Read Leon Uris Online

Authors: Topaz

Leon Uris (2 page)

2

F
IFTEEN MINUTES HAD ELAPSED
when Sid Hendricks entered the block-long red brick building housing a conglomeration of art treasures, sponsored by a Danish brewery.

He paid a krone admission, bought a catalogue, then made directly up a long flight of stairs on the right side of the main lobby.

The room was empty. Hendricks studied it for unwanted guests but could spot none. He thumbed through the catalogue, then moved around the dozens of Degas wire studies of horses and ballet dancers, each an experiment to capture phases of motion. He stopped before a glass case and looked long at a particularly magnificent piece, a rearing horse.

“Unfortunately, we do not see much Degas in the Soviet Union.”

Hendricks squinted to try to catch in the glass the reflection of the man who had slipped up behind him, but all he could make out was a transparent disfiguration.

“A few pieces in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow,” the Russian accent labored, “and somewhat better in the Hermitage, but I do not get to Leningrad often.”

Hendricks turned the page in the catalogue. “Never been there,” he answered, keeping his eyes straight ahead.

“I have. I’d like to leave.”

“I don’t think we’ve met.”

“Not formally. You are Sidney Hendricks, in charge of the American ININ Division in Denmark.”

“Anyone can get that information out of the Embassy Directory.”

“Then, how about this information? Your boss, Michael Nordstrom, is in Copenhagen to meet the Danish and Norwegian ININ counterparts, Nosdahl and Sorensen, to discuss expansion of an espionage ring of Scandinavian students studying in the Soviet Union.”

With that, Sid Hendricks turned and faced his adversary.

The two stipulated books nestled tightly under the arm of a man of shorter than average height. Russians look like Russians, Hendricks thought. High forehead, suffering brown eyes of a tortured intellectual, uneven haircut, prominent cheekbones, knobby fingers. His suit showed Western styling but was sloppily worn.

“Follow me and keep a hundred-foot interval.”

Hendricks passed from the room through a group of incoming art students and their instructor.

On the street he waited on the corner of Tietgensgade until the Russian emerged from the museum, then crossed to the Tivoli Gardens and paid an admission into the Dansetten.

Cha-cha-cha music favored the midafternoon dancers. Sid sighted in on a pair of unescorted girls sitting hopefully in a corner, and invited one to dance. His cha-cha-cha left much to be desired but it did give him a total vantage. The Russian entered, watched, did not appear to have followers.

Hendricks abruptly left the astonished girl and plunged into the maze of zigzag paths, hawkers, strollers, the labyrinth of glass buildings, the blaze of flowers, the multitude of restaurants, exhibits, fun and amusement booths, the fairyland that made up the wonderment of Tivoli.

Sid Hendricks led the Russian in circles. Along the artificial boat lake he doubled back so that he walked past his pursuer, then made up the steps of the multitiered Chinese pagoda. From here he could look down and study all the activity below. Only the single Russian clung to his trail.

He was now satisfied that the Russian was not being followed, and he passed from the Tivoli, crossing the teeming Raadhuspladsen filled with the usual complement of pigeons that inhabit city-hall squares throughout the world.

His deputy, Dick Stebner, waited in the lobby of the Palace Hotel. Without further word, the three walked the stairs to the third floor. The long corridor was covered by Hendricks’ men. Stebner made down the carpeted hall to an end suite, opened the door and the three of them entered.

Harry Bartlett, another deputy, waited by the false fireplace. The Russian stood in the center of room. The lock clicked behind him.

“Who are you? What do you want?” Bartlett asked.

“I want to see Nordstrom,” the Russian retorted. “You are not Nordstrom. You are one of the ININ men in Hendricks’ office.”

The bedroom door opened slowly. Michael Nordstrom entered. His bulk made the Russian seem even smaller. “Yes,” the latter whispered, “you are the one I wish to see.”

“Shoot.”

“Shoot?”

“Who are you? What do you want?”

The Russian studied Stebner and Hendricks at the door and the other one, Bartlett. “My compliments to you, Nordstrom. You are very good. You did this quickly and your Hendricks is clever. Do you have a cigarette?”

Michael cupped his hands to hold the flame and his eyes met the Russian’s. The man was frightened despite his professional poise. He sucked deeply on the cigarette as though calling on a friend and he licked his lips in a gesture of fear.

“I am Boris Kuznetov,” he said, “chief of a division of KGB. I wish to defect.”

“Why?”

“I have reason to suspect I am going to be liquidated.”

“What reasons?”

“Two close comrades in KGB who shared my views have been purged recently. I travel in the West often. This time surveillance on me is unusually heavy. And then,” he sighed, “a close dear friend told me before I came to Copenhagen that if I have a chance to clear out, I had better make the break.”

Kuznetov pulled hard again on the cigarette. He knew the men arrayed before him would naturally suspect he was a plant.

“This friend of yours,” Hendricks said, “wasn’t it dangerous for him to warn you?”

“It makes no difference if you are a Russian or an American, Mr. Hendricks. Our profession is cruel, yet ... they cannot take from us all that is human. Humans, in the end, are compassionate. Someday you may need a friend. Someday a friend will need you. Do you understand?”

“If you are under such tight watch,” Nordstrom challenged, “how did you cut yourself loose just now?”

“I am in Copenhagen with my wife and daughter. I left them at the restaurant. As long as they have guards on my family they know I will return, so it is normal for me to be away for a few hours, perhaps to make an intelligence contact, perhaps to shop, perhaps even to visit a woman. But I am a devoted family man and I always come back.”

“How did you know I would be at the Wivex Restaurant?”

“Because of your basic intelligence attitude. We Russians hide our intelligence people and never let it be known who they are. You Americans advertise who is CIA, who is ININ, on the theory that people will come to you with information. In this case, your theory works. It is not secret you are in Copenhagen. You always eat at Wivex or Langelinie near the Little Mermaid. You like Danish seafood. It is not hard to find out. Today I checked your reservation at Wivex and so I ate at Seven Nations just over the square.”

“You said you carried documents.”

“Yes. They are hidden in Copenhagen. I will tell you where they are when we make our agreement.”

“All right, Kuznetov. I’m impressed. We’ll get back to you in twenty-four hours.”

“No!”

“What do you mean?”

The Russian’s breath quickened. Fright, real or played, was in him. “I am afraid now to return to my embassy. We must do it right away ... today, and my wife and daughter must come with me.”

Kuznetov studied the skeptical American eyes. They all glowered in suspicion at the man who called himself Kuznetov, watched him fidget and breathe deeply over and over. The clock from the city hall tolled the hour, massively.

“How long can you stay out now?” Mike Nordstrom asked.

“A few more hours.”

“Get back to your wife and daughter, then go shopping or do the Tivoli for a few hours. I’m going to make a try at putting it together. Do you know Den Permanente?”

“Yes. The building that houses the permanent exhibits of Danish arts and crafts.”

“It closes at five-thirty. Be there at the counter at the silversmith, Hans Hansen. It’s near the main door. Now, take a good look at these three gentlemen. One of them will be standing by to lead you to a waiting car.”

“You must not fail!”

“There’s a fifty-fifty chance we can do it.”

“My guards ...”

“We’ll handle them.”

The Russian called Kuznetov walked slowly to Michael Nordstrom and held out his knobby hand. Nordstrom shook it, haltingly. And then Boris Kuznetov walked to a seat, sank into it, held his face in his hands and sobbed.

3

N
ORDSTROM DISPATCHED
S
TEBNER AND
another deputy to tail the Russian, then sped back to the embassy with the rest of his people, locking the ININ offices behind them.

TOP SECRET EYES ONLY TO SAILBOAT 606. CONTACT MADE COPENHAGEN WITH BORIS KUZNETOV. CLAIMS TO BE KGB DIVISION CHIEF. DESIRES TO DEFECT WITH FAMILY. PLANS UNDER WAY. I WILL TAKE FULL RESPONSIBILITY. NEED GREEN LIGHT IMMEDIATELY OR NO GO. OSCAR 612.

Coats off, ties open, sleeves rolled, Michael Nordstrom and his men plunged into formulating a quick but foolproof plan. They set into motion the obtaining of cars without diplomatic plates, finding a hideaway on the northern coast, getting a light plane on stand-by and flying Nordstrom’s own plane out of Denmark to a German airfield. Individual assignments were passed out and rehashed. The minutes ticked off too quickly, and as the hour neared five o’clock, ashtrays brimmed and the tension rose to fever pitch.

The phone rang.

“Mr. Hendricks’ office. Miss Cooke speaking.”

“Cookie, this is Stebner. Boss there?”

She handed the phone to Michael. “Nordstrom.”

“Stebner. Do we go?”

“No word back from Washington yet. If I don’t hear in ten minutes, we cancel. What’s your picture?”

“He just entered Den Permanente with his wife and daughter. We’ve spotted four guards working in two pairs.”

“Did the guards go inside the building?”

“They sure did.”

“Beautiful. I’m sending a half-dozen of the fellows down now. Stake them out around the entrance. If we get a cable to go, watch for Bartlett driving a blue, 1960 four-door Ford sedan with German plates. You make the hookup with Kuznetov and get in with him.”

“Got it.”

Nordstrom set the phone down and sent the men off to cover the Den Permanente entrance. He and Miss Cooke waited alone in the office. They both lit cigarettes. He paced. She tapped her long-nailed fingers on the desk. All around Copenhagen, bells rang out the hour of five.

“I guess we’re out of business,” Nordstrom mumbled.

Sid Hendricks tore in from the code room and set the cable before his boss.

TOP SECRET TO OSCAR 612. GREEN LIGHT. SAILBOAT 606.

Den Permanente houses the works of Danish artisans from crystal and silver to modern teak furniture and wild patterns in fabrics. Like Denmark itself, the place was not large, but its wares were magnificent.

Near the building, Stebner and a half-dozen ININ agents waited for Bartlett and the blue Ford. Stebner took a position so that he could clearly see Boris Kuznetov with his wife and daughter. They came down from the second floor. Mrs. Kuznetov read the time from a lavaliere watch. Stebner wondered why her husband loved her so. She was a drab and dumpy woman. The daughter, he estimated, was about twenty. A fine figure, but it ended right there. Severe hairdo, no make-up, flat shoes.

Stebner glanced over to the first set of guards. He was positive of them because he knew that one was an Assistant Resident of the Soviet Embassy. This pair lolled about a table filled with carved wooden figurines of comic Vikings, those monkeys who hang arm to leg in a chain, and several families of teakwood ducks.

The second set of guards was a pair of women hovering over a fabric counter. They used females, no doubt, to be able to keep tabs on the Kuznetov women, even in the public toilets. The Russian women stuck out like a pair of sore thumbs among the lovely Danish creatures around them.

Boris Kuznetov pointed to the display counter of the silversmith, Hans Hansen, and they walked toward it, containing their tension admirably.

Down the block, a blue Ford turned the corner.

The ININ agents closed in on the entrance as the car moved into the curb lane and inched through the ever-present sea of bicycle riders.

Now it was halfway down the block.

In the building, the five-thirty closing bell rang.

Kuznetov looked desperately toward the door

Stebner took a step inside and nodded. The Russian offered his arm to his wife and daughter, took the few steps outside quickly.

The guards dropped the merchandise they were fingering and followed.

Stebner slammed the doors of Den Permanente in their faces, shoved Kuznetov and his family into the rear of the blue Ford and got into the front beside Bartlett.

Kuznetov’s guards flung the doors of Den Permanente open and rushed to the sidewalk, only to collide with an ININ man on a bicycle who rode into them. Everyone sprawled to the ground, and as they scrambled to their feet the other ININ agents jostled and bumped them creating an instant of confusion, just long enough for the car to turn the corner and go out of sight.

It sped north out of Copenhagen along the coastal road with the Kuznetovs crouched in the back. Beyond the suburb, Bartlett turned the Ford off the highway and onto the pier at Taarbaek to switch cars.

Nordstrom and Hendricks were waiting in the front seat of a Mercedes, Stebner transferred the Kuznetovs and Bartlett returned toward Copenhagen again.

Nordstrom turned to the shaken family. “Everything’s going to be all right,” he soothed. “Try to keep calm.”

Kuznetov nodded that he understood.

“You owe me something. Some documents.”

Kuznetov took a baggage claim check from his wallet. “At the luggage storage at the main railroad station.”

It was given to Sid Hendricks to follow through and then they continued north. A few minutes before Elsinore stood Kystens-Perle, “The Pearl of the Coast,” built like a ship with the superb Hamlet Restaurant on the first floor and hotel rooms above. A most chic place for lovers to rendezvous. Stebner guarded the door of Room 6, while Hendricks and Nordstrom kept the family calm inside. Fear, that most prevalent of Russian products, had consumed them into a stunned whiteness. A torturous hour passed, during which he learned little more than that Mrs. Kuznetov’s name was Olga, and the daughter’s Tamara.

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