The bourne supremacy, p.6
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       The Bourne Supremacy, p.6

         Part #2 of Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum
 
Page 6

 

  'You were meant to accept that version,' said Havilland, leaning back in his chair.

  'I beg your pardon?

  'The only man Jason Bourne ever killed in post-Vietnam Asia was an enraged conduit who tried to kill him. '

  Stunned, McAllister stared at the diplomat. 'I don't understand. '

  'The Jason Bourne you've just described never existed. He was a myth. '

  'You can't be serious. '

  'Never more so. Those were turbulent times in the Far East. The drug networks operating out of the Golden Triangle were fighting a disorganized, unpublicized war. Consuls, vice-consuls, police, politicians, criminal gangs, border patrols -the highest and the lowest social orders - all were

  affected. Money in unimaginable amounts was the mother's milk of corruption. Whenever and wherever a well-publicized killing took place - regardless of the circumstances or those accused - Bourne was on the scene and took credit for the kill. '

  'He was the killer,' insisted a confused McAllister. There were the signs, his signs. Everyone knew it!'

  'Everyone assumed it, Mr Undersecretary. A mocking telephone call to the police, a small article of clothing sent in the mail, a black bandanna found in the bushes a day later. They were all part of the strategy. '

  The strategy? What are you talking about?

  'Jason Bourne - the original Jason Bourne - was a convicted murderer, a fugitive whose life ended with a bullet in his head in a place called Tarn Quan during the last months of the Vietnam war. It was a jungle execution. The man was a traitor. His corpse was left to rot - he simply disappeared. Several years later, the man who executed him took on his identity for one of our projects, a project that nearly succeeded, should have succeeded, but went off the wire. '

  'Off the what?

  'Out of control. That man - that very brave man - who went underground for us, using the name "Jason Bourne" for three years, was injured, and the result of those injuries was amnesia. He lost his memory; he neither knew who he was nor who he was meant to be. '

  'Good Lord

  'He was between a rock and a hard place. With the help of an alcoholic doctor on a Mediterranean island he tried to trace his life, his identity, and here, I'm afraid, he failed. He failed but the woman who befriended him did not fail; she's now his wife. Her instincts were accurate; she knew he wasn't a killer. She purposely forced him to examine his words, his abilities, ultimately to make the contacts that would lead him back to us. But we, with the most sophisticated intelligence apparatus in the world, did not listen to the human quotient. We set a trap to kill him-'

  'I must interrupt, Mr Ambassador,' said Reilly.

  'Why? asked Havilland. 'It's what we did and we're not on tape. '

  'An individual made the determination, not the United States Government. That should be clear, sir. '

  'All right,' agreed the diplomat, nodding. 'His name was Conklin, but it's irrelevant, Jack.

  'Government personnel went along. It happened. '

  'Government personnel were also instrumental in saving his life. '

  'Somewhat after the fact,' muttered Havilland.

  'But why?' asked McAllister. He now leaned forward, mesmerized by the bizarre story. 'He was one of us. Why would anyone want to kill him?'

  'His loss of memory was taken for something else. It was erroneously believed that he had turned, that he had killed three of his controls and disappeared with a great deal of money - government funds totalling over five million dollars. '

  'Five million. . . ?' Astonished, the undersecretary slowly sank back into the chair. 'Funds of that magnitude were available to him personally?

  'Yes,' said the ambassador. 'They, too, were part of the strategy, part of the project. '

  'I assume this is where silence is necessary. The project, I mean. '

  'It's imperative,' answered Reilly. 'Not because of the project - in spite of what happened we make no apology for that operation - but because of the man we recruited to become Jason Bourne and where he came from. '

  'That's cryptic. ' 'It'll become clear. '

  'The project, please. '

  Reilly looked at Raymond Havilland; the diplomat nodded and spoke. 'We created a killer to draw out and trap the most deadly assassin in Europe. '

  'Carlos?'

  'You're quick, Mr Undersecretary. '

  'Who else was there? In Asia, Bourne and the Jackal were constantly being compared. '

  'Those comparisons were encouraged,' said Havilland. 'Often magnified and spread by the strategists of the project, a group known as Treadstone Seventy-one. The name was derived from a sterile house on New York's Seventy-first Street where the resurrected Jason Bourne was trained. It was the command post and a name you should be aware of. '

  'I see,' said McAllister pensively. Then those comparisons, growing as they did with Bourne's reputation, served as a challenge to Carlos. That's when Bourne moved to Europe -to bring the challenge directly to the Jackal. To force him to come out and confront his challenger. '

  ' Very quick, Mr Undersecretary. In a nutshell, that was the strategy. '

  'It's extraordinary. Brilliant actually, and one doesn't have to be an expert to see that. God knows I'm not. '

  'You may become one-'

  'And you say this man who became Bourne, the mythical assassin, spent three years playing the role and then was injured-'

  'Shot,' interrupted Havilland. 'Membranes in his skull were blown away. '

  'And he lost his memory?'

  'Totally. '

  'My God!'

  'Yet despite everything that happened to him, and with the woman's help - she was an economist for the Canadian Government, incidentally - he came within moments of pulling the whole damn thing off. A remarkable story, isn't it?'

  'It's incredible. But what kind of man would do this, could do it?'

  The redheaded John Reilly coughed softly; the ambassador deferred with a glance. 'We're now reaching ground zero,' the big man said, again shifting his bulk to look at McAllister. 'If you've any doubts I can still let you go. '

  'I try not to repeat myself. You have your tape. '

  'It's your appetite. '

  'I suppose that's another way you people have of saying there might not even be a trial. '

  'I'd never say that. '

  McAllister swallowed, his eyes meeting the calm gaze of the man from the NSC. He turned to Havilland. 'Please go on, Mr Ambassador. Who is this man? Where did he come from?'

  'His name is David Webb. He's currently an associate professor of Oriental Studies at a small university in Maine and married to the Canadian woman who literally guided him out of his labyrinth. Without her he would have been killed - but then without him she would have ended up a corpse in Zurich. '

  'Remarkable,' said McAllister, barely audible.

  'The point is, she's his second wife. His first marriage ended in a tragic act of wanton slaughter - that's when his story began for us. A number of years ago Webb was a young foreign service officer stationed in Phnom Penh, a brilliant Far East scholar, fluent in several Oriental languages and married to a girl from Thailand he'd met in graduate school. They lived in a house on a riverbank and had two children. It was an ideal life for such a man. It combined the expertise Washington needed in the area with the opportunity to live in his own museum. Then the Vietnam action escalated and one morning a lone jet fighter - no one really knows from which side, but no one ever told Webb that - swooped down at low altitude and strafed his wife and children while they were playing in the water. Their bodies were riddled. They floated into the riverbank as Webb was trying to reach them; he gathered them in his arms, screaming helplessly at the disappearing plane above. '

 
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