The Bourne Sanction
Jason Bourne smiled. “To be honest, tonight I don’t know who I am.” He leaned forward, said very softly. “Listen to me, I want you to take your cell phone out of your handbag without anyone seeing. I want you to call me. Can you do that?”
Moira kept her eyes on his as she found her cell in her handbag, hit the appropriate speed-dial key. His cell phone chimed. He sat back, answered the call. He spoke into the phone as if someone was on the other end of the line. The he closed the phone, said, “I have to go. It’s an emergency. I’m sorry.”
She continued to stare at him “Could you act even the least bit upset?” she whispered.
His mouth turned down.
“Do you really have to go?” she said in a normal tone of voice. “Now?”
“Now.” Bourne threw some bills on the table. “I’ll be in touch.”
She nodded a bit quizzically, wondering what he’d seen or heard.
*Bourne went down the stairs and out of the restaurant. Immediately, he turned right, walked a quarter of a block, then entered a store selling handmade ceramics. Positioning himself so that he had a view of the street through the plate-glass window, he pretended to look at bowls and serving dishes.
Outside, people passed by – a young couple, an elderly man with a cane, three young women, laughing. But the man who’d been seated in the back corner of their room precisely ninety seconds after they sat down did not appear. Bourne had marked him the moment he’d come in, and when he’d asked for a table in back facing them, he’d had no doubt: someone was following him. All of a sudden, he’d felt that old anxiety that had roiled him when Marie and Martin had been threatened. He’d lost Martin, he wasn’t about to lose Moira as well.
Bourne, whose interior radar had swept the second-floor dining room every few minutes or so, hadn’t picked up anyone else of a suspicious nature, so he waited now inside the ceramics shop for the tail to amble by. When this didn’t occur after five minutes, Bourne went out the door and immediately strode across the street. Using streetlights and the reflective surfaces of windows and car mirrors, he spent another few minutes scrutinizing the area for any sign of the man at the table in back. After ascertaining he was nowhere to be found, Bourne returned to the restaurant.
He went up the stairs to the second floor, but paused in the dark hallway between the staircase and the dining room. There was the man at his rear table. To any casual observer he seemed to be reading the current issue of “The Washingtonian,” like any good tourist, but every once in a while, his gaze flicked upward for a fraction of a second, focused on Moira.
Bourne felt a little chill go through him. This man wasn’t following him; he was following Moira.
*Bourne walked the streets of Georgetown securely hidden within the crowds of college and university kids prowling the cobbles, looking for beer, girls and guys. He was discreetly shadowing the man in the restaurant, who was, in turn, following Moira.
Once he had determined that the man was her tail, he’d backed away, returned to the street, where he’d called Moira.
“Can you think of anyone who wants to keep tabs on you?”
“I guess several,” she said, unperturbed. “My own company, for one. I told you they’ve become paranoid ever since we started to build the LNG station in Long Beach. NoHold Energy might be another. They’ve been waving a vice-president’s job at me for six months. I could see them wanting to know more about me so they can sweeten their offer.”
“Other than those two?”
He told her what he wanted her to do, and now in the Georgetown night she was doing it. They always had habits, these watchers in the shadows, little peculiarities built up from all the boring hours spent at their lonely jobs. This one liked to be on the inside of the sidewalk so he could duck quickly into a doorway if need be.
Once he had the shadow’s idiosyncracies down, it was time to take him out. But as Bourne worked his way through the crowds, moving closer to the shadow, he saw something else. The man wasn’t alone. A second tail had taken up a parallel position on the opposite side of the street, which made sense. In this throng, if Moira decided to cross the street the first shadow might run into some difficulty keeping her in sight. These people, whoever they were, were leaving little to chance.
Bourne melted back, matching his pace to that of the crowd’s. At the same time he called Moira. She’d put in her Bluetooth earpiece so she could take his call without being conspicuous. Bourne gave her detailed instructions, then broke off following her shadows.
*Moira, the back of her neck tingling as if she were in the crosshairs of an assassin’s rifle, crossed the street, walked over to M Street. The main thing for her to keep in mind, Jason said, was to move at a normal pace, neither fast nor slow. Jason had alarmed her with the news that she was being followed. She had merely maintained the illusion of being calm. There were many people from both present and past who might be following her – a number of whom she didn’t mention when Jason had asked. Still, so close to the opening of the LNG terminal it was an ominous sign. She had desperately wanted to share with Jason the intel that had come to her today about the possibility of the terminal being a terrorist target, not in theory, but in reality. However, she couldn’t – not unless he was an employee of the company. She was bound by her iron-clad contract not to tell anyone outside the firm any confidential information.
At 31st St, NW, she turned south, walking toward the Canal Towpath. A third of the way down the block, on her side, was a discreet plaque on which the word JEWEL was etched. She opened the ruby-colored door, entered the high-priced new restaurant. This was the kind of place where dishes were accessorized with kaffir lime foam, freeze-dried ginger and ruby grapefruit pearls.
Smiling sweetly at the manager, she told him that she was looking for a friend. Before he could check his reservation book, she said her friend was with a man whose name she didn’t know. She’d been here several times, once with Jason, so she knew the layout. At the rear of the second room was a short corridor. Against the right-hand wall were two unisex bathrooms. If you kept on going, which she did, you came to the kitchen, all bright lights, stainless steel pans, copper pots, huge stovetops raging at high heat. Young men and women moved around the room in what seemed to her like military precision – sous-chefs, line cooks, expediters, pastry chef and her staff, all performing under the stern commands of the chef de cuisine.
They were all too concentrated on their respective tasks to give Moira much notice. By the time her figure did register she’d already disappeared out the rear door. In a back alley filled with Dumpsters, a White Top cab was waiting, its engine purring. She climbed in and the cab took off.
*Bourne, sunk deep into the shadows opposite the restaurant Jewel, saw the two men emerge. By the annoyed expressions on their faces he knew they’d lost Moira. He kept them in sight as they moved off together. One of them began to speak into a cell phone. He paused for a moment to ask his colleague a question, then returned to his conversation on the phone. By this time, the two had reached M St, NW. Finished with his call, the man put his cell phone away. They waited on the corner, watching the nubile young girls slipping by. They didn’t slouch, Bourne noted, but stood ramrod straight, their hands in view, at their sides. It appeared that they were waiting to be picked up; a good call on a night like this when parking was at a premium and traffic on M St, as thick as molasses.
Bourne, without a vehicle, looked around, saw a bicyclist coming up 31St, NW from the towpath. He was cycling along the gutter in order to avoid the traffic. Bourne walked smartly toward him and stepped in front of him. The cyclist stopped short, uttering a sharp exclamation.
“I need your bike,” Bourne said.
“Well, you bloody well can’t have it, mate,” the cyclist said with a heavy British accent.
At the corner of 31st and M, a black GMC SUV was pulling into the curb in front of the two men.
Bourne pressed four-hundred dollars into the cyclist’s hand. “Like I said, right now.”
The young man stared down at the money for a moment. Then he swung off, said, “Be my guest.”
As Bourne mounted up, he handed over his helmet, “You’ll be wanting this, mate.”
The two men had already vanished into the GMC’s interior, the SUV was pulling out into the thick traffic flow. Bourne took off, leaving the cyclist to shrug behind him as he climbed onto the sidewalk.
Reaching the corner, Bourne turned right onto M St. The GMC was three cars ahead of him. Bourne wove his way around the traffic, moving into position to keep up with the SUV. At 30th St, NW, they all hit a red light. Bourne was forced to put one foot down, which was why he got a late start when the GMC jumped the light just before it turned green. The SUV roared ahead of the other vehicles and Bourne launched himself forward. A white Toyota was coming from 30th St into the intersection, heading right for him at a 45-degree angle. Bourne put on a burst of speed, swerved up onto the corner sidewalk, backing a clutch of pedestrians into those behind them, to a round of curses. The Toyota, horn blaring angrily, just missed him as it jounced across M St.
Bourne was able to make good headway as the GMC had been slowed by the sludgy traffic up ahead, splitting off where M St. and Pennsylvania Ave, NW intersected at 29th St. Just as he neared the light he saw the GMC take off and knew he had been spotted. The problem with a bicycle, especially one that had caused a minor uproar lunging through a red light was that the cyclist became conspicuous, exactly the opposite of what was intended.
Making the best of a worsening situation, Bourne threw caution to the wind, following the accelerating GMC into the fork, as it took Pennsylvania Ave. The good news was the congestion prevented the GMC from keeping up speed. More good news: Another red light loomed. This time Bourne was ready for the GMC to plow right through. Swerving in and out between vehicles, he put on another burst of speed, running the red light with the big SUV. But just as he was coming abreast of the far crosswalk, a gaggle of drunk teenagers tumbled off the sidewalk on their way across the avenue. They closed off the lane behind the GMC and were so raucous they either didn’t hear Bourne’s warning shout or didn’t care. He was forced to swerve sharply to the right. His front tire struck the curb, the bike lifted up. People scattered out of its way as it became, in effect, a missile. Bourne was able to keep it going after it landed, but there was simply nowhere for him to steer it without plowing into another group of kids. He applied the brakes without enough effect. Leaning to the right, he forced the bike down on its side, ripping his right trouser’s leg as it skidded along the cement.
“Are you all right?”
“What were you trying to do?”
“Didn’t you see the red light?”
“You could have killed yourself – or someone else!”
A welter of voice as pedestrians surrounded him, trying to help him out from under the bicycle. Bourne thanked them as he scrambled to his feet. He ran several hundred yards down the avenue, but as he feared, the GMC was long gone.