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.