Detective Eva Morales nods toward the combat ready Marines standing in the hallway of Mercy General. "What's with the uniforms?"
"Must be someone important," her partner answers dispassionately. Detective Sean Carson may be one of NYPD's finest, but he's notorious for wearing blinders that block out everything beyond the case he's working on.
Eva shakes her head; she's been at this job too long to ignore her instincts. "You don't think it's unusual to have the G.I. Joe twins hanging around?"
"We'll ask on the way out. Come on. Let's see if our John Doe has any idea who tried to kill him." He leads the way down the hall toward the opposite end of the Intensive Care Unit and their destination. She nods hello to one of the nurses; they've been here often enough that the staff recognizes them.
When she thinks about that, it makes her question her career choice. Mostly, she doesn't think about it. She thinks about the John Doe in room four hundred and fifty one. She thinks about the breathing tube stuck down his throat and the scar in his chest where the doctor dug out the bullet. He's not exactly hard on the eyes either. Dark, definitely mixed ethnicity; his hair curls tight over his head and the stubble on his face is turning into a thick beard.
"Hey there," she greets him as they enter the room. She shrugs off her coat before approaching the side of the bed.
It'll be weeks before he can eat and breathe without help, but the lucky bastard will survive. A millimeter lower and the bullet would have exploded his heart, killing him instantly. It's a miracle he's even alive. She's hoping the miracle will hold long enough for her to get the name of whoever tried to kill him.
"Detective Eva Morales, this is Detective Carson." She holds up her badge where he can see. "Doc says you won't be talking much for a few more weeks but we'd like to catch the person who put you here. Think you can help us?"
Ever so slightly, he shakes his head.
"You sure about that? Cause I like catching bad guys."
Again, he shakes his head. His index fingers rises and falls slowly, giving an indication that he's attempting to communicate.
"How about one for no and two for yes?" She imitates the motion with her own finger before digging into her back pocket for a notebook and pen. "A? B?" It's an agonizingly slow progress but eventually she has eleven letters on her notepad and, put together, they form a name. "Pamela Landy?"
He nods almost imperceptibly, closing his eyes as those he's fallen back into sleep.
"Did she shoot you?"
He raises his finger once. No.
"Does she know who did?"
"But she's important. We need to talk to her. Is that it?" She figures this Pamela woman is a girlfriend or something.
She bites back a heavy sigh and the temptation to roll her eyes. "Well, there can't be more than a few hundred Pamela Landys in the phone book. Guess we should get started."
"Alright. What else do I need to know?" She runs through the alphabet almost three more times. Luckily, the last cycle stops with A. "C.I.A?"
"Holy shit. I knew that name sounded familiar," Carson breathes. "It's been all over the goddamn news. She's the Deputy Director who disappeared. She testified at the Senate hearing yesterday morning, blew the whole thing wide open. Jesus Christ."
"Watch your mouth," she chastises him dryly before turning back to their nameless gunshot victim. "How about you? You got a name? We've been calling you John Doe down at the station." It takes an agonizingly long time, cycling through the alphabet again and again as she watches for the slightest move of his index finger.
"Are we sure this is the right place, sir? It looks deserted," the young, fresh-faced officer asks. His name is Ken White and Marshall heard his entire life story on their way to Bourne's location.
Considering the fact that their destination is a hunting cabin in the middle of nowhere, the history of Ken White might be the most valuable information he's managed to gather on this trip. He doesn't have an answer to the question, not quite ready to speculate on whether or not Landy deliberately sent him on a wild goose chase. There are plenty of other daunting questions to keep him occupied while the tactical team crosses the quarter mile to the hunting cabin on foot.
He shifts in the uncomfortable car seat, trying to balance the reports that seem to multiply exponentially every time he turns his back. The information contained in the pages makes his blood curdle, but there's little else to do in the surveillance vehicle but wait.
Of all the things he knew Ezra Kramer to have been, coward is not one of them. Ruthless, arrogant, even traitorous, yes, but he can't imagine the man he knew taking his own life. It's all there in coroner's report; no evidence of foul play. By all accounts, Kramer was alone in his office when he died. The surveillance video reaffirms this, the card readers on the secure doors confirm it. Even with the mounting evidence, he doesn't believe it.
He doesn't believe, even for a moment, that the mushrooming scandal drove Kramer to suicide. Regardless of the proof that it was Kramer himself who had orchestrated the attempt to pin Blackbriar on Pamela Landy, leading to the tampering of the mainframe at CRI. The paper trail being uncovered by the Justice Department is damning, leveling unquestionable fingers at Kramer and Vosen. A parallel, but quieter, investigation by Homeland Security is finding a shocking level of corruption and dubious use of power that would have destroyed Kramer.
There's too much.
Kramer was never stupid. He would never have allowed a hint of documentation of any misdoing to exist, let alone reams of paper delineating his control over the creation and function of Blackbriar. His signature is right there; the authorization for the behavior conditioning and for the use of experimental pharmaceuticals, including the names and sums of money he was paid by upper level management of the companies who provided the drugs.
Unable to put his finger on the nagging suspicion that the treasure trove of documents being unearthed by the Justice Department is too good to be true; he's left to sift through the reports and form his own, troubled opinions. The loss of data and surveillance video at CRI is too convenient. The window of time where the system was backing up and lost precious seconds of video outside Kramer's office, the perfect set of prints on the glass even though it had obviously fallen from his hand; all of it is so frustratingly circumstantial. He has no concrete proof that the evidence has been staged to present a deliberate picture of Kramer's involvement.
He can't even begin to fathom who would have the access and clearance it would take to either collect or fabricate this kind of evidence. And all of it, every single bit of remaining evidence, puts Landy completely in the clear. Even the asset who was sent to kill Landy - ordered by Vosen himself - has disappeared off of the face of the earth.
The order to kill both Pamela and Tom Cronin at the rendezvous came from Kramer, they've even found proof of that in the seemingly bottomless pile of evidence. They haven't found the shooter. Every inch of Grand Central was searched, every exit shut down and every single human being inside searched to the edge of his legal ability. Nothing. He can't hunt down a ghost and bring it in for questioning.
"Sir?" White asks hesitantly. "Something wrong?"
"Of all the conspiracy theories out there," he begins, speaking more to fill the silence than convey information. "There are half a dozen names for the same idea; that an organization, vast and powerful, exists beneath the surface of government. Beyond law, beyond anything but power and the will to wield it. Call it the Illuminati or the New World Order, whatever you like." He leaves Blackbriar off of the list. The surveillance vehicle falls silent and he becomes acutely aware that the members of the team are watching him uneasily.
"There are crazy ideas out there, White. And even crazier people who believe those ideas. Take the doomsday nuts for example, building bunkers or cabins out in the middle of nowhere and waiting for the nuclear holocaust. Crazy." He can almost feel the relief of the other men in the enclosed space.
"Ground team is approaching, sir," a voice in the back speaks up.
Marshall turns his attention to the monitor, watching through the unsteady hand view as one of the team approaches the front steps leading up to the porch. This is the moment of truth. Will Bourne be there? Or will he have vanished like every other tantalizing piece of real evidence?
"The door's unlocked." The voice of the Team Leader is riddled with static, obscuring the sound of the door swinging open; their first glimpse inside the cabin. The room appears to be a kitchen, the appliances easily recognizable. "There's something, sir. It appears to be a body. Male, Caucasian."
He catches sight of a human form as camera pans shakily over the scene but the face of the man is turned away, his identity concealed. "Tell them to investigate. Find out who that is and if they're alive."
The Team Leader moves forward cautiously, each step jarring the camera's vision only slightly. A dark pool of liquid spreading over the floor comes into view, the familiar dark shape of a handgun lies beside the fallen man. Even before the video camera moves closer, the hand carrying it reaching out to roll the man onto his back, Marshall knows they won't be able to confirm that it's Bourne.
"Looks like a shotgun blast to the face, sir."
Marshall manages to keep the frustration out of his voice. "We'll have to bag him and bring him in for ID confirmation.
"Yes, sir." The camera jostles and blurs with static for a moment. "Wait. There's something. Some kind of device."
"Give us a visual, Team Leader."
"Fall back!" The picture returns, swaying wildly back and forth as the Team Leader races toward the front door.
The screen goes blank mere seconds before they hear the roar of the explosion and the surveillance van is rocked by the shockwave. Scrambling out of the vehicle, Marshall is riveted by the column of smoke and fire piling up into the sky. He knows immediately that there will be nothing left of the cabin but a blackened crater; bits of debris are already raining down as close as twenty feet away. Lives lost and nothing to show for it. No evidence, no proof, and no Bourne.
Nothing but ghosts.
The hospital is the only place Pamela can think to go. The only place where she won't be alone, facing everything that has gone so very wrong. Best laid plans, a best laid life; all of it torn asunder in less than twenty-four hours. She couldn't bring herself to get rid of the flannel shirt. Not yet. Sitting on the chair outside Tom's hospital door, it's all she can do just to breathe. On her lap is the classified archive file that ruined everything. She can't force her fingers to let go of it.
"Yes?" She looks up, trying to focus on the young Marine standing beside Tom's door.
"Your phone is ringing, ma'am."
"Oh. Thank you." Her fingers are heavy and clumsy as she pulls it from her purse. Even her own name sticks in her throat. "Pamela Landy."
"Pam, there's nothing left. There was an explosion. It's all gone. He's gone."
It's not a surprise - she knew the second she saw his face in the photograph - but it still hits her like a blow. She forces herself to take several long, deep breaths before responding. "I'm sorry, Marty. I didn't…I wasn't sure."
"I'll be back in the city this afternoon. I'd like to talk. About where we go from here. Where you go from here."
"I'm at the hospital. I'm going to stay here awhile." She lets her hand fall to her lap, disconnecting the call without saying good-bye. Her work feels monumentally futile at this moment. She failed. She can't even bring herself to consider what will happen to Carla and Mary if Tom doesn't pull through.
It's all her fault.
The handle of the door clicks before it swings inward and Carla slips through the gap. Her hair is pulled into a tight ponytail and the dark circles under her eyes have settled in permanently. "Ms. Landy? I heard your voice. Why didn't you come in?"
"I didn't want to disturb you."
Carla looks almost too terrified to speak, wringing her hands together nervously. She's never seemed comfortable around Pamela. "I was going to go see Mary. I don't want to leave Tom alone, but…"
"I could stay with him," Pam offers softly.
She smiles, almost sympathetically. "Thank you." One of the Marines moves to follow her and she recoils from the escort, eyeing him with rebellious mistrust. She doesn't protest, however, apparently understanding the necessity and walks away with the young soldier half a step behind her.
Left to ensure Tom doesn't wake to an empty room - if he wakes at all - Pamela braces herself against the smell of antiseptic and disinfectant and the sight of Tom lying in the hospital bed with skin like white wax. The door closes behind her, shutting out the bustle of the hospital and the bright lights of the hallway. She takes the seat beside Tom and sits down gingerly, acutely aware that this seat belongs to Carla. She is the interloper.
"Hi, Tom," she says quietly. She sounds pathetic in the quiet, the beep of the heart monitor much louder than her voice. "The hearing went well. There will be more, of course."
Her mind is racing, trying to force order onto the chaos that life has given her and trying to find meaning in it all. She's always leaned on Tom, depended on him to keep her steady and moving forward. Now that he's silent, only the artificial beat of his heart to answer her, she's floundering. How can she even begin to explain? How can she make amends for the fact that he's lying in this bed because of her?
"Kramer's dead. The Coroner thinks it might have been suicide." She's attempting to stay calm and collected. Perhaps if she acts as though it's just another day and another debriefing, it will seem less artificial and cruel. He always knew what needed to be done, always understood what she was trying to tell him. "David…is dead. There was an explosion. I told him to stay there, that I would come back with an offer. He trusted me," her voice breaks and she has to stop, pressing her knuckles against her lips as though that could stop what she needs to tell him from being true.
"Carla gave me the file." She looks down at the folder, wondering how something so small can do so much damage. The edges have curled from being stuffed into her purse, but she doesn't dare let it out of her possession. Gently, she lays the file open against his side. It's close enough that he could reach out and touch the pages; that he could see what she sees. "It turns out the real Jason Bourne was a piece of work. Not much of a surprise, I suppose. They used his name for a reason."
Her fingers shake as she brushes over the photograph, seeing and not seeing the end of her whole world right there in black and white. Everything she knows, everything she believes is rendered useless by this photograph.
Her entire life.
"The man on the left…I don't know what name you know him by. Hirsch knew him as Delta. He recruited David into Treadstone. David remembered the scar, just like Carla did." She can't force herself to voice her fears, that this man is the one who fired the bullet that tore through Tom. A bullet meant for her. She doesn't know which hurts more, that she was a target or that Tom was hit and she wasn't. "He's had a lot of names. He was even Jason Bourne for years."
Her vision blurs as her eyes fill with tears. She brushes them away impatiently, refusing to cry over this. Over him. Crying won't change the past; it won't bring David back or undo the damage keeping Tom locked in silence. Her hands are still shaking - she can't stop shaking - as she pulls the smaller photograph from her purse and lays it against the black and white photo. The image of the two pictures side by side will haunt her for the rest of her life.
"When I knew him…his name was Rick."
Saying the name destroys what is left of her self-control. All she can do is grab onto the blanket spread over Tom and try to breath through the tears pouring down her cheeks. David is gone, Tom is gone, and it's all her fault. She thought he would be safe; she thought it was the one place where Treadstone couldn't touch him. Instead, she led him to his death and put Tom in the line of fire along the way.
It still doesn't seem possible. It doesn't seem real. But there he is in both pictures and she knows that face almost better than she knows her own. Beautiful blue eyes, close-cropped brown hair with a mind of its own, and that crazy, crooked smile she had loved. All that's missing is the scar that seems to define him now and the neon sign above his head announcing that he was a liar and a murderer. How could she not have seen it? She'd been young and naïve, but can't believe she'd been so very wrong about him.
At the same time, it explains too much for her to deny it. The life that was perfect on paper but strangely void of human debris. An Ivy League education, his name listed with Doctors Without Borders - the perfect cover for his real objectives - but not so much as a traffic ticket or high school spelling bee prize with his name on it. If she'd dug deeper - Tom would have known - it would have been obvious that the entire identity was too carefully constructed to be real.
Every breath she takes seems to make the heartache more agonizing to bear. Guilty. The conversation with Albert Hirsch has been replaying in her head for hours; how he'd seen through her anger, through her grief, and known her pain for what it truly was.
He merely chose the wrong Jason Bourne.
"Please don't leave me," she whispers, reaching for Tom's hand and taking comfort in the way it fits against hers. "I can't do this without you."
Taste is the first sensation that returns; the copper tang of blood on his tongue. Wincing against the throbbing pain in his forehead, David - Jason - feels around him for anything that might be a threat. Cheap fabric, rough to the touch. Opening his eyes only introduces a series of blurry blobs of light into the equation. Stiff, aching, he sits up and immediately reaches for his head. The pain is sharp and intense, like a jackhammer pounding against his skull. After a while, it fades enough for him to pull his hands away and squint into the dim light.
Where is he?
He looks down, surprised to see that the comfortable sweats have been replaced with rugged cargo pants that are distinctly military and a plain brown t-shirt. Black combat boots are heavy but familiar. A brand new Tag Heuer watch is latched around his wrist, replacing the one he lost to the East River.
The room around him has no windows. There's a narrow bed, a nightstand with a utilitarian lamp, and two doors; one leading to a minimal bathroom and the other leading out of the room. He eases off of the bed, feeling each and every one of his still healing injuries as he moves. Fumbling for the light switch inside the bathroom, he winces against the sudden flood of fluorescent light.
A cracked, aging mirror reflects a stranger's face back to him. Dried blood at the spot where his nose meets his forehead forms a perfect imprint of the butt of a rifle. He turns the handle of the sink, waiting as the water splutters and coughs from cold to lukewarm. The hand towel has seen better days. He wets one corner and begins cleaning away the blood, ignoring the stinging of broken skin. The area around his left eye is turning a mottled purple, but other than the cut and the ugly bruise from the rifle, he can find no other fresh wounds. They wanted to take him alive.
Once the blood is washed away, he rinses the taste of it from his mouth before shutting off the water and returning to the bedroom. The door that must be the exit is locked, the knob refusing to turn when he tries it. He examines the edges, looking for a way past the lock, but the pain and nausea of wounds old and new force him back to the bed to catch his breath.
Just for a minute.
The hands of the watch indicate it's late afternoon, but what day? Without windows, he has only his instincts to tell him how long he's been unconscious. His stomach growls a reminder that it's been too long between meals, but again, that only gives him minimal information about how much time has passed.
He doesn't know how they found him - who found him? - but they must've discovered Landy's location when she made contact or even followed her as she was returning to the cabin. The possibilities are grim; either scenario is a death sentence for Pamela. Because of him, because she tried to help him. Whether the nausea is from the blow to the head or from knowing what happens to those who try to help him, he can't be sure. No matter how many names and secrets he discovers, it doesn't change anything; no matter how many lives he takes or how many times he walks away.
He tenses when he sees the doorknob turn; ready to move, ready to defend himself against whatever comes through.
It's a face he's come to know from his nightmares, that ever-familiar scar making the man in front of him unforgettable. The man meets his gaze directly, unafraid, as he tosses a dark backpack onto the bed beside David. Intense blue eyes seem to bore into his skull and, for a moment, he seems about to speak but merely nods toward the backpack.
Puzzled, and slightly alarmed, David pulls open the zipper of the pack and digs into the contents. He finds a change of clothes, the deodorant and toothbrush Pamela purchased; there's a bank bag with cash, small bills mostly, and a sleek, dark blue passport. Inside is his face and his birthday, but not his name. Daniel Webster. As he flips through the pages, he sees that Daniel has never left the United States. Between the last page and the back cover, he finds the photograph. Marie.
"Why?" he manages to ask, his voice rough from prolonged silence.
The man moves to the wall, leaning back in a way that should be casual but doesn't quite manage to make him less threatening. "I have a team of men like you. Private sector. You've got a place on that team if you want. Or you can take that bag and disappear."
"I'm no longer Jason Bourne." It's automatic. It's become his mantra, his code.
"You'll never be anyone else. Doesn't matter what name I give you," the man answers cryptically. "Jason Bourne was a traitor and a drug dealer. I buried him in Vietnam long before you were born." He doesn't bother trying to conceal the hatred in his voice for this phantom, this real Jason Bourne.
"You brought me to Treadstone." He doesn't get a response, doesn't expect one, and waits until the silence becomes heavy before attempting another question. "Who are you?"
"I've had a hundred different names. All of them ghosts..." he trails off, the words disappearing before they can make sense.
"Why?" he asks again, searching for the angle, the trap. He's being offered his freedom, away from Treadstone and Blackbriar, but men like this - like him - don't act without reason, without motive. There's always an objective, always a target. "Why didn't you kill me?"
His crooked smile gives the impression of barely masked cruelty. "I still might."
There's a reason the man has kept him alive and given him a new chance at life; a reason and a price to pay. Whatever that hidden motive might be, he has no doubt his unexpected ally could just as quickly turn against him.
"You're free to go. And if you change your mind." He steps away from the wall as he reaches into his breast pocket. The business card is crisp and perfectly white. It falls onto the corner of the bed, the man never quite getting close enough to reach.
David reaches for the card. Emblazoned on the front is the inked image of a woman with writhing snakes emanating from her head. Medusa. There's phone number printed, almost invisibly, along the bottom of the card. It's a domestic number but he doesn't recognize the area code. When he looks up, the man has already returned to his place against the wall. "I don't understand."
"I cracked my skull on a job in South America. Columbia, 1977. Back then, I was Jason Bourne. I needed to lie low for a few months." He looks away, his gaze focused somewhere beyond the room. "Met this college girl working a summer job. I remember her eyes. You could see everything she was thinking, everything she wanted, everything she was afraid of. Right there in her eyes."
His first thought is Marie and the way her luminous eyes always drew him in. It's a piece of this puzzle that he can grab onto, that he can understand. A girl, a new life, peace; those are desires he understands. Then his brain latches onto the rest of the sentence - I was Jason Bourne - and spins furiously into motion. The feeling at the bottom of his stomach has turned decidedly unsettled. It's as though he's been given a glimpse into the future, into what he could have become if he hadn't shattered into pieces on Wombozi's yacht that night.
"You chose me," he says quietly. "To become you."
The silence is uneasy, taut with what remains unspoken and unanswered. Although freedom is being offered, the man's scrutiny is far from friendly and there's a vicious edge in his voice. His stance is deliberately casual as he waits, anticipating whatever move David might make. They've been pounded into the same mold, the same identity, and the bristling at being in the same room with the other is palpable.
You'll never be anyone else.
He doesn't know why he thought he could go back, but now he knows. Now he's seen what path lies ahead of him, what his face will look like in another five or fifteen years. Slowly, he returns the contents to the backpack, slipping the business card into the pocket before pulling the zipper closed. Standing takes conscious effort to bend each joint, to pull each segment of his body up onto the other and push away the feeling of weight and strain. The strap of the backpack feels comfortable and familiar against his shoulder.
The one person in the world who might understand what it means to leave Jason Bourne behind is standing in front of him.
He has to ask. "What happens now?