He calls Chad Dieter's number from a small cafe's land line, trying to ignore than less-than discreet glances the nearby barista shoots his way. The woman looked shocked – repulsed, even – at his insistence that he did not have his cell phone, even when Jason explained to her as succinctly as possible that it would be a quick call.
He regrets his decision to not telephone from Grand Central; even with the threat of security cameras and partially-vigilant cops, the anonymity of the place would be far more comfortable than a small, cramped café, where a post 9-11 New Yorker watches his every move uneasily. Jason looks nothing like a terrorist (for God's sake, he's the fucking Chameleon), but the woman senses something that other people usually ignore, and this makes her very dangerous. He already blew any pretense by declaring he had no cell phone. Any action from this point on could determine how long Jason remains the ever-changing, ever-escaping Chameleon.
And truly? If someone wants to find him, they will. Bourne is a creature of crowds, invisibility and darkness, but so are the dozens of other state-sanctioned weapons in the world. He is not invisible, and he is not the best.
So Jason has to be careful.
The line rings. Jason refrains from making any uneasy movements and smiles when the barista yet again looks at him. She narrows her eyes for a moment, giving a tight-lipped, false response, but at this point an order is shouted from the corner and she moves away – reluctantly.
The phone is picked up on the third ring.
Not the same voice. Different pitch, different emphasis on vowels.
It's not Chad Dieter.
"Hi, is this Chad Dieter speaking?"
There is a strained beat before the voice speaks again.
"Who is this?"
"Uh – " Don't 'uh,' you stupid bastard, " – Frank Johnson, from Budgeting." Cautious pause. "Is this Chad Dieter?"
"No," the voice drawls, slow and irritated.
"Umm...do you know where I can reach him?"
Across the connection, this unfamiliar voice clicks its tongue once before responding. "Chad Dieter is dead."
Jason Bourne is reeling and the phone is about to fall out of his grasp when Cain grabs the line.
You cannot fall apart. Adapt.
"Oh shit," Jason says, because this is not only what he's thinking but what would be the most convincing thing to say. "Jesus, what – "
"What did you say your name was again?" This voice is cold, and Jason's fighting tooth and nail not to cut and run – get the hell out because this doesn't seem right.
"Frank Johnson." Turns up the irritation, indignance. "Who the hell are you?"
The voice pauses again. A breath.
And then the icy and unforgiving response of a dial tone.
The trick here is to exhale slowly and calmly and not panic. Jason carefully puts the phone back on its receiver. The barrista is now completely immersed in a double-grande vente latte (or whatever that is – some rattled off Italian that sounds sophisticated and expensive), so there is no distrustful glance in the direction of the phone or Jason.
He takes this opportunity to get out as quickly as possible from the coffee shop – ducking past the bulky man in the trench coat, the sparrow-like college grad and the various tourists all crowded around the cashier, the tables and the chairs.
He gets out into the open, back into his shelter, his blanket and his cloak and then Jason Bourne starts walking, very fast, towards a subway station.
He calls Gordon Webb.
The straight course towards the subway is all wrong, too obvious and too noticeable; there is something in the air and he stops only for a second to think about what it might be before backtracking – running right before a crosslight turns into a red gauntlet and vanishing in and out of various shops and boutiques.
This is killing time. This is stalling and wasting time.
Something's off, though; Bourne doesn't need Cain to tell him that the past few days have made him painfully lazy and prone to attack when he feels that twitch in his legs, that urge to just take off.
It's not right and it doesn't work.
So Jason calls Gordon Webb from his cell.
Two rings. Three.
And then he hears the shaky expulsion of breath from the other side of the line.
"You killed him, didn't you?"
Some part of Jason locks up, stutters. The betrayal and fear in the question -- and the underlying rage running beneath it – is tangible.
"No," he says. He is not lying, for once – fully aware of where he was this morning and last night, fully cognizant as to what he did do to Chad Dieter and what he did not.
"I haven't heard from you in three days," Gordon begins. "Haven't heard a thing, seen a thing, spoken a thing. How can I be so sure that – "
Jason dodges around a spindly-legged fashion-rack, bumping into a Saks Fifth Avenue and Sephora bag as he does so.
"There are people in this world," he says softly, "that are more than happy to get rid of you, and I am probably the only person at this point that can save you and your family. Do you understand – "
"Fuck you," the other Webb snarls. "Don't treat me like I'm the little kid and this is the big kid lecture about how I need to get my head out of your ass. There is shit happening to me that does not happen to normal people and – quite frankly? – I think I'm about done with it."
"You need to calm down."
"No," Gordon responds. "You need to go fuck yourself."
And Jason stops. Freezes right at the edge of subway terminal traffic. Cain and David fight in the back as equal and opposite reactions yelling different advice and different words as they attempt to muscle-in for center stage.
He shoves them back. Starts walking again.
"You do this," he warns, " and it will only end badly."
A low growl comes from the other side of the line. "You threatening me?"
In an instant the kid gloves are gone and the fatigue is full blown and there is nothing here but stone-cold reality.
"I'm telling you the truth. You want to play this game, want to go out on your own and see just how fucked-up the situation you're in is, go ahead. Roll the dice, Gordon. Watch how much you gamble goes to the house and leaves you in nothing with nothing. These people don't care about you, your family, your morals, your life and if you get in over your head, they'll snuff you and call it a good because really? They can hire another guy just like you within a couple of days.
"You're inconsequential. You're nothing but name on paper, money in the bank and some blood on the concrete. And you will stay this way – you will remain a nobody that got caught in something and ended up nothing – if you take those risks."
A minute passes that almost makes Jason fear that Gordon has hung up.
And then a shuddering inhalation breathes across the line. Gordon clears his throat.
"You go to hell," he says.
And ends the call.
A/N: Where the hell am I and why the hell did it take so long?
Good question. Cannot answer. Can say, though, that my new year's resolution (hurhur, aren't those fun?) is to finish this. I've actually got a nice and pretty plot outline all laid out and everything, and I can truthfully say that the end is probably only another five or six chapters. I think.
I would like to thank all of you that have continued reading this and continued hoping that -- maybe -- I'd get back and start writing this. I'm determined, I'll tell you.
So, first off: one reader pointed out very kindly that my idea of barbiturates as being the SUPR HEART-STOPPERS is somewhat false. While I have not fixed this error as I promised (no excuses shall be given, because they're all crap), I will say thank you so much for correcting me. And soon -- whether it be near or far -- I will get down to my red pen of shiny research and fix this bitch. Yet again, your honesty and critique is highly appreciated and revered.
ClaMIA!, the ever-faithful G.A. Clive, Abblitz, IlfirinEstel, texamich, MKofGod, grasshoppah-in-training (though she's probably a mastah now) EgyptianDreams and mortetal have been commenting and gently expressing their beliefs that, um, excuse me, you should really KEEP WRITING and FINISH THIS, and I am so happy that they did. I'm a broken record, but I thank you. Infinitely. The fact that this is still getting attention has forced me to still keep thinking about it, which I suppose is a good thing.
Kaykay. Going to post this now. I hope you guys enjoy. I guarantee that there will be more in the future. Within a month.