Authors: Robert & Lustbader Ludlum,Robert & Lustbader Ludlum
In light of Marks’s own investigation, it might not be so surprising that he hadn’t reported in, Hendricks thought now. If Marks had found something further on Fitz, then, following the attempt on his life, he might have gone undercover to check it out himself. Maybe he had contacted Soraya. Hendricks rang her cell but, again, got no answer. He
pulled out his cell and went out of the study, down the hall, and into a bathroom, where he turned on the taps.
It was after nine in Paris, so he called Jacques Robbinet at home. His wife told him that her husband was still at the office. Apparently there was an international incident he’d had to handle. Worried now, Hendricks called Robbinet’s office. While the connection was being made, he stared out at his deserted house and not for the first time wished with all his heart that he could hear Amanda puttering about, cleaning out the closets as she loved to do. It depressed him to think that the closets hadn’t been touched since her death. He wondered what the house would be like with Maggie in it permanently.
Robbinet finally answered. “Chris, I was just going to call. I’m afraid there’s been a bit of an incident.”
“What kind of incident?” Hendricks listened with sweaty hands as Robbinet related the meeting with M. Marchand, how Soraya, Aaron Lipkin-Renais, and the Egyptian Chalthoum had followed Marchand, and all that had happened.
“So Chalthoum is dead.”
Christ, what a fuckup
, Hendricks thought. The head of al Mokhabarat murdered on French soil. No wonder Robbinet was still at the office; he’d probably be there all night. “Is Soraya okay?”
“As far as Aaron knows, she is.”
“What the hell does that mean?”
“She’s still unconscious.”
Hendricks’s stomach began to throb like a second heart. He pulled open the door to the medicine cabinet, shook out another Prilosec, and swallowed it dry. He knew he was taking too many, but what the hell.
“Will she live?”
“The doctors are still evaluating—”
“Dammit, Jacques, you’ve got to keep her safe.”
“Aaron says the doctors—”
“Forget Lipkin-Renais,” Hendricks said. “Jacques, I want you with her.”
Silence for several heartbeats. “Chris, I’m knee-deep in
over the Chalthoum murder.”
“He was killed by North African Arab extremists.”
“Yes, but on French soil. The Egyptian embassy has gone ballistic.”
Hendricks thought a moment. “Tell you what, I’ll take care of the Egyptians if you take care of Soraya.”
“Are you serious?”
“Absolutely. Jacques, I consider this a personal favor.”
“Well, it’ll be a personal favor on both sides if you can get the Egyptians off my back. We already have enough problems with the Arabs here without the stink this will cause when it hits the news.”
“It won’t,” Hendricks said grimly. “Jacques, do what you have to do, but get my girl back on her feet.”
“I’ll be in touch as soon as I have some news, Chris.” He gave Hendricks his new, encrypted cell number. “Try not to worry.”
But Hendricks couldn’t help it.
, he thought as he cut the connection and scanned his phone book for the number of the Egyptian president,
what the hell is happening to my people?
on Fernando was waiting in the hallway when Bourne and Essai emerged from their meeting.
“Jason, a word, if you don’t mind.”
Essai gave a curt nod and disappeared down the hall.
“How did it go?” Don Fernando asked.
“We’ll see,” Bourne said.
Don Fernando removed a cigar from his pocket, bit off the end, and lit up. “I suppose you’re wondering why I’ve chosen to keep Estevan in the dark,” he said around clouds of aromatic blue smoke.
“How you deal with your friends is your business,” Bourne said.
Don Fernando eyed Bourne for a moment. “I like you, Jason. I like you very much. Which is why I don’t take offense at your implied rebuke.” He paused for a moment, took the cigar out of his mouth, and stared at the glowing end. “Friendship can take many forms. Being a man of the world, I assume you know this.” His eyes raised to meet Bourne’s. “But I know you’re not this sort of man. You are a dying breed, my friend, a true
throwback to the days of conscience, honor, duty, and friendships that are sacred.”
Still, Bourne said nothing. He resented being told what kind of man he was, even if it was the truth.
“So now we come to the difficult part.” Don Fernando stuck the cigar back into a corner of his mouth. “Kaja has her eyes on you.”
“That’s a quaint way of putting it.”
Don Fernando nodded. “All right. She’s fallen in love with you.”
“That’s insane. Despite what she said, she hates me for killing her mother.”
“Part of her does, unquestionably. But that part is someone who had never met you, who was driven by the sight of her mother dead on a marble slab. She built a fantasy around that. And then you appeared, a flesh-and-blood man. Along with that came the details surrounding her mother’s murder. None of which, I believe, she was prepared for.”
Don Fernando took more smoke into his mouth. “Consider this from her point of view. You appear and save her and Estevan not once, not twice, but three times—from both the Domna and the people whom her father worked for. She knows nothing about you, least of all that you killed her mother. She’s two people now, one fighting against the other.”
“That isn’t my concern,” Bourne said.
Don Fernando sucked on his cigar, enveloping them both in a cloud of smoke. “I don’t believe you mean that.”
“Is she in love with Vegas?”
“You’ll have to ask her that.”
“I mean to,” Bourne said. “Circumstances are already complicated enough without Vegas blowing up in a jealous rage.”
“She’s out in the loggia.”
“You can’t see the loggia from here,” Bourne said.
“I know where all my guests are.”
Bourne wondered about that; he hadn’t noticed video surveillance cameras.
Don Fernando smiled. “Go find her, Jason. Straighten this out before it turns into a blood feud.”
his is how it will go,” Zachek said. “The contact is waiting at the side entrance to the Mosque. You will say to him, ‘There is no God but one God,’ and he will reply, ‘God is good. God is great.’ ”
Boris and Zachek, engulfed in blackest shadow, huddled one block from where the Mosque rose, dark and ominous against the seething Munich sky.
“You know this man,” Boris said.
Zachek nodded. “Ostensibly he works at the Mosque, but—”
“I understand,” Boris said.
Zachek checked his watch. “It’s time,” he said. “Good luck.”
“The same to you.” Boris gave him one last look. “By the way, you look like shit.”
Zachek gave him a sorrowful smile. “Nothing lasts forever.”
Boris left him then, stepping out onto the street, merging himself with the ebb and flow of pedestrian traffic. He paced himself carefully; he was expert at blending in. Better than Zachek would ever be. Fleetingly, he wondered whether he could trust the SVR agent. There were no sure things in his business, all you could do was home in on a person’s psyche and try to push the right buttons. Their time together had been short, but it had been as intense as two soldiers inhabiting the same foxhole in wartime. Life had been compressed; he felt he’d gotten a good psychological read on Zachek.
He was approaching the Mosque’s side entrance and there was no help for it now. He had to trust Zachek.
Two men lounged in the doorway, speaking in low tones, but as Boris approached, one broke away and left. Boris stepped toward the remaining man, who was small and square-shouldered. His full, curling beard reached to his chest. He smelled of tobacco and stale sweat.
“There is no God but one God,” Boris said.
“God is good, God is great,” the man replied, and, turning, led Boris into the Mosque.
He removed his shoes and washed his hands in the font of a stone
fountain. Boris followed suit. The man took Boris down a narrow, poorly lit corridor, past cubicles without doors in which shadows moved and whispered voices conversed like the soft drone of insects. Farther away, Boris heard the massed chanting of prayer, the high-low ululations of the muezzin as he spoke to the faithful. The atmosphere was close, oppressive, and Boris strained to see ahead.
They turned left, then right, then right again. The place was a labyrinth, Boris thought. Not an easy place to get out of quickly. At length, the contact stopped outside a doorway. Turning to Boris, he said, “Inside.”
“You first,” Boris said.
As soon as the man had turned his back, Boris put his right hand on the grips of his Makarov. The man turned around and, shaking his head, held out his hand. Boris froze.
“It’s the only way,” the man said.
Boris produced the Makarov, unloaded it, and put the bullets into his pocket. Then he handed over the pistol.
The man took it, stepped across the threshold, and Boris followed. Boris found himself in a small square room with one window above chest height, the glass translucent; it was illuminated like a rose window by either daylight or streetlight.
A heavyset man with a greasy-looking beard sat cross-legged on a prayer rug. He was talking to two men who immediately rose and stepped away. Boris noted that they took up positions on either side of the room with their backs to the walls.
The heavyset man ran thick fingers through the tangle of his beard, which was as black as his eyes.
“You are SVR?” he said in a phlegmy voice. “From Zachek?”
“You want to know about Viktor Cherkesov,” the man said. “Why he came here, whom he saw, and what was conveyed.”
“This is difficult information to obtain. Furthermore, it puts me in a precarious position.” The heavyset man cleared his throat. “You are prepared to pay.”
Since it wasn’t a question, Boris remained silent.
The man smiled now, revealing a pair of gold incisors. The rest of his teeth looked mossy, and there was an unpleasant odor wafting off him, as if food were rotting in his mouth or stomach. “Let us proceed, then.”
The man raised a meaty hand. “Ah, no. I have no need of more money. You want information from me; I want the same from you.”
Boris was keeping a clandestine eye on the two men at the walls. They seemed to be interested only in the light filtering through the window. “What sort of information?”
“Do you know a man named Ivan Volkin?”
The question almost took Boris’s breath away. “I’ve heard of him, yes.”
The heavyset man pursed his lips, which were red and full. They looked obscene surrounded by the beard. “This is not what I asked.”
“I’ve met him,” Boris said cautiously.
Something changed in the man’s dark eyes. “Perhaps, then, the information we exchange concerns the same subject.”
Boris spread his hands. “I don’t see how. I want to know why Cherkesov was sent here. I have no interest in Volkin.”
The heavyset man hawked and spat into a small brass bowl at his side. “But you see, it was Volkin whom Cherkesov came here to see.”
ourne found Kaja, arms wrapped tightly around herself, standing in the loggia. She was watching a nightingale flit through a tree as if trying to find its way back home. He wondered whether Kaja was trying to do the same thing.
She stirred when she heard him but didn’t say a word until the nightingale had settled on a branch and begun its lovely song. By that time, Bourne was standing beside her.
“You don’t seem surprised to see me,” he said.
“I was hoping you’d come. Then it would be just like it is in the movies.”
“You haven’t struck me as the romantic type.”
“No?” She moved beside him, shifting from one hip to the other. “How have I struck you?”
“I think you’re someone who will do anything to get what she wants.”
She sighed. “You think I’ll break Estevan’s heart.”
“He’s a simple man, with simple needs,” Bourne said. “You’re anything but.”
She looked down at her feet. “Suppose you’re right.”
“Then Estevan was a means to an end.”
“For five years I gave him pleasure.”
“Because he believed what you told him.” Bourne turned to her. “Do you think he would have fallen in love with you if he’d known who you really are and what you needed him for?”
“He might have, yes.”
She turned to face him. Moonlight struck her cheeks, but her eyes remained in shadow. Here in Don Fernando’s garlanded loggia, all the ripe lushness of her figure was on display. Bourne had no doubt that she had deliberately positioned herself for maximum sensual effect. She knew very well the powers at her command, and she was unafraid to wield them.
“I don’t want to talk about Estevan anymore.”
“Perhaps, but I need to know—”
She put her hands on either side of his face, her lips close to his. “I want to talk about us.”
And then Bourne understood. He could see the desire burning in her eyes; a desire not for him in the traditional sense. He, like Vegas before him, was a means to an end. All she wanted was to find out the truth about her father. Men could do this, not women, which was why she had turned herself into a serial lover. She attached herself to whichever man she sensed could get her closer to her goal.
“Don Fernando is under the misapprehension that you’re in love with me.”
She frowned. “Misapprehension?”
Then she stepped toward him and kissed him hard on the lips. As she did so, she plastered herself to him. Bourne could feel every hill and valley of her womanly body.
“Don’t,” he said, pushing her away.
She shook her head, her lips slightly parted. “I don’t understand.”
He wondered whether she had tricked herself into believing that she loved him. Was that how she had so successfully deceived Vegas, by deceiving herself?
“You understand perfectly well,” Bourne said.
“You’re wrong.” She shook her head. “Dead wrong.”
mun!” Soraya cried when she returned to consciousness.
“He’s gone, Soraya.”