The Soviet intelligence agency’s worst nightmare has come true: Besides the five directorates that oversee its operations, there lurks a sixth—a shadow directorate that may be plotting a coup against the Communist Party. Disruption of the KGB might spell trouble for Moscow, but for the British Intelligence, chaos in the Soviet Union means a chance to infiltrate. To make the most of the opportunity, Her Majesty’s intelligence service turns to Peter Marlow, a disgraced former spy who has spent the last four years in jail. He is given his freedom in exchange for his espionage service. Peter assumes the mantle of George Graham, a KGB agent with more secrets than he’s prepared to handle. The Sixth Directorate is the second book in the Peter Marlow Mystery series, which also includes The Private Sector and The Valley of the Fox.
About the Author
Joseph Hone (b. 1937) is a British author of spy novels. Born in London, he was sent to Dublin in 1939, and spent most of the next two decades living in Ireland. His first novel, The Private Sector (1971), introduced the globetrotting spy Peter Marlow—the character for whom Hone would become best known. Set during the Six Day War, The Private Sector was well received by critics, who have compared it to the work of Eric Ambler, Len Deighton, and John le Carré. Hone published three more titles in the series—The Sixth Directorate (1975), The Flowers of the Forest (1980), and The Valley of the Fox (1982)—before moving on to other work.
In addition to his espionage fiction, Hone has found success in travel writing. His most recent books include Wicked Little Joe (2009), a memoir, and Goodbye Again (2011).
Read an Excerpt
The Sixth Directorate
A Peter Marlow Mystery
By Joseph Hone
MysteriousPress.comCopyright © 1975 Joseph Hone
All rights reserved.
The comedian left the stage, the long applause died, and a balalaika ensemble took over, starting on a softly held high chord, a minute vivid fingering on all the dozen instruments, which rose gradually in volume into a long, trembling vibrato before the key was released suddenly, the tune emerged, and a sad and restless music spread over the hall.
In one of the boxes where two couples sat above the audience Mrs Andropov turned to her husband with an uncertain smile. 'He's good, Yuri, isn't he?'
The two families had come that evening for the gala opening of Arkadi Raikin's new show at the Rossiya Hotel in Moscow.
'Yes, maybe.' Her husband spoke without looking round at her. 'The disguises certainly are good.' Yuri Andropov was gazing intently at the stage where a few minutes before the comedian had undergone one of his instant character transformations and he seemed to be still trying to fathom the trick, the mechanics behind the comedian's sudden and complete changes of identity.
'Yes,' he went on, 'Arkadi Raikin—he's not bad at all. But doesn't he sometimes overdo it a bit? No? What the Americans would call an "old Vaudeville Ham"?'
Yuri Andropov took off his spectacles, blinked, rubbed the corners of his eyes vigorously between thumb and forefinger. He was a tall, heavily built man with a generous flow of lightly silvered hair going straight back from his forehead, an equally straight and forceful nose, a perfectly bowed upper lip matched by a lower one that turned outwards gently, invitingly, like a sensualist's. Only his eyes betrayed his substantial bearing: they were very small, the lids narrowed together—almost a deformity in the generally expansive context. There was nothing generous here: care and suspicion were the only spectators at these windows of the soul.
'What do you know about American Vaudeville, Tata?' his daughter Yelena said. 'Why should there be anything American about Arkadi Raikin?' She laughed. Yet Yuri Andropov did know about such things. Long before he had hoped for a theatrical career and then something technical with Mosfilm. But neither idea had borne fruit. Instead, at 57, he had done well elsewhere.
He was head of the KGB.
He was therefore one of the very few people in Moscow who could afford to openly criticise Arkadi Raikin by comparing him to an 'old Vaudeville Ham'. If Arkadi Raikin had put himself beyond reproach through laughter, so too had Yuri Andropov through fear.
'What do you think?' Yuri Andropov turned to his son-in-law. 'Do you really think he's as good as all that? You ought to know in your job. You were in America too last year. Of course you're aware of his background, aren't you?'
It was a leading question, among a million others that had come from the same source over the years. The wrong answer could mean nothing more than a delayed promotion, a drop in salary, a change of job, a smaller apartment, a move to a provincial town. But it could lead to worse: a labour camp, a hospital ward, an asylum for the sane; the wrong grammar here could make you a non-person overnight. All this change of fortune lay within Yuri Andropov's gift, and he was a generous man. His son-in-law knew these things well and he was relieved in the end that he did not have to give any full reply for just then an aide came in behind them, reminding Yuri Andropov of some pressing business elsewhere in the huge hotel.
'My appointment. You'll forgive me.' Andropov stood up and bowed round at his family as though he were a courtier and not a father. 'I'll probably be back late. Don't wait up.'
Accompanied by two aides, his personal assistant and a bodyguard, Yuri Andropov walked briskly along a deserted corridor leading from the hall towards the central courtyard of the hotel. It was a few minutes to nine. For the moment everyone in the hotel was either trying to eat or watching Arkadi Raikin. There must have been more than 5000 people in the huge building. But here in this long corridor there was nobody and no sound.
At the end of the passageway one of the many KGB men permanently attached to the hotel opened the door out into the courtyard for them like a dumb waiter. The group passed through into the chilling April cold, the air lying brutally about their faces for a moment before they entered the Presidential Wing, the twenty-three storey tower that rose from the middle of the hotel. This building had been made to accommodate important state guests in a number of exclusively furnished suites. But even now, nearly twenty years after the construction of the Rossiya had begun, not all of these luxurious boltholes had been finally completed.
The suite on the 19th floor where they met that night was one such. It had never been completed at all. The rooms were nude: the walls and ceilings were completely bare; the central conference table was enclosed by a membrane of soundproofing material, like a huge barrage balloon. There were no telephones, light fixtures or power points—illumination being supplied by a series of freestanding battery lamps. The floor had never been laid and was raised up now, on open joists, in a series of wooden duckboards a foot above its true level. The furnishings were minimal and spartan, without drawers or any other appendages, and cast in solid steel. Nothing could be concealed here anywhere.
This suite—one of two in the tower (the other was for guests, when they had such)—was permanently reserved by the KGB as office space outside their various official headquarters where unacknowledged business might be conducted. And tonight was just such a case—a meeting between Andropov and the heads of his five Chief Directorates. They were the only two areas in the hotel where no electronic eavesdropping equipment had been installed and, just as importantly, where it could, literally, be seen that none ever was.
The reasons for this isolated choice were several. Here the five KGB Directorates, each intensely jealous of the others' place and power in the overall hierarchy of the organisation, could meet secretly and speak openly; for there were no minutes kept, no records of any sort. The suite was a clearing-house for misunderstandings, budding antagonisms, bureaucratic rivalries—far from the centres of that bureaucracy in Dzerzhinsky Square and elsewhere. It was also a place to discuss future policy and for Andropov to try and glean some true measure of past mistakes from his five chiefs. It was a think-tank, completely isolated, lurking high in the freezing weather above Red Square, where the behaviour of more than 300,000 KGB employees could be studied in the long term, without any one of those people having an opportunity to study their masters in return.
And that was the most important point in the present circumstances. Yuri Andropov and his five directors had come to this place at the start of 1971 in order to discuss, and be able to continue to discuss in the utmost privacy, the most serious ideological threat to the Soviet Union since Trotsky's deviations nearly fifty years before.
In November of the previous year, the KGB Resident at the Embassy in London had given Andropov a confidential report on the matter—mere outlines, but with some quite conclusive, though impersonal, evidence. The Resident had returned to London charged with pursuing the matter but the few trails had by then gone quite cold: a hotel porter had disappeared, the address on a piece of paper had become an empty apartment, the tenants so far untraced. The real trail, through which the whole thing had come to light, was impossible to resuscitate: crossed lines on the Resident's home telephone one evening in Highgate when he had broken in on a long conversation in Russian. Through an astounding electronic and professional error, he had found himself listening to the technical staff of a British counter-espionage section, incarcerated in some basement telephone exchange, reflecting on the strange dialogue they had all of them just heard: the British had been monitoring the same mysterious source.
But the Resident had clearly established one fact, given actual foundation at last to rumours that had come and, thankfully, gone over the years. He had confirmed now, without question, one of the worst and oldest fears of the KGB, and before that the NKVD and GPU, something which went back, indeed, to the earliest days of the revolution in 1917: there was within their organisation another and far more secret group; the nucleus of an alternative KGB, and therefore, potentially, of alternative government in the Soviet Union—a clandestine Directorate as Yuri Andropov had come to see it, which must logically then be complete with its own Chief, deputies, foreign Residents, couriers, counter-intelligence and internal security operatives: its own impenetrable cells and communication arrangements, its own fanatical loyalties and carefully prepared objectives. And this was the worst thing to emerge from the evidence: although they had no precise knowledge of what its objectives were it was quite clear from the overheard telephone conversation in London that the group was politically orientated towards democratic rather than dictatorial socialism. Thus further supposition was not difficult: 'Communism with a human face', as the journalists had it. Yuri Andropov could almost exactly visualise Time magazine's description of this counter-revolution if it ever came to light: '... It was a move in the direction of a more human brand of Marxism, towards one of its happier variants, that had in the past found favour among so many deviants in the movement, from Rosa Luxemburg to those who perished in the Prague Spring.'
There had been a hundred different interpretations of the true faith over the years, Andropov thought, and none of them had really mattered; they could be identified, isolated and crushed—as had happened so many times before: with Trotsky, with Hungary in 1056 and in Czechoslovakia twelve years later. But here was one Marxist deviation that mattered a great deal, for it had taken root in the heart of the Citadel; a flower that had bloomed ferociously in secret, a drug of liberal dissidence that had seeded itself who knew how far about the organisation: a belief that could not be identified and isolated, and therefore could not be crushed. It was a threat that could only, as yet, be smelt, elusive and frightening as the sweet smell of a ghost passing from room to room in a charnel house.
When and where would it rise up and take form?
Somewhere, hidden in the vast ramifications of the KGB, totally integrated in the huge secret machine, trained from youth, and now paid by the organisation, was a group of people—ten, a hundred or a thousand, who could say?—more dangerous to the Soviet Union than any outside threat. For what might come from east or west had for long been a known quantity; the KGB had been responsible for the information. But the nature of this force was quite unknown. It fed and had its being at the magnetic centre of the State and to look for it was to reverse the whole natural process of the KGB, to turn the organisation in upon itself, towards an unmapped territory of vast treason where they had no guides. Here the compasses, which before had led unerringly to secret dissension everywhere else, spun wildly. So it was that these men had set themselves and this suite aside to take new bearings, to identify this disease at the heart of their lives, isolate the canker and cut it out.
They were all there when Andropov arrived, the heads of the five Chief Directorates, some already seated at a table in the main room, two others who had been talking by the window quickly joining them: the old man Alexander Sakharovsky, Chief of the KGB's foreign intelligence operation, the First Directorate; Alexei Flitlianov, the youngest of them, a bachelor of 49, head of the Second Directorate responsible for all security matters within the State; Vassily Chechulian, Third Directorate, counter-espionage, a muscular, hearty man; Grigori Rahv, impeccably dressed, the cartoon image of a capitalist banker, in charge of the KGB's scientific arm—electronics, communications, laboratories; and the Chief of the Fifth Directorate—Management, Personnel and Finance—Viktor Savitsky, an anonymous figure, member of the party's Central Committee, an accountant by early profession—whose only noticeable characteristic was that he still took immense pains to look and behave like one.
Andropov bowed quickly round the table, exchanged brief and formal greetings and then sat down. He lifted both hands to his face, shaped them as for prayer, brought them to either side of his nose and rubbed it for a second. Then, closing his eyes, he clasped his fingers beneath his chin and was quite silent. Finally, as though he had completed grace before a meal, he spoke.
'I take it we have no further news.' He didn't bother to look round for confirmation, but instead let another silence grow on the air, allowing it unnecessary age, so that it became a herald of mysterious change. Then he continued suddenly and brightly: 'Very well then. Since we've got nowhere with the facts, let's try using our imagination. Put ourselves in the position of this group—or more precisely let one of us do that. There are five of you here. We will create a Sixth Directorate and thus try and establish its composition and purposes—and a head of that Directorate. And we'll put him sitting in that chair—a man that has come here, just as each of you has, to discuss the problems of his section. Alexei, you start it off. You're transferred from the Second to the Sixth Directorate as of now. Let me start by asking you a few questions. First of all, some background. What are your objectives?'
Alexei Flitlianov smiled and moved easily in his seat. He was a compact, intelligent-faced man, like an energetic academic, full but prematurely greying hair sweeping sideways across his head into white tufts above his ears, and front teeth just slightly out of true: his eyes were dark and set well back in his skull and in the winter pallor of his face they glittered, like candles inside a Hallowe'en turnip: an awkward face with several bad lapses in the design, but for all that—as so often in such cases—attractive in a way not immediately decipherable.
'I'm honoured.' Flitlianov's smile ended and he leant forward earnestly, shoulders hunched, concentrating on a spot somewhere in the middle of the table. Objectives. Well, to begin with, control of the KGB.'
'You want my job.'
'Yes. But not for reasons of mere power play. The motives are political.'
'Do they originate from the Politburo, the Central Committee or the Army?'
'No. My origins lie entirely within the KGB.'
'Do you have contacts, support in government or the Army?'
'Yes, I think I must have, after so long. Let's say I have my men marked outside. I know who to approach when the moment is ripe.'
'And these political objectives—they are towards "Open Socialism", democratic alternatives?'
'Yes. The provenance here would be Trotsky, Luxemburg, Dubcek—among others. Particularly Dubcek, I should say; "The Prague Spring", that would be the line. Marxist, certainly, but without a dictatorial, monolithic structure.' Flitlianov emerged briefly from his role and looked round the table: 'In fact we know the nature of these inappropriate objectives very well indeed: we have successfully inhibited them for many years, within the Union and more particularly outside it.'
'The counter-revolution then? At last ...' Andropov smiled.
'Not in any overtly violent terms. A bloodless coup. It would depend on timing—on choosing the right moment to support and promote a group of people in the Central Committee and one or two others in the Politburo.'
'The new leaders?'
'So you must have the support, I think, of one or two of these political figures already. You would surety not have gone ahead for so long on your scheme without it.'
'Yes, I must have such support. Thus there must be a political arm to this Sixth Directorate. It would have been quite unrealistic of me to have continued such a scheme without that.'
'What would the "right moment" be in all this? What would induce you to move? What are you waiting for?'
'Some moment of crucial dissent within the Central Committee or the Politburo.'
'What might give rise to that?'
'China, perhaps? If the proposed escalation of the present border war goes through, for example; if the Kosygin faction bows under current Army pressure, the Politburo could easily divide itself. As you know there is strong political opposition to any escalation. And that could be the moment for this Sixth Directorate to move. That's one scenario. There are others.'
Excerpted from The Sixth Directorate by Joseph Hone. Copyright © 1975 Joseph Hone. Excerpted by permission of MysteriousPress.com.
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