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Authors: Robert & Lustbader Ludlum,Robert & Lustbader Ludlum

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BOOK: The Bourne Dominion
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“Once, the Mosque had two or three of its people inside the Domna. Now it holds a majority, including Benjamin El-Arian. Now the Domna, with more global reach than even the Mosque possesses, is the greatest threat to world peace that we have ever seen.”

Bourne thought about this for some time. “You’re a family man, Essai. You’re playing a too-dangerous game.”

“You of all people know how dangerous.” A slow smile spread across Essai’s face. “But the die has been cast, the decision made. I cannot live with myself if I stand by and do nothing to stop the Domna.” His eyes blazed like black fire. “The Domna must be stamped out, Mr. Bourne. There is no other alternative for me, for you—for your country.”

Bourne could see the hatred in Essai’s eyes as well as hear it in his voice. This was a man of rigid principle, indomitable spirit, fierce in action, clever in thought. For the first time, Bourne found a measure of respect for the man. And again, he thought about how he had broken into his home, principally because he felt sure that Essai would never forgive him.

“My sense is we don’t have much time to find out what the Domna’s new plan is,” Essai said.

There was another silence between them, just the whir of insects, the chitter of tree frogs, the leathery sound of bats swooping through the treetops.

Essai rose and walked a bit away from the encampment. After a time, Bourne joined him.

Essai stared off through the trees. “I have four children,” he said after a long time. “Three now, actually. My daughter is dead.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It was years ago, like another lifetime.” Essai bit his lip, as if pondering whether or not to go on. “She was a willful girl—not, as you can
imagine, the best of traits in a Muslim household. As a child I could control her, but there came a time when she rebelled. She ran away three times. The first two, I was able to bring her back—she was only fourteen. But then, four years later, she ran away with an Irani boy. Can you imagine?”

“I imagine it could have been worse,” Bourne said.

“No,” Essai said, “it couldn’t.” He began to peel the bark off a tree, digging into the tree’s flesh with his long, scimitar nails. “The boy was engaged to be married and, quite stupidly, he took her back to Iran with him. Don’t ask me why, because to this day I have no idea.”

“Perhaps he truly loved her.”

Essai shook his head. “The things humans do…”

His voice trailed off for a moment, but his nails never stopped stripping the tree. Then he took a deep breath and when he let it out, the words came like water over-spilling a dam. “The inevitable happened, of course. My daughter was taken away from him and imprisoned. They were going to stone her to death, can you imagine! Iranis, what barbarians!”

He meant Sunni, of course, because though Iranis weren’t Arabs like him, they were nevertheless Muslim. Sunni, rather than Shi’a, like him. The enmity that accompanied the schism between Islam’s two main sects was as poisonous as it was irreparable.

“Fucking animals is what they are.”

It was the first time he had used an expletive, and Bourne could see how much it took out of him, but his vehemence dictated he expel the curse from his system like an infection.

“So I went in—myself, myself. I got her out of prison, got her out of Tehran, got her out of Iran. I was on my way back home with her, on a ship crossing the Mediterranean, when the Domna appeared.” Quite suddenly he turned his eyes on Bourne. “Six men. Six! That’s how many they determined was needed. The Domna had warned me not to go to Iran, not to interfere, that peace needed to be kept within the High Council. To do that, they said, both Shi’a and Sunni were required to respect each other’s traditions. ‘But this is my daughter,’ I said. ‘My flesh
and blood.’ Otherwise, they said, a sectarian war would break out within the Domna and we would be no better than those we sought to control. I doubt they heard me, or if they did, they did not care. ‘We remind you of the dominion,’ they said. ‘Nothing is more important.’ ”

His head swung away again. There was bark under his nails, and dirt. An ant crawled along one finger, wandering, lost.

“That was the last I saw of her, my daughter. Nothing more was said. I did nothing because… because then I was Domna and there was nothing to be done in the face of its collective will. It’s true that I had lost a lot of blood and I was in pain.” He raised his right hand so Bourne could see the ugly white knot, the scar in the center of his palm. “I had no strength left, I told myself, I was loyal, I told myself. But when I returned home and saw the look on my wife’s face the lies I told myself evaporated like mist in sunlight.” His eyes sought Bourne’s. “Everything changed, do you understand?”

“You crossed the Rubicon.”

Essai let that sink in, then he nodded. “I came home a different man, a man of war, a man with a blackened heart. My colleagues—those I had considered friends—had betrayed me. They had slipped away when I wasn’t paying attention. They no longer belonged to the Domna—at least the Domna I had once admired. This was a new Domna, in thrall to the Mosque and its hideous Black Legion.

“Now all I can think of is revenge. The information on the laptop you stole was to be that revenge. I was going to steal the gold from under the Domna’s nose, but that is no longer possible.”

Bourne was about to reply when Essai waved away his words. “But Allah is great, Allah is good because in the fullness of time you have reappeared, you, the instrument of my revenge.”

There was another silence. Night creatures chittered overhead and Corellos, eyes closed, chin on chest, began to snortle like a pig.

Essai gave a dry laugh, then cleared his throat. “I need your expertise, Mr. Bourne. You are the only one I trust to find out what the Domna’s new plan is so that, together, we can stop it.”

“I work alone.”

“Odd, isn’t it?” He hadn’t heard Bourne, or if he had, he ignored him.

“Using the word
trust.

“We’re both men of our word, yes?”

Bourne nodded.

The corners of Essai’s eyes wrinkled. “Then this is what I propose—”

“I know what you want me to do,” Bourne said.

“It’s only what you were planning to do yourself. But now you have my assistance.”

“I don’t want your assistance.”

“With all due respect, Mr. Bourne, in this instance you most assuredly do. The Domna is both large and powerful, its tentacles spread into every corner of the globe.” He waggled his forefinger in Bourne’s direction. “You think I am being melodramatic, but I assure you I am not.”

“I’m going to do what I’m going to do.”

Essai nodded, almost eagerly. “Understood. In return, I propose to tell you whom the Domna has sent to kill you.”

Bourne shrugged. “I’ll find out in due course. I know all the avenues, all the players.”

“You won’t know this one. As I said to you, the Domna has embarked on a sacred mission. Without my help, you may very well be destroyed.”

“And I suppose you’re planning to withhold this information until I deliver to you the information you want on the Domna.”

“Nothing of the sort, Mr. Bourne. I want you to live! Besides, I told you that we’re both men of our word. I’m going to tell you this instant.” He took a step closer, his voice lowered. “Unless you stop him, your friend Boris Karpov will kill you.”

4


Y
OU’VE BEEN MORE
than fair with us, Mr. Secretary.”

“Peter, I’ve asked you to call me Christopher,” Secretary of Defense Hendricks replied.

Peter Marks, sitting beside his co-director, Soraya Moore, murmured his acquiescence.

“I have ideas for the resurrected Treadstone,” Hendricks continued, “but before I voice them I want to hear from you two. How do you envision Treadstone going forward?”

The three were in the drawing room of Hendricks’s town house in Georgetown, where they were beginning a strategy briefing. Hendricks’s family, while from the upper crust of Washington society, was nevertheless lacking wealth, which meant that despite his blue blood he was possessed of a distinctly blue-collar work ethic. He was a striver, some might say an overachiever.

He was slim and tall with the upright bearing of a military man. In fact, he had served, briefly, in Korea, had been wounded in the line of duty, and had been duly decorated by the president himself before returning to the public sector. Until a year ago, he had been national security adviser.

Now that he was finally in the catbird seat, he was determined to implement a number of initiatives he had been formulating for years. The first—and frankly most important—was turning the resurrected Treadstone into his own organization, free of the impediments of CI, NSA, and Congress.

Hendricks had no great desire to circumvent the law. Nevertheless, he had observed that, from time to time, there was a need for a group of people—small, tightly knit, intensely loyal to one another and to America—to operate in areas impossible for those subject to oversight and scrutiny to go. Now, with the country under attack from various extremist terrorist factions both foreign and homegrown, was such a time.

To that end, Hendricks had hired Soraya Moore and Peter Marks. Moore had headed up CI’s own black-ops group, Typhon, until being summarily fired by M. Errol Danziger, the monomaniacal new head of CI, and Peter Marks had been close to the former heads of CI. They knew each other well, had complementary temperaments, and were smart enough to think outside the box, which, in Hendricks’s opinion, was what was needed in this new splinter war of a thousand cadres they found themselves in. Best of all, Soraya Moore was Muslim, half Egyptian, with a massively deep pool of knowledge, expertise, and hands-on experience in the Middle East and beyond. The two of them were, in short, the polar opposites of the sclerotic generals and career politicians that littered the American intelligence community like bird droppings.

Marks and Moore were opposite him on a leather sofa, the twin of the one on which he sat. His assistant, Jolene, stood behind, a Bluetooth earplug connecting her to her cell. Sunlight crept in between the thick curtains. Through the slice of visible window could be seen the shadows of the secretary’s National Guard detail. On the low table between them were the remnants of breakfast. Cleo, Hendricks’s gorgeous golden boxer, sat immobile against his leg, mouth slightly open, head slightly cocked, staring at her master’s two guests as if curious about the long silence.

Soraya and Marks exchanged a quick glance, then she cleared her throat. Her large, deep-blue eyes and her prominent nose were the centerpieces of a bold Arabian face the color of cinnamon. She was
possessed of a commanding presence that Hendricks found impressive. What he liked best, however, was that she wasn’t girlie—nor was she brittlely masculine like so many females in a male-dominated structure. She was her own person, which he found refreshing as well as curiously comforting. He therefore weighed her words as carefully as he did those of Marks.

“Peter and I want to move on a tip that came through early this morning,” Soraya finally said.

“What sort of tip?”

“Excuse me, Mr. Secretary,” Jolene said, leaning in, “I have Brad Findlay on the line.”

Hendricks’s head whipped around. “Jolene, what did I tell you about interrupting this briefing?”

Jolene took an involuntary step back. “I’m sorry, sir, but seeing as how it’s the head of Homeland Security, I assumed you—”

“Never, ever assume,” he snapped. “Go into the kitchen. You know how to handle Findlay.”

“Yessir.” Cheeks flaming, Jolene beat a hasty retreat out of the room.

Marks and Soraya exchanged glances again.

Soraya cleared her throat. “It’s difficult to say.”

“It’s not what you’d call a normal tip,” Marks said.

Hendricks drew his brows together. “Meaning?” He had completely forgotten Jolene, the call, and his waspish reaction.

“It didn’t originate from any of the usual suspects: disgruntled mullahs, opium warlords, the Russian, Albanian, or Chinese mafias.” Soraya rose and went around the room, touching a bronze sculpture here, the corner of a photo frame there. Cleo watched her with her large, liquid eyes.

Soraya stopped abruptly and, turning, looked at Hendricks. “All these things here are known. This particular tip came from the unknown—”

The secretary’s brow furrowed further. “I don’t understand. Terrorism—”

“Not terrorism,” Soraya said. “At least not as we have defined it so far. This is an individual who reached out to me.”

“Why did he want to turn? What’s his motivation?”

“That was still to be determined.”

“Well, whoever your informant is, get him over here for a debriefing,” Hendricks said. “I don’t much care for mysteries.”

“That would be the protocol, of course,” Marks said. “Unfortunately, he’s dead.”

“Murdered?”

“Hit-and-run,” Marks said.

“The point is we don’t know.” Soraya gripped the back of an upholstered chair. “We want to go to Paris and investigate.”

“Forget him. You have more important matters to see to. Besides, who knows whether he was trustworthy.”

“He had given me some preliminary information on a group known as Severus Domna.”

“Never heard of it, and furthermore the name sounds bogus,” Hendricks said. “I think this contact is playing you.”

Soraya stood her ground. “I don’t share that opinion.”

Hendricks rose and crossed to one of the windows. When he’d first met Soraya Moore, he’d wondered if she was a lesbian. There was something about her—a balance, an openness, a willingness to accept the complexities of people that a lot of hetero women simply couldn’t manage. Then he’d dived deeper into her jacket and discovered that her lover was Amun Chalthoum, head of al Mokhabarat, the Egyptian secret service. In fact, he’d called Chalthoum and had an interesting twenty-minute talk. Danziger had used her affair with Chalthoum as an excuse to fire her from Typhon. That was high on the long list of stupidities perpetrated by M. Errol Danziger since he’d come to CI. Typhon’s invaluable contacts and deep-cover operatives were loyal only to her. The moment Hendricks had named her co-director of Treadstone, every one of them had come with her. So now he had a sense of how unique she was.

BOOK: The Bourne Dominion
8.89Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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