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The Auberge du Coin was a trap, yet not one for killing. It is difficult to know exactly what it was. If the attache1 named Corbelier repeated lies, our people are convinced he was not aware of it. He was duped by the woman. '

'He was duped by Cain I Bourne traces each source, feeding each one false information, thus exposing each and confirming the exposure. But why? To whom? We know what and who he is now, but he relays nothing to Washington. He refuses to surface. "

'To suggest an answer,' said the beggar, 'I would have to go back many years, but it's possible he wants no interference from his superiors. American intelligence has its share of vacillating autocrats, rarely communicating fully with one another. In the days of the cold war, money was made selling information three and four times over to the same stations. Perhaps Cain waits until he thinks there is only one course of action to be taken, no different strategies to be argued by those above. '

'Age hasn't dulled your sense of manoeuvre, old friend. It's why I called upon you. '

'Or perhaps,' continued the beggar, 'he really has turned. It's happened. '

'I don't think so, but it doesn't matter. Washington thinks he has. The Monk is dead, they're all dead at Treadstone. Cain is established as the killer. '

'The Monk?' said the beggar. *A name from the past; he was active in Berlin, in Vienna. We knew him well, from a distance and healthier for it. There's your answer, Carlos. It was always the Monk's style to reduce the numbers to as few as possible. He operated on the theory that his circles were infiltrated, compromised. He must have ordered Cain to report only to him. It would explain Washington's confusion, the six months of silence. '

'Would it explain ours? For six months there was no word, no activity. '

'A score of possibilities. Illness, exhaustion, brought back for new training. Even to spread confusion to the enemy. The Monk had a cathedral full of tricks. '

'Yet before he died he said to an associate that he did not know what had happened. That he wasn't even certain the man was Cain. '

'Who was the associate?'

'A man named Gillette. He was our man, but Abbott couldn't have known it. '

'Another possible explanation. The Monk had an instinct about such men. EC was said in Vienna that David Abbott would distrust Christ on the mountain and look for a bakery. '

'It's possible. Your words are comforting; you look for things others do not look for. '

'I've had far more experience; I was once a man of stature. Unfortunately I pissed away the money. '

'You still do. '

'A profligate, what can I tell you?'

'Obviously something else. '

'You're perceptive, Carlos. We should have known each other in the old days. '

'Now you're presumptuous. '

'Always. You know that I know you can swat my life away at any moment you choose, so I must be of value. And not merely with words that come from experience. '

'What have you to tell me?'

'This may not be of great value, but it is something. I put on respectable clothes and spent the day at the Auberge du Coin. There was a man, an obese man - questioned and dismissed by the Surete - whose eyes were too unsteady; and he perspired too much. I had a chat with him, showing him an official NATO identification I had made in the early 'fifties. It seems he negotiated the rental of his car at three o'clock yesterday morning. To a blond man in the company of a woman. The description fits the photograph from Argenteuil. '

'A rental?'

'Supposedly. The car was to be returned within a day or so by the woman. '

'It will never happen. '

'Of course not, but it raises a question, doesn't it? Why would Cain go to the trouble of obtaining a car in such a fashion?'

'To get as far away as possible as rapidly as possible. '

'In which case the information has no value,' said the beggar. 'But then there are so many ways to travel faster less conspicuously. And Bourne could hardly trust an avaricious night clerk; he might easily look for a reward from the Surete. Or anyone else. '

'What's your point?1

'I suggest that Bourne could have obtained that car for the sole purpose of following someone here in Paris. No loitering in public where he might be spotted, no rented cars that could be traced, no frantic searches for elusive taxis. Instead, a simple exchange of licence plates and a nondescript black Renault in the crowded streets. Where would one begin to look?'

The silhouette turned. 'The Lavier woman,' said the assassin softly. 'And everyone else he suspects at Les Classiques. It's the only place he has to start. They'll be watched, and within days - hours perhaps - a nondescript black Renault will be seen and he'll be found. Do you have a full description of the car?'

'Down to three dents in the left rear bumper. '

'Good. Spread the word to the old men. Comb the streets, the garaged, the parking areas. The one who finds it will never have to look for work again. '

'Speaking of such matters. . '

An envelope was slipped between the taut edge of the curtain and the blue felt of the frame. 'If your theory proves right, consider this a token. '

'I am right, Carlos. '

'Why are you so convinced?'

'Because Cain does what you would do, what I would have done - in the old days. He must be respected. '

'He must be killed,' said the assassin. There's symmetry in the timing. In a few days it will be the twenty-fifth of March. On 25 March 1968, Jason Bourne was executed in the jungles of Tarn Quan. Now, years later - nearly to the day - another Jason Bourne is hunted, the Americans as anxious as we are to see him killed. I wonder which of us will pull the trigger this time. '

'Does it matter?'

'I want him,' whispered the silhouette. 'He was never real and that's his crime against me. Tell the old men that, if any find him, to get word to Pare Monceau but do nothing. Keep him in sight, but do nothing! I want him alive on the twenty-fifth of March. On 25 March I'll execute him myself, and deliver his body to the Americans. '

The word will go out immediately. '

'Angelus Domini, child of God. '

'Angelus Domini,' said the beggar.

26

The old soldier walked in silence beside the younger man down the moonlit path in the Bois de Boulogne. Neither spoke for too much had already been said - admitted, challenged, denied and reaffirmed. Fillers had to reflect and analyse, to accept or violently reject what he had heard. His life would be far more bearable if he could strike back in anger, attack the lie and find his sanity again. But he could not do that with impunity; he was a soldier and to turn away was not in him.

There was too much truth in the younger man. It was in his eyes, in his voice, in his every gesture that asked for understanding. The man without a name was not lying. The ultimate treason was in Villiers's house. It explained so many things he had not dared to question before. An old man wanted to weep.

For the man without a memory there was little to change or invent; the chameleon was not called upon. His story was convincing because the most vital part was based in the truth. He had to find Carlos, learn what the assassin knew, there would be no life for him if he failed. Beyond this he would say nothing. There was no mention of Marie St Jacques, or the lie de Port Noir, or a message being sent by person or persons unknown, or a walking hollow shell that might or might not be someone he was or was not - who could not even be sure that the fragments of memories he possessed were really his own. None of this was spoken of.



Tags: Robert Ludlum, Eric Van Lustbader Jason Bourne Thriller
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