The Bourne Identity / Page 24

Page 24



'Did anyone else? Tell me the truth; I'll know if you're lying.'

'I know only Chernak. He's the only one I've ever spoken to who admits having even seen you. But you know that; the envelope was passed through him to me. He'd never say anything.'

'Where's Chernak now?'

'Where he always is. In his flat on the LSwenstrasse.'

'I've never been there. What's the number?'

'You've never been? ...' The fat man paused, his lips pressed together, alarm in his eyes. 'Are you testing me?!

'Answer the question.'

'Number 37, You know it as well as I do.!

Then I'm testing you. Who gave the envelope to Chernak?'

The man stood motionless, his dubious integrity challenged. !I have no way of knowing. Nor would I ever inquire.'

'You weren't even curious?'

'Of course not. A goat does not willingly enter the wolfs cave.!

'Goats are sure-footed; they've got an accurate sense of smell.'

'And they are cautious, mein Herr. Because the wolf is faster, infinitely more aggressive. There would be only one chase. The goat's last.'

'What was in the envelope?'

'I told you, I did not open it.'

'But you know what was in it!

'Money, I presume.'

'You presume!'

'Very well. Money. A great deal of money. If there was any discrepancy, it had nothing to do with me. Now please, I beg you. Get out of here I'

'One last question.'

'Anything. Just leave!'

'What was the money for?'

The obese man stared down at Bourne, his breathing audible, sweat glistening on his chin. 'You put me on the rack, mein Herr, but I will not turn away from you. Call it the courage of an insignificant goat who has survived. Every day I read the newspapers. In three languages. Six months ago a man was killed. His death was reported on the front page of each of those papers.'

They circled the block, emerging on the Falkenstrasse, then turned right towards the Limmat Quai and the Grossmunster. The Lowenstrasse was across the river, on the west side of the city. The quickest way to reach it was to take the Mtinster Bridge to the Nuschelerstrasse; the avenues intersected, according to a couple who had been about to enter the Drei Alpen-hauser.

Marie St Jacques was silent, holding onto the wheel as she had gripped the straps of her handbag during the madness at the Carillon, somehow her connection with sanity. Bourne glanced at her and understood.... a man was killed, his death reported on the front pages of each of those papers.

Jason Bourne had been paid to kill, and the police in several countries had sent funds through Interpol to convert reluctant informers, to broaden the base of his capture. Which meant that other men had been killed ...

How many are there that look for you, mein Herr? And what are they that do? ... They stop at nothing - the death of a wife or a child is nothing!

Not the police. Others.

The twin bell towers of the Grossmunster rose in the night sky, floodlights creating eerie shadows. Jason stared at the ancient structure; as so much else he knew it but did not know it. He had seen it before, yet he was seeing it now for the first time.

I know only Chernak ... The envelope was passed through him to me ... Lowenstrasse. Number 37. You know it as well as I do.

Did he? Would he?

They drove over the bridge into the traffic of the newer city. The streets were crowded, cars and pedestrians vying for supremacy at every intersection, the red and green signals erratic and interminable. Bourne tried to concentrate on nothing ... and everything. The outlines of the truth were being presented to him, shape by enigmatic shape, each more startling than the last. He was not at all sure he was capable - mentally capable - of absorbing a great deal more.

'Sie! Frdulein. Ihre Scheinwerfer! Und Sie signalisieren. Unrechter Weg!'

Jason looked up, a hollow pain knotting his stomach. A patrol car was beside them, a policeman shouting through his open window. Everything was suddenly clear ... clear and infuriating. The St Jacques woman had seen the police car in the side view mirror; she had extinguished the headlights and slipped her hand down to the indicator, flipping it for a left turn. A left turn into a one-way street whose arrows at the intersection clearly defined the traffic heading right! And turning left by bolting in front of the police car would result in several violations: the absence of headlights, perhaps even a premeditated collision; they would be stopped, the woman free to scream.

Bourne snapped the headlights on, then leaned across the girl, one hand disengaging the directional signal, the other gripping her arm where he had gripped it before.

I'll kill you, Doctor,' he said quietly, then shouted through the window at the police officer. 'Sorry! We're a little confused! Tourists! We want the next block!'

The policeman was barely two feet away from Marie St Jacques, his eyes on her face, evidently puzzled by her lack of reaction.

The light changed. 'Ease forward. Don't do anything stupid,' said Jason. He waved at the police officer through the glass. 'Sorry again!' he yelled. The policeman shrugged, turning to his partner to resume a previous conversation.

'I was confused,' said the girl, her soft voice trembling. There's so much traffic ... Oh, God, you've broken my arm!...

You bastard.'

Bourne released her, disturbed by her anger; he preferred fear. 'You don't expect me to believe you, do you?'

'My arm?'

'Your confusion.'

'You said we were going to turn left soon; that's all I was thinking about.'

'Next time look at the traffic.' He moved away from -her but did not take his eyes off her face.

'You are an animal,' she whispered, briefly closing her eyes, opening them in fear, it had come back.

They reached the Lowenstrasse, a wide avenue where low buildings of brick and heavy wood stood sandwiched between modem examples of smooth concrete and glass. The character of nineteenth-century flats competed against the utilitarianism of contemporary neuterness. They did not lose. Jason watched the numbers, they were descending from the middle eighties, with each block the old houses more in evidence than the high-rise aparI'ments, until the street had returned in time to that other era. There was a row of neat three-storey flats, roofs and windows framed in wood, stone steps and railings leading up to recessed doorways washed in the light of carriage lamps. Bourne recognized the unremembered; the fact that he did so was not startling, but something else was. The row of houses evoked another image, a very strong image of another row of flats, similar in outline but oddly different. Weathered, older, nowhere near as neat or scrubbed . . cracked windows, broken steps, incomplete railings - jagged ends of rusted iron. Farther away, in another part of ... Zurich, yes they were in Zurich. In a small district rarely if ever visited by those who did not live there, a part of the city that was left behind, but not gracefully.

'Steppdeckstrasse,' he said to himself, concentrating on the image in his mind. He could see a doorway, the paint a faded red, as dark as the red silk dress worn by the woman beside him. 'A boarding house ... in the Steppdeckstrasse.'

'What? Mane St Jacques was startled. The words he uttered alarmed her; she had obviously related them to herself and was terrified.

'Nothing.' He took his eyes off the dress and looked out of the window. 'There's Number 37,' he said, pointing to the fifth house in the row. 'Stop the car.'


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