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Also by Henry Porter

Remembrance Day

A Spy’s Life

Empire State


The Dying Light


White Hot Silence

This ebook published in 2021 by

Quercus Editions Ltd

Carmelite House

50 Victoria Embankment

London EC4Y 0DZ

An Hachette UK company

Copyright © 2021 Henry Porter

The moral right of Henry Porter to be

identified as the author of this work has been

asserted in accordance with the Copyright,

Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication

may be reproduced or transmitted in any form

or by any means, electronic or mechanical,

including photocopy, recording, or any

information storage and retrieval system,

without permission in writing from the publisher.

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available

from the British Library

EBOOK ISBN 978 1 52940 332 9

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters,

businesses, organizations, places and events are

either the product of the author’s imagination

or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to

actual persons, living or dead, events or

locales is entirely coincidental.

Ebook by CC Book Production

For Charlie P. and Charlie K.


The Old Enemy

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Survivors of the Bridge

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Cock and Bull



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Strains of Illyria

The Gravel Washer

The Tulip Guy

Sex, Venice and a Bullet

Live Frog

Bubble Wrap

The Bird


Leverkusen-Opladen Intersection


The Peacock


Ulrike’s Story

The Sargasso Sea

Wet Grass


Funeral in Tallinn


Open Toombs

Raw Data

In pectore


Locked in

Seneca Ridge



Sunset on Potomac

2172 Revisited

Old Friends




Chapter 1

Berlin Blue

He had made it into the spring – three months longer than they gave him. And here he was, out on the peninsula in the early-morning light, feeling okay and in some ways happier than he’d ever been, though, of course, it was not Robert Harland’s custom to examine his state of mind too closely. He was alive and painting – that was enough. And a kilometre away, on this crooked finger of land that pointed north into the Baltic, his wife, Ulrike, was at their cabin, by now tucked into her spot between the porch and timbered wall, sheltered from the wind. She’d have a book in her hands and a shawl around her and she’d be looking out to sea, sometimes peering at the insects that were blown round the porch and came to rest beside her on the bench.

In a moment he’d sit in the camp chair and maybe smoke one of the three cigarettes in the breast pocket of the old field-coat he wore, ignoring her strictures without much thought. For there was work to be done to the small oil sketch in front of him, which, like the others in the series, had been executed rapidly with some of the basic colours of the seascape mixed the night before. He looked up. The continent of cloud suspended over the ocean was about to deliver shafts of light that would reflect from the sea and spread through the spray-mist above the waves. With a brush clamped between his teeth and more brushes and a palette in his hands, the old spy waited, looking and looking, hardly breathing.

Ulrike would never know what made her open her eyes at that moment. She was plunged in the terrible finality of their time together, these days of being alone when, if Bobby was feeling strong, he would go out early with his paraphernalia loaded on to the light handcart that he was so pleased with, returning only when he was too tired to carry on, or he’d finished the painting. In the evenings, they were together. She’d cook – not much, because his appetite had gone – and he’d sit with a whisky looking at the day’s painting and peering intently across the scrub to the sea. Later, they’d lie in bed, mesmerised by the dancing shadows thrown by an oil lamp, the smell of which filled the cabin. Sometimes they’d go back to events three decades before in Leipzig and Berlin and, later, in Tallinn – the cities that marked chapters in their lives – and to the people they’d known and lost, and occasionally murmuring their love for each other. When he slept, she kept watch, wondering what she’d do when he was gone; what it would it be like without him beside her. Before dropping off the night before, he’d muttered, almost angrily, ‘I’m sorry, I had no idea this would be so ghastly for you!’ And, grazing her forehead with his lips, ‘You know that no one is more loved than you? You know that, don’t you?’

‘Yes,’ she said eventually, and, using the German for her usual reply, ‘Ja, und ich liebe dich auch,’ – and I love you, too – then she asked, ‘Are you happy out here? You don’t want to be doing anything else? Go home?’ She worried he was pressuring himself, because he was so short-tempered in the mornings.

‘The work’s got to be done.’ He’d been promised an exhibition in late May and he knew that was what kept him going. He needed twenty-four decent canvases to add to the works on paper that were already framed at the gallery in Tallinn. She reckoned he had nineteen, maybe twenty-two at a push. He wasn’t so sure.

He slept, but she did not, so now she dozed in her spot, smelling the resin in the wood heating up when the sun came out. The only sound came from a lark suspended in the sky, way off to her right, and the wind nudging the porch door. What made her start she could not say. But she sat up, filled with alarm. She shielded her eyes against the light and looked around. A figure was moving purposefully along the track by the shore; hard to make out because of the dark rocks, but occasionally a silhouette flashed against the breaking waves. She stepped inside and unhooked the binoculars they’d inherited with the cabin and trained them through the kitchen window. This individual, certainly a man, was carrying something, but not fishing gear, not a hiker’s backpack, not even the wildfowler’s shotgun under his arm; more like a

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