The Thief Who Couldn't Sleep Page 26

“Who are you working for, Tanner?”

“I can’t tell you.”


“Those are my instructions.”

“We’re more important than your instructions, Tanner.”

“No, you’re not.”

“We’re the U.S. Government.”

“I’m working for the Government.”

“Oh, you are? That’s very interesting, Tanner. You’re working for the CIA?”


“For whom, then?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“The U.S. Government?”


“I think you’re crazy, Tanner.”

“That’s your privilege.”

“I think you’re full of shit, Tanner.”

“That’s your privilege.”

“You say you’re working for the U.S. Government?”


“What department?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“Why? Because you don’t know?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“Who’s your boss?”

“I can’t tell you that, either.”

“Tell me something about this agency, Tanner. Is it like CIA?”

“In a way.”

“You can’t tell us the name?”


“Can you tell us somebody who works for it?”


“Suppose we give you a phone. You call somebody and make contact, okay? And then they can come and spring you, and we’ll all be happy. How does that sound, Tanner?”


“No? Why the hell not?”

“I was instructed not to make contact.”

“So what the hell are you going to do? Sit here forever?”

“Sooner or later I’ll be contacted.”

“How? By voices talking to you in the night?”


“Then, how, Tanner? Nobody knows you’re here. Nobody’s going to know unless you tell them. There were no leaks in Beirut. You came here on a hushed-up flight, and the CIA alone knows you’re in Washington. Now, how in hell is anybody going to get in touch with you?”

“They will.”


“I can’t tell you.”

“I can’t tell you, I can’t tell you, I can’t tell you. Like a broken record. Tanner, you son of a bitch, that’s the whole trouble, you bastard, you can’t tell us a thing. Who gave you those papers?”

“I can’t-”

“Shut up. Why did you turn them over to us?”

“Those were my instructions.”

“Really? I thought you couldn’t give us a thing, Tanner.”

“I was told to deliver the papers to the CIA if I could find no other alternative. It would have been better to deliver them to my superiors, but I could find no way to get into the country except through the American Embassy, and that meant delivering the papers to you. I was supposed to do it only if there was no other choice open and I couldn’t contact my own group or get to the States under my own power, so I gave the papers to you.”

“Were they copied?”

“Not while I had them.”

“Where did you take them?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“Were you on other business? Or were you just cruising around Europe with the papers in your pocket for a couple of weeks?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“You’re a son of a bitch, Tanner. I don’t believe a word you’re saying. We’ll keep you here until hell freezes, do you know that? Take him back to his cell. God, he gives me a pain-”

Well, what else could I do? I know they didn’t believe me. If they had swallowed my story, I would have doubted their competence. It was, admittedly, an absurd story.

But what else could I do? I had to get back to the States. It was my home, for one thing, and for another I was finding it increasingly exhausting to be on the run. I could not endure being a hunted man forever. Obviously I had to go back home and had to straighten everything out, somehow.

And so the story. I was working for a governmental agency, it was secret, it was important, and the CIA didn’t know about it. I couldn’t make contact, I couldn’t give out information, I couldn’t do much of anything but sit on my cot and read spy novels or sit on my chair and say “I can’t tell you” until everybody got sick of listening to it. I had no idea what would happen eventually. I did not particularly want to think about it. It seemed impossible that they would let me go, and it was even less likely that they would release me to another country, or bring me to trial, or-

I couldn’t imagine what they would do to me. Unless they would merely keep me in my cell forever, and that did not seem very likely. Sooner or later they would tire of questioning me. And then what? Would they release me?

They might. Not in a matter of weeks, perhaps not in a matter of months, but sooner or later they would tire of housing me and realize that I was not going to tell them anything more than I had already told them. Their attempts to trap me in questioning sessions were getting nowhere. Whenever I was asked anything remotely tricky, I merely announced that I could not tell them the answer. It was an umbrella for every possible sort of storm. They couldn’t trap me. They couldn’t get anything out of me. They couldn’t do a thing.

Once I made a mistake. I asked one of them when they would let me go.

He grinned. “Tanner,” he said, “I can’t tell you.”

I laughed. Actually, I figured I had it coming.

“Tanner, would you like to know something? I’ll tell you something-we almost believe you. Almost. Why don’t you help us out?”


“Give us one name. That’s all, one name. Just one person we can call up and find out if you’re really you. Just one little name, Tanner, and maybe you’ll be able to get out of here.”

“I can’t.”

“A phone number, then.”


“Tanner, I realize that you’re gung ho. I realize you’re loaded up to your old wazoo with esprit de corps and all that. We’re very tall on those commodities around here, as far as that goes. God bless the agency, and long may she wave. And you probably feel the same way about your own group, right?”


“What I’m getting at, Tanner, is we’re all of us willing to die for our country. And we’re even willing to go through hell for CIA. But there are certain contingencies, Tanner, that are not covered in the rule book. You don’t want to spend the rest of your life rotting in a stinking cell when your own people are a few blocks away and all you got to do is holler. You know something? They’re probably desperate for you to get in touch. They’re probably beginning to worry about you. Why not let me call them for you?”


“Give me the initials, Tanner. Just the initials.”


“It’s all a big lie, isn’t it? You a communist, Tanner? Or just a nut?”


“I don’t believe a word of it, Tanner. Not a word.”

“That’s your privilege.”

“You’ll stay here the rest of your life. The rest of your goddam life. Is that what you want?”


“Well, how the hell will you get out?”

“My superiors will have me released.”

“How will they find you?”

“They’ll find me.”

And they did.

They found me after breakfast. I had been in the jail cell for over three weeks, and by then I was past the point of wondering how long I could hold up under questioning. I knew by then that I could hold up forever. The questioning had tapered off now. Sometimes two or three days would go by without a session, and the sessions themselves were getting shorter and less vicious.

Until one morning after breakfast a guard came and turned the key in my cell door. One of the CIA men was with him. “They’ve come for you, Tanner. Get your things.”

What things? All I had were the clothes I was wearing.

“And follow me. They found out you were here, finally. God knows how. I guess we’ve got a leak we don’t know about. You come with me. You know something, Tanner? I didn’t believe they’d ever come for you. I didn’t believe there was anybody to come. I thought you’d sit in that cell forever.”

“So did I.”

“You can’t blame us, you know. Put yourself in our position, you’d have done the same thing. Am I right?”

“You’re right.”

“So you don’t blame us?”

“Of course not.”

“Some of the things we said-”

“Just part of the interrogation. Forget it.”

“Well, okay, Tanner. You’re all right, Tanner.”

Two men in dark suits were waiting in the front lobby. One of them said, “Phil Martin,” and extended a hand. I shook it. The other said, “Klausner, Joe Klausner,” and I shook his hand.

“The Chief just heard about you,” Martin said. “It took us a long time. You’ve been here three weeks?”

“About that.”


“It wasn’t so bad.”

“I’ll bet,” Martin said. “The car’s out front. The Chief wants to see you right away. There’s a bottle in the car if you want a drink first. You look as though you could use it.”

There was a half pint of blended whiskey in the glove compartment. I took a long drink, capped it, and put it back. The three of us sat in the front of the car with me in the middle. Phil was driving. Joe turned in his seat as soon as we had pulled away from the curb. He stared out the back window.

After a few blocks he said, “Yeah, they’re following us. Two cars double-teaming our play. A brown Pontiac and a light gray Ford. See ’em?”


“Goddam CIA. Tell you the truth, I’m happy to see ’ em there. If they’re tailing us, it means they still don’t know where our offices are. Which is just as well. Lose ’em, Phil.”

“There would have to be two of them. Those boys don’t even go to the john by themselves.”

“So just lose ’em.”

Phil lost them. He went around blocks, dashed the wrong way on one-way streets, and shook both our tails in less than ten minutes. “It’s a hell of a thing,” he said, “when you have to worry more about your friends than your enemies. The Chief is very anxious to see you, Tanner. He didn’t know you were one of ours. He suspected it when we got rumbles about the bit in Macedonia. Dallmann had contacts in Macedonia. Dallmann’s dead, you know.”

“I know.”

“Well,” Phil said.

We rode the rest of the way in silence. Phil dropped us in front of a shoe-repair shop in a Negro slum. Joe and I entered a building by the door to the right of the shop and climbed three flights of squeaking stairs to the apartment on the top floor. He knocked. A deep voice invited us inside. Joe opened the door, and we went in.

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