The Bourne Identity / Page 25

Page 25



He got out first, ordering her to slide across the seat and follow. He tested his legs and took the keys from her.

'You can walk,' she said. 'If you can walk, you can drive'

!I probably can.'

'Then let me go! I've done everything you've wanted.'

'And then some,' he added.

'I won't say anything, can't you understand that? You're the last person on earth I ever want to see again ... or have anything to do with. I don't want to be a witness, or get involved with the police, or make statements, or anything! I don't Want to be a pan of what you're a part of! I'm frightened to death ... that's your protection, don't you see! Let me go, please.'

'I can't.'

'You don't believe me.'

'That's not relevant. I need you.'

'For what?

'For something very stupid. I don't have a driver's licence. You can't hire a car without a driver's licence and I've got to hire a car."

'You've got this car.'

'It's good for maybe another hour. Someone's going to walk out of the Carillon du Lac and want it. The description will be radioed to every police car in Zurich.'

She looked at him, dead fear in the glass of her eyes. 'I don't want to go up there with you. I heard what that man said in the restaurant. If I bear any more you'll kill me.'

'What you heard makes no more sense to me than it does to you. Perhaps less. Come on.' He took her by the arm, and put his free hand on the railing so he could climb the steps with a minimum of pain.

She stared at him, bewilderment and fear converged in her look.

The name M. Chernak was under the second letter box. with a bell beneath. He did not ring it, but pressed the adjacent four buttons. Within seconds a cacophony of voices sprang out of the small, dotted speakers asking in Schweitzerdeutsch who was there. But someone did not answer; he merely pressed a buzzer which released the lock. Jason opened the door, pushing Marie St Jacques in front of him.

He moved her against the wall and waited. From above came the sounds of doors opening, footsteps walking towards the staircase.

'Weristda'r

'Johann?'

'Wie bitte?'

Silence. Followed by words of irritation. Footsteps were heard again; doors closed.

M. Chernak was on the second floor, Flat 2C. Bourne took the girl's arm, limped with her to the staircase and started the climb. She was right, of course. It would be far better if he were alone, but there was nothing he could do about that; he did need her.

He had studied road maps during the weeks in Port Noir.-Lucerne was no more than an hour away, Bern two and a half or three. He could head for either one, dropping her off in some deserted spot along the way, and then disappear. It was simply a matter of timing; he had the resources to buy a hundred connections. He needed only a conduit out of Zurich and she was it.

But before he left Zurich he had to know; he had to talk to a man named ...

M. Chernak. The name was to the right of the doorbell. He sidestepped away from the door, pulling the woman with him.

'Do you speak German?' Jason asked.

'No.'

'Don't lie.'

I'm not.'

Bourne thought, glancing up and down the short hallway, 'Ring the bell. If the door opens just stand there. If someone answers from inside, say you have a message - an urgent message - from a friend at the Drei AlpenhSuser.!

'Suppose he - or she - says to slide it under the door?'

Jason looked at her. 'Very good.'

'I just don't want any more violence. I don't want to know anything or see anything. I just want to ...'

'I know,' he interrupted. 'Go back to Caesar's taxes and the Punic Wars ... If he - or she - says something like that, explain in a couple of words that the message is verbal and can only be delivered to the man who was described to you.!

'If he asks for that description?' said Marie St Jacques icily, analysis momentarily pre-empting fear.

'You've got a good mind, Doctor,' he said.

I'm precise. I'm frightened; I told you that. What do I do?'

'Say to hell with them, someone else can deliver it Then start to walk away.'

She moved to the door and rang the bell There was an odd sound from within. A scratching, growing louder, constant. Then it stopped and a deep voice was heard through the wood.

'Was ist los?'

'I'm afraid I don't speak German,' said the St Jacques woman.

'Englisch. What is it? Who are you?'

'I have an urgent message from a friend at the Drei Alpen-hSuser.'

'Shove it under the door.!

'I can't do that It isn't written down. I have to deliver it personally to the man who was described to me.'

'Well, that shouldn't be difficult,' said the voice. The lock clicked and the door opened.

Bourne stepped away from the wall, into the doorframe.

'You're insane I' cried a man with two stumps for legs, propped up in a wheelchair. 'Get out! Get away from here!'

I'm tired of hearing that,' said Jason, pulling the girl inside and closing the door.

It took no pressure to persuade Marie St Jacques to remain in a small windowless bedroom while they talked; she did So willingly. The legless Chernak was close to panic, his ravaged face chalk white, his unkempt grey hair matted about his neck and forehead.

'What do you want from me?' he asked. 'You swore the last transaction was our final one! I can do no more, I cannot take the risk. Messengers have been here. No matter how cautious, how many times removed from your sources, they have been here] If one leaves an address in the wrong surroundings, I'm a dead man!'

'You've done pretty well for the risks you've taken,' said Bourne, standing in front of the wheelchair, his mind racing, wondering if there was a word or a phrase that could trigger a flow of information. Then he remembered the envelope. II there was any discrepancy, it had nothing to do with me. A fat man at the Drei Alpenhauser.

'Minor compared to the magnitude of those risks.' Chernak shook his head; his upper chest heaved; the stumps that fell over the chair moved obscenely back and forth. 'I was content before you came into my life, mein Herr, for I was minor. An old soldier who made his way to Zurich - blown up, a cripple, worthless except for certain facts stored away that former comrades paid meagrely to keep suppressed. It was a decent life, not much, but enough. Then you found me ..."

I'm touched,' broke in Jason. 'Let's talk about the envelope -the envelope you passed to our mutual friend at Drei Alpenhauser. Who gave it to you?'

'A messenger. Who else?!

'Where did it come from?'

'How would I know? It arrived in a box, just like the others. I unpacked It and sent it on. It was you who wished it so. You said you could not come here any longer.'

'But you opened it.' A statement

'Never!'

'Suppose I told you, there was money missing.'

'Then it was not paid; it was not in the envelope!' The legless man's voice rose. 'However, I don't believe you. If that were so, you would not have accepted the assignment. But you did accept that assignment. So why are you here now?'

Because I have to know. Because I'm going out of my mind. I see things and I hear things I do not understand. I'm a skilled, resourceful... vegetable! Help me!


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