The Bourne Identity / Page 26

Page 26

Bourne moved away from the chair; he walked aimlessly towards a bookcase where there were several upright photographs recessed against the wall. They explained the man behind him. Groups of German soldiers, some with alsatians, posing outside barracks and by fences ... and in front of a high-wire gate with part of a name showing. DACH ...Dachau.

The man behind him. He was moving! Jason turned; the legless Chernak had his hand in the canvas bag strapped to his chair; his eyes were on fire, his ravaged face contorted. The hand came out swiftly, in it a short-barrelled revolver, and before Bourne could reach his own, Chernak fired. The shots came rapidly, the icelike pain filling his left shoulder, then head - oh God I He dived to his right, spinning on the rug, shoving a heavy floor lamp towards the cripple, spinning again until he was at the far side of the wheelchair. He crouched and lunged, crashing his right shoulder into Chernak's back, sending the legless man out of the chair as he reached into his pocket for the gun.

'They'll pay for your corpse! Screamed the deformed man, writhing on the floor, trying to steady his slumped body long enough to level his weapon. 'You won't put me in a coffin! I'll see you there! Carlos will pay! By Christ, he'll pay!'

Jason sprang to the left and fired. Chernak's head snapped back, his throat erupting <'n blood. He was dead.

A cry came from the door of the bedroom. It grew in depth, low and hollow, an elongated wail, fear and revulsion weaved into the chord. A woman's cry ... of course, it was a woman! His hostage, his conduit out of Zurich! Oh, Jesus, he could not focus his eyes! His temple was in agony!

He found his vision, refusing to acknowledge the pain. He saw a bathroom, the door open, towels and a basin and a ... mirrored cabinet. He ran in, pulled the mirror back with such force that it jumped its hinges, crashing to the floor, shattered. Shelves. Rolls of gauze and plaster and ... they were aD he could grab. He had to get out ... gunshots; gunshots were alarms. He had to get out, take his hostage, and get away! The bedroom, the bedroom. Where was it?

The cry, the wail ... follow the cry! He reached the door and kicked it open Fhe woman ... his hostage - what the hell was her name! - was pressed against the wall, tears streaming down her face, her lips parted. He rushed in and grabbed hei by the wrist, dragging her out.

'My God,you killed him!' she cried.'An old man with no...'

'Shut up'.' He pushed her towards the door, opened it and shoved her into the hallway. He could see blurred figures in open spaces, by railings, inside rooms. They began running, disappearing; he heard doors slam, people shout. He took the woman's arm with his left hand; the grip caused shooting pains in his shoulder. He propelled her to the staircase and forced her to descend with him, using her for support, his right hand holding the gun.

They reached the lobby and the heavy door. 'Open it!' he ordered, she did. They passed the row of letterboxes to the outside entrance. He released her briefly, opening the door himself, peering out into the street, listening for sirens. There were none. 'Come on!' he said, pulling her out to the stone steps and down to the pavement. He reached into his pocket, wincing, taking out the car keys. 'Get in!'

Inside the car he unravelled the gauze, bunching it against the side of his head, blotting the trickle of blood. From deep inside his conscious, there was a strange feeling of relief. The wound was a graze; the fact that it had been his head had sent him into panic, but the bullet had not entered his skull. It had not entered; there would be no return to the agonies of Port Noir.

'Goddamn it, start the car! Get out of here!'

'Where? You didn't say where.' The woman was not screaming; instead she was calm. Unreasonably calm. Looking at him ... was she looking at him?

He was feeling dizzy again, losing focus again. Steppdeck-strasse ..." He heard the word as he spoke it, not sure the voice was his. But he could picture the doorway. Faded dark-red paint, cracked glass ... rusted iron. 'Steppdeckstrasse,' he repeated.

What was wrong? Why wasn't the engine running? Why ' didn't the car move forward. Didn't she hear him?

His eyes were closed; he opened them. The gun] It was on his lap; he had set it down to press the bandage .. she was hitting it, hitting it! The weapon crashed to the floor, he reached down and she pushed him, sending his head into the window. Her door opened and she leaped out into the street and began running. She was running away! His hostage, his conduit was racing up the Lowenstrasse!

He could not stay in the car; he dared not try to drive it. It was a steel trap, marking him. He put the gun in his pocket with the roll of plaster, and grabbed the gauze, clutching it in his left hand, ready to press it against his temple at the first recurrence of blood. He got out and limped as fast as he could down the pavement.

Somewhere there was a corner, somewhere a taxi. Steppdeckstrasse.

Marie St Jacques kept running in the middle of the wide, deserted avenue, in and out of the spills of the street lamps, waving her arms at the cars in the Lowenstrasse. They sped by her. She turned in the wash of headlights behind her, holding up

her hands, pleading for attention; the can accelerated and passed her by. This was Zurich, and the Lowenstrasse at night was too wide, too dark, too near the deserted park and the river Sihl.

The men in one car, however, were aware of her. Its headlights were off, the driver inside having seen the woman in the distance. He spoke to his companion in Schweitzerdeutsch.

"It could be her. This Chernak lives only a block or so down the street.!

'Stop and let her come closer. She's supposed to be wearing a silk ... it's her.!

'Let's make certain before we radio the others."

Both men got out of the car, the passenger moving discreetly around the boot to join the driver. They wore conservative business suits, their faces pleasant, but serious, businesslike. The panicked woman approached; they walked rapidly into the middle of the street. The driver called out.

'Frauleint Was ist lot?'

'Help me!" she screamed. 'I... I don't speak German. Nicht sprechen. Call the police! The ... Polizei I'

The driver's companion spoke with authority, calming her with his voice. 'We are with the police,' he said in English. 'Ziiriche Sicherheit. We weren't sure, Miss. You are the woman from the Carillon du Lac?'

'Yes!' she cried. 'He wouldn't let me go! He kept hitting me, threatening me with his gun! It was horrible!'

'Where is he now?'

'He's hurt. He was shot. I ran from the car ... he was in the car when I ran!! She pointed down the Lowenstrasse. 'Over there. Two blocks, I think - in the middle of the block. A coupe, a grey coupe! He has a gun.!

'So do we, Miss,' said the driver. 'Come along, get in the back of the car. You'll be perfectly safe; we'll be very careful. Quickly, now.'

They approached the grey coupe, coasting, headlights extinguished. There was no one inside. There were, however, people talking excitedly on the pavement and up the stone steps of Number 37. The driver's associate turned and spoke to the frightened woman pressed into the corner of the rear seat.

'This is the residence of a man named Chernak. Did he mention him? Did he say anything about going in to see him?'

'He did go; he made me come with him! He killed him! He killed that crippled old man!'

'Radioapparat! Schnell,' said the associate to the driver, as he grabbed a microphone from the dashboard. The car bolted forward; the woman gripped the front seat.

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