The Bourne Identity / Page 53

Page 53



'Who?'

'Bank couriers.'

That would account for the newspapers, not the wire services.'

'I beg your pardon?'

'The difference in time. The papers might not have picked it up, but the wire services would have. And embassies have teletypes; they would have known about it. It wasn't reported, Jason.'

'You'll call tonight,' he said. Tin going.'

'You asked about the couriers. Do they wear uniforms?'

!I was curious.'

'Most of the time, yes. They also drive armoured vans, but I was specific about that. If a van was used it was to be parked a block from the bridge, the courier to proceed on foot.'

'I heard you, but I wasn't sure what you meant. Why?'

'A bonded courier's bad enough, but he's necessary; bank insurance requires him. A van is simply too obvious; it could be followed too easily. You won't change your mind and let me go with you?'

'No.'

'Believe me, nothing will go wrong; those two thieves wouldn't permit it!

Then there's no reason for you to be there.'

'You're maddening.'

I'm in a hurry.'

'I know. And you move faster without me,! Marie got up and came to him. 'I do understand.' She leaned into him, kissing him on the lips, suddenly aware of the weapon in his belt She looked into his eyes. 'You are worried, aren't you?'

'Just cautious.! He smiled, touching her chin. 'It's an awful lot of money. It may have to keep us for a long time.'

'I like the sound of that'

The money?'

'No. Us.' Marie frowned. 'A safety deposit box.'

'You keep talking in non-sequiturs.'

'You can't leave negotiable certificates worth over a million dollars in a Paris hotel room. You've got to get a deposit box.'

'We can do it tomorrow.' He released her, turning for the door. 'While I'm out look up Les Classiques in the phone book

and call the regular number. Find out how late it's open.' He left quickly.

Bourne sat in the back seat of a stationary taxi, watching the front of the bank through the windscreen. The driver was humming an unrecognisable tune, reading a newspaper, content with the fifty-franc note he had received in advance. The cab's motor, however, was running; the passenger had insisted upon that

The armoured van loomed in the right rear window, its radio antenna shooting up from the centre of the roof like a tapered bowsprit It parked in a space reserved for authorized vehicles directly in front of Jason's taxi. Two small red lights appeared above the circle of bullet-proof glass in the rear door. The alarm system had been activated.

Bourne leaned forward, his eyes on the uniformed man who climbed out of the side door and threaded his way through the crowds on the pavement towards the entrance of the bank. He felt a sense of relief; the man was not one of the three well-dressed men who had come to the Valois yesterday.

Fifteen minutes later the courier emerged from the bank, the leather attach�case in his left hand, his right covering an unlatched holster. The jagged rip on the side of the case could be seen clearly. Jason felt the fragment of leather in his shirt pocket; if nothing else it was the primitive combination that made a life beyond Paris, beyond Carlos, possible. If there was such a life and he could accept it without the terrible labyrinth from which he could find no escape.

But it was more than that. In a man-made labyrinth one kept moving, running, careening off walls, the contact itself a form of progress, if only blind. His personal labyrinth had no walls, no defined corridors through which to race. Only space, and swirling mists in the darkness that he saw so clearly when he opened his eyes at night and felt the sweat pouring down his face. Why was it always space and darkness and high winds? Why was he always plummeting through the air at night? A parachute. Why? Then other words came to him; he had no idea where they were from, but they were there and he heard them.

What's left when your memory's gone? And your identity, Mr Smith?

Stop it !

The armoured van swung into the traffic on rue Madeleine. Bourne tapped the driver on the shoulder. 'Follow that truck, but keep at least two cars between us,' he said in French.

The driver turned, alarmed. 'I think you have the wrong taxi, monsieur. Take back your money.'

'I'm with the company, you damn fool. It's a special assignment'

'Regrets, Monsieur. We will not lose it.' The driver plunged diagonally forward into the combat of traffic.

The van took the quickest route to the Seine, going down side streets, turning left on the Quai de la Rapee towards the Pont Neuf. Then within what Jason judged to be three or four blocks of the bridge, it slowed down, hugging the kerb as if the courier had decided he was too early for his appointment. But, if anything, Bourne thought, he was running late. It was six minutes to three, barely enough time for the man to park and walk the one prescribed block to the bridge. Then why had the van slowed down? Slowed down? No, it had stopped, it wasn't moving! Why?

The traffic? ... Good God, of course, the traffic!

'Stop here,' said Bourne to the driver. 'Pull over to the kerb. Quickly!'

'What is it. Monsieur?'

'You're a very fortunate man,' said Jason. 'My company is willing to pay you an additional one hundred francs if you simply go to the front window of that van and say a few words to the driver. Do you want the hundred?"

'What, Monsieur?'

'Frankly, we're testing him. He's new. Do you want the hundred?"

'I just go to the window and say a few words?"

'That's all. Five seconds at the most, then you can go back to your taxi and drive off.'

'There's no trouble? I don't want trouble.'

'My firm's among the most respectable in France. You've seen our trucks everywhere.'

'I don't know ...'

'Forget it!' Bourne reached for the handle of the door.

'What are the words?'

Jason held out the hundred francs. 'Just these: "Herr Koenig.

Greetings from Zurich." Can you remember those?' ' "Koenig. Greetings from Zurich." What's so difficult?'

'Good. Let's go. I'll be right behind you.'

'You? Behind me?'

That's right' They walked rapidly towards the van, hugging the right side of their small alley in the traffic as cars and trucks passed them in starts and stops on their left The van was Carlos's trap, thought Bourne. The assassin had bought his way into the ranks of the armed couriers. A single name and a rendezvous revealed over a monitored radio frequency could bring an underpaid messenger a great deal of money. Bourne. Pont Neuf. So simple. This particular courier was less concerned with being prompt than in making sure the soldiers of Carlos reached the Pont Neuf in time. Paris traffic was notorious; anyone could be late. Jason stopped the taxi driver, holding in his hand two additional two-hundred franc notes; the man's eyes were riveted on them.

'Monsieur?'

'My company's going to be very generous. This man must be disciplined for gross infractions. After you say "Herr Koenig. Greetings from Zurich," simply add, "The schedule's changed. There's a fare in my taxi who must see you." Have you got that?'


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