Read The Bourne Sanction Online

Authors: Eric Van Lustbader,Robert Ludlum

Tags: #Mystery, #Thriller, #Crime, #Suspense, #Adult, #Adventure

The Bourne Sanction (10 page)

BOOK: The Bourne Sanction
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But when he dangled the
IOU
in front of her face her skepticism evaporated. Thus is it ever, Arkadin thought as she led him backstage. The venality of the human race cannot be overestimated.

The green room where she relaxed between sets was better off left to the wharf rats that were no doubt shuttered behind the walls, but right now that couldn’t be helped. He tried not to think of the rats; he wouldn’t be here long anyway. There were no windows; the walls and ceiling were painted black, no doubt to cover up a multitude of sins. Devra turned on a lamp with a mean forty-watt bulb and sat down on a wooden chair damaged by knife scars and cigarette burns. The difference between the green room and an interrogation cell was negligible. There were no other chairs or furniture, save for a narrow wooden table against one wall on which was a jumble of makeup, CDs, cigarettes, matches, gloves, and other piles of debris Arkadin didn’t bother to identify. Devra leaned back, lit a cigarette she nimbly swiped from the table without offering him one. “So you’re here to pay off Oleg’s debt.”

“In a sense.”

Her eyes narrowed, making her look a lot like a stoat Arkadin had once shot outside St. Petersburg.

“Meaning what, exactly?”

Arkadin produced the bills. “I have the money he owes you right here.” As she reached out for it, he pulled it away. “In return I’d like some information.”

Devra laughed. “What do I look like, the phone operator?”

Arkadin hit her hard with the back of his hand, so that she crashed into the table. Tubes of lipstick and mascara went rolling and tumbling. Devra put a hand out to steady herself, fingers clutching through the morass.

When she pulled out a small handgun Arkadin was ready. His fist hammered her delicate wrist and he plucked the handgun from her numb fingers.

“Now,” he said, setting her back on the chair, “are you ready to continue?”

Devra looked at him sullenly. “I knew this was too good to be true.” She spat. “Shit!

No good deed goes unpunished.”

Arkadin took a moment to process what she was really saying. Then he said, “Why did Shumenko need the ten thousand hryvnia?”

“So I was right. You’re not a friend of his.”

“Does it matter?” Arkadin emptied the handgun, broke it down without taking his eyes off her, tossed the pieces onto the table. “This is between you and me now.”

“I think not,” a deep male voice said from behind him.

“Filya,” Devra breathed. “What took you so long?”

Arkadin did not turn around. He’d heard the click of the switchblade, knew what he was up against. He eyeballed the mess on the table, and when he saw the double halfmoon grips of scissors peeping out from under a small pyramid of CD cases, he fixed their location in his mind, then turned around.

As if startled by the big man with heavily pocked cheeks and new hair plugs, he retreated up against the edge of the table.

“Who the hell’re you? This is a private discussion.” Arkadin spoke more to distract Filya from his left hand moving behind him along the tabletop.

“Devra is mine.” Filya brandished the long, cruel blade of the handmade switchblade.

“No one talks to her without my permission.”

Arkadin smiled thinly. “I wasn’t talking to her so much as threatening her.”

The idea was to antagonize Filya to the point that he’d do something precipitous and, therefore, stupid, and Arkadin succeeded admirably. With a growl, Filya rushed him, knife blade extended, tilted slightly upward.

With only one shot at a surprise maneuver, Arkadin had to make the most of it. The fingers of his left hand had gripped the scissors. They were small, which was just as well; he had no intention of again killing someone who might provide useful information. He lifted them, calculating their weight. Then as he brought the scissors around the side of his body, he flicked his wrist, a deceptively small gesture that was nevertheless all power. Released from his grip, the scissors flew through the air, embedding in the soft spot just below Filya’s sternum.

Filya’s eyes opened wide as his headlong rush faltered two paces from Arkadin, then he resumed his advance, brandishing the knife. Arkadin ducked away from the sweeping arc of the blade. He grappled with Filya, wanting only to wear him out, let the wound in his chest sap his strength, but Filya wasn’t having any. Being stabbed had only enraged him. With superhuman strength he broke Arkadin’s grip on the wrist that held the switchblade, swung it from a low point upward, breaking through Arkadin’s defense. The point of the blade blurred toward Arkadin’s face. Too late to stop the attack, Arkadin reacted instinctively, managing to deflect the stab at the last instant, so that the point drove through Filya’s own throat.

An arcing veil of blood caused Devra to scream. As she stumbled backward, Arkadin reached for her. Clamping one hand over her mouth, he shook his head. Her ashen cheeks and forehead were spattered with blood. Arkadin supported Filya in the crook of one arm. The man was dying. Arkadin had never meant this to happen. First Shumenko, now Filya. If he had believed in such things, he would have said that the assignment was cursed.

“Filya!” He slapped the man, whose eyes had turned glassy. Blood leaked out of the side of Filya’s slack mouth. “The package. Where is it?”

For a moment, Filya’s eyes focused on him. When Arkadin repeated his question a curious smile took Filya down into death. Arkadin held him for a moment more before propping him up against a wall.

As he returned his attention to Devra he saw a rat glowering from a corner, and his gorge rose. It took all his willpower not to abandon the girl to go after it, rip it limb from limb.

“Now,” he said, “it’s just you and me.”

Making certain he wasn’t being followed, Rob Batt pulled into the parking lot adjacent to the Tysons Corner Baptist Church. He sat waiting in his car. From time to time, he checked his watch.

Under the late
DCI
, he had been chief of operations, the most influential of CI’s seven directorate heads. He was of the Beltway old school with connections that ran directly back to Yale’s legendary Skull & Bones Club, of which he’d been an officer during his college days. Just how many Skull & Bones men had been recruited into America’s clandestine services was one of those secrets its keepers would kill to protect. Suffice it to say it was many, and Batt was one of them. It was particularly galling for him to play second fiddle to an outsider-and a female, at that. The Old Man would never have tolerated such an outrage, but the Old Man was gone, murdered in his own home reportedly by his traitorous assistant, Anne Held. Though Batt-and others of his brethrenhad his doubts about that. What a difference three months made. Had the Old Man still been alive he’d never have considered even consenting to this meet. Batt was a loyal man, but his loyalty, he realized, extended to the man who had reached out to him in grad school, recruited him to CI. Those were the old days, though. The new order was in place, and it wasn’t fair. He hadn’t been part of the problem caused by Martin Lindros and Jason Bourne-he’d been part of the solution. He’d even been suspicious of the man who’d turned out to be an impostor. He would have exposed him had Bourne not interfered. That coup, Batt knew, would have scored him the inside track with the Old Man.

But with the Old Man gone, his lobbying for the directorship had been to no avail. Instead, the president had opted for Veronica Hart. God alone knew why. It was such a colossal mistake; she’d just run CI into the ground. A woman wasn’t constructed to make the kinds of decisions necessary to captain the CI ship. The priorities and ways of approaching problems were different with women. The hounds of the
NSA
were circling CI, and he couldn’t bear watching this woman turn them all, the entire company, into carrion for the feast. At least Batt could join the people who would inevitably take over when Hart fucked up. Even so, it pained him to be here, to embark upon this unknown sea.

At 10:30 AM the doors to the church swung open, the parishioners came down the stairs, stood in the wan sunshine, turning their heads up like sunflowers at dawn. The ministers appeared, walking side by side with Luther LaValle. LaValle was accompanied by his wife and teenage son. The two men stood chatting while the family grouped loosely around. LaValle’s wife seemed interested in the conversation, but the son was busy ogling a girl more or less his age who was prancing down the stairs. She was a beauty, Batt had to admit. Then, with a start, he realized that she was one of General Kendall’s three daughters, because here Kendall was with his arm around his stubby wife. How the two of them could have produced a trio of such handsome girls was anyone’s guess. Even Darwin couldn’t have figured it out, Batt thought. The two families-the LaValles and the Kendalls-gathered in a loose huddle as if they were a football team. Then the kids went their own ways, some in cars, others on bicycles because the church wasn’t far from their homes. The two wives chastely kissed their husbands, piled into a Cadillac Escalade, and took off.

That left the two men, who stood for a moment in front of the church before coming around to the parking lot. Not a word had been exchanged between them. Batt heard a heavyweight engine cough to life.

A long black armored limousine came cruising down the aisle like a sleek shark. It stopped briefly while LaValle and Kendall climbed inside. Its engine, idling, sent small puffs of exhaust into the cool, crisp air. Batt counted to thirty and, as he’d been instructed, got out of his car. As he did so, the rear door of the limo popped open. Ducking his head, he climbed into the dim, plush interior. The door closed behind him.

“Gentlemen,” he said, folding himself onto the bench seat opposite them. The two men sat side by side in the limo’s backseat: Luther LaValle, the Pentagon’s intel czar, and his second, General Richard P. Kendall.

“So kind of you to join us,” LaValle said.

Kindness had nothing to do with it, Batt thought. A convergence of objectives did.

“The pleasure’s all mine, gentlemen. I’m flattered and, if I may be frank, grateful that you reached out to me.”

“We’re here,” General Kendall said, “to speak frankly.”

“We’ve opposed the appointment of Veronica Hart from the start,” LaValle said. “The secretary of defense made his opinion quite clear to the president. However, others, including the national security adviser and the secretary of state-who, as you know, is a personal friend of the president-both lobbied for an outsider from the private security sector.”

“Bad enough,” Batt said. “And a woman.”

“Precisely.” General Kendall nodded. “It’s madness.”

LaValle stirred. “It’s the clearest sign yet of the deterioration of our defense grid that Secretary Halliday has been warning against for several years now.”

“When we start listening to Congress and the people of the country all hope is lost,”

Kendall said. “A mulligan stew of amateurs all with petty axes to grind and absolutely no idea of how to maintain security or run the intelligence services.”

LaValle gave off an icy smile. “That’s why the secretary of defense has labored mightily to keep the workings clandestine.”

“The more they know, the less they understand,” General Kendall said, “and the more inclined they are to interfere by means of their congressional hearings and threats of budgets cuts.”

“Oversight is a bitch,” LaValle agreed. “Which is why areas of the Pentagon under my control are working without it.” He paused for a moment, studying Batt. “How does that sound to you, Deputy Director?”

“Like manna from heaven.”

Oleg had screwed up big time,” Devra said.

Arkadin took a stab. “He got in over his head with loan sharks?”

She shook her head. “That was last year. It had to do with Pyotr Zilber.”

Arkadin’s ears pricked up. “What about him?”

“I don’t know.” Her eyes opened wide as Arkadin raised his fist. “I swear it.”

“But you’re part of Zilber’s network.”

She turned her head away from him, as if she couldn’t stand herself. “A minor part. I shuffle things from here to there.”

“Within the past week Shumenko gave you a document.”

“He gave me a package, I don’t know what was in it,” Devra said. “It was sealed.”

“Compartmentalization.”

“What?” She looked up at him. Blood beads on her face looked like freckles. Tears had caused her mascara to run, giving her dark half circles under her eyes.

“The first principle of putting together a cadre.” Arkadin nodded. “Go on.”

She shrugged. “That’s all I know.”

“What about the package?”

“I passed it on, as I was instructed to do.”

Arkadin bent over her. “Who did you give it to?”

She glanced at the crumpled form on the floor. “I gave it to Filya.”

LaValle had paused a moment to reflect. “We never knew each other at Yale.”

“You were two years ahead of me,” Batt said. “But in Skull and Bones you were notorious.”

LaValle laughed. “Now you flatter me.”

“Hardly.” Batt unbuttoned his overcoat. “The stories I heard.”

LaValle frowned. “Are never to be repeated.”

General Kendall let loose with a guffaw that filled the compartment. “Should I leave you two girls alone? Better not; one of you could wind up pregnant.”

The comment was meant as a joke, of course, but there was a nasty undercurrent to it. Did the military man resent his exclusion from the elite club, or the connection the other two had through Skull & Bones? Possibly it was a bit of both. In any event, Batt noted the second’s tone of voice, tucked the possible implications into a place where he could examine them later.

“What d’you have in mind, Mr. LaValle?”

“I’m looking for a way to convince the president that his more immoderate advisers made a mistake in recommending Veronica Hart for
DCI
.” LaValle pursed his lips. “Any ideas?”

“Off the top of my head, plenty,” Batt said. “What’s in it for me?”

As if on cue LaValle produced another smile. “We’re going to require a new
DCI
when we can Hart’s ass out of the District. Who would be your first choice?”

BOOK: The Bourne Sanction
2.49Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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