The Bourne Identity / Page 54

Page 54



The driver's eyes returned to the franc notes. 'What's difficult?' He took the money.

They edged their way along the side of the van, Jason's back pressed against the wall of steel, his right hand concealed beneath his overcoat, gripping the gun in his belt The driver approached the window and reached up, tapping the glass.

'You inside! Herr Koenig! Greetings from Zurich' he yelled.

The window was rolled down, no more than an inch or two. 'What is this?' a voice yelled back. 'You're supposed to be at the Pont Neuf, Monsieur I!

The driver was no idiot; he was also anxious to leave as rapidly as possible. 'Not me, you jackass!' he shouted through the din of the surrounding, perilously close traffic. 'I'm telling you what I was told to say! The schedule's been changed. There's a man back there who says he has to see you!'

Tell him to hurry,' said Jason, holding a final fifty-franc note in his hand, beyond sight of the window.

The driver glanced at the money, then back up at the courier. 'Be quick about it! If you don't see him right away you'll lose your job!'

'Now, get out of here!' said Bourne. The driver turned and ran past Jason, grabbing the franc note as he raced back to his taxi.

Bourne held his place, suddenly alarmed by what he heard through the cacophony of pounding horns and gunning engines in the crowded street. There were voices from inside the van, not one man shouting into a radio, but two shouting at each other. The courier was not alone; there was another man with him.

"Those were the words! You heard them!'

'He was to come up to you. He was to show himself.'

'Which he will do. And present the piece of leather which must fit exactly! Do you expect him to do that in the middle of the street filled with traffic?'

'I don't like it!'

'You paid me to help you and your people find someone. Not to lose my job I I'm going!'

'It must be the Pont Neuf!'

'Kiss my ass!'

There was the sound of heavy footsteps on the metal floorboards. 'I'm coming with you!'

The panel door opened; Jason spun behind it, his hand still under his coat. Below him a child's face was pressed against the glass of a car window, the eyes squinting, the young features contorted into an ugly mask, fright and insult the childish intent. The swelling sound of angry horns, blaring in counterpoint, filled the street; the traffic had come to a standstill.

The courier stepped off the metal ledge, the attache case in his left hand. Bourne was ready; the instant the courier was on the street, he slammed the panel back into the body of the second man, crashing the heavy steel into a descending kneecap and an outstretched hand. The man screamed, reeling backwards inside the van. Jason shouted at the courier, the jagged scrap of leather in his free hand.

'I'm Bourne! Here's the fragment! And you keep that gun in its holster or you won't just lose your job, you'll lose your life, you son of a bitch! !

'I meant no harm, Monsieur! They wanted to find you! They have no interest in your delivery, you have my word on it!'

The door crashed open; Jason slammed it again with his shoulder, then pulled it back to see the face of Carlos's soldier, his hand on the weapon in his belt.

What he saw was the barrel of a gun, the black orifice of its opening staring him in the eyes. He spun back, aware that the split-second delay in the gunshot that followed was caused by a burst of shrill ringing that exploded out of the armoured van. The alarm had been tripped, the sound deafening, riding over the dissonance in the street; the gunshot seemed muted by comparison, the eruption of asphalt below not heard.

Once more Jason hammered the panel. He heard the impact of metal against metal; he had made contact with the gun of Carlos's soldier. He pulled his own from his belt, dropped to his knees in the street, and pulled the door open.

He saw the face from Zurich, the killer they had called Johann, the man they had brought to Paris to recognize him. " Bourne fired twice; the man arched backwards, blood spreading across his forehead.

The courier! The attache' case!

Jason saw the man; he had ducked below the tailgate for protection, his weapon in his hand, screaming for help. Bourne leaped to his feet and lunged for the extended gun, gripping the barrel, twisting it out of the courier's hand. He grabbed the attach^ case and shouted.

'No harm, right! Give me that, you bastard!' He threw the man's gun under the van, got up, and plunged into the hysterical crowds on the pavement.

He ran wildly, blindly, the bodies in front of him the movable walls of his labyrinth. But there was an essential difference between this gauntlet and one he lived in every day. There was no darkness; the afternoon sun was bright, as blinding as his race through the labyrinth.

14

'Everything's here," said Marie. She had collated the certificates by denominations, the stacks and the franc notes on the desk. 'I told you it would be.'

'It almost wasn't.'

'What?'

The man they called Johann, the one from Zurich. He's dead. I killed him.'

'Jason, what happened?'

He told her. They counted on the Pont Neuf,' he said. 'My guess is that the back-up car got caught in traffic, broke into the courier's radio frequency, and told them to delay. I'm sure of it.'

'Oh God, they're everywhere!'

'But they don't know where I am,! said Bourne, looking into the mirror above the bureau, studying his blond hair while putting on the tortoiseshell glasses. 'And the last place they'd expect to find me at this moment - if they conceivably thought I knew about it - would be a fashion house on Saint-Honore.'

'Les Classiques?' asked Marie, astonished.

That's right. Did you call it?'

'Yes, but that's insane! !

'Why?' Jason turned from the mirror. Think about .it. Twenty minutes ago their trap fell apart; there's got to be confusion, recriminations, accusations of incompetency, or worse. Right now, at this moment, they're more concerned with each other than with me; nobody wants a bullet in his throat. It won't last long; they'll regroup quickly, Carlos will make sure of that. But during the next hour or so while they're trying to piece together what happened, the one place they won't look for me is a relay-drop they haven't the vaguest idea I'm aware of.'

'Someone will recognize you!'

'Who? They brought in a man from Zurich to do that and he's dead. They're not sure what I look like.'

The courier. They'll take him; he saw you.'

'For the next few hours he'll be busy with the police.

'D'Amacourt. The lawyer!'

'I suspect they're halfway to Normandy or Marseilles or, if they're lucky, out of the country.' ,

'Suppose they're stopped, caught?'

'Suppose they are? Do you think Carlos would expose a drop where he gets messages? Not on your life. Or his.'

'Jason, I'm frightened.'

'So am I. But not of being recognized.' Bourne returned to the mirror. 'I could give a long dissertation about facial classifications and softened features, but I won't*

'You're talking about the evidences of surgery. Port Noir.

'You told me.'

'Not all of it' Bourne leaned against the bureau, staring at his face. 'What colour are my eyes?'


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