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9

Hillier had three days to wait in Istanbul. His hotel was pretentiously named the Babi Humayun or Sublime Porte also misleadingly, since it was nearer the Golden Horn in the north than the Old Seraglio in the south-east of the city. But it suited Hillier well enough. The final act to be performed accorded better with fleas, foul lavatories, stained and carious wallpaper, than with the grand asepsis of the Hilton. His room was shady and smelt shady: the bed had surely known gross and barbaric gesta, the paint scratched from its iron by strong and cruel fingers from the hills, fingers unwashed from dipping in rank stews of goat-mutton. Bearded phantoms shuffled the floor in the night in greasy slippers, muttering last words before the striking down for a little bag of coins ill-concealed under the bursting mattress: shadows of murderous thieves danced on the walls in the dim light from the three-in-the-morning street. The room had a balcony long uncleared of Turkish cigarette-ends, old cobwebs thick with white dust; the one chair was rickety. But Hillier liked to sit there and take his early breakfast of yoghurt, figs, unleavened bread and goat-butter, thick syrupy coffee and foul Brazilian cigars, looking into the clear glimmer of the morning Bosporus. He reflected, naked under his dressing-gown, on how wrong he had been about things, believing too much in choice and free will and the logic of men's acts; also the nature of love.

On Cumhuriyet Caddesi he had watched, half-hiding like some native of the city up to no good, the loading of the flour-king's coffin on to the closed BEA van, later the boarding of the flour-king's orphans, two pale and elegant children, with the rest of the passengers on Flight BE 291, and he had waved feebly as the coach ground off to Yesilk"oy Airport. He had gone to the address given to him by Theodorescu and found it a decent bundle of business offices. At the enquiry-desk he had asked if there were anything for Mr Hillier; a Mongol-looking woman with hair streaked white had given him an envelope. A note inside merely said: FAIL WHOLLY TO UNDERSTAND BUT WILL BE THERE. It was signed T.

And then to wait. Breakfast, the first raki of the day, fried fish or kebab for lunch, raki going all the time. Sleep or a restless wandering of the city, cocktails at the Kernel or the Hilton, a European dinner, then a raki-crawl and early bed. Istanbul disturbed him with its seven hills, as though Rome had tried to build herself on another planet. The names of architects and sultans rang in his mind in dull Byzantine gold Anthemius, Isidorus, Achmet, Bajazet, Solyman the Magnificent. The emperors shrilled from a far past like desolate birds Theodosius, Justinian, Con-stantine himself. His head raged with mosques. The city, in cruel damp heat, smelt of wool and hides and skins. Old filth and rusty iron, proud exports, clattered and thumped aboard under Galata's lighthouse. Ships, gulls, sea-light. Bazaars, beggars, skinny children, teeth, charcoal fires, skewered innards smoking, the heavy tobacco reek, fat men in flannel double-breasteds, fed on fat.

In the early evening of the third day, Hillier arrived back at the Babi Humayun from a trip to Scutari. He was damp and tired and his head ached. His pulse raced when he saw in the entrance-hall a small pile of good leather luggage. Someone had arrived from somewhere. Who? He did not dare ask the squinting bilious-skinned porter. He took the lift (old iron for export) to his floor, went to his room, stripped, and checked the Aiken and silencer before loading. He hid the weapon among his few remaining clean shirts in the top drawer of the dressing-table. He drank raki from the flask by the window. Dressing-gowned, towel round his neck, he went out to the bathroom, feeling slightly sick, eyes focusing badly; he noted the tremor of intent in his fingers as they reached for the bathroom door. He knew what he would see inside.

Miss Devi stood under the shower's cold trickle. He surveyed her nakedness as coldly as she suffered his gaze. Fronds and dissolving islets of water flowered and fell upon the baked skin; the tar-black bush glistened. She had hidden her hair in a plastic cap; her face seemed more naked than her body. The nipples were pert after the shock of the douche; like eyes they met his eyes. 'Well,' he said. 'Is he here?'

'Later. He has things to do. He found your message very mysterious. He will not trick you, of course. No tape recorder. But his memory is very good.'

Mine too, thought Hillier. His flesh crawled as it remembered that night in her cabin. Was it proper now to feel desire? That past desire had been used to betray him; this time it would be different. Shatter that child's body; those scents that lingered in his nostrils and the feel that was stitched into the whorls of his hands could only be exorcised by the ranker contacts of a knowing, mature, corrupt routine. Hillier said: 'Would you now? I take it there is time.'

'Oh, there's time. Time for the vimanam and the akaya-vimanam. Mor and the taddinam and the Yaman.'

'Yaman? That's the god of death.'

'It's just a name. My room is 47. Wait there.'

'Let's go to mine,' said Hillier.

'No. I have the instruments of the Yaman. Wait for me there. I must perform the triple washing of the vay.' Hillier noticed that she had a little waterproof bag on the chair by the bath. There would be other engines there than those of the Yaman. He went to her room. It was as seedy as his own, but her presence rode it strongly, sneering at the accidents of decay. He washed himself in cold water from her basin and briskly dried himself. Then he got into her bed (the sheets must be her own: crisp black linen) and waited. In five minutes she came to him, plunging into bed naked from the very door.

'It's no good,' said Hillier, after the simple movements of the vimanam. 'I want something too direct and easy and tender for you. I want a simple tune, not a full orchestra. It's just the way I am.'

She went cold and stiff beneath him. 'A little English girl,' she said. 'Blonde and trembling and talking about love.'

'She never talked about love,' said Hillier. 'She left that to me.'

With a swift muscular convulsion she rejected him. He uas not sorry to be rejected. 'I'm sorry,' he said.

'You'd better go.' The voice was glacial. 'Mr Theodor escu said something about business first, dinner after. He'll see you in your room as you requested. He asked me to see that you have drinks sent up. Not raki. It can go on his bill, he told me to tell you. And now get out of here.'

Hillier sat in his room waiting. The marine sky insinuated itself, through phases of pink and madder, into a velvet transformation. Stars over the Golden Horn, its gold in darkness now like the gold of Byzantium. On the table by the balcony were whisky, gin, cognac, mineral water, ice, and a box of cigarettes whose paper was like silk and whose tobacco tasted like burnt cream. Hillier checked his gun once more and placed it in the right-hand pocket of his moygashel jacket. He waited.

Theodorescu entered without knocking. He was in a lounge suit and silk shirt; he smelled of an ideal Orient, not the gamy real Asia that started here east of the Bosporus. He was huge; his baldness was massive smoothed stone; he was urbane, genial, saying: 'I'm sorry you've had to wait, my dear Hillier. There were things in Athens that had to be seen to. Miss Devi entertained you, I take it? No? You seem very serious, glum almost. This is not the naked Hillier I knew and respected on shipboard.' There were chairs on either side of the drink-table. Theodorescu took a whole gill of whisky; ice clinked in with the tones of a tiny celeste.

'You respect me no longer?' said Hillier. 'Now that I'm going to give you something for nothing? Now that I'm going to give you everything for nothing?'

'My trade is a crude one. I'm used to buying and selling only. I doubt if anybody's ever genuinely given me something for nothing. Presents, bribes those are different. There's a tag, isn't there, about dona ferentes? You say you have things to give me. What do you want in return?'

'Release,' said Hillier. 'I've a burden to jettison. A general confession that justifies my staying alive. Do you understand me?'

Theodorescu shone both eyes full on him. 'I think I do. You're turning me into a priest. I'm honoured, I suppose. And now I have to take the burden over. I see. I see. I see why you wanted no mechanical recorders. Well, go slowly that's all I ask.'

'A confession,' said Hillier. 'But also a gift horse. I'll take my own time.'

'Begin, then. Bless me, father, for I have sinned-' Hillier did not answer his smile; Theodorescu ceased smiling.

'That's not for you. But this is, these are.' And he started. 'The identity of Avenel is H. Glendinning of Seyton House, Strand-on-the-Green, London. Abu Ibn Sina, known to the Baghdad police, runs the radio station known as Radio Avicenna. The three international saboteurs who call themselves the Adullamites are Horsman, Lowe, and Grosvenor; you will know the names, I think.'

'Indeed. Hypocrites.' He took another gill of whisky. 'Pray continue.'

'Operation Aegir is to be mounted near Gellivare six months from now. H. J. Prince, at Charlinch near Bridg-water, Somerset, England, is in charge of a training school for subversion called Agapemone. A pocket television transmitter called, for some reason, Nur-al-Nihar, is in process of development at a station near El Maghra, southwest of Alexandria. Twin missiles named Aholah and Aholibah are near completion on the Jordan border, east of Beersheba. The assassin of Sergei Timofeyevich Aksakov is in retirement at Fribourg; he goes under the name of Chichikov-a pretty touch. T. B. Aldrich, an importer, runs our station at Christinestad; he is in radio contact with GRT, as it's called, which is in the Valdai Hills, south of Staraya Russa. The scheme known as Almagest is already being mounted at Kinloch on Rhum Island. Escape route Gotha starts three miles north-west of C"openick. Barlow, Trumbull, Humphreys and Hopkins, a so-called pop-group named the Anarchists, have plans of the San Antonio installations in a villa outside Hartford.'

'Are you sure of that?'

'One can never be totally sure. They may have other things too. That's why there's been no pounce as yet.'

'I doubt if I shall remember more than a fraction of all this. You're a hard man, Mr Hillier.'

'C. Babbage is in charge of the Cambridge team which is developing the Zenith PRT calculator. A very corruptible man. John Balfour of Burley leads the Cameronian sect with its headquarters in Groningen mad but potentially dangerous. The Nero Caesar cryptogram has been broken by Richard Swete in Tarante The sea-trials of the Bergomask have been indefinitely postponed. Watch very carefully the activities of the Bismarck Group in Fried-richsruh. The Black Book of the Admiralty has disappeared: don't try and sell that to the press. Rolf Boldrewood is forging roubles in Bolt Court off Fleet Street, London. The air-exercise known as Britomart will be photographing the base at Varazdin. An atomiser-gun provisionally named Cacodemon is being tested at Gonville Hall. The French nuclear scheme is phased according to the revolutionary months. Completion stage is designated Fructidor. At present the Thermidorian tumbrils are coming that was the message received.'

'Good God.' Theodorescu had finished three-quarters of the whisky.

'Watch Portugal. Leodogrance has, we gather, seen plans of an ICBM called Lusus. But Leodogrance was raving from the cellars at Santarem. Watch Spain. There are rumours of what is known as a Pan-Iberian doctrine being drafted underground at Leganes. There are some very strange installations at Badajoz, Brozas, and in camps in Southern Pontevedra.'

'That I knew.'

'That you knew. But you didn't know that Colvin was in Leningrad as a fur-buyer. Nor that a certain Edmund Curll is fabricating indecent photographs to compromise Kosygin. His shop is on Canonbury Avenue, London, N.i. Our agents in Yugoslavia are at Prijepolje, Mitrovica, Krusevac, Novi Sad, Osijek, Ivanic and Mostar. They all give English lessons. The password till September 1 is Zoonomia.'

'Please spell that.'

'The UAR call their long-term anti-Israelite attrititive scheme by the Koranic name of Alexander the Great-Dhul'karnain. Hence arms-dumps are indicated by the sign of the two horns. Johann D"ollinger has recently been expelled from the underground neo-Nazi Welter ob erungs- bund. He drinks all day in a rooming-house on Schaum-kammstrasse, Munich. The Druidical movement in Anglesey is not to be laughed off: it is financed by B"oltger and Kandier, late of Dresden. Laurence Eusden was seen with a Moorish boy in Tangier.'

'I have photographs.' Having finished the whisky, Theodorescu started on the cognac.

'Give me some of that,' said Hillier. His brain was becoming a jumble of names. He drank. He must push on. He said: 'Miniature nuclear submarines called Fomors are to be launched secretly off Rossan Point, Donegal. Gabriel Lajeunesse is the code-name for the graminicidal experiments to be carried on south of Carson City, Nevada. Joel Harris is the official executioner of J24, at present residing in L"ubeck. Godolphin still seems to be at large: Hodgson reports having seen a man answering to his description in Zacatecas.'

'Very small stuff.'

'Perhaps. Remember that this is a team of gift horses.'

'Jades. Nags. Rocinantes. But I see I'm presenting myself as ungrateful and discourteous. My apologies.' He looked at his watch, a flat gleaming Velichestvo. 'Do continue. Or, if you can, conclude.'

'Watch Plauen, watch Regensburg, watch Passau. America looks east with new-mark 405 installations. Ingelow has been sent to Plovdiv in time for the Dzerzhin-ski visit. There's an American military mission, disguised as travelling evangelists, visiting Kalatak and Shireza. The Kashmir business is being forced into blowing up again soon: those packing-cases in Srinagar contain flameguns.'

'Yes yes yes. But you know what I really want.'

Hillier sighed. 'What you really want. But you're not entitled to anything. You bloody p'ed'erastie neutral.'

Theodorescu laughed. 'Would you address your priest so? I suppose you could. We shrink to our offices, or expand.'

'Evil,' said Hillier between his teeth, 'resides in the neutrals, in the uncovenanted powers. Here it all comes, then what you really want.' Theodorescu leaned forward. 'Number One Caribbean Territories is F. J. Layard,' said Hillier, all his instincts telling him to be sick, faint, gag. 'Savanna la Mar, Jamaica. The office is at the rear of a bicycle-store called Leatherwood's. Layard goes under the name of Thomas North.'

'Come nearer home.'

'Number Two (Operations) is F. Norris, on six months' leave, living with his aunt at Number 23, Home Road, Southsea.'

'Never mind about the Caribbean. It's London I want.'

Hillier retched, then swigged some cognac. 'Headquarters in Pennant Street Shenstone Buildings, tenth floor, Thaumast Enterprises Limited. The Chief-'

'Yes yes?'

'Sir Ralph Whewell. Albany and a house called Tri-niurti, Battle, Sussex.'

'Old India man, eh? Good. Never mind about other names. Just give me the frequencies you work on.'

'On the Murton scale, 33, 41, 45.'

'Book codes?'

'Very seldom.'

'Thank you, my dear Hillier. You said I was evil a minute ago. I quite probably am. But I'm honest, you know. I couldn't stay in this business if I cheated. When I place that envelope on the table in Lausanne, when I say: "Gentlemen, this contains the name of the Chief of the BES" or "Here is the exact location of Intercep", my potential bidders never doubt that I'm telling the truth. And they know I never sell the same information twice. I'm honest, and I'm fair. You insisted, out of your generous heart, on giving me all those titbits, dry and succulent alike, for nothing, so I would never insult you by offering a token gift in return. But 1 took something of yours or rather Miss Devi did and I insist on giving a fair price. Shall we say two thousand pounds?' From his inner pocket he extracted the blue-scrawled Roper manuscript and waved it. 'She stole this, my dear Hillier, while you waited in her bed just now for the ecstasies some block of guilt prevented your consummating. You'll probably regard me as greedy and ungrateful, but I always take what I can when I can how I can.'

'You knew I had it?'

'Not at all. Routine rummaging, you know. I was rather pleased. I first heard of the libidinous Sir Arnold Cornpit-Ferrers from a young lady in G"ustrow. She had some little secrets to sell and was put in touch with me pathetic rags and tatters of information they were, picked up while she worked as a prostitute in London.'

'Brigitte.' A letter to Roper. One of these days.

'Was that her name? You're remarkable, Hillier. Is there anything you don't know? Evidently you too have been interested in the Roper case. But why not? Our world is small. I always take a very special interest in defectors -they're endlessly corruptible. Well now, will you take a cheque on my Swiss bank?'

'I'll be fair too,' said Hillier, drawing out his silent Aiken. 'I may give without taking but-I can't say I'm sorry about what I'm going to do now. You're the enemy, Theodorescu; you straddle the Curtain jingling the joy-bells in your pocket. Unlike Midas, I didn't even blab to a hole in the ground. I blabbed to nothing.' And he fired.

Theodorescu laughed through the harmless smoke. Hillier fired again, and again. Nothing happened. He could almost hear the sudden bursting of sweat all over his body.

'Blanks,' grinned Theodorescu. 'We knew we'd see that delightful little Aiken again. Miss Devi effected the ex- change in your brief interim of sad lecherous waiting. A very useful girl. And handsome. I wish sometimes I could be attracted to her sex. But we remain what greater powers make us. Ultimately we're impotent. Life is, I suppose, terrible.'

H illier hurled himself but was hurled back by a single gesture of the arm. Theodorescu marched towards the door, laughing. Hillier clawed at him, but his nails turned to plastic. 'If you're going to be a nuisance,' said Theodorescu, 'I shall have to call on my friends down-town.1 have some work to do in Istanbul and I don't like little people getting in the way. Be a good fellow and sit over a nice drink looking out at the Golden Horn. You've done your work. Rest, relax. Go and see Miss Devi again her nature is forgiving. For my part, I'm going out to dinner.' And he went out laughing.

Hillier dashed to the dressing-table. His syringe and ampoules were still in their resting-place under handkerchiefs, apparently untouched. He cracked open two ampoules and filled the syringe; he had to be quick. When he got out on the corridor he found the lift already creaking ferrously down, a slow song of rust, and fancied he heard Theodorescu laughing in it. Hillier tore down the stairs, all worn hazardous carpet, past huge Byzantine pots of dead plants, a stately Turkish couple coming up to their room, a tooth-sucking waiter in filthy white. He stumbled on one of the treads, cursing. He saw, down the lift-well, the cage approaching ground-level, its top laden with fruit-skins and cigarette-packets, even rare condoms. He would, he thought, just make it.

A man in a cloth cap, perhaps Theodorescu's driver, read with gloom a Turkish newspaper near the lift-gates. Hillier pushed him aside, saying 'Pardon'. Theodorescu was opening the flimsy lattice-work of the cage, the only passenger. 'Allow me,' said Hillier, taking hold of the knob of the outer gate. He pulled, allowing only a narrow chink between gate and slotted gatepost. Impatiently, Theodorescu tried to push, fine strong ringed white hand in the opening. Hillier pushed the other way with all his strength, jamming the hand so that its owner cursed. To have that hand at his mercy for just five seconds-The cloth-capped Turk was not happy; he was going to get away from here. The force which Theodorescu exerted was formidable; it was time for Hillier to swing round, change his hand-position, and pull. He did this athletically, finding a good foothold in the worn tiles of the floor; he gripped a wrought-iron rod of the outer gate and heaved. The hand itself seemed to curse, flashing all its rings like death-rays. Hillier took the syringe from his breast-pocket, uncapped the needle with his teeth, then jabbed hard into the veins of the thick wrist. Theodorescu yelled. Two old men coming down the stairs looked frightened and turned back. There were noises as of hotel staff clattering down coffee-cups off-stage, preparing to consider whether to see what was happening. 'This won't hurt,' promised Hillier, and he pressed the plunger. The vein swelled as the viscous fluid went in, its overflow mingling with the needled gush of black blood. 'That will do,' said Hillier. He left the syringe sticking in, like a lance in a white bull's Hank, then let go of the outer gate and fled.

He cowered in the shadows by the ill-lighted entrance of the hotel. Soon he heard singing. Theodorescu, whom nothing could make drunk, had been made drunk. The song sung was the anthem of a minor British public school: 'Porson was founded in days of old, When learning was in flower, And mighty warriors strong and bold Brought England peace and power.' The organ-tones of the voice had been somehow diluted to the reediness of a harmonica, though there was still much strength there. Theodorescu, trying to remember the second verse, then saying 'Dash it', then merely humming, appeared at the hotel entrance, smirking sillily in the globe-light above against which moths beat, his left arm around a decay-mottled barley-sugar pillar, his right hand dripping blood. 'A jolly nice night for a bit of fun,' he told the street. 'Hey, you fellows there,' he called to a knot of Turks in old brown suits, 'let's go and write dirty words on Form Five's blackboard.' He began to stagger off now to the right, towards the maze of dirty streets which at length led to uncaulked craft bobbing on the water, thieves, little food-stalls. He sang a maturer song of school, naughty: 'We're good at games like rugger And snooker and lacrosse, And once aboard the lugger We are never at a loss. Look at the silly sod, pissed on half-a-pint of four-half.' He roared with boyish laughter, zigzagging on the greasy cobbles. Hillier followed well behind.

From a ramshackle raki-stall came thin Turkish radio-noise, skirling reeds in microtonal melismata with, as for the benefit of Mozart, gongs, cymbals, jangles. Theodorescu cried loud his contempt of foreign art: 'Nigger stuff. Bongabongabonga. Chinks and niggers.' And, like a true Britisher, he rolled seawards, Istanbul possessing three walls of sea and one wall of stone. Lowly people of various inferior races stared at him, but with neither fear nor malice: this big man was lordly drunk, Allah or the shade of Atat"urk forgive him. The time, thought Hillier, had come to steer him whither it was proper for him to be steered. As he lessened his following distance, he was suddenly turned upon by Theodorescu, though jovially. Theodorescu called: 'Ah, Biggs, you little squirt, if you try and pin that insulting filthy card to my back I will have you. I know your nasty tricks, you boily son of a cut-price haberdasher.'

'It's not Briggs,' said Hillier.

'Oh, isn't it?' said Theodorescu. Three filthy children, Turko-Graeco-Syrian or something, were capering round him for baksheesh. Theodorescu tried to cuff them off, but his co-ordination was bad. Still, they ran to an alley of foul dark, jeering. 'No, it's not Briggs,' agreed Theodorescu. 'It's Forster. Well, Forster, is it to be war or peace?'

'Oh, peace,' said Hillier.

'Jolly good,' said Theodorescu. 'We'll fare forward together. In peace peace peace. Arm in arm, Forster. Come along, then.' Hillier was up to his side, but he resisted the fierce and podgy embrace that was offered. 'You say peace,' said Theodorescu, tottering downhill along a sinuous mock-street, 'but you told Witherspoon that I was a dirty foreigner.' The street seemed full "of torn posters advertising long-done Turkish entertainments, though one showed two American film-stars embracing grimly among words umlaut-spiked. A gas-lamp flickered like a dying moth. A fat woman with creamy Greek skin suddenly peered out from a derelict shop, calling hoarsely. 'I am a true-born Englishman,' said Theodorescu, 'despite the name. I will make the second eleven next year, so Shaw said. The eye and the hand.' He began to demonstrate batting strokes but nearly fell.

'Let's go down,' said Hillier, 'for a breath of the old briny.' A ghastly odour of decaying water-rack came up to them on the warm breeze. With a finger-tip prod he impelled Theodorescu to descend a wider street with food-and-drink shops open to the night. Here radio music of various kinds contended; a plummy, somehow Churchill-ian, voice read through farts of static the news in Turkish. There was the hissing of nameless fish and meat being dropped into hot fat. Theodorescu sniffed hungrily. 'Old Ma Shenstone's fish and chips,' he slavered. 'The best in town.' There were knots of merchant seamen about, some quarrelling over money. Hillier could swear that he saw, for an instant only, a woman thrust a fat white belly over the window-ledge of an upper room; she was dressed only in a yashmak. Hadn't Kemal Atat"urk forbidden yashmaks? Then her light went out.

'Theo,' said Hillier, 'you're a dirty young squirt. What have you been doing with the younger boys?'

'It was Bellamy,' cried Theodorescu in distress. 'Bellamy did it to me. They all stood around in the prefects' room. The door was locked. I yelled and nobody came. They only laughed.'

'You have the habits of a dirty foreigner,' said Hillier. 'I know what you did with that little boy in the choir.'

'I didn't do anything with anybody. Honest.' Theodorescu started to cry. An unshaven sailor, streaked with hold-dirt, stood outside a food-hell called Gastronom. He belched on a long and wavering note. Theodorescu decided to run. He did this clumsily, crying. 'They're always on to me,' he yelled. 'I only want to be left alone.' He Charlie-Chaplin-turned the corner. Two linked seamen swerved out of the way of his impending bulk, calling strange words.

'Easy, easy, Theo,' soothed Hillier, catching up with him. 'You'll feel tons better after a lovely sniff of sea.' They were on a minor wharf, its stones broken or slimy. The Bosporus lapped orts of shipping. Two youths, hairy and dark under a faint working-light, one of them unshod, were trying to open a packing-case with an old iron bar. Seeing Hillier and Theodorescu, they ran off with unsure Turkish guffaws. There were crates lined up against dismal sheds, rat-scufflings behind. A gull somewhere seemed to cry out at a bad dream. 'I say,' said Hillier, 'we could have a jolly good bit of fun here. Let's go aboard one of these boats.' Farther out, small merchantmen did a dance of dim lights; there was a party going on somewhere cries of joy that sounded Scandinavian, desperate under the euphoria. Hillier led Theodorescu to the quay's edge. It was green and slippery. 'Careful, careful,' said Hillier. 'Don't want to fall in, do we?' Theodorescu's eyelids were drooping; Hillier peered at the sagging mass of the face, all fat nobility dripped off. 'You're a bloody foreigner,' he said, 'not British at all. I dare you to jump on that barge with me.' It was a coal-barge emptied of coal; only its residue of dark dust, film everywhere, mole-mounds of it here and there, glistened under the thin rising slip of a Turkish moon. The empty vessel rocked over a subdued glug of water, its lip not more than three feet from the quay.

'Can't,' said Theodorescu, looking seaward with filming eyes. 'Not like warrer. Ole Holtballs no blurry good. Took us to the baths, not teach swim proper. Wanner go ome.'

"Coward,' jeered Hillier. 'Dirty dago coward.'

'Fishin ships. Ole Ma Shenshtin.' Hillier reached up and slapped him on the left jowl. He tried not to think. Ah God God God. Was he so much the ultimate villain? He could have taken all that information that time without asking, without paying out dollars. Even the identity of, the location of. Free will, choice: he had spoken of those things. 'Choose now, Theodorescu,' he said into the sea-breeze. 'Go in now. A narrow bed, it will just hold you.'

'Murrer send big cake for dorm. Bellamy buggers eat the lot.'

'Five shillings, Theodorescu. I bet you five whole bob you daren't jump after me.'

'Five?' It had shaken him awake. 'Not supposed to gamble. Old Jimballs will be in a hell of a wax.'

'Watch this. ' Hillier gauged keenly. There was a wooden ledge a foot or so down from the gunwale. That would be all right. 'Now then, Theodorescu.' It was an easy leap. Panting only slightly, Hillier looked up the brief distance to the quay's edge, where Theodorescu swayed doubtfully.

'Come on, coward. Come on, foreign dirty dago coward. Come on, you flaming neutral.'

'British,' said Theodorescu. He stood erect, as to the National Anthem. 'Not neutral.' He too leaped. The water was so shocked by the impact of his weight that it launched to the air curious ciphers of protest: ghostly caricatures of female forms, Islamic letters big enough for posters, samples of lace curtaining, lightning-struck towers, a wan foam-face of dumb and evanescent horror. Its chorus of hissing after the splash was for an outraged audience. Theodorescu was between quay wall and unpainted barge-side, gasping: 'Rotter. Beastly rotter. No right. Know I can't.'

'You forgot to give me the absolution,' said Hillier. And, he remembered, the Roper manuscript. That tale of betrayal was being fast soaked down there, along with wads of money. A fortune was going down in the Bosporus. Theodorescu's rings gleamed dimly as he tried to scratch his way up the weedy stonework. Howling, he tried to keep himself afloat by, in a crucified posture, pressing both walls of his gulped and glupping prison. The barge moved its skirts away from his grope, tut-tutting. He cried out again and a fistful of dirty water stopped his mouth. 'Bellamy,' he choked, 'bou fwine.' The prefects were tee-heeing all about him. Oh God, thought Hillier: finish it off. He clambered into the barge well, searching. He found only a heavy shovel. He climbed up with it, hearing before he saw Theodorescu fighting the wet, the solids of stone and wood. He foresaw himself, in a cannibal breakfast, tapping that skull-egg, seeing the red yolk float on the water. It wouldn't do. But there was the drug, the drug was still working. Theodorescu seemed to fold his arms, like a stoic placed in the Iron Maiden. He said something in a language Hillier didn't understand, then he visibly willed himself eyes tight shut, lips set firm to go under.

He went under. Odd burps and glups, as of marine digestion, rose after him. Then the water settled. After a short while, Hillier flawed the air with a Brazilian cigar. Then, puffing, he minced along towards the prow of the barge. At that point, on the quay wall, a worn lifebelt had been fixed as a sort of buffer. By means of this he was able to climb with ease on to the wharf. Now, with his work finished (though suddenly, briskly, Cornpit-Ferrers danced in, thumbing his nose, going Yah like a schoolboy), he could go home. But, as he walked through the odorous Turkish evening, he wondered again where the hell home was.


| Tremor of Intent | c