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 Chapter 11

Sir Isiah Linsky

Rachel understood the definition of a continuous function perfectly well, but she couldn't believe it. It didn't seem to her to have anything to do with continuity. Had she missed something? Was something left out? Well, that was one thing among many. One of her teachers had said to her, "Go get confused, and then come and ask me questions."

That process was proceeding pretty well, and the supply of questions certainly wasn't drying up. It also helped if she could explain the issues to Barbara and Luda. Barbara had more patience than Luda, but some things came clear to Rachel in just the process of explanation.

     There was a boy in the metaphysics class who wasn't a mathematician, but who had some aptitude. He was shy in class, but afterwards asked her questions such as, "What is meant by saying that a number is real rather than imaginary?"

She replied that its concept was free from contradiction, unlike, for example, that of the largest possible integer. He replied, "There are some entities, like Santa Klaus, which are free from contradiction, but which still don't exist."

These weren't the sorts of things one said to mathematics professors, but she still enjoyed talking with Zeke. She wasn't sure whether it mattered that he was also Jewish.

     Zeke was from a small town in Missouri, just off the Mississippi River, which he referred to as "the swamp." It was low-lying, occasionally flooded, and almost entirely populated by people whose families had arrived a couple of hundred years previously. According to Zeke, they hadn't changed much over the generations. His family ran  one of few stores in town, and were the only Jews in a large area.

     Zeke was himself a tall basketball player who could speak in a quaint dialect, but also in standard English. His family was not popular in the swamp, for all the obvious reasons, but, as a high school star athlete, he had won some local acceptance. The result was an amusing split personality, markedly different from anything in Rachel's background.

     Zeke, whose real name was Isador, wasn't very experienced with girls. As he said, "You had to be careful with swamp girls. They weren't supposed to go out with a Jew at all, and, when they did, they could be a little scary."

"How scary?"

"One came from a pretty primitive family, and said, among other things, that Catholic priests cook and eat babies. I replied that I knew a priest who was a vegetarian, but that seemed a little weak."

When they went out to eat, Rachel tried hard not to be scary.

    Barbara had met Zeke, and went around telling people that Rachel had a boyfriend. Rachel resisted strongly, telling people that she had a friend who was a boy, or, alternatively, that not all her friends were girls. The others retreated in semantic confusion, leaving Rachel in firm possession of the opinion that, while she enjoyed Zeke's company, she didn't want to be touched by him. She thought that might be because of all the creepy crawly things that must have touched him in the swamp.

     Cynthia Massingberd-Montgomery wasn't concerned about either continuous functions or creepy crawly things. But she wasn't making much progress in getting delivered, in the right way, the right message for the right (wrong) people. There had to be two intermediaries, and she wasn't sure that she had even one reliable one. A possible solution was to have the same message sent by two different routes with different intermediaries. But that was awfully messy. She decided to consult with Sir Isiah Linsky of the British embassy.

     In most embassies there were intelligence directors who had impeccable diplomatic accreditation, but who co-ordinated below-the-line operatives who spied, in one way or another, on the host country. That was accepted as inevitable, and the intelligence community of the host country, in turn, spied on the spies in its midst.

     In the British case, things were, at least on the surface, different. Close allies weren't supposed to spy on each other. However, the weaker ally was usually quite anxious to have advance warning of the things its stronger partner might do, and of the messes that might result. The more astute members of the American intelligence community knew this, but the understanding was that the spying would depend heavily on open sources, and that nothing should be done whose revelation would embarrass the administration. The other part of the understanding was that the British director would be so senior and distinguished that he could hardly be imagined to engage in any dirty work.

     Sir Isiah Linsky had been a prominent philosopher in Oxford before the war, and had then gone into the Foreign Office when the war broke out. Posted to Washington, he had favorably impressed Roosevelt, and been set to work with the president's most trusted advisor, Harry Hopkins.

     Although Churchill and Roosevelt were long-time friends, there were sometimes sensitive differences over policy. Hopkins and Linsky had resolved these to the benefit of the war effort, and Linsky was knighted at the war's end. He was now comfortable in a still important but less nerve-wracking position.

     Linsky's meeting technique was predictably eccentric, and also rather elaborate. Cynthia was to circle Lafayette Park, across from the White House, in a clockwise direction. Linsky would circle in a counter-clockwise direction so that, if they didn't arrive at exactly the same time, they would meet. Moreover, it was a place where Washingtonians often took their walking exercise, so they wouldn't stand out.

     The first time they met, there would be no sign of recognition, and, passing each other, each could check to see that the other wasn't being followed. If Linsky had no shadower by the time they met again, Cynthia would put her shoulder bag over her left shoulder. In that case, Linsky would turn into the park, find an isolated bench, and start feeding pigeons. Cynthia would follow some distance behind, and, with her own bag of peanuts, drift slowly along attracting pigeons. She would eventually join the other pigeon feeder on his bench, merging their pigeons. Linsky claimed that Americans disliked pigeons, and would automatically look away from crowds of them.

     The first time around, Sir Isiah, slim and elegant, approached rapidly. Always with a rolled black umbrella, he most often used it as a walking stick in the manner of a British Guards officer. Despite that, and the frantic intensity with which he walked, he seemed to think that he could pass for the American version of the Common Man.

     On this occasion, Linsky clutched the umbrella desperately around the middle, as if someone were trying to steal it from him. This, he had once told Cynthia, was the Teutonic method of holding an umbrella, and, for all she knew, he might now be pretending to be a German diplomat.

     While he would insist that all this was in the interests of good cover, Cynthia knew better. He just enjoyed playing spy games, and, she, along with others, humored him.

     Once they were finally settled on the bench, Cynthia began the conversation, speaking loudly of pigeons and pointing at particular ones. Linsky always reminded her of Rembrandt's painting of a philosopher, wiry, energetic, and poised to argue. Indeed, he wasn't the sort of cool rational philosopher who spun out pretty systems. He was known for producing the occasional brilliant paper, but there would be no obvious connection between the papers. That might have been because the passion of the moment temporarily erased the memory of previous positions. Conversations with him tended to be similar. There would be sudden twists and turns, and no predicting what might come next.

     Apparently having had enough of pigeons, Linsky remarked, "I've always followed your work with interest. I, too, have written some speeches for politicians."

This was a joke. He knew that Cynthia had done more than write speeches for Senator Vandenberg, but one didn't, of course, mention that. After a bit more light-hearted talk, he said, "You know, you do still seem more English than American to me."

"I'm afraid so. It was actually easier in France during the war. It's all the little American quirks that are so hard to capture."

"Part of it's the sloppy speech. If one asks an American if he expects rain, he's likely to reply, 'Yeah, I guess so.' Even an American professor of English will speak in that way. They also have a sort of cowboy way of standing at urinals."

"I might have difficulty with urinals, but I could get a cowboy hat."

"You do best pretending to be the sort of upper-class American anglophile who apes our speech. Your pretense and theirs might meet half-way."

"More likely, each goes too far, and becomes a parody of the other."

"Ah well, we do what we can. You said you had a problem."

After Cynthia had explained the situation, he observed, "I've always left you to work things out your own way on the assumption that any interference on my part would be just that. Do I understand that you've now actually come to ask for advice? Wouldn't you rather have some tea at that little hotel over there?"

"I'll take the tea as well. What would you do?"

"I think I'd send a message by more than one route unless I thought that one of the messengers might mix it up in transmission. In this case, that would be disastrous."

"Yes. I'll have to think deeply about that. Anyhow, you haven't actually given me the message yet."

"I'm still working on it. The object, of course, is to avoid having Britain destroyed in the course of a nuclear exchange between America and the Soviet Union."

"We are rather in the way."

"A bit less than you might think. The direct routes between the assailants are closer to the North Pole."

"That's good."

"If you were a high American official, I'd say to you that we're staunch allies, absolutely shoulder-to-shoulder. If you're annihilated, we will be as well. No trouble, really. Glad to be of service."

"That's bizarre. It reminds me of an uncle of mine, a Major John Stewart. He was part of one of those awful infantry charges on the Somme in which half the men were killed. Having just survived it, he wrote to his wife a note that I've memorized: 'The main thing is to kill plenty of Huns with as little loss to oneself as possible; it's a great game, and our allies, the French, are playing it top hole.'"

"Yes. I've heard that sort of thing."

"Are we a uniquely idiotic race to believe and say such things."

"Well, no. We're as fearful as anyone else. I don't want to be annihilated, and your Major Stewart must have been utterly shaken after his experience. But we manage to put on an act. The unique thing about us is that others don't seem to see through it."

"So that's what your banking on with the Americans?"

"Yes. We talk that way to them, and, at the same time, plan ways of wriggling out. But we don't tell, and they don't ask."

"And the message to be sent to the Soviets is part of the wriggling out. I can guess the contents."

"I'm sure you can. I'm just working on the wording."

"What if the message is discovered?"

"Not disastrous. Because it won't be from us, but from some Soviet spy reporting back."

"At least, we'll be making things up instead of stealing American secrets."

"Yes. There is actually one big secret. How many nuclear weapons the Americans have. I'm glad I don't know."

"I assumed that they had lots."

"Old fashioned bombs simply popped off the end of a conveyor belt. You put them on a lorry, drove them to the airfield, and loaded them on to the bombers. Nuclear bombs aren't like that. Each one represents a major industrial process that taxes even American capacity, not to say that of the Soviets."

"So the feasibility of a strike depends on the number."

"Yes. The trouble is that, if the Soviets found out, there'd be no way of predicting their behavior."

"If the number seemed low to them, they might not worry, and choose a peaceful course."

"Or strike now before the Americans get more weapons."

"If the number seemed high, they might get scared and decide to be good boys."

"Or try to destroy them all in a surprise strike."

"I see what you mean. In any case, the Russians must be making extreme efforts to find out."

"Yes. And, in that area, we have to be certain that we aren't giving them any information, any lies, anything. A concocted story might be believed, and might get us all blown to whatever."

"I'll keep that in mind."

"It might be better not to say anything to the others concerning this matter. I'm obsessed with people who're told what to do, and then do the opposite."

"A related problem is that we don't know what the Soviet agents are reporting back. If they can't find out about the American nuclear arsenal, they may concoct stories in order to satisfy their superiors."

"As far as I can see, most of their agents are hopeless fools who might do almost anything. Their great successes in the atomic and other areas are entirely due to English and American traitors in high places who went around to a Soviet embassy and volunteered."

"Not all the westerners who volunteered were specially knowledgeable. There was Elizabeth Bentley."

"Was that the young Vassar graduate who became a courier for Soviet agents?"

"Yes. She got seduced by a rather boorish Russian and reported entering into a state of ecstasy that had no beginning and no end. It did, however, end when he dropped her. In a snit she then went around to J. Edgar Hoover and told all."

"Even if it involved a foolish young American, it's typical of a Soviet wobble. A surprising number of the Russian agents have been trained to seduce our women, and are good at it. But they don't think beyond the immediate consequences."

"I imagine that the women are often ones who've never been looked at by men, but who have access to secrets."

"The plain secretary to the Pentagon official who has a key to the safe, and who works late after he leaves. She then photographs the secret papers."

"That's it. The young man I told you about, Adam, is very much a seductionist. At least he so fancies himself."

"Is it part of his training, or does it come naturally to him?"

"I'm not sure."

"If we use him, we'll have to arrange it that he gets his information in bed. He won't trust it otherwise."

"I probably can arrange that. Without delivering the message myself."

"How sure are you that the man's a spy?"


"If he is, I wonder if his reports will be taken seriously?

"I have no idea."

"There have been cases in which their bloated bureaucracy hasn't even managed to read the reports of their own agents."

"I don't know how I could estimate a agent's importance to the opposition Centre."

"One clue consists in the importance of his assignment. That is, what he's trying to find out."

"So the agent who's on to the American nuclear arsenal is more important than one who just reports Washington gossip?"

"I should think so. There's also something else. Sooner or later, an important agent will want to know if and when the Germans are going to be given control over atomic weapons."

"I should think never."

"But Soviet paranoia imagines that it's only a matter of time."

"So that's an obsession with them."

"Yes. People who've been invaded by Germany become quite sensitive on that point."

"Anything else to look out for?"

"Not of the same sort, but there's something else related to your mission, which goes under the heading of 'the independence of the British nuclear deterrent.'"

"I've heard of that. British conservatives want to be able to nuke difficult people in the Middle East without American permission."

"Yes. Unfortunately, this derives from my old master, Churchill. But the word 'independent' also has a different, and nearly opposite meaning. In this sense, an independent deterrent would be one we could refrain from using even if the Americans do nuke the Soviets."

"And that's your position. Mine, too."

"We now need to convince the Soviets that that is our policy."

"No one would be able to get that from the public statements and debates."

"That's why it's left to those of us in the underworld."

The little tea room was completely empty, and they settled into a back table. Having ordered, Linsky said,

"Something else that may be relevant. Elsa and Eric Sombor are now known definitely to be agents of the Czech St. B, that is, Soviet agents."

"When I first knew them, Eric Sombor was a supposed Hungarian refugee who ran a company which made novelties for tourists. Elsa was officially unemployed, but ran a group called Capitol Couples in Washington. I think they really are Hungarian.”

“Yes. I don’t know why they work for the Czechs instead of their own service. And, of course, the club is, in fact, a free love group which started with a few couples exchanging partners for weekends.”

“As of a couple of years ago, there were some thirty couples, including some influential and important people. It took all of Elsa's considerable talents to arrange meetings of so many people without attracting attention.”

"I know Elsa in an entirely different connection. She's an extraordinary woman. Her beauty consists in the fact that one can see her courage in her face. You have at least as much courage, but a different kind of beauty. You look more athletic than otherwise."

"Well, Elsa would be an ideal messenger. She wouldn't get it twisted."

"No, but, if she knows you're British, she might discount it."

"I'm afraid of that. You pick up something English about me, and my cover was never developed to the point of deceiving anyone as sharp as Elsa."

"How about these female proteges of yours. Could it be arranged for them to meet Elsa without joining the Capitol Couples?"

"I can probably find a way for Luda to meet Elsa. But she'd have to be taken completely into our confidence and told never to mention to Elsa any connection with me or the IRSA."

"Well, if she's to take an invented text from us and say that it comes from Senator Munson, she'll have to be taken in anyway."

"So much will have to depend on a nineteen-year old girl with a history of telling lies."

"We all tell lies. It's just a question of where her loyalty lies. Or who can bribe her the most. We could certainly do that."

"I suppose so. If we overdid it, she might lose her moorings altogether. Like these people who win lotteries and blow the money in a few months."

"You'd have to be the judge of when and how much."

"I suppose so."

"You're the best judge of these things. As in philosophy, I only suggest possibilities."

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