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Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Sanction
by Eric Van Lustbader
Grand Central Publishing, 2008
WHO IS DAVID Webb?"
Moira Trevor, standing in front of his desk at Georgetown University, asked the question so seriously that Jason Bourne felt obliged to answer.
"Strange," he said, "no one's ever asked me that before. David Webb is a linguistics expert, a man with two children who are living happily with their grandparents" --- Marie's parents --- "on a ranch in Canada."
Moira frowned. "Don't you miss them?"
"I miss them terribly," Bourne said, "but the truth is they're far better off where they are. What kind of life could I offer them? And then there's the constant danger from my Bourne identity. Marie was kidnapped and threatened in order to force me to do something I had no intention of doing. I won't make that mistake again."
"But surely you see them from time to time."
"As often as I can, but it's difficult. I can't afford to have anyone following me back to them."
"My heart goes out to you," Moira said, meaning it. She smiled. "I must say it's odd seeing you here, on a university campus, behind a desk." She laughed. "Shall I buy you a pipe and a jacket with elbow patches?"
Bourne smiled. "I'm content here, Moira. Really I am."
"I'm happy for you. Martin's death was difficult for both of us. My anodyne is going back to work full-bore. Yours is obviously here, in a new life."
"An old life, really." Bourne looked around the office. "Marie was happiest when I was teaching, when she could count on me being home every night in time to have dinner with her and the kids."
"What about you?" Moira asked. "Were you happiest here?"
A cloud passed across Bourne's face. "I was happy being with Marie." He turned to her. "I can't imagine being able to say that to anyone else but you."
"A rare compliment from you, Jason."
"Are my compliments so rare?"
"Like Martin, you're a master at keeping secrets," she said. "But I have doubts about how healthy that is."
"I'm sure it's not healthy at all," Bourne said. "But it's the life we chose.
"Speaking of which." She sat down on a chair opposite him. "I came early for our dinner date to talk to you about a work situation, but now, seeing how content you are here, I don't know whether to continue."
Bourne recalled the first time he had seen her, a slim, shapely figure in the mist, dark hair swirling about her face. She was standing at the parapet in the Cloisters, overlooking the Hudson River. The two of them had come there to say good-bye to their mutual friend Martin Lindros, whom Bourne had valiantly tried to save, only to fail.
Today Moira was dressed in a wool suit, a silk blouse open at the throat. Her face was strong, with a prominent nose, deep brown eyes wide apart, intelligent, curved slightly at their outer corners. Her hair fell to her shoulders in luxuriant waves. There was an uncommon serenity about her, a woman who knew what she was about, who wouldn't be intimidated or bullied by anyone, woman or man.
Perhaps this last was what Bourne liked best about her. In that, though in no other way, she was like Marie. He had never pried into her relationship with Martin, but he assumed it had been romantic, since Martin had given Bourne standing orders to send her a dozen red roses should he ever die. This Bourne had done, with a sadness whose depth surprised even him.
Settled in her chair, one long, shapely leg crossed over her knee, she looked the model of a European businesswoman. She had told him that she was half French, half English, but her genes still carried the imprint of ancient Venetian and Turkish ancestors. She was proud of the fire in her mixed blood, the result of wars, invasions, fierce love.
"Go on." He leaned forward, elbows on his desk. "I want to hear what you have to say."
She nodded. "All right. As I've told you, NextGen Energy Solutions has completed our new liquid natural gas terminal in Long Beach. Our first shipment is due in two weeks. I had this idea, which now seems utterly crazy, but here goes. I'd like you to head up the security procedures. My bosses are worried the terminal would make an awfully tempting target for any terrorist group, and I agree. Frankly, I can't think of anyone who'd make it more secure than you."
"I'm flattered, Moira. But I have obligations here. As you know, Professor Specter has installed me as the head of the Comparative Linguistics Department. I don't want to disappoint him."
"I like Dominic Specter, Jason, really I do. You've made it clear that he's your mentor. Actually, he's David Webb's mentor, right? But it's Jason Bourne I first met, it feels like it's Jason Bourne I've been coming to know these last few months. Who is Jason Bourne's mentor?"
Bourne's face darkened, as it had at the mention of Marie. "Alex Conklin's dead."
Moira shifted in her chair. "If you come work with me there's no baggage attached to it. Think about it. It's a chance to leave your past lives behind --- both David Webb's and Jason Bourne's. I'm flying to Munich shortly because a key element of the terminal is being manufactured there. I need an expert opinion on it when I check the specs."
"Moira, there are any number of experts you can use."
"But none whose opinion I trust as much as yours. This is crucial stuff, Jason. More than half the goods shipped into the United States come through the port at Long Beach, so our security measures have to be something special. The US government has already shown it has neither the time nor the inclination to secure commercial traffic, so we're forced to police it ourselves. The danger to this terminal is real and it's serious. I know how expert you are at bypassing even the most arcane security systems. You're the perfect candidate to put nonconventional measures into place."
Bourne stood. "Moira, listen to me. Marie was David Webb's biggest cheerleader. Since her death, I've let go of him completely. But he's not dead, he's not an invalid. He lives on inside me. When I fall asleep I dream of his life as if it was someone else's, and I wake up in a sweat. I feel as if a part of me has been sliced off. I don't want to feel that way anymore. It's time to give David Webb his due."
Veronica Hart's step was light and virtually carefree as she was admitted past checkpoint after checkpoint on her way into the bunker that was the West Wing of the White House. The job she was about to be handed --- director of Central Intelligence --- was a formidable one, especially in the aftermath of last year's twin debacles of murder and gross breach of security. Nevertheless, she had never been happier. Having a sense of purpose was vital to her; being singled out for daunting responsibility was the ultimate validation of all the arduous work, setbacks, and threats she'd had to endure because of her gender.
There was also the matter of her age. At forty-six she was the youngest DCI in recent memory. Being the youngest at something was nothing new to her. Her astonishing intelligence combined with her fierce determination to ensure that she was the youngest to graduate from her college, youngest to be appointed to military intelligence, to central army command, to a highly lucrative Black River private intelligence position in Afghanistan and the Horn of Africa where, to this day, not even the heads of the seven directorates within CI knew precisely where she had been posted, whom she commanded, or what her mission had been.
Now, at last, she was steps away from the apex, the top of the intelligence heap. She'd successfully leapt all the hurdles, sidestepped every trap, negotiated every maze, learned who to befriend and who to show her back to. She had endured relentless sexual innuendo, rumors of conduct unbecoming, stories of her reliance on her male inferiors who supposedly did her thinking for her. In each case she had triumphed, emphatically putting a stake through the heart of the lies and, in some instances, taking down their instigators.
She was, at this stage of her life, a force to be reckoned with, a fact in which she justifiably reveled. So it was with a light heart that she approached her meeting with the president. In her briefcase was a thick file detailing the changes she proposed to make in CI to clean up the unholy mess left behind by Karim al-Jamil and the subsequent murder of her predecessor. Not surprisingly, CI was in total disarray, morale had never been lower, and of course there was resentment across the board from the all-male directorate heads, each of whom felt he should have been elevated to DCI.
The chaos and low morale were about to change, and she had a raft of initiatives to ensure it. She was absolutely certain that the president would be delighted not only with her plans but also with the speed with which she would implement them. An intelligence organization as important and vital as CI could not long endure the despair into which it had sunk. Only the anti-terrorist black ops, Typhon, brainchild of Martin Lindros, was running normally, and for that she had its new director, Soraya Moore, to thank. Soraya's assumption of command had been seamless. Her operatives loved her, would follow her into the fires of Hades should she ask it of them. As for the rest of CI, it was for herself to heal, energize, and give a refocused sense of purpose.
She was surprised --- perhaps shocked wasn't too strong a word --- to find the Oval Office occupied not only by the president but also by Luther LaValle, the Pentagon's intelligence czar, and his deputy, General Richard P. Kendall. Ignoring the others, she walked across the plush American blue carpet to shake the president's hand. She was tall, longnecked, and slender. Her ash-blond hair was cut in a stylish fashion that fell short of being masculine but lent her a business-like air. She wore a midnight-blue suit, low-heeled pumps, small gold earrings, and a minimum of makeup. Her nails were cut square across.
"Please have a seat, Veronica," the president said. "You know Luther LaValle and General Kendall."
"Yes." Veronica inclined her head fractionally. "Gentlemen, a pleasure to see you." Though nothing could be farther from the truth.
She hated LaValle. In many ways he was the most dangerous man in American intelligence, not the least because he was backed by the immensely powerful E. R. "Bud" Halliday, the secretary of defense. LaValle was a power-hungry egotist who believed that he and his people should be running American intelligence, period. He fed on war the way other people fed on meat and potatoes. And though she had never been able to prove it, she suspected that he was behind several of the more lurid rumors that had circulated about her. He enjoyed ruining other people's reputations, savored standing impudently on the skulls of his enemies.
Ever since Afghanistan and, subsequently, Iraq, LaValle had seized the initiative --- under the typically wide-ranging and murky Pentagon rubric of "preparing the battlefield" for the troops to come --- to expand the purview of the Pentagon's intelligence-gathering initiatives until now they encroached uncomfortably on those of CI. It was an open secret within American intelligence circles that he coveted CI's operatives and its long-established international networks. Now, with the Old Man and his anointed successor dead, it would fit LaValle's MO to try to make a land grab in the most aggressive manner possible. This was why his presence and that of his lapdog set off the most serious warning bells inside Veronica's mind.
There were three chairs ranged in a rough semicircle in front of the president's desk. Two of them were, of course, filled. Veronica took the third chair, acutely aware that she was flanked by the two men, doubtless by design. She laughed inwardly. If these two thought to intimidate her by making her feel surrounded, they were sorely mistaken. But then as the president began to talk she hoped to God her laugh wouldn't echo hollowly in her mind an hour from now.
Dominic Specter hurried around the corner as Bourne was locking the door to his office. The deep frown that creased his high forehead vanished the moment he saw Bourne.
"David, I'm so glad I caught you before you left!" he said with great enthusiasm. Then, turning his charm on Bourne's companion, he added, "And with the magnificent Moira, no less." As always the perfect gentleman, he bowed to her in the Old World European fashion.
He returned his attention to Bourne. He was a short man full of unbridled energy despite his seventy-odd years. His head seemed perfectly round, surmounted by a halo of hair that wound from ear to ear. His eyes were dark and inquisitive, his skin a deep bronze. His generous mouth made him look vaguely and amusingly like a frog about to spring from one lily pad to another. "A matter of some concern has come up and I need your opinion." He smiled. "I see that this evening is out of the question. Would dinner tomorrow be inconvenient?"
Bourne discerned something behind Specter's smile that gave him pause; something was troubling his old mentor. "Why don't we meet for breakfast?"
"Are you certain I'm not putting you out, David?" But he couldn't hide the relief that flooded his face.
"Actually, breakfast is better for me," Bourne lied, to make things easier for Specter. "Eight o'clock?"
"Splendid! I look forward to it." With a nod in Moira's direction he was off.
"A firecracker," Moira said. "If only I'd had professors like him."
Bourne looked at her. "Your college years must've been hell."
She laughed. "Not quite as bad as all that, but then I only had two years of it before I fled to Berlin."
"If you'd had professors like Dominic Specter, your experience would have been far different, believe me." They sidestepped several knots of students gathered to gossip or to trade questions about their last classes.
They strode along the corridor, out the doors, descended the steps to the quad. He and Moira walked briskly across campus in the direction of the restaurant where they would have dinner. Students streamed past them, hurrying down the paths between trees and lawns. Somewhere a band was playing in the stolid, almost plodding rhythm endemic to colleges and universities. The sky was steeped in clouds, scudding overhead like clipper ships on the high seas. A dank winter wind came streaming in off the Potomac.
"There was a time when I was plunged deep in depression. I knew it but I wouldn't accept it --- you know what I mean. Professor Specter was the one who connected with me, who was able to crack the shell I was using to protect myself. To this day I have no idea how he did it or even why he persevered. He said he saw something of himself in me. In any event, he wanted to help."
They passed the ivy-covered building where Specter, who was now the president of the School of International Studies at Georgetown, had his office. Men in tweed coats and corduroy jackets passed in and out of the doors, frowns of deep concentration on their faces.
"Professor Specter gave me a job teaching linguistics. It was like a life preserver to a drowning man. What I needed most then was a sense of order and stability. I honestly don't know what would have happened to me if not for him. He alone understood that immersing myself in language makes me happy. No matter who I've been, the one constant is my proficiency with languages. Learning languages is like learning history from the inside out. It encompasses the battles of ethnicity, religion, compromise, politics. So much can be learned from language because it's been shaped by history."
By this time they had left campus and were walking down 36th Street, NW, toward 1789, a favorite restaurant of Moira's, which was housed in a Federal town house. When they arrived, they were shown to a window table on the second floor in a dim, paneled, old-fashioned room with candles burning brightly on tables set with fine china and sparkling stemware. They sat down facing each other and ordered drinks.
Bourne leaned across the table, said in a low voice,"Listen to me, Moira, because I'm going to tell you something very few people know. The Bourne identity continues to haunt me. Marie used to worry that the decisions I was forced to make, the actions I had to take as Jason Bourne would eventually drain me of all feeling, that one day I'd come back to her and David Webb would be gone for good. I can't let that happen."
"Jason, you and I have spent quite a bit of time with each other since we met to scatter Martin's ashes. I've never seen a hint that you've lost any part of your humanity."
Both sat back, silent as the waiter set the drinks in front of them, handed them menus. As soon as he left, Bourne said, "That's reassuring, believe me. In the short time I've known you I've come to value your opinions. You're not like anyone else I've ever met."
Moira took a sip of her drink, set it down, all without taking her eyes from his. "Thank you. Coming from you that's quite a compliment, particularly because I know how special Marie was to you."
Bourne stared down at his drink.
Moira reached across the starched white linen for his hand. "I'm sorry, now you're drifting away."
He glanced at her hand over his but didn't pull away. When he looked up, he said, "I relied on her for many things. But I find now that those things are slipping away from me."
"Is that a bad thing, or a good thing?"
"That's just it," he said. "I don't know."
Moira saw the anguish in his face, and her heart went out to him. It was only months ago that she'd seen him standing by the parapet in the Cloisters. He was clutching the bronze urn holding Martin's ashes as if he never wanted to let it go. She'd known then, even if Martin hadn't told her, what they'd meant to each other.
"Martin was your friend," she said now. "You put yourself in terrible jeopardy to save him. Don't tell me you didn't feel anything for him. Besides, by your own admission, you're not Jason Bourne now. You're David Webb."
He smiled. "You have me there."
Her face clouded over. "I want to ask you a question, but I don't know whether I have the right."
At once, he responded to the seriousness of her expression. "Of course you can ask, Moira. Go on."
She took a deep breath, let it go. "Jason, I know you've said that you're content at the university, and if that's so, fine. But I also know you blame yourself for not being able to save Martin. You must understand, though, if you couldn't save him, no one could. You did your best; he knew that, I'm sure. And now I find myself wondering if you believe you failed him --- that you're not up to being Jason Bourne anymore. I wonder if you've ever considered the idea that you accepted Professor Specter's offer at the university in order to turn away from Jason Bourne's life."
"Of course I've considered it." After Martin's death he'd once again decided to turn his back on Jason Bourne's life, on the running, the deaths, a river that seemed to have as many bodies as the Ganges. Always, for him, memories lurked. The sad ones he remembered. The others, the shadowed ones that filled the halls of his mind, seemed to have shape until he neared them, when they flowed away like a tide at ebb. And what was left behind were the bleached bones of all those he'd killed or had been killed because of who he was. But he knew just as surely that as long as he drew breath, the Bourne identity wouldn't die.
There was a tormented look in his eyes. "You have to understand how difficult it is having two personalities, always at war with each other. I wish with every fiber of my being that I could cut one of them out of me."
Moira said, "Which one would it be?"
"That's the damnable part," Bourne said. "Every time I think I know, I realize that I don't."
Excerpted from Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Sanction Copyright © 2008 by Eric Van Lustbader. Reprinted with permission by Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.