Home > Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Evolution

Robert Ludlum's The Bourne Evolution
Author: Brian Freeman

PART ONE

 

 

ONE


THE man in black lifted his binoculars and studied the rain-swept boardwalk. The benches that stretched along Dufferin Terrace, on the cliffside looming over the lower town and the St. Lawrence River, were empty. His contact hadn’t arrived yet, but that was to be expected. It was only nine-fifteen, and he’d told her to be on the boardwalk at ten o’clock. He wanted the extra time to survey the meeting ground and see if he was walking into a trap.

He’d left a car behind near the port and then taken the funicular to the Haute-Ville. Now he stood like an invisible man in the darkness, behind a stone wall on the hill of the Citadel. Cold rain sheeted from the sky, blurring the nighttime lights of Quebec City. A fierce wind rattled the winter skeletons of the trees, drowning out the other sounds with its moan. In front of him, the Château Frontenac hotel rose like a medieval castle. At the base of the cliff, the lower town’s ribbon of lights glittered beside the great dark stain of the river. Along the boardwalk, a row of antique cannons aimed their muzzles out over the water, as if anticipating the return of American invaders.

The cannons weren’t wrong.

The Americans were here somewhere. Looking for him.

Where are you hiding?

He waited, patient and motionless, not reacting to the cold or the wetness of his clothes or the bite of the wind. He’d trained himself to be immune to such things. He used the binoculars to examine every window, every doorway, every shadow or corner where someone could hide. Even the best operatives usually made mistakes. The flicker of a match as a cigarette was lit. The swish of a curtain. A footprint in the mud. When he’d completed his survey, he repeated it two more times, and he still saw nothing to alarm him.

He was starting to feel safe.

Then someone screamed.

He tensed, but this was a happy scream, mixed with laughter. A young couple, drenched by the downpour, ran hand in hand along the glistening boardwalk below him. They took shelter under one of the canopies next to the cliff, where they began kissing passionately. He zoomed in on their faces under the gazebo lights. Both were in their twenties, both attractive. The woman had pink-and-blond hair that was pasted over her face, and she had the lean, strong build of a runner, wearing skintight leggings. The man with her was several inches taller and had black hair and a long, deep scar on his cheek.

He tried to decide who they were.

Two harmless tourists.

Or two killers.

The truth was usually in the eyes. He watched carefully to see if either of them broke cover long enough to throw a surreptitious glance at their surroundings, but if this was a performance for his benefit, they stayed in character. When they’d kissed for a while, they walked back into the rain. Each looked at the other with a hungry grin, the way lovers would. They headed north toward the grand hotel.

That was when he saw his contact arrive on the boardwalk. She was early. She walked down the steps from Governor’s Park, seemingly not bothered by the rain that pummeled her. A large leather satchel purse hung from her shoulder. She reached the walkway just as the young couple passed in front of her, and he worried that the timing was too perfect. He could picture it all happening. A pistol in the hand of the man with the scar. One shot, no chance to run, his contact collapsing with a bullet in her throat. He yanked his own gun into his hand and prepared to dive down the Citadel slope, even though he was too far away to stop what was about to happen.

Except he was wrong.

The young couple waved at the woman. She smiled back. They were simply three strangers enjoying the romance of the rain. There was no ambush, no gunfire. He watched the couple continue on their way to the Château Frontenac, and his contact crossed the boardwalk to the gazebo, where he’d told her to wait. She grabbed her phone from her purse and checked the time. Then she stared at the hillside in his direction with her hands on her hips. He knew she couldn’t see him, but she had the look of someone who could feel that she was being watched.

He examined her closely through the binoculars.

The journalist named Abbey Laurent was a couple of years past thirty, medium height and a little skinny. She wore a waist-length jean jacket over a white T-shirt, forest-green cargo pants, and black calf boots. Her hair was colored to a deep dark red, falling in wet strands to her shoulders and across her forehead in spiky bangs. She wore lipstick that was as dark red as her hair, and her mouth was folded into a curious smirk, as if she were enjoying the excitement of what she was doing. Her eyes were dark, and they were smart eyes that didn’t miss a thing.

She pushed some of the buttons on her phone. A second later, his own phone buzzed. She’d sent him a text.

I’m here, mystery man.

He allowed himself a tight smile. He liked this woman. But liking and trusting were two different things.

He let her wait without replying to her message, and meanwhile, he did another thorough check of the area through the binoculars. They were alone. The young couple on the boardwalk had long since disappeared. He saw no sign that the woman was being watched, but even so, he let their meeting time come and go. Ten o’clock. Ten-fifteen. Ten-thirty. She sent more texts, which grew annoyed and impatient as time wore on.

Hey, where are you?

You’re late.

I’m here getting soaked and you don’t show up?

Seriously? I’m not going to wait forever.

And she didn’t. At ten-forty, he watched her lips form a loud swear word. She stamped out of the gazebo into the rain, past the old cannons and into the wet grass of the park beside the Château Frontenac. When she disappeared from view, he sprang into action. He slipped his gun into his jacket pocket and hurried to the base of the Citadel hill, where Quebec City’s old stone buildings faced each other across narrow, hilly streets. He jogged down Rue des Grisons for one block and waited in the doorway of a small guest hotel, where he couldn’t be seen.

At the end of the street, the redheaded journalist crossed the intersection. She walked with purpose, not looking back, not concerned with being followed. He ran to the next corner and saw her hike past the art conservatory into the cobblestoned paths of the Parc du Cavalier-du-Moulin. He accelerated, falling in behind her, closing the distance between them. She was half a block away, unaware of his presence.

This was how he’d been trained. Always let the first meeting go by. Let anyone who is watching assume it’s a bust, and then intercept the contact afterward for the real meeting.

But the ones who had trained him were also the ones who were looking for him now.

They knew his every move.

As he climbed toward the park where Abbey Laurent had disappeared, he saw that the streetlight ahead of him was broken. His instincts screamed a warning, but he was too late to retreat. A man appeared from the shadows in front of him. It was the tall man with the scar from the boardwalk, and the man held a Beretta with a suppressor on the barrel, aimed across the twenty feet between them.

He didn’t have time to pull his own gun. With a grunt of exertion, he shunted sideways and dove to the wet ground, rolling until he slammed against the brick wall of the nearest building. The low pop of the Beretta and the splash of bullets on the asphalt chased him. He pushed off his knees and ran, bent over, then threw himself behind a blue panel van parked on the sidewalk.

The van provided cover as he drew his pistol. The rain poured over his face and drained loudly through the gutters, making a flood down the street. There was no light. He couldn’t hear or see. Slowly, cautiously, he crept around the rear of the van. As he spun into the street, he pulled the trigger three times in quick succession. The man with the scar was there. One of the bullets tore into the man’s gun arm, causing him to fire back wildly. Bleeding, the would-be assassin lurched away behind the other side of the van.

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