He tried to squint through the planks but the glass beneath was filthy and he couldnıt see past the reflections of the flares from the new chemical works across the bay. Where he remembered swans there were bobbing cans and an oil slick and the thick, white paint on the stonework was cracked and broken like the icing on Miss Havishamıs wedding cake.
Strange the tricks that memory plays. Anderson remembered those bathing huts where he had raced his own shadow as it flapped over striped awnings and how his ball bounced into that fat lady ' s cubicle but he had forgotten the pool completely. It was dirty and abandoned, with a carpet of leaves and dirt scattered over it, but you could see what it had once been. When he came upon it, with the terrazzo tiling round its rim and the Art Deco metal-work on the ladder that looped over the side, everything suddenly became clear again. He felt it was as if he had switched on the light in a familiar room and discovered all the furniture that he knew so well sitting, as always, in its accustomed place.
He saw the pool, clear and sparkling, gleaming with viridian water that took its colour half from the mosaics of seahorses beneath and half from an endless and overarching sky.
Without even looking Anderson suddenly knew that, down there, a little further on, were the remains of the tennis courts, lost under heaps of convulvulus. His mother used to leave him at the pool-side to play there every day and then, late at night, she would go back. Sometimes Anderson would awake when she returned to the room they shared, the skin roughened on her sunburned arms, a strange smell on her and a drizzle of fine, red clay dust falling from her dress.
Julia came up behind him, her heels clicking across the terrazzo. How that sound thrilled him. The woman he worshipped, his new wife, approaching like a goddess in stilettos. Of course, Anderson was never such a fool as to believe, that is, I donıt think he was ever able to convince himself, that she actually loved him in return. No, whatever else you could say about Anderson, he was not a fool. Why should she love him? The difference in their ages, for one thing, was enough to make affection, or even concern, pretty unlikely. They moved in different worlds.
The first time I saw her I remember thinking that she was like one of those circus girls up on the trapeze, or straddling the thick neck of an elephant. You know the way they are, with their nodding plumes and their jutting breasts, their cinched waists and their swelling hips and those long, shimmering legs. But it doesnıt mean anything, the way they dress. It ' s part of the job, that's all and, anyway, they aren't real. They stay there, way up above the rest of us on the trapeze or straddling the elephants, high up and unattainable like the fairy on a Christmas tree.
Julia was like that, but without the deception. If you get up close to the circus girls you can see how ridiculous their make-up is; eyes like bruises across half their faces and even the legs are a cheat. They wear two pairs of tights, you know: something shimmery under the fishnet to stop the cellulite puckering through.
Julia didn't have to do that. Her legs were perfect. They were the first thing he noticed about her - he told me. I noticed them too, of course. Everybody noticed them. Endless legs and a skirt that was always just a little too short for the fashion- as if she cared. Her legs, I think were her finest feature although I will carry to my grave Anderson's description of that night - it was November 5th and there were fireworks exploding outside the windows - that night she first permitted him to drown his face in her scented breasts.
"Are you a leg man or a breast man?" "Prefer 'em with both," Anderson's father used to say. That passed for wit with the old bastard. Happily he was wealthy as well as unpleasant and, by fair means or foul, Anderson added to his inheritance.
He was feeling particularly flush when he met Julia, which is the main, perhaps the only, reason I have a story to tell about her. Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac, Kissinger said, but he was only half way there. You need money too. With money comes power and aphrodisia follows. Let's be honest. Let's be brutally honest.
To be brutally honest, Anderson was a spy. There is no other word for it. Naturally he was found out, or I wouldn't be telling you this but he fled to Russia before he could be arrested or shot or turned or whatever it is we do with spies these days. He lost everything, of course. Not the money, they couldn't touch that - -I understand there was even quite a lucrative book deal, serialised in the Sunday Times with the cash paid into an account in Maracaibo of all places - -but he lost everything else. It wrecked his mother's life. People flocked to her door the moment the whole thing blew up; first of all the Press, which she could bear quite well. She walked down to the lodge-house bearing trays of cakes and coffee laced with laxatives so that was alright.
But then there were the friends who came to make their public shows of solidarity and that was very hard. She couldn't stand people being nice. They never came again and all she was left with was Anderson's monthly telephone call over an impossibly crackly line from his appalling flat in Moscow.
Even if he got through, he was usually too smashed to make any kind of sense, and they simply wept at each other for ten minutes until the operator cut them off for another four weeks. He never saw her alive again. She could have visited in Moscow, of course, but she never would and I doubt if Anderson would have wanted it.
And then the wall came down. I don't know how he bore it, I really don't. I never admired anything so much as the way he carried himself in those days, facing that hideous, double betrayal. He had given them everything, turned his back on his class and his country -- for what that was worth -- for the things he believed in, not for the money, it had nothing to do with the money, and then the Commies crumbled. It turned out they were just like the rest of us and cared rather more about dishwashers and personal stereos than about the dialectic of the proletariat. Poor old Anderson: General rank in the KGB and a monthly pension that wouldn't even buy him dinner in a decent restaurant. He sent his medals back to Spinks for auction and they made quite a stir, after all, it's not often you find a CBE alongside the Order of Lenin.
After '89, Anderson moved to Ankara, sometimes Cuba, for the sake of nostalgia more than anything else. I believe he missed the hunted feel, the paranoia of the old days. Habana still has that. Anybody with just a little money should try to spend their declining years in a third world economy, you know.
Anderson still had access to his accounts and the money he got from renting out his mother' s place was quite adequate for his needs. In Habana you can rent a rotting colonial house for £300 a year. No air-conditioning, practically no furniture but a certain faded grandeur and they'll generally throw in a teenage Latin beauty with the lease - boy or girl, name your poison, take your pick.
It's the same in Ankara. Very friendly people the Turks, eager to please, glad to be of service, unwilling to pry, not intrusively religious and remarkably sexually tolerant. So, with a modest income, a Panama hat, one decent blazer and a selection of linen suits, each with its own, unique, pattern of Angoustura spotting the lapels, one can live quite well. One can become the mysterious Ingelese -- whether one is English or not. They don't care to understand the difference and Anderson did not care to enlighten them. On Burns Night he would host a lavish dinner for his neighbours and rant unintelligible poetry at them - most of it made up on the spot. And then, at New Year, he would put on his Lennox Highlanders tie, get blind drunk and laugh and rage and sob. Why should it be different from any other night? What should he explain?
It was while he was in Ankara that he met Julia. Our man out there, I forget his name, Farquharson, Ferguson, something like that, he'd been in the regiment too. He recognised the tie in the Sunday Times article "The Spy Who Can't Help Growing Old" or some such clever-clever pun, and he did a bit of research and he sent the car round, which was good of him. I'm not sure that an invitation to drinks at the Embassy for HMQ's birthday was exactly the thing given the circumstances. I mean, what with Anderson's offence and so on.
But maybe that's why Farquharson or Ferguson or whatever his name is was stuck out in Ankara and not some more salubrious berth. Last I heard he was in Quito; bloody long way from Washington or Paris.
Anyway, Anderson smelled a rat, of course. After all, the Embassy is pretty much native soil and one of those large chaps they have around the place with the short hair cuts and the humourless aspects could, quite easily have bashed him on the head and chucked him in the next diplomatic bag headed for Heathrow. Handcuffs round the wrists, Elastoplast across the chops, next stop the shower block at Wormwood Scrubs and a rub-down with some rough old blagger intent on widening the circle of his friends.
In spite of all that, he went. In fact, to be quite truthful, I think he might have gone precisely because of that. Didn't care. I've known Johnny Fox do just exactly the same thing. Chase him all day, he runs the legs off the hounds and then, at the end of it, he just turns round in the middle of a field and stops as if to say: "Sod this for a game of soldiers, I give up!"
I believe Anderson felt that way. Life was pretty pointless for him at the time, nothing to do, living off the rent from Strathfinnan House and what his dad had left him, that and occasional articles in the papers. I suggested he might like to try his hand at a spy novel but he just laughed at that. In some ways I think the invitation to the embassy merely added to his woes. It forced him to realise how little anybody really cared.
Oh, he was still blackballed from the club and almost everybody would have cut him in the street but the powers that be couldn't give a damn, really. That heavy hand on the shoulder, the truncheon in the kidneys, the reassuringly gruff, "Now why don' t you come along with me, there's a nice gentleman", the punishment he knew he deserved--it was never going to come. No public humiliation, no courageous suffering of the consequences, no expiation of past crimes, only quietly ignored guilt for the rest of his miserable, lonely life.
And then he met Julia.
She was on the embassy staff, monitoring Russian broadcasts - yes, we still do that sort of thing - although, naturally she never discussed it with Anderson. Not at that stage. He was lurking around the edges of the party, feigning fascination with the pictures on the wall, wondering how soon he might decently scurry for the door when she walked up to him.
I watched it all from the other side of the room. Even the smell of her must have been enough to knock him witless, but that dress, shimmering, floating, backless - practically frontless - and those legs, those legs. I can picture her smiling, those lips, those teeth, those eyes and Anderson stammering and shambling and repeatedly shooting his cuffs and combing down his hair. He was smitten.
So they talked, or she talked and, at the end of it all she reached inside his blazer and took out a pen and wrote her number on his wrist as if he was a prisoner in a concentration camp. He had about as much chance of escape.
It took him three days to call. Now, I'd say that's too long. If a woman like Julia gives you her number, you don't mess about, you call. It's what she wants and you should be bloody grateful. Three days is too long. But she spoke to him and eventually persuaded him that he had asked her out for drinks and then for a drive in the country and then for dinner and, little by little, they built up a sort of routine and they became an item. That was June. Gradually Julia got him cleaned up. She made him stop smoking and she got rid of that hideous cheap vodka he'd got used to in Moscow. He lost that flabby, wet-eyed, florid look, started to pull himself together a bit.
But it was over five months before she let him. Well, it was over five months.
He couldn't stop talking about it. It was the first time since he skipped the country that he'd had a woman without paying. Not that there's anything wrong with paying for it. Business transaction. Perfectly straightforward. But it obviously made a big impression. Not long afterwards he announced they were to be married.
Julia had already lost her job at the embassy. She couldn't be with Anderson and still have access to all the Russian traffic but it didn't make any difference. He had enough coming in for them both.
I remember the ceremony in that Orthodox church near the cafe we all used. Both of them crowned with golden crowns like a king and a queen. Julia glowed. She made him buy a new suit but it didn't fit. Poor old Anderson, nothing would have made him look good. But he wore the tie, which was nice.
And after that, he took her off on honeymoon. They went to someplace in what used to be Yugoslavia. Well, it's been a while since they were cutting each other's throats. Even so, it's still quiet there and relatively lawless. Not at all the sort of place where anybody worries too much about spying offences from 20 years ago.
Apparently they were on an island with a little port, small fishing smacks, that sort of thing. All very Adriatic and comfortable. They could have taken the ferry over to Venice if they had a mind.
And one day, as they were driving about, Anderson turned to Julia and said: "I remember this place", and he turned off the road into one of those little whitewashed villages they have on the postcards.
They got out of the car and sat on a wall beside the town bus stop. Figs were growing wild all along the side of the road, dropping into the street and being ignored.
They made great dark splodges where they had been crushed underfoot and Anderson pulled them from the overhanging branches and fed them to Julia, staining her mouth with their sweet juice.
At the end of the road they found the track leading to the Hotel Konstantin. I suppose he had hoped it would still be open and he might have bought her coffee and cakes and danced with her on the terrace but the place was a ghost of itself.
Anderson wandered off, reminiscing, I suppose, and he was standing by the pool with its carpet of leaves when Julia clicked up behind him on her high heels. Without even breaking her stride, she pushed him in and he crashed through the top layer of rubbish into depths of stinking water. There was a kind of tidal wave of debris that sloshed out to the edge of the pool and then he came up, gasping for air. Anderson paddled about for a bit, catching his breath and then he struck out for the ladder at the side, swearing like a trooper.
But Julia got there before him and she pushed the ladder in. He raged at her again: "You stupid bitch! What the bloody hell do you think you're doing?'' And he reached up to grab the tiles at the side of the pool and haul himself out.
Julia was too quick for him. She took off her shoe and used the pointed heel like a hammer, driving it down on his thumb nail.
The pain must have been unbearable and Anderson let go in a hurry.
The water closed over him again. This time, when he came up, his face was streaked with mud and leaves. He looked right at her and he didn't say anything. For the first time in his whole life, I think Anderson suddenly understood what "betrayal'' meant. For a minute or two he treaded water, then he give a great sob, held his arms up, over his head, and sank.
When the leaves and muck had closed over the spot again, Julia went to raise the alarm.
And that's why I'm here now, in Strathfinnan, in his house, looking down his glen at his deer, through the rain on his windows with the beautiful woman who was, briefly, his wife and his heir. Anderson didn't deserve any of this. The man was a traitor.
Potentially, might be ...