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'You just told me to play it out. '

'Not this way. You're a decent man; so am I. We're professionals. '

'You don't understand! We have photographs, yes, but they may be useless. They're three years old, and Bourne's changed, changed drastically. It's why Conklin's on the scene - where I don't know - but he's there. He's the only one who's seen him, but it was night, raining. She may be our only chance. She's been with him - living with him for weeks, she knows him. It's possible that she'd recognize him before anyone else. '

'I don't understand. '

'I'll spell it out. Among Bourne's many, many talents is the ability to change his appearance, melt into a crowd or a field or a cluster of trees - be where you can't see him. If what you say is so, he wouldn't remember, but we used to have a word for him in Medusa. His men used to call him . . . a chameleon. '

'That's your Cain, General. '

'It was our Delta. There was no one like him . . . And that's why the girl can help. Now. Clear me! Let me see her, talk to her. '

'By clearing you, we acknowledge you. I don't think we can do that. '

'For God's sake, you just said we were decent men! Are we? We can save his life! Maybe. If she's with me and we find him, we can get him out of there!'

'There? Are you telling me you know exactly where he's going to be?'

'Yes. '

'How?'

'Because he wouldn't go anywhere else. '

'And the time span?' asked the incredulous director of Consular Operations. 'You know when he's going to be there?'

'Yes. Today. It's the date of his own execution. '

35

Rock music blared from the transistor radio with tin-like vibrations as the long-haired driver of the Yellow Cab slapped his hand against the rim of the steering wheel and jolted his jaw with the beat. The taxi edged east on Seventy-first Street, locked into the line of cars that began at the exit on the East River Drive. Tempers flared as engines roared in place and cars lurched forward only to slam to sudden stops, inches away from bumpers in front. It was 8. 45 in the morning, New York's rush hour traffic as usual a contradiction in syntax.

Bourne wedged himself into the corner of the back seat and stared at the tree-lined street beneath the rim of his hat and through the dark lenses of his sun glasses. He had been there; it was all indelible. He had walked the pavements, seen the doorways and the shopfronts and the walls covered with ivy -so out of place in the city, yet so right for this street. He had glanced up before and had noticed the roof gardens before, relating them to a gracious garden several blocks away towards the park, beyond a pair of elegant French doors at the far end of a large . . . complicated . . . room. That room was inside a tall, narrow building of brown, jagged stone, with a column of wide, lead-paned windows rising three storeys above the pavement. Windows made of thick glass that refracted light both inside and out in subtle flashes of purple and blue. Antique glass, perhaps, ornamental glass. . . bullet-proof glass. A brown stone residence with a set of thick outside steps. They were odd steps, unusual steps, each level criss-crossed with black ridges that protruded above the surface, protecting the descender from the elements. Shoes going down would not slip on ice or snow . . . and the weight of anyone climbing up would trigger electronic devices inside.

Jason knew that house, knew they were coming closer to it The echo in his chest accelerated and became louder as they entered the block. He would see it any moment, and as he held his wrist he knew why Pare Monceau had struck such chords in his mind's eye. That small part of Paris was so much like this short stretch of the upper east side. Except for an isolated intrusion of an unkempt stoop or an ill-conceived white-washed facade, they could be identical blocks.

He thought of Andre Villiers. He had written down everything he could remember since a memory had been given him in the pages of a notebook hastily purchased at Orly Airport. From the first moment when a living, bullet-ridden man had opened his eyes in a humid, dingy room on lie de Port Noir through the frightening revelations of Marseilles, Zurich and Paris - especially Paris, where the spectre of an assassin's mantle had fallen over his shoulders, the expertise of a killer proven to be his. By any standards, it was a confession, as damning in what it could not explain as in what it described. But it was the truth as he knew the truth, infinitely more exculpatory after his death than before. In the hands of Andre" Villiers it would be used well; the right decisions would be made for Marie St Jacques. That knowledge gave him the freedom he needed now. He had sealed the pages in an envelope and mailed it to Pare Monceau from Kennedy Airport. By the time it reached Paris he would be alive or he would be dead; he would kill Carlos or Carlos would kill him. Somewhere on that street - so like a street thousands of miles away - a man whose shoulders floated rigidly above a tapered waist would come after him. It was the only thing he was absolutely sure of; he would do the same. Somewhere on that street. . .

There it wast It was there, the morning sun bouncing off the black enamelled door and the shiny brass, penetrating the thick, lead-paned windows that rose like a wide column of glistening, purplish blue, emphasizing the ornamental splendour of the glass, but not its resistance to the impacts of high-powered rifles and heavy calibred automatic weapons. He was here, and for reasons - emotions he could not define, his eyes began to tear and there was a swelling in his throat. He had the incredible feeling that he had come back to a place that was as much a part of him as his body or what was left of his mind. Not a home; there was no comfort, no serenity in looking at that elegant east-side residence. But there was something else -an overpowering sensation of - return. He was back at the beginning, the beginning, at both departure and creation, black night and bursting dawn. Something was happening to him; he gripped his wrist harder, desperately trying to control the almost uncontrollable impulse to jump out of the taxi and race across the street to that monstrous, silent structure of jagged stone and deep blue glass. He wanted to leap up the steps and hammer his fist against the heavy black door.

Let me in! I am here! You must let me in! Can't you understand?

I AM INSIDE!

Images welled up in front of his eyes; jarring sounds assaulted his ears. A jolting, throbbing pain kept exploding at his temples. He was inside a dark room - that room - staring at a screen, at other, inner images that kept flashing on and off in rapid, blinding succession.

Who is he? Quickly. You're too late! You're a dead man. Where is this street? What does it mean to you? Who did you meet there? What? Good. Keep it simple; say as little as possible. Hare's a list: eight names. Which are contacts? Quickly! Here's another. Methods of matching kills. Which are yours? . . . No, no, no! Delta might do that, not Cain! You are not Delta, you are not you! You are Cain. You are a man named Bourne. Jason Bourne! You slipped back. Try again. Concentrate! Obliterate everything else. Wipe away the past. It does not exist for you. You are only what you are here, became here!

Oh, God. Marie had said it.

Maybe you just know what you've been told . . . Over and over and over again. Until there was nothing else . . . Things you've been told . . . but you can't re-live . . . because they're not you.

The sweat rolled down his face, stinging his eyes, as he dug his fingers into his wrist, trying to push the pain and the sounds and the flashes of light out of his mind. He had written to Carlos that he was coming back for hidden documents that were his. . . ' final protection'. At that time, the phrase had struck him as weak; he had nearly crossed it out, wanting a stronger reason for flying to New York. Yet instinct had told him to let it stand; it was a part of his past. . . somehow. Now he understood. His identity was inside that house. His identity. And whether Carlos came after him or not, he had to find it He had to!



Tags: Robert Ludlum, Eric Van Lustbader Jason Bourne Thriller
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