The Bourne Identity / Page 32

Page 32


The door swung open; a blinding spit of light accompanied the explosion. Hot, searing pain spread through Bourne's right side. The fabric of his coat was blown away, blood matting what remained of his shirt. He squeezed the trigger, only vaguely able to see the figure rolling on the ground; he fired again, the bullet detonating the surface of the asphalt. The executioner had rolled and lurched out of sight ... into the darker blackness, unseen.

Jason knew he could not stay where he was; to do so was his own execution. He raced, dragging his leg, to the cover of the open door.

'Stay insider he yelled to Marie St Jacques; the woman had started to move in panic. 'Goddamn it! Stay in there I!

A gunshot; the bullet embedded in the metal of the door. A running figure was silhouetted above the wall. Bourne fired twice, grateful for an expulsion of breath in the distance. He had wounded the man; he had not killed him. But the executioner would function less well than he had sixty seconds ago.

Lights. Dim lights ... squared, frames! What was it? What were they? He looked to the left and saw what he could not possibly have seen before. A small brick structure, some kind of dwelling by the sea wall. Light had been turned on inside. A watchman's station; someone inside had heard the gunshots.

"Was ist? ist da jemand! The shouts came from the figure of a man - a bent-over old man - standing in a lighted doorway. Then the beam of a torch pierced the blacker darkness. Bourne followed it with his eyes, hoping it would shine on the executioner.

It did. He was crouched by the wall. Jason stood up and fired; at the sound of his gun, the beam swung over to him. He was the target; two shots came from the darkness, a bullet ricocheting off a metal strip in the window. Steel punctured his neck; blood erupted.

Racing footsteps. The executioner was running towards the source of the light

'Nein!'

He had reached it; the figure in the doorway was lashed by an arm that was both his leash and his cage. The beam went out; in the light of the windows Jason could see the killer pulling the watchman away, using the old man as a shield, dragging him back into darkness.

Bourne watched until he could see no more, his gun raised helplessly over the bonnet. He was helpless, his body draining.

There was a final shot, followed by a guttural cry and, once again, racing footsteps. The executioner had carried out a sentence of death, not on the condemned woman, but on an old man. He was running; he had made his escape.

Bourne could run no longer; the pain had finally immobilized him, his vision too blurred, his sense of survival exhausted. He lowered himself to the pavement. There was nothing; he simply did not care.

Whatever he was, let it be. Let it be.

The St Jacques woman crawled out of the car, holding her clothes, every move made in shock. She stared at Jason, disbelief, horror and confusion coming together in her eyes.

'Go on,' he whispered, hoping she could hear him. 'There's a car back there, the keys are in it. Get out of here. He may bring others, I don't know.'

'You came for me,' she said, her voice echoing through a tunnel of bewilderment

'Get out I Get in that car and go like hell, Doctor. If anyone tries to stop you, run him down. Reach the police ... Real ones, with uniforms, you damn fool.' His throat was so hot, his stomach so cold. Fire and ice; he'd felt them before. Together. Where was it?

'You saved my life ...' She continued in that hollow tone, the words floating in the air. 'You came for me. You came back for me, and saved ... my ... life.'

'Don't make it what it wasn't! You are incidental, Doctor. You are a reflex, an instinct born of forgotten memories, conduits electrically produced by stress. You see, I know the words ... I don't care any more. I hurt - oh my God, I hurt.

'You were free. You could have kept going, but you didn't You came back for me.'

He heard her through mists of pain. He saw her, and what he saw was unreasonable - as unreasonable as the pain. She was kneeling beside him, touching his face, touching his head. Stop it! Do not touch my head! Leave me.

'Why did you do that?' It was her voice, not his.

She was asking him a question. Didn't she understand? He could not answer her.

What was she doing? She had torn a piece of cloth and was wrapping it around his neck ... and now another, this larger, part of her dress. She had loosened his belt and was pushing the soft smooth cloth down into the boiling hot skin on his right hip.

'It wasn't you.' He found words and used them quickly. He wanted the peace of darkness - as he had wanted it before but could not remember when. He could find it if she left him. "That man ... he'd seen me. He could identify me. It was him. I wanted him. Now get out I'

'So could half a dozen others,' she replied, another note in her voice, 'I don't believe you."

'Believe me!'

She was standing above him now. Then she was not there. She was gone! She had left him! The peace would come quickly now, he would be swallowed up in the dark crashing waters and the pain would be washed away. He leaned back against the car and let himself drift with the currents of his mind.

A noise intruded, A motor, rolling and disruptive. He did not care for it, it interfered with the freedom of his own particular sea. Then a hand was on his arm. Then another, gently pulling him up

'Come on,' said the voice. 'Help me-'

'Let go of me!' The command was shouted, he had shouted it. But the command was not obeyed. He was appalled; commands should be obeyed!. Yet not always; something told him that. The wind was there again, but not a wind in Zurich. In some other place, high in the night sky. And a signal came, a light flashed on, and he leaped up whipped by furious new currents.

'All right. You're all right,' said the maddening voice that would not pay attention to his commands. 'Lift your foot up. Lift it! ... That's right. You did it. Now, inside the car. Ease yourself back ... slowly. That's right.'

He was falling ... falling in the pitch black sky. And then the falling stopped! everything stopped, and there was stillness; he could hear his own breathing. And footsteps, he could hear footsteps ... and the sound of a door closing, followed by the rolling, disruptive noise beneath him, in front of him ... somewhere.

Motion, swaying in circles. Balance was gone and he was falling again, only to be stopped again, another body against his body, a hand holding him, lowering him. His face felt cool; and then he felt nothing. He was drifting again, currents gentler now, darkness complete.

There were voices above him, in the distance, but not so far away. Shapes came slowly into focus, lit by the spill of table lamps. He was in a fairly large room, and on a bed, a narrow bed, blankets covering him. Across the room were two people, a man in an overcoat and a woman ... dressed in a dark red skirt beneath a white blouse. Dark red, as the hair was ... The St Jacques woman? It was she, standing by a door talking to a man holding a leather bag in his left hand. They were speaking French.

'Rest, mainly,' the man was saying. 'If you're not accessible to me, anyone can remove the sutures. They can be taken out in a week, I'd say.'

'Thank you, Doctor.!

Thank you. You've been most generous. I'll go now. Perhaps I'll hear from you, perhaps not.'

The doctor opened the door and let himself out. When he was gone the woman reached down and slid the bolt in place. She turned and saw Bourne looking, at her. She walked slowly, cautiously, towards the bed.


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