Tales of a Teenage Spy - The Life and Times of Gábor Rimner
Not long after our store-room encounter, I met Carol several times at the American Club. In fact, she always seemed to be there.
She was around 32 or 35, rather plump and fattish. I wouldn't say she was a beauty, but she had brains, and I liked that. She was also easy to talk to.
We chatted a lot, about my family, me, my father, what I was planning in my life, where I planned to live, and how.
Looking back, I realise she was steadily, relentlessly, building a comprehensive picture of me, piece by detailed piece.
But from some of her questions it was becoming ever clearer that Carol was not 'just' a cultural attaché. She was just too curious about certain topics. I mean, why did a cultural attaché ask so much about my feelings on communism and the Soviets?
Then, I don't quite remember on which occasion, but she asked me if I was sure I wanted to study in the states. After all, she said, if you really want to learn, you can learn anywhere – in the US, in Sweden, in Hungary or Sudan.
I had to agree.
And in that case, she said, if I went back to Hungary, I could study whatever I wanted, and at the same time I could do something that would be good for me, my country and for “us”.
“You could work for us against our Soviet friends,” was how she put it.
I don't think she mentioned the word “spy” - but it was pretty obvious what she meant. And it felt very exciting.
One part of me wanted to say 'yes' immediately, but I thought, it was better, more mature-looking, to say I'd think it over.
She assured me, however, that she wouldn't like me to do anything right away.
Not at all. I was to be a 'sleeper'. The plan would be to go back to Hungary, live like any other Hungarian, join KISZ, the Communist Youth Association, then the Communist Party, just like thousands of others who held no special political beliefs, but went along with it for the sake of a fast a career.
Only much later should I seek to engineer a job close to government, specifically the Ministry of the Interior, Defence or Foreign Affairs. Once so ensconced, I could get information which might be valuable to the USA.
I thought: Ok, now this is something that I alone will know about, and it will have nothing to do with my father's ideas about my future. It was to be my sole, individual decision, and I was very, very proud of this. Oh God, was I proud!
It was almost like being in love, I could barely wait for our next meeting. When it came, I told Carol, yes, I was keen and ready to go back to Hungary. If there was something I could do against the Soviet Army in Hungary, I was up for it, because for me, as a matter of principle, they had no right being in the country.
We continued to meet at the American Club. Carol would typically choose a place away from the crowd, or sometimes we'd talk in the pool, up to our necks in water.
She asked me not to tell anybody about my decision, although almost every time we met, she quizzed me: was I sure that I hadn't told my parents? I would dutifully – and truthfully – answer in the negative. I'm sure if my father had known about all this, he'd have beaten the hell out of me.
Even in the club, when we were talking, whenever anyone came near our table, she would switch conversation to judo or the marines, something innocuous, but plausible. She also instructed me not to visit the embassy. We would only meet in the club, or, a bit later, at her flat.
It was clear: my decision was something that only the two of us should know about.