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The more you fight it, the more you crucify yourself, the worse it will be.

He concentrated on the road and on the mahogany dashboard of the Marquis de Chambord's Jaguar. The array of instruments were not familiar; his past did not include extensive experience with such cars. He supposed that told him something.

In less than an hour he crossed a bridge over a wide canal and knew he had reached Marseilles. Small square houses of stone, angling like blocks up from the water; narrow streets and walls everywhere - the outskirts of the old harbour. He knew it all, and yet he did not know it. High in the distance, silhouetted on one of the surrounding hills, were the outlines of a huge cathedral, a statue of the Virgin seen clearly atop its steeple. Notre-Dame de la Garde. The name came to him; he had seen it before - and yet he had not seen it.

Oh, Christ! Stop it!

Within minutes he was in the pulsing centre of the city, driving along the crowded rue Cannebiere, with its proliferation of expensive shops, the rays of the afternoon sun bouncing off expanses of tinted glass on either side, and on either side enormous pavement cafes. He turned left, towards the harbour,

passing warehouses and small factories and fenced-off areas that contained cars prepared for transport north to the showrooms of Saint-Etienne, Lyons and Paris. And to points south across the Mediterranean.

Instinct. Follow instinct. For nothing could be disregarded. Every resource had an immediate use; there was value in a rock if it could be thrown, or a vehicle if someone wanted it. He chose a lot where the cars were both new and used, but all expensive; he parked at the kerb and got out. Beyond the fence was a small cavern of a garage, mechanics in overalls laconically wandering about carrying tools. He walked casually around inside until he spotted a man in a thin pin-striped suit whom instinct told him to approach.

It took less than ten minutes, explanations kept to a minimum, a Jaguar's disappearance to North Africa guaranteed, with the filing of engine numbers.

The silver monogrammed keys were exchanged for six thousand francs, roughly one-fifth the value of Chambord's car. Then Or Washburn's patient found a taxi and asked to be taken to a pawnbroker - but not an establishment that asked too many questions. The message was clear; this was Marseilles. And half an hour later the gold Gerard-Perregaux was no longer on his wrist, having been replaced by a Seiko chronograph and eight hundred francs. Everything had a value in relationship to its practicality; the chronograph was shockproof.

The next stop was a medium-sized deparI'ment store in the south-east section of rue Cannebiere. Clothes were chosen off the racks and shelves, paid for and worn out of the fitting rooms, an ill-fitting dark blazer and trousers left behind.

From a display on the floor, he selected a soft leather suitcase; additional garments were placed inside with the knapsack. The patient glanced at his new watch; it was nearly five o'clock, time to find a comfortable hotel. He had not really slept for several days; he needed to rest before his appoinI'ment in the rue Sarasin, at a cafe called Le Bouc de Mer, where arrangements could be made for a more important appoinI'ment in Zurich.

He lay back on the bed and stared at the ceiling, the wash of the streetlamps below causing irregular patterns of light to dance across the smooth white surface. Night had come rapidly

to Marseilles, and with its arrival a certain sense of freedom came to the patient. It was as if the darkness were a gigantic blanket, blocking out the harsh glare of daylight that revealed too much too quickly. He was learning something else about himself: he was more comfortable in the night. Like a half-starved cat he would forage better in the darkness. Yet there was a contradiction, and he recognized that, too. During the months in lie de Port Noir, he had craved the sunlight, hungered for it, waited for it each dawn, wishing only for the darkness to go away.

Things were happening to him; he was changing.

Things had happened. Events that gave a certain lie to the concept of foraging more successfully at night. Twelve hours ago he was on a fishing boat in the Mediterranean, an objective in mind and two thousand francs strapped to his waist. Two thousand francs, something less than five hundred American dollars according to the daily rate of exchange posted in the hotel lobby. Now he was outfitted with several sets of acceptable clothing and lying on a bed in a reasonably expensive hotel with something over twenty-three thousands francs in a Louis Vuitton wallet belonging to the Marquis de Chambord. Twenty-three thousand francs . . . nearly six thousand American dollars.

Where had he come from that he was able to do the things he did?

Stop it!

The rue Sarasin was so ancient that in another city it might have been considered a landmark, a wide brick alley connecting streets built centuries later. But this was Marseilles; ancient coexisted with old, both uncomfortable with the new. The rue Sarasin was no more than two hundred yards long, frozen in time between the stone walls of waterfront buildings, devoid of streetlights, trapping the mists that rolled off the harbour. It was a back street conducive to brief meetings between men who did not care for their conferences to be observed.

The only light and sound came from Le Bouc de Mer. The cafe was situated roughly in the centre of the alley, its premises once a nineteenth-century office building. A number of cubicles had been taken down to allow for a large bar-room and tables; an equal number were left standing for less public appoinI'ments. These were the waterfront's answer to those private rooms found at restaurants along La Cannebiere, and, as befitting their status, there were curtains, but no doors.

The patient made his way between the crowded tables, cutting his way through the layers of smoke, excusing himself past lurching fishermen and drunken soldiers and red-faced whores looking for beds to rest in as well as a few francs. He peered into a succession of cubicles, a crewman looking for his companions until he found the captain of the fishing boat There was another man at the table. Thin, pale-faced, narrow eyes peering up like a curious ferret's.

'Sit down,' said the dour skipper. 'I thought you'd be here before this. '

'You said between nine and eleven. It's quarter to eleven. '

'You stretch the time, you can pay for the whisky. '

'Be glad to. Order something decent, if they've got it. '

The thin, pale-faced man smiled. Things were going to be all right

They were. The passport in question was, naturally, one of the most difficult in the world to tamper with, but with great care, equipment and artistry, it could be done.

'How much?'

These skills - and equipment - do not come cheap. Twenty-five hundred francs. '

'When can I have it?'

The care, the artistry, they take time. Three or four days. And that's putting the artist under great pressure; he'll scream at me. '

There's an additional one thousand francs if I can have it tomorrow. '

'By ten in the morning,' said the pale-faced man quickly. 'I'll take the abuse. '

'And the thousand,' interrupted the scowling captain. 'What did you bring out of Port Noir? Diamonds?'

Talent,' answered the patient, meaning it but not understanding it

'I'll need a photograph,! said the connection.

'I stopped at an arcade and had this made,' replied the patient, taking a small square photograph out of his shirt pocket. 'With all that expensive equipment I'm sure you can sharpen it up. '

Tags: Robert Ludlum, Eric Van Lustbader Jason Bourne Thriller