The Twentieth Day of January

The Twentieth Day of January

by Ted Allbeury

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Overview

"Allbeury, like le Carré, is a master of the genre, and this novel represents some of his best work." — Booklist
"A flawlessly structured plot." — Publishers Weekly
"Uncannily predicted the rise of Donald Trump." — Slate.com
It's 1980 and the Cold War continues to rage. Seemingly out of nowhere, wealthy businessman Logan Powell has become President-elect and is only weeks away from assuming the most powerful position in the world on the twentieth day of January. Across the Atlantic, veteran British intelligence agent James MacKay uncovers shocking evidence that suggests something might be terribly wrong with the election. With the help of a reluctant CIA, MacKay sets out on a dangerous and daring mission to discover if the unthinkable has occurred: is President-elect Powell actually a puppet of the Soviet Union?
Written by the bestselling author of The Crossing and Pay Any Price, this remarkably plausible thriller offers a heady mix of political intrigue and intense suspense — with the very future of America and the free world hanging in the balance.
"Allbeury's novels have won a reputation not only for verisimilitude but for crisp, economical narration and high drama … there's no better craftsman." — Chicago Sun-Times
"A most knowledgeable chronicler of espionage." — The New York Times Book Review
"When I say Ted Allbeury knows where the bodies are buried I mean it literally. Truly a classic writer of espionage fiction." — Len Deighton, author of The Ipcress File

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780486819228
Publisher: Dover Publications
Publication date: 03/20/2017
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 809,475
Product dimensions: 4.90(w) x 7.30(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Ted Allbeury (1917–2005) was an intelligence officer with Great Britain's Special Operations Executive during World War II; afterward, he ran agents between East and West Germany. Allbeury's firsthand Cold War experiences enliven his espionage novels, and he was praised by the New York Times Book Review as "a most knowledgeable chronicler of espionage " and by Booklist as "a master of the genre."

Read an Excerpt

The Twentieth Day of January


By Ted Allbeury

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1980 Estate of Ted Allbeury
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-81945-7


CHAPTER 1

James Bruce MacKay sat with his feet up on the low coffee table, an open copy of Time magazine spread across his lap as he lit a cigarette. He waved out the match, tossed it into the ashtray and picked up the magazine again. He turned through the pages to the double spread entitled "People." There was the usual picture of Shirley MacLaine, a piece about a defector from the Bolshoi, and a long paragraph about the author of another biography of Hemingway. As he turned to the book reviews the duty signals officer slid a typed sheet over the magazine pages. He read it slowly and carefully. Kowalski had been pulled off the plane at Warsaw airport and taken back into town. The four men who had taken him had been in plain clothes and had spoken Russian not Polish. He looked up at the signals captain.

"Where's Anders?"

"Off duty, sir."

MacKay reached in his pocket for a Biro and initialled the report. As he handed it back he said, "Get him in."

He looked back at the magazine but the print was just a blur as he thought about Kowalski. It had happened two hours and forty minutes ago and by now he'd be unconscious. The interrogation team would have a drink and then there'd be an injection to bring him round for the next session. But that was going to be Anders's worry, not his. He shook his head like a dog coming out of water and focused his eyes on the magazine pages.

Ten minutes later he tossed the magazine on to the coffee table and stood up, glancing at his watch as he stretched his arms. It was 01.30 hours on the first of November.

He walked over to the duty director's bunk and started to undress. He heard the noise of a car door closing from down in the street. It was probably Anders arriving to sort out his problems in Warsaw. From the nearby Thames came the impatient blast of a boat's siren. As he pulled the khaki blanket over his shoulder he could smell the ozone from the radio room and hear the agitated chatter of a Telex down the corridor.

James MacKay was an Edinburgh Scot with one of those neat, small-featured faces that never seem to grow old. Medium height, and slimly built, with a liking for bits and pieces of clothes rather than suits. But there was a flair to the clothes that he wore. The kind of flair that Parisiennes are said to have. Not that he was in any way effeminate; but in a calling where diplomats and civil-servants abounded, a shirt or shoes worn a little ahead of the general fashion could make a man noticed. Not with disapproval by any means, and perhaps it was more that he was remembered than noticed.

He had joined SIS straight from university at a time when universities were providing more problems for Special Branch than recruits. Like a graduate police constable, an eye was kept on him. With a father who was a banker and a mother who was a professional musician, his masters were never quite sure which set of genes was going to prove prepotent. And there were not all that many members of SIS who could mingle with undergraduates without changing their appearance.

It had been remarked, not necessarily with disapproval, that MacKay seemed to be seen with a whole series of pretty girls and it was put down to his charm. Even his male contemporaries agreed that MacKay had charm. And what they liked even more was that he seemed totally unaware of this attribute. He was as charming to men as he was to women. In a trade where cynicism and ruthlessness predominated, MacKay had proved exceptionally successful. A critical senior had once commented that a MacKay interrogation was more like old friends comparing notes than Her Majesty's Secret Intelligence Service pursuing the Queen's enemies. But MacKay got results, and that was what counted.


It was nearly an hour later when he woke, and as he stood up he slid his arms into his jacket and shuffled through to the next room. It was empty, reeking of cigarette smoke and with the bare bulb still alight as it hung from the ceiling. The copy of Time was still there and he leafed through the first few pages to find the photograph. It was on here, under the headline "Gallup and Harris say it's Powell."

He sat down in the chair, shivering slightly from the cold. There were eight people in the photograph, all smiling into the camera, and the caption read: "With a 19 per cent lead in the polls, candidate Logan Powell and campaign manager Andrew Dempsey return to Hartford for the final days of the campaign."

He bent forward and switched on the electric fire. If you saw a face in a magazine you assumed you recognized it because it was well known and familiar, a film star or some public figure. But that wasn't why the photograph had stayed in his mind. He remembered Dempsey now.

It had been in Paris. May 1968. And the song had said it was the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius. But China had exploded her first atom bomb, France her first hydrogen bomb and the North Koreans had captured the first US Navy ship to be taken since 1807. And on the streets of Paris the students were demonstrating against the Government. That was where he had last seen Andy Dempsey, with bright red blood soaking his white shirt from a broken nose as they slung him into the black van.

After the taunting shouts, they had thrown cobbles from the streets at the police before the SDECE, with the black crosses on their white helmets, came in. It was they who had beaten up Dempsey, and his girl, as the barriers came down. Her mouth had been wide open as she screamed as the thug twisted her breast and kneed her groin. Then he had lost sight of her as she fell to the ground in the forest of feet and legs.

Dempsey was an American and his girl was a Russian or a Pole. He couldn't remember which. That was the last time he had seen them. He had been withdrawn to London just afterwards. It had been one of his first jobs for SIS, a low-profile penetration of student groups in Paris. And Dempsey had been on his list as a member of the Communist Party and intimately involved with a Soviet citizen. His reports would still be on file.

He switched off the fire and went back to bed.


It was midday before he had time to go to Central Records. He sat in front of the micro-film reader for over an hour. There was more than he remembered. Apart from the typed reports there had been a handful of photographs and several pages of notes in his own handwriting. The round careful script looked naïve and juvenile now. He had forgotten about Kleppe.

He walked back to the house in Bessborough Street. It was one of those rambling turn-of-the-century houses that wealthy merchants built for themselves when cotton was still king but Manchester was beginning to lose the fight to London as the centre of trade. Now it was the operational base of one of those special units that were spawned from time to time by SIS. Highest security, but liable to be disbanded at any time. The present incumbents were designated as SF14. Special Force 14 were responsible for planning and mounting deep penetration operations into the intelligence services of the Soviet bloc. MacKay was one of its two operational directors.

He slid his card into the slot and the door chunked open. The Field Security sergeant at the small desk had known him for three years but, as always, they went through all the routine of passwords and identity checks. Some day somebody was going to renege and four feet from the door was where they aimed to stop him.


Magnusson was obviously not too pleased at being disturbed on a Sunday morning for speculative discussion. He was too civilized a man to say so outright, but too hard pressed in his job not to make clear that if the appointment was not urgent and about a current operation, it could wait its turn after the weather, the problems of protecting chrysanthemums from the first frost, and the possibility that Cooper's Oxford marmalade might not be maintaining its quality.

Magnusson sat with one slippered foot on a sleeping Labrador that quivered after rabbits in its sleep. As he refilled MacKay's glass and handed it to him he finally said, "So what was it, James?" And MacKay gave him a report on what he had checked out. He held out the envelope of photocopies but Magnusson waved it aside.

"And what are you suggesting that this all adds up to?"

"That the campaign manager of what looks like the probable next US President was a Communist in 1968. That his girl was a Russian and bound to be a Party member, or she would not have been allowed to go to Paris. That a man named Kleppe, a rich man with some sort of Soviet influence, got them both out of jail when the US Embassy wouldn't lift a finger."

"Go on."

"There isn't any more."

Magnusson raised his eyebrows. "So what do you see — another Philby?"

"Could be."

"And what d'you you think we should do, my boy?"

"Mention it to CIA liaison at Grosvenor Square."

"Why?"

"They ought to know."

"Why d'you think they don't know?"

"Maybe they do, but we had all the information on file about Philby and his Communist wife, and nobody checked it out."

Magnusson nodded. "I'll speak to the Minister and let you know. Has there been any news about Kowalski?"

"Nothing since the first report, except a confirmation that the Poles haven't got him. It's KGB for certain."

"What's Anders doing about it?"

"I don't know, sir, but he's already on his way to Berlin."

"There's a nice little pub in the village if you want a bite on your way back."

And MacKay took the hint and left Magnusson to the Sunday Times and the Observer.


May 1968 had been one of the times that he knew he would always remember. It was the first solo assignment that he had done for SIS. It looked like a piece of low-key routine, and he had wondered what interest SIS could have in the students at the Sorbonne. He had decided that they were merely testing out the fluency of his French or maybe his ability to maintain a cover. But they obviously knew more than they had told him at his briefing meetings. He had only been there three months when the demonstrations started, and he had been recalled in the second week of August.

It had seemed a spring and summer of ceaseless sunshine, the kind of weather that always seems to herald declarations of war. And it hadn't just been the war in the streets of Paris for him.

He had come back to the empty flat, knowing it would be empty but not expecting all those reminders. Torn up letters that he pieced together and then wished he hadn't. Two or three unsigned contracts for shows in Birmingham and Leeds. The remnants of two boxes of milk chocolates. Panties and a bra on the tatty washing-line in the bathroom. Unwashed dishes and glasses in the sink. A membership card for a Soho Club. A pile of Melody Makers and an old copy of Stage. The bullfight poster, hung slantwise on the wall from a single pin. Make-up and cosmetics on the bedside table and a pad with two scrawled telephone numbers. And everywhere the stench of men and lust.

He had picked up the mail and gone out for breakfast at the Coffee Shop in King's Road. He opened the envelopes one by one as he sipped his coffee. The electricity bill, a come-on for Time-Life books, a statement from the bank showing a credit balance of £341.73 to the account of J. B. and T. M. MacKay. A note from his mother pointing out that she had warned him even before the marriage, etc., etc. There were two letters for Tammy and a card calling her for audition at a theatre in Portsmouth. And there was a letter from their solicitor asking him to make an appointment to see him as soon as possible.

Back at the flat he phoned John Davies, who could see him at noon.


There were Audubon rose prints instead of the usual hunting scenes in the solicitor's waiting-room. They had picked John Davies when they were first married because he had showbiz experience. But showbiz clients were often divorce clients later and John Davies helped clear up the mess.

He'd only had to wait a few minutes before the door opened and John Davies waved him into his office. When they were both settled on their respective sides of the teak desk, it was John Davies who led off.

"You know, Jimmy, that it's one of my duties as an officer of the Court to do my best to effect a reconciliation of the parties to a divorce. Some solicitors don't even go through the motions, but I do. Especially when I know both of them, and am fond of them. So let me say now that I have tried. And I've failed."

"What did Tammy say?"

"Well, I wasn't even sure that she was listening, but I made one mild criticism of you and she jumped right down my throat. Normally by the time it's got to me it's cat and dog stuff and all I can do is stop them from actual violence. With you and Tammy that doesn't apply. All I can do is help cut out as much pain as possible."

"I guess the pain's all mine, John."

"I don't think so. You pay for this sort of thing one way or another. Most people say that it must be six of one and half a dozen of the other. It seldom is. But the problem is that the one who takes it most seriously is the one who gets hurt first."

"Why?"

"Why? Well, the one who goes off with somebody else has got their little prize already wrapped and delivered. If the other one hasn't done a damn thing, he or she feels that it's all mighty unfair, which it is. And if that one happens to be a man he fights all along the line about money, children, blame, the whole bag of tricks that the law allows. So I need to find out if I can carry on for you both or not. It's positively frowned on by the law. But sometimes it can help."

"There are no children, John, and Tammy's the one with the money."

Davies looked at MacKay's face for long moments before he spoke again.

"If you cared to make a fight of it, Jimmy, you could probably put her career back to square one."

"Why should I?"

Davies shrugged. "Hurt feelings, anger, pride, revenge. We could give it all a high moral tone, of course. It wouldn't have to look so crude."

"I love Tammy, John. I don't love what she does, but I wouldn't do her harm."

"Would you do her good?"

"In what way?"

"You haven't lived apart for two years, so there has to be a matrimonial offence thrown in."

"So?"

"They've all been hers and the showbiz press and the nationals would make a meal of it."

"You mean you want me to sleep with someone?"

"Paula Manning volunteered."

"Jesus. What bastards they all are. Surely it must have been possible to make it in show business without screwing with everyone in sight."

"You can if the talent's big enough right from the start."

"Wasn't Tammy's?"

John Davies' eyes were watching his face.

"I guess not, Jimmy. Not if you're in a hurry, anyway."

"How much does Tammy make now?"

Davies pursed his lips. "It ought to be confidential. She makes five hundred a week on her present contract. In five weeks' time her new contract doubles that. What made you ask?"

"I wondered if it was worth it for her."

"Is it?"

"No."

John Davies leaned back in his chair, moving aside a pile of papers. Then he looked up at MacKay.

"Have you got a girl, Jimmy?"

"No. Tammy was my girl."

"Can I say something? Something you might find offensive?"

"Go ahead."

"When I first met you and Tammy, about a year before you were married, I could have forecast that this would happen. If it hadn't been for one thing."

"What was that?"

"Tammy was every man's dream girl. The golden girl we all fantasize about. But even then you could see the ambition, the determination to make it in showbiz. I thought it might survive because you were a goodlooking man. An attractive man with charm. But I didn't know one vital thing."

"What was that?"

"I took it for granted that when Tammy gave what we call 'management privileges' to agents, impresarios and the rest of the gang, you'd be taking your pick of Tammy's pretty friends. There's many a showbiz marriage survived on that basis when they were making their way. But you weren't in showbiz and you were a bit of a puritan. So it didn't work. And I was wrong."

"Would you have told me then if you had known?"

"No way."

"Why am I a puritan?"

John Davies smiled. "You have to love them, or like them a lot, before you screw them. Other men are satisfied with a pretty face and a willing body."

MacKay thought of the girl in Paris and realized that Davies was right.

"How long will it take?"

"The way I suggested, two months. The other way ... how long since she told you?"

"Seven months."

"The other way about eighteen months."

"She'll be at the top by then."

The solicitor shrugged. "Maybe not."

"I'll think about it."

"OK."


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Twentieth Day of January by Ted Allbeury. Copyright © 1980 Estate of Ted Allbeury. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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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