Chapter 17 – Answering Psychologists, Remembering Drop Sites
Updated: Jul 20, 2020
Tales of a Teenage Spy - The Life and Times of Gábor Rimner
And meet we did.
I spent hours and hours with Carol, just chatting, mostly about me and my future, but also about everything.
We usually met once or twice a week: at a given hour, she always drove down a street near our home, and if I had something to tell her, then all I had to do was walk out and wait. She picked me up, and if it was going to take time, we went up to her place, and then she took me back in her car.
But it was always in the evening, always in a street without any traffic, or anyone around. And always, my parents knew nothing about it.
Just in case you're wondering, I can tell you now that I had no physical attraction towards Carol. In fact, there were several things that I didn't like about her from that point of view: she was plain and rather fat, and I never liked fat women, and she had greasy hair, which I really didn't care for.
But – as I think I've said - she had brains. I liked that. She was from Texas, from near Houston, and I found I could talk to her about anything. She was a real friend, and that felt good to a teenage boy, with all the usual hang-ups of that age. I could never talk to my father or mother about sex, for example. It just couldn't happen.
But our discussions increasingly focussed on the job in hand. As it became clear that I liked doing this and she saw that I was determined to go back to Hungary, she said we'd start more serious training.
For her, that meant telling me a lot of things about how to behave in Hungary. I think she was right here, because she knew bloody well that from the age of 11, I had grown up in Khartoum, where life was absolutely different from a socialist country, and she tried to give me advice on how to live my life in Budapest.
I don't think she had an easy job. She was trying to persuade me that to be successful against the communists I would have to get as near to them as I could. I should become a member of the KISZ, the communist party youth organisation, and later a party member.
This was totally against my instincts, and I was always protesting. Why should I become a Party member? I loathed those people.
“Because, Gabor, that is the way to do things in Hungary. That is the way to get on,” she would say. And, mostly, as I later learned, she was right.
She also announced there would be people coming in to train me. Well, the first two guys didn't actually train me, I think they were psychologists, and, frankly, it was pretty awful.
We spent a whole day - I remember I had to lie to my parents, saying I was going with Nicolai somewhere - because we spent the whole bloody day in Carol's flat, and I was asked all sorts of questions, even – or rather especially - about my sexual life.
Did I have homosexual feelings or not? Did I like boys or girls? What sort of contacts had I had up to then, in sexual relationships?
And they asked me a whole lot of things about my childhood, and my relationships with my parents. I found it very disturbing. Here were a couple of total strangers, prying into my deepest thoughts and emotions.
But I tried to give them straight and honest answers because I assumed they knew what they were doing, and they needed to get to know who they were recruiting.
It's true that, before starting on this, they warned me they would be asking some very weird questions. “Please, don't be upset, we just need to know things,” they said.
They were actually very pleasant, nice people, but I wasn't happy about being pried into so deeply. It kind of felt my privacy was equal to nil.
Then a man came to teach me things about how to keep in touch with my contacts in Hungary.
This was over several sessions, and he'd certainly done his homework.
He had maps of Hungary and Budapest, quite detailed and with photographs of places. He even had a photograph of our house.
He wanted to work out sites where we could leave messages for each other, and signs to get in touch, and asked me which parts of the city I'd be likely to be around in the future. This seemed a very stupid question, because I couldn't remember anything about Budapest. I'd left aged 11, and when they showed me a map of the city, it might as well have been Tokyo.
Anyway, we tried to draw up a route of possible places that I might go to, mostly downtown. He certainly seemed to know Budapest very, very well, and he was really enthusiastic, overjoyed even, to be training me up to go into Hungary, as if I were the fulfilment of his professional dreams.
The next time we met, he came back with answers for me. We marked, I think eight places in the city. Four were where we could leave signs that some sort of contact was needed. And we arranged dates when those places should be visited.
One spot was on Felszabadulás tér – today Ferenciek Square - opposite the Kárpátia restaurant.
All this entailed was for me to walk down a street and a look at a particular spot for a sign.
There were different types. It might be a short piece of black insulating tape, stuck on the wall, or a letter C in green chalk, written on a wall or drain pipe. Such a sign meant I had to pick up a message or package at another site. No sign meant come back in a month and check again.
As for drop sites, these were planned with meticulous detail. My trainer was up to date in everything: he knew what kind of shop was functioning on which street corner, what they were selling, even what the woman looked like in the shop.
I might have to go into a stairwell in a big block of flats downtown, and find a showcase on the wall, and on top of the showcase there is a certain metal rim, which actually hides everything put up there from passers by.
I would have to reach up and feel around, with the tips of my fingers for the message or package. He was even able to tell me the smells and things that I would experience there. So it was obvious that he, himself, had experienced the places very shortly beforehand, and had been careful to observe all these characteristics of the place.
It was pretty simple on paper, but I had to remember everything in my head.
In practice later, sometimes I even forgot to go and check these sites, and would rush round the next day to make up.
Anyway, this was one part of this training, where we agreed on these spots for messages, and the dates and things. After this, they took photographs of these places from different angles, and the landmarks near these sites that could easily be remembered.
I was also told not to go anywhere near the American embassy, or its library. In fact, I was told to keep as far away from it as I could. No contact whatsoever.
Nor was there mention of how to spend the money after winning the jackpot at casinos.
Unlike the Hollywood films, it might just prove to be a plain, uneventful life, working for the Americans, it seemed.