'New York?' interrupted Bourne. 'How do you know it was New York?'
'The telephone area code was parenthetically included, spaced in front of the number itself; it remained intact It was two-one-two. As first vice-president, Foreign Services, I place such calls daily.'
The alteration was pretty sloppy.'
'Possibly. It could have been made in haste, or not thoroughly understood. On the other hand, there was no way to delete the body of the instructions without renotarization. A minor risk considering the number of telephones in New York. At any rate, the substitution gave me the latitude to ask a question or two. Change is a banker's anathema.! D'Amacourt fingered his glass.
'Care for another?" asked Jason.
'No, thank you. It would prolong our discussion.'
'You're the one who stopped."
I'm thinking, Monsieur. Perhaps you should have in mind a vague figure before I proceed."
Bourne studied the man. 'It could be five,' he said.
'I shall proceed. I spoke to a woman ..."
'A woman? How did you begin?"
Truthfully. I was the vice-president of the Valois, and was following instructions from the Gemeinschaft in Zurich. What else was there to say?"
'I said I had been in communication with a man claiming to be Jason Bourne. She asked me how recently, to which I replied a few minutes. She was then most anxious to know the substance of our conversation. It was at this point that I voiced my own concerns. The fiche specifically stated that a call should be made to New York, not Paris. Naturally, she said it was not my concern, and that the change was authorized by signature, and did I care for Zurich to be informed that an officer of the Valois refused to follow the Gemeinschaft instructions?"
'Hold it,' interrupted Jason. 'Who was she?"
'I have no idea."
'You mean you were talking all this time and she didn't tell you? You didn't ask?'
That is the nature of the fiche. If a name is proffered, well and good. If it is not, one does not inquire.'
'You didn't hesitate to ask about the telephone number.'
'Merely a device; I wanted information. You transferred four million francs, a sizeable amount, and were, therefore, a powerful client with, perhaps, more powerful strings attached to him ... One balks, then agrees, then balks again only to agree again; that is the way one learns things. Especially if the party one is talking to displays anxiety. I can assure you, she did."
'What did you learn?'
That you should be considered a dangerous man.'
'In what way?'
The definition was left open. But the fact that the term was used was enough for me to ask why the Surete was not involved. Her reply was extremely interesting. "He is beyond the Surete, beyond Interpol," she said.'
'What did that tell you?'
That it was a highly complicated matter with any number of possibilities, all best' left private. Since our talk began, however, it now tells me something else.'
That you really should pay me well for I must be extremely cautious. Those who look for you are also, perhaps, beyond the Surete, beyond Interpol.'
'We'll get to that. You told this woman I was on my way to your office?'
'Within the quarter-hour. She asked me to remain on the telephone for a few moments, that she would be right back. Obviously she made another call. She returned with her final instructions. You were to be detained in my office until a man came to my secretary inquiring about a matter from Zurich. And when you left you were to be identified by a nod or a gesture; there could be no error. The man came, of course, and, of course, you never arrived, so he waited ^by the tellers' cages with an associate. When you phoned and said you were on your way to London, I left my office to find the man. My secretary pointed him out and I told him. The rest you know.'
'Didn't it strike you as odd that I had to be identified?'
'Not so odd as intemperate. A fiche is one thing - telephone calls, faceless communications - but to be involved directly, in the open, as it were, is something else again. I said as much to the woman.'
'What did she say to you?'
D'Amacourt cleared his throat. 'She made it clear that the party she represented - whose stature was, indeed, confirmed by the fiche itself - would remember my co-operation. You see, I withhold nothing ... Apparently they don't know what you look like.'
'A man was at the bank who saw me in Zurich.'
Then his associates do not trust his eyesight. Or, perhaps, what he thinks he saw.'
'Why do you say that?'
'Merely an observation. Monsieur; the woman was insistent. You must understand, I strenuously objected to any overt participation, that is not the nature of the fiche. She said there was no photograph of you. An obvious lie, of course.'
'Naturally. All passports have photographs. Where is the immigration officer who cannot be bought, or duped. Ten seconds in a control room, a photograph of a photograph; arrangements can be made. No, they committed a serious oversight."
'I see they did.'
'And you,' continued d'Amacourt, 'just told me something else. Yes, you really must pay me very well.'
'What did I just tell you?'
"That your passport does not identify you as Jason Bourne. Who are you, Monsieur?'
Jason did not at first answer; he revolved his glass again. 'Someone who may pay you a lot of money,' he said.
'Entirely sufficient. You are simply a client named Bourne. And I must be cautious.'
'I want that telephone number in New York. Can you get it for me? There'd be a sizeable bonus.'
'I wish I could. I see no way.'
'It might be raised from the fiche card. Under a low-power scope."
'When I said it was deleted. Monsieur, I did not mean it was crossed out. It was deleted, it was cut out."
Then someone has it in Zurich.'
'Or it has been destroyed.'
'Last question,' said Jason, anxious now to leave. 'It concerns you, incidentally. It's the only way you'll get paid.'
The question will be tolerated, of course. What is it?"
'If I showed up at the Valois without calling you, without telling you I was coming, would you be expected to make another telephone call?'
'Yes. One does not disregard the fiche; it emanates from powerful board rooms. Dismissal would follow.'
'Then how do we get our money?'
D'Amacourt pursed his lips. "There is a way. Withdrawal in absentia. Forms filled out, instructions by letter, identification confirmed and authenticated by an established firm of attorneys. I would be powerless to interfere.'
'You'd still be expected to make the call though.'
'It's a matter of timing. Should a lawyer with whom the Valois has had numerous dealings call me requesting that I prepare, say, a number of cashier's cheques drawn upon a foreign transfer be has ascertained to have been cleared, I would do so. He would state that he was sending over the completed forms, the cheques, of course, made out to "Bearer", not an uncommon practice in these days of excessive taxes. A messenger would arrive with the letter during the most hectic hours of activity, and my secretary - an esteemed, trusted employee of many years - would simply bring in the forms for my countersignature and the letter for my initialling.'