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Authors: Robert & Lustbader Ludlum,Robert & Lustbader Ludlum

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BOOK: The Bourne Dominion
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Then, abruptly, the hemp sack was removed and he blinked in the dusky light of the forest. Looking around, he found himself in a makeshift camp. He noted thirteen men—and that was just in his field of vision.

One man approached, flanked by two uniformed counterparts, heavily armed with semi-automatics, handguns, and ammo belts. Bourne recognized Roberto Corellos from Moira’s detailed description. He was handsome in a rough, hard-muscled way. And with his dark, smoldering eyes and intensely masculine presence, he possessed a certain charisma that was certain to resonate with these men.

“So…” He drew a cigar from the breast pocket of his beautifully
embroidered guayabera shirt, bit off the end, and lit up, using a heavy Zippo lighter. “Here we are, hunter and prey.” He blew out a cloud of aromatic smoke. “But which is which, I wonder?”

Bourne studied him with great care. “Funny,” he said, “you don’t look like a convict.”

A grin split Corellos’s face and he made a broad gesture. “That, my friend, is because my friends at FARC were good enough to spring me from La Modelo.”

FARC
, Bourne knew, stood for “Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia,” the left-wing guerrillas.

“Interesting,” he said, “you’re one of the most powerful drug lords in Latin America.”

“In the world!” Corellos corrected, his cigar lifted high.

Bourne shook his head. “Left-wing guerrillas and right-wing capitalists, I don’t get it.”

Corellos shrugged. “What’s to get? FARC hates the government, so do I. We have a deal. Every now and again we do each other favors and, as a result, the government fuckers suffer. Otherwise we leave each other alone.” He puffed out another fragrant cloud. “It’s business, not ideological. I make money. I don’t give a fuck about ideology.

“Now to business.” Corellos bent over, hands on knees, his face on a level with Bourne’s. “Who sent you to kill me, señor? Which one of my enemies, eh?”

This man was a danger to Moira and to her friend Berengária. In Phuket, Moira had asked him to find Corellos and deal with him. Moira had never asked him for anything before, so he knew this must be extremely important, possibly a matter of life or death.

“How did you find out I was sent to kill you?” Bourne said.

“This is Colombia, my friend. Nothing happens here that I don’t know about.”

But there was another reason he hadn’t hesitated. His epic encounter with Leonid Arkadin had taught him something about himself. He was not happy in the spaces between, the dark, solitary, actionless moments when the world came to a standstill and all he, an outsider, could do
was observe it and feel nothing at the sight of marriages, graduations, memorial services. He lived for the periods when he sprang into action, when both his mind and his body were fully engaged, sprinting along the precipice between life and death.

“Well?” Corellos was almost nose-to-nose with Bourne. “What do you have to tell me?”

Bourne slammed his forehead into Corellos’s nose. He heard the satisfying crack of cartilage being dislodged as he freed his hands from the flex bindings he’d surreptitiously sawed through. Grabbing Corellos, he swung him around in front of him and locked the crook of his arm around the drug lord’s throat.

Gun muzzles swung up but no one made a move. Then another man strode into the arena.

“That’s a bad idea,” he said to Bourne.

Bourne tightened his grip. “It certainly is for Señor Corellos.”

The man was large, well built, with walnut-colored skin and windswept eyes, dark as the inside of a well. He had a great shock of dark hair, almost ringlets, and a beard as long, thick, and curly as an ancient Persian’s. He emitted a certain energy that affected even Bourne. Though he was much older, Bourne recognized him from the photo he’d been shown so many years ago.

“Jalal Essai,” Bourne said now. “I’m wondering what you’re doing here in the company of this drug lord. Is Severus Domna moving heroin and cocaine now?”

“We need to talk, you and I.”

“I doubt that will happen.”

“Mr. Bourne,” Essai said slowly and carefully, “I murdered Frederick Willard.”

“Why would you tell me that?”

“Were you an ally of Mr. Willard’s? No, I think not. Not after he spent so much time and energy pitting you against Leonid Arkadin.” He waved a hand. “But in any event, I killed Willard for a very specific reason: He’d made a deal with Benjamin El-Arian, the head of the Domna.”

“That’s difficult to believe.”

“Nevertheless, it’s true. You see, Willard wanted Solomon’s gold as badly as your old boss at Treadstone, Alexander Conklin, did. He sold his soul to El-Arian to get a piece of it.”

Bourne shook his head. “This from a member of the Domna?”

A slow smile spread across Essai’s face. “I was when Conklin sent you to invade my house,” he said. “But that was a long time ago.”

“Now—”

“Now Benjamin El-Arian and the Domna are my sworn enemies.” His smile turned complicit. “So you see, we have a great deal to talk about after all.”

F
riendship,” Ivan Volkin said as he took down two water glasses and filled them with vodka. “Friendship is highly overrated.” He handed one to Boris Karpov and took up the other, holding it high in a toast. “Unless it’s between Russians. Friendship is not entered into lightly. Only we, of all the peoples of the world, understand what it means to be friends.
Nostrovya!

Volkin was old and gray, his face sunken in on itself. But his blue eyes still danced merrily in his head, proof if any was needed that, even in his retirement, he retained every fiber of the superbly clever mind that had made him the most influential negotiator among the heads of the
grupperovka
, the Russian mafia.

Boris poured himself more. “Ivan Ivanovich, how long have we known each other?”

Volkin smacked his livery lips and held out his empty glass. His hands were large, the veins on their backs ropy, popped out, a morbid blue-black. “If memory serves, we wet our diapers together.” Then he laughed, a gurgling sound in the back of his throat.

Boris nodded. A wistful smile lifted the corners of his mouth. “Almost, almost.”

The two men stood in the cramped, overstuffed living room of the apartment in central Moscow where Volkin had lived for the last fifty
years. It was a curious thing, Boris thought. With the money Ivan had amassed over the years, he could have had his pick of any apartment, no matter how large, grand, or expensive, and yet he chose to stay in this insular museum of his with its hundreds of books, shelves stocked with souvenirs from around the world—expensive gifts bestowed on him by grateful clients.

Volkin stretched out an arm. “Sit, my friend. Sit and put your feet up. It’s not often I am visited by the great General Karpov, head of FSB-2.”

He sat in his usual spot, an upholstered wing chair that had been in desperate need of re-covering fifteen years ago. Now its oxblood hue had all but receded into formless, colorless mass. Boris sat opposite him on the chintz sofa, mildewed and battered as if it had been salvaged from a shipwreck. He was shocked by how thin Ivan had grown, how stooped, bent like a tree battered by decades of storms, sleet, and drought.
How many years has it been since we last saw each other?
he asked himself. He was dismayed to discover that he couldn’t recall.

“To the general! A pissant’s death to his enemies!” Ivan cried.

“Ivan, please!”

“Toast, Boris, toast! Revel in your time! How many men in their lifetime have achieved what you have? You are at the pinnacle of success.” He rolled his thin shoulders. “What, you’re not proud of what you have accomplished?”

“Of course I am,” Boris said. “It’s just that…” He let his voice trail off.

“Just what?” Ivan sat up straight. “What’s on your mind, old friend? Come, come, we share too much for you to be reticent with me.”

Boris took a deep breath and another slug of the fiery vodka. “Ivan, I find myself, after all these years, in the jaws of a trap and I don’t know whether I can extricate myself.”

Volkin grunted. “There is always a way out of a trap, my friend. Please go on.”

As Boris described the deal he had made with his former boss and what Cherkesov had asked for, Volkin’s eyes turned yellowish, feral, his innate cunning rising like a deep-sea creature to the surface.

At length, he sat back and crossed one leg over the other. “The way I see it, Boris Illyich, this trap exists only in your mind. The
problem
is your relationship with this man Bourne. I have met him several times. In fact, I even helped him. But he is an American. Worse still, he’s a spy. In the end, how can he be trusted?”

“He saved my life.”

“Ah, now we get to the nub of the problem.” Volkin nodded sagely. “Which is you are a sentimentalist at heart. You think of this man, Bourne, as your friend. Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t, but are you prepared to throw away everything you’ve worked toward for the last thirty years to save his skin?” Volkin tapped the side of his nose. “Consider that this is not a trap at all, but a test of your will, your determination, your dedication. All great things require sacrifices. This, in essence, is what sets them apart from the ordinary, what
makes
them great, out of the reach of ordinary civilians, attainable by only the very few, individuals willing and capable of making such sacrifices.” He leaned forward. “
You
are such an individual, Boris Illyich.”

Silence engulfed them. An ormolu clock ticked the minutes off like the beating of a heart pulled from a victim’s chest. Boris’s gaze fell upon an old czarist sword he’d given Volkin many years before. It was in beautiful shape, well oiled, lovingly rubbed, its steel glowing in the lamplight.

“Tell me, Ivan Ivanovich,” he said, “what if it were you Cherkesov ordered me to kill?”

Volkin’s eyes were almost all yellow now, a cat’s eyes, full of mysterious, unknowable thoughts. “A test is a test, my friend. A sacrifice is a sacrifice. I would trust you to know that.”

L
a Défense rose like a post-modern stranger at the extreme western edge of Paris. And yet it was a far better solution exiling the hightech business district of the city to La Défense than allowing modern construction to spoil Paris’s gorgeous architecture. The gleaming green-glass Île de France Bank building sat midway along the Place de l’Iris,
which ran like an aorta through the heart of La Défense. On the top floor, fifteen men sat on either side of a polished marble table. They wore elegant made-to-measure business suits, white shirts, and conservative ties, even the Muslims. It was a requirement of the Domna, as was the gold ring on the forefinger of the right hand. The Domna was probably the only group in existence where the two major Muslim sects, Sunni and Shi’a, peacefully coexisted and even helped each other when the occasion called for it.

The sixteenth man commanded the head of the table. He had a cruel mouth, a hawk’s beak for a nose, piercing blue eyes, and skin the color of wild honey. By his left elbow and slightly behind him sat the lone woman, notebooks open on her lap. She was younger than the men, or at least seemed so, with her long red hair, porcelain skin, and wide-apart eyes, transparent as seawater. Occasionally, when the man at the head of the table extended his left hand, she passed him a sheet of paper in the crisp, professional manner of a nurse handing a surgeon a scalpel. He called her Skara and she called him Sir.

When the man at the head of the table read from the printout, everyone in the room listened, except perhaps for Skara, who had memorized the entire contents of her constantly updated notebooks, which she considered far too sensitive to be digitized.

The seventeen people inhabited a room made of concrete and glass into which had been embedded a network of electronic gear that would foil even the most sophisticated attempts at eavesdropping.

The directorate heads of the Severus Domna had convened from the four corners of the globe—Shanghai, Tokyo, Berlin, Beijing, Sanaa, London, Washington, DC, New York, Riyadh, Bogotá, Moscow, New Delhi, Lagos, Paris, and Tehran.

Benjamin El-Arian, the man at the head of the table, finished addressing the men at the table. “Frankly, America has always been a thorn in our side. Until now.” He curled his hand into a fist. “Our goal is within our grasp. We have found another way.”

For the next ten minutes El-Arian explicated every detail of the new
plan. “This will, by design, put a great deal of pressure on myself and the other American members, but I have every confidence that this new plan will gain us far more than what was in place before Jason Bourne derailed it.” He continued with a few more words of summation, then called an adjournment.

The others filed out, and El-Arian used the intercom to call in Marlon Etana, the Domna’s most powerful and, therefore, influential field agent.

“I trust you are about to assign someone to terminate Bourne,” Etana said as he approached his leader. “He murdered our people in Tineghir, including Idir Syphax, who was beloved by all of us.”

El-Arian smiled toothily. “Forget Bourne. Your assignment is Jalal Essai. Since betraying his sacred trust to us, he has caused us considerable inconvenience. I want you to find him and terminate him.”

“But through Bourne’s interference we lost our chance at Solomon’s gold.”

El-Arian frowned. “Why do you remind me of something I already know?”

Etana’s hand curled into a ball. “I want to kill him.”

“And leave Essai free to do more damage?” He placed a hand on the other’s shoulder. “Trust in these decisions, Marlon. Carry out your assignment. Remember the dominion. The Domna is counting on you.”

Etana nodded, turned, and, without a backward glance, left the room.

All was silence in the vast echoless place until Skara rose. “Five minutes,” she said without looking at her watch.

El-Arian nodded and stepped to the north-facing window. He stared down at the wide road, the foreshortened people. He was a scholar, a professor of archaeology and ancient civilizations, a formal man with an almost regal bearing.

“This will work,” he said almost to himself.

BOOK: The Bourne Dominion
8.47Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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