Mitchy (Sweet Charity)
Summary: It was a city made of a hundred identities and the fact wasn't lost on her
Rating: PG for violence
Betas: The fantabulous Jebbypal and Mostlyarmed
"… and were you aware of any previous ..."
The drone of the man reading from the pre-prepared questions was even less interesting than the décor of the Inquiry room - teak floor and taupe walls that failed to distract Pamela Landy from wishing she'd taken the time to eat breakfast. Or perhaps brought a few reports to read - at least Agent Jackson's innovative use of grammar was mildly entertaining and his expense claims deserved to be nominated for a Faulkner Award.
She'd had no reason to disbelieve Eastman when he'd assured her the Inquiry would be "open and shut, Pam...ela, Ms Landy, Deput-, Director Landy". Instead, the last five hours had been a parade of every file remotely associated with the Treadstone Project.
If it had been a real Inquiry, she might have had kinder thoughts about the interminable hours wasted; instead, the case had been put under a bureaucratic microscope that would do everything in its considerable power to root out, with pinpoint accuracy, the most expedient facts.
Silence made her look up from her entrancing study of a scuffed wooden tile beneath her shoe. Eastman was looking expectantly at her and she spoke what she considered to be her lines.
"No, I wasn't aware of Agent Abbott's unauthorised activities within the Treadstone Project until the files were re-opened in the wake of Bourne's re-appearance on the grid. It is possible that the extent of the corruption would never have come to light without Abbott's confession."
There was a morbid amusement in knowing what they wanted to hear and it actually being the truth, though she was careful to keep her tone smooth and her expression bland.
A panel of suited men and women across the room gave no indication of their relief, but Pamela knew them. She knew they were pleased at being given no cause to cite negligence within the system, no indication Abbott had cohorts, and - as the man had conveniently shot himself - no further need to launch a full inquiry into the matter. She knew them because she was them and she had no more wish for the torch to be pushed into the shadows any deeper than it already had either.
That probably made her a hypocrite, given her internal mockery of the proceedings, but hypocrisy was a valued job skill and not one she felt the need to dwell on.
"Thank you, Director Landy." Eastman nodded and shuffled his papers. Pamela hadn't seen him even glance at them during the session. "I think we can conclude our findings based on the testimony and evidence…"
"Excuse me." Eastman was derailed by a quiet voice that cracked at the edges. At the end of the review table, Jenner stood awkwardly, Nordic-pale skin reddening to clash with white-blonde hair as all eyes fixed on him.
The archivist's gaze sought out hers almost apologetically and he spoke in a rush. "I'm sorry, Director, I wanted to get you the information sooner but I've only just been paged. We, my people, records, we found some discrepancies in some transcript files. I wanted to be sure and …" He held up his pager mutely, trying to let its flashing green light plead his case. She had to admit it had a certain succinctness she would have appreciated from more of her division.
The panel tensed and she knew they tensed because she did. Her lips formed a smile of their own volition as she thanked him. Jenner was just about earnest enough and easily naive enough to be relieved.
After taking a moment to give the required appearance of deliberation, Pamela stood and raised her chin. "My people need some time to review the new information, determine whether it's a factor in the proceedings and collate it into a presentable format. I'd like to request a recess."
There were a sufficient number of long and official sounding words that Eastman nodded automatically and let the folder he had been in the act of closing flick back open.
Pamela wished she'd taken the time to eat breakfast.
The Operations room was quiet save for the murmuring of communications and gentle hum of information being processed, both so vital and so copious they'd long ceased to have meaning to those handling it.
While 'The Bourne Incident' - as it tended to be referred as when people could bring themselves to refer to it at all - had been ongoing, the department had been a seething mass of efficient panic and competent disorientation. While that had undoubtedly resulted in a surge of energetic focus that had reminded her why she'd joined the Agency to begin with, it was also a relief to have the calm return.
Her office was even quieter and there was nothing more serene than a clear desk. Yet even that was an illusion, abetted by files and assistants and an occasional shredding. The carpet was soft under her pumps and as calculated in colour as the taupe of the walls, everything designed with the utmost care for effect and appearance.
She wasn't sure whether to be amused or give in to sudden claustrophobia as she took her seat. Hunger won out over both reactions and her fingers quested for a snack bar in the top drawer she knew she'd left-
Thwarted, her hand withdrew from the drawer and she settled more comfortably in her seat before looking up to the still flushed face of Jenner peering through the door she'd left slightly ajar.
"Come in, Jenner. Close the door."
The young man – God, they got younger every year - closed the door behind him so carefully she wondered briefly whether he thought it would explode. He clutched a file in his hand so hard the plastic coating had begun to warp under his fingers.
Pamela missed Danny Zorn with a sudden spike of loss that surprised her. She smothered it quickly and smiled as she held out her hand. "Thank you."
Jenner stared blankly at her for a second, two, then realised what was wanted and held out the file in a rush.
"It's … well, it's fairly self explanatory. I mean …"
She raised her eyes from the folder just long enough to impress upon him the importance of closing his mouth, then looked down once more.
It took only a couple of paragraphs before the implications of the information within were entirely clear. She spoke without looking up.
"Is there any indication Bourne is aware of this?"
"Of his involvement or our knowledge of it?"
The tone was still hesitant, but at least he'd stopped stammering.
"Conclusions have been presented on page eight, but summarizing?"
She nodded, still letting her eyes skim over the report. "Summarize."
"We think it's unlikely he'll think we have any interest. He'll probably figure it's been ignored, whitewashed or buried with the rest of project."
At that Pamela looked up sharply.
Jenner's eyes widened and he shook his head quickly as he back-peddled with speed. "Not that it has, or anything. Just, er, moving on. We're still not sure if the reports of amnesia are true. If they are, there's a pretty good chance he'll eventually remember this much the same way he did the first …"
"And every indication he'd repeat the pattern of trying to … make reparations I suppose. So he could pretty much surface there …"
"At any time."
"Er, yes. So Dana, Dana in records?" Pamela nodded with the certainty that shaking her head would prolong the conversation by several minutes and, at the end, she would know far more about Dana in records than she ever wanted to.
"Right. Anyway. She pulled satellite imagery for the last month over the compound and there's been a massive increase in activity. Like, triple. She tried to pull more but the files were locked."
She nodded absently, they would be. Dana would already have raised flags going anywhere near them in the first place. "So they know he's coming too."
"That or they're starting operations again." His smile was weak, only half a joke.
Pamela didn't smile. "I don't believe this has any bearing on the Inquiry, Agent Jenner, do you?"
They stared at each other for a long moment before the man shook his head. "No, no of course it's ... uh … nothing."
"Nonetheless, I commend and thank yourself and your researchers for your diligent efforts to bring this to my attention, and the attention of the review board."
Now he was completely lost, mouth opening and closing as his brain clearly struggled with what he was meant to say next.
She took pity and smiled again in the fashion that would only reassure the truly desperate. "I'm glad we agree. Now, please don't let me keep you, I'm sure you have a lot to do."
Jenner was gone so quickly she wondered if he'd missed his calling in the land speed trials.
Regretfully she cast one look at the drawer and then reached for her phone. It would be the work of a few moments to reassure Eastman there was nothing to shake his carefully constructed reality and that his Inquiry could be closed; it would take somewhat longer to arrange for transport and a valid reason for flying to Bucharest.
In the end, transport was easier to find than she'd anticipated, the reason harder. It had to be exactly the right mix of importance and routine to guarantee the trip being filed and forgotten.
The first knock at her door was almost inaudible; she looked up with a frown, wondering whether someone had just bumped against it accidentally. The second knock left no doubt at all that someone wanted in, which was confirmed two seconds later when the door opened under a forceful push.
"I seem to have a request in my hand for transport for Bucharest, Pamela. I don't suppose you'd like to tell me why?"
She smiled with bemused innocence - it was a good idea to practise when you had the opportunity. "Because you're the head of the transportation department, Alex?"
Director Brooke blinked, and then took a seat across the desk with a disgruntled shake of his head. The chair creaked under the weight of his frame. He'd been an athlete once, football until his knee had been taken out. The size was still there but time and age and a diet that – as far as Pamela could tell – consisted largely of pasta had turned muscle to fat.
The flustered head of her assistant – Anne or was it Penny? – poked through the still open door. "I'm sorry, Director, I did say you were busy but-"
"It's fine …" she paused, then hazarded, "… Amanda." There was a smile in response and she supposed she'd guessed right. "If you could have some coffee bought through? Thank you."
Once the woman had ducked back out again, Pamela turned her attention to the man glowering at her. They'd known each other a long time. Some might say too long.
"You're behaving as if I've asked for a Lear jet, what's the problem?"
"I know that two days ago you received a telephone call from an embarrassment, who shall remain nameless. I know you were involved in an Inquiry over said embarrassment until roughly two hours ago. I know Jenner is wandering around outside as if someone has given him a nuclear device and orders to be very, very quiet about it. You're going to try and bring him in, aren't you?"
His stare continued and she met the challenge in it unflinchingly. Brooke should have known better than to try and intimidate her after the years she'd spent proving a 'skirt' better than any set of trousers in the vicinity – particularly when he'd been the one of the few in her corner, encouraging her.
Finally, when he'd had the sense to look away for a moment, she replied as politely as she could while still conveying her resolution. "Someone has to."
"So send a taskforce. Send five. It only takes one of them to be lucky."
Brooke looked like a man who knew he'd lost, but she knew better than to trust that. He'd given nearly thirty years to the Company; he could manipulate countries in his sleep and deny it over breakfast.
She ran her tongue along her lower lip and hated the tell. "He'd evade them. Or kill them. Or," she nodded acknowledgement, "if they got incredibly lucky, they'd kill him. I want him in, not dead."
"He's been outside a long time and, with all candour, the only problems he's caused have been because of your department. I realise that was Ward and his cronies, but ... why not just let it go? The Company is willing to, after all."
Brooke was watching her with the neutral intensity she knew she'd given to Jenner earlier and now felt a pang of sympathy for the Archivist. She, however, was neither a rookie nor an idiot and this sort of treatment wasn't going to work any better than the 'father knows best' attitude had.
Rather than letting the anger that was steadily growing under her skin out, Pamela modulated her tone to something colder, clipped, removing any informality that Brooke obviously felt long association afforded him.
"Let it go? Are you insane or just out of practise? Even if I was comfortable with the thought of an American-sponsored killing machine with triggers no one - least of all him - has any idea about running around, the international consequences are horrific. Every country with an information service made of more than two cans and a piece of string knows he's out there and, make no mistake, they are not going to 'let it go'".
She pursed her lips closed and took a long breath through her nose while Brooke stared silently, then spoke on. "It's our mess, our fault. We did this to him and, if he has to be eliminated, then it won't be because we, I, haven't tried the alternatives first."
"How do you know he won't perceive you as an immediate threat and take you down?" Brooke was finally letting some of his concern show, but she wasn't going to be taken in by that any more than anything else – genuine or not.
"I think there's a chance."
There was the first crack, a rueful little twitch at the corner of his mouth which was probably the only real smile Brooke knew how to make any more. "You're risking a lot."
She allowed herself to return the gesture – no more, and no less. "We're here to do more than smile when we lie and wish we'd eaten breakfast, Alex."
He didn't question her odd phraseology. They'd known each other a very long time.
"I'll arrange transport and maybe even a reason, but only on the condition you take a team with you. McManus. He's steady. Otherwise I will fight you on this so hard you'll get clearance at your retirement dinner."
There was another light knock at the door. She barely said enter before Amanda came through with the coffee and – bless her, this assistant she'd try to keep – sandwiches.
Baneasa Airport probably had more to commend it than the private landing strip, but at four am under minimal lighting and with the air too cold for rain to fall Pamela was ready to count the blessings immediately available to her.
Owing to diplomatic channels being more efficient than customs, they were ushered through quickly and the drive to the hotel was at least mercifully short.
Once they'd arrived at the hotel – a mass of looming shadow and not much more in the poor street lighting – she decided all she wanted for her immediate future was a shower and perhaps even a couple of hours sleep in an effort to head off the jet lag.
She only got the shower – complete with plumbing she was fairly sure had been installed in the fifties and then left to its own devices - but counted herself luckier than Jenner who, when she opened her door at the insistence of his knocking, looked as rumpled as he had when he stepped off the plane.
"I'm sorry, Director. I thought you should know, Dana has sent me the latest surveillance."
He handed her a couple of sheets; she took them and studied the satellite imagery, focusing on the areas carefully ringed in red. Bureaucratic, but unnecessary. She could clearly see the black blast circles on the photocopy, they probably looked no better on the original document.
Flipping between the sheets – the first page marked twenty-four hours previous and the other only two hours – suggested a building had lost a significant portion of its east side and two trucks had left large holes and little else.
"It isn't on the news." She spoke with some certainty since the low buzz of the news channel on the old television set had been keeping her company for the last hour. She spoke only a few words in Romanian, but none of the footage had included a burning building.
"No," Jenner confirmed quietly with the hesitation of one not sure if they were answering a rhetorical question.
At least he stood quietly while she thought. Danny had always had an air of waiting to move even if he was standing perfectly quietly, and it could wear on the nerves. Except for the rustling of his papers, Jenner might as well have not been there.
"Contact our people here. Ask for Johanson and tell him I want a seven am in the lobby. Then ...", she registered how very alert he looked – the sort of alert that tended to come at the expense of higher brain function – and took pity, "... then get some sleep. I want you and McManus there at eight."
The man nodded once and made a slightly slower escape than usual. She assumed jet lag had taken the edge off.
She turned back towards the bed and her laptop, buried under half a dozen miscellaneous travel items that she'd probably never use but habit dictated she hauled over half the world.
Her fingers brushed over the case but she walked past and over to the window. Dawn was just beginning to tinge the sky staining the darkness with an orange haze and lending what she could see of the buildings an even more derelict air.
The city hadn't changed - the disorientating mix of architecture, of emphasis, still held it firmly with one foot in the past and only one toe in the future. Despite the chill of the hotel room, she opened the window a crack to let the sound of the city seep in.
Perhaps Bourne, Webb, was still out there. Perhaps he'd already gone. Perhaps he was on the roof of one of the many buildings surrounding, watching her through the scope of a rifle. The compulsion to give a little wave she put down to lack of sleep, tugged the curtains closed over the open window and then turned away.
It wasn't much of a surprise when her cell rang.
The caller ID wasn't one she recognised and she couldn't quite find it in her to manage surprise at that either.
Habit more than necessity prompted her to give her name. "Landy."
"Long flight, Director?"
She hesitated. Only for a moment, but she knew he heard it. He'd been trained to hear it. As he clearly knew she was in the city, she saw no reason to dissemble. If anything, she wondered if frankness would be enough of a change of pace to throw him off balance. "Turbulence, bad food. Was it worth my effort?"
"Bucharest's a beautiful city."
Now that was interesting. She'd made a clear move to cut out the word games and he in turn had begun them. She flagged this as something to consider when it wasn't five in the morning and she didn't have a government-trained assassin on the phone who may or may not have taken the Company's sudden appearance in the city personally.
"Pamela?" There was a faint tinge of unease under the otherwise gentle tone and she smiled slightly, but was careful to keep the satisfaction out of her tone.
"I haven't seen enough to know. It was dark when we landed and last time I was here it was ... brief." Very brief. And very messy. Probably not as messy as this would get, though.
"You should see more."
"Do you have any suggestions?"
"You could look for a sign on Calea Dorobanti."
A click and then ring-tone. She made no effort to call it in; requesting another line would be pointless until the matter was resolved and she seriously doubted a trace would lead them anywhere helpful.
Her fingers drummed on the cover of her laptop. She reached for the hotel phone on the side table – a solid square affair doing its best to maintain a Communist presence - ordered a pot of coffee and got to work.
Johanson was a thin man with a greying goatee, thick glasses and a bad suit that was topped only by a crooked purple and yellow striped tie. He looked tired, which improved Pamela's morning substantially. Another shower, a pressed suit and careful make-up hadn't really helped her to feel bright and alert, but the fact she looks oceans better than the man glaring at her from across the red-checker cloth bedecked table brightened her day considerably.
Leaning forward, Johanson spoke as she sat. "You knew this was coming," he accused. His perfectly controlled tone belied the anger in his eyes; Pamela appreciated his professionalism in at least not displaying it publicly.
She smiled brightly. "Good morning."
"You knew this was coming and you didn't see fit to inform us."
She shook her head as she reached for the French press while letting her smile fade. "We didn't know. We had speculation at best and that speculation was based on facts you have no clearance for."
"You could have said something." He studied her for a long moment and his curiosity won out over his righteous indignation for the moment. "Why hit the place now? And don't give me that clearance crap, we've been running around playing catch-up for hours and if you want us to be any help at all, you're going to have to share."
"I don't need your help, this is a courtesy call."
"Yelling 'incoming' and then sending a fruit basket is a courtesy. Seven am breakfast meetings the day after an ex-KGB outfit gets taken to the cleaners is a razor blade short of a cry for help. You can get what you need without me, but how much longer will it take without my co-operation?"
"We're both on the same side, Johanson."
He snorted and she half-smiled. They knew where each other stood.
Usually she liked her coffee black but lately her stomach had started to disagree. She added a little milk and sugar and tried not to think of it as a slippery slope to a half-fat vanilla on the rocks, or whatever it was the bright and shiny new generation were drinking now. "Someone the company has a great deal of interest in has developed a great deal of interest in the compound."
"He expresses his interest very enthusiastically. Preliminary reports indicate a frankly gratuitous amount of C-4 and a couple of tankers going up."
"And what was the collateral damage?"
"Unknown, given you haven't informed us what his objective was in the first place."
She let her smile widen just slightly.
"Of course, because God forbid I should know." Johanson even managed to convey his disgust as he drank his coffee, a skill Pamela made a mental note to develop. "Fine, have some totals. We think there are at least twenty of their people dead. Guards. Local hires, probably weren't even aware of what they were guarding. Two helicopters left after the tankers blew, so he may not have achieved his goal if he was after the ... specialists. We know the choppers went north but we lost them a few miles out.
"The part of the compound that was destroyed we think may have been a self-destruct – the damage was too precise and extensive to have been random charges and the amount of explosives needed would have been too much for a one-man job." He paused and forgot for a moment to look annoyed in his desire for factuality. "I assume this was a one-man job?"
"Almost certainly." She paused for a moment, building the illusion of confidentiality, then leaned closer to quietly import secrets of little to no importance whatsoever. Johanson was right: it would be quicker with his co-operation, so now she had to hope being in the back-waters had dulled his instinct for company games.
"The man in question has a history here, although how much he's aware of it at this juncture is unknown. I have reason to believe he hasn't successfully completed his objective and previous behaviour suggests he will remain until he does. It is vital that we determine the extent of the damage to the compound and that you share any information on back-up locations they may have relocated to."
Johanson gave her a calculating look, then nodded slightly. "You're sure he's still in the city?"
She fought the urge to look out through the high windows to the surrounding rooftops, instead picking up her coffee and leaning back in her seat. "Yes."
After a moment, he reached for the French press. "All right, we'll play nice. But on one condition."
She tilted her head and waited.
"We want in. This guy has just blown a six year operation up in our face. Literally. The company may just decide to pull us out and we'll have not a damn thing to show for it other than slightly updated data to we had when we started. Six years, Landy."
The coffee was hot and good and tasted stronger than she was used to. Johanson shifted in his seat and she was almost certain she could have pin-pointed the exact moment he gave up.
She waited three seconds longer, until she saw Jenner and the larger, dark-haired, figure of McManus bearing in. And then she smiled. "Thank you for your time, I'll see what I can do to facilitate your request. In the meantime, please have your people send any relevant information to Jenner as soon as they're able."
Johanson dropped a crumpled note on the table – she assumed to prove a point – and the metal frame of his chair scraped the floor tile as he stood. "Sure, whatever. You all have a great day."
Pamela thought he was brave to slam the door as hard as he did; the entire hotel looked like it was being held up by dust and prayer. It would have been beautiful once – even she could tell that - but Communism and the occasional earthquake had rendered it so much rubble-strewn tragedy waiting to happen.
Jenner hovered for a moment and then took the vacated seat, McManus pulled up a chair from the empty table beside them before reaching for the near empty coffee pot without ceremony. "There goes an angry man."
"Bourne has that effect on people."
"Bourne. Right." McManus nodded with the unconcerned lack of sincerity affordable by a man whose career advancement largely depended on keeping himself, and whoever he happened to be in the vicinity of, alive – and very little else.
She ignored both him and Jenner's badly disguised cough of a laugh.
"All right, gentlemen. What do we have?"
Jenner flipped through his folder for a moment, rustling through paper clumsily before locating what he'd been after. A couple of new imagery sheets were pushed towards her. "The compound is deserted. The police moved in this morning after they got the okay by the fire crews. Anything that might have been there is long gone; but honestly, from what Intel we have, I'm not sure there was a lot in there. That seems kind of weird, right?"
Pamela glanced up and saw a hint of appraisal in the archivist's expression. It was good to see he was finally thinking about the information he was passing on; she re-evaluated her plan to lose him in records. "Apparently there may have been a self-destruct mechanism. Johanson's staff will be sending over what they have today. I want you to go through it, particularly anything on back-up locals."
His blond head – still rumpled despite the fact he'd clearly managed to shower – bent as Jenner scrawled a note to himself. "You think he's still going after them?"
She idly considered the menu. "He's trained to finish the job."
"I thought the problem was he tended not to," McManus's finally commented quietly in an easy drawl. She vaguely remembered him being quiet and a little slow until circumstances called for him to be otherwise. Brooke's golden boy.
"This is personal?" Jenner stopped scribbling for a moment and Pamela caught a glimpse of a small succession of doodled flowers before the paper was hastily tucked back into the folder.
There was another long moment of silence before McManus finally shook his head. "We don't know that. Maybe he doesn't know what they did there."
She acknowledged the point with a nod. Bourne's amnesia was a difficult factor to consider in an assessment – the word 'nightmare' had been used more than once. "Possibly not the extent, no. But we've already had an object lesson on how much that doesn't matter. He stays until he works it out so if he's still here, there has to be a reason."
"How do we know he's still here?"
"There haven't been any reports of him at the airports or train station." Jenner began to open his mouth again and she went on quickly before an impromptu lecture on the inherent difficulties of monitoring a transport network began. "And he called me."
After a few moments silence, McManus finally measured out a reply. "Does Johanson know that?"
"You, I and Jenner know it, and that's all."
Jenner looked from one to the other as the implications and connotations went entirely over his head. McManus just nodded. "You really think you can bring him in? What then? He'll be in Camp David for the rest of his very short life."
"You're saying it's kinder to kill him?"
"That's not what I said."
And what neither said sat on the table between them until Jenner frowned and gave it a shape. "You want to let him go?"
"I have a meeting." She stood and walked away.
Jenner had told her on the flight over that the eclectic style of architecture was most prominent in sector 1, and it turned out that that was where both the hotel and Calea Dorobanti were located just a short distance from each other. She wasn't sure whether to consider it serendipity or whether to wonder if Bourne really had been out on those roof-tops last night, watching her as she watched the city.
A quick net search had told her this was also the richest, most picturesque, part of Bucharest. Walking down Calea Dorobanti - where French colonial style stood next to an ornate Russian mosque and beyond a glass tower of a skyscraper reached for the sky - she believed the travel guide.
It was a city made of a hundred identities and the fact wasn't lost on her.
Calea Dorobanti was a road that displayed the best of this, every building something unique, but every building crumbling just a little at the edges – even the squat, faceless concrete apartment blocks, the architectural equivalent of a Communist finger print.
Her mind's eye tried to put sepia over everything she saw.
What she didn't see was anything that might constitute a 'sign' – not one that distinguishable from any other sign, anyway. Nor did she see any end to the avenue's interminable length. There appeared to be any number of shops and businesses, as well as apartments and to make matters worse the city was now well awake on a fine, if cold, Wednesday morning.
Bourne had been too cryptic for his own good. Perverse amusement warred briefly with frustration as she stopped outside a restaurant whose main selling point appeared to be how modern its décor was and made no commentary on the food itself.
Her phone trilled once, the caller ID showed it to be Jenner.
"Johanson's staff sent what they had over. There's ... well, there's a lot of it. I think they just gave us everything they had which doesn't really, you know, help. Oh, is this line secure?"
It was barely nine am and she could already feel a headache building right between her eyes. "Jenner, what do you have?"
"Right. They have a few places they've earmarked as possible beta sites but most of them are outside the city. The closest one is Ploiesti and that's half an hour away at least. I guess we don't really have the time to chase-"
"Anyway, there is one place they have flagged. It's in Sector 1 so it's pretty close to us. It's on-"
"- well they say Dorobanti Avenue but I guess that's the same thing?"
"McManus and his team can make it there in ten minutes if you-"
"No, tell him to hold. I'm there now. We don't need to make this noisy."
She hung up on Jenner's stuttered protests. In fact, she was a couple of blocks beyond the building so she turned and walked back. Passing without pausing, she studied the veneer of what seemed to be an apartment complex more closely in her peripheral vision and finally saw what Bourne had been alluding to. The architect had decorated the outside with the signs of the zodiac.
After a couple more steps she stopped and turned to look. She wasn't out of place - many tourists were doing the same. She wondered if Bourne was being deliberately obtuse or whether it really had been that obvious to him. Both, maybe. That would mean her first instinct had been right. He liked to play, just a little.
That was something she could use.
She turned to walk back towards the hotel and instead jerked back quickly as she nearly walked into a man standing inches behind her. A black sweater under a black long coat. The pants would probably be black too. She carefully arranged her expression and looked up into faintly amused blue eyes.
"The retrieval team can be here within seconds."
"At least eight and a half minutes and only if they're running lights." A ghost of a smile flickered and vanished.
It wasn't really something she wanted to force him to call her bluff on. The files had suggested that people doing that with Bourne often lost. So she crossed her arms and looked past him with something like boredom. Like boredom if boredom usually included her heart crawling into her throat. "What are you doing here?"
A flicker of something that bore no resemblance to amusement at all crossed over his face and his fingers gently wrapped around her wrist. "That's what I want to ask you." She didn't resist as he pulled her towards the main door of the building.
In a street that was a microcosm of the city, the apartments distilled it further. An elegant western façade with eastern decoration, solid concrete steps within and without. Inside there were the smells of living drifting through the hallways, cooking, perfume, motor oil – she suspected – and under that the staleness of the building itself.
He led quickly and unerringly up two flights of stairs to an apartment door with a faded eviction notice on it. Long faded. There were spider webs within spider webs, catching dust and nothing more.
Bourne was looking at her expectantly.
She looked from him to the door and back, genuinely nonplussed and letting it show. "What?"
"What is this place?" His face had a hollow cast and wasn't helped by eyes a touch too wide, a touch too bright. She couldn't guess what ghosts he was seeing and, even when his hand tightened painfully around her wrist, was careful not to try and pull away.
She pitched her voice lower, calming. "I don't know. What do you remember?"
He shook his head silently, then his mouth tightened. She spoke quickly. "Bourne. Webb. I don't know. There are hundreds of files I haven't seen. May never see, Abbott destroyed-"
There was a blur her eye couldn't follow and she heard the sound before she felt the impact of being thrown back. His palm slammed against the wall inches from her head and she couldn't help the flinch, hated the gasp that escaped her lips. Little bits of plaster floated gently down. The phrase 'show no fear' kept running through her mind, but she doubted it would help much in this case. Tears might – they'd worked for others – but it wasn't an avenue she had any interest in taking.
He was leaning so close she could feel his breath as he spoke. "What. Is. This. Place."
"Why did you attack the compound?"
The hand slammed again, an inch closer. She gritted her teeth and stayed still. "I need to know what you know before I can explain. Bourne. I want to help."
His breath was short and sharp and it was a long moment before he spoke. "I saw a face I knew and I followed it."
"Why were you here in the first place? The last sighting of you was in Germany. You're having nightmares, still, aren't you? Memories."
The expression stayed flat but something in his eyes flinched. She nodded. "The compound was used during the early eighties for a program that the Russians developed as we were developing Treadstone. They started earlier but we got the best in the field and for a while it was touch and go who'd get there first.
"In the end the wall came down and they pulled in their interests to more immediate concerns like keeping control of what they had left.
"Some of the people who had been working for them were then convinced to work for us."
"Coerced." He spoke with a faint smirk she found infinitely superior to the blank intent.
"If you prefer. It's possible that you recognised someone who was part of the Treadstone program."
"They could give me my mind back."
She had been expecting a lot of things, but not the sudden flare of something very close to hope. Maybe closer to desperation. "No."
He leaned forward again. "You don't know that."
"They wouldn't have your file and they'll be no more able to help with the amnesia than anyone else. They can't just ... re-set you and why in God's name would you want them to? Why in God's name would they want to?"
Now he was staring as if she's asked why he couldn't walk on water. She took the advantage and forged on.
"All those associated with the Treadstone Project were hand-picked. You weren't approached because of your big blue eyes, Bourne. You have a chance now to be someone else, why won't you take it?"
"There are people all over the world whose lives I took away, whether I killed them or not. And you want me to just ... walk away."
"No. I'll take that but what I want you to come in with me, be debriefed and repatriated. You're an expensive embarrassment and the only reason you haven't been taken down yet is that the Company hasn't made up its mind whether it's better to kill you themselves or let someone else do it - and there are people standing in line. You've been lucky so far and that's all."
Slowly he straightened and his voice was barely a murmur as he turned his head to look towards the stairwell. "How lucky?"
She could hear nothing, frowned and began to frame a question but he held up a hand and she subsided.
"Get the hell out of here." The sudden anger in his tone was incongruous with the still impassive expression – not to mention the grip he kept on her arm.
She stayed still for a moment, and then blinked and tried to inject the right amount of relief and anger into her own words – more difficult than it sounded when she was still trying to overcome the hammering in her chest. "Fine. Next time, the team will be here."
The fact he'd released her registered only when he gently pushed her to the side of the stair well, behind the dubious cover of the low barrier. She considered running for the flight above, or even the window at the end of the corridor but her body seemed to prefer to remain crouched and shaking. For the moment that was acceptable; she could gather valuable information by staying precisely where she was.
Bourne jogged lightly down the stairs. He didn't make the same sound she would have but she doubted whoever he apparently thought were waiting would notice. They were expecting Pamela Landy, Director. They were getting a fully armed, faintly smiling, black ops specialist. She attempted to find some sympathy and discovered only a vague appreciation for the set-up.
She reached for her cell phone and punched in the quick dial as the first dull thud below signified a body hitting the ground.
Jenner's voice seemed far too loud, even though she knew she was the only that could possibly hear it. Her own whispering seemed to echo all around, but that was impossible. She clamped down hard on the irrational fear and exerted control once more.
"Get McManus and his team to twenty-twenty-eight Dorobanti. Tell them to come in hot."
"They're en-route. He left about five minutes ago."
"Those weren't his orders."
"I think he said something about seeing the sights."
Her mind promptly supplied the image of the eight-man team and McManus – not one under six feet, heavily armed and head to toe urban camouflage - strolling down the avenue with ice-cream cones.
Fear, adrenaline and jet-lag was clearly not a good combination.
"I see." There was a short rattle of automatic gunfire and a cut off scream. "Radio him that Bourne is in the building and currently engaged with an unknown number of assailants whose identities I'm not able to ascertain."
Jenner must have heard the staccato of bullets; his voice had a slightly shriller tone. She hated to think what he'd be like were he actually there. "Are you all right, Director?"
"I'm fine. Relay the message."
She hung up on whatever reply Jenner attempted to make and tucked the phone away before leaning forward and trying to listen for indications of what was happening below.
She wasn't sure whether there was a whisper of sound behind her or whether it was instinct that made her begin to turn, but the gentle snikt of a safety being released made either explanation irrelevant. A woman was crouched just out of reach and Pamela couldn't believe she'd gotten so close.
Whoever she was, her most immediate identifier was near neon red hair cut sharply at her chin and slightly too shiny to be real – a wig, then. Dressed simply, black t-shirt and jeans, heavy boots. Early mid or late twenties, maybe a couple years either way. Pamela clocked the details by habit. It was the Glock that held most of her attention.
"Tell him to stop." The faintly accented voice – Czech, she thought - was gentle, yet it held the same sort of quiet inexorability as Bourne's own. The expression had the same distance to it, as if it were looking at you with no more interest than it would any other object in the vicinity.
How to answer gave her pause. Prevarication could lead to violence, but so could honesty – especially as it would reveal how useless she would be to the woman. After a heart-beat Pamela replied. "I very much doubt he would listen to me if I did."
Possibly there was just enough sincerity there that she was believed and Pamela watched the finger on the trigger with a sick sort of fascination, waiting for it to tighten.
She swallowed and then shook her head, pleased her voice remained level, didn't crack. "No."
The woman nodded and called out loudly enough to be heard by those below. "I will kill the woman, Bourne." Pamela decided she could have lived without hearing the slightly formulaic edge to the voice. Death by numbers wasn't something she had wanted for herself, given the choice.
Seconds passed, Pamela assumed Bourne was unwilling to give up his position with a response. Her eyes drifted back to the finger around the trigger. The nail had chipped blue varnish on it.
Bourne's voice finally drifted up, echoing around the concrete and masking his position. "Kill her, then." Even boredom would have sounded better than the indifference.
The gun fired almost before his reply had finished and Pamela jumped, waiting for the pain and the darkness. Finally, she registered that waiting for pain and darkness signified she was still alive. Her eyes had closed as she'd flinched and forcing them open was one of the hardest things she'd done.
Red was staring at her with a crooked smile. One finger rose to lie across her lips and Pamela discovered where her bravery ended as her mouth stayed shut.
They stared at each other as the sound of violence erupted from below once more. The gunfire ceased and was replaced by the dull and somehow more sickening sound of fists and kicks, punctuated with sharp cracks where bones were snapped. No one screamed. She assumed they weren't given the time to.
Bourne could take on at least five men at once. At least. She knew that, it was in the files and she'd seen the evidence. Given room, time and the proper environment she was sure the number could easily be doubled. She was sure he had yet to reach a personal best – the Embassy incident had proved that.
But here there had been no time, the environment wasn't of his choosing and down in those narrow corridors there was no room.
And Red didn't have the concerned expression of someone who had brought a shortage of men.
Finally silence fell and still Pamela couldn't find her voice. Red said nothing, but she stood from the crouch with an effortless adjustment of balance that confirmed at least part of Pamela's suspicions. If the woman wasn't a Treadstone equivalent, she was something very close.
Pamela's throat made a concerted effort to stop her speaking, but she over-ruled it. Not as steady as before, but something at least.
"He'll be long gone. Your people are dead."
Pamela wasn't entirely sure what she'd been expecting, but the minimalist shrug wasn't it. She tried again. "My people will be here in minutes."
"Seconds, I think."
On cue Pamela heard the heavy thud of boots, the mechanical click of weaponry. McManus's voice was so loud she wouldn't have been surprised if they'd heard it back at the hotel.
She looked at Red, who in turn was looking upwards at the flight above. Pamela threw herself towards the stairs without further thought than to get away.
She managed to maintain her equilibrium on the first flight but was rolling by the second. She'd just reached the conclusion that it would be a shame to break her neck after all this when she was bought to an abrupt stop against something with more give than she usually gave a wall credit for. Walls, in her experience, didn't usually swear either.
Opening an eye she found herself staring up into the wary face of McManus who, as far as she could tell, had designated himself the end of the line and had almost managed to catch her a few steps from the bottom.
He set Pamela on her feet and kept her steady while she found her balance with enough kindness that Pamela decided that his creative interpretation of her order was forgotten. She didn't imagine she made a very inspiring picture and absently tried to tuck her hair back into place. It didn't seem to want to co-operate, but she persevered.
Now McManus was watching her with the sort of concern reserved for people in shock. She took a shallow breath and stopped trying to tuck in the same strand of hair, over and over.
She kept her focus on him to avoid looking the corpses, which her peripheral vision was trying to bring to her attention, but nonetheless was able to register that Bourne had been both busy and efficient.
"Bourne's here, I think he's found a way to get upstairs. There's a woman up there too – red wig, twenties, dressed in black. Glock. I believe she may also be trying to retrieve or eliminate him."
McManus didn't immediately move to start up the stairs – as was her general experience with these teams - and she increased her estimation of his common sense.
Sense was coming back to her now; her mind more than willing to concentrate on the immediate and put the past in a future therapy session where she could avoid it properly. "Put your men in positions to watch the exits. Do not, I repeat, do not attempt to stop either of them leaving. I have no interest in your deaths, I just want to know which direction or transport they take, their condition and whether they're together."
Eight men nodded shortly and deployed, not even needing McManus's direction. She couldn't claim a great deal of knowledge of the way these things worked but she was fairly sure that was a good indication of competence. Or possibly mutiny.
McManus stayed with her, just inside the door of an empty apartment on the landing and she quietly fought an inner battle against the sensation of security his large frame and reassuringly big gun provided.
It was still eerily silent above, Pamela was beginning to wonder if she'd been wrong. Perhaps Bourne was long gone and Red too, and the creak of the stair had just been the protest of an old building under stress.
And then there came a gentle thud, and another in quick succession. Someone falling. Her eyes met McManus's and both turned their gaze upwards. Then the first hint of something in the air hit her; it smelled like the sea. McManus dropped away on her left and she tried to turn to him but the floor found her first.
She was lying on something cold and hard, but her head was cushioned by something softer. How she'd reached these circumstances she couldn't immediately remember but they didn't encourage sudden movement.
Her eyes remained closed and her breathing even as she tried to piece together what had happened through the stirrings of a headache. It didn't take long and made her even less inclined to move, especially when slight motion made spatial awareness reassert and informed her that her cushion consisted of someone's shoulder and she was, in fact, seated slumped against a wall.
The shoulder moved as Bourne spoke. She gathered herself against the headache and forced herself to sit upright. A moment after that she opened her eyes tentatively to a mercifully low-lit room.
It was small and concrete lined with a window at the top of each wall, barely more than a block high or wide and the glass so thick she couldn't tell what was beyond. Above was a strip light, protected by a solid-looking metal casing.
The door was a heavy looking affair – all bolts and metal and no visible locking mechanism.
Slumped against the wall to the left she could see the bulk of McManus. If he was feigning sleep, he was obviously doing a better job of it than she had. His equipment had been stripped, even his boots lacked laces.
Now she risked a glance to her side. Bourne was, to all appearances, relaxed. His eyes were closed and, despite the bruise she could see developing along his cheekbone and the thin line of blood at his hair line, he seemed unruffled.
"It's rude to stare."
She hadn't meant to be quite so blunt, but he must have heard the faint disbelief as his expression flickered briefly to a wry sort of amusement rather than anger. "Wish you'd spent your tax dollars on something else now?"
"How? Was it Red?"
His eyes opened long enough to look sideways at her in bemusement, then understanding. "She's a blonde."
"I find myself not wanting to know how you know that."
Bourne looked away and his eyes closed once more.
They'd almost had a conversation and Pamela found herself wanting to keep it going if only for the sake of exploration. "She's like you."
Hope sparked, and then Bourne went on. "She can shake off fentanyl, I can't." His mouth curved enough that she could see the faint smile to go with the mild mockery in his tone. "Should have been nicer to the Russians, Pam."
She didn't rise to the bait. "Did you recognise her?"
"My obligation to debrief went when you tried to kill me."
"You know that wasn't me." She paused then shook her head with a degree of resignation and, despite herself, understanding. "You just don't care." Her eyes went back to the shape of her team leader. "Is McManus alive?"
"He's breathing, I don't know any more than that."
She was about to ask why he hadn't checked – even if feeling for his fellow man hadn't prompted him, wanting full awareness of his situation should have. And then he raised a hand and she saw the thick metal cuff before he dropped it back to his side. Following the chain along, now that she could see it, she saw the other cuff had been linked to a very firm looking metal band in the wall.
Well, that made sense, she had to admit. It was more or less what she would have done.
"They doped me with something as well." Bourne tilted his head slightly and she could see a still-red needle mark.
She nodded, that completed how she would have acted. Bourne appeared unconcerned and reassurance from her would sound laughable to all present.
Instead she tried to think what else she would have done. What she would be doing now. What she would be waiting for.
Her head was pounding and her mouth was dry, both leftovers from the gas that she would just have to put up with. She attempted to stand and found her balance fragile but at least adequate to the task of walking across the room.
Slowly she shuffled over to McManus and then carefully crouched before him. Her fingers scrabbled clumsily at his collar but finally she was able to find his pulse. It was beating slow and steady, stronger than she'd expected. But he didn't move and his breath hitched in his chest irregularly. Several scenarios ran through her mind – faking, allergic to the gas, just slow to shake it off.
When she was sure her voice wouldn't crack, she spoke at an only slightly louder volume than required for conversation.
"As you are doubtless aware, my name is Pamela Landy and – unless a major diplomatic incident was high on your to-do list – I want to talk to someone. Immediately. I also want food, water and medical attention for my people."
Silence. She had expected nothing more and simply moved to sit beside McManus where she could monitor his breathing.
"Your people?" There was that thread of thin amusement again.
"You're mine, Bourne. Everyone's lives would be much easier if you'd reach that conclusion as quickly as possible."
She could feel his eyes were on her and turned her head to look at him with the beginnings of anger that became wariness as she caught his expression. He was considering something. Weighing it.
"What?" She tried to regain the anger but knew she sounded petulant at best, uncertain at worse.
He said nothing for a heart-beat, two. Then his head canted as if listening to something. "Shut your eyes."
There was an instinct to ask why, but there was a much stronger one to do as prompted. Less than a second after she did, the darkness beyond her eye lids became pale from dazzling light.
Once it settled to a constant, she began to open her eyes little by little to let them adjust. The process was slow, but not nearly as slow – or painful - as it would have been without the warning. In her head she tried to work out the amount of time between blinding and door opening that she would have given if her position were reversed. Enough to let fear at lack of sight grow, not so long as to let it begin to wear off.
She stood, smoothed down her skirt and opened her eyes properly, fighting the remaining urge to wince, and faced the door as it began to open. She knew her smile was cool and unconcerned; she'd had enough practise.
It would have been nice to wish the mildly disgruntled man – though she only knew he was disgruntled because she would have been – a polite 'good morning'. Unfortunately, she had no way to determine the time and she didn't want to lose what psychological ground she'd gained with a mistake like that.
Instead she stayed silent and waited as the man's gaze tracked beyond her to Bourne. She had no idea what he saw but whatever it was made his eyes shutter out all expression. Then he returned his attention to her and smiled in a way she would have considered disarming with the loss of a decade of experience and half her IQ. He was a good looking man; he was probably used to trading on that. She decided to let him imagine she would allow that and returned the smile.
"My name is Patony Szabó and you have my deepest apologies, Director Landy. There has been an unfortunate miscommunication amongst my subordinates, I do hope you haven't been overly inconvenienced."
They stared at each other while he waited for her to decide the way they would play this game.
Polite words and dancing with veiled shows of strength around each other until they were both satisfied with what had been won and lost. Or she could ignore the rules and play her hand now. And she could. He had to know there were people looking for her, had to know her resources were greater than his own and that the repercussions would be felt far more by his people than hers.
All he could do was kill them, and that was nothing at all.
She let him see all that, and then she allowed her smile to grow just as his started to fade. "I understand."
Men brushed past her and made for McManus. She heard them carrying him out of the cell as she was led away by the solicitous hand of her opposite.
The room she was shown to was small, but still twice the size of the cell. It had a faint mustiness that suggested the hasty opening of a room that hadn't been used in years. Given the décor, she was inclined to upgrade that to decades. There was probably a pile of dust sheets hastily crammed in some cupboard in the long corridor outside. It was all faded finery and forgotten trinkets that might have fascinated her if she'd had the luxury.
Her cell phone was waiting for her on the quickly made bed, along with a sincere apology for its state – clearly it must have been broken in her fall and they would of course be happy to arrange for another but she must understand they were ... were ... she'd stopped paying attention around then, deciding to concede the cell in exchange for access to McManus.
He was in the next room with a couple of physicians; she could hear the low murmur of voices. They had explained that McManus had indeed suffered a mild reaction to the gas and she was assured he would regain consciousness soon, but it was something she preferred to see for herself.
And she would, once she'd used the porcelain basin with its fine network of fractures to wash away the grime as well as the peeling gold-leaf mirror to repair the make-up and smooth the hair in order to regain what dignity remained her.
Ablutions were necessary, but it also gave her time to think. A look out of the window showed a rural setting, and on the horizon she thought she saw the lights of a city against a sunset. Hazarding a guess from Jenner's hastily gathered intel she thought they might be in Ploiesti, but there was really no way to know.
And so that was discounted. It had no real bearing on the immediate situation anyway. There was no doubt that she and McManus would be released – all they were really playing for was the manner in which it would occur. As humiliating as possible might be what Szabó would prefer, but he would weigh it against future interests, and in her experience, governments tended to have long memories when their people were dumped outside their Embassy in a bag.
Which left the Bourne Problem. Possibly the Bourne Disaster, she hadn't decided on the operation name yet. It was tempting, just for a moment, to consider just leaving him there. She could spin it to her own people with little difficulty – as long as he was no longer on the board, they really didn't care, whatever lip service they may give.
It wasn't as though he could be reverse engineered and the amnesia ensured there was little to worry about in terms of security. There was a slim possibility they could persuade him to work for them, but they already had their own people and she was hard pressed to come up with a worse gamble than Bourne's operational stability.
Her mind examined the facts of Szabó's own good little solider. That was of marginally more concern. Not so much that they had Red – or Blonde – but that they seemed entirely at ease with Pamela knowing they had her. And her age was a question mark of its own - she was far too young to have been a part of the original Russian program, but Johanson had given every indication that the compound had been non-operational.
A thought skittered across but she couldn't pin it and knew from long experience there was no point in chasing it. The water was cold and it felt a little bit like heaven as she splashed it over her face.
It was idle consideration: there was no way they could leave Bourne here. She wished that it was gentler feelings that gave her that certainty but it was practicality. If there was even the slimmest chance of Bourne escaping – and the chances were a great deal better than slim – being deserted would at best drive him away and at worst bring him lethally close.
She had to try. More importantly, she had to make it very well known that she was trying.
A gentle double-tap at her door knocked her out of her reverie. Pamela blinked at the pale woman staring at her with large dark eyes from the mirror, tucked back an errant lock of hair and called out permission to enter as she turned.
McManus looked distinctly queasy as he sidled in and the yellow tinge to his skin did nothing to improve the overall picture. She wasn't sure what to say precisely, and settled for the obvious. "You should be in bed."
"Yes, ma'am." He swallowed thickly and attempted a facsimile of attention. He was there to check on her, of course, which was very ... noble, she was sure, but she had no idea what he'd expected to do if there had been a problem. She found herself smiling anyway.
She pointed to the antique, threadbare chair in the corner. "Sit down."
He sat. She bought him a glass of water. In the corner a clock ticked quietly and the last of the daylight began to disappear into long shadows across the floor.
For lack of anything better to do, she spoke. "I suspect I'll be invited to dinner, shortly. They might give you the same invitation but," she glanced over, saw McManus try to hide a blanch, "I think it would be better if you slept off the last of effects from the gas."
"If you need anything...", he trailed away, contriving to look both wry and frustrated.
She nodded and refrained from an acerbic comment that he didn't really deserve. "I'll let you know."
The second knock on the door was harder. Pamela rose to open it, smiled in response to the nervous smile of the young man on the other side. Even without taking the buzz cut into account, his entire posture said 'soldier' – but not one in uniform. Interesting. Despite that, he reminded her more of Jenner, especially as he spoke in slow, faltering English.
" Colonie Szabó will, would, like for you to be to dinner."
She nodded and stepped out, gesturing he should lead the way. "Thank you."
Szabó hadn't introduced himself as a Colonel but she had heard the physicians speaking of 'Art.hot Colonie' – the Colonel – and they had intimated it was his orders they were following. That suggested it was Colonel Szabó and also that it was unlikely he had a superior on site. Military politics were no less complex than Governmental, but they were different and if he felt he had to play on her turf it would be to her advantage.
It wasn't something she intended to bank on – talented amateurs were hardly unheard of – but she added the snippet of information to the thin reference file in her mind.
Her guard showed her to a wood panel lined dining room – hall, really. Along the end wall a massive fireplace had been lit. It was the only source of light in the room but it was adequate. This must have been quite the estate once, she imagined; now its grandeur only shone in the shadows.
Szabó stood as she was seated and she moved her chair just enough that the flames would lend her cheeks a blush.
They talked about nothing of substance for the first course – swapping polite pleasantries and recollections of various events. Szabó was well informed and he made no pains to hide it – or to flaunt it. Pamela preferred to keep her cards better hidden, but she could appreciate his tactics.
During the main meal they managed to steer the topic of conversation to Budapest, at least. Compliments and commentary on the city – by the end of the course she knew a little more about the city planning than she could honestly say she wanted to. A befuddling tactic – the same as the course itself, heavy and rich. She ate lightly, spoke sparingly and smiled in the face of his efforts.
Dessert took them into her territory, the mix of veiled and straight talk that she had honed to an art and hadn't had the pleasure of practising for far too long. Szabó learned quickly, but not before she had in turn learned that he was indeed the superior on site – and that it was a military command despite appearances.
It was not until coffee that he waved his hand and shook his head almost ruefully. "I feel like I'm being gnawed away on by little fish."
She raised an eyebrow. "Are you calling me a piranha, Colonel?"
"I think perhaps I am. I have great faith you have been called worse, Director."
That point she had to admit. "Are we ready to talk plainly, now?" She didn't wait for more than a half nod to go on. "Bourne is ours."
"Given your presence here – and in Germany, Paris, India, Russia ... I think that could be debated. If we truly thought he was yours, our response would not have been limited to his apprehension alone."
"Why do you want him?"
"There is the small matter of his attack on our compound."
"The compound you knew we were watching and only had a skeleton crew in anyway." It was a reasonable conclusion but still a guess and she had a distaste for guessing that made her sip her water.
Szabó gained points as he didn't make even a slight protest to the contrary. "It is a matter of appearances."
"He has no value to you. If anything, you're risking the life of everyone here by incarcerating him."
"That cell has been tested most carefully. He will not be able to escape it."
"Tested by ...", she didn't want to call her Red, settled on miming the hair-style which she had no doubt looked ridiculous but seemed the shortest route.
"Tizane, yes". He barely managed not to smirk, and he dropped slightly in Pamela's estimation.
"He can escape." She didn't bother trying to inject truth or confidence or anything else into her tone. The fact she believed what she was saying helped and was novel enough to surprise her.
A certain amount of blustering she had expected but Szabó managed to get past it fairly quickly. "How?"
"I have no idea, I didn't train him. Perhaps you should ask Tizane, she's fought him after all."
"And used knock-out gas. I'm almost certain she'll see the distinction even if you don't." She added a touch of sweetness to her smile. Szabó picked up his radio and muttered into it.
They waited in more or less companionable silence for several minutes before the side door of the room opened with no polite warning tap.
Without the haze of terrified self-preservation to override her vision, Pamela was pleased to see her initial assessment of the woman's age and features were more or less accurate. Without the wig, she looked more severe. Ash-blonde hair pulled back in a tight knot, cheek bones sharp. There was an ugly bruise and a web of white butterfly stitches around her left eye and her top lip was torn and swollen. Bourne apparently believed in dealing out worse than he was given.
The woman drew to attention, a thousand yard stare into the distance that had little of the personality Pamela had seen from the woman in the red wig.
Szabó seemed to take the cardboard cut-out effect in stride and as his due. He spoke English, a courtesy. "Tizane, do you believe Bourne would be able to break out of the holding cell?"
The woman didn't even blink. "Possibly."
Szabó looked uncomfortably as if he had been expecting a resounding 'no'. "Elaborate."
"He is ... creative." Pamela thought she saw just the slightest suggestion of a smile, but had to admit it could have been a trick of the flickering firelight.
Szabó almost asked another question, but managed to stop himself. Instead he waved a hand. "You may go. Join those guarding him."
They sat in silence a while longer after Tizane had gone as quietly as she'd entered, and then finally Szabó's eyes met hers. "He remembers nothing."
She didn't ask how he knew, just nodded. "Very little. He has intense headaches, flashes of memory. He followed one of your people to the compound to learn more. Whatever he found there obviously prompted further action from him."
"There should have been nothing to find there. He engaged the self-destruct and killed a great many people. That cannot be overlooked."
"No one has any intention of overlooking, Colonel. But sometimes the punishment must fit the criminal, not the crime. You can't keep him here."
"We can execute him. And do not attempt to tell me of the repercussions. If your Government were so concerned, we would have heard from them long before now.
"They know you are alive – I am sure – and that we do not intend to harm you ... and they know we have Bourne. So it would appear, Director, they are leaving his fate in your hands."
Something began to tighten in her chest and all she could see in her mind was Bourne's faint smile. His complete lack of anger. The fact he'd come back when he should have run. The fact that he always completed his objective and Nicky's voice was insisting that nothing he did was by accident.
Szabó must have seen something in her expression. Perhaps she had paled, she didn't know, but he was reaching a hand toward her.
"Where was your project moved?" Her voice sounded far away as she spoke and she couldn't quite tear her eyes from the door Tizane had left by.
"Tizane is too young to have been part of the original. The compound was abandoned and you went ... where?"
His mouth opened and shut before he finally replied. "Here."
"You're not his executioners, Colonel. He's ours."
They were almost to the door, Szabó shouting frantically to static on his radio, when the piercing alarm shattered the old world illusion of the room.
McManus met them in the main hall, a thin sheen of sweat the only indication he might not be a hundred percent as adrenaline took over. "Bourne?"
"The weapons are-" Szabó began to turn but McManus reached out a hand to stop him as she spoke with as much urgency as she could without screaming, which she was already in danger of just to be heard above the klaxon. "Get your people out, Szabó. Now."
Sweat was gathering along his forehead but he was resisting the insistent tug as McManus tried to force him towards the door. "Tizane will-."
"Tizane is dead. He removes what gets in his way. Don't send any more of your people out to die."
Szabó nodded shortly, changed the frequency of his radio and began to speak in rapid Romanian – she assumed an order to leave the facility. Doors began to open but barely anyone was running through them and she could already smell smoke.
The alarm cut out with a suddenness that made her feel deafened, but that was forgotten as she turned to stare into the barrel of Szabó's firearm. Hazily she thought there should be some kind of rule against having to be that scared twice in one day. Her heart hammered. McManus stood to one side then began to move in, probably trying to draw fire.
Szabó's finger tightened, the gun didn't waver. "I will kill her, Sergeant. Do not move."
"We have to get out of here." And now her voice sounded unnaturally quiet, Szabó didn't seem to have heard it at all.
"This is your people. You did this."
"How could we possibly do this? We've had a team watching a dummy compound for six years."
"Perhaps ... but I cannot allow you to leave. Not now."
He needed something to show his superiors. She could understand that, she just wished it wasn't her.
She had the impression of a shadow looming out of the smoke behind Szabó and there was movement that she couldn't follow. Something that seemed somehow complicated and simple at the same time and at its end McManus was holding a gun and Szabó was swaying with dead eyes and no visible wound.
And Bourne was standing calmly.
Szabó's corpse fell to the side and her gaze followed it down before she dragged it back up to meet Bourne's. "You didn't have to do that."
Bourne stared down for a moment and he said nothing as he turned away. "You need to leave."
Having little other choice she followed the clipped pace with McManus a few steps behind. "You used us. You wanted a distraction and you used us."
He said nothing.
Snow began to hiss behind them as the fire licked up the building. Below her feet she could hear a series of small explosions, feel the vibration. The ground held but she quickened her pace anyway
And somewhere between the pyre and the carpool, Bourne disappeared.
McManus took the driver side. Given what she could see of her expression in the side mirror, Pamela couldn't honestly say she blamed him.
Only Jenner hadn't looked appalled by the volumes upon volumes of hard-copy that began appearing soon after they returned. Instead he'd started in on them with a zealous glint in his eye that was frankly a little unnerving.
During her career, Pamela had come up with some fairly creative ways to enact her vengeance on others but Johanson's attempt to smother her department in paperwork was something she had to admire, even as she listened to the cries of the damned beyond her door.
It had taken surprisingly little to write up the report and the Oversight Committee had seen that the continued evasion of Bourne was less of a concern when weighed against the destruction of a Treadstone-esque Project that wasn't under the Company's control.
What Johanson's people had managed to recover from the Ploiesti site would take a great deal of time and manpower to sort, of course, but if that was the only fallout from the Bourne Travesty, it was fallout she could live with.
Unfortunately, she doubted it would be - not when the Intel included a list of names and cities, or when one of those cities was Washington.
She turned in her chair and let her gaze wander over the skyline, ignoring her cell as it began to ring.