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'Say something!' she whispered. Her body went into a brief spasm, her breasts pressing against the dark silk of her dress, rising and falling with the agitated movement. She gripped her own wrist in an attempt to control herself; she partially succeeded. She spoke again, the whisper replaced by a monotone. 'I said I wouldn't do it again and I won't. '

'You'll try,' he replied quietly. 'There'll come a moment when you think you can make it, and you'll try. Believe me when I tell you you can't, but if you try again I will have to kill you. I don't want to do that, there's no reason for it, no reason at all. Unless you become a threat to me, and in running away before I let you go you do just that. I can't allow it'

He had spoken the truth as he understood the truth. The simplicity of the decision was as astonishing to him as the decision itself. Killing was a practical matter, nothing else.

'You say you'll let me go,' she said. 'When?'

'When I'm safe,' he answered. 'When it doesn't make any difference what you say or do. "

'When will that be?'

'An hour or so from now. When we're out of Zurich and I'm on my way to somewhere else. You won't know where or how. '

'Why should I believe you?'

'I don't care whether you do or not. ' He released her. 'Pull yourself together. Dry your eyes and comb your hair. We're going inside. '

'What's in there?'

'I wish I knew,' he said, glancing through the rear window at the door of the Drei Alpenhauser.

'You said that before. '

He looked at her, at the wide brown eyes that were searching his. Searching in fear, in bewilderment. 'I know. Hurry up. '

There were thick beams running across the high Alpine ceiling, tables and chairs of heavy wood, deep booths and candlelight everywhere. An accordion player moved through the crowd, muted strains of Bavarian Music coming from his instrument

He had seen the large room before, the beams and the candlelight printed somewhere in his mind, the sounds recorded also. He had come here in another life. They stood in the shallow foyer in front of the maitre d's hotel's station; he greeted them.

'Haben Sie einen Platz reserviert, mein HerrT

'If you mean have I a reservation, I'm afraid not But you were highly recommended. I hope you can fit us in. A booth, if possible. '

'Certainly, sir. It's the early sitting; we're not yet crowded. This way, please. '

They were taken to a booth in the nearest corner, a flickering candle in the centre of the table. Bourne's limp and the fact that he held on to the woman, dictated the closest available location. Jason nodded to Marie St Jacques; she sat down, and he slid into the booth opposite her.

'Move against the wall,' he said, after the maitre had left 'Remember, the gun's in my pocket and all I have to do is raise my foot and you're trapped. '

'I said I wouldn't try. '

'I hope you don't Order a drink; there's no time to eat!

'I couldn't eat! She gripped her wrist again, her hands visibly trembling. 'Why isn't there time? What are you waiting for?'

'I don't know. '

'Why do you keep saying that? "f don't know. " "I wish I knew. " Why did you come here?'

'Because I've been here before. '

'That's no answer!'

There's no reason for me to give you one. '

A waiter approached. The St Jacques woman asked for wine; Bourne ordered Scotch, needing the stronger drink. He looked round the restaurant, trying to concentrate 'on everything and nothing'. A sponge. But there was only nothing. No images filled his mind; no thoughts intruded on his absence of thought. Nothing.

And then he saw the face across the room. It was a large face set in a large head, above an obese body pressed against the wall of an end booth, next to a closed door. The fat man stayed in the shadows of his observation point as if they were his protection, the unlit section of the floor his sanctuary. His eyes were riveted on Jason, equal parts fear and disbelief in his stare. Bourne did not know the face, but the face knew him. The man brought his ringers to his lips and wiped the corners of his mouth, then shifted his eyes, taking in each diner at every table. Only then did he begin what was obviously a painful journey around the room towards their booth.

A man's coming over here,' he said over the flame of the candle. 'A fat man, and he's afraid. Don't say anything. No matter what he says, keep your mouth shut. And don't look at him; raise your hand, rest your head oh your elbow casually. Look at the wall, not him. '

The woman frowned, bringing her right hand to her face; her fingers trembled. Her lips formed a question, but no words came. Jason answered the unspoken.

'For your own good,' he said. 'There's no point in his being able to identify you. '

The fat man edged round the corner of the booth. Bourne blew out the candle, throwing the table into relative darkness. The man stared him down and spoke in a low, strained voice.

'Lieber Gott! Why did you come here? What have I done that you should do this to me?'

'I enjoy the food, you know that!

'Have you no feelings! I have a family, a wife and children. I did only as I was told. I gave you the envelope; I did not look inside, I know nothing! !

'But you were paid, weren't you?' asked Jason instinctively.

'Yes, but I said nothing. We never met, I never described you. I spoke to no one!'

Then why are you afraid? I'm just an ordinary patron about to order dinner. '

'I beg you. Leave. '

'Now I'm angry. You'd better tell me why. '

The fat man brought his hand to his face, his fingers again wiping the moisture that had formed around his mouth. He angled his head, glancing at the door, then turned back to Bourne. 'Others may have spoken, others may know who you are. I've had my share of trouble with the police, they would come directly to me. '

The St Jacques woman lost control; she looked at Jason, the words escaping. 'The police . . . They were the police'

Bourne glared at her, then turned back to the nervous fat man. 'Are you saying the police would harm your wife and children?'

'Not in themselves - as you well know. But their interest would lead others to me. To my family. How many are there that look for you, mein Herr? And what are they that do? You need no answer from me; they stop at nothing - the death of a wife or a child is nothing. Please. On my life, I've said nothing. Leave. '

'You're exaggerating. ' Jason raised his drink to his lips, a prelude to dismissal.

'In the name of Christ, don't do this!' The man leaned over, gripping the edge of the table. 'You wish proof of my silence, I give it to you. Word was spread throughout the Verbrecherwelt. Anyone with any information whatsoever should call a number set up by the Zurich police. Everything would be kept in the strictest confidence; they would not lie in the Verbrecherwelt about that. Rewards were ample, the police in several countries sending funds through Interpol. Past misunderstandings might be seen in new judicial lights. ' The conspirator stood up, wiping his mouth again, his large bulk hovering above the wood. 'A man like myself could profit from a kinder relationship with the police. Yet I did nothing. In spite of the guarantee of confidentiality, I did nothing at all!'

Tags: Robert Ludlum, Eric Van Lustbader Jason Bourne Thriller