Once, Jason Bourne was notorious in the clandestine world of covert-ops as one of the CIA's most expert international killers for hire. Out of the ashes of his violent past he's emerged today as a Georgetown professor, living a quiet life, retired from danger--until he narrowly escapes the bullet of a faceless assassin. And when two of Bourne's closest associates are murdered, Bourne knows that his legacy has followed him--and set him up as the prime suspect for the brutal crimes.
The quicksand of lies and betrayals is deeper than Bourne ever imagined. Hunted by the CIA as a dangerous rogue agent, he has only one option to stay alive--and one last chance to stay one step ahead of an unseen assailant whose vengeance is personal. Pursued across the globe, Bourne's on the run, and on the edge of discovering the truth--that he's become the expendable pawn in an international terrorist plot. One that's taking every living witness with it and plunging Bourne one step closer to the world-shattering consequences of...the Bourne Legacy.
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St. Martin's Press
April 01, 2009
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Excerpt from The Bourne Legacy by Eric Van Lustbader
David Webb, professor of linguistics at Georgetown University, was buried beneath a stack of ungraded term papers. He was striding down the musty back corridors of gargantuan Healy Hall, heading for the office of Theodore Barton, his department head, and he was late, hence this shortcut he had long ago discovered using narrow, ill-lighted passageways few students knew about or cared to use.
There was a benign ebb and flow to his life bound by the strictures of the university. His year was defined by the terms of the Georgetown semesters. The deep winter that began them gave grudging way to a tentative spring and ended in the heat and humidity of the second semester's finals week. There was a part of him that fought against serenity, the part that thought of his former life in the clandestine ser vice of the U.S. government, the part that kept him friends with his former handler, Alexander Conklin.
He was about to round a corner when he heard harsh voices raised and mocking laughter and saw ominous-seeming shadows playing along the wall.
"Muthfucka, we gonna make your gook tongue come out the back of your head!"
Webb dropped the stack of papers he had been carrying and sprinted around the corner. As he did so, he saw three young black men in coats down to their ankles arrayed in a menacing semicircle around an Asian, trapping him against a corridor wall. They had a way of standing, their knees slightly bent, their upper limbs loose and swinging slightly that made their entire bodies seem like blunt and ugly aspects of weapons, cocked and ready. With a start, he recognized their prey was Rongsey Siv, a favorite student of his.
"Muthafucka," snarled one, wiry, with a strung-out, reckless look on his defiant face, "we come in here, gather up the goods to trade for the bling-bling."
"Can't ever have enough bling-bling," said another with an eagle tattoo on his cheek. He rolled a huge gold square-cut ring, one of many on the fingers of his right hand, back and forth. "Or don't you know the bling-bling, gook?"
"Yah, gook," the strung-out one said, goggle-eyed. "You don't look like you know shit."
"He wants to stop us," the one with the tattooed cheek said, leaning in toward Rongsey. "Yah, gook, whatcha gonna do, kung-fuckin-fu us to death?"
They laughed raucously, making stylized kicking gestures toward Rongsey, who shrank back even farther against the wall as they closed in.
The third black man, thick-muscled, heavyset, drew a baseball bat from underneath the voluminous folds of his long coat. "That right. Put your hands up, gook. We gonna break your knuckles good." He slapped the bat against his cupped palm. "You want it all at once or one at a time?"
"Yo," the strung-out one cried, "he don't get to choose." He pulled out his own baseball bat and advanced menacingly on Rongsey.
As the strung-out kid brandished his bat, Webb came at them. So silent was his approach, so intent were they on the damage they were about to inflict that they did not become aware of him until he was upon them.
He grabbed the strung-out kid's bat in his left hand as it was coming down toward Rongsey's head. Tattoo-cheek, on Webb's right, cursed mightily, swung his balled fast, knuckles bristling with sharp-edged rings, aiming for Webb's ribs.
In that instant, from the veiled and shadowed place inside Webb's head, the Bourne persona took firm control. Webb deflected the blow from tattoo-cheek with his biceps, stepped forward and slammed his elbow into tattoo-cheek's sternum. He went down, clawing at his chest.
The third thug, bigger than the other two, cursed and, dropping his bat, pulled a switchblade. He lunged at Webb, who stepped into the attack, delivering a short, sharp blow to the inside of the assailant's wrist. The switchblade fell to the corridor floor, skittering away. Webb hooked his left foot behind the other's ankle and lifted up. The big thug fell on his back, turned over and scrambled away.
Bourne yanked the baseball bat out of the strung-out thug's grip. "Muthafuckin' Five-O," the thug muttered. His pupils were dilated, unfocused by the effects of what ever drugs he'd taken. He pulled a gun--a cheap Saturday-night special--and aimed it at Webb.
With deadly accuracy, Webb flung the bat, striking the strung-out thug between the eyes. He staggered back, crying out, and his gun went flying.
Alerted by the noise of the struggle, a pair of campus security guards appeared, rounding the corner at a run. They brushed past Webb, pounding after the thugs, who fled without a backward glance, the two helping the strung-out one. They burst through the rear door to the building, out into the bright sunshine of the afternoon, with the guards hot on their heels.
Despite the guards' intervention, Webb felt Bourne's desire to pursue the thugs run hot in his body. How quickly it had risen from its psychic sleep, how easily it had gained control of him. Was it because he wanted it to? Webb took a deep breath, gained a semblance of control and turned to face Rongsey Siv.
"Professor Webb!" Rongsey tried to clear his throat. "I don't know--" He seemed abruptly overcome. His large black eyes were wide behind the lenses of his glasses. His expression was, as usual, impassive, but in those eyes Webb could see all the fear in the world.
"It's okay now." Webb put his arm across Rongsey's shoulders. As always, his fondness for the Cambodian refugee was showing through his professorial reserve. He couldn't help it. Rongsey had overcome great adversity--losing almost all his family in the war. Rongsey and Webb had been in the same Southeast Asian jungles, and try as he might, Webb could not fully remove himself from the tangle of that hot, humid world. Like a recurring fever, it never really left you. He felt a shiver of recognition, like a dream one has while awake.
"Loak soksapbaee chea tay?" How are you? he asked in Khmer.
"I'm fine, Professor," Rongsey replied in the same language. "But I don't . . . I mean, how did you . . . ?"
"Why don't we go outside?" Webb suggested. He was now quite late for Barton's meeting, but he couldn't care less. He picked up the switchblade and the gun. As he checked the gun's mechanism, the firing pin broke. He threw the useless gun in a trash bin but pocketed the switchblade.
Around the corner, Rongsey helped him with the spill of term papers. They then walked in silence through the corridors, which became increasingly crowded as they neared the front of the building. Webb recognized the special nature of this silence, the dense weight of time returning to normal after an incident of shared violence. It was a war time thing, a consequence of the jungle; odd and unsettling that it should happen on this teeming metropolitan campus.
Emerging from the corridor, they joined the swarm of students crowding through the front doors to Healy Hall. Just inside, in the center of the floor, gleamed the hallowed Georgetown University seal. A great majority of the students were walking around it because a school legend held that if you walked on the seal you'd never graduate. Rongsey was one of those who gave the seal a wide berth, but Webb strode right across it with no qualms whatsoever.
Outside, they stood in the buttery spring sunlight, facing the trees and the Old Quadrangle, breathing the air with its hint of budding flowers. At their backs rose the looming presence of Healy Hall with its imposing Georgian red-brick facade, nineteenth-century dormer windows, slate roof and central two-hundred-foot clock spire.
The Cambodian turned to Webb. "Professor, thank you. If you hadn't come . . ."
"Rongsey," Webb said gently, "do you want to talk about it?"
The student's eyes were dark, unreadable. "What's there to say?"
"I suppose that would depend on you."
Rongsey shrugged. "I'll be fine, Professor Webb. Really. This isn't the first time I've been called names."
Webb stood looking at Rongsey for a moment, and he was swept by sudden emotion that caused his eyes to sting. He wanted to take the boy in his arms, hold him close, promise him that nothing else bad would ever happen to him. But he knew that Rongsey's Buddhist training would not allow him to accept the gesture. Who could say what was going on beneath that fortresslike exterior. Webb had seen many others like Rongsey, forced by the exigencies of war and cultural hatred to bear witness to death, the collapse of a civilization, the kinds of tragedies most Americans could not understand. He felt a powerful kinship with Rongsey, an emotional bond that was tinged with a terrible sadness, recognition of the wound inside him that could never truly be healed.
All this emotion stood between them, silently acknowledged perhaps but never articulated. With a small, almost sad smile, Rongsey formally thanked Webb again and they said their good-byes.
Webb stood alone amid the students and faculty hurrying by, and yet he knew that he wasn't truly alone. Despite his best efforts, the aggressive personality of Jason Bourne had once again asserted itself. He breathed slowly and deeply, concentrating hard, using the mental techniques his psychiatrist friend, Mo Panov, had taught him for pushing the Bourne identity down. He concentrated first on his surrounding, on the blue and gold colors of the spring afternoon, on the gray stone and red brick of the buildings around the quad, of the movement of the students, the smiling faces of the girls, the laughter of the boys, the earnest talk of the professors. He absorbed each element in its entirety, grounding himself in time and place. Then, and only then, did he turn his thoughts inward.
Years ago he had been working for the foreign ser vice in Phnom Penh. He'd been married then, not to Marie, his current wife, but to a Thai woman named Dao. They had two children, Joshua and Alyssa, and lived in a house on the bank of the river. America was at war with North Vietnam, but the war had spilled over into Cambodia. One afternoon, while he was at work and his family had been swimming in the river, a plane had strafed them, killing them.
Webb had almost gone mad with grief. Finally, fleeing his house and Phnom Penh, he'd arrived in Saigon, a man with no past and no future. It had been Alex Conklin who had taken a heartsick, half-mad David Webb off the streets of Saigon and forged him into a first-rate clandestine operative. In Saigon, Webb had learned to kill, had turned his own self-hatred outward, inflicting his rage on others. When a member of Conklin's group--an evil-tempered drifter named Jason Bourne--had been discovered to be a spy, it was Webb who had executed him. Webb had come to loathe the Bourne identity, but the truth was that it had often been his lifeline. Jason Bourne had saved Webb's life more times than he could remember. An amusing thought if it hadn't been so literal.
Years later, when they had both returned to Washington, Conklin had given him a long-term assignment. He had become what amounted to a sleeper agent, taking the name of Jason Bourne, a man long dead, forgotten by everyone. For three years Webb was Bourne, turned himself into an international assassin of great repute in order to hunt down an elusive terrorist.
But in Marseilles, his mission had gone terribly wrong. He'd been shot, cast into the dark waters of the Mediterranean, thought dead. Instead, he had been pulled from the water by members of a fishing boat, nursed back to health by a drunkard doctor in the port they'd set him down in. The only problem was that in the shock of almost dying he'd lost his memory. What had come slowly back were the Bourne memories. It was only much later, with the help of Marie, his wife-to-be, that he had come to realize the truth, that he was David Webb. But by that time the Jason Bourne personality was too well ingrained, too powerful, too cunning to die.
In the aftermath, he'd become two people: David Webb, linguistics professor with a new wife and, eventually, two children, and Jason Bourne, the agent trained by Alex Conklin to be a formidable spy. Occasionally, in some crisis, Conklin called on Bourne's expertise and Webb reluctantly rose to duty. But the truth was that Webb often had little control over his Bourne personality. What had just happened with Rongsey and the three street thugs was evidence enough. Bourne had a way of asserting himself that was beyond Webb's control, despite all the work he and Panov had done.
Khan, having watched David Webb and the Cambodian student talking from across the quad, ducked into a building diagonally across from Healy Hall, mounted the stairs to the third floor. Khan was dressed much like all the other students. He looked younger than his twenty-seven years and no one gave him a second look. He was wearing khakis and a jeans jacket, over which was slung an outsize backpack. His sneakers made no sound as he went down the hallway, past the doors to classrooms. In his mind's eye was a clear picture of the view across the quad. He was again calculating angles, taking into account the mature trees that might obscure his view of his intended target.
He paused in front of the sixth door, heard a professor's voice from inside. The talk about ethics brought an ironic smile to his face. In his experience--and it was great and varied--ethics was as dead and useless as Latin. He went on to the next classroom, which he had already determined was empty, and went in.
Quickly now, he shut and locked the door behind him, crossed to the line of windows overlooking the quad, opened one and got to work. From his backpack, he removed a 7.62-mm SVD Dragunov sniper rifle with a collapsible stock. He fitted the optical sight onto it, leaned it on the sill. Peering through the sight, he found David Webb, by this time standing alone across the quad in front of Healy Hall. There were trees just to his left. Every once in a while, a passing student would obscure him. Khan took a deep breath, let it out slowly. He sighted on Webb's head.
Webb shook his head, shaking off the effect his memories of the past had on him, and refocusing on his immediate surroundings. The leaves rustled in a gathering breeze, their tips gilded with sunlight. Close by, a girl, her books clutched to her chest, laughed at the punchline of a joke. A waft of pop music came from an open window somewhere. Webb, still thinking of all the things he wanted to say to Rongsey, was about to turn up the front steps of Healy Hall when a soft phutt! sounded in his ear. Reacting instinctively, he stepped into the dappled shadows beneath the trees.
You're under attack! shouted Bourne's all-too-familiar voice, reemerging in his mind. Move now! And Webb's body reacted, scrambling as another bullet, its initial percussion muffled by a silencer, splintered the tree bark beside his cheek.
A crack marksman. Bourne's thoughts began to flood through Webb's brain in response to the organism finding itself under attack.
The ordinary world was in Webb's eyes, but the extraordinary world that ran parallel to it, Jason Bourne's world--secret, rarefied, privileged, deadly--.flared like napalm in his mind. In the space of a heartbeat, he had been torn from David Webb's everyday life, set apart from everyone and everything Webb held dear. Even the chance meeting with Rongsey seemed now to belong to another lifetime. From behind, out of the sniper's sight, he gripped the tree, the pad of his forefinger feeling for the mark the bullet had made. He looked up. It was Jason Bourne who traced the trajectory of the bullet back to a third-floor window in a building diagonally across the quad.
All around him, Georgetown students walked, strolled, talked, argued and debated. They had seen nothing, of course, and if by chance they had heard anything at all, the sounds meant nothing to them and were quickly forgotten. Webb left his protection behind the tree, moving quickly into a knot of students. He mingled with them, hurrying, but as much as possible keeping to their pace. They were his best protection now, blocking Webb from the sniper's line of sight.
It seemed as if he was only semiconscious, a sleepwalker who nevertheless saw and sensed everything with a heightened awareness. A component of this awareness was a contempt for those civilians who inhabited the ordinary world, David Webb included.
After the second shot, Khan had drawn back, confused. This was not a state he knew well. His mind raced, assessing what had just happened. Instead of panicking, running like a frightened sheep back into Healy Hall as Khan had anticipated, Webb had calmly moved into the cover of the trees, impeding Khan's view. That had been improbable enough--and totally out of character for the man briefly described in Spalko's dossier--but then Webb had used the gash the second bullet had made in the tree to gauge its trajectory. Now, using the students as cover, he was heading toward this very building. Improbably, he was attacking instead of fleeing.
Slightly unnerved by this unexpected turn of events, Khan hurriedly broke down the rifle, stowed it away. Webb had gained the steps to the building. He'd be here within minutes.
Bourne detached himself from the pedestrian flow, raced into the building. Once inside, he leaped up the stairway to the third floor. He turned left. Seventh door on the left: a classroom. The corridor was filled with the buzz of students from all over the world--Africans, Asians, Latin Americans, Europe ans. Each face, no matter how briefly glimpsed, registered on the screen of Jason Bourne's memory.
The low chatter of the students, their fitful bursts of laughter, belied the danger lurking in the immediate environment. As he approached the classroom door, he opened the switchblade he had confiscated earlier, curled his fast around it so that the blade protruded like a spike from between his second and third fingers. In one smooth motion, he pushed open the door, curled into a ball and tumbled inside, landing behind the heavy oak desk, some eight feet from the doorway. His knife hand was up; he was ready for anything.
He rose cautiously. An empty classroom leered at him, filled only with chalk dust and mottled patches of sunlight. He stood looking around for a moment, his nostrils dilated, as if he could drink in the scent of the sniper, make his image appear out of thin air. He crossed to the windows. One was open, the fourth from the left. He stood at it, staring out at the spot beneath the tree where moments ago he had been standing, talking with Rongsey. This is where the sniper had stood. Bourne could imagine him resting the rifle barrel on the sill, fitting one eye to the powerful scope, sighting across the quad. The play of light and shadow, the crossing students, a sudden burst of laughter or cross words. His finger on the trigger, squeezing in an even pull. Phutt! Phutt! One shot, two.
Bourne studied the windowsill. Glancing around, he went to the metal tray that ran below the wall of blackboards, scooped out a mea sure of chalk dust. Returning to the window, he gently blew the chalk dust from his fingers onto the slate surface of the sill. Not a single print appeared. It had been wiped clean. He knelt, cast his gaze along the wall beneath the window, the floor at his feet. He found nothing--no telltale cigarette butt, no stray hairs, no spent shells. The meticulous assassin had vanished just as expertly as he had appeared. His heart was pounding, his mind racing. Who would try to kill him? Surely, it was no one from his current life. The worst that could be said about it was his argument last week with Bob Drake, the head of the ethics department, whose penchant for droning on about his chosen field was both legendary and annoying. No, this threat was coming from Jason Bourne's world. Doubtless, there were many candidates from his past, but how many of them would be able to trace Jason Bourne back to David Webb? This was the real question that worried him. Though part of him wanted to go home, talk this through with Marie, he knew that the one person with sufficient knowledge of Bourne's shadow existence to be able to help was Alex Conklin, the man who like a conjurer had created Bourne out of thin air.
He crossed to the phone on the wall, lifted the receiver and punched in his faculty access code. When he reached an outside line, he dialed Alex Conklin's private number. Conklin, now semiretired from the CIA, would be at home. Bourne got a busy signal.
Either he could wait here for Alex to get off the phone--which, knowing Alex, could be a half hour or more--or he could drive to his house. The open window seemed to mock him. It knew more than he did about what had taken place here.
He left the classroom, heading back down the stairs. Without thinking, he scanned those around him, looking to match up anyone he had passed on his way to the room.
Hurrying across the campus, he soon reached the car park. He was about to get into his car when he thought better of it. Making a quick but thorough inspection of the car's exterior and its engine, he determined that it had not been tampered with. Satisfied, he slid behind the wheel, turned on the ignition and drove out of the campus.
Alex Conklin lived on a rural estate in Manassas, Virginia. Once Webb reached the outskirts of Georgetown, the sky took on a deeper radiance; an eerie kind of stillness had taken root, as if the passing countryside was holding its breath.
As with the Bourne personality, Webb both loved and loathed Conklin. He was father, confessor, coconspirator, exploiter. Alex Conklin was the keeper of the keys to Bourne's past. It was imperative he talk to Conklin now because Alex was the only one who would know how someone stalking Jason Bourne could find David Webb on campus at Georgetown University.
He'd left the city behind him, and by the time he'd reached the Virginia countryside, the brightest part of the day had slipped away. Thick banks of clouds obscured the sun, and gusts of wind swept through the verdant Virginia hillsides. He pressed down on the accelerator and the car leaped forward, its big engine purring.
As he followed the banked curves of the highway, it suddenly occurred to him that he hadn't seen Mo Panov in over a month. Mo, an Agency psychologist recommended by Conklin, was trying to repair Webb's fractured psyche, to suppress the Bourne identity for good and help Webb recover his lost memories. Through Mo's techniques, Webb had found chunks of memory he had assumed lost floating back up to his conscious mind. But the work was arduous, exhausting, and it wasn't unusual for him to halt the sessions during ends of terms when his life became unbearably hectic.
He turned off the main highway and headed northwest on a two-lane blacktop road. Why had Panov come into his mind at just this moment? Bourne had learned to trust his senses and his intuition. Mo popping up out of the blue was a kind of signpost. What meaning did Panov have for him now? Memory, yes, but what else? Bourne thought back. The last time they had been together, he and Panov had been talking about silence. Mo had told him that silence was a useful tool in memory work. The mind, needing to be busy, did not like silence. If you could induce a complete enough silence in your conscious mind, it was possible that a memory lost to you would appear to fill the space. Okay, Bourne thought, but why think about silence just at this moment?
It wasn't until he had turned into Conklin's long, gracefully curving drive that he made the connection. The sniper had used a silencer, the main purpose of which was to keep the shooter from being noticed. But a silencer had its drawbacks. In a long-range weapon, like the one the sniper had been using, it would significantly impair the accuracy of the shot. He should have been aiming at Bourne's torso--a higher-percentage shot because of body mass--but instead, he'd fired at Bourne's head. That wasn't logical, if you assumed the sniper was trying to kill Bourne. But if he was only attempting to frighten, to give warning--that was another matter. This unknown sniper had an ego, then, but he was not a showboat; he had left no token of his prowess behind. And yet he had a specific agenda--that much was clear.
Bourne passed the looming misshapen hulk of the old barn, the other smaller outbuildings--utility facilities, storage sheds and the like. Then the main house was in sight. It stood within stands of tall pines, clumps of birch and blue cedars, old wood that had been here for close to sixty years, predating the stone house by a decade. The estate had belonged to a now-deceased army general who had been deeply involved in clandestine and rather unsavory activities. As a result, the manor house--the entire estate, actually--was honeycombed with underground tunnels, entrances and egresses. Bourne imagined it amused Conklin to live in a place filled with so many secrets.
As he pulled up, he saw not only Conklin's BMW 7-series but Mo Panov's Jaguar parked side by side. As he walked across the bluestone gravel, his heart felt suddenly lighter. The two best friends he had in the world--both in their own ways the keepers of his past--were inside. Together, they would solve this mystery as they had all the others before. He climbed onto the front portico, rang the bell. There was no answer. Pressing his ear to the polished teak door, he could hear voices from within. He tried the handle, found the door unlocked.
An alarm went off inside his head and, for a moment, he stood behind the half-open door, listening to everything inside the house. No matter that he was out here in the countryside where crime was practically unheard of--old habits never died. Conklin's overactive sense of security would dictate locking the front door whether or not he was home. Opening the switchblade, he entered, all too aware that an attacker--one of a termination team sent to kill him--could be lurking inside.
The chandeliered foyer gave out onto a wide sweep of polished wood stairs leading up to an open gallery that ran the width of the foyer. To the right was the formal living room, to the left the denlike media room with its wet bar and deep, masculine leather sofas. Just beyond there was a smaller, more intimate room that Alex had made into his study.
Bourne followed the sound of the voice into the media room. On the large-screen TV a telegenic CNN commentator was standing outside the front of the Oskjuhlid Hotel. A superimposed graphic indicated that he was on location in Reykjav?k, Iceland. ". . . the tenuous nature of the upcoming terrorism summit is on everyone's mind here."
No one was in the room, but there were two old-fashioned glasses on the cocktail table. Bourne picked one up, sniffed. Speyside single-malt, aged in sherry casks. The complex aroma of Conklin's favorite Scotch disoriented him, brought back a memory, a vision of Paris. It was autumn, fiery horse-chestnut leaves tumbling down the Champs-Elys?es. He was looking out the window from an office. He struggled with this vision, which was so strong he seemed to be pulled out of himself, to actually be in Paris, but, he reminded himself grimly, he was in Manassas, Virginia, at Alex Conklin's house, and all was not well. He struggled, trying to maintain his vigilance, his focus, but the memory, triggered by the scent of the single-malt, was overpowering, and he so yearned to know, to fill in the gaping holes in his memory. And so he found himself in the Paris office. Whose? Not Conklin's--Alex had never had an office in Paris. That smell, someone in the office with him. He turned, saw for the briefest instant the flash of a half-remembered face.
He tore himself away. Even though it was maddening to have a life you remembered only in fitful bursts, with all that had happened and things here feeling just slightly off-kilter, he couldn't afford to get sidetracked. What had Mo said about these triggers? They could come from a sight, a sound, a smell, even the touch of something, that once the memory was triggered he could tease it out by repeating the stimulus that had provoked it in the first place. But not now. He needed to find Alex and Mo.
He looked down, saw a small note pad on the table and picked it up. It seemed blank; the top leaf had been ripped off. But when he turned it slightly, he could see faint indentations. Someone--presumably Conklin--had written "NX 20." He pocketed the pad.
"So, the countdown has begun. In five days' time, the world will know whether a new day, a new world order will emerge, whether the law-abiding peoples of the world will be able to live in peace and harmony." The anchor continued to drone on, segueing into a commercial.
Bourne switched off the TV with the remote and silence descended. It was possible that Conklin and Mo were out walking, a favorite way for Panov to let off steam while in conversation, and he, no doubt, would want the old man to get his exercise. But there was the anomaly of the unlocked door.
Bourne retraced his steps, reentering the foyer and going up the stairs two at a time. Both guest bedrooms were empty, devoid of any sign of recent habitation, as were their en suite bathrooms. Down the hall, he went into Conklin's master suite, a Spartan space befitting an old soldier. The bed was small and hard, not much more than a pallet. It was unmade, clear that Alex had slept there last night. But as befitted a master of secrets, there was very little in the way of his past on display. Bourne picked up a silver-framed snapshot of a woman with long wavy hair, light eyes and a gently mocking smile. He recognized the regal stone lions of the fountain at Saint-Sulpice in the background. Paris. Bourne put the photo down, checked the bath. Nothing there of interest.
Back downstairs, two chimes sounded the hour on the clock in Conklin's study. It was an antique ship's clock, its note bell-like, musical. But for Bourne the sound had unaccountably taken on an ominous cast. It seemed to him as if the tolling of the bell was rushing through the house like a black wave, and his heart beat fast.
He went down the hallway, past the kitchen into whose doorway he momentarily poked his head. A teakettle was on the stove, but the stainless-steel counters were spotlessly clean. Inside the refrigerator, the ice machine ground out cubes. And then he saw it--Conklin's walking stick, polished ash with the turned silver knob at its top. Alex had a bum leg, the result of a particularly violent encounter overseas; he would never have gone out on the grounds without the stick.
The study was around to the left, a comfortable wood-paneled room in a corner of the house that looked out onto a tree-shaded lawn, a flagstone terrace in the middle of which was sunk a lap-pool and, beyond, the beginning of the pine and hardwood forest that ran for most of the property. With a mounting sense of urgency, Bourne headed for the study. The moment he entered, he froze.
He was never so aware of the dichotomy inside himself, for part of him had become detached, an objective observer. This purely analytic section of his brain noted that Alex Conklin and Mo Panov lay on the richly dyed Persian carpet. Blood had flowed out of their head wounds, soaked into the carpet, in some places over-flowing it, pooling on the polished wood floor. Fresh blood, still glistening. Conklin was staring up at the ceiling, his eyes filmed over. His face was flushed and angry, as if all the bile he had been holding deep inside had been forced to the surface. Mo's head was turned as if he had been trying to look behind him when he was felled. An unmistakable expression of fear was etched on his face. In the last instant, he had seen his death coming.
Alex! Mo! Jesus! Jesus! All at once, the emotional dam burst and Bourne was on his knees, his mind reeling with shock and horror. His entire world was shaken to its core. Alex and Mo dead--even with the grisly evidence before him it was hard to believe. Never to speak to them again, never to have access to their expertise. A jumble of images paraded before him, remembrances of Alex and Mo, times they had spent together, tense times filled with danger and sudden death, and then, in the aftermath, the ease and comfort of an intimacy that could only come from shared peril. Two lives taken by force, leaving behind nothing but anger and fear. With a stunning finality, the door onto his past slammed shut. Both Bourne and Webb were mourning. Bourne struggled to gather himself, swept aside Webb's hysterical emotionalism, willed himself not to weep. Mourning was an indulgence he could not afford. He had to think.
Bourne got busy absorbing the murder scene, fixing details in his mind, trying to work out what had happened. He moved closer, careful not to step in the blood or to otherwise disturb the scene. Alex and Mo had been shot to death, apparently with the gun lying on the carpet between them. They had received one shot each. This was a professional hit, not an intruder break-in. Bourne's eye caught the glint of the cell phone gripped in Alex's hand. It appeared as if he had been speaking to someone when he was shot. Had it been when Bourne was trying to get through to him earlier? Quite possibly. By the look of the blood, the lividity of the bodies, the lack of rigor mortis in the fingers, it was clear the murders had happened within the hour.
A faint sound in the distance began to intrude on his thoughts. Sirens! Bourne left the study and raced to the front-facing window. A feet of Virginia State Police cruisers was careening down the driveway, lights flashing. Bourne was caught in a house with the bodies of two murdered men, and no plausible alibi. He had been set up. All at once, he felt the prongs of a clever trap closing around him.