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Ten feet away Conklin was thrashing on the wet grass, both hands spreading frantically over the ground, feeling for the steel of a gun. Bourne sprang up and raced over; he knelt beside the Treadstone man, one hand grabbing the wet hair, the other holding his automatic, its barrel pressed into Conklin's skull. From the far columns of the mausoleum came a prolonged, shattering scream. It grew steadily, eerily in volume, then stopped.

That's your hired shotgun,' said Jason, yanking Conklin's head to the side. Treadstone's taken on some very strange employees. Who was the other man? What death row did you spring him from?"

'He was a better man than you ever were," replied Conklin, his voice strained, the rain glistening on his face, caught in the beam of the fallen torch six feet away on the ground. "They all are. They've all lost as much as you lost, but they never turned. We can count on them. '

'No matter what I say, you won't believe me. You don't want to believe me!'

'Because I know what you are, what you did. You just confirmed the whole damn thing! You can kill me, but they'll get you. You're the worst kind. You think you're special! You always did! I saw you after Phnom-Penh - everybody lost out there, but that didn't count with you! It was only you, just you Then in Medusa! No rules for Delta! The animal just wanted to kill. And that's the kind that turns! Well, I lost, too, but I never turned. Go on! Kill me! Then you can go back to Carlos. But when I don't come back, they'll know! They'll come after you and they won't stop until they get you. Go on! Shoot!'

Conklin was shouting, but Bourne could hardly hear him. Instead, he had heard two words and the jolts of pain hammered at his temples. Phnom-Penh! Phnom-Penh. Death in the skies, from the skies. Death of the young and the very young.

Screeching birds and screaming machines and the deathlike stench of the jungle . . . and a river. He was blinded again, on fire again.

Beneath him the man from Treadstone had broken away. His crippled figure was crawling in panic, lunging, his hands surging through the wet grass. Jason blinked, trying to force his mind to come back to him. Then instantly he knew he had to point the automatic and fire. Conklin had found his gun and was raising it! But Bourne could not pull the trigger.

He dived to his right, rolling on the ground, scrambling towards the marble columns of the mausoleum. Conklin's gunshots were wild, the crippled man unable to steady his leg or his aim. Then the firing stopped and Jason got to his feet, his face against the smooth wet stone. He looked out, his automatic raised; he had to kill this man for this man would kill him, kill Marie, link them both to Carlos.

Conklin was hobbling pathetically towards the gates, turning constantly, the gun extended, his destination a car outside in the road. Bourne raised his automatic, the crippled figure in his gunsight. A split half second and it would be over, his enemy from Treadstone dead, hope found with that death, for there were reasonable men in Washington.

He could not do it; he could not pull the trigger. He lowered the gun, standing helpless by the marble column as Conklin climbed into his car.

The car. He had to get back to Paris. There was a way. It had been there all along. She had been there!

He rapped on the door, his mind racing, facts analysed, absorbed and discarded as rapidly as they came to him, a strategy evolving. Marie recognized the knock, she opened the door.

'Dear God, look at you! What happened?'

'No time,' he said, rushing towards the telephone across the room. 'It was a trap. They're convinced I turned, sold out to Carlos. '

'What?'

'They say I flew into New York last week, last Friday. That I killed five people . . . among them a brother. ' Jason closed his eyes briefly. 'There was a brother - is a brother. I don't know, I can't think about it now. '

'You never left Paris I You can prove it!'

'How? Eight, ten hours, that's all I'd need. And eight or ten hours unaccounted for is all they need now. Who's going to come forward?'

'I will. You've been with me!"

'They think you're part of it,' said Bourne, picking up the telephone and dialling. 'The theft, the turning, Port Noir, the whole damn thing. They've locked you into me. Carlos engineered this down to the last fragment of a fingerprint. Christ! Did he put it together!'

'What are you doing? Who are you calling?'

'Our back-up, remember? The only one we've got. Villiers. Villiers's wife. She's the one. We're going to take her, break her, put her on a hundred racks if we have to. But we won't have to; she won't fight because she can't win . . . Goddamn it, why doesn't he answer?'

'The private phone's in his office. It's three in the morning. He's probably. . . '

'He's on! General? Is that you?' Jason had to ask; the voice on the line was oddly quiet, but not the quiet of interrupted sleep.

'Yes, it is I, my young friend. I apologize for the delay. I've been upstairs with my wife. '

'That's who I'm calling about. We've got to move. Now. Alert French Intelligence, Interpol and the American Embassy, but tell them not to interfere until I've seen her, talked to her. We have to talk. '

'I don't think so, Mr Bourne . . . Yes, I know your name, my friend. As for your talking to my wife, however, I'm afraid that's not possible. You see, I've killed her. '

33

Jason stared at the hotel room wall, at the flock paper with the faded designs that spiralled into one another in meaningless contortions of worn fabric. 'Why?' he said quietly into the phone. 'I thought you understood. '

'I tried, my friend,' said Villiers, his voice beyond anger or sorrow. The saints know I tried, but I could not help myself. I kept looking at her . . . seeing the son she did not bear behind her, killed by the pig animal that was her mentor. My whore was someone else's whore . . . the animal's whore. It could not be otherwise and, as I learned, it was not. I think she saw the outrage in my eyes, heaven knows it was there. ' The general paused, the memory painful now. 'She not only saw the outrage, but the truth. She saw that I knew. What she was, what she had been during the years we'd spent together. At the end, I gave her the chance I told you I would give her. '

'To kill you?'

'Yes. It wasn't difficult. Between our beds is a night stand with a weapon in the drawer. She lay on her bed, Goya's Maja, splendid in her arrogance, dismissing me with her private thoughts as I was consumed by my own. I opened the drawer for a book of matches and walked back to my chair and my pipe, leaving the drawer open, the handle of the gun very much in evidence.

'It was my silence, I imagine, and the fact that I could not take my eyes off her that forced her to acknowledge me, then concentrate on me. The tension between us had grown to the point where very little had to be said to burst the floodgates, and - God help me - I said it. I heard myself asking, "Why did you do it?" Then the accusation became complete. I called her my whore, the whore that killed my son.

'She stared at me for several moments, her eyes breaking away once to glance at the open drawer and the gun . . . and the telephone. I stood up, the embers in my pipe glowing, loose . . . chauffe au rouge. She spun her legs off the bed. put both hands into that open drawer, and took out the gun. I did not stop her, instead I had to hear the words from her own lips, hear my own indictment of myself as well as hers . . . What I heard will go to my grave with me, for there will be honour left my person and the person of my son. We will not be scorned by those who've given less than we. Never. '



Tags: Robert Ludlum, Eric Van Lustbader Jason Bourne Thriller
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