Those Who Sleep
by Bertil Falk
Part 1 appears|
in this issue.
Wenda Klein and I had discussed many times how most certainly this brainwashed woman would be mentally structured. Wenda had told me that there were two options. The woman could be under the spell of a post-hypnotic suggestion, programmed to catch me and to be my faithful wife.
Sometime in the future, some event or statement would be the trigger that caused the post-hypnotic pattern to change, turning her into an efficient tool of destruction or whatever she was predestined to do. In another words a kind of Lady Macbeth, a somnambulist.
The second option was that she would enter my life fully aware of what she was doing. My boss told me that the first option was not a very reliable one. By chance, the cue that set off the post-hypnotic suggestion could be unintentionally triggered. The enemy would not risk that. Therefore Wenda thought that the second option was the most probable.
“And if this sleeper goes into this mission fully aware and with open eyes, that would make her even more dangerous,” she had said.
I thought of all that when I looked at the woman by the desk, who now had turned her back to me.
“May I sit here?”
I was totally taken by surprise. By my side was a woman I had not observed. The night before I had seen the Miss Cosmos competition on my big TV screen and believe me, this woman standing by my table made the winner of that silly competition look dreadfully ugly. This Eve was a winner. And her voice was like a melody by Richard Rodgers.
“Oh yes, of course,” I managed to say.
I glanced at the reception desk. The woman was still there and she looked at us. She was obviously keeping a watch over us; probably to make sure that the other woman made contact. The bait was hanging before my nose and it was for me to bite. The enemy had launched the scheme.
“Thank you,” she said and gave me the smile of the century. “You see, I’ve just arrived and I don’t know anyone in this big city.”
That was straight to the point and at the same time so innocent that had I not known the purpose, I would never have seen through the veil. Not that it mattered just then. Though I had been on tenterhooks, I had been caught off my guard. The attack had come from an unexpected direction. And the attacker was stunning.
Summoning all my thoughts, I collected my wits and got to my feet, pulling out a chair for the lady.
“Oh, a gentleman!” she exclaimed and sat down, looking at me as if I were the eighth wonder of the world. I went from my personal hell to the second heaven and had to fight against arriving at the seventh.
She turned out to be very verbal. Within five minutes she had told me that she was totally alone in this world. Her parents had died, she said, and she had sold their country cottage and had gotten a situation behind the desk of a perfumery shop in this city. She had spent the night at the hotel, but was now looking for some place to stay.
I promised to do my best to arrange something for her and we agreed on meeting at the restaurant for dinner. I had completely forgotten the woman by the reception desk, but when I left Hôtel de la Paix I realized that she was gone.
It was as if I had wings, for I flew like Superman over to Wenda Klein, who within half an hour had arranged a fine place for Mary Smith. One day later, Mary moved into that apartment.
She played her role so well that I more and more forgot what she was supposed to be up to. She was full of vitality and she behaved as if she were attached to me. It all seemed to come naturally to her. After some time I had to admit to myself that I was in love for the first time in my life. And I cursed the fate that let it happen the way it did.
Wenda Klein said that it was good and I had the feeling she was amused at the development of the situation. Mary became very popular at the shop, among customers as well as fellow-workers. But there was nothing in what she said or did that revealed what her aim was in life.
Except for one thing. She never asked where I lived and she never asked me about my job. I had told her that I was a salesman.
It was understood between Wenda and me that I should ask Mary to marry me. So I did and she fell on my neck with that overused sentence: “I thought you would never ask.” The marriage was a quiet affair and we moved into a little house with a small garden.
Our love life was, well... “great” sounds pale. It was just fantastic and Gustav was born after one year. Mary was the perfect mother as she was the perfect wife. Greta was born two years later and we celebrated our fifth anniversary the week before Ingrid was born.
We lived a lucky family life, but the sword of Damocles was always hanging there, threatening, and I prayed that the catastrophe would never be triggered. However, the only dramatic thing that happened during these years was that I was shot at while picking up information on a mission within Scandinavia. The shot missed and the perpetrator was never caught.
The story Mary told me about her life and her parents turned out to be documented in every respect. Wendy Klein and her researchers could not find one single flaw or contradiction in the fabric. Wendy commented that the enemy probably had begun the cover-up at the time when Mary was abducted, perhaps even before.
“They’re shrewd, and they plan ahead of time even beyond their own life span,” she explained to me. “In that they’re different from the secret as well as not so secret services in the West. Can you think of anything more short-sighted than MI8 and the FBI?”
“How about the CIA and SÄPO?” I said.
“Don’t try to be clever,” Wenda Klein said. “It doesn’t suit you.”
Every year the office arranged a Lucia Day celebration on December 13. The party took place at a meeting-hall far from the agency. It was the usual people, agents and their families and all kinds of people affiliated to our business. That was the only time when we sort of socialized, but it was a tacit understanding not to mention anything about our business, just entertaining the children and our spouses.
Greta was five and dressed in white as one of the maids of Lucia. With her crown of burning candles, Lucia slowly passed between the gathered guests through the dark hall. Gustav was also dressed in a long white shirt and he wore a pointed white hat with a golden star. He was one of Lucia’s star boys. And they sang.
After the ceremony, drinks and snacks were served. I saw Larry Klint, an agent I twice had met in the United States and Brazil, when he delivered documents to me. I had not seen him for years. He talked with a woman. I thought I recognized her, but I could not for my life place her face.
Until the next day, when I realized that she was the woman who had kept Mary and me under surveillance that first day at the Hôtel de la Paix! Then I had thought that she was an enemy, making sure that Mary contacted me. Now it dawned on me that she most certainly had been representing us. Wenda must have seen to it. Who else?
Two years later, Wenda Klein summoned me. She told me that we had received intelligence that the sleeper should be activated.
“You must be very observant,” she said.
“Mary is pregnant!” I told her.
“Again.” She frowned at me. “The way she is delivering kids like a machine-gun, one might ask if you ever do anything else.”
“With all due respect,” I retorted dryly, “you only have proof that we did it four times. That would be enough to explain our crowd of children, if four kids in nine years is a crowd?”
But inside me I was far from as insolent as I sounded. I was terror-stricken. If this was it, we had reached the end of the line and I could not think of what would happen to the family when Mary was exposed as a mole. I must prepare myself for the worst possible outcome. But the only thing I could come up with was taking Mary and the children and decamping to some godforsaken place where nobody would look for us.
And something happened. And it happened when Mary delivered a girl at the hospital. Larry Klint was murdered, shot to death. I rushed to Wenda. She was on the phone and she made an impatient sign to me to sit down.
“Was that it?” I asked when she finished her call. “It cannot have been Mary.”
Wenda sighed. I had never before heard her sighing.
“I know. The child was born at just about the same time that the murder took place. A coincidence?”
“Don’t think that it was planned that way!”
“I don’t. But nevertheless...”
“What do we know about the murder?”
“Larry had got on the track of something big, and now we never will know what it was. His wife found him when she came home from a concert yesterday.”
“I didn’t know that Larry Klint was married. Who is she?”
The face of a woman flashed up on the big screen in Wendy Klein’s office.
“There she is!
I looked at the familiar face.
“You recognize her?”
“Sure, she’s the woman I think I mentioned who kept me and Mary under surveillance when we first met at the restaurant of Hôtel de la Paix. At first I thought that she was the sleeper...”
I gasped, for things had dawned.
“But then I took it for granted that she was the enemy making sure that Mary contacted me. That was until I thought that you had sent her to observe our meeting.”
“Do you realize what this means?” Wenda’s face was ash-grey. “I had not sent her.”
I was stunned.
Mrs. Klint was given a life sentence. She was hypnotically deprogrammed and the authorities let her go after eight years. They say that spies and agents never retire. Nonsense. I have been retired for many years now. Mary and I have celebrated our golden wedding anniversary. Our four children, their spouses and their children, now teenagers, attended the celebration.
I never told Mary that I once thought that she was a sleeper agent, but every so often I dream that she all of a sudden throws a bomb at Wenda Klein, who by the way died a few years ago. Natural causes. She was pushed from a bridge by a bum. He had no connection with espionage.
I frequently have nightmares. When I am hagridden, Mary falls on my neck and kisses the left side of my nose, murmuring in her sleep, “Peter, Darling, I am not a sleeper.” Then I am wide awake and wondering if she actually knew.
* * *
Fifty-three years later, the archives of a former dictatorship revealed that two female sleepers had been placed in a certain country. One of them had never been activated.
Copyright © 2011 by Bertil Falk