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 gla...