Liz read on, completely absorbed by Miles’s laconic prose. She was there herself, sitting in that Tel Aviv cafe, listening to Teitelbaum’s hoarse voice telling his simple but haunting tale.
Danny Kollek’s grandfather, Isaac, had been a Syrian Jew. A merchant, who traded in rugs and spice, and almost anything that kept his small shop in the ancient city of Aleppo afloat. He stayed in Syria after the War, and survived the murderous riots against Jews in that city in 1947, when synagogues had been burned down and shops, including Isaac’s, destroyed.
Life had eventually returned to a semblance of normality. Never prosperous, Isaac nonetheless made a living, and was able to support his wife and sole child, a son named Benjamin.
But after Suez the climate suddenly changed again. Isaac found himself the object of an unofficial boycott by local residents, both Muslim and Christian, and the object of harassment by the government itself. Becoming increasingly anxious and fearing the worst, he sent his wife and boy to Israel, where they settled in Haifa and waited for Isaac to join them. He stayed behind to try and sell his business, and also, as Teitelbaum now acknowledged, ‘to help us’.
After six months, just three weeks before he planned to join his family in Israel, Kollek was arrested. Tried on treason charges, he was found guilty, and six days later he was hanged in a public square in front of a silent crowd of Aleppo residents.
After this, his son Benjamin, Danny Kollek’s father, grew up in Israel, and became a successful retailer of electronic goods in Haifa. Teitelbaum had met him once, not long after young Danny – fresh from university, having served his mandatory years in the army – had been recruited into Mossad. In such a small society, the nature of Danny’s job was hardly secret; certainly Danny’s father knew – he told Teitelbaum it was the proudest day of his life when Danny joined Mossad. Because his son would be defending the imperilled state, home of the Jews? Not at all, replied Benjamin. Because his son would now be in a position to avenge his grandfather’s death.
When Teitelbaum had finished, Miles sat for a moment in silence. Then he said quietly, ‘I wish we’d known about this sooner.’
He said this more in sorrow than in anger, but Teitelbaum’s eyes flared. ‘I wish you’d told us some things as well. I think you’ve known far more about Danny Kollek than you’re letting on.’
‘What makes you say that?’ asked Miles, sensing they were heading into dangerous territory. The one thing Tyrus Oakes’s cable had stressed was that he must avoid explicitly admitting that Kollek had been run by Andy Bokus.
‘Chance? Coincidence? I don’t believe in them. Maybe it is a drawback of belonging to our mutual profession. But that’s how I am.’ He was looking at Miles with hostile eyes. ‘So the idea that you and British intelligence have homed in on Danny Kollek through observation of two men said to be a danger to Syria, strikes me, frankly, as utterly preposterous.’
Miles held his breath, not daring to speak. Teitelbaum gave him a small, sardonic smile, which added to Miles’s tension. Then the Israeli said, ‘I think you know exactly what I’m talking about, Mr Brookhaven. And if you don’t, then I think you’ll find your head of station Mr Bokus can illuminate you.’
You knew about Kollek, thought Miles, and a fresh wave of agitation swept across him. He had been struggling to keep secret something Teitelbaum had known about for a lot longer than Miles.
Teitelbaum gave a short squawking laugh, but it was without malice. ‘You look like a rabbit caught in a tractor’s headlights. But cheer up, Mr Brookhaven; I am not feeling so clever myself.’
‘Why is that?’ Miles said hopefully.
‘Because if Mr Andy Bokus feels he’s been taken for a ride, I have to admit I feel precisely the same way. He thought he was running Danny Kollek; I thought Danny Kollek was running him.’
‘What?’ Miles was astonished. So Mossad
Looking equally perturbed himself, Teitelbaum gazed into his empty cup, as if hoping to find something there to soothe his troubles. Sitting back, he clasped his hands and set them on his ample stomach. He said ruefully, ‘But I see now that I have been as big a fool as – if I may say so -your own head of London station.’
Teitelbaum sighed rabbinically. Miles had the sudden sense that this man had seen more aspects of the human comedy than he ever would. The Israeli said, ‘Partly because of the things you have told me. But for the clincher, as I think you Americans like to say, you’d have to ask Danny Kollek.’
‘Happily,’ said Miles eagerly. ‘Can we call him in?’
‘That won’t be possible.’
Miles’s spirits sank. Had he misgauged the conversation? He had been starting to think Teitelbaum was on his side. Then he noticed the expression on the older man’s face: he seemed to be enjoying some secret.
Teitelbaum said, ‘I am not being difficult, Mr Brookhaven. You’re more than welcome to talk to Kollek – if you can find him. We certainly can’t.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘Simply that Danny Kollek has disappeared.’ He stared at Miles, all amusement gone. ‘It looks as if we have a rogue agent.’ Just then there was a large bang across the plaza, and looking up Miles saw the jeweller looking triumphant, swinging the unlocked grill against the wall.
As Liz, in her office in London, finished reading Miles’s report, she saw how they had all been fooled. Duped by false attachments, phoney allegiances, clever manipulation of national and Agency rivalries. All carried out and encouraged by one man. Who said the age of the Individual was over? She reached for her mug of tea. It was stone-cold.