Agent Matt: Falcon Force

Chapter 19: Shudaimaru Bridge

The swans really weren't going anywhere. They seemed happy just to circle slowly in the sunshine, occasionally dipping their beaks under the surface of the water, searching for insects, algae, whatever. Matt had been watching them for the last half-hour, almost hypnotized by them. He wondered what it was like to be a swan. He wondered how they managed to keep their feathers so white. He was standing on a stone bridge in the middle of Penguin Park. This was where the river seemed to flow through Tomoeda finally leaving the city behind it on the other side of Shudaimaru Bridge. Looking upstream, Matt could see fields and woodland, absurdly green, sprawled out in the heat of the oncoming summer. An au pair, pushing a pram, walked past. She noticed Matt, and although her expression didn't change, her hands tightened on the pram and she very slightly quickened her pace. Matt knew that he looked terrible, just looking in the flowing water he could see everything. It was like something out of one of those posters put out by the local council. Matt Ishida, fifteen, in need of fostering. His last fight with Damon Crow had left its marks. But this time it was more than cuts and bruises. They would fade like others had faded before. This time he had seen his whole life bend out of shape. He couldn't stop thinking about Ivan Harkov. Two weeks had gone by but he was still waking up in the middle of the night, reliving the final moments on Air Force One. His Mother had been a contract killer, murdered by the very people who had now taken over his own life. It couldn't be true. Ivan must have been lying, trying to wound Matt in revenge for what had happened between them. Matt wanted to believe it. But he had looked into the dying man's eyes and had seen no deceit, only a strange sort of tenderness - and a desire for the truth to be known.

Go to Venice. Find the Scorpions seal. And you will find your Answers to who you truly are..."

It seemed to Matt that his only answer was to be lied to and manipulated by adults who cared nothing about him. Should he go to Venice? How would he find the Scorpion seal? For that matter, was Scorpion seal a person or a place? Matt watched the swans, wishing they could give him an answer. But they just drifted on the water, ignoring him.

A second reflection fell across the water. Matt looked up and felt a fist close tightly inside his stomach. Mrs Jensen was standing near him. The JIN 7 agent was dressed in grey silk trousers with a matching Jacket that hung down to her knees, almost like a coat. There was a silver pin in her lapel but no other jewellery. It seemed strange for her to be out here, in the sun. He didn't want to see her. Along with Korindo Ooishi, she was the last person Matt wanted to see.

"May I join you?" she asked.

"It seems you already have," Matt said.

She Stood next to him.

"Have you been following me?" Matt asked. He wondered how she had known he would be here and it occurred to him that he might have been under round-the-clock surveillance for the past fortnight. It wouldn't have surprised him.

"No. Your friend - Julie Landers - told me you'd be here."

"I'm meeting someone."

"Not until twelve. Julie came in to see me, Matt. You should have reported to Orotaki Street by now. We need to debrief you."

"There's no point reporting to Orotaki Street," Matt said bitterly. "There's nothing there, is there? Just a TV Station."

Mrs Jensen understood.

"That was wrong of us," she said.

Matt looked back into his reflection.

"I know you don't want to talk to me, Matt," Mrs Jensen continued. "Well, you don't have to. But will you please just listen?" She looked anxiously at him. He said nothing. She went on.

"It's true that we didn't believe you when you came to us - and of course we were wrong. We were stupid. But it just seemed so incredible that a man like Damon Crow could be a threat to national security. He was rich and he was eccentric; nevertheless, he was only a pop star with attitude. That was what we thought. "But if you think we ignored you completely, Matt, you're wrong. Korindo and I have different ideas about you. To be honest, if it had been my choice, we'd never have got you involved in the first place ... not even in that business with the V Techs. But that's not the issue here." She took a deep breath. "After you had gone, I decided to take another look at Damon Crow. There wasn't a great deal I could do without the right authority, but I had him watched and all his movements were reported back to me.

"I heard you were here, in that dome when the Gamer Station was launched. I also got a police report on the woman - the journalist - who was killed. It just seemed like an unfortunate coincidence. Then I was told there had been an incident in Rome: a photographer and his assistant killed. Meanwhile Damon Crow was in Holland, and the next thing I knew, the Dutch police were screaming about some sort of high-speed chase in Amsterdam: cars and motorbikes chasing a boy on a bicycle. Of course, I knew it was you. But I still had no idea what was going on. "And then your friend, Sabrina, disappeared at Kawakita Hospital. That really got the alarm bells ringing. I know. You're probably thinking we were absurdly slow, and you're right. But every intelligence service in the world is the same. When they act, they're efficient. But often they get started too late. "That was the case here. By the time we came to bring you in, you were already with Crow, in Hadano. We spoke to your housekeeper, Julie. Then we went straight to his house. But we missed you again and this time we had no idea where you'd gone. Now we know, of course. Air Force One! The CIA have been going crazy. Korindo Ooishi was called in to see the Prime Minister Last week. It may well be that he is forced to resign."

"Well, that breaks my heart," Matt said.

Mrs Jensen ignored this.

"Matt ... what you've been through ... I know this has been very difficult for you. You were on your own, and that should never have happened. But the fact is, you have saved millions of lives. Whatever you're feeling now, you have to remember that. It might even be true to say that you saved the world. God knows what the consequences would have been if Crow had succeeded. Anyway, the president of the United States would very much like to meet you. So, for that matter, would the prime minister. And for what it's worth, you've even been invited to the Palace, if you want to go. Of course, nobody else knows about you. You're still classified. But you should be proud of yourself. What you did was ... amazing."

"What happened to Henryk?" Matt asked. The question took Mrs Jensen by surprise, but it was the only thing he didn't know. "I just wondered," he said.

"He's dead," Mrs Jensen said. "He was killed when the plane crashed. He broke his neck."

"Well, that's that then." Matt turned to her. "Can you go now?"

"Julie is worried about you, Matt. So am I. It may be that you need help coming to terms with what happened. Maybe some sort of therapy."

"I don't want therapy. I just want to be left alone."

"All right." Mrs Jensen started to walk away. She made one last attempt to read him before she left. This was the fourth occasion she had met Matt at the end of an assignment. Each time she had known that he must have been, in some way, damaged. But this time something worse had happened. She knew there was something Matt wasn't telling her. And then, on an impulse, she said,

"You were on the plane with Ivan when he was shot. Did he say anything before he died?"

"What do you mean?"

"Did he talk to you?" Matt looked her straight in the eye.

"No. He never spoke." Matt watched her leave. So it was true what Ivan had said. Her last question had proved it. He knew who he was.

The son of a contract killer.

Sabrina walked slowly towards him. He knew that this was going to be a brief meeting. There was nothing really left to say.

"How are you?" she asked.

"I'm OK. How's your dad?"

"He's a lot better." She shrugged. "I think he's going to be fine."

"And he's not going to change his mind?"

"No, Matt. We're leaving." Sabrina had told him on the phone the night before. She and her parents were leaving the country. They wanted to be on their own, to give her Father time to recover fully. There were plans to move here but that was out the window. They had decided it would be easier for him to begin a new life and had chosen San Francisco. Raymond had been offered a job by a big newspaper there. And there was more good news. He was writing a book: the truth about Damon Crow. It was going to make him a fortune.

"When do you go?" Matt asked.

"Tuesday." Sabrina brushed something out of her eye and Matt wondered if it might have been a tear. But when she looked at him again, she was smiling. "Of course, we'll keep in touch," she said. "We can email. And you know you can always come out if you want a holiday."

"As long as it's not like the last one," Matt said.

"It'll be weird going to an American school..." Sabrina broke off. "You were fantastic on the plane, Matt," she said suddenly. "I couldn't believe how brave you were. When Crow was telling you all those crazy things, you didn't even seem scared of him." She stopped. "Will you work for JIN 7again?" she asked.

"No."

"Do you think they'll leave you alone?"

"I don't know, Sabrina. It was my Father's fault, really. He started all this years ago and now I'm stuck with it."

"I still feel ashamed about not believing you." Sabrina sighed. "And I understand now what you must have been going through. They made me sign the Official Secrets Act. I'm not allowed to tell anyone about you." A pause. "I'll never forget you," she said.

"I'll miss you, Sabrina."

"But we'll see each other again. You can come to California. And I'll let you know if I'm ever in Tomoeda ..."

"That's good." She was lying. Somehow Matt knew that this was more than goodbye, that the two of them would never see each other again. There was no reason for it. That was just the way it was going to be.

She put her arms around him and kissed him. The cherry blossoms feel softly into the river breaking the water just as Sabrina broke off.

"Goodbye, Matt," she said. She turned slowly away and then ran, probably to spare matt from showing her tears. He watched her run out of his life. Then he turned and followed the path back home, past the swans and onto the streets. He didn't stop. Nor did he look back.