The bourne supremacy, p.125
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       The Bourne Supremacy, p.125

         Part #2 of Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum
Page 125


  'No, we won't. ' McAllister picked up the phone; he dialled three digits. 'Officer of the Guard?. . . Let Mr Conklin through the gate, search him for a weapon, and escort him yourself to the East Wing office . . . He what! . . . Admit him quickly and put the damn thing out!'

  'What happened?' asked Havilland, as the undersecretary hung up the phone.

  'He started a fire on the other side of the road. '

  Alexander Conklin limped into the ornate Victorian room as the marine officer closed the door. Havilland rose from the chair and came around the desk, his hand extended.

  'Mr Conklin?'

  'Keep your hand, Mr Ambassador. I don't want to get infected. '

  'I see. Anger precludes civility?'

  'No, I really don't want to catch anything. As they say over here, you're rotten joss. You're carrying something. A disease, I think. '

  'And what might that be?'

  'Death. '

  'So melodramatic? Come, Mr Conklin, you can do better than that. '

  'No, I mean it. Less than twenty minutes ago I saw someone killed, cut down in the street with forty or fifty bullets in her. She was blown into the glass doors of her apartment house, her driver shot up in the car. I tell you the place is a mess, blood and glass all over the pavement. . . '

  Havilland's eyes were wide with shock, but it was the hysterical voice of McAllister that stopped the CIA man. 'Her? She! Was it the woman?

  'A woman,' said Conklin, turning to the undersecretary whose presence he had not yet acknowledged. 'You McAllister?'

  'Yes. '

  'I don't want to shake your hand, either. She was involved with both of you. ' 'Webb's wife is dead? yelled the undersecretary, his whole body paralysed.

  'No, but thanks for the confirmation. '

  'Good God!' cried the longstanding ambassador of the State Department's clandestine activities. 'It was Staples.

  Catherine Staples? 'Give the man an exploding cigar. And thanks again for the second confirmation. Are you planning to have dinner with the Canadian consulate's high commissioner soon? I'd love to be there - just to watch the renowned Ambassador Havilland at work. Gosh and golly, I betcha us low-level types could learn an awful lot. '

  'Shut up, you goddamned fool? shouted Havilland, crossing behind the desk and plummeting into his chair; he leaned back, his eyes closed.

  That's the one thing I'm not going to do,' said Conklin, stepping forward, his club foot pounding the floor. 'You are accountable . . . sir!' The CIA man leaned over, gripping the edge of the desk. 'Just as you're accountable for what's happened to David and Marie Webb! Who the fuck do you think you are? And if my language offends you, sir, look up the derivation of the offending word. It comes from a term in the Middle Ages meaning to plant a seed in the ground, and in a way that's your specialty! Only in your case they're rotten seeds - you dig in clean dirt and turn it into filth. Your seeds are lies and deception. They grow inside people, turning them into angry and frightened puppets, dancing on your strings to your goddamned scenarios! I repeat, you aristocratic son of a bitch, who the fuck do you think you are?'

  Havilland half opened his heavy-lidded eyes and leaned forward. His expression was that of an old man willing to die, if only to remove the pain. But those same eyes were alive with a cold fury that saw things others could not see. 'Would it serve your argument if I said to you that Catherine Staples said essentially the same thing to me?'

  'Serves it and completes it!'

  'Yet she was killed because she joined forces with us. She didn't like doing that, but in her judgement there was no alternative. '

  'Another puppet?'

  'No. A human being with a first-rate mind and a wealth of experience who understood what faced us. I mourn her loss -and the manner of her death - more than you can imagine. '

  'Is it her loss, sir, or is it the fact that your holy operation was penetrated!'

  'How dare you?' Havilland, his voice low and cold, rose from the chair and stared at the CIA man. 'It's a little late for you to be moralizing, Mr Conklin. Your lapses have been all too apparent in the areas of deception and ethics. If you'd had your way, there'd be no David Webb, no Jason Bourne. You put him beyond-salvage, no one else did. You planned his execution and nearly succeeded. '

  'I've paid for that lapse. Christ, how I've paid for it!'

  'And I suspect you're still paying for it, or you wouldn't be in Hong Kong now,' said the ambassador, nodding his head slowly, the coldness leaving his voice. 'Lower your cannons,

  Mr Conklin, and I'll do the same. Catherine Staples really did understand, and if there's any meaning in her death, let's try and find it. '

  'I haven't the vaguest idea where to start looking. '

  'You'll be given chapter and verse . . . just as Staples was. '

  'Maybe I shouldn't hear it. '

  'I have no choice but to insist that you do. '

  'I guess you weren't listening. You've been penetrated! The Staples woman was killed because it was assumed she had information that called for her to be taken out. In short, the mole who's bored his way in here saw her in a meeting or meetings with both of you. The Canadian connection was made, the order given, and you let her walk around without protection!'

  'Are you afraid for your life?' asked the ambassador.

  'Constantly,' replied the CIA man. 'And right now I'm also concerned with someone else's. ' 'Webb's?'

  Conklin paused, studying the old diplomat's face. 'If what I believe is true,' he said quietly. There's nothing I can do for Delta that he can't do better for himself. But if he doesn't make it, I know what he'd ask me to do. Protect Marie. And I can do that best by fighting you, not listening to you. '

  'And how do you propose fighting me?'

  The only way I know how. Down and very dirty. I'll spread the word in all those dark corners in Washington that this time you've gone too far, you've lost your grip, maybe at your age even looney. I've got Marie's story, Mo Panov's-'

  ''Morris Panov?' interrupted Havilland cautiously. 'Webb's psychiatrist?'

  'You get another cigar. And, last of all, my own contribution. Incidentally, to jog your memory, I'm the only one who talked to David before he came over here. All together, including the slaughter of a Canadian foreign service officer, they'd make interesting reading- as affidavits, carefully circulated, of course. '

  'By so doing you'd jeopardize everything!'

  'Your problem, not mine. '

  Then, again, I'd have no choice,' said the ambassador, ice once more in his eyes and in his voice. 'As you issued an order for beyond-salvage, I'd be forced to do the same. You wouldn't leave here alive. '

  'Oh, my God!' whispered McAllister from across the room.

  That'd be the dumbest thing you could do,' said Conklin, his eyes locked with Havilland's. 'You don't know what I've left behind or with whom. Or what's released if I don't make contact by a certain time with certain people and so on. Don't underestimate me,'

  'We thought you might resort to that kind of tactic,' said the diplomat, walking away from the CIA man as if dismissing him, and returning to his chair. 'You also left something else behind, Mr Conklin. To put it kindly, perhaps accurately, you were known to have a chronic illness called alcoholism. In anticipation of your imminent retirement, and in recognition of your long-past accomplishments, no disciplinary measures were taken, but neither were you given any responsibility. You were merely tolerated, a useless relic about to go to pasture, a drunk whose paranoid outbursts were the talk and concern of your colleagues. Whatever might surface from whatever source would be categorized and substantiated as the incoherent ramblings of a crippled, psychopathic alcoholic. ' The ambassador leaned back in the chair, his elbow resting on the arm, the long fingers of his right hand touching his chin. 'You are to be pitied, Mr Conklin, not censured. The dovetailing of events might be dramatized by your suicide-'

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