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Robert Ludlum © the bourne ultimatum - 33

30


The hand-held candles flickered in the night drizzle as the two parallel lines of mourners walked solemnly behind the white casket borne on the shoulders of six men; several began to slip on the increasingly wet gravel of the cemetery’s path. Flanking the procession were four drummers, two on each side, their snare drums snapping out the slow cadence of the death march, erratically out of sequence because of the unexpected rocks and the unseen flat grave markers in the darkness of the bordering grass. Shaking his head slowly in bewilderment, Morris Panov watched the strange nocturnal burial rite, relieved to see Alex Conklin limping, threading his way between the tombstones toward their meeting ground.
“Any sign of them?” asked Alex.
“None,” replied Panov. “I gather you didn’t do any better.”
“Worse. I got stuck with a lunatic.”
“How?”
“A light was on in the gatehouse, so I went over thinking David or Marie might have left us a message. There was a clown outside who kept looking into a window and said he was the watchman and did I want to rent his telephone.”
“His telephone?”
“He said there were special rates for the night, as the nearest pay phone was ten kilometers down the road.”
“A lunatic,” agreed Panov.
“I explained that I was looking for a man and a woman I was to meet here and wondered if they’d left a message. There was no message but there was the telephone. Two hundred francs—crazy.”
“I might do a flourishing business in Paris,” said Mo, smiling. “Did he by any chance see a couple wandering around?”
“I asked him that and he nodded affirmative, saying there were dozens. Then he pointed to that candlelight parade over there before going back to his goddamn window.”
“What is that parade, incidentally?”
“I asked him that, too. It’s a religious cult; they bury their dead only at night. He thinks they may be gypsies. He said that while blessing himself.”
“They’re going to be wet gypsies,” observed Panov, pulling up his collar as the drizzle turned into rain.
“Christ, why didn’t I think of it?” exclaimed Conklin, looking over his shoulder.
“The rain?” asked the bewildered psychiatrist.
“No, the large tomb halfway up the hill beyond the gatehouse. It’s where it happened!”
“Where you tried to—” Mo did not finish the question; he did not have to.
“Where he could have killed me but didn’t,” completed Alex. “Come on!”
The two Americans retreated down the gravel path past the gatehouse and into the darkness of the rising hill of grass punctuated by white gravestones now glistening in the rain. “Easy,” cried Panov, out of breath. “You’re used to that nonexistent foot of yours, but I haven’t quite adjusted to my pristine body having been raped by chemicals.”
“Sorry.”
Mo!” shouted a woman’s voice from a marble portico above. The figure waved her arms beneath the pillared, overhanging roof of a grave so large it looked like a minor mausoleum.
Marie?” yelled Panov, rushing ahead of Conklin.
“That’s nice!” roared Alex, limping with difficulty up the wet slippery grass. “You hear the sound of a female and suddenly you’re unraped. You need a shrink, you phony!”
The embraces were meant; a family was together. While Panov and Marie spoke quietly, Jason Bourne took Conklin aside to the edge of the short marble roof, the rain now harsh. The former candlelight procession below, the flickering flames now gone, was half scattered, half holding its position by a gravesite. “I didn’t mean to choose this place, Alex,” said Jason. “But with that crowd down there I couldn’t think of another.”
“Remember the gatehouse and that wide path to the parking lot? ... You’d won. I was out of ammunition and you could have blown my head apart.”
“You’re wrong, how many times have I told you? I couldn’t have killed you. It was in your eyes; even though I wasn’t able to see them clearly I knew what was there. Anger and confusion, but, above all, confusion.”
“That’s never been a reason not to kill a man who tries to kill you.”
“It is if you can’t remember. The memory may be gone but not the fragments, not the—well, for me they were ... pulsating images. In and out, in and out, but there.”
Conklin looked up at Bourne, a sad grin on his face. “The pulsating bit,” he said. “That was Mo’s term. You stole it.”
“Probably,” said Jason as both men in unison looked back at Marie and Panov. “She’s talking about me, you know that, don’t you?”
“Why not? She’s concerned and he’s concerned.”
“I hate to think how many more concerns I’ll give them both. You, too, I imagine.”
“What are you trying to tell me, David?”
“Just that. Forget David. David Webb doesn’t exist, not here, not now. He’s an act I put on for his wife, and I do it badly. I want her to go back to the States, to her children.”
Her children? She won’t do it. She came over to find you and she found you. She remembers Paris thirteen years ago and she won’t leave you. Without her then you wouldn’t be alive today.”
“She’s an impediment. She has to go. I’ll find a way.”
Alex looked up at the cold eyes of the creation once known as the Chameleon and spoke quietly. “You’re a fifty-year-old man, ^ Jason. This isn’t Paris thirteen years ago or Saigon years before that. It’s now, and you need all the help you can get. If she thinks she can provide a measure of it, I for one believe her.”
Bourne snapped his head down at Conklin. “I’ll be the judge of who believes what.”
“That’s a touch extreme, pal.”
“You know what I mean,” said Jason, softening his tone. “I don’t want to have happen here what happened in Hong Kong. That can’t be a problem for you.”
“Maybe not. ... Look, let’s get out of here. Our driver knows a little country restaurant in Epernon, about six miles from here, where we can talk. We’ve got several things to go over.”
“Tell me,” said Bourne. “Why Panov? Why did you bring Mo with you?”
“Because if I hadn’t he would have put strychnine in my flu shot.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“Exactly what it says. He’s a part of us, and you know it better than Marie or myself.”
“Something happened to him, didn’t it? Something happened to him because of me.”
“It’s over with and he’s back, that’s all you have to know now.”
“It was Medusa, wasn’t it?”
“Yes, but I repeat, he’s back, and outside of being a little tired, he’s okay.”
“Little ... ? Which reminds me. A little country restaurant six miles from here, isn’t that what your driver said?”
“Yes, he knows Paris and everything around it thoroughly.”
“Who is he?”
“A French Algerian who’s worked for the Agency for years. Charlie Casset recruited him for us. He’s tough, knowledgeable and very well paid for both. Above all, he can be trusted.”
“I suppose that’s good enough.”
“Don’t suppose, accept it.”
They sat in a booth at the rear of the small country inn, complete with a worn canopy, hard pine banquettes and perfectly acceptable wine. The owner, an expansive, florid fat man, proclaimed the cuisine to be extraordinary, but since no one could summon hunger, Bourne paid for four entrées just to keep the proprietor happy. It did. The owner sent over two large carafes of good vin ordinaire along with a bottle of mineral water, and stayed away from the table.
“All right, Mo,” said Jason, “you won’t tell me what happened, or who did it, but you’re still the same functioning, overbearing, verbose medicine man with a chicken in his mouth we’ve known for thirteen years, am I correct?”
“Correct, you schizophrenic escapee from Bellevue. And in case you think I’m being heroic, let me make it absolutely clear that I’m here only to protect my nonmedical civil rights. My paramount interest is with my adorable Marie, who I trust you’ll notice is sitting beside me, not you. I positively salivate thinking about her meat loaf.”
“Oh, how I do love you, Mo,” said David Webb’s wife, squeezing Panov’s arm.
“Let me count the ways,” responded the doctor, kissing her cheek.
“I’m here,” said Conklin. “My name is Alex and I have a couple of things to talk about and they don’t include meat loaf. ... Although I should tell you, Marie, I told Peter Holland yesterday that it was terrific.”
“What’s with my damned meat loaf?”
“It’s the red sauce,” interjected Panov.
“May we get to what we’re here for,” said Jason Bourne, his voice a monotone.
“Sorry, darling.”
“We’ll be working with the Soviets.” Conklin spoke quickly, his rush of words countering the immediate reaction from Bourne and Marie. “It’s all right, I know the contact, I’ve known him for years, but Washington doesn’t know I know him. His name is Krupkin, Dimitri Krupkin, and as I told Mo, he can be bought for five pieces of silver.”
“Give him thirty-one,” interrupted Bourne, “to make sure he’s on our side.”
“I figured you’d say that. Do you have a ceiling?”
“None.”
“Not so fast,” said Marie. “What’s a negotiable starting point?”
“Our economist speaks,” proclaimed Panov, drinking his wine.
“Considering his position in the Paris KGB, I’d say around fifty thousand, American.”
“Offer him thirty-five and escalate to seventy-five under pressure. Up to a hundred, if necessary, of course.”
“For Christ’s sake,” cried Jason, controlling his voice. “We’re talking about us, about the Jackal. Give him anything he wants!”
“Too easily bought, too easily turned to another source. To a counteroffer.”
“Is she right?” asked Bourne, staring at Conklin.
“Normally, of course, but in this case it would have to be the equivalent of a workable diamond mine. No one wants Carlos in the dead file more than the Soviets, and the man who brings in his corpse will be the hero of the Kremlin. Remember, he was trained at Novgorod. Moscow never forgets that.”
“Then do as she says, only buy him,” said Jason.
“I understand.” Conklin leaned forward, turning his glass of water. “I’ll call him tonight, pay phone to pay phone, and get it settled. Then I’ll arrange a meeting tomorrow, maybe lunch somewhere outside of Paris. Very early, before the regulars come in.”
“Why not here?” asked Bourne. “You can’t get much more remote and I’ll know the way.”
“Why not?” agreed Alex. “I’ll talk to the owner. But not the four of us, just—Jason and me.”
“I assumed that,” said Bourne coldly. “Marie’s not to be involved. She’s not to be seen or heard, is that clear?”
“David, really—”
“Yes, really.”
“I’ll go over and stay with her,” interrupted Panov quickly. “Meat loaf?” he added, obviously to lessen the tension.
“I don’t have a kitchen, but there’s a lovely restaurant that serves fresh trout.”
“One sacrifices,” sighed the psychiatrist.
“I think you should eat in the room.” Bourne’s voice was now adamant.
“I will not be a prisoner,” said Marie quietly, her gaze fixed on her husband. “Nobody knows who we are or where we are, and I submit that someone who locks herself in her room and is never seen draws far more attention than a perfectly normal Frenchwoman who goes about her normal business of living.”
“She’s got a point,” observed Alex. “If Carlos has his network calling around, someone behaving abnormally could be picked up. Besides, Panov’s from left field—pretend you’re a doctor or something, Mo. Nobody’ll believe it, but it’ll add a touch of class. For reasons that escape me, doctors are usually above suspicion.”
“Psychopathic ingrate,” mumbled Panov.
“May we get back to business?” said Bourne curtly.
“You’re very rude, David.”
“I’m very impatient, do you mind?”
“Okay, cool it,” said Conklin. “We’re all uptight, but things have got to be clear. Once Krupkin’s on board, his first job will be to trace the number Gates gave Prefontaine in Boston.”
“Who gave what where?” asked the bewildered psychiatrist.
“You were out of it, Mo. Prefontaine’s an impeached judge who fell into a Jackal contact. To cut it short, the contact gave our judge a number here in Paris to reach the Jackal, but it didn’t coincide with the one Jason already had. But there’s no question that the contact, a lawyer named Gates, reached Carlos.”
Randolph Gates? Boston’s gift to the boardrooms of Genghis Khan?”
“That’s the one.”
“Holy Christ—I’m sorry, I shouldn’t say that, I’m not a gentile. What the hell, I’m nothing, but you’ll admit it’s a shock.”
“A large one, and we have to know who owns that number here in Paris. Krupkin can find out for us. It’s corkscrew, I grant you, but there it is.”
Corkscrew?” asked Panov. “Are you now going to produce a Rubik’s cube in Arabic? Or, perhaps, a Double-Crostic from the London Times? What in heaven’s name is a Prefontaine, judge, jury or otherwise? It sounds like a bad early wine.”
“It’s a late, very good vintage,” broke in Marie. “You’d like him, Doctor. You could spend months studying him because he’s got more brights than most of us, and that grand intellect of his is still intact despite such inconveniences as alcohol, corruption, loss of family and prison. He’s an original, Mo, and where the majority of felons in his league blame everyone but themselves, he doesn’t. He retains a gloriously ironic sense of humor. If the American judiciary had any brains—which on the surface the Justice Department would seem to refute—they’d put him back on the bench. ... He went after the Jackal’s people on principle first, because they wanted to kill me and my children. If, on the second round, he makes a dollar, he deserves every penny and I’ll see that he gets it.”
“You’re succinct. You like him.”
“I adore him, as I adore you and Alex. You’ve all taken such risks for us—”
May we get back to what we’re here for?” said the Chameleon angrily. “The past doesn’t interest me, tomorrow does.”
“You’re not only rude, my dear, you’re terribly ungrateful.”
“So be it. Where were we?”
“At the moment with Prefontaine,” replied Alex sharply, looking at Bourne. “But he may not matter because he probably won’t survive Boston. ... I’ll call you at the inn at Barbizon tomorrow and set up a time for lunch. Out here. Clock yourself on the drive back so we’re not hanging around like mateless snow geese. Also, if that fat guy’s right about his ‘cuisine,’ Kruppie will love it and tell everybody he discovered it.”
Kruppie?”
“Relax. I told you, we go back a long time.”
“And don’t go into it,” added Panov. “You really don’t want to hear about Istanbul and Amsterdam. They’re both a couple of thieves.”
“We pass,” said Marie. “Go on, Alex, what about tomorrow?”
“Mo and I will take a taxi out to your place, and your husband and I will drive back here. We’ll call you after lunch.”
“What about that driver of yours, the one Casset got you?” asked the Chameleon, his eyes cold, inquiring.
“What about him? He’ll be paid double what he can make in a month with his taxi for tonight, and after he drops us off at a hotel, he’ll disappear. We won’t see him again.”
“Will he see anyone else?”
“Not if he wants to live and send money to his relatives in Algeria. I told you, Casset cleared him. He’s granite.”
“Tomorrow, then,” said Bourne grimly, looking across the table at Marie and Morris Panov. “After we leave for Paris, you’re to stay out at Barbizon, and you’re not to leave the inn. Do you both understand that?”
“You know, David,” answered Marie, bristling and rigid on the pine banquette. “I’m going to tell you something. Mo and Alex are as much a part of our family as the children, so I’ll say it in front of them. We all, all of us, humor you and in some ways pamper you because of the horrible things you went through. But you cannot and you will not order us around as if we were inferior beings in your august presence. Do you understand that?”
“Loud and clear, lady. Then maybe you should go back to the States so you won’t have to put up with my august presence.” Jason Bourne rose from the table, pushing the chair behind him. “Tomorrow’s going to be a busy day, so I have to get some sleep—I haven’t had much lately—and a better man than any of us here once told me that rest was a weapon. I believe that. ... I’ll be in the car for two minutes. Take your choice. I’m sure Alex can get you out of France.”
“You bastard,” whispered Marie.
“So be it,” said the Chameleon, walking away.
“Go to him,” interjected Panov quickly. “You know what’s happening.”
“I can’t handle it, Mo!”
Don’t handle it, just be with him. You’re the only rope he’s got. You don’t even have to talk, just be there. With him.”
“He’s become the killer again.”
“He’d never harm you—”
“Of course not, I know that.”
“Then provide him with that link to David Webb. It has to be there, Marie.”
“Oh, God, I love him so!” cried the wife, rushing to her feet and racing after her husband—yet not her husband.
“Was that the right advice, Mo?” asked Conklin.
“I don’t know, Alex. I just don’t think he should be alone with his nightmares, none of us should. That’s not psychiatry, it’s just common sense.”
“Sometimes you sound like a real doctor, you know that?”
The Algerian section of Paris lies between the tenth and eleventh arrondissements, barely three blocks, where the low buildings are Parisian but the sounds and the smells are Arabic. The insignia of the high church small but emblazoned in gold on its doors, a long black limousine entered this ethnic enclave. It stopped in front of a wood-framed, three-story house, where an old priest got out and walked to the door. He selected a name on the mail plate and pressed the button that rang a bell on the second floor.
Oui?” said the metallic voice on the primitive intercom.
“I am a messenger from the American embassy,” answered the visitor in religious garb, his French partially ungrammatical as was all too frequent with Americans. “I can’t leave my vehicle, but we have an urgent message for you.”
“I’ll be right down,” said the French Algerian driver recruited by Charles Casset in Washington. Three minutes later the man emerged from the building and walked out on the short narrow pavement. “What are you dressed like that for?” he asked the messenger who stood by the large automobile, covering the insignia on the rear door.
“I’m the Catholic chaplain, my son. Our military chargé d’affaires would like a word with you.” He opened the door.
“I’ll do many things for you people,” laughed the driver as he bent down to look inside the limousine, “but being drafted into your army isn’t one of them. ... Yes, sir, what can I do for you?”
“Where did you take our people?” asked the shadowed figure in the backseat, his features in darkness.
“What people?” said the Algerian, sudden concern in his voice.
“The two you picked up at the airport several hours ago. The cripple and his friend.”
“If you’re from the embassy and they want you to know, they’ll call and tell you, won’t they?”
You’ll tell me!” A third, powerfully built man in a chauffeur’s uniform appeared from behind the trunk of the car. He walked rapidly forward, raising his arm and crashing a thick ugly blackjack down on the Algerian’s skull. He shoved his victim inside; the old man in the guise of a chaplain climbed in behind him, pulling the door shut as the chauffeur ran around the hood to the front seat. The limousine raced away down the street.
An hour later on the deserted rue Houdon, a block from Place Pigalle, the Algerian’s bruised and bleeding corpse was disgorged from the large automobile. Inside, the figure in shadows addressed his aged, personally ordained priest.
“Get your car and remain outside the cripple’s hotel. Stay awake, for you’ll be relieved in the morning and can rest all day. Report any movements and go where he goes. Don’t fail me.”
“Never, monseigneur.”
Dimitri Krupkin was not a tall man but he appeared taller than he was, nor was he particularly heavy yet he seemed to possess a much fuller figure than he carried. He had a pleasant if somewhat fleshy face and a generous head held erect; his full eyebrows and well-groomed pepper-and-salt hair and chin beard combined attractively with alert blue eyes and a seemingly perpetual smile, defining a man who enjoyed his life and his work, an intellect behind both. At the moment he was seated in a booth, facing the rear wall, in the all but empty country restaurant in Epernon staring across the table at Alex Conklin, who sat beside the unidentified Bourne and had just explained that he no longer drank alcohol.
“The world is coming to an end!” exclaimed the Russian in heavily accented English. “You see what happens to a good man in the self-indulgent West? Shame on your parents. They should have stayed with us.”
“I don’t think you want to compare the rates of alcoholism in our two countries.”
“Not for a wager of money,” said Krupkin, grinning. “Speaking of money, my dear old enemy, how and where am I to be paid according to our agreement last night on the telephone?”
“How and where do you want to be paid?” asked Jason.
“Ah ha, you are my benefactor, sir?”
“I’ll be paying you, yes.”
Hold it!” whispered Conklin, his attention drawn to the restaurant’s entrance. He leaned toward the open side of the booth, his hand on his forehead, then quickly moved back as a couple were shown to a table in the corner to the left of the door.
“What is it?” asked Bourne.
“I don’t know ... I’m not sure.”
“Who came in, Aleksei?”
“That’s just it, I think I should know him but I don’t.”
“Where is he seated? In a booth?”
“No, a table. In the corner beyond the bar. He’s with a woman.”
Krupkin moved to the edge of his seat, took out his billfold and removed from its recess a small mirror the size and thickness of a credit card. Cupping it in both hands, he cautiously angled the glass in front of him. “You must be addicted to the society pages of the Paris tabloids,” said the Russian, chuckling as he replaced the mirror and returned the billfold to his jacket pocket. “He’s with the Italian embassy; that’s his wife. Paolo and Davinia something-or-other, with pretensions to nobility, I believe. Strictly corpo diplomatico on the protocol level. They dress up a party quite nicely and they’re obviously stinking rich.”
“I don’t travel in those circles, but I’ve seen him somewhere before.”
“Of course you have. He looks like every middle-aged Italian screen star or any one of those vineyard owners who extol the virtues of the Chianti Classico on television commercials.”
“Maybe you’re right.”
“I am.” Krupkin turned to Bourne. “I shall write out the name of a bank and the number of an account in Geneva.” The Soviet reached into his pocket for a pen as he pulled a paper napkin in front of him. He was not able to use either, for a man in his early thirties, dressed in a tight-fitting suit, walked rapidly up to the table.
“What is it, Sergei?” asked Krupkin.
“Not you, sir,” replied the Soviet aide. “Him,” he added, nodding at Bourne.
“What is it?” repeated Jason.
“You have been followed. At first we were not sure, for it is an old man with a urinary problem. He rapidly left the car twice to relieve himself, but once settled he used the car telephone and squinted through the windscreen to read the name of the restaurant. That was barely minutes ago.”
“How do you know he was following me?”
“Because he arrived shortly after you did, and we were here a half hour before that securing the area.”
“Securing the area!” erupted Conklin, looking at Krupkin. “I thought this conference was strictly between us.”
“Dear Aleksei, benevolent Aleksei, who would save me from myself. Can you really believe I’d meet with you without considering my own protection. Not you personally, old friend, but your aggressors in Washington. Can you imagine? A deputy director of the CIA negotiates with me over a man he pretends to think I do not know. A rank amateur ploy.”
“Goddamn you, I never told him!”
“Oh, dear me, then the error’s mine. I apologize, Aleksei.”
“Don’t,” interrupted Jason firmly. “That old man’s from the Jackal—”
^ Carlos!” cried Krupkin, his face flushed, his alert blue eyes now intense, angry. “The Jackal’s after you, Aleksei?”
“No, him,” answered Conklin. “Your benefactor.”
“Good God! With what we’ve picked up, it’s all falling into place. So I have the distinct honor to meet the infamous Jason Bourne. A great pleasure, sir! We have the same objective where Carlos is concerned, do we not?”
“If your men are any good, we may reach that objective before the next hour’s up. Come on! Let’s get out of here and use the back way, the kitchen, a window, whatever. He’s found me and you can bet your ass he’s coming out here for me. Only he doesn’t know we know that. Let’s go!”
As the three men rose from the table Krupkin gave instructions to his aide. “Have the car brought around to the rear, the service entrance, if there is one, but do it casually, Sergei. No sense of urgency, you understand me?”
“We can drive half a mile down the road and turn into a pasture that will lead to the rear of the building. We will not be seen by the old man in his car.”
Very good, Sergei. And have our backup remain in place but be prepared.”
“Of course, comrade.” The aide hurried back to the front entrance.
“A backup?” exploded Alex. “You had a backup?”
“Please, Aleksei, why quibble? It’s your own fault, after all. Even last night on the phone you did not tell me about your conspiracy against your own deputy director.”
“It wasn’t a conspiracy, for Christ’s sake!”
“It wasn’t exactly a pure rapport between the home office and the field, was it? No, Aleksei Nikolae Konsolikov, you knew you could—shall we say—use me and you did. Never forget, my fine old adversary, you are Russian.”
“Will you two shut up and get out of here?”
They waited in Krupkin’s armor-plated Citroën on the edge of an overgrown field a hundred feet behind the old man’s car, the front of the restaurant in clear sight. To Bourne’s annoyance, Conklin and the KGB officer reminisced like two aging professionals dissecting each other’s strategies in past intelligence operations, pointing out the deficiencies each held to be with the other’s. The Soviet backup was a nondescript sedan on the far shoulder of the road diagonally across from the restaurant. Two armed men were ready to leap out, their automatic weapons prepared to fire.
Suddenly, a Renault station wagon pulled up to the curb in front of the inn. Three couples were inside; all but the driver got out, all laughing, playfully entwining their arms. They walked with abandon toward the entrance as their companion drove the car into the small side parking lot.
Stop them,” said Jason. “They could be killed.”
“Yes, they could be, Mr. Bourne, but if we stop them we will lose the Jackal.”
Jason stared at the Russian, unable to speak, the harsh winds of anger and confusion clouding his thoughts. He started to utter a protest but could not do so; the words would not come. Then it was too late for words. A dark brown van shot up the road from the highway to Paris and Bourne found his voice.
“It’s the one from the boulevard Lefebvre, the one that got away!”
“The one from where?” asked Conklin.
“There was trouble on Lefebvre several days ago,” said Krupkin. “An automobile or a truck was blown up. Do you refer to that?”
“It was a trap. For me. ... A van, then a limo, and a double for Carlos—a trap. That’s the second one; it raced out of a dark side street, I think, and tried to cut us down with firepower.”
“Us?” Alex watched Jason; he saw the undisguised fury in the Chameleon’s eyes, the tight, rigid set of his mouth, the slow spreading and contraction of his strong fingers.
“Bernardine and me,” whispered Bourne in reply, suddenly raising his voice. “I want a weapon,” he cried. “The gun in my pocket isn’t a goddamned weapon!”
The driver was Krupkin’s powerfully built Soviet aide Sergei; he reached across his seat and pulled up a Russian AK-47. He held it over his shoulder as Jason grabbed it.
A dark brown limousine, its tires skidding on the backcountry road, screamed to a stop in front of the faded, worn canopy; and like trained commandos, two men leaped out of the side door, their faces encased in stocking masks, their hands holding automatic weapons. They raced to the entrance, each spinning his body to either side of the double doors. A third man emerged from the squared vehicle, a balding man in a priest’s black clothing. With a gesture of his weapon, the two assault troops spun back toward the doors, their hands on the thick brass knobs. The driver of the van gunned his engine in place.
^ Go!” yelled Bourne. “It’s him! It’s Carlos!”
No!” roared Krupkin. “Wait. It’s our trap now, and he must be trapped—inside.”
“For Christ’s sake, there are people in there!” countered Jason.
“All wars have casualties, Mr. Bourne, and in case you don’t realize it, this is war. Yours and mine. Yours is far more personal than mine, incidentally.”
Suddenly, there was an earsplitting scream of vengeance from the Jackal as the double doors were crashed back and the terrorists rushed inside, their weapons on automatic fire.
Now!” cried Sergei, the ignition started, the accelerator on the floor. The Citroën swung out on the road, rushing toward the van, but in a split half second its progress was derailed. A massive explosion took place on the right. The old man and the nondescript gray car in which he sat was blown apart, sending the Citroën swerving to the left into the ancient post-and-rail fence that bordered the sunken parking lot on the side of the inn. The instant it happened the Jackal’s dark brown van, instead of racing forward, lurched backward, jerking to a halt as the driver jumped out of the cab, concealing himself behind it; he had spotted the Soviet backup. As the two Russians ran toward the restaurant the Jackal’s driver killed one with a burst from his weapon. The other threw himself into the bordering, sloping grass, watching helplessly as Carlos’s driver shot out the tires and the windows of the Soviet vehicle.
“Get out!” yelled Sergei, pulling Bourne from the seat onto the dirt by the fence, as his stunned superior and Alex Conklin crawled out behind him.
“Let’s go!” cried Jason, gripping the AK-47 and getting to his feet. “That son of a bitch blew up the car by remote.”
“I’ll go first!” said the Soviet.
“Why?”
“Frankly, I’m younger and stronger—”
“Shut up!” Bourne raced ahead, zigzagging to draw fire, then plummeting to the ground when it came from the driver of Carlos’s van. He raised his weapon in the grass, knowing that the Jackal’s man believed his fusillade had been accurate; the head appeared and then was no more as Jason squeezed the trigger.
The second Russian backup, hearing the death cry from behind the van, rose from the sloping grass and continued toward the restaurant’s entrance. From inside came the sound of erratic gunfire, sudden bursts accompanied by screams of panic, followed by additional bursts. A living nightmare of terror and blood was taking place within the confines of a once bucolic country inn. Bourne got to his feet, Sergei at his side; running, they joined the other surviving Soviet aide. At Jason’s nod, the Russians pulled back the doors and as one they burst inside.
The next sixty seconds were as terrifying as the shrieking hell depicted by Munch. A waiter and two of the men who were among the three couples were dead, the waiter and one man sprawled on the floor, their skulls shattered, what was left of their faces lying in blood; the third man was splayed back in the banquette, his eyes wide and glass-dead, his clothes riddled with bullets, rivulets of blood rolling down the fabric. The women were in total shock, alternately moaning and screaming as they kept trying to crawl over the pine walls of the booth. The well-dressed man and wife from the Italian embassy were nowhere in sight.
Sergei suddenly rushed forward, his weapon on auto fire; in a rear corner of the room he had spotted a figure whom Bourne had not seen. The stocking-faced killer sprang out of the shadows, his machine swinging into position, but before he could exercise his advantage, the Soviet cut him down. ... Another! A body lurching behind the short counter that served as a bar. Was it the Jackal? Jason pivoted into the diagonal wall, crouching, his eyes darting into every recess in the vicinity of the wine racks. He lunged to the base of the bar as the second Russian backup, assessing the situation, ran to the hysterical women, spinning around, his gun swinging back and forth protecting them. The stocking-faced head shot up from behind the counter, his weapon surging out over the wood. Bourne sprang to his feet, gripping the hot barrel with his left hand, his right commanding the AK-47; he fired point-blank into the terrorist’s contorted face beyond the silk. It was not Carlos. Where was the Jackal?
“In there!” shouted Sergei as if he had heard Jason’s furious question.
Where?”
“Those doors!”
It was the country restaurant’s kitchen. Both men converged on the swinging doors. Again Bourne nodded, the signal for them to crash inside, but before they could move, both were partially blown back by an explosion from within; a grenade had been set off, with fragments of metal and glass embedded in the doors. The smoke billowed, wafting out into the dining room; the smell was acrid, sickening.
Silence.
Jason and Sergei once more approached the kitchen’s entrance, and once again they were stopped by a second sudden explosion followed by staccato gunfire, the bullets piercing the thin, louvered panels of the swinging doors.
Silence.
Standoff.
Silence.
It was too much for the furious, impassioned Chameleon. He cracked the bolt of his AK-47, pulled the selective lever and then the trigger for auto fire, and crashed the doors open, lunging for the floor.
Silence.
Another scene from another hell. A section of the outside wall had been blown away, the obese owner and his chef, still wearing his toque, were dead, corpses pinned against the lower shelves of the kitchen, blood streaming across and down the wood.
Bourne slowly rose to his feet, his legs in agony, every nerve in his body frayed, the edge of hysteria not far away. As if in a trance, he looked around through the smoke and the debris, his eyes finally settling on a large, ominous fragment of brown butcher’s paper nailed to the wall with a heavy cleaver. He approached it and, yanking out the cleaver, read the words printed in a black butcher’s pencil:
^ The trees of Tannenbaum will burn and children will be the kindling. Sleep well, Jason Bourne.
The mirrors of his life were shattered into a thousand pieces of glass. There was nothing else to do but scream.
2010-07-19 18:44 Читать похожую статью
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