The Bourne Identity / Page 39

Page 39

'Which is?'

'They haven't tried to reach you in nearly six months.'

'You don't know that - I don't know that!

'The bank knows it. Millions of dollars left untouched, unaccounted for, and no one has bothered to find out why. That's what I can't understand. It's as though you were being abandoned. It's where the mistake could have been made.'

Bourne leaned back in the chair, looking at his bandaged left hand, remembering the sight of the weapon smashing repeatedly downward in the shadows of a racing car in the Steppdeckstrasse. He raised his eyes and looked at Marie. 'What you're saying is that if I was abandoned, it's because that mistake is thought to be the truth by the directors at Treadstone.'

'Possibly. They might think you've involved them in illegal transactions - with criminal elements - that could cost them millions more. Conceivably risking expropriation of entire companies by angry governments. Or that you joined forces with an international crime syndicate, probably not knowing it. Anything. It would account for their not going near the bank. They'd want no guilt by association.'

'So, in a sense, no matter what your friend Peter learns, I'm still back at square one."

'We're back, but it's not square one, more like four-and-a-half to five on a scale of ten.'

'Even if it were nine, nothing's really changed. Men want to kill me and I don't know why. Others could stop them but they won't. That man at the Drei Alpenhauser said Interpol has its nets out for me, and if I walk into one I don't have any answers. I'm guilty as charged because I don't know what I'm guilty of. Having no memory isn't much of a defence, and it's possible that I have no defence, period.'

'I refuse to believe that, and so must you.'

'Thanks ...'

'I mean it, Jason. Stop it.'

Stop it. How many times do I say that to myself? You are my love, the only woman I have ever known, and you believe in me. Why can't I believe in myself?

Bourne got up, as always testing his legs. Mobility was coming back to him, the wounds-less severe than his imagination had permitted him to believe. He had made an appoinI'ment that night with the doctor in Wohlen to remove the stitches. Tomorrow change would come.

'Paris,' said Jason. "The answer's in Paris. I know it surely as I saw the outline of those triangles in Zurich. I just don't know where to begin. It's crazy. I'm a man waiting for an image, for a word or a phrase - or a book of matches - to tell me something. To send me somewhere else.'

'Why not wait until I hear from Peter? I can call him tomorrow; we can be in Paris tomorrow.'

'Because it wouldn't make any difference, don't you see? No matter what he came up with, the one thing I need to know wouldn't be there. For the same reason Treadstone hasn't gone near the bank. Me. I have to know why men want to kill me, why someone named Carlos will pay ... what was it... a fortune for my corpse.'

It was as far as he got, interrupted by the crash at the table. Marie had dropped her cup and was staring at him, her face white, as if the blood had drained from her head. 'What did you just say?! she asked.

'What? I said I have to know ...'

'The name. You just said the name Carlos.'

"That's right.'

'In all the hours we've talked, the days we've been together, you never mentioned him.'

Bourne looked at her, trying to remember. It was true; he had told her everything that had come to him, yet somehow he had omitted Carlos ... almost purposely, as if blocking it out.

'I believe I didn't,' he said. 'You seem to know. Who's Carlos?'

'Are you trying to be funny? If you are, the joke's not very good."

'I'm not trying to be funny. I don't think there's anything to be funny about. Who's Carlos?'

'My God, you don't know,' she said, studying his eyes. 'It's part of what was taken from you.'

'Who is Carlos?

'An assassin. He's called the assassin of Europe. A man hunted for twenty years, believed to have killed between fifty and sixty political and military figures. No one knows what he looks like ... but it's said he operates out of Paris.'

Bourne felt a wave of cold going through him.

The taxi to Wohlen was an English Ford belonging to the concierge's son-in-law. Jason and Marie sat in the back seat, the dark countryside passing swiftly outside the windows. The stitches had been removed, replaced by soft bandages held by wide strips of plaster.

'Get back to Canada,' said Jason softly, breaking the silence between them.

'I will, I told you that. I've a few more days left. I want to see Paris.'

'I don't want you in Paris. I'll call you in Ottawa. You can make the Treadstone search yourself and give me the information over the phone.'

!I thought you said it wouldn't make any difference. You had to know the why; the who was meaningless until you understood.'

'I'll find a way. I just need one man; I'll find him.'

'But you don't know where to begin. You're a man waiting for an image, for a phrase, or a book of matches. They may not be there.'

'Something will be there.'

'Something is, but you don't see it I do. It's why you need me. I know the words, the methods. You don't.'

Bourne looked at her in the rushing shadows. 'I think you'd better be clearer.'

'The banks, Jason. Treadstone's connections are in the banks. But not in the way that you might think.'

The stooped old man in the threadbare overcoat, black beret ! in hand, walked down the far left aisle of the country church in the village of Apajon, ten miles south of Paris. The bells of the evening Angelus echoed throughout the upper regions of stone and wood; the man held his place at the fifth row and waited for the ringing to stop. It was his signal; he accepted it, knowing that during the pealing of the bells another, younger man - as ruthless as any man alive - had circled the small church and studied everyone inside and outside. Had that man seen anything he did not expect to see, anyone he considered a threat to his person, there would be no questions asked, simply an execution. That was the way of Carlos and only those who understood that their lives could be snuffed out because they themselves had been followed accepted money to act as the assassin's messenger. They were all like himself, old men from the old days, whose lives were running out, months remaining limited by age, or disease, or both.

Carlos permitted no risks whatsoever, the single consolation being that if one died in his service - or by his hand -money would find its way to old women, or the children of old women, or their children. It had to be said: there was a certain dignity to be found in working for Carlos. And there was no lack of generosity. This was what his small army of infirm old men understood; he gave a purpose to the ends of their lives.

The messenger clutched his beret and continued down the aisle to the row of confessional booths against the left wall. He walked to the fifth booth, parted the curtain and stepped inside, adjusting his eyes to the light of a single candle that glowed from the other side of the translucent drape separating priest from sinner. He sat down on the small wooden bench and looked at the silhouette in the holy enclosure. It was as it always was, the hooded figure of a man in a monk's habit. The messenger tried not to imagine what that man looked like; it was not his place to speculate on such things.

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