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General G. riffled through more pages giving extracts from agents’ reports from which this data was drawn. He came to the last page before the Appendices which gave details of the cases on which Bond had been encountered. He ran his eye to the bottom and read out: ‘Conclusion. This man is a dangerous professional terrorist and spy. He has worked for the British Secret Service since 1938 and now (see Highsmith file of December 1950) holds the secret number ”007” in that Service. The double 0 numerals signify an agent who has killed and who is privileged to kill on active service. There are believed to be only two other British agents with this authority. The fact that this spy was decorated with the C.M.G. in 1953, an award usually given only on retirement from the Secret Service, is a measure of his worth. If encountered in the field, the fact and full details to be reported to headquarters (see SMERSH, M.G.B. and G.R.U. Standing Orders 1951 onwards).’

General G. shut the file and slapped his hand decisively on the cover. ‘Well, Comrades. Are we agreed?’

‘Yes,’ said Colonel Nikitin, loudly.

‘Yes,’ said General Slavin in a bored voice.

General Vozdvishensky was looking down at his fingernails. He was sick of murder. He had enjoyed his time in England. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I suppose so.’

General G.’s hand went to the internal office telephone. He spoke to his A.D.C. ‘Death Warrant,’ he said harshly. ‘Made out in the name of ”James Bond”.’ He spelled the names out. ‘Description: Angliski Spion. Crime: Enemy of the State.’ He put the receiver back and leant forward in his chair. ‘And now it will be a question of devising an appropriate konspiratsia. And one that cannot fail!’ He smiled grimly. ‘We cannot have another of those Khoklov affairs.’

The door opened and the A.D.C. came in carrying a bright yellow sheet of paper. He put it in front of General G. and went out. General G. ran his eyes down the paper and wrote the words. ‘To be killed. Grubozaboyschikov’ at the head of the large empty space at the bottom. He passed the paper to the M.G.B. man who read it and wrote ‘Kill him. Nikitin’ and handed it across to the head of G.R.U. who wrote ‘Kill him. Slavin’. One of the A.D.C.s passed the paper to the plain-clothes man sitting beside the representative of R.U.M.I.D. The man put it in front of General Vozdvishensky and handed him a pen.

General Vozdvishensky read the paper carefully. He raised his eyes slowly to those of General G. who was watching him and, without looking down, scribbled the ‘Kill him’ more or less under the other signatures and scrawled his name after it. Then he took his hands away from the paper and got to his feet.

‘If that is all, Comrade General?’ he pushed his chair back.

General G. was pleased. His instincts about this man had been right. He would have to put a watch on him and pass on his suspicions to General Serov. ‘One moment, Comrade General,’ he said. ‘I have something to add to the warrant.’

The paper was handed up to him. He took out his pen and scratched out what he had written. He wrote again, speaking the words slowly as he did so.

‘To be killed WITH IGNOMINY. Grubozaboyschikov.’

He looked up and smiled pleasantly to the company. ‘Thank you, Comrades. That is all. I shall advise you of the decision of the Praesidium on our recommendation. Good night.’

When the conference had filed out, General G. rose to his feet and stretched and gave a loud controlled yawn. He sat down again at his desk, switched off the wire-recorder and rang for his A.D.C. The man came in and stood beside his desk.

General G. handed him the yellow paper. ‘Send this over to General Serov at once. Find out where Kronsteen is and have him fetched by car. I don’t care if he’s in bed. He will have to come. Otdyel II will know where to find him. And I will see Colonel Klebb in ten minutes.’

‘Yes, Comrade General.’ The man left the room.

General G. picked up the V.Ch. receiver and asked for General Serov. He spoke quietly for five minutes. At the end he concluded: ‘And I am now about to give the task to Colonel Klebb and the Planner, Kronsteen. We will discuss the outlines of a suitable konspiratsia and they will give me detailed proposals tomorrow. Is that in order, Comrade General?’

‘Yes,’ came the quiet voice of General Serov of the High Praesidium. ‘Kill him. But let it be excellently accomplished. The Praesidium will ratify the decision in the morning.’

The line went dead. The inter-office telephone rang. General G. said ‘Yes’ into the receiver and put it back.

A moment later the A.D.C. opened the big door and stood in the entrance. ‘Comrade Colonel Klebb,’ he announced.

A toad-like figure in an olive green uniform which bore the single red ribbon of the Order of Lenin came into the room and walked with quick short steps over to the desk.

General G. looked up and waved to the nearest chair at the conference table. ‘Good evening, Comrade.’

The squat face split into a sugary smile. ‘Good evening, Comrade General.’

The Head of Otdyel II, the department of SMERSH in charge of Operations and Executions, hitched up her skirts and sat down.

Chapter Seven

The Wizard of Ice

The two faces of the double clock in the shiny, domed case looked out across the chess-board like the eyes of some huge sea monster that had peered over the edge of the table to watch the game.

The two faces of the chess clock showed different times. Kronsteen’s showed twenty minutes to one. The long red pendulum that ticked off the seconds was moving in its staccato sweep across the bottom half of his clock’s face, while the enemy clock was silent and its pendulum motionless down the face. But Makharov’s clock said five minutes to one. He had wasted time in the middle of the game and he now had only five minutes to go. He was in bad ‘time-trouble’ and unless Kronsteen made some lunatic mistake, which was unthinkable, he was beaten.

Kronsteen sat motionless and erect, as malevolently inscrutable as a parrot. His elbows were on the table and his big head rested on clenched fists that pressed into his cheeks, squashing the pursed lips into a pout of hauteur and disdain. Under the wide, bulging brow the rather slanting black eyes looked down with deadly calm on his winning board. But, behind the mask, the blood was throbbing in the dynamo of his brain, and a thick worm-like vein in his right temple pulsed at a beat of over ninety. He had sweated away a pound of weight in the last two hours and ten minutes, and the spectre of a false move still had one hand at his throat. But to Makharov, and to the spectators, he was still ‘The Wizard of Ice’ whose game had been compared to a man eating fish. First he stripped off the skin, then he picked out the bones, then he ate the fish. Kronsteen had been Champion of Moscow two years running, was now in the final for the third time and, if he won this game, would be a contender for Grand Mastership.

In the pool of silence round the roped-off top table there was no sound except the loud tripping feet of Kronsteen’s clock. The two umpires sat motionless in their raised chairs. They knew, as did Makharov, that this was certainly the kill. Kronsteen had introduced a brilliant twist into the Meran Variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined. Makharov had kept up with him until the 28th move. He had lost time on that move. Perhaps he had made a mistake there, and perhaps again on the 31st and 33rd moves. Who could say? It would be a game to be debated all over Russia for weeks to come.

There came a sigh from the crowded tiers opposite the Championship game. Kronsteen had slowly removed the right hand from his cheek and had stretched it across the board. Like the pincers of a pink crab, his thumb and forefinger had opened, then they had descended. The hand, holding a piece, moved up and sideways and down. Then the hand was slowly brought back to the face.

The spectators buzzed and whispered as they saw, on the great wall map, the 41st move duplicated with a shift of one of the three-foot placards. R-Kt8. That must be the kill!

Kronsteen reached deliberately over and pressed down the lever at the bottom of his clock. His red pendulum went dead. His clock showed a quarter to one. At the same instant, Makharov’s pendulum came to life and started its loud, inexorable beat.

Kronsteen sat back. He placed his hands flat on the table and looked coldly across at the glistening, lowered face of the man whose guts he knew, for he too had suffered defeat in his time, would be writhing in agony like an eel pierced with a spear. Makharov, Champion of Georgia. Well, tomorrow Comrade Makharov could go back to Georgia and stay there. At any rate this year he would not be moving with his family up to Moscow.

A man in plain clothes slipped under the ropes and whispered to one of the umpires. He handed him a white envelope. The umpire shook his head, pointing at Makharov’s clock, which now said three minutes to one. The main in plain clothes whispered one short sentence which made the umpire sullenly bow his head. He pinged a handbell.

‘There is an urgent personal message for Comrade Kronsteen’, he announced into the microphone. ‘There will be a three minutes’ pause.’

A mutter went round the hall. Even though Makharov now courteously raised his eyes from the board and sat immobile, gazing up into the recesses of the high, vaulted ceiling, the spectators knew that the position of the game was engraved on his brain. A three minutes’ pause simply meant three extra minutes for Makharov.

Kronsteen felt the same stab of annoyance, but his face was expressionless as the umpire stepped down from his chair and handed him a plain, unaddressed envelope. Kronsteen ripped it open with his thumb and extracted the anonymous sheet of paper. It said, in the large typewritten characters he knew so well, ‘YOU ARE REQUIRED THIS INSTANT’. No signature and no address.

Kronsteen folded the paper and carefully placed it in his inside breast pocket. Later it would be recovered from him and destroyed. He looked up at the face of the plain-clothes man standing beside the umpire. The eyes were watching him impatiently, commandingly. To hell with these people, thought Kronsteen. He would not resign with only three minutes to go. It was unthinkable. It was an insult to the People’s Sport. But, as he made a gesture to the umpire that the game could continue, he trembled inside, and he avoided the eyes of the plain-clothes man who remained standing, in coiled immobility, inside the ropes.

The bell pinged. ‘The game proceeds.’

Makharov slowly bent down his head. The hand of his clock slipped past the hour and he was still alive.

Kronsteen continued to tremble inside. What he had done was unheard of in an employee of SMERSH, or of any other State agency. He would certainly be reported. Gross disobedience. Dereliction of duty. What might be the consequences? At the best a tongue-lashing from General G., and a black mark on his zapiska. At the worst? Kronsteen couldn’t imagine. He didn’t like to think. Whatever happened, the sweets of victory had turned bitter in his mouth.

But now it was the end. With five seconds to go on his clock, Makharov raised his whipped eyes no higher than the pouting lips of his opponent and bent his head in the brief, formal bow of surrender. At the double ping of the umpire’s bell, the crowded hall rose to its feet with a thunder of applause.

Kronsteen stood up and bowed to his opponent, to the umpires, and finally, deeply, to the spectators. Then, with the plain-clothes man in his wake, he ducked under the ropes and fought his way coldly and rudely through the mass of his clamouring admirers towards the main exit.

Outside the Tournament Hall, in the middle of the wide Pushkin Ulitza, with its engine running, stood the usual anonymous black ZIK saloon, Kronsteen climbed into the back and shut the door. As the plain-clothes man jumped on to the running-board and squeezed into the front seat, the driver crashed his gears and the car tore off down the street.

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