Talking to Strange Men

Free Talking to Strange Men by Ruth Rendell

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Authors: Ruth Rendell
were such, though, as to make Angus discount this. And if he now regretted it, it was too late, for the game was over for him and he had gone his way and Guy his and they never saw each other except by chance. If they met in the street they would acknowledge each other with a raised arm and a shout of hi. But at the time this prospect, if prospect it was, seemed unimportant. Spookside was all.
    His answer to Guy was to recruit two field agents fromhis own house at Rossingham, one of whom had a cousin at Utting. The cousin admitted that Guy had already tried to enrol him but he fancied working for Western intelligence. The first thing Angus got him to do was get the book
Cat Walk
back from Guy. That was the signal really that things had started. Guy changed the code from the day he lost the book. And he started using a drop actually inside the grounds at Utting.
    For a while they only did joke things, to test themselves, to see if they could do them. Things like abstracting each other’s possessions. Guy’s second-in-command had an electric toothbrush which he kept with him in Oppenheimer House. He was known as the Controller of the Chamney Desk, Chamney being the next village to Utting, so that it was something of a triumph when one of his best officers managed to get hold of it and bring it over without detection. Soon after that the officer turned out to be a double agent. But by then they had moved on to higher, more involved and serious things.
    There were the defectors, for instance, and the excitement of the debriefing sessions. But the first really important thing they did was to get hold of the plans for the block of flats it was proposed to build next door to Bruce Reynolds’s parents’ house. The architect happened to be Ivan Stern’s mother’s best friend’s husband. They used the best officer for that and somehow he infiltrated the architect’s studio on a visit to the house with Stern and Stern’s parents. While the others were in the garden eating food barbecued by the architect he took the top sheet of the plans, the one with the general outlay on and the building heights and so on, round the corner to the late-night instant print place and photocopied it. This was a daring coup. But the agent was a sort of genius, Angus (or Chimera) sometimes thought, and it was a bitter blow to him when he found out he was working for Guy at the same time. Guy learnt all about the plans coup before the photocopy was on Bruce Reynolds’s father’s breakfast table, placed there by Bruce in a blank envelope with no covering letter. Mr Reynolds had actually believed in the validity of those plans and had acted accordingly. He thought the envelope had come from a town councillorknown to be crooked. Instead of selling his house as he had planned to do should the block of flats have turned out to be as large and tall as he had feared, he withdrew it from the market and set about building the extension which would provide an indoor swimming pool and double-size bedroom for Bruce.
    That was the kind of thing they did. Better things and worse. Pointless things and absurd things too and sometimes dangerous things. Until one day, in the summer holidays just before he was sixteen, when he was in the Fifth and O Levels were coming up the following year, Angus woke up in the morning, remembered what he had to do first thing, go down to the safe house and begin the de-briefing of the latest defector, and thought O God, what a drag, do I have to . . . ?

7
    â€˜ THEY ARE JUST like schoolboys,’ Fergus said, turning off the television. ‘Like so many schoolchildren playing games.’
    The main item on the early evening news had been an account of the latest spy trial currently taking place in the United States.
    Mungo grinned to himself. It was not the first time he had heard this comment from his father and it never failed to afford him private amusement. Not quite private, in fact, for

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