The Kremlin Letter

The Kremlin Letter

by Noel Behn

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Overview

New York Times Bestseller: Six American spies embark on a dangerous mission behind enemy lines in this classic Cold War espionage thriller.

 Lt. Cmdr. Charles Rone, a young naval intelligence officer with a sterling record, finds himself abruptly discharged from the service. Without his consent, Rone has been recruited to join a top-secret network of agents who operate independently of the US government. Led by a cynical spymaster known only as the Highwayman, the group will break any law and destroy as many innocent lives as necessary to stop the spread of communism.
 
In Moscow, the Americans must make contact with a high-level mole in the Kremlin and recover a letter that could spark a nuclear war if it falls into the wrong hands. But treachery is an integral part of this shadow conflict between superpowers, and no sooner has the team arrived in the Soviet capital than the double-crossing begins. One devastating betrayal follows the next as Rone desperately tries to stay alive and out of the clutches of the KGB long enough to find out who compromised the mission.
 
Inspired by author Noel Behn’s service in the US Army’s Counterintelligence Corps, The Kremlin Letter is a realistic and hard-edged tale of international intrigue that ranks with the best of John Le Carré and Len Deighton. A New York Times bestseller, it was the basis for a John Huston film starring Orson Welles and Max von Sydow.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504036597
Publisher: Open Road Media
Publication date: 06/14/2016
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 283
Sales rank: 148,771
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Noel Behn (1928–1998) was an American novelist, screenwriter, and theatrical producer. Born in Chicago and educated in California and Paris, he served in the US Army’s Counterintelligence Corps before settling in New York City. As the producing director of the Cherry Lane Theatre, he played a lead role in the off-Broadway movement of the 1950s and presented the world premiere of Samuel Beckett’s Endgame. Behn’s debut novel, The Kremlin Letter (1966), was a New York Times bestseller and the inspiration for a John Huston film starring Orson Welles and Max von Sydow. Big Stick-Up at Brink’s! (1977), the true story of the 1950 Brink’s robbery in Boston, was based on nearly one thousand hours of conversations with the criminals and became an Academy Award–nominated film directed by William Friedkin. Behn also wrote for television and served as a creative consultant on the acclaimed series Homicide: Life on the Street. His other books include the thrillers The Shadowboxer (1969) and Seven Silent Men (1984), and Lindbergh: The Crime (1995), a nonfiction account of the kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh Jr.
 

Read an Excerpt

The Kremlin Letter


By Noel Behn

OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA

Copyright © 1966 Noel Behn
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5040-3659-7


CHAPTER 1

The Defector


Lieutenant Commander Charles Rone, USN, Regional Director — Systems, of the Office of Naval Intelligence, woke at precisely six A.M., brushed his teeth and completed his Royal Canadian Air Force exercises in four minutes and twenty-eight seconds. He shaved, showered and began dressing in front of the floor-length mirror. His trousers had been pressed slightly off the crease. He changed to another uniform, pinched his tie to perfection, buttoned his jacket and buffed his shoes to a high black gloss with the electric polisher. He picked up his briefcase, tucked his copy of the Wall Street Journal under his arm and started out for the Officers' Mess.

He finished half a grapefruit, two poached eggs and one slice of rye toast before pouring his third cup of black coffee, neatly folding back the newspaper to the closing stock-market prices, taking a deep breath and beginning to read.

He was counting his losses when the door flew open. He didn't have to look up to recognize the rasping voice of Captain Felson.

"Rone! The plane is waiting. Where the hell are all of your things?"

"What plane? What things?"

"The seaplane. Your civilian things. Your kit. Everything. Where are they?"

"In my quarters. Where else?"

"Don't sit there, Commander. Get them."

"Why?"

"Ask the admiral."


From behind a long oak desk, devoid of antiquity or character, the admiral watched Rone approach. He did not bother to return the salute, but simply said, in an angry and official tone, "Lieutenant Commander Charles E. Rone, you are hereby informed that as of 1400 hours today, October 10, you will no longer be under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Navy."

"Excuse me, sir?" Rone said in disbelief.

"You are further informed," continued the admiral, "that as of 1400 hours, October, your commission as an officer in the Navy of the United States will be suspended, and concurrent with said suspension all rights and benefits accruing to you in the past or due to you in the future, as either an officer in the Naval Establishment or a member of the Armed Forces of the United States, will forthwith and forever be revoked and canceled — not that it makes a goddam bit of difference to you, I suppose?"

"But sir —" Rone began.

"And you will no longer address me as 'Sir.'"

"But I prefer calling you 'Sir.'"

"And I prefer that you don't."

"Under what authority have I been separated?" he demanded.

"It is proper and binding," the admiral replied.

"Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice I demand to know exactly the circumstances under which this order was given. To my knowledge there is no possible way an officer can be discharged without either his knowledge or consent."

"I'm sure your new friends in Washington can explain."

"What friends?"

"Rone," the admiral said, ignoring his question, "I suppose in this day and age your behavior is called initiative. I also suppose that people who get what they want, regardless of the method or cost, are to be congratulated. Well, I'm old-fashioned, mister, and I call what you did plain and simple insubordination. No, there's a better word for it, a word that your former colleagues like to use — defection."

"I have not defected or deceived or done anything else."

"I know of no other word for a breach of loyalty," the admiral snapped back, "and in this case you had at least two such loyalties to betray, the Naval Establishment on the one hand and your own intelligence organization on the other. A good many Regular Army and Navy officers are damned sorry that CIC or ONI were ever formed — they seem to believe that intelligence personnel develop stronger loyalties to their own organizations than they do to either the Army or Navy. Well, Mr. Rone, you've gone them one better, you've proven that a really good intelligence officer won't even stand by his own kind. Why aren't you in civilian clothes?"

"No one told me to change."

"Only officers in the United States Navy are entitled to wear that uniform. Once upon a time, legend has it, some men even died for it. When you've changed, my car will take you to the airport — as is expected in cases like this. Dismissed — Mr. Rone."


A thin, silent young man in a Brooks Brothers suit moved in behind Rone as he waited for his baggage at the Washington Airport.

"Mr. Rone," he half whispered, "you will please follow me."

"My Valpac hasn't come down yet," Rone answered.

"It's already in the car." He led Rone quickly through the crowd to a limousine, in which two very similar young men were waiting.

"You're late," one of them said as the car moved off toward the city.

"The plane was late," Rone explained.

"We may miss the train."

"They'll hold it for us," the driver said firmly.

The car turned a sharp corner and sped over the Chesapeake Bridge.

"Where are we going?" Rone asked.

"To the station."

"Can any of you explain how I could be discharged without my consent?"

"Ask the man on the train."

The three young men hurried Rone along the train corridor.

"In there," said one of them, motioning to a partially opened drawing-room door. The trio continued on alone to the next car — still carrying Rone's Valpac.

A short, sunburned man in dark-green slacks and an open-necked-Hawaiian sportshirt stood in the middle of the compartment.

"You're late, Mr. Rone," he said.

"The plane was late."

"Then you should have taken an earlier flight."

"This was the one I was put on."

"Then the admiral is at fault." The man walked to the window and sat down. "The admiral will have to answer for it. Someone always has to answer in these matters."

Rone remained standing. "By what jurisdiction was my commission revoked?" he demanded.

"You can have it back if you want."

Rone had no answer.

"That choice is up to you," the man continued. "However, after reading your record I have the impression that my clients might be able to offer you something quite interesting."

"Such as?"

"Money."

"To do what?"

"To do the second thing your record claims you crave for — to live dangerously," the man said with a smirk.

"I don't find this amusing," Rone said firmly.

"How do you find one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars? Tax-free dollars, I might add. That's only the retainer, of course. If you're selected there could be more."

"Selected?"

"My people will have to see if you work out. But the minimum, whether you're used or not, is still one hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars."

"And what's the maximum?"

"At least another hundred and twenty-five thousand ... if you survive. Under certain conditions it could be double or triple that."

"And what do I have to do?" asked Rone.

"First of all, agree to give up your commission in the Navy," the man said apathetically.

"Then what?"

"Then I'll tell you what we have in store for you."

"You mean after I've agreed to do it?"

"Come now, Commander; originally we were going to take away your citizenship as well."

"No deal."

"Whatever you say," the man said without concern. "The train stops in about ten minutes. You can get off then and your commission will be restored. They told you about the quarantine, of course?"

"What quarantine?"

"You'll be detained for at least six months."

"For what?" Rone asked indignantly.

"Why, for this meeting, what else? Security in matters like this is slightly sticky,"

Rone stood glowering at the man.

"You've probably made a wise choice. There are always certain risks involved in these projects — you'll be much safer back in the Navy."

Rone remained standing near the door. He could feel himself flush.

"All right," he heard himself saying, "when do I begin?"

"Read these." The man shoved a thin manila folder along the seat. Then he yawned and took off his tinted glasses.

"Shall I read it standing up or can I sit down?" Rone asked casually.

"You can read it standing on your head if it helps," the man replied indifferently. "Just read it." He turned and stared out the window.

Rone sat down and looked at the folder. On the outside was printed "The Highwayman."

"I've already read it," he said.

"Read what?" said the man, still looking out the window.

"'The Highwayman,'" answered Rone.


"The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the
purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding

Ridingriding
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door."

The man turned slowly toward Rone. He had a square bronzed face with an aquiline nose. His silver-white hair was crew-cut. His eyes were green, coldly green. He studied Rone a moment or two, then turned back to the window.

Rone opened the folder and found himself looking at two teletyped messages pasted on the top and bottom of a sheet of paper. They appeared to be cablegrams, but he couldn't be sure since all four margins had been neatly trimmed to eliminate any identifying printing or marks. In addition, the address in the top left corner of each message had been covered with a typewritten identification sticker which listed the subject of the message, who sent it, who received it, and the exhibit or filing number. He began reading:

EXHIBIT: 1
DATE: SEPTEMBER 18
SUBJECT: PEPPER POTS
TO: SWEET ALICE
FROM: UNCLE MORRIS
THE PEPPER POT IS BROKEN. THE CUPBOARD IS BARE. WHAT
DOES THE A&P HAVE ON ITS SHELVES?

EXHIBIT: 2
DATE: SEPTEMBER 18
SUBJECT: PEPPER POTS
TO: UNCLE MORRIS
FROM: SWEET ALICE
ONLY STANDARD BRANDS IN STOCK.
WHAT'S NEW WITH THE COMMON MARKET?


Rone noticed that neither the pages nor the messages had been stamped top secret, secret, or any other classification. He held his place and looked at the front of the folder. No restrictions were there, either, yet he felt instinctively that this was secret information or higher. He turned the page. This was the last sheet of paper in the files and only one message was pasted on it.

EXHIBIT: 3
DATE: SEPTEMBER 19
SUBJECT: PEPPER POTS
TO: SWEET ALICE
FROM: UNCLE MORRIS
COMMON MARKET QUALITY UNACCEPTABLE.
THE STEW IS COOLING. HAVE YOU READ
ANY GOOD POEMS LATELY? IF SO SEND VOLUMES.


Rone closed the folder.

"What do you make of them?" asked the man, still not bothering to look at him.

"They're antiques," answered Rone. "The type of communications that were used twenty, thirty years ago."

"Never mind that. Do you understand them?"

"I think so."

"Let's hear."

Rone opened the folder and turned to the first page of messages. "Sweet Alice is American since she's the A&P. Uncle Morris is most likely British. He is not a member of the Common Market and these messages were sent in English. I can't tell yet whether they are intelligence agencies or individual agents.

"The Pepper Pot is an agent — or was an agent. I must assume a very good agent. Pepper is a condiment. Something that is used in every corner of the world. Therefore a pepper pot could be found in every corner of the world as well. No matter what the city, country or continent there is nothing unusual or suspicious about seeing a pepper pot. So we know this agent is just like that. He's at home anywhere and he goes anyplace without evoking suspicion. He would be one hell of a hard man to replace — and that's exactly what the problem is. He must be replaced. 'The Pepper Pot is broken,' says the message. That means he is either injured, captured or dead. I assume he is dead.

"Uncle Morris, our friend from England, looks around for a replacement in his own country — but 'the cupboard is bare.' So he contacts Sweet Alice to see what the A&P has on its shelves, or if America has an agent with the qualifications to replace him. But we don't have anyone, we have 'only standard brands in stock.' Sweet Alice asks 'what's new with the common market,' suggesting that England try finding someone in Europe.

"In the last message Uncle Morris says that he has already tried Europe and found nothing. He warns Sweet Alice that 'the stew is cooling': If someone isn't found soon, either the United States or England, I'm not sure which, will probably compromise a very important case."

"Is that all?" asked the man, still looking out the window.

"That's all I'm sure of," replied Rone. "Uncle Morris asks Alice about poems. This undoubtedly means another approach to the subject, but I can't tell what."

"Maybe this will help." The man had turned long enough to push another few pages of messages toward Rone. Rone picked them up and began reading.

EXHIBIT: 4
DATE: SEPTEMBER 19
SUBJECT: POEMS
TO: UNCLE MORRIS
FROM: SWEET ALICE
THE LIBRARY HAS FEW VOLUMES LEFT.
COULD SEND FOLLOWING: ANNABEL
LEE, J. ALFRED PRUFROCK, CREMATION OF SAM MCGEE, HIAWATHA.

Rone saw that the "subject" had changed. He read the second message on the page.

EXHIBIT: 5
DATE: SEPTEMBER 20
SUBJECT: POEMS
TO: SWEET ALICE
FROM: UNCLE MORRIS
INTERESTED IN SAM MCGEE. DO YOU HAVE A THIRD EDITION?

Rone turned to the next and last page he had been handed. It contained only one message.

EXHIBIT: 6
DATE: SEPTEMBER 20
SUBJECT: POEMS
TO: UNCLE MORRIS
FROM: SWEET ALICE
SAM ONLY IN FIVE EDITIONS. THIRD ONE MISSING.


Rone thought for a moment. Then he went back over the preceding two pages.

The man had closed his eyes but when he heard Rone stir he said, "Let's hear these."

"First of all, I made a slight mistake," Rone began. "I assumed that the A&P represented all American agencies. I now see that it is only one. And I don't know which one it is. But the library is another agency. Uncle Morris first asked what the A&P had on its shelves, or what agents it had available, next he asked what the library or librarian had in the way of poems. So the library is the second agency and poems are a specific type of agent they must have. But I'm not sure what 'poems' or these particular titles signify."

"Try and figure it out."

Rone paused. "The library probably carries novels, plays and nonfiction as well as poems. On that assumption I would say poems or poetry are specialized agents, individualists of some kind. And perhaps these agents are slightly outdated or old-fashioned — the titles mentioned are mostly standard, things that have been around a long time. Possibly agents out of the OSS days; maybe not. I'm not sure."


"What would the names represent?" "I'm not sure of that either," Rone began. "Annabel Lee lives near the sea or ocean — in a kingdom by the sea. Maybe she's associated with naval affairs or possibly islands."

"Or invasions?"

"Yes, maybe invasions," Rone concurred. "J. Alfred Prufrock? Well, once again I'm not sure. Perhaps it has something to do with prostitutes?"

"Or possibly the author?"

Rone thought a moment. "An American living in England? Of course. An American agent who passes as an Englishman!"

"And Sam McGee?"

Rone began to recite:

"Now Sam McGee was from Tennessee, where the
cotton blooms and blows,
Why he left his home in the South to roam
'round the Pole, God only knows.


"The poles — the North pole. The far north. Both Sam McGee and the author spent time in the Yukon or the far north. Our man operates or did operate in far northern areas. That's his specialty. But he couldn't speak the right language — the 'third edition.' Each edition represents a certain strategic language. The language of a far northern country. A country that could be approached from, or borders on, the far north. That could be China or Manchuria — or Russia."

Rone was suddenly aware that he spoke both Chinese and Russian.

For the first time since Charles Rone had started reading, the man turned and looked at him. "Let's get something to eat," he said, rising.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Kremlin Letter by Noel Behn. Copyright © 1966 Noel Behn. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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