Three Years Ago
From the doorway of a shuttered antique shop in the alley, the man known as Jason Bourne observed the holiday market in Tallinn's Raekoja Plats. It was almost time to move. When the moment came, he would have only seconds to get the target safely away, but he already had the escape route visualized in his head. He and Nova had rehearsed it a dozen times in the past two hours. Separate the target, hustle him past the old town hall, and follow Kullasseppa out of the square. Then they'd cross the city's medieval wall to the rendezvous point near the Nevsky Cathedral.
That was the plan, but plans had a way of coming apart once the mission began. In the darkness, with people packed shoulder to shoulder, there were too many ways for an unseen assassin to kill.
His face felt the bite of the bitter-cold December night. An inch of powdery snow had already fallen, trampled into slippery slush by hundreds of footsteps. A church choir sang from the steps of the raekoda, their voices competing with the happy chatter of visitors in the rows of open-air shops. Strings of white lights dangled between the rooftops and swayed in the wind, and a fifty-foot, brightly lit Christmas tree dominated the center of the huge square. He smelled cinnamon wafting from vats of hot mulled wine.
On his radio, Bourne heard the honey-smooth British accent of his Treadstone partner. "Any sign of Kotov?" Nova asked.
Bourne eyed the stone archway ahead of him. A tunnel led to the restaurant where several of the Baltic defense ministers were having dinner. "Not yet. It should be any minute now."
"You have company," Nova warned.
"Long beard, fur collar, fleece hood?"
"How many others?" Bourne asked.
"At least four. Looks like Holly was right. The FSB wasted no time sending in a team to take out Kotov."
Bourne's eyes swept the town hall square again. He spotted Nova twenty yards away, browsing at a kiosk that sold German nutcrackers. She wore a beret over her long, lush black hair, and she was dressed in leggings and a zipped navy jacket. Her body was short and pencil thin. Her green eyes passed over him, too, without showing any sign of recognition. No one in the plaza would have guessed that they knew each other, that they'd worked half a dozen Treadstone missions together in the past year, or that they'd been naked in each other's arms at a Stockholm hotel only seven hours ago, before they got the emergency summons to Tallinn.
"It's go time," Bourne said. "They're coming out."
From under the stone arch, men in business suits and a few women in long winter coats flowed into the square in groups of twos and threes. Bourne knew all of their names and recognized each face, although he'd never met any of them in person. They hailed from the snowbound north, including countries such as Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland that bordered the spidery fingers of the Baltic Sea.
And Russia. The Russians were here, too.
"There he is," Bourne whispered.
Grigori Kotov emerged from the tunnel and lingered under the arch as he lit a cigarette. Casually, he blew smoke into the air and pretended to admire the Christmas lights, but his eyes examined the people in the plaza. He was in his fifties and long past his field days, but a spy was always a spy. Something made him nervous, and Bourne knew that the problem wasn't what he saw, but what he didn't see.
His official security was gone. No one was here to protect him. The man's face was as immobile as a mask, but behind that mask was fear. Where are they?
Kotov was average height with a meaty Russian build. He wore no hat, as if to prove his toughness in the cold, and his charcoal wool coat was unbuttoned. He had a round face with a salt-and-pepper beard, and his brown hair was trimmed very short, making a sharp V in the middle of his high forehead. His skin was pale, marked by a prominent vertical scar on his right cheek, and he had bottom-of-a-well dark eyes and thick lips pushed together in a permanent frown. He still looked like what he'd been thirty years ago. A KGB killer.
Now! Move now!
Bourne marched toward the Russian defense minister with long strides. He noted the killer with the long beard perusing stuffed bears at a kiosk-just a father looking for gifts for his child, not an assassin marking his victim. The man made no move toward Kotov. Not yet. However, Bourne saw his lips moving, and he spotted the edge of a microphone jutting out from under the fleece of the killer's winter cap.
Tick tick tick, went the clock in Bourne's head. No time!
"Minister Kotov," he announced loudly as he drew near to the Russian, who tensed with surprise at the stranger calling him by name. "I was hoping we'd run into each other during the conference. My name's Briggs. Charlie Briggs. We had drinks together after the telecom panel in Copenhagen last year. You, me, and Dr. Malenkov."
Kotov was a professional with honed survival instincts. Everyone in the Russian siloviki- the Putin political allies with roots in the old Soviet security services- knew a day like this might come. Especially one like Kotov, who'd been a U.S. double agent for nearly a decade. The man took a long drag on his cigarette, as if he knew it might be his last one, but his voice remained calm. "Are you quite sure it was Dr. Malenkov? In Copenhagen?"
The Russian knew the CIA signal.
Malenkov. Copenhagen. You're blown. Your life is in immediate danger.
"Yes, we went to a bistro on the Nyhavn," Bourne replied. "I'm afraid Dr. Malenkov had a little too much akvavit."
"Ah, yes, now I remember. A most pleasant evening, Mr. Briggs."
"I was hoping you might have ten minutes to talk with me. My company is releasing an upgrade to our security software, and I could give you a look at the latest features."
Kotov's eyes swept the market, and he now saw what Bourne saw. Killers. He crushed his cigarette under his leather shoe in the snow. "Yes, all right."
"My hotel's just off the plaza."
The two men headed through the market side by side. Wind swirled the snow around them in clouds. The assassin with the long beard glanced their way, undoubtedly reporting that the rules of the game had changed. Kotov wasn't alone. Then the killer took up pursuit down the row of shops. Bourne steered the Russian with a hand on his elbow, and the two of them veered past a kiosk selling scented candles.
Nova reported on the radio. "He's ten steps behind you."
"I need a diversion."
"Understood," she replied. "When you hear the shot, he'll be exactly two steps back. Head for the cathedral."
"See you there."
Bourne kept his pace steady. He didn't accelerate or slow down, as if he wasn't worried about pursuers. He was just an American businessman trying to do a deal with a Russian politician. He pretended to shiver a little in the cold, and he slid his hands into his pockets, where he curled his fingers around the grip of his gun.
Next to him, Kotov walked casually, a man without a care in the world. "I assume we're being followed."
"Yes. There's going to be an incident in a few seconds. Stay close."
"How does Ms. Schultz plan to get me out of the country?"
"Our job is to get you to Holly. After that, the details of getting you out are up to her."
Bourne focused on the crunch of boots in the snow behind him, which got louder as the bearded killer narrowed the gap. Automatically, his brain made calculations, and he estimated that the man was now four paces away.
"Four steps," Nova confirmed on the radio. "He's moving fast."
Bourne slid his finger over the trigger of his gun. An instant later, the loud bangs of a pistol and the shattering of glass rocked the market. Immediately, Bourne drew his gun and spun, seeing the bearded man two steps behind him. Despite the distraction, the man was already lifting his gun, but he wasn't fast enough. Bourne fired into the man's forehead, and the bearded killer crumpled instantly.
Nova kept firing into the air. Screams rippled through the square as people panicked and ran. Bourne dragged Kotov through the crowd toward the south side of the plaza. As they neared the town hall, he checked every face, hunting for the next assassin, the next lethal threat. Everywhere around them, people flooded out of the square into the tiny alleys surrounding the market.
It was chaos! Madness!
Except for one old woman. She was calm in the midst of the storm.
The woman, at least eighty years old and dressed in colorful peasant clothes, stirred roasted chestnuts in a copper basin near the town hall's stone steps. Her other arm hung stiffly at her side, as if stilled by a stroke. But the woman's bright eyes roamed the plaza like a hawk, and when her gaze landed on Bourne and Kotov, her stiff arm shot instantly upward.
She had a gun in her hand.
"Down! Down!" Bourne shouted. He piled into Kotov and took the Russian to the ground. Shots banged around them, ricocheting off the cobblestones with little explosions of snow. The old woman kept firing, emptying her magazine, and Bourne felt a hot sting in his hand as shrapnel bounced off the pavement. He rolled through the slush and fired back three times, the first shot kicking stone dust off the wall of the town hall, the next two landing in the old woman's chest. The basin of nuts toppled over as she collapsed forward.
Bourne helped Kotov to his feet. "Go!"
They plunged out of the Raekoja Plats into the southbound street, staying close to the storefronts on Kullasseppa. Bourne kept his gun in his hand, level at his waist. He walked quickly, with the older Russian laboring to keep pace beside him. He checked over his shoulder and saw no one following. Ahead of them, he eyed the doorways and windows in the apartments above them. The crowd of people thinned the farther they got from the square, and soon, they were alone in the darkness.
"Who are you?" Kotov asked, huffing with exertion.
"I'm called Cain."
Kotov stopped to catch his breath. "Cain? You're Cain? I've heard of you."
"Stories get told. The man with no memory. No past."
Bourne didn't react, but he felt a roaring in his head like the surge of an ocean wave breaking over him. The pressure built like that whenever someone mentioned his past. What Kotov said was true: Bourne had lost his memory on a Treadstone mission a few years earlier, when a gunshot to his head had nearly killed him. His entire life had been erased in that instant. Ever since, he'd struggled to start over, not knowing who he really was.
But he couldn't think about that now.
There was no time! The past was irrelevant! The past didn't exist!
"Come on," Bourne said, pushing Kotov along the street. "We need to keep going."
"Who betrayed me?" the Russian asked. "Who gave me up?"
"It doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is that Putin knows you've been plotting against him. You can never go home."
Kotov shrugged. "When you do what I've done, you know there will be a price to pay eventually."
"He'll stop at nothing to find you."
"Oh, believe me, I know his methods. When we were both in the KGB, he was my mentor. Later, I ran missions all over Europe that helped him build his power base. But now he stands in the way of change. He has to go."
"Not as long as the siloviki and the oligarchs support him," Bourne pointed out.
"They're creatures of self-interest. Many of them think as I do."
"Maybe, but they'll never say so openly. Anyone who knows you is at risk now. Do you have family?"
"My wife is dead. My daughter will disavow me. Denounce me."
"That may not be enough."
Bourne saw the first and only glimmer of emotion on Kotov's face. "Trust me. As of this moment, I'm dead to her."
Bourne raised a hand to silence him. Where the street ended, they reached a walkway that led past the grounds of a medieval church called St. Nicholas and climbed the hill toward the city's medieval wall. The church tower rose above snow-covered trees. There were no signs of life around them, and he saw no footprints in the fresh powder. Even so, his instincts told him that a new threat was close by.
"Do you hear that?" he murmured.
Kotov stopped. "Music?"
Somewhere nearby, a radio broke the silence. A loud burst of pop music soared over the wind. Bourne tried to pinpoint the source, but the song echoed around the buildings before it stopped altogether. It didn't come back.
Oddly, he was sure it had been a Beatles song. "Nowhere Man."
"Let's go," he told Kotov impatiently. "We're almost there."
Two minutes. They were two minutes from the Nevsky Cathedral. They climbed steep steps into the Danish King's Garden near the wall. Up here, they were high enough to see the lights of the city skyscrapers, and beyond them, the dark stain of the Baltic Sea. Fierce wind howled across the garden, and Bourne saw several ghostly statues of monks stalking the wall, their cowls turning white as the snow fell.
His instincts screamed at him again. Threat!
This time he saw dents of footprints that the snowfall hadn't completely covered up. Someone was waiting for them.
One of the bent-over monks near the wall seemed to move. A man stepped from behind the statue and fired, but Bourne had already dropped to one knee, and the bullets whistled over his head. He raised his own gun arm and fired back. The man fell, but as Bourne stood up again, he realized that the assassins had merely sacrificed a pawn in order to position a knight right behind him.
The barrel of a gun pushed into the back of Jason's head.
"Cain," a voice said. "Drop your weapon, please."
Bourne let his gun fall into the snow. He raised his arms and turned around slowly. The man in front of him, whose gun was inches from Bourne's face, was young, probably no more than twenty-five. He had scraggly hair tied in a ponytail, and his face still suffered from acne. Despite his youth, the killer carried himself with smart maturity, the product of intelligence training. And yet he didn't look like a member of the FSB-the Russian security service-and he didn't even look or sound Russian. In fact, he didn't look like any covert operative Bourne had seen. There was nothing governmental about him.