Oh, God. He could picture Howard Leland's face, and there was no photograph on the page in front of him! The front page with the terrible headline that triggered so much, confirmed so many things. The date. Thursday, 26 August. Marseilles. It was a day he would remember as long as he could remember for the rest of his convoluted life.
Thursday, 26 August...
Something was wrong. What was it? What was it? Thursday? ... Thursday meant nothing to him. The twenty-sixth of August? ... The twenty-sixth It could not be the twenty-sixth! The twenty-sixth was wrong! He had heard it over and over again. Washburn's diary - his patient's journal. How often had Washburn gone back over every fact, every phrase, every day and point of progress? Too many times to count Too many times not to remember!
You were brought to my door on the morning of Tuesday, August twenty-fourth, at precisely eight-twenty o'clock. Your condition was ...
Tuesday, 24 August.
He was not in Marseilles on the twenty-sixth! He could not have fired a rifle from a window on the waterfront. He was not the seller of death in Marseilles; he had not killed Howard Leland!
Six months ago a man was killed ... But it was not six months; it was close to six months but not six months. And he had not killed that man; he was half dead in an alcoholic's house on lie de Port Noir.
The mists were clearing, the pain receding. A sense of elation filled him; he had found one concrete lie! If there was one there could be others!
Bourne looked at his watch; it was quarter past nine. Marie had left the cafe; she was waiting for him on the steps of the Cluny Museum. He replaced the spindles in their racks, then started towards the large cathedral door of the reading room, a man in a hurry.
He walked up the boulevard Saint-Michel, his pace accelerating with each stride. He had the distinct feeling that he knew what it was to have been given a reprieve from hanging and he wanted to share that rare experience. For a time he was out of the violent darkness, beyond the crashing waters, he had found a moment of sunlight - like the moments and the sunlight that had filled a room in a village inn - and he had to reach the one who had given them to him. Reach her and hold her and tell her there was hope.
He saw her on the steps, her arms folded against the March wind that swept off the boulevard. At first, she did not see him, her eyes searching the tree-lined street. She was restless, anxious, an impatient woman afraid she would not see what she wanted to see, frightened that it would not be there.
Ten minutes' ago he would not have been.
She saw him. Her face became radiant, the smile emerged and it was filled with life She rushed to him as he raced up the steps towards her. They came together and for a moment neither said anything, warm and alone on the Saint-Michel.
'I waited and waited,' she breathed finally. 'I was so afraid, so worried. Did anything happen? Are you all right?'
'I'm fine. Better than I've been in a long time.'
He held her by the shoulders.' "Six months ago a man was killed ..." Remember?' The joy left her eyes. 'Yes, I remember.' 'I didn't kill him,' said Bourne. 'I couldn't have.'
They found a small hotel in the crowded centre of Montpar-nasse. The lobby and the rooms were threadbare, but there was a pretence to forgotten elegance that gave it an air of timelessness. It was a quiet resting place set down in the middle of a carnival, hanging onto its identity by accepting the times without joining them.
Jason closed the door, nodding to the white-haired bell boy whose indifference had turned to indulgence upon the receipt of a twenty-franc note.
'He thinks you're a provincial deacon flushed with a night's anticipation,' said Marie. 'I hope you noticed I went right to the bed.'
'His name is Herve, and he'll be very solicitous of our needs. He has no intention of sharing the wealth.' He crossed to her and took her in his arms. 'Thanks for my life,' he said.
'Any time, my friend.' She reached up and held his face in her hands. 'But don't keep me waiting like that again. I nearly went crazy; all I could think of was that someone had recognized you ... that something terrible had happened.'
'You forget, no one knows what I look like.'
'Don't count on that; it's not true. There were four men in the Steppdeckstrasse, including that bastard on the Guisan Quai. They're alive, Jason. They saw you."
'Not really. They saw a dark-haired man with bandages on his neck and head, who walked with a limp. Only two were near me: the man on the first floor and that pig on the Guisan. The first won't be leaving Zurich for a while; he can't walk and he hasn't much of a hand left. The second had the beam of the torch in his eyes; it wasn't in mine.'
She released him, frowning, her alert mind questioning. "You can't be sure. They were there, they did see you.'
Change your hair ... you change your face. Geoffrey Wash-burn, lie de Port Noir.
'I repeat, they saw a dark-haired man in shadows. How good are you with a weak solution of peroxide?'
'I've never used it.'
"Then I'll find a shop in the morning. The Montparnasse is the place for it Blonds have more fun, isn't that what they say?'
She studied his face. 'I'm trying to imagine what you'll look like.'
'Different. Not much, but enough.'
'You may be right. I hope to God you are. She kissed his cheek, her prelude to discussion. 'Now, tell me what happened. Where did you go? What did you learn about that... incident six months ago?'
'It wasn't six months ago, and because it wasn't I couldn't have killed him.' He told her everything, save for the few brief moments when he thought he would never see her again. He did not have to; she said it for him.
'If that date hadn't been so clear in your mind, you wouldn't have come to me, would you?'
He shook his head. 'Probably not!
'I knew it. I felt it. For a minute, while I was walking from the cafe to the museum steps, I could hardly breathe. It was as though I were suffocating. Can you believe that?'
'I don't want to.'
'Neither do I, but it happened.'
They were sitting, she on the bed he in the single armchair close by. He reached for her hand. 'I'm still not sure I should be here ... I knew that man, I saw his face, I was in Marseilles forty-eight hours before he was killed!'
'But you didn't kill him.'
Then why was I there? Why do people think I did! Christ, it's insane I' He sprang up from the chair, pain back in his eyes. 'But then I forgot I'm not sane, am I? Because I've forgotten ... Years, a lifetime.'
Marie spoke matter-of-factly, no compassion in her voice. The answers will come to you. From one source or another, finally from yourself.'
That may not be possible. Washburn said it was like blocks rearranged, different tunnels ... different windows?" Jason walked to the window, bracing himself on the sill, looking down on the lights of Montparnasse. The views aren't the same; they never will be. Somewhere out there are people I know, who know me. A couple of thousand miles away are other people I care about and don't care about ... Or, oh God, maybe a wife and children, I don't know. I keep spinning around in the wind, turning over and over and I can't get down to the ground. Every time I try I'm thrown back up again.'