The Bourne Objective
his glass. “I imagine you want to get on with the posthumous assignment our mutual friend charged you with.”
    “The sooner the better, I suppose.” Bourne rose and, together with Diego Hererra, went out of his office, along several corridors, hushed and shadowed, down a long ramp that ended in the open vault. Bourne took out his key, but he saw that he had no need of telling Diego the box number because the banker went right to it. Bourne inserted the key into one of the locks and Diego put his master key into the other.
    “Together on the count of three.”
    They both turned their keys in concert, and the small metal door opened. Diego removed the long box and took it over to a row of small curtained alcoves that ran along one side of the wall. Setting the box down on a ledge inside one of the alcoves, he said, “It’s all yours, Señor Stone.” He gestured. “Please ring this bell when you’re finished and I’ll personally fetch you.”
    “Thank you, Señor Hererra.” Bourne entered the alcove, closed the curtain, and sat in the wooden armchair. For a moment, while he listened for Diego Hererra’s soft footfalls receding into the distance, he did nothing. Then, leaning forward, he opened the safe-deposit box. Inside was a small book and nothing more. Lifting it out, Bourne opened it to the first page. It seemed to be a kind of diary or, reading a bit farther, a history of sorts, accumulated one incident at a time, from various sources, it appeared. Bourne came to the first of the names and the hairs on his arms stirred. Involuntarily, he glanced around the cubicle, though there was no one around but him. And yet there was a distinct stirring, a restless energy as the ghosts and perhaps goblins emerged from Perlis’s very private notes, accumulating around his feet like starving dogs.
    Leonid Arkadin, Vylacheslav Germanovich Oserov—or Slava, as Perlis called him—and Tracy Atherton. With a line of sweat appearing at his hairline, Bourne began to read.

    D amp sand and salt water squooshed between Arkadin’s toes, girls in tiny bikinis and thin dudes in surfer shorts down to their bony knees played volleyball or jogged up and down the beach, just above the high-tide line, beer cans clutched in their hands.
    Arkadin was brimming with rage at the corner Maslov and, especially, Oserov had backed him into. He had no doubt that Oserov had convinced Maslov to go after him directly. A frontal assault wasn’t Maslov’s style; he was more cautious than that, especially in times so fraught with danger for him and the Kazanskaya. The government was gunning for him, just waiting for him to make a mistake. So far, with a combination of indebted friends and Teflon guile, he had managed to stay one step ahead of the Kremlin—neither its inquisitors nor its prosecutors had been able to manufacture charges against him that would stick. Maslov still had too much dirt on enough key federal judges to stave off those forays.
    Without having thought about it consciously, Arkadin had waded out into the ocean, so that the water rose above his knees, soaking his trousers. He didn’t care; Mexico afforded a breadth of freedom he’d never before tasted. Maybe it was the slower pace or a lifestyle where pleasure came from fishing or watching the sunrise or drinking tequila long into the night while you danced with a dark-eyed young woman whose multicolored skirts lifted with each twirl she made around you. Money—at least the amounts of money he was used to—was irrelevant here. People made a modest living and were content.
    It was at that moment that he saw her, or thought he saw her, emerging from the surf like Venus lifted on her gleaming pink shell. The red sun was in his eyes and he was obliged to squint, to shade his eyes with one hand, but the woman he saw emerging was Tracy Atherton: long and sleek, blond and blue-eyed with the widest smile he’d ever seen. And yet it couldn’t be Tracy, because she was dead.

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