In that book which is
My memory . . .
On the first page
That is the chapter when
I first met you
Appear the words . . .
Here begins a new life
- Dante Alighieri
The expression on Noah Vosen's face is almost worth the cataclysmically uncertain future Pamela Landy has now. Despite the reduction in weight, the backpack feels incredibly heavy with the secrets it carried; only her white-knuckle grip on the straps gives away her emotions.
"You'd better get yourself a good lawyer."
He makes a barely audible noise, like the gasping of a dying fish, and stares at her with a mixture of incredulity and terror. It's the look of a man watching the house of cards he built up around himself collapse down onto his corrupt, tragic fiefdom. There's anger too and the glint of hatred has her wondering if she's going to be shot in the back as she steps past him. Coward or not, Noah Vosen is still an armed CIA operative.
Every muscle in her back is drawn taut, waiting for the bullet, even after the door closes behind her. The heels of her shoes, sensible as they are, clap hard against the tile floor with each step she takes. Away from everything she hates, away from the career she's fought tooth and nail to build. Even knowing she's right doesn't make it easier to keep walking. Maybe she isn't going to be murdered before she can get out of the building; maybe she won't be coerced into penning a letter of resignation the next morning. But neither of those is a certainty. She doesn't know how deep the corruption goes and how far it has spread.
There are only two people she can trust now and one of them is a former assassin. That doesn't say much about her career choice.
The lobby has been locked down since Vosen arrived but, surprisingly, the tornado of guns and badges seems to have passed. None of his usual lackeys stayed behind to watch the front doors; all attention is directed inward to the core of the building where the secrets were kept.
Vosen will call her a traitor. Kramer might agree with him. All she can hope is that the Department of Justice sees it differently. That's the thought that keeps her moving through the lobby and out the door. Standing just beyond the police corridor is Tom Cronin and he becomes the lighthouse guiding her forward.
Her breath catches in her throat as a familiar face enters the building. Paz. She doesn't know his real name, age, or birthday, only the handle he'd been given when he was brought into the program. Like the name Jason Bourne or Gilberto de Piento, it's just a façade. Resisting the impulse to follow him, she forces herself to stay still. She holds up her identification at eye level so the men demanding to know who and why can see her clearance visually. None of them stop her. None of them know what she's done.
"Pam? Pam?" Tom repeats, trying to get her attention.
"How many exits are there?" she asks, not even understanding where her racing mind is taking her.
"They've got them all covered."
"An exit that isn't an exit." She looks up, scanning the line of the building against the darkening sky.
"Pam," Tom says gently. "Not even him..."
She knows what he means. Not even Jason Bourne could escape a CIA facility meant to train men just like him. Not James Bond, not anyone. No human man is going to be walking away from this.
It's instinct that guides her. Intuition even. Maybe it's simply that she's been pouring over and over his file, searching for truth and bits of details only the lost memories inside his head would understand. The crowd of bystanders and security is thick all around the building, but they're focused on the doors. Tom follows a step behind her, silent and waiting.
She knows he wants to ask her what the hell they're doing; his questions are almost palpable. But he doesn't ask and he won't even if she's proven wrong. She tries not to imagine what's happening inside the building. The confrontation of identities, the struggle between Jason Bourne and David Webb. How would it feel to return to the place that made him what he was? Jason won the first battle. She's hoping David will win the last.
All the psychobabble she read in Conklin's report seems pressing and important now. Whatever Alex Conklin called it, it came down to the belief that the false personality, the Bourne identity, had finally taken root so deeply that there was nothing left. Had they done their job too well or not well enough? Conklin had been wrong – it was Jason who crumbled - and paid for his mistake with his life.
She doesn't know how much of either Jason or David will be left if he does survive.
Her breath is visible in the cold air as the sunlight begins to dim, the brightest glow having slipped below the city skyline long ago. Half aware and half lost in her thoughts, she keeps scanning over the area in search of a feeling she can't identify. He's found a way out of every trap they've set for him; he has to find a way out of this one.
This is where it started for me. This is where it ends.
It's a surprise to realize how desperately she wants him to escape once more and how clearly she understands that the world needs Jason Bourne. Not as a mold or a prototype, but as a warning to all those who go where others fear to tread. She wants to be able to give the Justice Department something more tangible, more human, than a dossier to prod them out of their comfortably moderate stance. She wants them to see the actual human costs that don't appear on their balance sheets.
"Pam? Shouldn't we be contacting Director Kramer?" Tom asks. He's as nervous as she's ever seen him, glancing over his shoulder toward the hustle of sirens and NYPD blue. There will be an explanation in tomorrow's paper and every word of it will be a lie.
At this point, she doesn't dare trust anyone, even the Director of the CIA. She looks up again, squinting to see the roof's edge in the failing light. "If they were going to kill me, Vosen would have done it already."
"That doesn't mean he won't come after you later." He's genuinely concerned for her and she appreciates his unshakable loyalty. "Whistle blowers aren't taken lightly in this line of work, you know that."
They might even wait until the scandal blows over and she would only be an obituary, killed in an attempted robbery or innocuous accident. She may have cut the head off of the monster, but that doesn't mean there won't be three more sprouting up in its place. She moves further away from the front of the building; the whisper of the river is getting louder. "The American people deserve to know about Blackbriar, about men like Vosen."
"You're not hearing me." Tom places his hand gently on her arm. "Treadstone, Blackbriar. Programs like that don't disappear, they just change names. And once the next one starts, you're going to be enemy number one."
They'll kill you for giving me this.
That jars her from her thoughts just enough to make her look away from the roof. There's a terrified sadness in Tom's eyes. The lump in her throat appears out of nowhere. It won't just be her they'll go after; they'll go after anyone who stood by her. Maybe she's choosing to give up a career, maybe she's risking her life for what she believes is right. Tom has a family.
"Vosen didn't see you, he only knows that I sent the file."
He stares at her for a moment before he smiles. "You know it's too late for that."
"There's no reason to drag you down with me, Tom."
"No one will believe that I wasn't involved."
"I'll swear under oath that you had nothing to do with the file or with Bourne." Her urgency stems from her shaken faith in the Agency, from her helplessness in standing outside the building waiting for a miracle. Faced with so much in her world that's wrong, she's been trying to put it right and she keeps failing.
A gunshot breaks off any further attempt to convince him. She searches blindly for the source of the sound and catches sight of a dark shape tumbling down from the roof of the building.
It has to be him.
She's running before she can think better of it and triangulating where he'll fall, where she'll be able to reach him the soonest. Her mind is spinning through the possibilities. The East River is fast and dangerous. How will he get out? Was he hit? Would he survive the ten-story fall into the water? It seems to take minutes rather than seconds for the sound of the splash to reach her ears.
Grabbing onto the safety barricade, she searches the choppy surface of the river for any sign of a swimmer; the reflected lights of the city flicker and wave without casting usable illumination. He has to be there, she has to find him.
The sense of urgency blossoms into desperation as she waits, straining to hear even the smallest sound that doesn't belong in the usual river noise. Hands tight on the barrier, she moves downstream in an attempt to follow the current, to follow where it would carry him. She forces the 'what ifs' out of her mind and focuses on the river. Tom is at her side, as always, searching the shadows and ripples of light just as fervently.
It's faint and regular; the unmistakable sound of something moving through the water with hands and feet. Holding her breath to block out even that sound, she follows the splashing downstream. Closer and closer. There's seven vertical feet of treacherously slippery rock and steel barricade. Stripping off her scarf, she silently apologizes to her checking account for what she's about to do and wraps one end around her wrist. Below her, she can hear coughing and choking as a human being drags their body out of the frigid water. The other end of her scarf flutters down into the darkness. It just has to hold long enough for him to reach the barricade.
"David?" she calls into the darkness as loudly as she dares. Please be there.
Tom grabs onto the scarf with one hand and wraps his other arm around her waist. He mutters something about her sanity, but she can't hear him above the pounding of her heart.
The scarf pulls taut and is suddenly unbearably heavy. Don't tear, don't tear. She's braced against the barricade as firmly as she can, her shoulders straining against the pull. Tom is all that's standing between her and tumbling into the river. A hand, scarred and dripping heavy water droplets, grabs onto the top rung of the barricade. She's only seen him in person once but she knows the shape of him immediately. His left hand, wrapped tightly in her scarf, reaches up to grab on and he hauls himself up. Tom takes one arm and she takes the other, ignoring the icy cold of his wet clothes and skin, as they help him over.
"Are you injured?" she asks, still holding her breath.
Bourne coughs, spitting up water. "I'll live."
"I'll get the car." Tom gives her a meaningful look and then he's gone.
David is watching her with that measuring look of his, sizing her up and trying to decide if they're really on the same side. There's a part of him that will always be looking for the angle and always expecting the double cross. The building he escaped from is barely a block upstream from them and police lights are still flashing around the perimeter. Chaos bought them this much time; it's foolhardy to expect fate to offer any further respite.
"We need to keep moving," he says brusquely, already searching the area for a shadow to disappear into. Recognizing the backpack lying forgotten at her feet, he grabs it up and slings it over his shoulder with a telltale wince.
She nods, knowing the general direction of Tom's car and the scenic route to getting there. Tom knows her well enough to anticipate what move she'll make. His face is a mask but body language doesn't lie and he winces with every step he takes. Rather than offer help, she pulls her sidearm from her purse and holds it low in front of her as they start down a service access drive behind the nearest building. Until they drag her forcibly from her office, she is also an armed CIA operative.
There are shouting voices in the distance and the flashing police lights cast an eerie glow along the sides of the office buildings. She moves quickly, trusting him to keep up and knowing he will. It's only a matter of time before word travels down ten floors and the police begin to hunt for him. She heads away from the river, and the first place they'll look, as quickly as possible.
The familiar contour of Tom's silver sedan shines in relief against the dark pavement. He takes the corner a little too fast, seeing them only at the last possible moment. Tires squeal and the car stops almost on top of them.
"The tank's almost full," he says as he climbs out of the car. "Get as far away as you can." He's not telling her in words that he can't follow where she might have to go; if it comes down to that, if Vosen and Kramer have more friends in higher places. He has a wife and a child counting on him to come home.
"I'll find a way to contact you." That's all the goodbye she has time for. David is already climbing into the backseat, ducking low so he won't be seen. She slides behind the wheel and closes the door on her entire life. It will be impossible for her to go back until she knows how the scandal will fall out, until she sees with her own eyes that Blackbriar has truly fallen.
Once the flashing lights are far enough way that they can't be seen, she risks asking a question. "Do you need medical treatment?" Her question sounds sterile and clinical. Like she read it in a book.
"Soon," he answers just as clinically. "The bullet needs to come out."
"Are you still bleeding?"
"Keep driving. We have to get out of the city." There's something in his voice that might be pain.
What they need is somewhere small and out of the way, someone who won't ask questions. "We'll find a motel along the way and get you taken care of."
"They'll be after you." It's a statement, devoid of emotion or concern.
The idea of living the kind of life that he's been living seems surreal and impossible. She's too set in her routine, in her world, to even imagine what it would mean to leave it all behind permanently. "Maybe. But someone has to make sure Vosen and Kramer don't get away with this."
Their conversation is swallowed up in silence. She has a feeling that he hasn't spoken much to anyone since Marie was killed in India. What would Abbott think if he knew that his small mistake brought down Blackbriar? The dominos falling away from that single action would have been incomprehensible to him. Now, as she turns the car north and the only safety she can think of, she wonders when and where those dominoes are going to stop.
Peering over the top rim of his bifocals, Senator Lawrence Carlisle's most fervent wish is to be back at his lodge in northern Maine, fishing. He did not want to be convening an emergency, midnight meeting of the Intelligence Oversight Committee and he, most particularly, did not want to be hearing that several top officials of the CIA were under suspicion of treason. Since he isn't in Maine and he isn't fishing, he starts at the top of the list of questions. "Do we know the depth of Landy's involvement in Blackbriar?"
"According to whom?" Former CIA Director Martin tosses his brief on the table dismissively. Returning to the private sector has been good for him, taking years off of his appearance and he seems to resent its intrusion in to his new life. "Vosen's denouncing Landy as a traitor, Kramer's saying he didn't know a thing; and if this document is to be believed, both of them are knee deep into Constitutional violations the likes of which this country hasn't seen."
"And Landy? Are we supposed to believe she knew nothing?" counters Fred Knowles, the chair of the emergency taskforce created by the President to investigate the breech. "What's her involvement with Jason Bourne? If she's the unfortunate bystander then where is she? "
"Why don't you ask Vosen where they dumped her body? Do you really think he let her walk out of the building? All we have is a single classified file, which is bad enough, but leaves who knows what else floating around out there. I doubt Vosen simply let her walk away with evidence that could burn him."
"There are witnesses-"
"Witnesses who work for Vosen." Martin shakes his head, the lines across his brow deepening. "Pam's smart. She'll know there's no one she can trust. Not until the Justice Department takes a stand on this. Publicly. If she's alive, she'll be watching the news."
"And Jason Bourne?"
"They'll start searching the river first thing tomorrow morning."
The conversation lulls as each of them take several moments to think over the possibilities. A single file gave them the bones of the Blackbriar project, but no flesh or skin to give it a complete face. To Senator Carlisle, sending the file to the Justice Department feels like Landy's desperate attempt to shine a light into the heart of the Agency's darkest secret but, until Landy herself appears, all he has is a feeling. The insinuations coming from Martin that Vosen might have had her killed are particularly unsettling. Then again, one file out of what could be hundreds of files detailing the workings of Blackbriar couldn't rule out Landy's own involvement in the covert organization.
Knowles finally breaks the silence. "We know that Landy communicated with Bourne, that she colluded with him. She gave him the diversion to break into the New York office, for god's sake. How do we know she wasn't planning this with him since Berlin?"
"I've listened to the audio from the call between Bourne and Landy. It's not damning but it doesn't help her case either," Martin began cautiously. "The entire operation in Berlin…we should have known then that Treadstone wasn't really gone, but we didn't see the pieces. Not until now."
Senator Carlisle nods acknowledgement, his own opinion of the connection between Bourne and Landy still forming. "Whether or not Landy leaked classified information to a rogue assassin isn't the question. Her behavior in this situation, while noble in its own right, is hardly the behavior that the Agency expects from its Deputy Directors and she will face repercussions for those actions. But our first and foremost question, however, is Blackbriar and the assassin program itself."
"We have to move on Vosen," Martin insists. "As soon as we do, she'll come in and tell us what really happened."
Knowles shakes his head in disagreement. "If she's just as dirty as Vosen, we're better to wait until we have leverage. And if we're going after anyone at the Deputy Director level, we'd better be damn sure we have all the facts."
"What are we doing to find Landy?" Senator Carlisle really wants to ask what Vosen is doing to find Landy, since he's the one who will be hung out to dry if Blackbriar goes public.
Martin answers after a quick glance at the briefing report. "Her assistant, Tom Cronin, reported his car missing two hours after the standoff at the New York office. He believes it may have been Landy who took the car. She would have had access to his keys."
"New York Highway Patrol has a description of the make and model as well as Landy herself. If she's driving, she won't get far." Knowles sounds remarkably happy about that fact.
Thinking over the options, Senator Carlisle leans back in his seat as he chooses his words carefully. "We'll wait. At least until we find the car and a lead on where Landy may have gone. I'll instruct the investigation to continue to probe, to ask questions. I want to know how much of the Agency is compromised by this. And how much of a scandal this is going to be. I won't be able to hold the wolves at bay for long."
"I'll arrange to have Vosen brought in for an official statement," Knowles offers.
"I want Ezra Kramer in this office as well," Senator Carlisle says sharply, ignoring the startled look on Knowles' face. He has no illusions about where Fred's loyalties really lie and why he's been placed on the committee. "His name is on this document, I want to know if he knew what he was signing."