The bourne supremacy, p.24
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       The Bourne Supremacy, p.24

         Part #2 of Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum
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Page 24




  'Why do I feel you're not being entirely truthful with me?'

  Webb remembered. 'Because I've never been in this position before,' he said. 'Asking a favour from a friend because of someone I'd rather hot think about. '

  David hung up the phone.

  The flight from Boston to Washington was maddening because of a fossilized professor of pedantry - David never did get the course - who had the seat next to his. The man's voice droned on throughout the flight. It was only when they landed at National Airport that the pedant admitted the truth.

  'I've been a bore, but do forgive me. I'm terrified of flying so I just keep chattering. Silly, isn't it?'

  'Not at all, but why didn't you say so? It's hardly a crime. '

  'Fear of peer pressure, or scoffing condemnation, I imagine. '

  'I'll remember that the next time I'm sitting next to someone like you. ' Webb smiled briefly. 'Maybe I could help. '

  That's kind of you. And very honest. Thank you. Thank you so much. '

  'You're welcome. '

  David retrieved his suitcase from the luggage belt and went outside for a taxi, annoyed that the cabs were not taking single fares but insisting on two or more passengers going in the same direction. His backseat companion was a woman, an attractive woman who used body language in concert with imploring eyes. It made no sense to him, so he made no sense of her, thanking her for dropping him off first.

  He registered at the Jefferson Hotel on 16th Street, under a false name invented at the moment. The hotel, however, was not an impulse; it was a block and a half from Conklin's apartment, the same apartment the CIA officer had lived in for nearly twenty years when he was not in the field. It was an address David made sure to get before he left Virginia, again instinct - visceral distrust. He had a telephone number as well, but knew it was useless; he could not phone Conklin. The one- time deep cover strategist would mount defences, more mental than physical, and Webb wanted to confront an unprepared man. There would be no warning, only a presence demanding a debt that was owed and must now be paid.

  David glanced at his watch; it was ten minutes to midnight, as good a time as any and better than most. He washed, changed his shirt and finally dug out one of the two dismantled guns from his suitcase, removing it from the thick, foil-lined bag. He snapped the parts in place, tested the firing mechanism and shoved the clip into the receiving chamber. He held the weapon out and studied his hand, satisfied that there was no tremor. It felt clean and unremarkable. Eight hours ago he would not have believed he could hold a gun in his hand for fear he might fire it. That was eight hours ago, not now. Now it was comfortable, a part of him, an extension of Jason Bourne.

  He left the Jefferson and walked down 16th Street, turning right at the corner and noting the descending numbers of the old apartments - very old apartments, reminding him of the brownstones on the Upper East Side of New York. There was a curious logic in the observation, considering Conklin's role in the Treadstone project, he thought. Treadstone 71's sterile house in Manhattan had been a brownstone, an odd, bulging structure with upper windows of tinted blue glass. He could see it so clearly, hear the voices so clearly, without really understanding - the incubating factory for Jason Bourne.

  Do it again!

  Who is the face?

  What's his background? His method of kill?

  Wrong! You're wrong! Do it again!

  Who's this? What's the connection to Carlos?

  Damn it, think! There can be no mistakes!

  A brownstone. Where his other self was created, the man he needed so much now.

  There it was, Conklin's apartment. He was on the first floor, facing front. The lights were on; Alex was home and awake. Webb crossed the street, aware that a misty drizzle had suddenly filled the air, diffusing the glare of the streetlamps, halos beneath the orbs of rippled glass. He walked up the steps and opened the door to the short foyer; he stepped inside and studied the names under the mailboxes of the six flats. Each had a webbed circle under the name into which a caller announced himself.

  There was no time for complicated invention. If Panov's verdict was accurate, his voice would be sufficient. He pressed Conklin's button and waited for a response; it came after the better part of a minute.

  'Yes? Who's there?'

  'Harry Babcock heah,' said David, the accent exaggerated. 'I've got to see you, Alex. '

  'Harry? What the hell. . . ? Sure, sure, come on up!' The buzzer droned, broken off once - a finger momentarily displaced.

  David went inside and ran up the narrow staircase to the first floor, hoping to be outside Conklin's door when he opened it. He arrived less than a second before Alex, who, with his eyes only partially focused, pulled back the door and began to scream. Webb lunged, clamping his hand across Conklin's face, twisting the CIA man around in a hammerlock and kicking the door shut.

  He had not physically attacked a person for as long as he could remember with any accuracy. It should have been strange, even awkward, but it was neither. It was perfectly natural. Oh, Christ!

  'I'm going to take my hand away, Alex, but if you raise your voice it goes back. And you won't survive if it does, is that clear? David removed his hand, yanking Conklin's head back as he did so.

  'You're one hell of a surprise,' said the CIA man, coughing, and lurching into a limp as he was released. 'You also call for a drink. '

  'I gather it's a pretty steady diet. '

  'We are what we are,' answered Conklin, awkwardly reaching down for an empty glass on the coffee table in front of a large, well-worn couch. He carried it over to a copper-plated dry bar against the wall where identical bottles of bourbon stood in a single row. There were no mixers, no water, just an ice bucket; it was not a bar for guests. It was for the host in residence, its gleaming metal proclaiming it to be an extravagance the resident permitted himself. The rest of the living room was not in its class. Somehow that copper bar was a statement.

  'To what,' continued Conklin, pouring himself a drink, 'do I owe this dubious pleasure? You refused to see me in Virginia - said you'd kill me, and that's a fact. That's what you said. You'd kill me if I walked through the door, you said that. '

  'You're drunk. ' 'Probably. But then I usually am around this time. Do you want to start out with a lecture? It won't do a hell of a lot of good, but give it the old college try if you want to. '

  'You're sick. '

  'No, I'm drunk, that's what you said. Am I repeating myself?

  'Ad nauseam. '

  'Sorry about that. ' Conklin replaced the bottle, took several swallows from his glass and looked at Webb. 'I didn't walk through your door, you came through mine, but I suppose that's immaterial. Did you come here to finally carry out your threat, to fulfil the prophecy, to put past wrongs to rights or whatever you call it? That rather obvious flat bulge under your jacket I doubt is a pint of whisky. '

  'I no longer have an overriding urge to see you dead, but yes, I may kill you. You could provoke that urge very easily. '

  'Fascinating. How could I do that?'

  'By not providing me with what I need - and you can provide it. '

  'You must know something I don't. '

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