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The beam of a torch. It was there at the bottom of the hill and it was moving up and down, intermittently swinging back at the gates as though the holder was concerned that someone might appear. Bourne had an almost uncontrollable urge to race down between the rows of graves and statuary, shouting at the top of his voice. I'm here! It's me. I understand your message. I've come back! I have so much to tell you . . . and there is so much you must tell me!

But he did not shout and he did not run. Above all else, he had to show control, for what afflicted him was so uncontrollable. He had to appear completely lucid - sane within the boundaries of his memory. He began walking down the hill in the cold light rain, wishing his sense of urgency had allowed him to remember a torch.

The torch. Something was odd about the beam of light five hundred feet below. It was moving in short vertical strokes, as if in emphasis . . . as if the man holding it was speaking emphatically to another.

He was. Jason crouched, peering through the rain, his eyes struck by a sharp, darting reflection of light that shot out whenever the beam hit the object in front of it. He crept forward, his body close to the ground, covering well over a hundred feet in seconds, his gaze still on the beam and the strange reflection. He could see more clearly now; he stopped and concentrated. There were two men, one holding the torch, the other a short-barrelled rifle, the thick steel of the gun known only too well to Bourne. At distances of up to thirty feet it could blow a man six feet into the air. It was a very odd weapon for an officer-of-record sent by Washington to have at his command.

The beam of light shot over to the side of the white mausoleum; the figure holding the powerful, short-barrelled rifle retreated quickly, slipping behind a column no more than twenty feet away from the man holding the torch.

Jason did not have to think; he knew what he had to do. If there was an explanation for the deadly weapon, so be it, but it would not be used on him. Kneeling, he judged the distance and looked for points of sanctuary, both for concealment and protection. He started out, wiping the rain from his face, feeling the gun in his belt that he knew he could not use.

He scrambled from gravestone to gravestone, statue to statue, heading to his right, then angling gradually to his left until the semi-circle was nearly complete. He was within fifteen feet of the mausoleum; the man with the murderous weapon was standing by the left corner column, under the short portico to avoid the rain. He was fondling his gun as though it were a sexual object, cracking the breach, unable to resist peering inside. He ran his palm over the inserted shells, the gesture obscene.

Now. Bourne crept out from behind the gravestone, hands and knees propelling him over the wet grass until he was within six feet of the man. He sprang up, a silent, lethal panther hurling dirt in front of him, one hand surging for the barrel of the rifle, the other for the man's head. He reached both, grabbed both, clasping the barrel in the fingers of his left hand, the man's hair in his right. The head snapped back, throat stretched, sound muted. He smashed the head into the white marble with such force that the expulsion of breath that followed signified a severe concussion. The man went limp, Jason supporting him against the wall, permitting the unconscious body to slip silently to the ground between the columns. He searched the man, removing a . 357 Magnum automatic from a leather case sewn into his jacket, a razor-sharp scaling knife from a scabbard on his belt and a small . 22 revolver from an ankle holster. Nothing remotely government issue; this was a hired killer, an arsenal on foot.

Break his fingers, the words came back to Bourne; they had been spoken by a man in gold-rimmed glasses in a large saloon car racing out of the Steppdeckstrasse. There was reason behind the violence. Jason grabbed the man's right hand and bent the fingers back until he heard the cracks; he did the same with the left, the man's mouth blocked. Bourne's elbow jammed between the teeth. No sound emerged above the sound of the rain, and neither hand could be used for a weapon or as a weapon, the weapons themselves placed out of reach in the shadows.

Jason stood up and edged his face around the column. The Treadstone officer now angled the light directly into the earth in front of him. It was the stationary signal, the beam a lost bird was to home into; it might be other things also, the next few minutes would tell. The man turned towards the gate taking a tentative step as though he might have heard something and for the first time Bourne saw the cane, observed the limp. The officer-of-record from Treadstone Seventy-one was a cripple . . . as he was a cripple.

Jason dashed back to the first gravestone, spun behind it and peered around the marble edge. The man from Treadstone still had his attention on the gates. Bourne glanced at his watch, it was 1:27. Time remained. He pushed himself away from the grave, hugging the ground until he was out of sight, then stood up and ran, retracing the arch back to the top of the hill. He stood for a moment, letting his breathing and his heartbeat resume a semblance of normality, then reached into his pocket for a book of matches. Protecting it from the rain, he tore off a match and struck it.

'Treadstone?' he said loud enough to be heard from below.

'Delta!'

Cain is for Charlie and Delta is for Cain. Why did the man from Treadstone use the name Delta rather than Cain? Delta was no part of Treadstone; he had disappeared with Medusa. Jason started down the hill, the cold rain whipping his face, his hand instinctively reaching beneath his jacket, pressing the automatic in his belt.

He walked onto the stretch of lawn in front of the white mausoleum. The man from Treadstone limped towards him, then stopped, raising his flashlight, the harsh beam causing Bourne to squint and turn his head away.

'It's been a long time,' said the crippled officer, lowering the light. 'The name's Conklin, in case you've forgotten. '

'Thank you. I had. It's only one of the things. '

'One of what things?'

"That I've forgotten. '

'You remembered this place, though. I guessed you would, I read Abbott's logs; it was here you last met, last made a delivery. During a state burial for some minister or other, wasn't it?'

'I don't know. That's what we have to talk about first you haven't heard from me in over six months. There's an explanation. '

'Really? Let's hear it. '

The simplest way to put it is that I was wounded, shot, the effects of the wounds causing a severe . . . dislocation. Disorientation is a better word, I guess. '

'Sounds good. What does it mean?'

'I suffered a memory loss. Total. I spent over five months on an island in the Mediterranean - south of Marseilles - not knowing who I was or where I came from. There's a doctor, an Englishman named Washburn, who kept medical records. He can verify what I'm telling you. '

'I'm sure he can,' said Conklin, nodding. 'And I'll bet those records are massive. Christ, you paid enough. '

'What do you mean?'

'We've got a record, too. A bank officer in Zurich who thought he was being tested by Treadstone transferred three million Swiss francs to Marseilles for an untraceable collection. Thanks for giving us the name. '

That's part of what you have to understand. I didn't know. He'd saved my life, put me back together. I was damn near a corpse when I was brought to him. '

'So you decided a million-odd dollars was a pretty fair ballpark figure, is that is? Courtesy of the Treadstone budget. '



Tags: Robert Ludlum, Eric Van Lustbader Jason Bourne Thriller
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