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"The ego speaking through the assumed second party?'

'It's possible, I suppose, but inconsistent with the extraordinary precautions Carlos takes, the literally impenetrable wall of secrecy he's built around himself. I'm not certain, of course, but I doubt it's Bergeron. '

'You said the name. I didn't. '

D'Anjou smiled. 'You have nothing to be concerned about, Delta. Ask your questions. '

'I thought it was Bergeron. I'm sorry. '

'Don't be, for he may be. I told you, it doesn't matter to me. In a few days, I'll be back in Asia, following the franc, or the dollar, or the yen. We Medusans were always resourceful, weren't we?'

Jason was not sure why, but the haggard face of Andre Villiers came to his mind's eye. He had promised himself to learn what he could for the old soldier. He would not get the opportunity again.

'Where does Villiers's wife fit in?'

D'Anjou's eyebrows arched. 'Angelique?' he asked. 'But of course, you said Pare Monceau, didn't you? How? . . . '

The details aren't important now. '

'Certainly not to me,' agreed the Medusan.

'What about her?' pressed Bourn*.

'Have you looked at her closely?' asked d'Anjou. 'The skin?'

'I've been close enough. She's tanned. Very tall and very tanned. '

'She keeps her skin that way. The Riviera, the Greek Isles, Costa del Sol, Gstaad; she is never without a sun-drenched skin. '

'It's very becoming. '

'It's also a successful device. It covers what she is. For her there is no autumn or winter pallor, no lack of colour in her face or arms or very long legs. The attractive hue of her skin is always there, because it would be there in any event. With or without St Tropez or the Costa Brava or the Alps. '

'What are you talking about?'

'Although the stunning Angelique Villiers is presumed to be Parisian, she's not. She's Hispanic. Venezuelan, to be precise. '

'Sanchez,' whispered Bourne. 'Ilich Ramirez Sanchez. '

'Yes. Among the very few who speak of such things, it is said she is Carlos's first cousin, his lover since the age of fourteen. It is rumoured - among those very few people -that beyond himself she is the only person on earth he cares about. '

'And Villiers is the unwitting drone?'

'Words from Medusa, Delta?' d'Anjou nodded. 'Yes, Villiers is the drone. Carlos's brilliantly conceived wire into many of the most sensitive departments of the French government, including the files on Carlos himself. '

'Brilliantly conceived,' said Jason, remembering. 'Because it's unthinkable. '

Totally. '

Bourne leaned forward, the interruption abrupt. 'Tread-stone,' he said, both hands gripping the glass in front of him. Tell me about Treadstone Seventy-one. '

'What can / tell you?'

'Everything they know. Everything Carlos knows. '

'I don't think I'm capable of doing that. I hear things, piece things together, but except where Medusa's concerned, I'm hardly a consultant, much less a confidant. '

It was all Jason could do to control himself, curb himself from asking about Medusa, about Delta and Tarn Quan; the winds in the night sky and the darkness and the explosions of light that blinded him whenever he heard the words. He could not; certain things had to be assumed, his own loss passed over, no indication given. The priorities. Treadstone. Treadstone Seventy-one!

'What have you heard? What have you pieced together?1

'What I heard and what I pieced together were not always compatible. Still, obvious facts were apparent to me. '

'Such as?'

'When I saw it was you, I knew. Delta had made a lucrative agreement with the Americans. Another lucrative agreement, a different kind than before, perhaps. '

'Spell that out, please. '

Ten years ago, the rumours from Saigon were that the ice-cold Delta was the highest paid Medusan of us all. Surely, you were the most capable / knew, so I assumed you drove a hard bargain. You must have driven an infinitely harder one to do what you're doing now. "

'Which is? From what you've heard. "

"What we know. It was confirmed in New York. The Monk confirmed it before he died, that much I was told. It was consistent with the pattern since the beginning. '

Bourne held the glass, avoiding d'Anjou's eyes. The Monk. The Monk. Do not ask. The Monk is dead, whoever and whatever he was. He is not pertinent now. 'I repeat,' said Jason, 'what is it they think they know I'm doing?'

'Come, Delta, I'm the one who's leaving. It's pointless to . . . "

'Please,' interrupted Bourne.

'Very well. You agreed to become this Cain. This mythical killer with an unending list of contracts that never existed, each created out of whole cloth, given substance by all manner of reliable sources. Purpose. To challenge Carlos - "eroding his stature at every turn" was the way Bergeron phrased it - to undercut his prices, spread the word of his deficiencies, your own superiority. In essence, to draw out Carlos and take him. This was your agreement with the Americans. '

Rays of his own personal sunlight burst into the dark corners of Jason's mind. In the distance, doors were opening, but they were still too far away and opened only partially. But there was light where before there was only darkness.

Then the Americans are . . . ' Bourne did not finish the statement, hoping in brief torment that d'Anjou would finish it for him.

'Yes,' said the Medusan. Treadstone Seventy-one. The most controlled unit of American intelligence since the State Department's Consular Operations Created by the same man who built Medusa. David Abbott

'The Monk,' said Jason softly, instinctively, another door in the distance partially open.

'Of course. Who else would he approach to play the role of Cain but the man from Medusa known as Delta? As 1 say, the instant I saw you, I knew it. '

'A role. . . ' Bourne stopped, the sunlight growing brighter, warm not blinding.

D'Anjou leaned forward. 'It's here, of course, that what I heard and what I pieced together were incompatible. It was said that Jason Bourne accepted the assignment for reasons I knew were not true. I was there, they were not; they could not know. ' 'What did they say? What did you hear?' That you were an American intelligence officer, possibly military. Can you imagine? You. Delta! The man filled with contempt for so much, not the least of which was for most things American. I told Bergeron it was impossible, but I'm not sure he believed me. ' 'What did you tell him?'

'What I believed. What I still believe. It wasn't money - no amount of money could have made you do it - it had to be something else. I think you did it for the same reason so many others agreed to Medusa ten years ago. To clean a slate somewhere, to be able to return to something you had before that was barred to you. 1 don't know, of course, and I don't expect you to confirm it, but that's what I think. '

'It's possible you're right,' said Jason, holding his breath, the cool winds of release blowing into the mists. It made sense. A message was sent. This could be it. Find the message! Find the sender! Treadstone!

'Which leads us back," continued d'Anjou, 'to the stories about Delta. Who was he? What was he? This educated, oddly quiet man who could transform himself into a lethal weapon in the jungles. Who stretched himself and others beyond endurance for no cause at all. We never understood. ' 'It was never required. Is there anything else you can tell me? . . . Do they know the precise location of Treadstone?'

Tags: Robert Ludlum, Eric Van Lustbader Jason Bourne Thriller