to be left alone, but he felt desperately left alone. The right turning he found was an alley full of sodden cartons, from the feel underfoot, with squelchy vegetable refuse sown among them. Hillier plopped gamely eastwards to a tune of cats fighting. There should, he knew, be a moon in first quarter rising about now. To his far left there was the scent of a hayfield: the country started early here. At one point he heard a husband-and-wife quarrel, apparently in a backyard: 'Korova,' the husband called the wife, also 'Samka', very loud. He turned right into a street which had tiny front gardens with roses in them, and then he was on the boulevard again, the mulberries stirring in a fresh breeze. He came to a sign which said Ostanovka Tramvaya. There were three people waiting.
'So,' said a remembered voice, 'you're up to your tricks again, are you? Creeping up on me nastily with your spying tricks. And if I say I'll tell the police you'll say that you are the police. This,' he told the embracing couple waiting with him, 'is what I call a samozvanyets. He thinks to disguise himself by wearing a police uniform, but I'm up to all his tricks. All right,' he said to Hillier, 'what if I do work at the Black Sea Hotel? It's the big ones you ought to be after, not poor devils like us working in the kitchen. We don't get the chance, not that I'd take it if I got it. I've always kept my nose clean, I have. Ought to be ashamed of yourself, you ought.' Hillier did a resigned barmy-take-no-notice shoulder-shrug for the open-mouthed couple (open-mouthed, he then saw, because they were chewing American gum). The tram rattled up, its trolley sparking. It was a single-decker.
'The next thing you'll be saying is you don't know the fare,' said the man, comfortably seated opposite Hillier. 'Go on, say it.'
'I don't know the fare.'
'What did I tell you?' he announced in triumph to the five passengers. 'Well, it's ten kopeks. As you knew all the time, samozvanyets.'
The conductress ignored Hillier's proffer. The police, then, travelled free. She was a sort of bread-and-butter pudding of a girl, in a uniform that fitted deplorably.
'That's right,' said the man. 'One law for the rich, another for the poor. Moscow,' he sneered. 'Why can't they leave us alone?'
Hillier gathered a lungful of breath and shouted: 'Zamolchi!' To his surprise the man did shut up, though he grumbled to himself. 'Going there now, are you?' asked Hillier, more kindly. 'To the hotel, I mean.'
'I'm not saying anything,' said the man. 'I've said too much already.' He took from his hip-pocket a very old-looking magazine called Sport and started to read a full-page photograph of a high-jumper with gloomy intentness. Hillier lighted a White Sea Canal, first twisting the cardboard mouthpiece, and looked out of the window. The tram turned right off the boulevard into a narrow street of pretty stucco houses with bougainvillea prominent in the front gardens. A street-lamp showed one clump of the flower up clearly, a glow of red and lilac petaloid bracts. Again that blessed world beyond politics. The tram turned left, and there beyond on the right was the sea with lights winking. There was no esplanade. Instead there were workers' holiday hostels in garish primary colours, each with its private beach. In one a dance was swinging away to out-of-date music, corny trumpet and saxophone in unison on You Want Lovin' But I Want Love. Was that distinction possible in Russian? The tram stopped.
'As you well know,' said the man opposite, tucking away his Sport, 'we're here.' He let, or made, Hillier get off first.
The Chornoye Morye Hotel was on the left, away from the beach but with a winding path through a rich but ill-tended garden. Its name was on a board, floodlighted. The architecture was good Victorian English seaside, a sort of Blackpool Hydro with striped awnings. Hillier was disturbed to find plain-clothes men, bullish, thuggish, patrolling near the ornate entrance. But, of course, a temporary requisition. A scientific conference, big stuff, state stuff, the S-man, despite negative reports from the docks, perhaps really at large. That damned man was behind him, saying: 'There you are. Real police. They'll see through you. They'll know you for what you are, samoz-vanyets.' Hillier blazed. He turned on the man, grasped him by his dirty kitchen-worker's collar and pulled him into an arbour of cypress and myrtle and begonia. He said: 'This gun I have is not just for show. I shall use it on you without hesitation. We can't have filthy little nobodies like you getting in the way of vital state business.'
'I'll confess everything.' The man gibbered. 'It was only two cartons. The head waiter's in it up to his eyeballs.'
'English or American?'
'Lakki Straiyk. Two cartons. I swear. Nothing else.'
'Let me see you go straight to the kitchen entrance. Any nonsense at all and I shan't think twice about shooting.'
'And the Direktors in it. Watches. Swiss watches. Give me time and I'll make out a full list of names.'
'Go on.' Hillier butted him with his gun-butt. 'Get in there and nothing more will be said. But if I hear that you've been talking any more nonsense about impostors-'
The man snivelled. 'It's back to the days of Stalin,' he said. 'All bullying and threatening. It was different when we had poor old Niki ta.'