Chapter 1 Summary
In Berlin, circa 1955, Leonard Marnham, a mild-mannered British postal technician, sits in a meeting with Lieutenant Lofting, a blustery, stiff-upper-lip British officer. The two men spend most of their time together complaining about the Americans. It becomes clear that Leonard is going to figure in some kind of intelligence operation, but Lofting does not (or is not at liberty to) explain what it is. Lofting mentions that his superior, Sheldrake, has handed over the majority of this operation to the Americans; as a result, Leonard has been handed over as well. Leonard has no experience in espionage; he is a simple man who still lives with his parents. This makes him all the more bewildered to find himself in Berlin dealing with American and British agents. At the end of his meeting with Lofting, Leonard is told to return to his flat and await contact from the Americans.
When he arrives at his quarters, he soon receives a phone call from an American who identifies himself as Bob Glass. Glass gruffly gives Leonard an address and tells him to meet him there at 8 o'clock the next morning. Alone in a foreign city, Leonard goes to a local watering hole and indulges in a few drinks. A group of old German men, already well on their way drink-wise, boast to each other loudly at the next table. Leonard eavesdrops, attempting to test his German, and finds he understands more the longer he listens. When the men invite him to drink with them, he politely declines and returns to his flat.
In the morning, Leonard fusses over his clothing, wanting to dress appropriately without seeming like a fish out of water. He settles on a modest suit and heads out to meet Bob Glass at the appointed location. Glass’s office, which doubles as his living quarters, is in complete disarray. He is a burly, hirsute man, and he quickly throws together some instant coffee to share with Leonard. He then bluntly quizzes Leonard about what he knows, which is very little: he is supposed to conduct some tests using equipment, but he does not know the nature of the work. In a reversal of Lofting’s critique of the Americans, Glass criticizes the British for their handling of the situation thus far and notes that Berlin is crawling with freelance operatives. He then receives a phone call that summons the two of them to a place known as Altglienicke, or the warehouse.
(The entire section is 411 words.)
Chapter 2 Summary
On the way to the warehouse, Glass quizzes Leonard about the specifics of his life and background. Leonard reveals that he has never been married nor had the opportunity. Glass asks him whether he is gay or straight; when Leonard tells him he likes girls, Glass informs him, without asking for his input, that they will go out that evening and pick up some women. Leonard is surprised by Glass’s matter-of-fact manner and lack of people skills, but ascribes it to his being American.
As they approach the warehouse, Glass details the different levels of clearance and how they operate at all times. He explains that the warehouse was built for covert surveillance, but the workers who built the facility did not know that; they actually thought they were building a warehouse. Leonard has level 2 clearance, meaning he has some knowledge about the operation, but not as much as Glass, who is at level 3. When they arrive at the gate, the security guards ask their business. When Leonard begins to present the letter detailing his assignment, Glass brushes him aside. He explains to the guards that he will have to go inside to get permission to take Leonard in with him. When the guards are away, Glass chides Leonard for not understanding clearance. The security guards do not know anything about what goes on in the warehouse and therefore should not be privy to the information in Leonard’s letter.
When Glass heads inside, Leonard watches a couple of workers come out and throw a football around while they are on a break. After a long wait, Glass returns and takes Leonard inside to show him around. One of the primary projects in the hanger is the digging of a large tunnel. The purpose of the tunnel is to tap into Soviet landlines and monitor their correspondence. The lines are not far away, but a German graveyard stands between them and the warehouse. Wary of a potential international incident in the likely event that the Germans discover that the Americans disturbed the final resting places of hundreds of citizens, the Americans decide to tunnel around the graveyard. This complicates the tunneling project, particularly when workers steer into their own septic field and must stem a jet of American sewage.
Glass shows Leonard his working quarters and explains that he will begin testing hundreds of recording devices that will eventually be used in the wiretapping. Glass makes it clear that Leonard is never to take his work home...
(The entire section is 487 words.)
Chapter 3 Summary
Leonard excitedly awaits his evening out with Glass, feeling very optimistic. He recalls Glass’s assertion that the city is full of people doing espionage work and feels proud to have a place among them. Feeling more settled, he sits down to begin a shopping list and, in doing so, plans his day-to-day schedule. As he makes the list, Leonard begins to see it as a reflection of himself. In a way, the things he plans to buy at the store are indicative of the new idea of himself that he is trying to create in Germany. His work gives Leonard a sense of sureness that he equates with manliness. To help him when he gets to the supermarket, Leonard uses a German dictionary to find the German words for the items he wishes to buy. Since he plans to take most of his meals out (the canteen at work serves food), his list is very simple. List in hand, Leonard makes his way to the store, marveling at the still-potent reminders of World War II in the partially destroyed buildings. In many cases, the bombed-out buildings remain standing and even have business on the ground floor (if it is intact). In many cases, buildings are missing entire walls, and the bombing has often left their plumbing exposed to the elements. Along the way home from the store, Leonard stops for some food and coffee.
When he arrives at his building, he passes two painters in the stairwell. They all mutter their German greetings, and Leonard makes his way to his apartment. Before heading into his apartment, Leonard hears the two men speaking English with near-perfect diction and pronunciation. He calls down to them and decides to head down for some chit-chat. The men ask Leonard about his work, affording him the first opportunity to test out his fake back story. They try to get him to admit his military involvement, but Leonard simply defers. The men talk to Leonard about the extreme hostility between the Germans and the Russians. The men explain that during the war, countless women were raped and brutalized by the Russians. After a while, it becomes clear that the men need to work, so Leonard excuses himself to get ready for his evening out with Glass. Without intending to, Leonard naps for a long time until it is nearly time for Glass to pick him up.
(The entire section is 401 words.)
Chapter 4 Summary
Leonard awakens and hastily prepares himself for his evening out with Glass. When he heads downstairs to meet him, he is surprised to find another gentleman in Glass’s tiny car. The man introduces himself as Russell, and the three set off for a bar. During the car ride, Russell garrulously relates whatever sights they happen to pass. They finally arrive at the bar and begin ordering rounds of beers and champagne, the latter of which Leonard feels is of very poor quality. Russell and especially Glass dominate the conversation, with Leonard not wanting to voice opinions without knowing how they will be received. The other two spend the first few rounds grumbling about Germany and the poor quality of life. They wonder how long East Germany can last, assuming it will depend on the backing of the Soviets. They then turn to talking about the Russians and how they have always been untrustworthy. Noting the late war years, they remember that even when the Russians were supposed to be allies, they were cold, unfriendly, and suspicious. They lament that it took more than a year for them to realize the Russians were spying on them.
Depressed by the West German bar and reasonably intoxicated, the men pile back into Glass’s car and cross the border into East Germany. They arrive at a new bar with a somewhat livelier milieu. Onstage, a German chanteuse sings American standards with a thick accent, entertaining a lively crowd. At their table, the men drink more, and Russell offers Leonard a flower, which he promptly puts behind his ear. Glass philosophizes about the necessity of espionage and how it relates to language. He insists that cavemen had larger brains but no language because everything they needed was evident to all of them. Only when they became individuals and went off on their own did language become necessary; the language was necessary because of the secrets. Glass thinks the work that they do is part of what makes them individuals.
One of the unique features of the bar is a pneumatic system that allows patrons to send messages from one table to another in small canisters (not unlike a contemporary bank drive-through). When a message arrives at the table, the men are ecstatic. The message is for Leonard (it is addressed to the man with the flower in his ear), and it is a request for a dance. Russell and Glass blather at Leonard to prepare him for his romantic encounter and send him across the room. When he arrives at...
(The entire section is 436 words.)
Chapter 5 Summary
Leonard awakens the next morning with a terrible hangover, but still thinking of Maria. He spent more than an hour and a half at her table learning more about her. Although she had asked for a dance, Leonard was feeling somewhat queasy from the mixture of liquors he had ingested and asked to sit down first. He learned that Maria was a divorcee with an abusive ex-husband, whose marriage had alienated her from her family. At the end of the conversation, Maria writes down her address on a piece of cardboard, which Leonard now clutches as he sits on public transit on his way to work.
When he first arrives at work, he still feels somewhat drunk and uneasy, but he makes his way to the room of machines where he is to begin his work. Glass meets him there with a large knife and explains what is expected of him: he is to open the boxes, remove the machines, label them, and put them on the shelf. Glass makes it clear that Leonard should do ten at a time because the rubbish of boxes and packing material that will accumulate is considerable. After each ten, Leonard must take the boxes to the incinerator and burn them; he cannot leave until every piece is burned to ash because the boxes contain serial numbers that Glass does not want the Germans to get. During this explanation, Leonard tries repeatedly to thank Glass for the previous night’s outing, but Glass ignores him because another worker is present. When the worker leaves, Glass chastises Leonard for being so careless and lays out an elaborate scenario in which the worker might overhear something, relay it to a friend at a bar, and accidentally reveal to a German their covert operations. Chastened, but also somewhat exasperated by what he perceives as an excess of theatrics on Glass’s part, Leonard gets to work.
The process takes much longer than anticipated, but Glass insists that Leonard complete the job in a week. As a result, Leonard must work fifteen-hour days that do not leave him any time to visit or write to Maria. When the task is finally complete, the infatuated Leonard sits down to write a letter to his new love interest. Worried about the turnaround time for the post, he decides to deliver it personally. He decides to arrange a time and place for them to meet, but accidentally selects a bar with prostitutes in it. Nervous about changing the note and unsure what to do, Leonard goes to Maria’s house and drops the note through the mail slot. In an...
(The entire section is 462 words.)
Chapter 6 Summary
Leonard is initially unsure what to do. Maria seems shocked even though she clearly recognizes Leonard, and she draws back in fear. It occurs to Leonard that Maria has had men barge into her home before and brutalize her. He picks up the note and hands it to her, hoping it will explain his boldness in walking into her home unannounced. She reads the note and is mildly horrified by the bar he chose as a meeting place (she, too, knows that it is for prostitutes). She abruptly begins chit-chatting with Leonard flirtatiously, and closes the door behind him. She invites him to tea and he takes in his surroundings as she converses from the next room. The home is remarkably spare, and Leonard realizes its lack of furnishings allows for the possibility of fleeing quickly should the need arise.
When Maria brings the tea, Leonard is initially at a loss for words. He cannot declare his infatuation with her, but worries that generic small talk will kill the conversation and any potential for romance. Despite this, he begins stumbling through generalities when Maria unexpectedly asks him to take off his glasses. When he does, she admires his eyes and asks how many girlfriends he has had. When he admits he has never had a girlfriend in all of his twenty-five years, she asks him if he is a virgin. He surprises himself by honestly responding that he is. She laughs out of relief. She has known so many men who have been physically abusive and is comforted to know that Leonard will not harm her. He does not realize this and thinks she is making fun of his lack of experience. When he tries to leave, she stops him at the door and asks to see his eyes. Eventually, she takes him back to her bedroom and they begin a long afternoon and evening of making love.
In their postcoital embrace, they talk about their pasts, and Maria reveals more about her abusive ex-husband. Her family tried to warn her about him, but she would not listen. He returns periodically to beat her and extort money from her. Leonard and Maria eat together in bed, drink wine, and make love some more. Leonard marvels at his first sexual experience and the ways in which it altered his expectations. As he makes love to Maria, he worries about prematurely ejaculating, not from the physical sensations but from the look in Maria’s eyes, which curiously reminds him of a mechanical diagram.
(The entire section is 421 words.)
Chapter 7 Summary
Leonard keeps working assiduously at the warehouse, and eventually all of the machines are unpacked. His next responsibility is repairing the recorders before they get taken to a recording room in preparation for the line tapping. As Leonard completes this phase of his work, he finds himself pulling back from the people around him. He eats in isolation and stays in his workroom for most of the day. Over lunch, he frequently hears other workers, often Americans, telling stories of other espionage work they have done. He marvels at their openness and occasionally hears the name of certain individuals mentioned more than once. Since he stays alone most of the time, Leonard has become adept at eavesdropping. Glass checks on him periodically but is busy and rarely stays long. When the machine repairs have been completed, Leonard begins working on some wiring with a taciturn German man named Rudi.
One day, as he and Rudi are finishing a stage of their work, a man walks into the room and introduces himself as John MacNamee. MacNamee is a British scientist with few teeth and a noticeable lisp. He informs Leonard that his next assignment will have him in the tunnel that is now nearing the lines that the British and Americans need to tap. As they close in on the lines, specialists in vertical digging have been brought in to ensure that the tunnel does not collapse as it heads up to the Russian lines. MacNamee takes Leonard into the opening of the tunnel and asks what kind of clearance Leonard has. When Leonard responds that he is now level 3, MacNamee indicates that he may get upgraded to 4. At the end of the tunnel, MacNamee leads Leonard through the door into a cement room; Leonard is impressed that the workers have been able to build this structure underground. At the opposite end of the room, another door opens into the still-unfinished vertical tunnel. In the alcove beneath the vertical tunnel, the noises from the street above are overwhelming. Leonard and the other workers are encouraged to keep quiet in all parts of the tunnel to avoid being overheard. Both the Americans and the British worry that the Russians will find their access tunnel while doing routine repairs on their lines.
When Leonard asks why they are going to such great lengths to tap into lines whose encoded messages would be nearly impossible to decode. MacNamee explains that the Americans developed technology that allows them to read the uncoded message beneath...
(The entire section is 495 words.)
Chapter 8 Summary
Leonard’s sexual initiation causes an abrupt change in his hygienic habits. Normally a very clean, orderly man, Leonard goes a full work week without bathing. Instead of going home, he goes to Maria’s flat and has no toiletries or change of clothes. His stubble begins to grow in (which Glass notices in passing), and he smells of sex, food, sweat, and other unidentifiable odors. Only at the end of the work week does Leonard return home to clean up and pack an overnight bag to take with him back to Maria’s apartment.
Maria is incredibly patient with Leonard as he learns how to make love to a woman. He is fascinated by her body and spends hours under the covers in her room exploring every part of it, including her feet and stomach. Maria teaches him how to be a sensitive lover and bring the woman to orgasm first, which Leonard readily agrees to. Since Maria’s apartment is so cold, they spend most of their time in her room and in her bed, even taking their meals there.
As their affair continues, Leonard finds himself occupied by curious thoughts while having sex with Maria. He finds himself increasingly focused on her German-ness and the knowledge that he has been raised to view Germans as the enemy. He begins to fantasize about their lovemaking as a kind of conquering; he finds himself excited by the idea of conquering her. He occasionally bites or spanks her, and periodically restrains her hands. He is initially disturbed by these thoughts and impulses, but realizes that Maria cannot see into his mind. She does not seem to notice the change in his behavior.
As these thoughts consume Leonard, he finds fantasizing about them insufficient. He wants to act them out and feels certain that Maria will find them arousing. He is hesitant to bring them up in conversation and feels that asking her permission would ruin the fantasy. One night, after a trip to the movies, Leonard decides to enact the fantasy, assuming Maria will be swept away by it without his having to explain. When she tiredly tries to go to bed, he begins ordering her to undress. She resists, and he begins pulling her clothes off. The struggle escalates and the two wind up on the floor wrestling. Maria is haunted by a memory from the war in which a Russian soldier forced himself on a woman who had been shot in the legs; a superior officer apprehended him, took him outside, and shot him in the back of the head. Only when Maria begins crying does...
(The entire section is 481 words.)
Chapter 9 Summary
Despite his longing for Maria, Leonard finds his attention taken back to his increasingly detailed work responsibilities. Soon after Maria’s departure, the team at the warehouse is ready to install the taps. In the cramped, humid vertical tunnel leading up to the cables, Leonard watches the initial stages of the tapping along with MacNamee, several technicians, and an unidentified American. MacNamee oversees the operation, knowing that this is the most delicate part of their plan. Throughout the procedure, MacNamee stays on a phone line that connects to agents posted on the roof, whose responsibility is to monitor the street beneath which the tunnel has been dug. Throughout the entire tunneling process, these agents have periodically brought work to a halt if police or other officials are too close to the site. Leonard understands the concern. The cables are no more than six feet beneath the street.
As the cable is opened, the men all suck on hard candies or sip liquid to combat the mounting pressure in the room. The wires inside the cable casing are carefully washed and dried before being stripped. The placing of the taps is very delicate because the Germans regularly monitor their lines for any break in the connection (which a tap could potentially cause). When the long, drawn-out procedure is finally done, Leonard tries to enjoy the success of their efforts, but finds his thoughts drawn back to Maria.
Leonard sat outside her door for two nights without seeing her, bringing chocolates and flowers as a means of apology. In the present moment, Leonard cannot fathom why he thought his actions were not only acceptable but something that Maria would secretly want. This guilt is compounded when Glass takes him aside to ask him about his romance with Maria. Several other workers have spotted him with her, and initially Glass congratulates him on his sexual gamesmanship. Leonard quickly realizes that Glass wants to know whether Leonard leaked any information to her; he tells Leonard that it is suspicious that a German woman initiated a romance with a British operative only to dump him and vanish just as the project is coming to fruition. Leonard is incensed and voices his displeasure loudly. Glass warns him that other workers and higher-ups are listening to them, and he advises Leonard not to make himself conspicuous. To ameliorate the situation, Glass tells Leonard to act as if they were joking together, and the two retreat to...
(The entire section is 441 words.)
Chapter 10 Summary
As the wiretapping and recording continue, Leonard pines after Maria. He stops at her flat every night and always finds her absent. Her downstairs neighbor, who previously regarded Leonard with suspicion and anger, now finds Leonard pathetic. After the first few days, he gives up on the idea of leaving presents or letters. He knows that he will eventually have to find Maria and try to ask for her forgiveness. He recognizes that the timing of the apology (as well as the location) will play an important role in his success at getting Maria’s forgiveness. If he approaches her after work, out on the street, she will have too many opportunities to escape or brush him aside. In order for him to successfully apologize to Maria, Leonard will need several hours alone with her.
Back at his own flat, Leonard meets his own new neighbor, George Blake. Leonard sees George in passing, but learns Blake’s name only when the man strikes up a conversation with Leonard. Blake is Leonard’s downstairs neighbor, and he complains subtly about the noise Leonard makes walking around the house. At work, the taps are running and the machines Leonard repaired are successfully recording the conversations. Since the tunneling and other setup is done, many of the workers have departed the warehouse. Leonard finds the place emptier and often eats alone in the canteen.
During this time, Leonard initially tries to avoid Glass, fearing what news he will bring of Maria. Knowing that Glass is researching her background (and suspicious of her as a spy), Leonard worries that Glass’s surveillance will render Maria even angrier. Although Leonard initially dodges Glass, he eventually starts to find reasons to go past his office. Leonard is concerned that Glass will bring in Maria for interrogation. By the time the warm weather arrives, in late spring, many of the men have taken to playing baseball during the many breaks afforded by the lack of work. Leonard does not participate, as he finds himself ill suited to the spot. One day, MacNamee shows up outside and begins to walk with Leonard to find out whether he has any new information. Leonard, despite snooping in Glass’s office and five others, has not found anything of use to the British officer. He senses that MacNamee is disappointed by Leonard’s lack of results, even though he explains that he could not ask the other workers too many questions without drawing suspicion.
(The entire section is 413 words.)
Chapter 11 Summary
After having abandoned hope of finding Maria at her place, Leonard is flabbergasted to find her waiting on the landing to his apartment one evening. Leonard’s natural awkwardness stymies him as he tries to come up with things to say. At first he can only utter her name quietly. Maria’s body language is very closed off, and it is clear she has not made up her mind yet about forgiving him. Finally, Leonard breaks the awkward silence by apologizing. In the middle of his apology, the lights on the landing go out. Leonard remembers that they operate on a timer and stay on for only ninety seconds at a time.
In the dark, he tries to find Maria. He decides that if he can just hold her and perhaps kiss her, she will remember who he was before he attacked her. His eyes do not quite adjust to the light, and he has difficulty locating her. In desperation, she raises her voice and begs him in German to turn on the light. When he moves again to embrace her, she screams at the top of her lungs. A loud commotion is heard from the floor below, and George Blake comes bounding up the stars as Leonard turns the lights back on. He demands an explanation, but refuses to let Leonard speak. He then places himself between Leonard and Maria, speaking to her in German to try to find out if she is safe. Maria apologizes for screaming, stating that they simply had a disagreement. She asks Leonard to let her into the apartment and goes into the bathroom. Blake is skeptical of Leonard and tells him that he thought Maria was about to be raped. The accuracy of Blake’s intuition stings Leonard, but he insists it was simply a misunderstanding. The disbelieving Blake returns to his flat and stops speaking to Leonard in the future.
In the bathroom, Maria admonishes herself for being so frightened. She knows Leonard did not mean to harm her, but the old associations of violence came flooding back when the lights went off. Outside, Leonard is chastising himself for frightening her. In his mind, the dark of the landing reminded him of the darkness beneath the covers in her flat, where they had discovered so much about each other. When she finally comes out of the bathroom, she refuses to sit and waits for him to talk. He apologizes repeatedly and understands that she may never forgive him (nor would he blame her if she did not). He finally falls into an exhausted silence, certain he has lost her forever; he looks up to see Maria coming toward him.
(The entire section is 447 words.)
Chapter 12 Summary
At work, Leonard finds himself passing by Glass’s office. The door is open, and the American quickly motions for Leonard to come in. With his usual intense energy, Glass magnanimously informs Leonard that Maria has passed all of the security checks. Glass goes on about Maria’s beauty and how several other officers find her attractive, all of which irks Leonard. As Glass relays the story of her security evaluation, Leonard pretends to hear all of this for the first time. In reality, Maria had told him all about the process, which had already stoked his anger. Leonard reminds Glass that he told him at the beginning that Maria knew nothing and represented no threat to the operation. Despite this, Glass reaffirms the necessity of checking her thoroughly.
Maria was interviewed three times, and by the end of the last interview, Glass and his team were certain she was clear. Despite Leonard’s disapproval of the process, Glass knows that if his superiors were to find out about Leonard and Maria’s relationship, Glass would be accountable for not investigating it. Glass relates the story: he explained to Maria how much time and effort went into checking her out. He also extolled Leonard as a genius who is integral to the project and insisted that she return to Leonard because he is such a catch. When Leonard confirms that Maria came back to him, Glass congratulates himself as much as Leonard for her return.
Glass also reveals during this interview that he understands the nature of Maria and Leonard’s confrontation. Maria explained to Glass that Leonard had treated her roughly, leading to her departure. Glass knows that it was not merely an altercation and that Maria fled out of genuine fear of Leonard. Glass finds great amusement in the seeming discrepancy between Leonard’s mild-mannered British appearance and the animalistic nature of his assault on Maria. His almost envious tone nearly forces Leonard to lose his cool as he tries desperately to seem impassive. Despite his anger, Leonard feels ashamed about what he did to Maria and about Glass’s knowing about it. It occurs to him that Glass has a certain amount of intimate knowledge of Leonard and Maria, and Leonard is uncomfortable with it. He tries to explain himself, but Glass seems oblivious to his declarations of his attachment to Maria. As they depart the office, Glass once again remarks on Maria’s physical beauty and attempts to imitate a Cockney accent and a...
(The entire section is 429 words.)
Chapter 13 Summary
Maria and Leonard restart their relationship on new terms, trying to do everything to erase the shadow of Leonard’s violence. The often go out to clubs, and have taken to listening to American rock and roll as well as rhythm and blues; they are particularly fond of Fats Domino. They split their time between Leonard’s apartment and Maria’s. Sometimes, they go out of town for the weekends; other times, they stay in and read. Although they do not discuss the idea out loud, marriage is clearly on both of their minds. Leonard occasionally catches Maria slowing down as they pass a jewelry shop window. Their renewed dating is blissful, and Leonard marvels at his good fortune. He also notes that it is different from their first courtship, which was marked by intense passion. Leonard believes it was that passion that led to his disturbed fantasies and attack on Maria. Their second courtship is more mundane, but the normalcy of it seems to comfort them both and allows them to feel like they have started over.
At work, Glass takes him aside and admonishes him for his close association with MacNamee. Glass informs Leonard that MacNamee nearly compromised the operation by his lack of attention to detail. The tapping equipment is putting out more heat than expected, in part due to MacNamee’s shoddy calculations. The threat is that if the heat rises to the street and melts the ice, it will draw the attention of the police. Glass extrapolates his anger to the British in general, noting that Americans are much more thorough in their planning and calculations. Leonard takes offense to this and reminds Glass that the British were indispensable during World War II. Glass seems surprised that Leonard is taking his comments so personally. Glass insists that the war was England’s time, and this period is now the Americans’ time. A miffed Leonard returns to work, and his duties keep him at the warehouse later than usual.
When Leonard arrives at Maria’s flat later that evening, he senses something is amiss and runs upstairs to find her. She is sitting alone on the bed turned away from him; her face is badly bruised, cut, and swollen. Otto had come to visit today and beat her savagely. She begs Leonard not to look at her, but he holds her and attempts to comfort her. He is horrified to think of his own violence against Maria.
(The entire section is 411 words.)
Chapter 14 Summary
Leonard goes home to England at Christmas for the first time since moving to Berlin. He tries to convince Maria to come with him, but she insists that his parents will be less than impressed with a divorcee from Germany. Before he heads off, Leonard gets a Christmas gift from Glass—a high-end ballpoint pen. When Leonard arrives home, he soon realizes that Maria’s assumptions were correct. His parents barely register anything he tells them about Maria as if she didn’t even exist. Coming home, Leonard realizes he has grown up a lot during the past year abroad, but his parents still see him as an overgrown child. His mother fusses over him and his father tells him what to do as if he were still a teenager. He is soon stiflingly bored and aching to go back to Maria as well as the warehouse. He is surprised by how much he likes his work and misses it on holiday. He writes to Maria every day and cannot wait to return home to her.
In the period following Otto’s attack, Leonard and Maria alter their schedule to avoid another run-in with Otto. The two begin spending more time at Leonard’s flat than Maria’s apartment. In addition, when they do meet at Maria’s flat, Leonard makes sure to get there first. When they go out, they tend to choose out-of-the-way places and sit in secluded booths. Although it is not explicitly stated, Leonard knows that they are making these changes because of Otto. Although it is not rational, he is angry at Maria for having married him.
Maria met Otto just after the war; she assumes he served from about 1939 to 1946. When pressed by Leonard to explain their union, Maria can only say that Otto found her at a particularly low point in her life. She was on the outs with her parents, and thus more susceptible to Otto’s charms (which were more prevalent before alcoholism consumed him). During a walk, Leonard ponders his feelings for Maria, noting that she comes with baggage. Leonard is also haunted by another nagging feeling: a lingering worry about Glass and Maria. Glass’s interrogation of Maria to clear her was lengthy, and occasionally stories of the interrogation from Maria differ from the accounts Glass gives. Although it is hard to think of Glass as a friend in the traditional sense, Leonard realizes that aside from Maria, Glass is the person to whom he is closest.
(The entire section is 418 words.)
Chapter 15 Summary
The jive craze seduces Leonard and Maria just as they get engaged. Initially they had been skeptical, but with the explosion of rhythm and blues–based rock and roll, they soon are captivated and begin learning the moves. They decided to celebrate their engagement with a party, even though Leonard does not know many people. He invites Glass and Russell from work, as well as Lofting, the British agent who had first consigned Leonard to work with the Americans at the warehouse; Leonard had run into him by chance and recognized that the man was lonely. Leonard also runs into his neighbor, George Blake, who has warmed somewhat since the silence that followed their encounter on the landing. Leonard invites him and his wife, and he is surprised when Blake accepts.
The day of the party, Leonard and Maria listen to some of their new rock-and-roll favorites while setting up for the arrival of their guests. The first to arrive are Russell and Lofting, soon followed by two of Maria’s friends from work, Jenny and Charlotte. Russell, ever on the make, insists that Leonard introduce him to the girls. Soon, Russell is talking up Jenny while Charlotte is making pained small talk with Lofting. Glass and the Blakes arrive, and Glass gives a lengthy speech in which he likens Maria and Leonard’s impending union to the hopes for relations between their respective countries in the future. Mr. Blake eyes Glass and asks Leonard privately how he knows him. When Leonard says that he works with him, Blake tells him that he knows Glass works in intelligence; by admitting they work together, Leonard is revealing his line of work. Blake warns him to be more careful about mixing social functions with work, especially this line of work.
As the party winds down, Lofting and Russell leave with Charlotte and Jenny, respectively, to go to the club. Glass bids farewell, and Leonard notices that Glass and Maria avoid all contact with each other. After everyone is gone, Maria rolls her eyes about Glass’s toast. They decide to make their way from Leonard’s flat to Maria’s, where she has prepared the place for the romantic portion of their engagement celebration. When they arrive, Leonard finds the place more pleasant than usual. They retreat to her bedroom and begin to make love. When Maria whispers in Leonard’s ear, he either does not hear her or cannot comprehend what she says. She tells him that someone is in the room with them, hiding in the...
(The entire section is 441 words.)
Chapter 16 Summary
Trying to remain calm, Leonard and Maria get out of bed and begin to get dressed in the dark. Leonard hums a rock-and-roll song in an attempt to disguise their awareness of the intruder. He suddenly turns on the light, but no one emerges from the wardrobe. Leonard quickly flings the door open to find Otto asleep in the bottom of the wardrobe. Concerned but less alarmed, he and Maria retreat to the living room to decide what to do next. Leonard wants to call the police, but Maria is not sure. The police have bought Otto’s story about being a war hero and sometimes pay for his drinks; Maria doubts they will take action against him. As they try to hash out what to do, they begin to fight with each other. Maria is angry with Leonard for not being more decisive and acting on his own instincts, instead of always waiting for Maria to decide. Leonard is upset with Maria for her attachment to Otto, and bringing him into their relationship. Leonard suggests that he might leave so that she and Otto could be alone, and Maria is rightly insulted. In the middle of their fight, a cigarette causes Maria’s skirt to catch fire. Initially, Leonard tries to douse her with wine to put out the fire, but that doesn’t work. Finally, he gets her skirt off of her and begins to stamp it out; he is relieved that her skirt has a lining, which prevented her from getting burned.
Their relief is short-lived, however, because they realize that their row has awoken Otto, who now stands in the doorway to the bedroom. Otto retreats to the bathroom to relieve himself and smashes the shelf above the toilet that Leonard installed for himself. Maria runs to the bedroom to dress herself while Leonard finishes putting out the fire. When Otto returns, Leonard continues to place himself between Otto and Maria. He orders Otto to leave, but must rely on Maria’s translations because Otto does not speak English. Soon, a shouting match between Otto and Maria erupts, and Leonard’s burgeoning German allows him to understand some of their insults. He also informs Maria that he is laying claim to her apartment because of a document in his possession that, while out of date, makes it look like his claim is valid. Suddenly, Otto bursts past Leonard and begins to choke Maria. Leonard attacks him and Otto turns his attentions on him. Leonard is surprised that a man as small as Otto possess such strength. Otto punches Leonard's collarbone and squeezes his testicles with excruciating...
(The entire section is 497 words.)
Chapter 17 Summary
In the aftermath of the attack, Leonard feels numb and exhausted, barely able to stay awake. Still, he knows that he and Maria must decide what to do with Otto. Leonard’s first instinct is to report it to the German police, but Maria again raises concerns about Otto’s ties to them. In addition to his lies about being a war hero, he may also have told them lies about his ex-wife and the Englishman she had taken up with. Leonard then proposes that they report it to the British police, whom he believes are more likely to be sympathetic to Leonard and his unusual circumstances. Maria knows that if they do that, the British will have to involve the Germans because of her. Leonard is having trouble concentrating because his testicles are throbbing. He insists that if he goes to a doctor right now and has them take photos of his wounds, it will prove that it was self-defense. Maria counters that the missing piece of Otto’s cheek does not look like self-defense. They cover Otto’s body with a sheet, and Leonard dozes briefly. He is awoken abruptly by Maria, who insists that he not leave the decisions to her.
As Leonard’s options shrink, he realizes that Maria has already come to a conclusion that she is waiting for him to realize: they must dispose of the body without reporting it to the police, despite the increased appearance of guilt if they get caught. Leonard proposes several half-baked schemes about dragging the body somewhere and leaving it, but Maria knows that there will be tons of witnesses. Eventually, they come to an understanding about how to deal with Otto. The next day, Leonard goes to work having barely slept; the bus driver has to awaken him when he falls asleep during his commute. He arrives at work and tries to behave as normally as possible. A note from Glass is waiting for him requesting a meeting. Disregarding it, Leonard heads down into the tunnel and pretends to be repairing some machines. He ensures the recorders are in working order and then finds two large suitcases belonging to the project. As inconspicuously as possible, he removes them from the tunnel and takes them home with him. Instead of returning to his own flat, he goes to Maria’s to finish dealing with Otto’s body. She is waiting for him, with knives, saws, and lots of newspaper.
(The entire section is 411 words.)
Chapter 18 Summary
The floor of the dining area is covered with newspaper, and Maria and Leonard move Otto to the table. As they move Otto, some fluid escapes from his body and falls onto Leonard’s pants. He is so sickened he nearly drops the body. He just makes it to the table and then runs to the bathroom to be sick. When he returns, Maria suggests wearing an apron, but he refuses. The saws and knives have all been laid out, and Maria has gotten a special kind of sealed wrapping paper. After he has removed Otto’s shoes and socks, Leonard begins to saw off one of the corpse’s feet. It is hard work at first, and Leonard has to fight his diminishing will. They had decided that working at the joints would be easiest, but in practice, that is not the case. When the foot is finally amputated, Maria wraps it in the sealed paper and fastens the ends with glue. She then places the parcel in one of the suitcases Leonard stole from the warehouse.
Once the dismemberment has begun, blood and fluids go everywhere, soaking the newspaper and getting all over Maria and Leonard. She suggests cleaning up, but Leonard says that it makes no sense to do so until they have completed the job. They continue their work, limb by limb, joint by joint. The head proves to be particularly easy to remove, leaving only the torso. Maria measures Otto’s torso using a dressmaker’s measuring tape and insists that it will not fit into the suitcase. Leonard wants to try to force it, but must accept that the torso needs to be sawn in half lengthwise. When he begins the cutting, the organs and other innards go everywhere. In addition, the back skin does not separate, so half of it goes cascading off the table. This proves too much for Leonard, who again goes to the bathroom and retches. This time, he insists on cleaning himself up before he returns to the work area. By the time he reenters, the last two parcels have been wrapped and placed in the suitcase. In addition, Maria has cleaned up much of the mess and bloody newspaper. The time has come for Leonard to remove the two suitcases and let Maria finish cleaning. They both sense how this has not only ruined their engagement party, but come between them. He cannot wait to leave, and she cannot wait for him to go. Without much of a good-bye, Leonard drags the two heavy suitcases out of her apartment to dispose of them.
(The entire section is 435 words.)
Chapter 19 Summary
Leonard is only vaguely aware that the next phase of his plan has not been properly thought out, but he is so exhausted that he can only press forward. He braces himself for the task ahead before leaving Maria’s building. The suitcases are unbearably heavy and he finds he can only walk in short bursts. He carries them for a few yards, rests, and continues. It occurs to him that he might draw attention to himself by the sheer weight of his luggage, so he tries to retain as cool a demeanor as possible. The suitcases are so heavy that they start to tear at the skin on his hands. In addition, the bearing of weight seems to further exacerbate the pain in his groin. During one break, he is approached by a woman walking a dog. The dog quickly picks up the scent in the suitcases and pulls the woman toward him. Anxious to be rid of the dog, he tries to scare off the woman. He explains that the cases are expensive and she will have to replace them if the dog destroys them. The dog continues to pull toward the cases, and the woman insists he must have wurst or some other kind of meat in his cases. He again threatens her, and she leaves in a huff with the dog still pulling in the direction of Leonard and his suitcases.
As he is nearing exhaustion, a taxi stops to pick him up and he readily accepts. He has to help the driver heave the cases into the taxi and insists they are books; the driver does not seem to care about their contents. He asks the driver to take him to Zoo Station, and then falls asleep in the back of the car. The driver rudely awakens him, and leaves Leonard and the suitcases at the station. Leonard soon makes his way toward the lockers. His plan is to lock the suitcases in a locker and leave them to be found at a much later date. When Leonard gets to the lockers, he finds that the suitcases are too big to fit. He considers trying to wrestle them into the lockers, but realizes he is beginning to draw the attention of the attendants. He hauls them back outside, unsure of what to do next. He finally hails another taxi and takes the suitcases back to his own flat. He sleeps heavily, having a nightmare about putting Otto back together so that he can cut Leonard up instead. In the morning, Leonard is heading out with the cases when he encounters Blake in the elevator. Blake notices their heft and guesses that he is taking them to the warehouse. Blake assures him he has clearance and asks Leonard what they are, so Leonard tells him...
(The entire section is 558 words.)
Chapter 20 Summary
On the drive to work, Glass chastises Leonard for his handling of the entertainment of an upcoming event being planned at the warehouse to celebrate the one-year anniversary of the project. Leonard had hired a bagpipe player using the full entertainment budget and Glass is certain that the workers will find the performance boring and dreary—particularly since it is a Scottish tradition, not English, German, or American. As Glass raves, Leonard can only half listen because he knows that when they arrive at the warehouse, the guards will want to inspect the contents of the suitcases. Sure enough, when they arrive, the guards look in his trunk and ask to view what’s inside the suitcases. They haul the heavy bags into the booth and unzip them. Glass can tell that the immaculately wrapped packages are not recording equipment, and Leonard is desperate to halt the proceedings. He stops the guards and takes Glass aside, telling him of the level 4 clearance MacNamee has given him. He insists that the contents are for MacNamee only and should not be seen by the guards. Glass stops the guards and has them call MacNamee’s office. When MacNamee hears that Leonard has something special for his eyes only, he does just what Leonard expects: he has his own men pick up the bags and take them down deep into the tunnel to await his inspection.
Leonard is relieved in the moment, but knows his plan will soon unravel. He takes a bus from the warehouse and eventually travels into East Berlin. He goes to a shady bar, where he is soon greeted by a sleazy man named Hans. Hans eventually reveals himself to be a man who has connections to buy and sell things. Leonard does not want the money, but insists he has government secrets to sell. When Hans talks to his connections, Leonard is offered two hundred marks in exchange for telling the Russians about the wiretapping project. Leonard leaves, disgusted with himself, and refuses to take any of the money from Hans. When he arrives home, he gets a phone call from Glass indicating that the Russians broke through the vertical hole to the wiretap. The warehouse team retreated to the part of the tunnel that marked the East/West border. Leonard pretends to be surprised about the events, but is genuinely shocked when Glass mentions the timing of the discovery. The Russians broke through right around the time Leonard was meeting with Hans, but Leonard cannot reconcile that impossibility without revealing what he did.
(The entire section is 426 words.)
Chapter 21 Summary
MacNamee requests a meeting to discuss the contents of the suitcases, which were on the Russian side of the tunnel and thus confiscated by the Germans. Leonard is able to extend his lie by explaining that he was working privately on some new decoding equipment designed to increase the clarity and effectiveness of the decoding. MacNamee accepts Leonard’s explanation acknowledging his disappointment with the discovery, even though the whole team knew it could happen at any time. He informs Leonard that he is being called back by the British and will be leaving Germany soon.
When Leonard arrives at Maria’s flat that night, he is surprised to discover Glass there. Glass insists that his visit is simply procedural—since there was a security breach, they have to interview any Germans or other people associated with warehouse workers who might have given over the information. Glass quickly leaves after this explanation, and Leonard tries to find out more from Maria, who simply corroborates Glass’s story. Leonard’s old distrust of Glass’s interest in Maria resurfaces, and he asks whether she has seen Glass at any other time. Maria knows he is being jealous and tries to placate him. He tells her that he is being called back to England, and wonders if the separation might do them some good. Maria explains that she will need to give her job at least a month’s notice before she can be with him in England. She keeps emphatically telling Leonard that everything will be fine, but he is irritated by her presumption. He feels greatly unsure about their future together.
To further dodge Maria, Leonard buries himself in his last few days of work. The remaining workers at the warehouse are engaged in closing up the operations and shipping any reusable equipment to various locations. Leonard also has to pack up his flat, which is going to be re-rented following his departure. When he is nearly completed with his packing up, he talks with Lofting, who confirms that the Americans have sent Leonard back to them. He also reveals that he has been dating Charlotte, Maria’s friend whom he meet at Leonard’s engagement party. He offers to have his men transport Leonard to the airport, including his luggage. Leonard readily accepts. For days he has been scouring the German newspapers, waiting anxiously for the discovery of the dismembered body to be revealed to the press. Despite scouring all of the media he can get access to, none of...
(The entire section is 430 words.)
Chapter 22 Summary
The day of his departure, Lofting’s driver takes Leonard to the airport. A woman’s hand touches him lightly and he turns to find Maria there. The tension between them is considerable and they seem unsure of how to talk about the future. Maria again assures him that everything will be fine, but Leonard still expects to be arrested before he boards the plane. He asks her whether she has given notice at work, and she tells him she has. She says that her boss is very angry with her and has grown accustomed to her waiting on him; he even tried to change her mind. She presses Leonard about whether he has told his parents of their engagement, but he insists he will do it when he gets back to England.
Before he leaves, Maria seems to want to tell him something, but she feels pressured by the time of Leonard’s impending departure. She mentions again that when they reunite in England, she will be able to explain everything; Leonard secretly worries that she is referring to some kind of romantic dalliance between her and Glass. She begs Leonard to remember how they were the night of their engagement before they found Otto in the wardrobe. Finally, Leonard’s flight is called and he gives her a simple but not passionate kiss good-bye. Maria promises to watch his flight take off from the roof of the airport. Leonard makes his way through the line and out onto the tarmac. He has a good distance to walk to board his plane, and he steals a look back at the airport. He sees Maria standing there as promised, waving to him. All of a sudden she is joined by someone, and it takes Leonard a moment to realize that it is Glass. He also waves, but Leonard his more focused on his hand, which seems to be around Maria’s waist. Maria blows Leonard a kiss, but he does not return it. She and Glass seem to be talking together and Maria laughs at one point. Leonard is filled with sullen anger and climbs into the plane. He takes his seat, not wanting to look back at her. He attempts to interest himself in a newspaper story, but realizes he is doing it only for show. As the plane makes its way down the runway, he steals another look back at Maria, now farther in the distance. At this point, he cannot even make her face out, but it seems like she might be waving at him. Finally, Leonard turns away as the plane takes off.
(The entire section is 437 words.)
Chapter 23 Summary
In 1987, Leonard Marnham returns to Germany, just over thirty years after he left Maria and Glass at the airport. He has a family now, and he owns a business that makes parts for hearing aids. He marvels at the changes that have taken place, particularly the angry youth and the abundance of graffiti. His first visit is to Maria’s old apartment; he finds the building much changed but still intact. The apartment complex is even slummier and more dangerous than he remembers when Maria lived there. A group of Turkish children playing outside watch him suspiciously as he looks around. Although he had initially hoped he might knock on the door of whoever occupies Maria’s apartment and see what it looks like, he instead leaves, realizing the place was not what he came for.
He instead takes public transportation out to the site that used to be the warehouse and the tunnel. The building has been razed, but the foundation and basement remain. He climbs down into it to walk around while the guards eye him suspiciously. He takes out a letter he had received before his trip. It had taken a while to get to him, as it had initially been sent to his parents’ former house and then to other various addresses he had occupied until it finally found its way to him. The letter is from Maria, and she recounts what has happened during the intervening years as well as secrets he did not know. While Leonard had been wandering around with the suitcases with Otto’s body (and dodging Maria), she was visited by Glass, who was looking for Leonard. Glass sensed something was up, and an emotional Maria confessed everything. Glass used his considerable influence to get the investigation into Otto’s body halted. When he returned the next day to tell Maria, it was the moment Leonard had shown up. Maria knows that Leonard suspected something romantic or sexual between her and Glass, but there was not. He was late getting to the airport to see Leonard off because he was dealing with covering up the investigation. Maria knew that Leonard's seeing them together would make him think otherwise. In reality, Maria and Glass started their relationship almost a year later, married, and moved to the states. They had three children, and fatherhood helped soften Glass; he died the year before (in 1986). In the letter, Maria wonders whether it will get to Leonard and hopes they will meet again. Maria also recalls George Blake, Leonard’s downstairs neighbor, who had been...
(The entire section is 531 words.)