To what purpose?' Lavier put her fingers on the table her bright red nail polish ten points of a weapon.
'If we chose the wrong man, then we had the wrong information."
'You heard he was the equal of Carlos, no? That his fees were more reasonable, his apparatus more contained, and because fewer intermediaries were involved there was no possibility of a contract being traced. Is this not so?'
'Of course it's so. It's what everyone's been told and it's all a lie. Carlos's strength is in his far-reaching sources of information, infallible information. In his elaborate system of reaching the right person at precisely the right moment prior to a kill.'
'Sounds like too many people. There were too many people in Zurich, too many here in Paris.'
'All blind, Monsieur. Every one.'
To put it plainly, I've been part of the operation for a number of years, meeting in one way or another dozens who have played their minor roles - none is major. I have yet to meet a single person who has ever spoken to Carlos, much less has any idea who he is.'
'That's Carlos. I want to know about Cain. What you know about Cain.' Stay controlled. You cannot turn away. Look at her. Look at her!
'Where shall I begin?'
'With whatever comes to mind first Where did he come from?' Do not look away!
'South-east Asia, of course.'
'Of course ...' Oh, God.
'From the American Medusa, we know that ...'
Medusa! The winds, the darkness, the flashes of light, the pain ... The pain ripped through his skull now; he was not where he was, but where he had been. A world away in distance and time. The pain. Oh, Jesus! The pain ...
alpha, Bravo, Cain ... Delta.
Delta ... Cain!
Cain is for Charlie.
Delta is for Cain!
'What is it?' The woman looked frightened; she was studying his face, her eyes roving, boring into his. 'You're perspiring. Your hands are shaking. Are you having an attack?'
'It passes quickly.' Jason pried his hand away from his wrist and reached for a napkin to wipe his forehead.
'It comes with the pressures, no?"
'With the pressures, yes ... Go on. There isn't much time; people have to be reached, decisions made. Your life is probably one of them. Back to Cain. You say he came from the American ... Medusa.'
'Les mecaniciens du Diable,' said Lavier. 'It was the nickname given Medusa by the Indo-China colonials - what was left of them. Quite appropriate, don't you think?'
'It doesn't make any difference what I think. Or what I know. I want to hear what you think, what you know about Cain:
'Your attack makes you rude.'
'My impatience makes me impatient! You say we chose the wrong man; if we did we had the wrong information. Les mecaniciens du Diable. Are you implying that Cain is French?"
'Not at all, you test me poorly. I mentioned that only to indicate how deeply we penetrated Medusa.'
' "We" being the people who work for Carlos.'
'You could say that.'
'I will say that. If Cain's not French, what is he?'
'Undoubtedly American ...'
'Everything he does has the ring of American audacity. He pushes and shoves with little or no finesse, taking credit where none is his, claiming kills when he had nothing to do with them. He has studied Carlos's methods and connections like no other man alive. We're told he recites them with total recall to potential clients, more often than not putting himself in Carlos's place, convincing fools that it was he, not Carlos. who accepted and fulfilled the contracts.' Lavier paused. 'I've struck a chord, no? He did the same with you -your people - yes?'
'Perhaps ...' Jason reached for his own wrist again, as the statements came back to him. Statements made in response to clues in a dreadful game.
Stuttgart. Regensburg. Munich. Two kills and a kidnapping, Baader accreditation, fees from U.S. sources ...
Tehran? Eight kills. Divided accreditation - Khomeini and PLO. Fee, two million. South-west Soviet sector.
Paris? ... All contracts will be processed through Paris.
'... always such a transparent device.'
The Lavier woman had spoken; he had not heard it. 'What did you say?'
'You were remembering, yes? He used the same device with you - your people. It's how he gets his assignments.'
'Assignments?' Bourne tensed the muscles in his stomach until the pain brought him back to the table in the dining room in Argenteuil. 'He gets assignments, then,' he said point lessly.
'And carries them out with considerable expertise; no one denies him that. His record of kills is impressive. In many ways, he is second to Carlos - not his equal, but far above the ranks of les guerilleros. He's a man of immense skill, extremely inventive, a trained lethal weapon out of Medusa. But it is his arrogance, his lies at the expense of Carlos that will bring him down."
^ 'And that makes him American? Or is it your bias? I have an idea you like American money, but that's about all they export that you do like.' Immense skill; extremely inventive; a trained lethal weapon ... Port Noir, La do tat, Marseilles, Zurich, Paris. Oh, Jesus!
'It is beyond prejudice, Monsieur. The identification is positive.'
'How did you get it?'
Lavier touched the stem of her wine glass, her red-tipped index finger curling around it. 'A discontented man was bought in Washington.'
'The Americans also look for Cain - with an intensity approaching Carlos's, I suspect. Medusa has never been made public and Cain might prove to be an extraordinary embarrassment. This discontented man was in a position to give us a great deal of information, including the Medusa records. It
was a simple matter to match the names with those in Zurich. Simple for Carlos, not for anyone else.'
Too simple, thought Jason, not knowing why the thought struck him. 'I see,' he said.
'And you? How did you find him? Not Cain, of course, but Bourne.'
Through the mists of anxiety, Jason recalled another statement. Not his, but one spoken by Marie. 'Far simpler,' he said. 'We paid the money to him by means of a shortfall deposit into one account, the surplus diverted blindly into another. The numbers could be traced; it's a tax device.'
'Cain permitted it?'
'He didn't know it. The numbers were paid for ... as you paid for different numbers - telephone numbers - on a fiche.'
'I commend you."
'It's not required, but everything you know about Cain is. All you've done so far is explain an identification. Now, go on. Everything you know about this man Bourne, everything you've been told.' Be careful. Take the tension from your voice. You are merely ... evaluating data. Marie, you said that. Dear, dear Marie. Thank God you're not here.
'What we know about him is incomplete. He's managed to remove most of the vital records, a lesson he undoubtedly learned from Carlos. But not all; we've pieced together a sketch. Before he was recruited into Medusa, he was apparently a French-speaking businessman living in Singapore, representing a collective of American importers from New York to California. The truth is he had been dismissed by the collective, which then tried to have him extradited back to the States for prosecution; he had stolen hundreds of thousands from it. He was known in Singapore as a recluse, very powerful in contraband operations and extraordinarily ruthless.'
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