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'All day, if you wish, Monsieur. '

Jason pulled up the lapels of his overcoat, pushed his hat forward and put on the tortoise-shell glasses. He walked alongside a couple towards a religious pavement stall, breaking away to stand behind a mother and child at the counter. He had a clear view of the grey Citroen, the taxi which had been summoned to Pare Monceau was no longer there, dismissed by Villiers's wife. It was a curious decision on her part, thought Bourne; cabs were not that readily available.

Three minutes later, the reason was clear . . . and disturbing. Villiers's wife came striding out of the church, walking rapidly, her tall statuesque figure drawing admiring glances from passers-by. She went directly to the Citroen, spoke directly to the men in front, then opened the rear door.

The bag. A white bag! Villiers's wife was carrying the bag that only minutes ago had been clutched in the hands of Jacqueline Lavier. She climbed into the Citroen's back seat and pulled the door shut. The car's engine was switched on and gunned, the prelude to a quick and sudden departure. As the vehicle rolled away, the shiny metal rod that was the vehicle's antenna became shorter and shorter, retracting into its base.

Where was Jacqueline Lavier? Why had she given her bag to Villiers's wife? Bourne started to move, then stopped, instinct warning him. A trap? If Lavier was followed, those following her might also be trailed - and not by him.

He looked up and down the street, studying the pedestrians on the pavement, then each car, each driver and passenger, watching for a face that did not belong, as Villiers had said the two men in the Citroen had not belonged in Pare Monceau.

There were no breaks in the parade, no darting eyes or hands concealed in outsized pockets. He was being over cautious; Neuilly-sur-Seine was not a trap for him. He moved away from the stall and started for the church.

He stopped, his feet suddenly clamped to the pavement. A priest was coming out of the church, a priest in a black suit, a starched white collar and a black hat that partially covered his face. He had seen him before. Not long ago, not in a forgotten past, but recently. Very recently. Weeks, days . . . hours, perhaps. Where was it? Where? He knew him! It was in the walk, in the tilt of his head, in the wide shoulders that seemed to glide in place above the fluid movement of his body. He was a man with a gun! Where was it?

Zurich? The Carillon du Lac? Two men breaking through the crowds, converging, brokering death. One wore gold-rimmed glasses; it was not he. That man was dead. Was it that other man in the Carillon du Lac? Or on the Guisan Quai? An animal, grunting, wild-eyed in rape. Was it he? Or someone else. A dark-coated man in the corridor at the Auberge du Coin where the lights had shorted, the spill from the staircase illuminating the trap. A reverse trap where that man had fired his weapon in darkness at shapes he thought were human. Was it that man?

Bourne did not know, he only knew that he had seen the priest before, but not as a priest. As a man with a gun.

The killer in the priestly dark suit reached the end of the stone-path and turned right at the base of a concrete saint, his face briefly caught in the sunlight. Jason froze; the skin. The killer's skin was dark, not tanned by the sun but by birth, A Latin skin, its hue tempered generations ago when ancestors lived beside the Mediterranean Forebears who migrated across the globe. . . across the seas.

Bourne stood paralysed by the shock of his own certainty. He was looking at Ilich Ramirez Sanchez.

Get Carlos. Trap Carlos. Cain is for Charlie and Delta is for Cain.

Jason tore at the front of his coat, his right hand grasping the handle of the gun in his belt. He started running on the pavement, colliding with the backs and chests of strollers, shouldering a pavement vendor out of his way, lurching past a beggar digging into a wire rubbish . . . The beggar I The beggar's hand surged into his pocket: Bourne spun in time to see the barrel of an automatic emerge from the threadbare coat, the sun's rays bouncing off the metal. The beggar had a gun! His gaunt hand raised it, weapon and eyes steady. Jason lunged into the street, careening off the side of a small car. He heard the spits of the bullets above him and around him, piercing the air with sickening finality. Screams, shrill and in pain, came from unseen people on the pavement. Bourne ducked between two cars and raced through the traffic to the other side of the street. The beggar was running away; an old man with eyes of steel was racing into the crowds, into oblivion.

Get Carlos. Trap Carlos. Cain is. . . !

Jason spun again and lurched again, propelling himself forward, throwing everything in his path out of his path, racing in the direction of the assassin. He stopped, breathless, confusion and anger welling in his chest, sharp bolts of pain returning to his temples. Where was he? Where was Carlos? And then he saw him; the killer had climbed behind the wheel of a large black saloon. Bourne ran back into the traffic, slamming bonnets and boots as he threaded his way insanely towards the assassin. Suddenly he was blocked by two cars that had collided. He spread his hands on a glistening chrome grille and leaped sideways over the impacted bumpers. He stopped again, his eyes searing with pain, knowing it was pointless to go on. He was too late. The large black car had found a break in the traffic and Ilich Ramirez Sanchez sped away.

Jason crossed back to the far pavement as the shrieking of police whistles turned heads everywhere. Pedestrians had been grazed or wounded or killed; a beggar with a gun had shot them.

Lavier! Bourne broke into a run again, not back towards the Church of the Blessed Sacrament. He reached the stone path under the eye of the concrete saint and spun left, racing towards the arched, sculptured doors and the marble steps. He ran up and entered the Gothic church, facing racks of flickering candles, fused rays of coloured light streaming down from the stained-glass windows high in the dark stone walls. He walked down the centre aisle, staring at the worshippers, looking for streaked silver hair and a mask of a face laminated in white.

The Lavier woman was nowhere to be seen, yet she had not left; she was somewhere in the church. Jason turned, glancing up the aisle; there was a tall priest walking casually past the rack of candles. Bourne sidestepped his way through a cushioned row, emerged on the far right aisle and intercepted him.

'Excuse me, Father,' he said. 'I'm afraid I've lost someone. '

'No one is lost in the house of God, sir," replied the cleric, smiling.

'She may not be in spirit, but if 1 don't find the rest of her, she'll be very upset. There's an emergency at her place of business. Have you been here long, Father?"

'I greet those of our flock who seek assistance, yes. I've been here for the better part of an hour. '

Two women came in a few minutes ago. One was extremely tall, quite striking, wearing a light-coloured coat, and I think a dark kerchief over her hair. The other was an older lady, not so tall, and obviously not in good health. Did you by any chance see them?'

The priest nodded. 'Yes. There was sorrow in the older woman's face; she was pale and grieving. '

'Do you know where she went? I gather her younger friend left. *

'A devoted friend, may I say. She escorted the poor dear to confession, helping her inside the booth. The cleansing of the soul gives us all strength during the desperate times. '

To confession?'

'Yes, the second booth from the right She has a compassionate father confessor, I might add. A visiting priest from the archdiocese of Barcelona. A remarkable man, too; I'm sorry to say this is his last day. He returns to Spain . . . " The tall priest frowned. 'Isn't that odd? A few moments ago I thought I saw Father Manuel leave. I imagine he was replaced for a while. No matter, the dear lady is in good hands. '

Tags: Robert Ludlum, Eric Van Lustbader Jason Bourne Thriller