Comfortable back in their room on another night of rain, Rachel snuggled into the over-stuffed chair they had bought at the Salvation Army and said to Barbara, "I wonder if Luda's ever coming back from Washington."
"I suppose she won't if Harry Jamieson promises to marry her."
"But he'll have to get free of his wife first."
"Is there such a thing as a conditional proposal of marriage?"
"I'll marry you if I'm not already married. That reminds me of an article about conditionals that I recently read."
"The one you were reading just before we left?"
"Yes. It's by a man named Isiah Linsky. I mentioned it to Cynthia, and she said she knows him."
"She seems mostly to know spies, but I guess a philosopher wouldn't be a spy."
"No. He apparently gives lectures here, there, and yon. Anyhow, he's concerned about conditional analyses of ordinary factual statements. It's customary to interpret a claim that, say, a liquid has a temperature of a hundred degrees in that way. Temperature doesn't exactly exist on its own with a big E. What's meant is that, if you measure the liquid with an instrument like a thermometer, it'll read a hundred. Linsky doesn't like that."
"He says that a categorical statement has a pointing function toward something that's taken to be real, as when you point at a man on a street corner. If you render it in conditional form, you lose something."
Barbara seemed in agreement, but added, "On the other hand, it is hard to say that things like electrons exist in the same way that tables and chairs do."
"Linsky says that they ought to be treated in the same way. There's only one kind of existence."
"That would imply either that electrons are little hard balls or that the table has only a conditional sort of shadowy being."
Rachel, shaking her head vigorously, replied, "I'd rather regard the table as iffy than claim that an electron is a little billiard ball."
"That's because you have a scientific orientation, Rachel. I want there to be a rich world full of people and things, not just possible observations that might as well be made by baboons or ants."
“Anyway, there’s a point to be made about the conditional proposal Luda seems to have gotten. If Jamieson weren’t married, he’d have to be an entirely different sort of person, perhaps one not so attracted to Luda.”
“Which would nullify the proposal altogether.”
Just then, there was a call from the front desk. Barbara took it, promised to be right down, and said to Rachel, "It's Adam. He seems terribly upset, something about his parents."
"I thought he was real happy about them when he got that medical information from Joan's friend to send to them."
"He was, but they may not have gotten his letter yet. Anyhow something's wrong."
"It's past visiting hours, so he can't come in."
"I know. I'll go for a walk in the rain with him."
Throwing on a heavy raincoat with a hood, she headed out the door.
It was a long time before Barbara came back. Rachel was in bed, but still awake. Barbara fell into a chair, still in her wet raincoat, and exhaled.
"A lot. For one thing, Adam's parents are both dead. He got a letter from a cousin around noon, and he's been charging all over Cambridge, half blind with grief, until he came here. He was exhausted."
"You look as if you're also exhausted."
"Emotion will do that to you. But I'm used to consoling my sisters after their various ruptures, and I guess I've gotten good at it."
"Does he know what happened to his parents?"
"He knew they were very ill, but there was a doctor who kept them going. He got transferred, and the new doctor was pretty horrid. The cousin thinks he accused the old man of hypochondria, and cut off some of the medicine. In any case, both Adam's mother and father became increasingly depressed and overdosed with aspirin or something."
"Adam must be furious."
"He is. He'd kill the doctor with his bare hands if he were here."
"So he's even madder because he can't do anything."
“It turns out that there is something. Adam is, or was until very recently, a Soviet spy."
"My God, we seem to be surrounded by them."
"No surprise. I know a girl who married a policeman. She said that, if you know one cop, you soon know twenty. Then, after a couple of years, you hardly know anyone who isn't a policeman or a police wife. It's probably the same with spies."
Rachel asked, "But he isn't one now?"
"In his fury, Adam called for an emergency meeting with his boss, or controller, or whatever. In the meeting he resigned as a spy and told the boss to go fuck himself."
"I bet Cynthia knew he was a spy. She was probably trying to use him in some way."
"I guess we should tell her about this. She might be able to help him."
The next day, Cynthia turned up at lunch. Adam had called her late the previous evening, just to say that he was giving up his fellowship and returning to Kiev to bury his dead parents and ascertain the circumstances of their deaths. He hadn't been willing to talk further, so she had come up on an early flight. So far, she'd been unable to find Adam.
Rachel found herself not being very forthcoming. She suspected that Cynthia was using people for various doubtful purposes. She, Rachel, wasn't going to aid Cynthia in any plans she might have for Adam.
Barbara, evidently more optimistic about Cynthia, laid it all out. Cynthia didn't quite say, 'shit', when told about Adam's revolt, but did say, “If agents who turn don't tell their controllers, they can be used to send misinformation back."
Rachel replied, "If Adam had gone quietly to the FBI, wouldn't they have just taken over his life for their own purposes?"
Cynthia gave a sort of shrug, which didn't endear her to Rachel, but said, "Anyhow, he certainly shouldn't go back to Russia. We'll support him, as before, and I’d rather not tell the FBI. He can just live the life of a history graduate student. If he gets through the program, that's practically the guarantee of a decent job."
Rachel guessed that Cynthia’s main motive was to avoid involving herself, as a British agent, with the FBI. But she did feet better about her. Barbara was enthusiastic, adding, "His knowledge of languages will help him in academia, and he might also make something of his musical ability."
"Can you find him, and make him see reason?"
"I'm sure I can."
Cynthia left soon afterwards, and Rachel said to Barbara, "It's nice that she'll support Adam. But I bet she has no personal interest in him at this point."
"That's not too surprising. In agent school, Adam was trained to seduce influential women and get information from them. He approached Cynthia in that light."
"I had no idea they did that!"
"Very often, apparently. They told Adam that, if he could get a woman to hear him play the piano, she'd be his. Of course, he is a terrific musician, but it takes a little more than that. They gradually discovered that he isn't glib in that sort of way, and so they gave him lines to memorize."
Rachel started laughing, and asked, "So he tried these lines out on Cynthia?"
"Evidently so. So she thought that he was a buffoon. Since she hasn't been with him much recently, she probably still thinks so."
"But she's leaving him, so to speak, in your care."
"Which is good. I'd better set off to find him. I think he'll be in the medical school library, trying to figure out what happened with his father."
Barbara was back within the hour, and reported, "I found Adam right off, and I've got him parked downstairs in the lounge."
"Did you persuade him not to go back to Russia?"
"That was just something he said to Cynthia in a mood of desperation. He hasn't recovered from the news of his parents by any means, but he's ambulatory. Come on down."
"Zeke is due any minute now. Let's all four go walking down by the river."
"Okay. Zeke and his swamp stories ought to cure almost anyone of almost anything."