'"No way . . . Charlie. " Why did you say that, Mo?'
'What do you mean, why did I say it? It's a phrase. I hear it all the time. Kids in dirty blue jeans on the corner; hookers in my favourite saloons. '
'How do you know what I'm leading up to?' said the C. I. A. man.
'Because I had to read the books and you're not very subtle. You're about to describe a classic case of paranoid schizophrenia with multiple personalities. It's not just your man assuming the role of the decoy, but the decoy himself transferring his identity to the one he's after. The target. That's what you're driving at, Alex. You're telling me your man is three people: himself, decoy and target And I repeat No way, Charlie. I'm not confirming anything remotely like that without an extensive examination. That's giving you rights you can't have: three reasons for dispatch. No way!'
ATM not asking you to confirm anything! I just want to know if it's possible. For Christ's sake, Mo, there's a legally experienced man running around with a gun, killing people he claims he didn't know, but whom he worked with for three years! He denies being at a specific place at a specific time when his own fingerprints prove he was there! He says images come to him - faces he can't place, names he's heard but doesn't know from where. He claims he was never the decoy, it was never him! But it was! It is! Is it possible! That's all I want to know! Could the stress and time and the everyday pressures break him like this? Into three?'
Panov held his breath for a moment. 'It's possible,' he said softly. 'If your facts are accurate, it's possible. That's all I'll say, because there are too many other possibilities. '
Thank you. ' Conklin paused. 'A last question. Say there was a date - a month and a day - that was significant to the mocked dossier, the decoy's dossier. *
'You'd have to be more specific. '
'I will. It was the date when the man whose identity was taken for decoy was killed. '
'Then obviously not part of the working dossier, but known to your man. Am I following you?'
'Yes, he knew it. Let's say he was there. Would he remember it?'
'Not as the decoy. "
'But as one of the other two?'
'Assuming the target was also aware of it, or that he'd communicated it through his transference, yes. '
'There's also a place where the strategy was conceived, where the decoy was created. If our man was in the vicinity of that place and the date of death was close at hand, would he be drawn to it? Would it surface and become important to him?'
'If it was associated with the original place of death because the decoy was born there, it's possible. It would depend on who he was at the moment.
'Suppose he was the target?*
'And knew the location?'
'Yes because another part of him had to. "
'Then he'd be drawn to it. It would be a subconscious compulsion. '
'To kill the decoy. He'd kill everything in sight, but the main objective would be the decoy. Himself. '
Alexander Conklin replaced the phone, his non-existent foot throbbing, his thoughts so convoluted he had to close his eyes again to find a consistent strain. He had been wrong in Paris . . . in a cemetery outside Paris. He had wanted to kill a man for the wrong reasons, the right ones beyond his comprehension. He was dealing with a madman. Someone whose afflictions were not explained in twenty years of training, but were understandable if one thought about the pains and the losses, the unending waves of violence . . . all ending in futility. No one knew anything really. Nothing made sense. A Carlos was trapped, killed today, and another would take his place. Why did we do it. . . David?
David. I say your name finally. We were friends once. David . . . Delta. I knew your wife and your children. We drank together and had a few dinners together in far-off posts in Asia. You were the best foreign service officer in the Orient and everyone knew it. You were going to be the key to the new policy, the one that was around the corner. And then it happened. Death from the skies in the Mekong . . . You turned, David. We all lost, but only one of us became Delta. In Medusa. I did not know you that well - drinks and a dinner or two do not a close companion make - but few of us become animals. You did. Delta.
And now you must die. Nobody can afford you any longer. None of us.
'Leave us, please,' said General Villiers to his aide as he sat down opposite Marie St Jacques in the Montmartre cafe". The aide nodded and walked to a table ten feet from the booth; he would leave but he was still on guard. The exhausted old soldier looked at Marie. 'Why did you insist on my coming here? He wanted you out of Paris. I gave him my word. '
'Out of Paris, out of the race,' said Marie, touched by the sight of the old man's haggard face. 'I'm sorry. I don't want to be another burden for you. I heard the reports on the radio. '
'Insanity,' said Villiers, picking up the brandy his aide had ordered for him. Three hours with the police living a terrible lie, condemning a man for a crime that was mine alone. '
The description was accurate, uncannily accurate. No one could miss him. '
'He gave it to me himself. He sat in front of my wife's mirror and told me what to say, looking at his own face in the strangest manner. He saw it was the only way. Carlos could only be convinced by my going to the police, creating a manhunt. He was right, of course. '
'He was right,' agreed Marie, 'but he's not in Paris, or Brussels, or Amsterdam. ' 'I beg your pardon?' 'I want you to tell me where he's gone. ' 'He told you himself. ' 'He lied to me. ' 'How can you be certain?'
'Because I know when he tells me the truth. You see, we both listen for it. '
'You both. . . ? I'm afraid I don't understand. ' 'I didn't think you would; I was sure he hadn't told you. When he lied to me on the phone, saying the things he said so hesitantly, knowing I knew they were lies, I couldn't understand. I didn't piece it together until I heard the radio reports. Yours and another. That description . . . so complete, so total, even to the scar on his left temple. Then I knew. He wasn't planning to stay in Paris, or within five hundred miles of Paris. He was going far away - where that description wouldn't mean very much - where Carlos could be led, delivered to the people Jason had his agreement with. Am I right?'
Villiers put down the glass. 'I've given my word. You're to be taken to safety in the country. I don't understand the things you're saying. '
'Then I'll try to be clearer,' said Marie, leaning forward. 'There was another report on the radio, one you obviously didn't hear because you were with the police or in seclusion. Two men were found shot to death in a cemetery near Ram-bouillet this morning. One was a known killer from St-Gervais. The other was identified as a former American Intelligence officer living in Paris, a highly controversial man who was given the choice of retiring from the army or facing a court martial. '
'Are you saying the incidents are related?' asked the old man.
'Jason was instructed by the American Embassy to go to that cemetery last night to meet a man flying over from Washington. '
'Yes. His agreement was with a small group of men from American Intelligence. They tried to kill him last night; they think they have to kill him. '