Authors: Robert & Lustbader Ludlum,Robert & Lustbader Ludlum
His parents had had little time for him, being locked in grim and silent combat to determine who could have the most affairs during the course of their marriage. There was never any thought of divorce; that would negate the rules of the game. Consequently, they scarcely noticed when Karpov’s sister, Alix, died of an uncontrollable brain fever. Karpov had taken care of her, nursing her through her terrible and debilitating illness, first after school, then cutting school entirely to be with her. When she was transferred to the hospital he went with her. He formed the impression that his parents were relieved to have both the children out of the house.
“So gloomy,” his mother would mutter as she made breakfast. “So damn gloomy.”
But most mornings she failed to appear. Karpov sensed that she had never come home during the night.
“I can’t stand it” was all his father could manage the mornings he did appear. He couldn’t look at Alix, much less go into her room. “What’s the point?” he responded to Karpov’s question one morning. “She doesn’t know I’m there.”
On the contrary, Karpov knew that Alix knew when someone was
with her. She often squeezed his hand as he sat beside the bed. He read stories to her from books he’d bought. Other times he read aloud the lessons from schoolbooks he deemed important enough to learn. Because of these sessions with his sister he discovered a love of history. What he loved best was to read to her about various periods in Russia’s storied past, though admittedly some were depressing, awfully difficult to digest.
Karpov was at her bedside at the hospital when she died. After the doctor’s pronouncement, a suffocating silence engulfed the room. It was as if everything in the world had stopped, even his heart. His chest felt as if at any instant it would cave in. The smell of antiseptic made him want to gag. He bent over Alix’s waxen face and kissed her cool forehead. There was absolutely no outward evidence of the massive and brutal war that had gone on inside her brain.
“Is there anything I can do?” the attending nurse had said when he exited the room.
He shook his head; his chest was too congested with emotion to allow for speech. Echoes followed him down the linoleum-lined corridors, the pain-filled, inarticulate noises of the sick and the dying. Outside, the glowing Moscow twilight was filled with snow. People walked this way and that, chatting, smoking, even laughing. A young man and woman, their heads together as they whispered to each other, crossed the street. A mother pulled her little boy along, singing softly to him. Karpov observed these everyday occurrences as a prisoner will the sky and passing clouds outside his tiny, barred window. These things no longer belonged to him. He was cut off from them like a diseased limb cleaved from a tree.
There was a hole in Karpov’s heart where Alix had resided for so long. The tears came and, as he walked aimlessly, watching the snow pile up, listening to the bells of St. Basil’s, muffled and indistinct, he cried for her, but also for himself, because now he was truly alone.
The attendant had reappeared with his milk and cookies, and Karpov shook himself like a dog coming out of the rain.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “Shall I come back?”
He shook his head and she slid his tray out and set down the plate of cookies and the glass of milk.
“Still warm,” she said. “Is there anything else?”
Karpov smiled at her, but there was more than a hint of sadness in it. “You can sit down beside me.”
Her soft silver bell of laughter wafted over him like a cool breeze. “What a flirt you are, Mr. Stonyfield,” she said. Shaking her head, she left him alone.
Karpov stared down at the cookies, not seeing them at all. He was thinking of Jason Bourne, he was thinking about what he was setting out to do, he was thinking of what his decision would mean not only for the present but for the rest of his life.
Nothing would ever be the same. The knowledge didn’t frighten him—he was too used to the unknown for that. But he did have a queasy feeling in the pit of his stomach, as if a group of moths were fluttering there, directionless, waiting for the inevitable to happen.
It wouldn’t be long now. That was the only thing he knew for certain.
arcel Probst, the Quai d’Orsay IT tech to whom Inspector Lipkin-Renais had delivered Laurent’s cell phone and its SIM card, was one of those Frenchmen for whom wine, cheese, and an arrogant sneer were the essentials of life.
Moments after she had arrived with Aaron, Probst made it clear via a sour, almost offended look that he did not like Soraya. Whether it was because she was Muslim or a woman, or both, Soraya could not say. Then again, he didn’t seem entirely enamored of Aaron, either, so who could say. In any event, his face, sour as a prune, announced his prejudices like a warning sign on a highway.
Probst was dapper, well dressed, and in his late forties. In other words, the direct opposite of the American IT techs of Soraya’s acquaintance.
Liberté, égalité, fraternité
, she thought as she stepped up to his
workbench. It contained, among other paraphernalia, a laptop computer and an oscilloscope flanked by a pair of high-end bookshelf speakers.
“What do you have for us?” Aaron said.
M. Probst pulled on his lower lip, making it into a kind of teapot spout. “The phone itself is beyond even my skills,” he said, “and the SIM card is a mess.”
Apparently, he never met a consonant he didn’t try to swallow.
, Soraya thought,
they tasted like Brie
M. Probst cocked an eyebrow upward. “Was the instrument, by any chance, compromised while being transported here?”
“Certainly not,” Aaron said. And then, somewhat irritably, “Have you found something or not? Get on with it, if you please.”
M. Probst grunted. “The curious thing is that from what I can tell, the SIM card was wiped clean of information.”
Soraya’s heart sank. “From the damage?”
“Well, mademoiselle, that depends. You see, this SIM card was subjected to two forms of damage. The one as I have already mentioned is physical.” He tapped the oscilloscope’s spikily juddering line. “The other was electronic.”
“What do you mean?” Aaron said.
“I can’t be one hundred percent sure,” M. Probst said, “but there is a strong indication that the card was subjected to an electronic pulse that wiped it clean.” He cleared his throat. “Well, almost. There was only one thing salvageable,” he said. “There is no doubt that it was entered after the electronic pulse, but before the phone was rendered useless.”
“You mean in the instant before Laurent was struck by the car,” Soraya said, and immediately regretted the interruption.
M. Probst glared at her as if she were a rat that had crawled into his sanctum sanctorum.
“I believe that is what I said,” he said stiffly.
“Moving on,” Aaron said, gamely, “let’s get to what you salvaged.”
M. Probst sniffed like a character out of Victor Hugo’s
“It’s a good thing you came to me, Inspector. I very much doubt anyone else could have brought up so much as a kilobyte of information.”
For the first time, a smile curved M. Probst’s bloodless lips, thin as a miser’s coat. It was clear he felt he had put the interlopers in their place. “Here is what was transferred to the SIM card in the last moment of the victim’s life.”
On the laptop screen, a single cryptic word appeared: “dinoig.”
Aaron shook his head and turned to Soraya. “Do you know what that means?”
Soraya looked at him and said, “I’m starving. Take me to your favorite restaurant.”
iles away from La Línea, Bourne pulled off the highway into a dense copse of trees and overgrown brush. Exiting the jeep, he came around to the other side and hauled Suarez bodily out of his seat.
“What are you doing?” Suarez said. “Where are we going?”
He was a mess. The right side of his head was bloody, a huge bruise, standing up like a fist, scarred his forehead, and he cradled his bruised and swollen right hand.
Bourne dragged him along, hauling him to his feet when he occasionally stumbled. When they were completely hidden from the road, Bourne shoved Suarez against the trunk of a tree.
“Tell me about your role in Severus Domna.”
“It won’t help you.”
When Bourne came at him, he held up his good hand. “All right, all right! But I’m telling you it won’t do you any good. The Domna is completely compartmentalized. I move goods for the group when and if I’m asked to, but I don’t know anything else.”
“What kinds of goods?”
“The crates are sealed,” Suarez said. “I don’t know and I don’t want to know.”
“What are the crates made of?” Bourne asked.
Suarez shrugged. “Wood. Sometimes stainless steel.”
Bourne considered for a moment. “Who gives you your orders?”
“A man. A voice on the phone. I never met him. I don’t even know his name.”
Bourne snapped his fingers. “Phone.”
Suarez dug awkwardly in his pocket with his left hand and drew out the phone.
“Call your contact.”
Suarez’s head moved spastically back and forth on his shoulders. “I can’t. He’ll kill me.”
Bourne took Suarez’s swollen right hand in his and broke the pinkie. Suarez screamed and tried unsuccessfully to pull his hand away. Bourne shook his head and took hold of the next finger on the hand.
Sweat was rolling freely down Suarez’s face, staining his collar. “
Suarez opened his mouth but nothing came out. Bourne broke the second finger and the commander nearly passed out. His knees gave out and he slid down the tree trunk. Bourne slapped his cheek. Suarez’s eyes watered and he turned and vomited onto the ground.
Bourne imprisoned his middle finger. “Five seconds.”
” Suarez cried. “
All the color had drained from his face and he was shaking in reaction to the trauma. He stared at his cell phone, clutched in his sweaty left hand. Then, as if snapping out of a trance, he looked up at Bourne.
“What… what do you want me to say,
“I want his name,” Bourne said.
“He’ll never give it to me.”
Bourne tightened his grip on the middle finger of Suarez’s ruined right hand. “Find a way,
, or we continue where we left off.”
Suarez licked his lips and nodded. He punched a button and a number popped up on the screen.
“Wait!” Bourne said and, reaching over, killed the connection.
“What?” Suarez said in that slightly dazed tone of voice that had come out of him ever since his fingers had been broken. “What is it? I did what you asked. Don’t you want me to call him?”
Bourne sat back on his haunches, thinking. He knew who Suarez’s contact was. He recognized the digits. Suarez was calling Jalal Essai’s satellite phone.
HEZ GEORGES, THE
restaurant to which Aaron took Soraya, was a block from the Bourse—Paris’s stock exchange. As such, lunch was attended mostly by suits, talking stocks, bonds, options, derivative swaps, grain and pork belly futures. Nevertheless, the atmosphere was Old World Paris before the advent of the EU, the euro, and the slow disintegration of French culture.
“First it was the Germans, then the Dutch,” Aaron said. “And now we are encircled by what amounts to refugees from North Africa with no hope of integration, jobs, or prospects. It’s no wonder they want to burn Paris to the ground.”
They were sitting at the long banquette, facing each other, eating hanger steaks and the establishment’s astonishing
“The homogeneity of the French is under siege.”
Aaron looked at her for a moment. “This is how we do,” he said, using the English slang of American cops. This is the way we do things.
She laughed so hard she had to put a hand to her mouth in order not to spray food all over her plate.
His eyes crinkled nicely when he smiled. Despite that, the smile
made him look younger, like a little boy whose joy is unadulterated by life’s responsibilities and concerns.
“So.” He put down his utensils and steepled his fingers. “Dinoig?” He spread his hands. “You have an explanation.”
“I do.” Soraya licked salt off the tips of her fingers. “The word is an anagram.”
Aaron stared hard at her for a moment. “A code?”
Soraya nodded. “Admittedly a crude one. But it was meant as a fail-safe. In case my contact got into trouble.”
“Terminal trouble.” Aaron took a sip of the Badoit mineral water; he’d very kindly refrained from ordering wine.
Soraya dug in her handbag, pulled out a pen and a pad, and wrote “dinoig” on it. She looked at it for several moments before she said, “Since the anagram begins with a consonant, let’s start with the assumption that the word begins with a vowel. Two
’s and an
. There are only six letters, so the chances of both
’s being in the center are virtually nil.” Beneath “dinoig,” she wrote “I.” “Now it becomes easier because of our choices for a next letter;
makes the most sense.”
Now the second line read “In.”
“There.” She looked up at Aaron and turned the pad around so that it faced him. Then she handed him the pen. “You finish it.”
Aaron frowned for a moment, then he wrote down the next four letters and turned the pad back for her to read.
“ ‘Indigo,’ ” Soraya read aloud.
eter’s back was killing him. He’d been working nonstop on Hendricks’s files, opening the folders one by one since they were only marked with numerical designations: 001, 002, 003, and so forth. They were filled with memos, to-do lists, even reminders of birthdays and anniversaries. The files were remarkably devoid of anything interesting. He rose from his computer crouch, put his hands at the small of his back, and stretched backward. Then he went off to relieve his aching bladder. Peter liked to think while he peed. In fact, some of his best ideas had come
to him while his bladder was emptying. There was something about the physical feeling of relief that set his brain to wandering down fruitful paths.