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'General. . . ' Bourne shook his head, unable to think clearly, knowing he had to find the seconds in order to find his thoughts. 'General, what happened? She gave you my name. How? You've got to tell me that Please. '

'Willingly. She said you were an insignificant gunman who wished to step into the shoes of a giant. That you were a thief from Zurich, a man your own people disowned. '

'Did she say who those people were?'

'If she did I didn't hear. I was blind, deaf, my rage uncontrolled. But you have nothing to fear from me. The chapter is closed, my life over with a telephone call. '

'No!' Jason shouted. 'Don't do that I Not now. '

'I must. '

'Please! Don't settle for Carlos's whore. Get Carlos! Trap Carlos!'

'Reaping scorn on my name from lying with that whore? Manipulated by the animal's slut?'

'Goddamn you, what about your son! Five sticks of dynamite on rue du Bac!'

'Leave him in peace. Leave me in peace. It's over. "

'It's not over! Listen to me! Give a moment, that's all I ask. ' The images in Jason's mind raced furiously across his eyes, clashing, supplanting one another. But these images had meaning. Purpose. He could feel Marie's hand on his arm, gripping him firmly, somehow anchoring his body to a mooring of reality. 'Did anyone hear the gunshot?'

"There was no gunshot. The coup de gras is misunderstood in these times. I prefer its original intent To still the suffering of a wounded comrade or a respected enemy. It is not used for a whore. "

'What do you mean? You said you killed her. '

'I strangled her, forcing her eyes to look into mine as the breath went out of her body. '

'She had your gun

'Ineffective when one's eyes are burning from the loose embers of a pipe. It's immaterial now, she might have won. '

'She did win if you let it stop here! Can't you see that? Carlos wins! She broke you! And you didn't have the brains to do anything but choke her to death! You talk about scorn! You're buying it all; there's nothing left but scorn!'

'Why do you persist, Monsieur Bourne?' asked Villiers wearily. 'I expect no charity from you, nor from anyone. Simply leave me alone. I accept what is. You accomplish nothing. '

'I will if I can get you to listen to me! Get Carlos, trap Carlos How many times do I have to say it? He's the one you want! He squares it all for you! And he's the one I need! Without him I'm dead. We're dead. For God's sake, listen to me!'

'I would like to help you, but there's no way I can. Or will, if you like. '

'There is. ' The images came into focus! He knew where he was, where he was going! The meaning and the purpose came together. 'Reverse the trap! Walk away from it untouched, with everything you've got in place!'

'I don't understand. How is that possible?'

'You didn't kill your wife. 7 did!'

'Jason!' Marie screamed, clutching his arm.

'I know what I'm doing,' said Bourne. 'For the first time, I really know what I'm doing. It's funny, but I think I've known it from the beginning. '

Pare Monceau was quiet, the street deserted, a few porch lights shimmering in the cold, mistlike rain, all the windows along the row of neat, expensive houses dark, except for the residence of Andre Francois Villiers, legend of St Cyr and Normandy, member of France's National Assembly . . . wife killer. The front windows above and to the left of the porch glowed dimly. It was the bedroom wherein the master of the house had killed the mistress of the house, where a memory-ridden old soldier had choked the life out of an assassin's whore.

Villiers had agreed to nothing; he had been too stunned to answer. But Jason had driven home his theme, hammered the message with such repeated emphasis that the words had echoed over the telephone. Get Carlos! Don't settle for the killer's whore! Get the man who killed your son! Who put five sticks of dynamite in a car on rue du Bac and took the last of the Villiers line. He's the one you want! Get him!

Get Carlos. Trap Carlos; Cain is for Charlie and Delta is for Cain. It was so clear to him. There was no other way. At the end, it was the beginning - as the beginning bad been revealed to him. To survive he had to bring in the assassin; if he failed, he was a dead man. And there would be no life for Marie St Jacques. She would be destroyed, imprisoned, perhaps killed, for an act of faith that became an act of love. Cain's mark was on her, embarrassment avoided with her removal. She was a phial of nitroglycerine balanced on a high wire in the centre of an unknown ammunition depot. Use a net Remove her. A bullet in the head neutralizes the explosives in her mind. She cannot be heard!

There was so much Villiers had to understand, and so little time to explain, the explanation itself limited both by a memory that did not exist and the current state of the old soldier's mind. A delicate balance had to be found in the telling, parameters established as to time and the general's immediate contributions. Jason understood; he was asking a man who held his honour above all things to lie to the world. For Villiers to do that, the objective had to be monumentally honourable.

Get Carlos!

There was a second, ground-floor entrance to the general's home, to the right of the steps, beyond a gate, where deliveries were made to the downstairs kitchen. Villiers had agreed to leave the gate and the door unlatched. Bourne had not bothered to tell the old soldier that it did not matter; that he would get inside in any event, a degree of damage intrinsic to his strategy. But first there was the risk that Villiers's house was being watched, there being good reasons for Carlos to do so, and equally good reasons not to do so. All things considered, the assassin might decide to stay as far away from Angelique Villiers as possible, taking no chance that one of his men could be picked up, thus proving his connection, the Pare Monceau connection. On the other hand, the dead Angelique was his cousin and lover . . . the only person on earth he cares about. Philippe d'Anjou.

D'Anjou! Of course there'd be someone watching - or two or ten! If d'Anjou had got out of France, Carlos could assume the worst; if the man from Medusa had not, the assassin would know the worst. The colonial would be broken, every word exchanged with Cain revealed. Where? Where were Carlos's men? Strangely enough, thought Jason, if there was no one posted in Pare Monceau on this particular night, his entire strategy was worthless.

It was not; they were there. In a saloon car - the same car that had raced through the gates of the Louvre twelve hours ago, the same two men - killers who were the backups of killers. The car was fifty feet down the street on the left-hand side, with a clear view of Villiers's house. But were those two men slumped down in the seat, their eyes awake and alert, all that were there? Bourne could not tell; vehicles lined the kerbs on both sides of the street. He crouched in the shadows of the corner building, diagonally across from the two men in the stationary saloon. He knew what had to be done, but he was not sure how to do it. He needed a diversion, alarming enough to attract Carlos's soldiers, visible enough to flush out any others who might be concealed in the street or on a rooftop or behind a darkened window.

Fire. Out of nowhere. Sudden, away from Villiers's house, yet close enough and startling enough to send vibrations throughout the quiet, deserted, tree-lined street. Vibrations . . . sirens; explosive . . . explosions. It could be done. It was merely a question of equipment.

Tags: Robert Ludlum, Eric Van Lustbader Jason Bourne Thriller