Today's Reading

LYUDMILA doesn't trust this particular man one bit, even though he's supplied the KGB and its predecessors with valuable information from the British Foreign Office for the past twenty years. His name is Guy Burgess, and he's recently arrived from London with a fellow spy named Donald Maclean. They defected together, just ahead of the authorities who were about to unmask them at last.

Lyudmila knows who tipped them off. She knows where all the Soviet Union's diligent moles have built their hills and tunnels in the great institutions of the West—political, academic, military, scientific, you name it. She knows the almost laughable fact that one of Britain's top spy catchers is, in fact, a Soviet spy himself. She knows their code names, and what they've done and what they've produced, over the years and last week, and exactly how much alcohol they drink to dull the psychological pain of committing treason against a country and a culture that consider a gentleman's honor so sacrosanct as to be taken for granted. (Quite a lot, even by Russian standards.)

She carries all this information in her head as she sits across the table from Burgess, who lounges in his chair and chain-smokes the British cigarettes they've provided for him.

"I don't know what you're talking about," he's telling her. "If there were some clever high-level plot to infiltrate Moscow Centre—American or British—I'd have heard about it. Philby gets all that intelligence right from the source, and I happened to be living in Philby's own bloody basement in Washington, not one month ago."

"Perhaps this operation is taking place above STANLEY's head," she says, in her nearly flawless English—taking pains to use Kim Philby's code name, as good tradecraft requires.

Burgess shakes his head. "Nothing takes place above Philby's head. MI-6 trusts him like a priest. My God, they handed him the Volkov defection case, didn't they? About as hush-hush as it gets. He speaks to the CIA head on a daily basis. He and Jim Angleton are like brothers."

"Nevertheless. They will have been made suspicious by these telegram decryptions. They will have realized our network has penetrated their agencies and their government departments at the highest level. It is possible and even likely that they will have undertaken an operation outside of the intelligence service itself, to root out everyone who has been disloyal."

"That's your own paranoia talking," Burgess says. "I assure you, the British don't see it that way. They can't conceive a Cambridge man passing along secrets to a foreign country. They'll go on assuming it was some cipher room clerk from Reading who needs the money to pay off his bookie."

Lyudmila stares at him with distaste. He's slovenly, this man. His shirt collar is stained, his teeth are indescribably yellow, his skin is slack and paunchy from incessant drinking, from overindulgence in rich food, from scorn for physical exercise. Possibly he's the most undisciplined man she's ever met, at least in this profession, and what's worse, he's an open homosexual who makes no effort at all to disguise or control his voracious carnal appetites. But while Lyudmila is suspicious and puritanical, she's also fair. Burgess possesses a brilliant intellect and exerts enormous charm, when he chooses. He also knows everything about everybody.

She decides to lay a single card on the table.

"We have recently intercepted a communication from here in Moscow to a contact named ASCOT in London. Do you know who this ASCOT might be?"

He flicks some ash from his cigarette into the overflowing tray at his elbow. "Not the slightest idea. I've never heard of an agent named ASCOT. Where was the communication directed?"

"To a private address. A flat in West London that seems to be owned by a shipping company called Lonicera. We have the flat under surveillance at the moment, but we have not been able to determine anything of significance. We suspect, however, that this communication may be the key to a number of recent security leaks, for which we have been unable to identify the source."

"Lonicera, eh? Doesn't ring a bell."

As an intelligence agent of nearly two decades' standing, Burgess is a practiced liar. Still, Lyudmila can't detect any sign of deception in his voice or his affect. He looks so at ease, he might be sprawled in his own living room, except Lyudmila suspects that Burgess's living room—the one he left behind in London, anyway—is equally as squalid as Burgess himself.

"Very well," she says. "You will, of course, inform us immediately should your memory ring a bell, after all?"

"With pleasure. I'm eager to be of service."
...

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Today's Reading

LYUDMILA doesn't trust this particular man one bit, even though he's supplied the KGB and its predecessors with valuable information from the British Foreign Office for the past twenty years. His name is Guy Burgess, and he's recently arrived from London with a fellow spy named Donald Maclean. They defected together, just ahead of the authorities who were about to unmask them at last.

Lyudmila knows who tipped them off. She knows where all the Soviet Union's diligent moles have built their hills and tunnels in the great institutions of the West—political, academic, military, scientific, you name it. She knows the almost laughable fact that one of Britain's top spy catchers is, in fact, a Soviet spy himself. She knows their code names, and what they've done and what they've produced, over the years and last week, and exactly how much alcohol they drink to dull the psychological pain of committing treason against a country and a culture that consider a gentleman's honor so sacrosanct as to be taken for granted. (Quite a lot, even by Russian standards.)

She carries all this information in her head as she sits across the table from Burgess, who lounges in his chair and chain-smokes the British cigarettes they've provided for him.

"I don't know what you're talking about," he's telling her. "If there were some clever high-level plot to infiltrate Moscow Centre—American or British—I'd have heard about it. Philby gets all that intelligence right from the source, and I happened to be living in Philby's own bloody basement in Washington, not one month ago."

"Perhaps this operation is taking place above STANLEY's head," she says, in her nearly flawless English—taking pains to use Kim Philby's code name, as good tradecraft requires.

Burgess shakes his head. "Nothing takes place above Philby's head. MI-6 trusts him like a priest. My God, they handed him the Volkov defection case, didn't they? About as hush-hush as it gets. He speaks to the CIA head on a daily basis. He and Jim Angleton are like brothers."

"Nevertheless. They will have been made suspicious by these telegram decryptions. They will have realized our network has penetrated their agencies and their government departments at the highest level. It is possible and even likely that they will have undertaken an operation outside of the intelligence service itself, to root out everyone who has been disloyal."

"That's your own paranoia talking," Burgess says. "I assure you, the British don't see it that way. They can't conceive a Cambridge man passing along secrets to a foreign country. They'll go on assuming it was some cipher room clerk from Reading who needs the money to pay off his bookie."

Lyudmila stares at him with distaste. He's slovenly, this man. His shirt collar is stained, his teeth are indescribably yellow, his skin is slack and paunchy from incessant drinking, from overindulgence in rich food, from scorn for physical exercise. Possibly he's the most undisciplined man she's ever met, at least in this profession, and what's worse, he's an open homosexual who makes no effort at all to disguise or control his voracious carnal appetites. But while Lyudmila is suspicious and puritanical, she's also fair. Burgess possesses a brilliant intellect and exerts enormous charm, when he chooses. He also knows everything about everybody.

She decides to lay a single card on the table.

"We have recently intercepted a communication from here in Moscow to a contact named ASCOT in London. Do you know who this ASCOT might be?"

He flicks some ash from his cigarette into the overflowing tray at his elbow. "Not the slightest idea. I've never heard of an agent named ASCOT. Where was the communication directed?"

"To a private address. A flat in West London that seems to be owned by a shipping company called Lonicera. We have the flat under surveillance at the moment, but we have not been able to determine anything of significance. We suspect, however, that this communication may be the key to a number of recent security leaks, for which we have been unable to identify the source."

"Lonicera, eh? Doesn't ring a bell."

As an intelligence agent of nearly two decades' standing, Burgess is a practiced liar. Still, Lyudmila can't detect any sign of deception in his voice or his affect. He looks so at ease, he might be sprawled in his own living room, except Lyudmila suspects that Burgess's living room—the one he left behind in London, anyway—is equally as squalid as Burgess himself.

"Very well," she says. "You will, of course, inform us immediately should your memory ring a bell, after all?"

"With pleasure. I'm eager to be of service."
...

Join the Library's Online Book Clubs and start receiving chapters from popular books in your daily email. Every day, Monday through Friday, we'll send you a portion of a book that takes only five minutes to read. Each Monday we begin a new book and by Friday you will have the chance to read 2 or 3 chapters, enough to know if it's a book you want to finish. You can read a wide variety of books including fiction, nonfiction, romance, business, teen and mystery books. Just give us your email address and five minutes a day, and we'll give you an exciting world of reading.

What our readers think...