فصل 09

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فصل 09

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Chapter nine

The Blackbird

“We’re alone,” said the voice across the dark room as Bourne opened his eyes. The barman sat in a large armchair.

Bourne felt the angry swelling on the top of his head.

“There’s no break, no blood - only what I imagine is a very painful lump,” said the Jackal’s man.

“That’s accurate, especially the last part.”

“At your side, on a table, is an ice bag. You should use it.”

Bourne reached down, grabbed the cold bag, and brought it to his head. “You are very kind,” he said coldly.

“What do you know about a blackbird?” said the barman.

“Do we do business - a million francs’ worth?”

“It seems to me that if a buyer mentions such an amount in the first offer, he will go higher,” the Jackal’s man said. “A million and a half. Maybe even two.”

“But I’m not the buyer, I’m the middleman. I was given permission to pay one million. Take it or leave it. I have other options.”

“Do you really?”


“Not if you’re a dead body found floating in the Seine without any identification.”

“I see.” Bourne looked around the darkened flat. It was very different from the dirty cafe below. The furniture was tastefully selected - not elegant, but certainly not cheap. Mildly astonishing were the bookshelves covering the wall between the two windows. The academic in Bourne wished he could read the titles; they might give him a clearer picture of this strange, huge man whose speech might have been formed at the Sorbonne. His eyes returned to the barman. “Then I can’t assume I’ll leave here alive?”

“No,” answered the Jackal’s man.

“Of course, you’re losing any chance of collecting a million francs - or, as you suggested, maybe a great deal more.”

“Then may I suggest,” said the barman, crossing his thick arms in front of him as if he were a priest and glancing at the tattoos on his skin, “that a man who has such large available funds will not only part with them in exchange for his life, but will happily deliver the information requested to avoid unnecessary and severe pain,” The Jackal’s man suddenly shouted, “What do you know about a blackbird? Who told you about the Soldier’s Heart? Where do you come from and who are you and who is your client?”

Bourne froze, his body tense but his mind spinning, racing. He had to get out!

“Obviously I don’t wish to die for a client or be hurt to protect his information, so I’ll tell you what I know, which isn’t much. First, the funds are not available to me personally. I meet with a man in London to whom I deliver the information and he releases an account in Bern, Switzerland, to a name and number - any name, any number - that I give him.

“Second, what do I know about a blackbird and the Soldier’s Heart? I was told that an old man - I suspect he was French - approached a well-known public figure and told him he was the target of an assassination. Who believes a drunk old man? Unfortunately, the assassination took place, but fortunately an assistant to the victim was by his side when the old man warned him. Even more fortunate, the assistant is extremely close to my client and the assassination was a welcome event to both. The assistant secretly passed on the old man’s information: a blackbird is sent a message through a cafe known as the Soldier’s Heart in Argenteuil.

“Who am I? My offices are hotel rooms in various cities. I’m currently registered under the name of Simon at the Hotel Pont-Royal, where I keep my passports and other papers.” Bourne paused, his open hands outstretched. “I’ve told you the entire truth as I know it.”

“Not the entire truth,” said the barman. “Who is your client?”

“I’ll be killed if I tell you.”

“I’ll kill you now if you don’t!” He picked up Bourne’s hunting knife. The blade shone in the light of the floor lamp.

“My client - my clients - are a group of powerful men in the United States. They guard their names like nuclear secrets, but I know of one, and he should be enough for you.”


“Find out for yourself - find out that I’m telling you the truth, and in the process make yourself so rich that you can do anything you want to do for the rest of your life. Where’s the harm? I can be refused, my clients refused. There’s no trap. My clients don’t want to see the blackbird. They want to hire him.”

“How could this be done? How can I be satisfied?”

“Invent a high position for yourself and reach the American ambassador in London - the name is Atkinson. Tell him you’ve received secret instructions from Snake Lady. Ask him if you should accept them.”

“Snake Lady? What’s that?”

“Medusa. They call themselves Medusa.”

“Where the hell are you?” shouted Alexander Conklin in Virginia.

“I don’t know,’” Panov replied. “They drugged me, Alex. I talked.”

“We assumed that. We have to know where you are. Others are looking for you, too.”

“A guy in a truck gave me a lift and I jumped off in the first town, but I didn’t see a sign. Wait a minute! There’s a drugstore across the street. The sign says Battle Ford’s Best. Will that help?”

There was a sigh on the line. “Yes, if you knew anything about the Civil War, you’d know it, too. Find your way to the old battleground at Ford’s Bluff. There are signs everywhere. A helicopter will be there in thirty minutes, and don’t say anything to anybody!”

Bourne walked into the Hotel Pont-Royal and immediately approached the night concierge, taking out a 500 franc note and placing it quietly in the man’s hand.

“The name is Simon,” he said, smiling. “I’ve been away. Any messages?”

“No messages, Mr. Simon,” was the quiet reply, “but two men are outside, one on the Montalembert, the other across on the Rue du Bac. They are watching or waiting for somebody.”

Bourne removed a thousand-franc note and gave it to the man. “I pay for such eyes and I pay well. Keep watching.”

“Of course, sir.”

Reaching his room, Bourne saw that everything was as he had left it. The bed. Oh, God, he needed to rest, to sleep.

He couldn’t do it any longer. Something was happening inside him - less energy, less breath. He wanted to lie down. No. There was Marie. There was Bernardine. He went to the telephone and dialed the number.

“Nothing,” the old man said. “She is not on any international flight currently in the air or scheduled for departure. I even checked the transfers from London, Lisbon, Stockholm, and Amsterdam - nothing.”

“There has to be. She wouldn’t change her mind; it’s not like her. And she wouldn’t know how to avoid Immigration.”

“I repeat. She’s not listed on any flight from any country coming into Paris.”


“I will keep trying, my friend. According to Alex. One should never underestimate your Marie.”

Francois Bernardine woke up suddenly, frowning, disturbed. She wouldn’t change her mind. The words of the husband who knew her best. She’s not listed on any flight from any country coming into Paris. His own words. Paris. The important word was Paris!

But suppose it was not Paris?

Bernardine crawled rapidly out of bed in the early morning light. He shaved, washed, dressed, and walked down into the street to his Peugeot. Fifty-eight minutes later, he swung the car into the parking lot of a small plain brick building in Orly Airport. It was a branch of the Department of Immigration, an important one known as the Office of Air Entries, where computers kept up-to-date records of every traveler flying into France at all the international airports.

Nineteen minutes later, he had his answer - but the information was too late. Bernardine found a payphone and dialed the Pont-Royal.

“Yes?” said the voice of Jason Bourne.

“It’s Francois. I apologize for waking you.”

“I was just getting up. What’s happening?”

“I’m out at Orly and I’m afraid I have bad news. Your wife flew into Marseilles slightly over two hours ago. Not Paris. Marseilles.”

“Why is that bad news? cried Bourne. “We know where she is! We can - oh God, I see what you mean… She can take a train, hire a car.”

“She can even fly up to Paris under any name she wants to use.”

Bourne’s watch read one o’clock when two men walked out of the alley and across the street.

“Santos will see you now,” said one of them.

“I don’t see him.”

“You have to come with us. He does not leave the Soldier’s Heart.”

“Why do I not like that?”

“There is no reason for such feelings. As I said earlier, he has peace in his heart.”

Bourne was led down the alley, past the cafe’s entrance, to a small break in the buildings. One by one, Bourne between the two men, they made their way to the back of the cafe. Bourne was led, through an unexpectedly beautiful garden, to a small outside elevator. It barely held the three of them. When the iron gate was closed, the silent messenger pressed a button in the darkness and spoke.

“We are here, Santos. Camellia. Bring us up.”

“Camellia?” asked Bourne.

“He knows everything is all right,” said the other man. “If not, my friend might have said ‘rose.’”

“What would happen then?”

“You don’t want to think about it.”

The elevator stopped and the quiet messenger opened a thick, steel door. Bourne was led into the familiar room with its tasteful, expensive furniture.

“You may leave, my friends,” said Santos from an armchair.

The two messengers, instead of heading for the back of the room and the elevator, opened a door in the left wall and disappeared.

“Sit down, Mr. Simon,” said Santos. “How is your head?”

“The swelling’s gone down, thank you.” Bourne sat on the large couch. “I understand you have peace in your heart.”

“And a desire for three million francs.”

“Then you were satisfied with your call to London?”

“Yes. No one could have programmed the ambassador into reacting the way he did. He was very frightened. There is a Snake Lady and she creates extraordinary fear in high places. Now, you say that you and you alone must reach the blackbird. May I ask why?”

“Because if one drunk old man can talk about the Soldier’s Heart, then others may do so. You can be traced by the police. My clients want no connection with you.”

“Even through you?”

“Later, I’ll disappear. You won’t - though maybe you should think about doing so. Here, I brought you something.” Bourne sat forward on the couch and reached into his back pocket. He pulled out a roll of franc notes held together by a rubber band. He threw it over to Santos, who caught it in mid-air. “200,000 francs in advance. Give me the information I need and I’ll deliver it to London. Whether or not the blackbird accepts my clients’ offer, you will still receive the balance of the three million.”

Santos got up from the chair and walked across to a card table.

“If you will, please come over here.”

Bourne rose from the couch and walked over to the card table, suddenly astonished. Spread across the table were his three passports, as well as the gun and the knife taken from him last night.

“I’ll accept your money now,” said Santos, “but instead of you flying to London, London will fly to Paris. Tomorrow morning. When he arrives at the Pont-Royal, you’ll call me - I’ll give you my private number, of course. Then we’ll have an exchange: the money for the information.”

“I’ll do what I can,” said Bourne.

Two hours later, he called Bernardine.

“My God, it is four o’clock in the morning, so I can assume you have something important to tell this seventy-year-old man.”

“I’ve got a problem.”

“You’ve got too many problems, but never mind. What is it?”

“I’m as close as I can be, but I need another man.”

“What kind of man?”

“My contact with the Jackal expects an Englishman to fly over from London this morning with two million, eight hundred thousand francs “ “Far less money than you have, I assume.”

“Yes, but I’m being watched, so I can’t go to the bank, and I don’t have an Englishman to bring what I can’t get to the Pont-Royal.”

“I can get the money for you. Sign a paper releasing it to me. Give the paper to the hotel concierge and I’ll pick it up.”

“Fine. What about the Englishman? This morning?”

“Not a problem, old boy!” said the Frenchman in a perfect English accent.

Soon after four-thirty in the afternoon, Bernardine walked into the Pont-Royal dressed in a dark suit that was obviously British. He went to the elevator and eventually, after two wrong turns, reached Bourne’s room.

“Here’s the money,” he said, dropping a small case on the floor. He sat down at the desk, took two automatics and three grenades from his pockets, and placed them in a row. “I will relax now.”

“What the hell is that - are they?” cried Bourne.

“When you go out to do your business, you will leave the door open,” replied Bernardine. “If somebody comes down that narrow passage, he will see a grenade in my hand.”

“That makes sense,” said Bourne, going to the door.

Out on the Montalembert, he walked to the corner, leaned against the wall, and waited.

A man walked across the street toward him. It was the talkative messenger from last night, his hand in his jacket pocket.

“Where’s the money?”

“Where’s the information?” answered Bourne.

“The money first.”

“That’s not the arrangement.” Without warning, Bourne grabbed him by the jacket, pulling him forward off his feet. Bourne moved up his free hand and gripped the messenger’s throat, his fingers digging into the man’s flesh. “You go back to Santos and tell him he’s got a one-way ticket to hell. I don’t deal this way.”

“Enough!” said the low voice, its owner coming around the corner on Bourne’s right. The huge figure of Santos approached. “Let him go, Simon. He is nothing. It is now only you and me.”

Bourne released the messenger, who looked at Santos. Responding to a gesture of his boss’s large head, the man raced away.

“Your Englishman arrived,” said Santos when they were alone. “He carried a small case. I saw myself. So I shall give you the information. What I am going to tell you, Mr. Simon, is known by only four people in the world. However, if you even hint at Argenteuil as your source of information, I’ll know it immediately and you will never leave the Pont-Royal alive.”

“The contact can be made so quickly?”

“With a telephone number. But you will not place the call for at least an hour from the moment we part. If you do, again I will know it, and again, I tell you, you’re a dead man.”

“An hour. Agreed. Only three other people have this number? Why not choose one that you’re not particularly fond of so that I can mention him - if it’s necessary?”

Santos smiled thinly. “Moscow,” he said softly. “High up in Dzerzhinsky Square.”

“The KGB?”

“The blackbird is building a network in Moscow. Always Moscow - he’s fascinated by it.”

Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, thought Bourne. Trained at Novgorod. Dismissed by the KGB as a madman. The Jackal!

“I’ll remember that - if it’s needed. The number, please?”

Santos said it twice, with the words that Bourne had to say. He spoke slowly, obviously impressed that Bourne wrote nothing down. “Is that all clear?”

“Yes,” said Bourne. “If everything goes as I hope it will, how do you want me to get you the money?”

“Call me - you’ve got my number. I will leave Argenteuil and come to you. And never return to Argenteuil.”

“Good luck, Santos. Something tells me you deserve it.”

“No one more so. Goodbye.”

Santos walked away and Bourne, his heart beating fast, headed back to the Pont-Royal.

“Bernardine!” he said, entering his room. “Put the weapons away. We’ve struck gold.”

“In what way?”

“An hour,” announced Bourne. “Forty-three minutes from now. Write this down, Francois.” Bourne repeated the phone number given to him by Santos. “Can you find out where that number is?”

“It might take some time and cost money -“

“The money doesn’t matter - and I’ll pay more for less time.”

Bernardine picked up the phone.

Former judge Bernard Prefontaine watched Randolph Gates cry as the professor sat forward on the couch in Boston’s Ritz- Carlton Hotel, his face in his hands.

“So you got into trouble in France, Randy?”

“My God, how did you find out?”

“You know I can’t possibly tell you that. But these things leave a trace.”

The trace, in this case, was a file held by Army Intelligence. Conklin had found a reference to it in Swayne’s diary and asked Casset to investigate.

“You don’t know what it was like!” said Gates. “I was setting up a business deal when I was kidnapped. Then I was thrown into a plane and flown to Marseilles, where the most horrible things happened to me. I was kept in a room and every few hours I was given drugs - for more than six weeks. Women were brought in, movies made - I wasn’t myself.”

“So you became the Jackal’s man in the world of high finance?”

“It’s how he found me. The deal I was trying to do was opposed by some people in the Far East. They hired him… Oh, my God, he’ll kill me!”

“Yes, he probably will. Sorry about that, Randy.”

“What am I going to do?”

“There’s a way. First, a long rest at a private health center - but even before that, your complete cooperation right now. If you help, the Jackal will be killed, and you’ll be free, Randy.”

“I’ll do anything!”

“How do you reach him?”

“I have a telephone number!” Gates took his wallet from his pocket and dug into it with trembling fingers. “Only four people alive have it!”

The hour was over, and Bourne left the hotel, walking slowly, crossing four streets until he saw a public phone by the River Seine. It was dark now and the boats on the river were dotted with lights. He breathed steadily, controlling himself, as he went inside, put in a coin, and dialed.

“Yes?” It was a woman’s voice.

“Blackbirds circle in the sky,” said Bourne, repeating Santos’s words in French. “They make a great deal of noise but one is silent.”

A man’s voice came on the line. “Who is this?” The Jackal! It was the Jackal! The smooth, fast French could not hide the Latin American accent.

“Somebody who was trusted by somebody who knows you with this number. I can offer you the contract of your career, of your life. You can name your price, but those who pay are among the most powerful men in the United States.”

“This is a very strange call. Very unusual.”

“All I need is your interest at this point. If the answer is yes, I can reveal more. If it’s no, well, I tried, but I am forced to go elsewhere. The newspapers say he was in Brussels only yesterday. I’ll find him.” There was a sharp intake of breath at the mention of Brussels, and the unspoken name of Jason Bourne. “Yes or no, blackbird?”

Silence. Finally the Jackal spoke. “Call me back in two hours,” he ordered, hanging up the phone.

It was done! Bourne leaned against the pay phone, the sweat pouring down his face and breaking out on his neck. The Pont-Royal. He had to get back to Bernardine!

“It was Carlos!” he announced, closing the door and crossing to the bedside phone while taking Santos’s card out of his pocket. He dialed. Seconds later, he spoke. “The bird’s confirmed,” he said. “Give me a name, any name.” The pause was brief. “The case will be left with the concierge. Send one of your men. If he uses that name the concierge will give it to him. Count the money and send my passports back to me.”

Bourne hung up and turned to Bernardine.

“We have an address on the Boulevard Lefebvre for that phone,” the Frenchman said, and told Bourne the number.

“I’m leaving,” said Jason Bourne, taking Bernardine’s automatic off the desk and putting two grenades in his pocket. “Do you mind?”

“Take them,” replied the Frenchman, pulling another gun from his belt. “But why?”

“I’ve got at least a couple of hours and I want to look around.”


“How else? If we call for support, I risk being gunned down or spending the rest of my life in jail for an assassination I was not involved with in Belgium.”

Bernardine stared at the ringing telephone, wondering whether to pick it up. He had to.


“Jason? It’s you, isn’t it? Maybe I have the wrong room.”

“Alex? This is you?

“Francois? What are you doing there? Where’s Jason?

“Things have happened so fast. I know he’s been trying to reach you.”

“It’s been a difficult day. We’ve got Panov back.”

“That’s good news.”

“I’ve got other news. A telephone number where the Jackal can be reached.”

“We’ve got it! And an address. Our man left an hour ago.”

“For God’s sake, how did you get it?”

“A complex process that I believe only your man could have handled. He’s very imaginative.”

“Let’s compare,” said Conklin. “What’s yours.”

Bernardine said the number he had written down on Bourne’s instructions.

The silence on the phone was a silent scream, “They’re different,’ said Conklin finally. “They’re different!”

“A trap,” said Bernardine. “God, it’s a trap!”

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