“See, I'm concerned about you, Martin.” Batt's lips, already thin, were compressed into bloodless lines. “But unlike our peerless leader, who loves you like a son, who forgives you anything, my concern is more like that of an older brother for his younger sibling.”
Batt spread his enormous clublike hands on the table between them. “You lived with the enemy, Martin. The enemy tried to fuck you up. I know it and you know it. You know how I know it? Do you?”
“I'm sure my test results-”
“Fuck the test results,” Batt said shortly. “Test results are for academics, which you and I most certainly are not. Those boys are still debating the results; they'll be in that hole till hell freezes over. To boot, we've been forced to take the opinion of Jason Bourne, a man who is at best unstable, at worst a menace to CI protocol and discipline. But he's the one person who knows you best. Ironic, no?” He cocked his head. “Why the hell do you maintain your relationship with him?”
“Take a look at his file,” Karim said. “Bourne is more valuable to me-to us-than a handful of your Ways and Means agents.” Me singing Jason Bourne's praises, now that's irony, he thought.
Batt would not be deterred. “See, it's your behavior I'm worried about, Martin. In some ways it's fine-just as it always was. But in other, smaller, more subtle ways . . .” He shook his head. “Well, let's just say it doesn't track. God knows you were always a reclusive sonovabitch. 'Too good for the rest of us,' the other directorate chiefs said. Not me. I had you pegged. You're an idea tank; you have no need for the idle chitchat that passes for friendship in these hallways.”
Karim wondered whether the time had come-a possibility he had, of course, factored into his planwhen one of Lindros's colleagues would become suspicious. But he'd calculated that the probability of this was low-his time at CI was a matter of days, no more. And as Batt himself had said, Lindros had always been something of a loner. Despite the odds, here he was on the precipice of having to decide how to neutralize a directorate chief.
“If you've noticed anything erratic in my behavior, I'm quite certain it's due to the stress of the current situation. One thing I'm a master of is compartmentalizing my life. I assure you that the past isn't an issue.”
There was silence for a moment. Karim had the impression of a very dangerous beast passing him by, so close he could smell its rank musk.
Batt nodded. “Then we're done here, Martin.” He rose, extended his hand. “I'm glad we had this little heart-to-heart.”
As Karim walked out, he was grateful that he had planted convincing evidence as to the identity of the “traitor.” Otherwise Batt's teeth would be sinking into the back of his neck.
Hello, Oleksandr. Good boy.“
Soraya, a heavily laden satchel slung over one shoulder, returned with a terrible intimation of death to the hidey-hole where she had left Bourne. In the light of the oil lamp she lit, she found Bourne, not dead, but unconscious from blood loss. The boxer sat steadfastly by his side. His liquid brown eyes sought hers, as if pleading for help.
“Don't worry,” she said both to Bourne and the dog. “I'm here now.”
She produced from the satchel the bulk of the paraphernalia she had obtained from Dr. Pavlyna: plastic bags filled with a variety of fluids. She felt Bourne's forehead to assure herself he wasn't running a fever, recited to herself the protocol Dr. Pavlyna had made her memorize.
Tearing open a plastic envelope, she took out a needle and inserted it into a vein on the back of his left hand. She attached a port and fit the end of the tube leading to the first bag of fluid into the open end of the port, beginning the drip of two wide-spectrum antibiotics. Next, she removed the blood-soaked makeshift bandage and irrigated the wound with a large amount of sterile saline solution. An antiseptic, the doctor told her, would only retard the healing process.
Bringing the lamp closer, she probed for foreign bodies-threads, bits of cloth, whatever. She found none, much to her relief. But there was some devitalized tissue at the edges that she had to snip away with surgical scissors.
Taking up the tiny curved needle by its holder, she pierced the skin, pulling the nylon suture material through. Very carefully, she drew the two sides of the wound together, using a rectangular stitch, just as Dr. Pavlyna had showed her. Gently, gently, making sure she didn't pull the skin too tightly, which would increase the risk of infection. When she was done, she tied off the last suture and cut away the rest of the nylon still attached to the needle. Lastly, she placed a sterile gauze pad over her handiwork, then wound a bandage around and around, fixing the pad in place.
By this time, the bag of antibiotics was empty. She unhooked it, replacing the tube with the one from the bag of hydrating and nourishing fluids.
Within an hour, Bourne was sleeping normally. An hour after that, he began to come around.
His eyes opened.
She smiled down at him. “Do you know where you are?”
“You came back,” he whispered.
“I said I would, didn't I?”
“I don't know. I killed one of the policemen, but I never saw anyone else. I think they've all given up.”
His eyes closed for a moment. “I remember, Soraya. I remember.”
She shook her head. “Rest now, we'll talk later.”
“No.” His expression was one of grim concentration. “We need to talk. Now.”
What had happened to him? He woke up and felt immediately different, as if his mind had been removed from a vise. It was as if he had been freed from the endless defile in which he had been existing, filled with the smoke of voices, compulsions. The pounding headaches were gone, the repeating phrases. With perfect clarity, he recalled what Dr. Sunderland had told him about how memories were formed, how abnormal brain activity brought on by trauma or extreme conditions could affect their creation and resurrection.
“For the first time, I realize how stupid I was to even contemplate taking Cevik out of the Typhon cells,” he said. “And there have been other odd things. For instance, a blinding headache paralyzed me while Fadi was making his escape.”
“When Tim was shot.”
“Yes.” He tried to sit up, winced in pain.
Soraya moved toward him. “No, you don't.”
He would not be deterred. “Help me sit up.”
“Just do it,” he said sharply.
She reached around him, pushing as he rose, scooting him so that his back pressed against the wall.
“These odd compulsions have led me into dangerous situations,” he continued. “In every case, the compulsions have led to behavior that has benefited Fadi.”
“But surely that's a coincidence,” she said.
His smile was almost painful. “Soraya, if my life has taught me anything it's that coincidence is most often a symptom of a conspiracy.”
Soraya laughed softly. “Spoken like a true paranoid.”
“There's a case to be made that it's my paranoia that's kept me alive.” Bourne stirred. “What if I'm on to something?”
Soraya crossed her arms over her breast. “Like what?”
“Okay, let's start with the premise that these coincidences, as you call them, have their roots in a conspiracy. As I said, all of them have way benefited Fadi in a material way.”
“The headaches began after I saw Dr. Sunderland, the memory expert Martin recommended.”
Soraya frowned. All of a sudden, there was nothing funny in what Bourne was saying. “Why did you go see him?”
“I was being driven crazy by the memory fragments of my first visit here, to Odessa. But at the time, I didn't even know it was Odessa, let alone what I was doing there.”
“But how could that memory be part of this conspiracy you're constructing?”
“I don't know,” Bourne conceded.
“It can't be part of it.” Soraya realized that she was pleading a case against him.
Bourne waved a hand. “Let's leave that aside for the moment. When I was bringing Martin home, he told me that I needed to come here-no matter what-to find a man named Lemontov who, he said, was Dujja's banker. His reasoning was that if I got Lemontov, Dujja's money flow would dry up.” Soraya nodded. “Acute thinking.”
“It would have been if Lemontov existed. He doesn't.” Bourne's expression was perfectly unreadable. “Not only that, but Fadi knew about Lemontov. He knew Lemontov was fiction!”
Bourne pushed off the wall, faced her squarely. “So by what possible means could Fadi know about Lemontov?”
“You forget that Lindros was interrogated by Dujja. Maybe they fed him disinformation.”
“That would presuppose they knew he was going to be rescued.”
Soraya considered for a moment. “This Lemontov thing interests me. Lindros told me about him as well. He's the reason I'm here. But why? Why did he send us both here?”
“To chase a ghost,” Bourne said. “Chasing Lemontov was just a ruse. Fadi was waiting for us. He knew we were coming. He was prepared to kill me-in fact, if I'm any judge, he needed to. I could see it in his eyes, hear it in his voice. He'd been waiting a long time to catch up to me.” Soraya looked shaken.
“One other thing,” Bourne pressed on. “On the plane ride home, Martin said that his interrogators kept asking about a mission targeting Hamid ibn Ashef. A mission of mine. He kept asking if I'd remembered it.”
“Jason, why would Lindros want to know about a mission dreamed up by Alex Conklin?”
“You know why,” Bourne said. “Fadi and Martin are somehow connected.”
“As is Dr. Sunderland.” There was a relentless logic to his theory. “Sunderland's treatment did something to me, something that caused me to make mistakes at crucial moments.”
“How is that possible?”
“A technique in brainwashing is to use a color, a sound, a key word or phrase to trigger a certain response in the subject at a later date.”
Nothing to burn in the hole. The words had bounced around in Bourne's head until he thought he'd go mad.
Bourne repeated the phrase to Soraya. “Fadi used it. That phrase is what set off the headache. Fadi had the trigger phrase Sunderland set up in my brain.”
“I remember the look on your face when he said it,” Soraya said. “But do you also remember that he said he'd spent time in Odessa?”
“The Odessa mission to kill Hamid ibn Ashef is the key, Soraya. Everything points back to it.” His skin was gray; he seemed abruptly weary. “The conspiracy is in place. But what's its ultimate purpose?”
“Just as impossible to fathom is how they coerced Lindros into helping them.”
“They didn't. I know Martin better than anyone. He couldn't be coerced to turn traitor.”
She spread her hands. “What other explanation is there?”
“What if the man I saved from Dujja, the man I brought back to CI, the man I vouched for, isn't Martin Lindros?”
“Okay, stop right there.” Her hands came up, palms outward. “You've just crossed the line from paranoia into full-blown psychosis.”
He ignored her outburst. “What if the man I brought back, the man who is right now running Typhon, is an impostor?”
“Jason, that's impossible. He looks like Lindros, talks like Lindros. For God's sake, he passed the retinal scanner test.”
“The retinal scanner can be fooled,” Bourne pointed out. “It's extremely rare and difficult to do-it requires a retinal or a full eye implant. But then if this impostor went to the trouble of having his face remade, the retinal implant would have been a piece of cake.”
Soraya shook her head. “Do you have any idea of the ramifications of what you're saying? An impostor in the center of CI, controlling more than a thousand agents worldwide. I say again it's impossible, utterly insane.”
“That's precisely why it's worked. You, me, everyone in Typhon and CI-all of us are being manipulated, misdirected. That was the plan all along. While we trot all around the globe, Fadi has been free to smuggle his people into the United States, to ship the nuclear device-in pieces, no doubt-to the location where they mean to detonate it.”
“What you're saying is monstrous.” Soraya was near shock. “No one's going to believe you. I can't even get my head around it.”
She sank onto the edge of the planks. “Look, you've lost a lot of blood. You're exhausted, not thinking clearly. You need to sleep and then-”
“There's one sure way to verify whether or not the Martin Lindros I brought back is real or an impostor,” Bourne continued, ignoring her. “I need to find the real Martin Lindros. If I'm right about all this, it means he's still alive. The impostor needs him alive.” He began to slide off the bed.
“We've got to-”
A powerful wave of dizziness forced him to stop and slump back against the wall. Soraya levered him back down to a prone position. His eyelids grew heavy with fatigue.
“Whatever we decide to do, right now you must get some rest,” she said with newfound firmness.
“We're both exhausted, and you need to heal.”
A moment later, sleep overtook him. Soraya rose and settled herself on the floor next to the planks.
She opened her arms; Oleksandr curled up against her breasts. She was filled with foreboding.
What if Bourne was right? The consequences of such a scheme were unthinkable. And yet she found herself thinking about nothing else.
“Oh, Oleksandr,” she whispered. “What are we to do?”
The boxer turned his muzzle up to her, licked her face. She closed her eyes, deepened her breathing. Gradually, feeling the comforting thump-thump of Oleksandr's heartbeat, she gave in to the stealthy approach of sleep.