Archivists who later put all the pieces together said the outcome was inevitable and had for its genesis two events that, although closely related, should never have happened.
No one on the outside, however, really ever had the complete picture. There were those, such as Ezra Wasserman, the former head of Israeli intelligence, the Mossad, and now in retirement at Gan Haifiz, who knew or guessed a great deal. And Carl Margraff in Berlin, who had helped, in his own way, to ferret out the Israeli mole, had been having gut feelings about it all since his son's death years earlier. And finally a certain groundskeeper in a Missoula, Montana, cemetery who received the shock of his life and talked about it for years afterward.
There were others--legmen, contact teams, technicians, drivers, spotters, and a host of experts--who, if they could all have gotten together, perhaps in some dark corner of an obscure bar where the music was soft and the drinks mellow, might have come close to understanding.
And there were stunned men and women at high levels in the secret services of a dozen countries who each thought they knew. Of course, none of them wanted to think aboutwhat had happened, much less talk about it openly or even among their colleagues.
But at the time--a certain late, balmy summer--no one could have predicted the startling outcome.
It was an early Saturday morning in mid-August. The city of Geneva, Switzerland, lay under a thick pall of haze that, because of a rare temperature inversion, was a combination of fog and automobile exhaust. The pale wisps and tendrils had crept down from Hermance and, on the opposite shore, from Celigny, Coppet, and Versoix like some vital creature, infecting not only the atmosphere but the very fabric of the great city.
The sun, still low in the eastern sky, which would later sparkle on the wavelets on the south bay of the lake, was this morning only a dull ball that could be stared at with no discomfort.
Geneva was not normally a dark city. Its people, though stoic by reason of their Swiss heritage, had nevertheless learned to be good hosts to the thousands of tourists who descended annually. But today the haze seemed to carry a hint of something dark, foreboding, which Darrel Switt found disconcerting. He was a well-built man in his mid-thirties, dressed comfortably in a navy blazer, gray slacks, and a loosely knotted tie. He was obviously travel-weary, and from time to time during the cab ride he pulled at his long, drooping mustache, an unconscious gesture he had developed over the years.
He had taken precautions this morning, riding a tram past the Voltaire Museum to the Cornavin railway station, where he had walked up to the post office before hailing this taxi.
There had been no shadows, no tails as far as he had been able to determine, and yet he still had the over-the-shoulder feeling that caused him to turn suddenly, to double back, to look for chance reflections in glass windows.
Paranoia. He thought now about the words of one of his tradecraft instructors.
"It'll strike you sooner or later. No getting away from it, gentlemen," the man (Margolis was his name?) had told them. He leaned forward over the podium, his eyes flashing. "But if you understand it, the very fact will become your ally.Point: You've succumbed, and you're jittery. The other fellow is looking for it. And he sees all the signs. He'll expect you to run like a rabbit. Jump every which way. You can play him then, like a fish. Bounce him around. Jack him up so badly, he's bound to make a mistake."
"But your counterpart is going to be paranoid as well, sir," one of the younger recruits had piped up.
Margolis leaned back, a broad grin creasing his craggy features. "A bright boy," he said. "But quite right--unless, of course, your mark is jacking you around."
They had laughed at the time, but it wasn't funny in the field. Nothing was funny out in the cold.
The cab crossed the Rhône River on the Pont de l'Ile and turned up toward the Eaux-Vives section of the city. Switt sat up a little straighter in his seat as he redid the top button of his shirt, snugged up his tie, and smoothed his hair with his fingers.
He had always been a young man. The baby of every group. From high school in Des Moines to college at Northwestern and finally the Company, his had been the baby face.
He sat a little further forward now so that he could see his own reflection in the rearview mirror. Not young any longer, he thought. Lines around the eyes, which were no longer so bright and innocent. Creases at the corners of his mouth, which smiled less than before. And a few flecks of gray at his temples and even in his luxuriant mustache.
Not age, but pressure. He had always been a high-pressure man. In college he had thrived in the competition for grades; no matter what the objective, he always seemed to come up with a way to meet it that often didn't include studying. Later, with the Company, he had shone in his work. Moscow had been a veritable playground for him, where, no matter the intrigue or complexity of a situation, he could not seem to get enough.
All that, however, had had its effects, some of which he could see now in his reflection.
They had come to an area of residential streets, and the cabby, an older man with several teeth missing and the others crooked and nicotine-stained, turned and scowled.
"The street number, monsieur?"
"Right here is fine. On the corner."
"But the number you wish ..."
"Here on the corner is fine," Switt said, handing over a two-hundred-franc bill.
The cabby pulled up at the corner of the Rue du Lac and Quai Gustave Ador, and deftly flipped the meter flag up with one hand while digging in his leather purse for change with the other.
But Switt jumped out of the cab and headed into the mist. The cabby looked after him with wonder at Americans and their senseless behavior.
Switt worked his way east and south as if on a walking tour of the city, although there wasn't much to see at this time of the morning under these conditions. At length he arrived at Route de Frontenex, a major city artery, where he got lucky with another cab.
This time he directed the driver to take him to an address a dozen blocks deeper into Eaux-Vives, where he got out half a block from his destination.
Turning down a narrow side street in an area of old, elegant homes, Switt hurried through a wide stone gate into a mews fronted by small apartments that had once been stables. They were backed by a line of a half dozen huge, ornately decorated three-story homes, each penetrated by a narrow tunnel driveway that led to the rear.
Switt went directly to the largest of them, ducked down the tunnel, and at a side door mounted the one step and rang the bell.
He had been here only once before, several years earlier. He had been full of pride and ambition then, filled with expectations and purpose, filled indeed with a self-righteousness that had been greeted with wholehearted acceptance. This time, however, Switt admitted to himself that he was frightened.
As he was about to reach out and ring the bell again, the heavy oak and glass door swung open. An older man, partially bald, wearing wire-rimmed glasses and dressed in morning coat and trousers, stood there blinking a moment before he stepped back.
"Won't you come in, sir?" he asked, his voice soft, British.
Switt went inside to a wide foyer. Beyond, he could see the main corridor off which were the living room, vast dining hall, and, to the left, toward the rear, if his memory served him correctly, the master study.
The butler closed the door and stepped ahead of Switt. "Just come with me, then, sir."
Switt followed him across the hallway, where a huge portrait of an old man with muttonchops and gold pince-nez stared severely down at all who dared enter what was obviously his domain.
The study was huge, with tall stained-glass windows and French doors that would have afforded a view of the rose garden but were covered with heavy, wine red drapes. Three walls were completely covered with floor-to-ceiling bookcases filled with leather-bound volumes, a ladder on tracks in one corner. The center of the room was dominated by a leather-topped desk, to one side of which stood a mammoth globe with ornately carved gimbals and legs. On the opposite side of the room, just in front of an oak sideboard built into the bookcases, was a grouping of soft leather chairs, a wide couch, several lamp tables, and a matching coffee table. A thick Oriental rug covered the floor.
"Please have a seat," the butler said. "May I bring you some coffee?"
Switt stared at the books and at the bric-a-brac in every nook and cranny. "Please," he replied. "And maybe some brandy."
"Of course, sir," the butler said. He turned and left the study, softly closing the door.
Switt stood for several seconds, then moved across the room and sat down in one of the leather chairs, avoiding the temptation to go to the desk and look through it.
Missed opportunities never return, their instructors had hammered into their heads. "You let the golden moment slip by, and it'll never come again."
He stared at the desk, but his thoughts were elsewhere. Back at Wallace Mahoney's funeral. Back to Mahoney's son, John, and the man's wife and children. Back to what he had set in motion. He shuddered with a sudden chill.
The butler returned shortly with a tray upon which was asilver coffee service and two cups and saucers. Without a word he set it down on the coffee table in front of Switt, poured two cups of coffee, then went to the sideboard and brought back a bottle of cognac and two snifters. He poured a generous measure in each glass before he straightened up and left the room.
Switt watched the door for several seconds. Then he picked up the snifter, drained it, and poured another.
From outside he heard voices. He got to his feet as McNiel Henrys entered the room.
"You took the usual precautions, I presume," Henrys said. He was a tall, distinguished-looking man in his late fifties, with a touch of gray at his temples and in his neatly trimmed mustache. He wore freshly pressed slacks, a light-colored shirt with an ascot at the neck, and a linen smoking jacket.
"Yes, sir. Flew in last night and did a lot of jumping around this morning."
They shook hands, and Henrys motioned for him to sit down.
"How was the funeral?"
"There was hardly anyone there," Switt said. "McBundy and a couple of his cronies from the Company. And of course, John and his wife and three kids."
Henrys was nodding as if Switt were giving him sage advice. "How have you been these past few days?"
"Nervous. And I'm not afraid to admit it."
Henrys sat down, looked with surprise at the cognac, then picked up his coffee, crossed his legs, and sat back, balancing the cup and saucer on his knee. "Did you bring the notes Mahoney's son passed to you?"
Switt nodded, got to his feet, loosened his tie, and unbuttoned his shirt. He had the notes taped to his chest. He handed the package to Henrys and restored his clothing before sitting down again. "It's all there, including Mahoney's conversation with you."
Henrys set down his coffee cup, removed the notes from the envelope, and thumbed through them. "Who had he finally pegged as the CIA liaison?"
Henrys shook his head. "His only serious mistake, trusting you," he said, an odd edge to his voice.
A sudden bitterness at the way things had turned out welled up in Switt. "He didn't make many. He was a fucking legend in the Company."
"He was a bloody saint, for my money," Henrys said without looking up. "Malecki, Larsen, and Arlemont are all out of the network now."
"He had your name, and Zwiefel's in Bonn, and Rubio's in Rome."
"At this point it's nothing but the conjecture of a dead man."
Again the bitterness rose at the back of Switt's throat. "In there he mentions that you agreed to tell him everything. He said you met. Here at the house." He wanted to take a shot at Henrys, to jar him loose somehow from his apparent complacency. "Would you have told him everything?"
Henrys looked up, a harsh expression in his eyes. "That would have depended upon him. If we had had a little more advance warning that Mahoney was in Israel, working for Wasserman, things might have worked out differently. But he did go back and divert the Mossad from our track."
"For all the wrong reasons."
"Yes!" Henrys spat. "But the result was the same now, wasn't it? Wasserman may have had his suspicions, but he wanted to believe that there was nothing more to it than a spy ring passing Israel's secrets back to the Russians. 'Another Israel Beer mess' was the way he referred to it, I think."
"Then you would have brought him in?"
"Into the fold?" Henrys asked. "I think not completely. He was an old man--"
"But the best," Switt interrupted. "I loved that old man."
"I have no dispute with you, my dear boy. But Wallace Mahoney was--how shall I put it?--an idealist who hadn't the foggiest idea what the term meant." Henrys shook his head and sighed deeply, then got to his feet and went to the door.
The butler was waiting on the other side, and Henrys handed him the notes. "Have these run through analysis. I want to know if they've been photocopied." Henrys walkedback to his chair, picked up his cup and saucer, and looked at the American.
"I want to know why you had him killed," Switt blurted. It had been on his mind for days. If you were considering telling him everything--or at least some of it--why did you have him killed?"
"I didn't," Henrys said. "You thought that we had?"
"Who, then?" Switt asked. He wanted to believe Henrys. He had worked with the man for several years now, and he truly believed in what they were doing, what they and their predecessors had accomplished over the last four decades. And yet there were times like this--and they had happened before--when he just didn't know.
"The Israelis, I should expect. They knew that his own government had been watching him, and it would have been a disaster for them had he told his own people that the Mossad had been an open book for years."
"He died on an El Al plane," Switt said in amazement. The connection had never entered his mind.
"Of course. And we'll have to stay away from it. At least for the time being. They're too skittish now. When the dust settles, we'll find out."
"And then nothing, Darrel. We file it and leave it lie. It's all over." Henrys glanced toward the door. "Except for young John Mahoney. We're going to have to do something about him. Immediately."
The moment he had most dreaded had come. Switt glanced at his watch. It was shortly after eight o'clock, which made it one in the morning in Minnesota. Soon now. Any moment.
"Did you copy Mahoney's notes?" Henrys asked, his voice soft.
"I had no reason to."
"But you read them?"
Switt nodded, off guard, wondering what the man was getting at. Company operations were his responsibility. That division had been made patently clear to him from the beginning.
He would act as absolute liaison from the CIA, just as Per Larsen with ININ had covered NATO; Arlemont had coveredthe French SDECE; Rubio, the Italian SISMI; Zwiefel, the West German BND; Sergovich, Russia's KGB; Yon Sieu, the mainland Chinese. And all the others.
Henrys acted on behalf of the British, but he was also the overseer. Still, no one, not even Henrys, overstepped his own boundaries. Too much confusion if we all muddled about on each other's turf, as he put it.
"You did read them, then. Mahoney was here. Did he pass this location on to his son?"
"It wasn't in the notes."
"I see," Henrys said thoughtfully. He got to his feet again, placing his empty cup on the coffee table. "Are you hungry? Would you like some breakfast?"
"I could use something," Switt said, getting up. Maybe he wouldn't tell Henrys what he had ordered.
"I must attend to another matter. Meanwhile, I'll have Robert show you to your room. You can freshen up if you like. When you're ready, come back down. We'll eat outside. The mist may have cleared by then."
Upstairs, Switt was ushered into a large, airy bedroom with its own vast bathroom and tall windows overlooking the mews. The mist still hung over the city, but the sun had climbed higher and shone brightly.
He had brought his cognac with him, and he set the snifter down on the windowsill while he lit a cigarette.
Alone again as he had been for most of his adult life, Switt tried to settle his mind, tried in some measure to make sense not only of what Henrys had told him, but of what he had himself set in motion back in the States. When you looked at the big picture it was all very clear, although their methods--his own included--frightened and sickened him at times.
Christ, Mahoney had never even suspected who the real operative was within the CIA. It hurt now, the deception. And it did not make Switt very proud. It hurt that he had lied to the old man all these years. Since Mahoney and he had been stationed together in Moscow four years ago, and had gotten to know each other, the lies had continued.
Here and now, looking out across the mews, the mist clinging to the eaves of the buildings, rolling along thecobbled streets, it was next to impossible to assign any reality to the things he had done in the name of the network over the years. The lies he had told. The lives he had ruined. He didn't know if he understood reality any longer.
The reality, of course, was Wallace Mahoney's death at the hands of the Israelis. He knew too much.
The reality was John Mahoney, his wife, and three children with nearly all the evidence they needed to bring the entire network to its knees. If it got out, there would be no going back. No picking up the pieces. Everything they had worked for, all of it, would go down the drain.
Switt finished his cognac and carefully set the glass back on the sill.
Despite all that, it was nearly impossible for him to justify what he had ordered. Nearly impossible, he thought morosely. Not totally impossible.
He went into the bathroom and splashed some cold water on his face, straightened his tie, and brushed his hair. He stepped lightly down the richly paneled corridor with its paintings and antique tables. The staircase faced three gigantic stained-glass windows, beautifully illuminated now that the sun was coming up, but lending a somber, churchlike atmosphere to the house, so that by the time Switt had reached the bottom, his mood once again was dark.
The butler who had let him in was there. With his usual deep scowl on his face, he led Switt down a corridor past the study and out a rear door that opened onto a wide patio overlooking a rose garden. A half dozen thickly padded outdoor chairs were grouped around a glass-topped wrought-iron table. To the right a staircase led down to the vast garden.
"Mr. Henrys is below, in the garden. He asked that you join him. Breakfast will be served momentarily, sir."
Switt nodded absently and went down into the garden, where a series of white stone pathways meandered through various species of rose plantings, shrubs, and trees. Some of the flower beds were raised above the general level of the garden, held in place by stone retaining walls; others were sunken; some were surrounded by lovely, shimmering pools of water; and still others were kept under glass in miniature greenhouses.
There was a miasma of rich odors from the damp earth and flowers that, although not unpleasant, seemed somehow confining to Switt. The mist clung here, and twenty feet away from the stairway Switt was isolated.
Henrys was nowhere in sight. "Mr. Henrys? Sir?" Switt called out.
"Over here." Henrys's voice came faintly from deeper within the garden.
Switt looked around a moment, then moved forward down one of the winding paths. The place was putting him on edge, but he resolved that now was the time to tell Henrys about the team he had ordered from New York.
It would be almost time now. Within the next hour, John, Elizabeth, Carl, John, Jr., and Cindy Mahoney would cease to exist.
There was no other way, he had told himself, and he repeated it now. The end justifies the means. Henrys would have to be made to understand that no questions would be raised. It would all be done neatly. Accidentally.
Wallace Mahoney was dead and buried. His son Michael had been killed several years ago. His wife had died of cancer last November. And now his remaining son and grandchildren would be gone. The end of the Mahoney line. But it was war, wasn't it?
Henrys was seated on a low stone bench in the middle of the garden, and Switt almost walked past without noticing him. He stopped short. Henrys was pointing a pistol at him. A large, bulbous silencer was screwed onto the end of the barrel.
"You overstepped your bounds, Darrel," Henrys said, his voice still eerily soft. "It's probably too late for me to stop what you have ordered, but I am trying."
Switt backed up a step. "Why?"
"Why what, my boy? Why do you have to die?"
Switt could feel his bowels loosening, and he looked wildly over his shoulder toward the house. He saw only the mist.
"There is no one at the house except for Robert. My daughter has gone to the mountains for a few days. And there certainly is no one to hear you if you cry out."
It didn't make sense. He had worked for them for so long. He had done things for them that were almost unthinkable. He had betrayed his own country. And his friend. The one man he had most admired. His role model, insofar as a man brushed by the cynicism of his kind of work allowed himself such a thing.
"Why?" he asked again.
"You are a loose end, Darrel. An embarrassment. Mahoney trusted you, his son ran to you. Too many leads and connections come to you. The network must remain intact at all costs, you know that. You've been to school on that subject. In fact, I'd venture to say that if you were thinking rationally, you'd do the same thing."
"But--" Switt started to speak when a huge fist slammed into his chest, driving him backward into a thick line of rosebushes.
There was no sound, no pain. Switt's entire body felt merely numb, detached from his brain, which seemed to be functioning in a dreamworld. He opened his mouth in an attempt to speak, but nothing came out. He could not even breathe.
Henrys' figure appeared above him, and Switt was looking into the barrel of the pistol. He opened his mouth again. Suddenly there was a tremendous thunderclap in his head, and then nothing.
Copyright © 1983 by Sean Flannery, Ltd.