Winter Bourne

The average night time winter temperature in New York City is twenty-nine degrees Farenheight. The average wind speed, a mere ten miles an hour. Not extra-ordinary in themselves, combined they create a wind chill of 16 degrees, cold enough to kill.

Jason Bourne, clothes heavy with frigid water and stinking of the East River, was limping toward a row of warehouses. The cold had numbed his ears and nose and made his feet ache. It was only when he stopped moving that he realized that he was no longer shivering. Through the fog slowing his thoughts, the fact driven calculator built into in his brain warned him that the initial stage of hypothermia had set in. He needed to get warm now.

A third check of the surroundings and Jason made his choice. The two story brick warehouse ahead of him had a combination of age, meager lightening and air of decrepitude that told him it was an easier target for a break-in than its more modern neighbors. Forcing his way through a rusted iron link fence, he slid through the shadows and up to the door. Since he'd crawled out of the river, he'd walked with his right hand thrust into his armpit to warm his numb fingers.

A police cruiser slowed to sweep a light across the building as Jason hurried inside, the locks defeated. He waited with his back to the door, straining to hear if a cruiser door opened. Nothing. The police had moved on.

He nodded to himself – it was just a routine patrol. The cops hadn't been looking for him. It had been hellish, but he'd used every ounce of will to force himself far enough down river to outstrip any immediate search. Now he was paying the price. His core body temperature was dangerously low, and his body ached with a compilation of days of abuse. Jason knew his ability to think clearly was being affected by the cold. Knew he'd have to think things through twice to make sure he wasn't making mistakes.

Getting out of the wind and into shelter had been the first step. He already felt warmer. Now he made a survey of the front office, using the street lights to find his way around. Turning on a light where there were windows would be asking for trouble. At least his eyes were already adjusted to the dark. He did a fast tour of the warehouse attached to the office. It was filled wall to wall with boxes of spatulas, paper towel holders and a variety of other plastic junk. Useless.

He didn't find any surprises. Some of the tension holding his shoulders rigid eased. Jason closed the door to a windowless back room and snapped on the lights. He found the thermostat and cranked it up. Two beat-up desks filled most of the space with a kitchenette at the back wall. The best find was a shower squeezed into one corner. Jason peeled off his coat, kicked off his shoes. It was blissful to pull off the rest of his sodden clothes and let the hot water chase away the cold. When the hot water ran out, Jason used paper towels to pat himself dry. He didn't want to get blood on the cloth towels – far too noticeable. The cheap first-aid kit he found wasn't of much use, but more paper towels and bleach from the bathroom, a needle and thread, and scotch tape from the desk all helped with the external injuries. The honey was a real find, and he smeared it liberally on the less serious wounds. The blood in the toilet worried him; he'd done some serious damage to his internal organs. Jason swallowed his next to last codeine tablets, knowing that he was simply postponing the payment for the abuse he'd suffered these past few days.

Stepping out of the steam-filled bathroom, he found a pink woman's sweater, made cheerful with embroidered kittens, draped over a desk chair. It was large enough for Jason to wear. Scratchy, but better than nothing. The rest of the kitchenette was stocked entirely with candy, coffee and pastries. Which helped explain the size of the sweater. Wrapping both hands around a hot instant coffee loaded with sugar, Jason drank it down with efficient swallows, ignoring the taste. He ate two pastries with the same determination to get a quickly digestible energy source into his body.

Despite his exhaustion, Jason forced himself to wash and rinse out his wet clothes to get the smell of the river out of them. He needed to make sure that when he left here, nothing about his appearance would raise suspicion. He draped the pieces over the old-fashioned radiators to dry.

Grabbing bubble wrap from the warehouse and newspapers from the bottom of a messy stack, he made a nest near one of the radiators. Jason set the alarm on his watch to wake him in four hours, just after dawn. The watch was the most expensive thing he owned and worth every euro he'd paid for it. Despite everything he'd been through, including the unscheduled swim, it was working just fine. Unlike him.

Jason needed to sleep, needed to heal. Most of all, he needed to get out of New York City. He'd come here for answers, and now he had them, as well as a fragile hold of memories from another life. The worst of it – the absolute worst - was knowing that no one had forced him. At the end, he had taken that first, irreversible step himself. Hirsch may have put the gun in his hand, but he'd pulled the trigger. He'd done it because Hirsch had demanded blind trust, all in the name of protecting Americans. Yes, Jason had trusted his handlers and they'd used that trust to re-create him as a conscienceless walking weapon.

Waiting for the codeine to kick in, Jason turned his thoughts away from his past. He'd completed his mission and survived. He had a chance now to pay back a debt. Nicky had thrown away her own life and her future to help him. Now she was out there alone and he needed to find her.