Authors: Adrian de Hoog
Tags: #FIC000000, #Fiction, #Suspense, #Thrillers, #Romance, #Diplomats, #Diplomatic and Consular Service; Canadian, #FIC001000, #Berlin (Germany), #FIC022000
ADRIAN DE HOOG
ADRIAN DE HOOG
BREAKWATER BOOKS LTD.
100 Water Street â¢ P.O. Box 2188 â¢ St. John's â¢ NL â¢ A1C 6E6
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
De Hoog, Adrian, 1946-
The Berlin Assignment / Adrian de Hoog
PS8607.E482B47 2006Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â C813'.6Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â C2006-901462-0
Â© 2006 Adrian de Hoog
Reichstag nach Mitternacht,
acrylic, 40 X 60 cm, 2002, Rudolf Stuessi
Editor: Jocelyne Thomas
Design: Rhonda Molloy
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Printed in Canada.
For Regina, Ariane and Julian, who were there.
Years later, members of the Service still drew on the Berlin fiasco. Few stories embellished their gossip in quite the same way. As Service scandals go, it might have been a small event. After all, minor lapses are common in diplomatic outposts. But this was different. A lid had been slammed down on Berlin. Not a scrap of information was ever put into the records. Nothing on file explained why Anthony Hanbury, serving there as consul, was unceremoniously yanked out. Hanbury was neither aggressive nor ambitious. He wasn't a difficult man, nor overly pedantic. No undermining Service animosity seemed to have been at work. How, then, did his assignment end in an atmosphere of intrigue? Were the knives out for him? And, if so, why?
Some thought Irving Heywood, senior staff member in the personnel department at the time,
priest in charge of Investitures
(to use Service jargon), might have started one of those sub-surface suspicions and kept it fuelled until Hanbury finally fell victim. Enough members of the Service have met their end through
ploy. But people on
good terms with Heywood discounted it. They were confident the Investitures priest had told them everything he knew, little as that was. Moreover, when Hanbury's assignment fell into place, Heywood was priest in the Disarmament Priory. Only later did he move to Investitures. Hanbury was Heywood's deputy in the Priory â had been for years â and as far as anyone could tell they got along. Their long liaison might explain why Heywood gossiped fervently about Hanbury, but it was an unlikely cause for the bizarre end to the assignment. No, the fiasco did not arise from within the Service. If knives had been out, they were external. And the place of their unsheathing had to be Berlin.
Only two facts were known. One, that the
, top man in the Service, suddenly and personally tore asunder the assignment that Investitures had lovingly created scarcely one year before. The other was that there had been some prodding by the spooks. All else was obscure.
Gossip-mongers agreed the Berlin event had to be a nugget. And they kept it polished. One day a file would come to light; such files always do. And past experience told them the story would have a lustre, a delightfully tainted glow.
Recalling the defeats of colleagues has always been a pleasant by-product of longevity in the Service, but few could match Irving Heywood's store of knowledge, or zest for gossip. Temperamentally unsuited for law, or medicine, or commerce, Heywood in centuries past would have been destined for the Church. His type is not unusual in the Service. Moreover, Service members â like churchmen â are trained to perform solemn rites. And so it was that a metaphor â the Service as a religious order â developed. Cheeky recruits used it first. It caught on, expanded, deepened, and finally became commonplace. The Personnel
Department turned into
; policies towards Asia were formed in â where else? â
The Asian Temple
looked after Europe; the spooks inhabited
; and Irving Heywood, when Tony Hanbury worked for him, was priest in charge of
The Disarmament Priory
. Their task was to promote the cause of international peace.
Irving Heywood enjoyed few things more than reminiscing on the porch of his cottage in the Gatineau hills on summer weekend afternoons. Looking out over one of the countless, water-filled dimples in the Canadian Shield, maintaining a subconscious tally of his alcoholic intake (as diplomats learn to do in lifetimes of excess), Heywood conversed with friends â other members of the Service on home duty â about the world and its political disasters in the way others might swap notes on the season's produce ripening in their gardens: tales of encounters with Idi Amin's secret police, phlegmatic accounts of UN cease-fires ending in failure, stories of trade negotiations gone awry, suspicions about diplomatic double-crossings by close allies. And, of course, the endless delight in the snafus created by colleagues.
Today, as usual, talk on the porch is drifting from one Service character to another, but always comes back to Hanbury and Berlin. “He had his limitations.” Heywood recalls. “He wasn't exactly a world-conquering type. But still, why accept Berlin? Naturally I asked. Hanbury didn't explain; he just shrugged. He had a strange, I would say a
way of shrugging. Three years ago that was. Christ, Manny, how time flies.” Irving Heywood's sidekick today is Manny Stepney, Trade Commissioner. Heywood has known him for decades, ever since they served together in junior positions in Lagos. Stepney is a man of few words, which is why Heywood likes him.
The lake shimmers through the trees. In another hour, the sun will sink behind the solid wall of green on the opposite shore. Loons will start their lament. The mighty insect world will arise out of slumber and fish will splash out a ballet. When Irving and Manny stand, legs heavy with the drinking, they'll pause a moment to dispel lightheadedness before moving to the dock, stripping down, sliding into water which is deep and cool and bites the senses. Take your pick for distance: half an hour to the middle, twice as long around the island, where boulders just beneath the surface provide cover for bass. The wake left behind by a slow breaststroke sounds loud in the stillness. Beneath the evening's iridescent sky, the water's curative effect clears the mind. The world and its affairs shrink in importance, while the appetite for steak expands.
But the swim is still an hour off. First, on the porch, the gossip must run its course.
“Maybe Hanbury wanted Berlin. Maybe he was in luck,” speculates Stepney.
to go to Berlin,” Heywood repeats, eyes half closed. “He proved he could handle being number two in Kuala Lumpur. And the years he spent with me in the Priory were, with a few exceptions, not that bad. So, he could have gone out as number two again, to some place challenging. Manila, for example. He had options.” Heywood sounds as if he's sorry his former deputy went to Berlin.
“Didn't Anderson go to Manila instead?” asks Stepney.
“Yes,” says Heywood, “and he didn't last either. We know why with Anderson. But Berlin and Hanburyâ¦” he sighs “â¦it's a riddle. I'm still looking for the key. So far nothing, Manny.”
“Maybe, it's locked away with the Cabinet secrets,” observes the trade commissioner.
“In that case, Germany's Cabinet. Not ours.”
“And what was Anderson's problem?”
Heywood draws in his breath. He sucks until his great frame balloons. A long slow exhalation follows, and a heave to his lips of a tumbler filled with iced rye whiskey. Telling tales out of school, using alcohol's soft workings to render them a little taller, is pleasurable for Heywood. “Manila, number two and head of chancery,” he begins. “Not a bad deal for Anderson. We had lunch the week before he left. My God, he was conspiratorial. He spent the whole time whispering. âThey want me to turn the place around,' he said. So I asked, âwhat's wrong with Manila that isn't wrong everywhere else?' He looked around to make sure no one was listening and said
was the problem. Naturally I wanted to know from whom he had that, but he wouldn't say. Then he said â you'll like this one, Manny, it's sort of your style â he said, âfish always stink from the head down.'”
a suspect ambassador,” a nodding Stepney concludes.
“Frankly, I didn't believe Anderson,” Heywood continues lightly. “We've all been through briefings before assignments. They tell you what's wrong with an embassy when there's a mess down below, never if there's one higher up. Ambassador Godinski
have been a problem, but Anderson would have been the last to know. Still, he said he had a mandate. Off he went, like a knight, lance at the ready, and visor down. Every one of us has had that urge. But you know how it gets tempered once you hit the ground. Not so with Anderson. He accused Godinski of wrongdoing the moment he arrived and they went at each other like Rocky Mountain goats. I can categorically state â
wouldn't have happened with Hanbury.”