The bourne supremacy, p.29
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       The Bourne Supremacy, p.29

         Part #2 of Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum
 
Page 29

 

  'I agree,' said Webb. 'It's very good. How much?

  'Three hundred dollars,' replied the woman simply. 'Of course, that includes five packets of custom-made rinse powder with instructions and the tightest lips in Washington. The first will hold you for a couple of months, the second for the rest of your life. '

  'You're all heart. ' David reached into his pocket for his leather money clip, counted out the bills and gave them to her. 'Cactus said you'd call him when we were finished. '

  'No need to; he's got his timing down. He's in the parlour. '

  The parlour?

  'Oh, I guess it's a hallway with a settee and a floor lamp, but I do so like to call it a parlour. Sounds nice, don't it?

  The photo session went swiftly, interrupted by Cactus's reshaping his eyebrows with a toothbrush and a spray for the three separate shots and changing shirts and jackets - Cactus had a wardrobe worthy of a costume supply house - and wearing in turn two pairs of glasses - tortoiseshell and steel-rimmed - which altered his hazel eyes respectively to blue and brown. The specialist then proceeded to insert the photos in place and under a large, powerful magnifying glass skillfully stamped out the original State Department perforations with a tool of his own design. When he had finished, he handed the three passports to David for his approval.

  'Ain't no customs jockey gonna' pick on them,' said Cactus confidently.

  They look more authentic than they did before. '

  'I cleaned 'em up, which is to say I gave 'em a few creases and some ageing. '

  'It's terrific work, old friend - older than I can remember, I know that. What do I owe you?

  'Oh, hell, I don't know. It was such a little job and it's been such a big year what with all the hasslin' goin' on-'

  'How much, Cactus?

  'What's comfortable? I don't figure you're on Uncle's payroll. '

  'I'm doing very nicely, thanks. '

  'Five hundred's fine. '

  'Call me a cab, will you?

  Takes too long, and that's if you can get one out here. My grandson's waiting for you; he'll drive you wherever you want to go. He's like me, he don't ask questions. And you're in a hurry, David, I can sense that. Come on, I'll see you to the door. '

  Thanks. I'll leave the cash here on the counter. ' 'Fine. '

  Removing the money from his pocket, his back to Cactus, Webb counted out six $500 bills and left them in the darkest area of the studio counter. At $1, 000 apiece the passports were a gift, but to leave more might offend his old friend.

  He returned to the hotel, getting out of the car several blocks away in the middle of a busy intersection so that Cactus's grandson could not be compromised where an address was concerned. The young man, as it happened, was a senior at American University, and although he obviously adored his grandfather, he was just as obviously apprehensive about being any part of the old man's endeavors.

  'I'll get out here,' said David in the stalled traffic.

  Thanks,' responded the young Black, his voice pleasantly calm, his intelligent eyes showing relief. 'I appreciate it. '

  Webb looked at him. 'Why did you do it? I mean, for someone who's going to be a lawyer, I'd think your antenna would work overtime around Cactus. '

  'It does, constantly. But he's a great old guy who's done a lot for me. Also, he said something to me. He said it would be a privilege for me to meet you, that maybe years from now he'd tell me who the stranger was in my car. '

  'I hope I can come back a lot sooner and tell you myself. I'm no privilege, but there's a story to tell that could end up in the law books. Good-bye. '

  Back in his hotel room, David faced a final list that needed no items written out; he knew them. He had to select the few clothes he would take in the large flight bag and get rid of the rest of his possessions, including the two weapons that in his outrage he had brought down from Maine. It was one thing to dismantle and wrap in foil the parts of a gun to be placed in a suitcase, and quite another to carry weapons through a security gate. They would be picked up; he would be picked up. He had to wipe them clean, destroy the firing pins and trigger housings and drop them into a sewer. He would buy a weapon in Hong Kong; it was not a difficult purchase.

  There was a last thing he had to do, and it was difficult and painful. He had to force himself to sit down and rethink everything that had been said by Edward McAllister that early evening in Maine - everything they all had said, in particular Marie's words. Something was buried somewhere in that highly charged hour of revelation and confrontation, and David knew he had missed it - was missing it.

  He looked at his watch. It was 3: 37; the day was passing quickly, nervously. He had to hold on Oh, God, Marie! Where are you?

  Conklin put down his glass of flat ginger ale on the scratched, soiled bar of the seedy establishment on 9th Street. He was a regular patron for the simple reason that no one in his professional circles - and what was left of his social one -would ever walk through the filthy glass doors. There was a certain freedom in that knowledge, and the other patrons accepted him, the 'gimp' who always took off his tie the moment he entered, limping his way to a stool by the pinball machine at the end of the bar. And whenever he did, the rocks-glass filled with bourbon was waiting for him. Also, the owner-bartender had no objections to Alex receiving calls at the still- standing antiquated booth against the wall. It was his 'sterile phone', and it was ringing now.

  Conklin trudged across the floor, entered the old booth and closed the door. He picked up the phone. 'Yes? he said.

  'Is this Treadstone?' asked an odd-sounding male voice.

  'I was there. Were you?

  'No, I wasn't, but I'm cleared for the file, for the whole mess. ' The voice! thought Alex. How had Webb described it? Anglicized? Mid-Atlantic, refined, certainly not ordinary. It was the same man. The gnomes had been working; they had made progress. Someone was afraid.

  'Then I'm sure your memory corresponds with everything I've written down because I was there and I have written it down - written it all down. Facts, names, events, substantiations, back-ups. . . everything, including the story Webb told me last night. '

  'Then I can assume that if anything ugly happened, your voluminous reportage will find its way to a Senate subcommittee or a pack of congressional watchdogs. Am I right?'

  'I'm glad we understand each other. '

  'It wouldn't do any good,' said the man condescendingly.

  'If anything ugly happened, I wouldn't care, would IT

  'You're about to retire. You drink a great deal. '

  'I didn't always. There's usually a reason for both of those things for a man of my age and competence. Could they be admittedly tied into a certain file?'

  'Forget it. Let's talk. '

  'Not before you say something a little closer. Treadstone was bandied about here and there; it's not that substantive. '

  'All right. Medusa. '

  'Stronger,' said Alex. 'But not strong enough. '

  'Very well. The creation of Jason Bourne. The Monk. '

  'Warmer. '

  'Missing funds - unaccounted for and never recovered -estimated to be around five million dollars. Zurich, Paris, and points west. '

 
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