The Thief Who Couldn't Sleep Page 13

“But what do you want here?” he kept demanding. “But why do you come to me?”

“I have to go to Turkey,” I explained.

“Am I an airplane? This is not safe. You must go.”

“I need your help.”

“My help?” He glanced again at the door. “I cannot help you. The police are everywhere. And I have nowhere for you to stay. Nowhere. One small bed is all I own, and I sleep in it myself. You cannot stay here.”

“I want to get out of Spain.”

“So do I. So does everyone. I could make a grand fortune in America. I could become a hairdresser. Jackie Kennedy.”

“Pardon me?”

“I would set her hair and make a fortune.”

“I don’t think I-”

“Instead, I rot in Madrid.” He fingered his beard. “I could set Jackie Kennedy’s hair and make a fortune. Lady Bird Johnson. Are you a hairdresser?”


“I have had no breakfast. There is a café downstairs, but you cannot go. They will shoot you in the street like a dog. Can you speak Spanish?”

We had been speaking Spanish all along. I was beginning to suspect that Robles was mad.

“There is a café,” he said. “They know me there. So they will not give me credit.” He glanced at the door again. His fear was so genuine that I was beginning to share it. At any moment the Civil Guard would come in and shoot us down like hairdressers.

“I have no money,” he said.

I gave him some Spanish money and told him to get breakfast for both of us. He snatched the notes from me, glanced again at the door, lit a cigarette, smoked furiously, dropped ashes on the floor, then threw himself on the cot.

“If I order breakfast for two,” he said, “they will know I have someone up here.”

“Tell them you have a girl.”

“Here? In this goat pen?”


“They know me,” he said sorrowfully. “They know I never have a girl. You should never have come here. Why did you leave America? Mamie Eisenhower. Who sets her hair?”

“I don’t know.”

“You create trouble. How can we eat? No one will believe you are a girl. Your hair is too short.”

I suggested that he eat breakfast at the café and buy food for me. He leaped from the bed and threw his arms around me. “You are a genius,” he shouted. “You will save us all.”

When he went out, I tried to lock the door. The lock was broken. I sat on his bed and read a poor Spanish translation of Kropotkin’s essay on “Mutual Aid.” He had evidently read it over many times as the text was extensively underlined, but the underlining made no sense at all. He underlined trivia-unimportant adjectives, place names, that sort of thing.

He came back with some sweet rolls and a cardboard container of café con leche. While I ate he told me of his breakfast-four eggs, slices of fried ham, fresh juice, a dish of saffron rice with peas and peppers. I listened to all this while I ate my rolls and sipped the bad coffee.

“I will get another bed,” he said. “Or, if that is not possible, you may sleep upon the floor. My house is your house.”

“I won’t be staying that long.”

“But you must stay! It is not safe in the streets. They would shoot you like a dog.” He smiled engagingly. “You will stay,” he said, “as long as you have money.”


“Have you much money?”

“Very little.”

He looked at the door again. “On the other hand,” he said, “you would perhaps be uncomfortable upon the floor. And it is not safe here. Every day the police come and beat me. Do you believe me?”


“You do? You should have stayed in America. What do you want from me?”

“A few hours of solitude. I want the use of your room for several hours and then I want you to take me to someone who can help me get out of Spain.”

“You will go to Portugal?”

“No. To France.”

“Ah. Now you want me to leave?”



“I want to sleep.”

“In my bed?”


“It is not sanitary.”

I took some more Spanish money from my wallet. “You could pass a few hours in the cinema,” I suggested.

He was gone like a shot. I closed the door and wished that it had a functioning lock on it. I went to the window and drew the shade. It was badly torn. Through the hole in the shade I looked into a room in the building next door. A rather plump girl with long black hair was dressing. I watched her for a few moments, then left the window and sat on Esteban’s bed and opened my black attaché case. A gift of Providence, I thought. An ideal survival kit for a hunted man. It had everything I might need-money, passports, and documents so secret I had no idea what they were.

Along with the unsigned and unintelligible note, the attaché case had contained a heavy cardigan sweater with a London label, a change of underwear, a pair of dreadful Argyle socks, a safety razor with no blades, a toothbrush, a can of tooth powder made in Liverpool, and a Japanese rayon tie with a fake Countess Mara crest. There was also a Manila envelope holding banded packages of British, American, and Swiss currency-two hundred pounds, one hundred fifty dollars, and just over two thousand Swiss francs. Another larger envelope contained three passports. The American passport was in the name of William Alan Traynor, the British in the name of R. Kenneth Leyden, and the Swiss for Henri Boehm. Each showed a rather poor photograph of the tall man. On the American passport he was wearing glasses. On the other two he was not.

A third Manila envelope, carefully sealed with heavy tape, held the mysterious documents. These, evidently, were the “goods” that I was to deliver to “the right people.” I had attempted to slit the tape with my thumbnail in the manner of James Bond opening a packet of cigarettes. This proved impossible, so I had laboriously peeled off the tape in the privacy of the Dublin lavatory and had a look at the contents of the parcel. It had made no particular sense to me then; now, in the equally dismal atmosphere of Esteban Robles’ dirty little room, it remained as impenetrable as ever.

Half a dozen sheets of photocopied blueprints. Blueprints for what? I had no idea. A dozen sheets of ruled notebook paper covered with either the mental doodling of a mathematician or some esoteric code. A batch of carefully drawn diagrams. A whole packet of confidential information, no doubt stolen from someone and destined for someone else. But stolen from whom? And destined for whom? And indicating what?

When I first opened the case it had scarcely mattered. I had packed everything away and taken a taxi to the Dublin airport. There were no flights to the Continent until morning, I learned, unless I wanted to fly first to London and then make connections to Paris. I did not want to go to London at all, not now. I used the American passport to buy a ticket to Madrid and paid for it with American money. I left the case in a locker and went back into town. At the lost and found counter of the bus station I explained that I’d left a pair of glasses on a bus, and asked whether anyone had turned them in. Five pairs were brought to me, and I would have liked to try them on until I found a pair that wasn’t too hard on my eyes, but this might have aroused suspicion. I picked a pair that looked rather like the ones in William Alan Traynor’s passport photograph and thanked the clerk and left.

By flight time I was back at the airport. I took my attaché case from the locker, lodged the envelope of unidentifiable secret papers between my shirt and my skin, and incorporated the currency with my own small fund of money. I tucked my two extra passports (and Mustafa Ibn Ali’s) into a pocket, combed my hair to conform to the passport photo, and put on the glasses. Their previous owner had evidently combined extreme myopia with severe astigmatism. I hadn’t worn them five minutes before I had a blinding headache.

I’d have preferred using another passport and going without glasses, but there were good reasons for being Traynor. The glasses did change my appearance somewhat, and with my own photo plastered over every newspaper in Ireland it seemed worthwhile to avoid being recognized as Evan Michael Tanner. Besides that, the Traynor passport was the only one with an Irish entry visa stamped on it. The tall man had evidently used it to enter Ireland six weeks earlier.

I got blindly through customs, with my attaché case receiving only a cursory check. The flight to Madrid was happily uneventful, the landing smooth enough. The Aer Lingus stewardess made cheerful announcements in English and Irish and served reasonably good coffee. I kept my glasses on and kept my eyes closed behind them. Whenever I looked at anything, it blurred before my eyes, and my head ached all over again.

Once I was through Spanish customs, I dug out the R. Kenneth Leyden passport and showed it as identification when I changed pounds to pesetas at the Iberia desk. I put the glasses away, hoping I would never have to wear them again, and headed for the one man in Madrid who could help me on my way to Balikesir.

At the time, never having met Esteban Robles, I had had no idea he was a lunatic.

The packet of secret papers bothered me. If I had known just what they were, I might have had some idea what to do with them. Knowing neither their source nor their destination nor their nature, I was wholly in the dark.

I could destroy them, of course, but that might prove to be a bad idea if they were as valuable as they seemed to be. I could mail them anonymously to the Irish Government-the Irish certainly seemed anxious to recover them. I could send them to the American Consulate, thereby doing what could only be regarded as patriotic while passing the buck neatly enough.

And yet, in a sense, I felt a sort of debt to my anonymous benefactor, the tall man who had been shot down by the Irish police. However invalid his assumptions of my identity, however suspect his motives, he had done me a good turn. He had provided me with three passports to spirit me out of Ireland and away from the manhunt that sooner or later would have caught up with me. He had endowed me with a supply of capital that would help me on my way to Balikesir. My own funds were perilously close to being depleted, and his pounds and dollars and francs were welcome.

He had also supplied me with a change of underclothing and socks, which I now put on. It is difficult, if not impossible, to wear the socks and underwear of a dead man without feeling somehow obliged to carry out his mission. But who was he? And which side was he on?

He was not on the Irish side; that much was obvious. All right, then, suppose he was an enemy of Ireland. Why would he be spying on Ireland? What precious information could the Irish possibly have that he or his employers would want? And who could his employers be? The British? The Russians? The CIA? The answer was unattainable without a knowledge of the nature of the documents, and they remained as impenetrable as ever.

At least no one knew I had them. I could destroy them or retain them or send them somewhere and, for better or for worse, I would be forever out of it. Unless-

It was a horrible thought.

It was possible, I thought suddenly, that the tall man had let someone know what he’d done with the documents. He could have sent off a wire or dashed off a fast letter to his employers. They’re on to me but I’m sending the stuff with your man Tanner, he might have wired.

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