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'I'm sure of it,' said Bourne. Thank you, Father. I'll wait for her. ' Jason walked down the aisle towards the row of confessional booths, his eyes on the second, where a small strip of white fabric proclaimed occupancy; a soul was being cleansed. He sat down in the front row, then knelt forward, angling his head slowly round so he could see the rear of the church. The tall priest stood at the entrance, his attention on the disturbance in the street. Outside, sirens could be heard wailing in the distance, drawing closer.

Bourne got up and walked to the second booth. He parted the curtain and looked inside, seeing what he expected to see. Only the method had remained in question.

Jacqueline Lavier was dead, her body slumped forward, rolled to the side, supported by the prayer stall, her mask of a face upturned, her eyes wide, staring in death at the ceiling. Her coat was open, the cloth of her dress drenched in blood. The weapon was a long, thin letter opener, plunged in above her left breast. Her fingers were curled around the handle, her lacquered nails the colour of her blood.

At her feet was a bag - not the white one she had clutched in her hands ten minutes ago, but a fashionable Yves St Laurent, the precocious initials stamped on the fabric an escutcheon of haute couture. The reason for it was clear to Jason. Inside were papers identifying this tragic suicide, this overwrought woman so burdened with grief she took her own life while seeking absolution in the eyes of God. Carlos was thorough, brilliantly thorough.

Bourne closed the curtain and stepped away from the booth.

From somewhere high in a tower, the bells of the morning Angelus rang splendidly.

The taxi wandered aimlessly through the streets of Neuilly-sur-Seine, Jason in the back seat, his mind racing.

It was pointless to wait, perhaps deadly to do so. Strategies changed as conditions changed, and they had taken a deadly turn. Jacqueline Lavier had been followed, her death inevitable but out of sequence. Too soon; she was still valuable. Then Bourne understood. She had not been killed because she had been disloyal to Carlos, rather because she had disobeyed him. She had gone to Pare Monceau, that was her indefensible error.

There was another known relay at Les Classiques, a grey-haired switchboard operator named Philippe d'Anjou, whose face evoked images of violence and darkness and shattering flashes of light and sound. He had been in Bourne's past, of that Jason was certain, and because of that, the hunted had to be cautious; he could not know what that man meant to him. But he was a relay, and he, too, would be watched, as Lavier had been watched, additional bait for another trap, dispatch demanded when the trap closed.

Were these the only two? Were there others? An obscure, faceless clerk, perhaps, who was not a clerk at all but someone else? A supplier who spent hours in Saint-Honore legitimately pursuing the cause of haute couture, but with another cause far more vital to him. Or her. Or the muscular designer, Rene~ Bergeron, whose movements were so quick and . . . fluid.

Bourne suddenly stiffened, his neck pressed back against the seat, a recent memory triggered. Bergeron. The darkly-tanned skin, the wide shoulders accentuated by tightly rolled up sleeves . . . shoulders that floated in place above a tapered waist, beneath which strong legs moved swiftly, like an animal's, a cat's.

Was it possible? Were the other conjectures merely phantoms, compounded fragments of familiar images he had convinced himself might be Carlos? Was the assassin - unknown to his relays - deep inside his own apparatus, controlling and shaping every move? Was it Bergeron?

He had to get to a telephone right away. Right away! Every minute he lost was a minute removed from the answer, and too many meant there would be no answer at all. But he could not make the call himself; the sequence of events had been too rapid, he had to hold back, store his own information.

'The first telephone box you see, pull over,' he said to the driver, who was still shaken by the chaos at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament.

'As you wish, Monsieur. But if Monsieur will please try to understand, it is past the time when I should report to the fleet garage. Way past the time!'

'I understand. '

There's a telephone!'

'Good. Pull over. '

The red telephone box, its quaint panes of glass glistening in the sunlight, looked like a large doll's house from the outside and smelled of urine on the inside. Bourne dialled the Terrasse, inserted the coins and asked for room Four-twenty. Marie answered.

'What happened?'

'I haven't time to explain. I want you to call Les Classiques and ask for Rend Bergeron. D'Anjou will probably be on the switchboard, make up a name and tell him you've been trying to reach Bergeron on Lavier's private line for the past hour or so. Say it's urgent, you've got to talk to him. '

'When he comes on, what do 1 say?'

'I don't think he will, but if he does, just hang up. And if d'Anjou comes on the line again, ask him when Bergeron's expected. I'll call you back in three minutes. '

'Darling, are you all right?'

'I've had a profound religious experience. I'll tell you about it later. '

Jason kept his eyes on his watch, the infinitesimal jumps of the thin, delicate sweep hand too agonizingly slow. He began his own personal count down at thirty seconds, calculating the heartbeat that echoed in his throat as somewhere around two and a half per second. He started dialling at ten seconds, inserted the coins at four, and spoke to the Terrasse's switchboard at minus-five. Marie picked up the phone the instant it began to ring.

'What happened?' he asked. 'I thought you might still be talking. '

'It was a very short conversation. I think d'Anjou was wary.

He may have a list of names of those who've been given the private number, I don't know. But he sounded withdrawn, hesitant. '

"What did he say?'

'Monsieur Bergeron is on a fabric search in the Mediterranean. He left this morning and isn't expected back for several weeks. '

'It's possible I may have just seen him eight hundred miles from the Mediterranean. '

'Where?'

'In church. If it was Bergeron, he gave absolution with the point of a very sharp instrument. '

'What are you talking about?'

'Lavier's dead. '

'Oh, my God! What are you going to do?'

'Talk to a man I think I knew. If he's got a brain in his head, he'll listen. He's marked for extinction. '

30

'D'Anjou. '

'Delta? I wondered when . . . I think I'd know your voice anywhere. '

He had said it! The name had been spoken! The name that meant nothing to him, and yet somehow, everything. D'Anjou knew. Philippe d'Anjou was part of the unremembered past Delta. Cain is for Charlie and Delta is for Cain! Delta. Delta. Delta! He had known this man and this man had the answer! Alpha, Bravo, Cain, Delta, Echo, Foxtrot. . .

Medusa!

'Medusa,' he said softly, repeating the name that was a silent scream in his ears.

'Paris is not Tarn Quan, Delta. There are no debts between us any longer. Don't look for payment We work for different employers now. '

'Jacqueline Lavier's dead. Carlos killed her in Neuilly-sur-Seine less than thirty minutes ago. '

'Don't even try. As of two hours ago Jacqueline was on her way out of France. She called me herself from Orly Airport. She's joining Monsieur Bergeron. . . '



Tags: Robert Ludlum, Eric Van Lustbader Jason Bourne Thriller
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