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'Later on, yes. Delta was notorious by then. North Vietnamese intelligence had put an extraordinary price on his head, and it's no secret that among our own people a number hoped they'd succeed. Then Hanoi found out that Webb's younger brother was an army officer in Saigon and, having studied Delta -knowing the brothers were close - decided to mount a trap; they had nothing to lose. They kidnapped Lieutenant Gordon Webb and took him north, sending back a Cong informant with word that he was being held in the Tarn Quan sector. Delta bit; along with the informer - a double agent - he formed a team of Medusans who knew the area and picked a night when no aircraft should have left the ground to fly north. D'Anjou was in the unit. So was another man Webb didn't know about; a white man who'd been bought by Hanoi, an expert in communications who could assemble the electronic components of a high frequency radio in the dark. Which is exactly what he did, betraying his unit's position. Webb broke through the trap and found his brother. He also found the double agent and the white man. The Vietnamese escaped in the jungle; the white man didn't. Delta executed him on the spot. '

'And that man?" Marie's eyes were riveted on Crawford.

'Jason Bourne. A Medusan from Sydney, Australia, a runner of guns, narcotics and slaves throughout all South-east Asia; a violent man with a criminal record, who was nevertheless highly effective - if the price were high enough. It was in Medusa's interests to bury the circumstances of his death; he became an M. I. A. from a specialized unit Years later, when Treadstone was being formed and Webb called back, it was Webb himself who took the name of Bourne. It fitted the requirements of authenticity, traceability. He took the name of the man who'd betrayed him, the man he had killed in Tarn Quan. '

'Where was he when he was called back for Treadstone?' asked Marie. 'What was he doing?'

Teaching in a small college in New Hampshire. Living an isolated life, some said destructive. For him. ' Crawford picked up the folder. Those are the essential facts, Miss St Jacques. Other areas will be covered by Dr Panov, who's made it clear that my presence is not required. There is, however, one remaining detail which must be thoroughly understood. It's a direct order from the White House. '

The protection,' said Marie, her words a statement

'Yes. Wherever he goes, regardless of the identity he assumes, or the success of his cover, he'll be guarded around the clock. For as long as it takes - even if it never happens. '

'Please explain that'

'He's the only man alive who's ever seen Carlos. As Carlos. He knows his identity but it's locked away in his mind, part of an unremembered past We understand from what he says that Carlos is someone known to many people - a visible figure in a government somewhere, or in the media, or international banking or society. It fits a prevalent theory. The point is that one day that identity may come into focus for Webb . . . We realize you've had several discussions with Dr Panov. I believe he'll confirm what I've said. '

Marie turned to the psychiatrist 'Is it true, Mo?'

'It's possible,' said Panov.

Crawford left and Marie poured coffee for the two of them. Panov went to the couch where the brigadier had been sitting.

'It's still warm,' he said smiling. 'Crawford was sweating right down to his famous backside. He has every right to, they all do. '

'What's going to happen?'

'Nothing. Absolutely nothing until I tell them they can go ahead. And that may not be for months, a couple of years for all I know. Not until he's ready. '

'For what?'

The questions. And photographs, volumes of them. They're compiling a photographic encyclopaedia based on the loose description he gave them. Don't get me wrong; one day he'll have to begin. He'll want to; we'll all want him to. Carlos has to be caught, and it's not my intention to blackmail them into doing nothing. Too many people have given too much; he's given too much. But right now, he comes first. His head comes first. '

"That's what I mean. What's going to happen to him?'

Panov put down his coffee. 'I'm not sure yet. I've too much respect for the human mind to deal you chicken soup psychology; there's too damn much of it floating around in the wrong hands. I've been in on all the conferences - I insisted upon that - and I've talked to the other shrinks and the neuro-surgeons. It's true we can go in with a knife and reach the storm centres, reduce the anxieties, bring a kind of peace to him. Even bring him back to what he was, perhaps. But it's not the kind of peace he wants. . . and there's a far more dangerous risk. We might wipe away too much, take away the things he has found, will continue to find. With care. With time. '

Time?'

'I believe it, yes. Because the pattern's been established. There's growth, the pain of recognition and the excitement of discovery. Does that tell you something?'

Marie looked into Panov's dark, weary eyes; there was a light in them. 'All of us,' she said.

'That's right. In a way, he's a functioning microcosm of us all. I mean, we're all trying to find out who the hell we are, aren't we?' '

Marie went to the front window in the cottage on the waterfront, with the rising dunes behind it, the fenced-off grounds surrounding it And guards. Every fifty feet a man with a gun. She could see him several hundred yards down the beach; he was skipping shells over the water, watching them bounce across the waves that gently lapped into the shore. The months had been good to him, for him. His body was scarred but whole again, firm again. The nightmares were still there, and moments of anguish kept coming back during the daylight hours, but somehow it was all less terrifying. He was beginning to cope; he was beginning to laugh again. Panov had been right. Things were happening to him; images were becoming clearer, meaning found where there had been no meaning before.

Something had happened now. Oh, God, what was it? He had thrown himself into the water and was thrashing around, shouting. Then suddenly, he sprang out, leaping over the waves onto the beach. In the distance, by the barbed wire fence, a guard spun around, a rifle whipped up under an arm, a handheld radio from a belt.

He began racing across the wet sand towards the house, his body lurching, swaying, his feet digging furiously into the soft surface, sending up sprays of water and sand behind him. What was it?

Marie froze, prepared for the moment they knew might come one day, prepared for the sound of gunfire.

He burst through the door, chest heaving, gasping for breath. He stared at her, his eyes as clear as she had ever seen them. He spoke softly, so softly she could barely hear him. But she did hear him.

'My name is David. . . '

She walked slowly towards him.

'Hello, David,' she said.

End


Tags: Robert Ludlum, Eric Van Lustbader Jason Bourne Thriller
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