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'I'll play it, said the former intelligence officer. 'Go ahead. '

There's not much more for the moment. I'll take a jet out of Andrews. My E. T. A. in Paris will be anywhere between ten and one your time. I want to see Bourne within an hour or so after that, and be back here in Washington by tomorrow. It's tight, but that's the way it's got to be. '

That's the way it'll be then. '

'The blind at the embassy is the First Secretary. His name is. . . '

Conklin gave the remaining specifics and the two men worked out basic ciphers for their initial contact in Paris Code words that would tell the man from the Central Intelligence Agency whether or not any problems existed when they spoke Conklin hung up. Everything was in motion exactly the way Delta would expect it to be in motion. The inheritors of Treadstone would go by the book, and the book was specific where collapsed strategies and strategists were concerned. They were to be dissolved, cut off, no official connection or acknowledgment permitted. Failed strategies and strategists were an embarrassment to Washington. And from its manipulative beginnings, Treadstone 71 had used, abused, and manoeuvred every major unit in the United States Intelligence community and not a few foreign governments. Very long poles would be held when touching any survivors.

Delta knew all this, and because he himself had destroyed Treadstone, he would appreciate the precautions, anticipate them, be alarmed if they were not there. And when confronted he would react in false fury and artificial anguish over the violence that had taken place in Seventy-first Street. Alexander Conklin would listen with all his concentration, trying to discern a genuine note, or even the outlines of a reasonable explanation, but he knew he would hear neither. Irregular fragments of glass could not beam themselves across the Atlantic only to be concealed beneath a heavy curtain in a Manhattan brownstone, and fingerprints were more accurate proof of a man having been at a scene than any photograph. There was no way they could be doctored.

Conklin would give Delta the benefit of two minutes to say whatever came to his facile tongue. He would listen, and then he would pull the trigger.

32

'Why are they doing it?' said Jason, sitting down next to Marie in the packed cafe1. He had made the fifth telephone call, five hours after having reached the embassy. They want me to keep running. They're forcing me to run, and 1 don't know why. '

'You're forcing yourself,' said Marie. 'You could have made the calls from the room. '

'No, I couldn't. For some reason, they want me to know that. Each time I call, that son of a bitch asks me where I am now, am I in "safe territory"? Silly goddamn phrase, "safe territory". But he's saying something else. He's telling me that every contact must be made from a different location, so that no one outside or inside could trace me to a single phone, a single address. They don't want me in custody, but they want me on a string. They want me, but they're afraid of me; it doesn't make sense!'

'Isn't it possible you're imagining these things? No one said anything remotely like that. '

'They didn't have to. It's in what they didn't say. Why didn't they just tell me to come right over to the embassy. Order me. No one could touch me there, it's U. S. territory. They didn't. '

The streets are being watched; you were told that. '

'You know, I accepted that - blindly - until about thirty seconds ago when it struck me. By whom? Who's watching the streets?'

'Carlos, obviously. His men. '

'You know that and I know that - at least we can assume it - but they don't know that. I may not know who the hell I am or where I came from, but I know what's happened to me during the past twenty-four hours. They don't. '

'They could assume too, couldn't they? They might have spotted strange men in cars, or standing around too long, too obviously. '

'Carlos is brighter than that. And there are lots of ways a specific vehicle could get quickly inside an embassy's gates. Marine contingents everywhere are trained for things like that. '

'I believe you. "

'But they didn't do that; they didn't even suggest it. Instead, they're stalling me, making me play games. Goddamn it, why?'

'You said it yourself, Jason. They haven't heard from you in six months. They're being very careful. '

'Why this way? They get me inside those gates, they can do whatever they want. They control me. They can throw me a party or throw me into a cell. Instead, they don't want to touch me, but they don't want to lose me, either. '

"They're waiting for the man flying over from Washington. *

'What better place to wait for him than in the embassy?' Bourne pushed back his chair. 'Something's wrong. Let's get out of here. '

It had taken Alexander Conklin, inheritor of Treadstone, exactly six hours and twelve minutes to cross the Atlantic. To go back he would take the first Concorde flight out of Paris in the morning, reach Dulles by 7:30 Washington time and be at Langley at 9:00. If anyone tried to phone him or asked where he had spent the night, an accommodating major from the Pentagon would supply a false answer. And a First Secretary at the embassy in Paris would be told that if he ever mentioned having had a single conversation with the man from Langley, he'd be descaled to the lowest attache1 on the ladder and shipped to a new post in Tierra del Fuego. It was guaranteed.

Conklin went directly to a row of pay phones against the wall and called the embassy. The First Secretary was filled with a sense of accomplishment.

'Everything's according to schedule, Conklin,' said the embassy man, the absence of the previously employed Mister a sign of equality. The Company executive was in Paris now, and turf was turf. 'Bourne's edgy. During our last communication, he repeatedly asked why he wasn't being told to come in. '

'He did?' At first, Conklin was surprised, then he understood. Delta was feigning the reactions of a man who knew nothing of the events on Seventy-first Street. If he had been told to come to the embassy, he would have bolted. He knew better; there could be no official connection. Treadstone was an anathema, a discredited strategy, a major embarrassment. 'Did you reiterate that the streets were being watched?'

'Naturally. Then he asked me who was watching them. Can you imagine?'

'I can. What did you say?'

'That he knew as well as I did, and all things considered I thought it was counter-productive to discuss such matters over the telephone. '

'Very good. '

'I rather thought so. '

'What did he say to that? Did he settle for it?'

'In an odd way, yes. He said, "I see," that's all. '

'Did he change his mind and ask for protection?'

'He's continued to refuse it. Even when I insisted. ' The First Secretary paused briefly. 'He doesn't want to be watched, does he?' he said confidentially.

'No, he doesn't. When do you expect his next call?"

'In about fifteen minutes. '

Tell him the Treadstone officer has arrived. ' Conklin took the map from his pocket; it was folded to the area, the route marked in blue ink. 'Say the rendezvous has been set for one-thirty on the road between Chevreuse and Rambouillet, seven miles south of Versailles at the Cimetiere de Noblesse. '



Tags: Robert Ludlum, Eric Van Lustbader Jason Bourne Thriller
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