Chapter 1: The man in the water
It was good to have a brother at the wheel. A member of the family should always be the pilot on a family boat; the eyes were sharper. Even a brother who spoke with the smooth tongue of a literate man as opposed to his own coarse words.
Crazy! One year at the university and his brother wished to start a compagnie. With a single boat that had seen better days many years ago. Crazy. What good did his books do last night? When his compagnie was about to capsize.
He closed his eyes, letting his hands soak in the rolling water on the deck. The salt of the sea would be good for the rope burns. Burns received while lashing equipment that did not care to stay put in the storm.
"Look! Over there!" It was his brother, apparently sleep was to be denied by sharp family eyes.
"What is it?" he yelled.
"Port bow! There's a man in the water! He's holding on to something! A piece of debris, a plank of some sort."
The skipper took the wheel, angling the boat to the right of the figure in the water, cutting the engines to reduce the wake. The man looked as though the slightest motion would send him sliding off the fragment of wood he clung to; his hands were white, gripped around the edge like claws, but the rest of his body was limp—as limp as a man fully drowned, passed from this world.
"Loop the ropes!" yelled the skipper to his brother and the crewman.
"Submerge them around his legs. Easy now! Move them up to his waist. Pull gently."
"His hands won't let go of the plank!"
"Reach down! Pry them up! It may be the death lock."
"No. He's alive … but barely, I think. His lips move, but there's no sound. His eyes also, though I doubt he sees us."
"The hands are free!"
"Lift him up. Grab his shoulders and pull him over. Easy, now!"
"Mother of God, look at his head!" yelled the crewman. "It's split open."
"He must have crashed it against the plank in the storm," said the brother.
"No," disagreed the skipper, staring at the wound. "It's a clean slice, razorlike. Caused by a bullet; he was shot."
"You can't be sure of that."
"In more than one place," added the skipper, his eyes roving over the body.
"We'll head for Ile de Port Noir; it's the nearest island. There's a doctor on the waterfront."
"When he can," said the skipper's brother.
"When the wine lets him. He has more success with his patients' animals than with his patients."
"It won't matter. This will be a corpse by the time we get there. If by chance he lives, I'll bill him for the extra petrol and whatever catch we miss. Get the kit; we'll bind his head for all the good it will do."
"Look!" cried the crewman.
"Look at his eyes." "What about them?" asked the brother.
"A moment ago they were gray—as gray as steel cables. Now they're blue!"
"The sun's brighter," said the skipper, shrugging. "Or it's playing tricks with your own eyes. No matter, there's no color in the grave."
Intermittent whistles of fishing boats clashed with the incessant screeching of the gulls; together they formed the universal sounds of the waterfront. It was late afternoon, the sun a fireball in the west, the air still and too damp, too hot.
Above the piers and facing the harbor was a cobblestone street and several blemished white houses, separated by overgrown grass shooting up from dried earth and sand. What remained of the verandas were patched latticework and crumbling stucco supported by hastily implanted pilings.
The residences had seen better days a number of decades ago when the residents mistakenly believed Ile de Port Noir might become another Mediterranean playground. It never did. All the houses had paths to the street, but the last house in the row had a path obviously more trampled than the others.
It belonged to an Englishman who had come to Port Noir eight years before under circumstances no one understood or cared to; he was a doctor and the waterfront had need of a doctor. Hooks, needles and knives were at once means of livelihood as well as instruments of incapacitation. If one saw le docteur on a good day, the sutures were not too bad.
On the other hand, if the stench of wine or whiskey was too pronounced, one took one's chances. Tant pis! He was better than no one. But not today; no one used the path today.
It was Sunday and it was common knowledge that on any Saturday night the doctor was roaring drunk in the village, ending the evening with whatever whore was available. Of course, it was also granted that during the past few Saturdays the doctor's routine had altered; he had not been seen in the village. But nothing ever changed that much; bottles of scotch were sent to the doctor on a regular basis.
He was simply staying in his house; he had been doing so since the fishing boat from La Ciotat had brought in the unknown man who was more corpse than man.
Dr. Geoffrey Washburn awoke with a start, his chin settled into his collarbone causing the odor of his mouth to invade his nostrils; it was not pleasant. He blinked, orienting himself, and glanced at the open bedroom door. Had his nap been interrupted by another incoherent monologue from his patient?
No; there was no sound. Even the gulls outside were mercifully quiet; it was Ile de Port Noir's holy day, no boats coming in to taunt the birds with their catches. Washburn looked at the empty glass and the half-empty bottle of whiskey on the table beside his chair. It was an improvement.
On a normal Sunday both would be empty by now, the pain of the previous night having been spiraled out by the scotch. He smiled to himself, once again blessing an older sister in Coventry who made the scotch possible with her monthly stipend.
She was a good girl, Bess was, and God knew she could afford a hell of a lot more than she sent him, but he was grateful she did what she did. And one day she would stop, the money would stop, and then the oblivions would be achieved with the cheapest wine until there was no pain at all. Ever.
He had come to accept that eventuality … until three weeks and five days ago when the half-dead stranger had been dragged from the sea and brought to his door by fishermen who did not care to identify themselves. Their errand was one of mercy, not involvement. God would understand; the man had been shot.
What the fishermen had not known was that far more than bullets had invaded the man's body. And mind. The doctor pushed his gaunt frame out of the chair and walked unsteadily to the window overlooking the harbor.
He lowered the blind, closing his eyes to block out the sun, then squinted between the slats to observe the activity in the street below, specifically the reason for the clatter. It was a horse-drawn cart, a fisherman's family out for a Sunday drive.
Where the hell else could one see such a sight? And then he remembered the carriages and the finely groomed geldings that threaded through London's Regent Park with tourists during the summer months; he laughed out loud at the comparison. But his laughter was short-lived, replaced by something unthinkable three weeks ago.
He had given up all hope of seeing England again. It was possible that might be changed now. The stranger could change it.
Unless his prognosis was wrong, it would happen any day, any hour or minute. The wounds to the legs, stomach, and chest were deep and severe, quite possibly fatal were it not for the fact the bullets had remained where they had lodged, self-cauterized and continuously cleansed by the sea.
Extracting them was nowhere near as dangerous as it might have been, the tissue primed, softened, sterilized, ready for an immediate knife. The cranial wound was the real problem; not only was the penetration subcutaneous, but it appeared to have bruised the thalamus and hippocampus fibrous regions. Had the bullet entered millimeters away on either side the vital functions would have ceased; they had not been impeded, and Washburn had made a decision.
He went dry for thirty-six hours, eating as much starch and drinking as much water as was humanly possible. Then he performed the most delicate piece of work he had attempted since his dismissal from Macleans Hospital in London.
Millimeter by agonizing millimeter he had brush-washed the fibrous areas, then stretched and sutured the skin over the cranial wound, knowing that the slightest error with brush, needle, or clamp would cause the patient's death. He had not wanted this unknown patient to die for any number of reasons. But especially one.
When it was over and the vital signs had remained constant, Dr. Geoffrey Washburn went back to his chemical and psychological appendage. His bottle. He had gotten drunk and he had remained drunk, but he had not gone over the edge. He knew exactly where he was and what he was doing at all times.
Definitely an improvement. Any day now, any hour perhaps, the stranger would focus his eyes and intelligible words would emerge from his lips. Even any moment.
The words came first. They floated in the air as the early morning breeze off the sea cooled the room.
"Who's there? Who's in this room?"
Washburn sat up in the cot, moved his legs quietly over the side, and rose slowly to his feet. It was important to make no jarring note, no sudden noise or physical movement that might frighten the patient into a psychological regression.
The next few minutes would be as delicate as the surgical procedures he had performed; the doctor in him was prepared for the moment.
"A friend," he said softly.
"You speak English. I thought you would. American or Canadian is what I suspected. Your dental work didn't come from the UK or Paris. How do you feel?"
"I'm not sure."
"It will take awhile. Do you need to relieve your bowels?"
"Take a crapper, old man. That's what the pan's for beside you. The white one on your left. When we make it in time, of course."
"Don't be. Perfectly normal function. I'm a doctor, your doctor. My name is Geoffrey Washburn. What's yours?"
"I asked you what your name was."
The stranger moved his head and stared at the white wall streaked with shafts of morning light. Then he turned back, his blue eyes leveled at the doctor.
"I don't know."
"Oh, my God."
As promised three years to the day s notebook arrived at his clinic. It was written in David Webb's handwriting. Over the years since the man's supposed death he had been allowed to read his journals.
David Webb had a very fluid writing style. It was one that came from being a scholar.
Richard Grayson's was not nearly as fluid or neat. Given who his adoptive father was and what the man did at night it didn't surprise the doctor. It did not take Morris long to figure out that Richard was the original Robin. That Bruce Wayne was living as two different identities. Batman and the airhead.
Neal Caffery's writing style was a mix of the two. It depended on what he was writing for. It could change in a mere instant.
When Morris had free time he studied how the three different identities all had their own styles and personalities. It was eerie some days. If the man was still alive he would have recommended heavy counciling.
Finding out that David Webb was alive hurt more than he wanted to admit. If anyone should have known beforehand it was Morris. He had a lot of stake in trying to fix the man's mind. Not that it seemed Alex cared any.
Alex didn't just kill Neal Caffery in turn taking the other two's deaths. He killed a well formed identity in one who wasn't completely mentally stable. Three years of taking on an identity similar to that of Delta could fully push the non-violent personalities away.
He was just going to open the journal to the first entry when his phone rang. When he answered the receptionist said, "Doctor Panov, there is an Alexander Conklin on the line for you. Do you want me to transfer the call to you?"
As much as he wanted to deny the man's call he needed to know. He needed to know David's status. When Morris tried to confront him before he got stone walled. The three year guarantee between Alex and David came into play. So he had to wait for the exact day.
He replied in a forced calm, "Please transfer him through."
The line clicked and Alex's voice came through, "Mo we have a problem."
Of course they do. What could it be this time? David hadn't broken. It would have made the news on a bunch of unnecessary killings.
He questioned forcing himself to remain calm, "What is the problem, Alex?"
"We can't find David. He's gone dark."
Chapter 2: Lost memories part 1
A/N Thanks for your reviews and support.
white collar black wolf:Thanks for your review my friend.
21JumpStreetMcQuaids: Thanks for your review my friend.
When the call had gone out from Burke that everyone needed to return to New York he had been surprised. After Richard's death and subsequent revival he didn't expect to speak to them again. He didn't expect that Richard would have left them the same clues that he left his family.
To Bruce it showed how much he cared for them. So despite his distaste for the FBI he went to New York. Once again he was surprised by the unity. Most of the people Neal worked with were all huddled into what used to be his apartment.
With Bruce came Damien, Tim, and Jason. The rest of the family had stayed behind to keep Gotham from tearing itself apart.
Tim asked, "Are we really going to work with them, Bruce? We can find Dick on our own."
Yes because that worked out so well last time. No these people knew his son better than him. At least with his new skills. If Dick fell back into old habits those still in Gotham would catch him there. For now they had to work with the FBI and Panov.
To his surprise Panov was already there. The man was talking quietly with Burke. When he saw Bruce his eyes lit up. It seemed something had happened while he was getting there.
As he approached Panov said, "According to Alex he could be anywhere in France. That was his last known location before he went dark."
Bruce asked as he walked up to the table where they had a map laid out, "What happened?"
Both men turned to look at him. Then Panov answered, "David has gone dark. No one knows where he is."
Bruce frowned. If Richard wanted to disappear then it would be next to impossible to find him. Even after years of searching the only reason why they found him was a fluke. Then they thought he was dead and hunted his other alter ego.
Jason Bourne... Richard had become a killer that rivaled Carlos the Jackel. It was said that if the two killers clashed the most of Europe would be destroyed. What drove his son to do this?
Panov startled while the rest of them looked at him. The man pulled out his phone that was vibrating.
He frowned and said, "Doctor Panov."
The frown deepened as he listened. Bruce waited almost impatiently for answers.
Panov inquired quietly, "What are the chances this is him? If it is what are the chances he survived," there was another pause and a sigh, "Keep us informed. You know as well as I do, Alex. As long as there is no body there is a chance he is still out there."
With that the doctor hung up and proceeded to collapse into a chair. It was as if all his energy was drained out of him.
Burke broke the silence with the question everyone had, "What happened?"
Panov said rubbing a tired hand over his face, "Shots were fired off the port of Marsae a few weeks ago. Right around the same time as a certain man went dark. The shooters were apprehended by one of Alex's men a few days later. The shots inflicted upon the unknown person were almost certainly fatal. The fact that the person went overboard into the sea only compounded on it. Finding a body out there is not an easy task."
Each of them knew the chances of this being their man were good. The chances of finding him alive were slim. As Panov had said it was several weeks ago.
Bruce knew of some help he could receive in searching the oceans. Aquaman and Aqualad were easy to make contact with since they joined the Justice League. As much as he wanted to avoid bringing the League fully into the hunt. It might just be unavoidable.
He said tiredly, "I know someone who could make searching the seas easy. If he truly died that night we would at least have something to bury."
The again was left unsaid. It was almost cruel how they had the hope of him returning. Only to have it ripped away by his death.
They set out at their tasks once more. No one was willing to give up on the man until they had a body. Panov went over Richard's journal with them. The pain that radiated off the later entries was almost palpable. The man was struggling with keeping his identity straight. The longer it went on the harder the struggle became.
To Bruce it seemed as if at any point the boy would break. Then all hell would truly break loose. If a killer's mind broke like that there would few that could stop him.
They were in the middle of another conference with Conklin who had come up with nothing, when his phone rang. The number was that of the League. The other's watched with baited breath as he answered.
"Wayne," he ground out.
Aquaman's voice came over the line, "Bruce I have good new and bad news. Knowing you, you want the bad news first. Richard is on one of the islands off the coast of France. Which one I'm not sure. Good news however Richard was pulled from the water clinging to a piece of driftwood. When he was pulled out he was still alive. Injured but alive. That's all I got for you. My suggestion is to get down this was as soon as you can."
"I've told you over and over again. It will take time. The more you fight it, the more you crucify yourself, the worse it will be."
This was becoming increasingly frustrating. He didn't know who he was and the doctor only spoke in riddles.
He stated, "You're drunk."
Washburn responded with a sigh, "Generally. It's not pertinent. But I can give you clues, if you'll listen."
He snapped back, "I've listened."
"No, you don't; you turn away. You lie in your cocoon and pull the cover over your mind. Hear me again."
He sighed, "I'm listening."
Washburn said as he had many times before, "In your coma—your prolonged coma—you spoke in three different languages. English, French and some goddamned twangy thing I presume is Oriental. That means you're multilingual; you're at home in various parts of the world. Think geographically. What's most comfortable for you?"
Washburn continued to probe, "We've agreed to that. So what's most uncomfortable?"
"I don't know."
Washburn simply stated, "Your eyes are round, not sloped. I'd say obviously the Oriental."
He drawled, "Obviously."
"Then why do you speak it? Now, think in terms of association. I've written down words; listen to them. I'll say them phonetically. Ma—kwa. Tam—kwan. Kee—sah. Say the first thing that comes to mind."
"What the hell do you want?"
The man without a memory rubbed at his forehead. This was beyond frustatrating. Why would he say those words? While nothing came to mind his heart raced in fear at Tam- kwan. Something in him was annoyed at the pronunciation.
Who was he? Why did he end up in the water with gunshot wounds? Why did he feel like he was missing more than just his memories?
It was like he was forgetting something important. More important than himself and he couldn't put it into words. His nights were filled with terror that made sleep impossible. Nightmares of nameless faces and voices. Words that he didn't remember when he woke up. Every time he woke up Washburn was there to talk him back to reality.
The man had become something of an anchor. One that he knew he would have to eventually cast away.
"We've agreed to that. Consistently. I also saved your bloody life. Drunk or not, I am a doctor. I was once a very good one."
"The patient questions the doctor?"
Washburn paused, looking out the window at the waterfront. "I was drunk," he said. "They said I killed two patients on the operating table because I was drunk. I could have gotten away with one. Not two. They see a pattern very quickly, God bless them. Don't ever give a man like me a knife and cloak it in respectability."
There was pain in the man's eyes. He didn't remember it happening because of his inabated state. Still the doctor felt remorse for what he had done.
He questioned curious more than anything else, "Was it necessary?"
"Was what necessary?"
The glare he received would have made a lesser man cower. Instead it made even more curious. He wanted to know the answer. Even if it would make his doctor angry.
"Yes, damn you," said Washburn softly, turning from the window. "It was and it is. And the patient is not permitted to make judgments where the physician is concerned."
The unknown man bent his neck slight as he said, "Sorry."
Washburn tiredly replied, "You also have an annoying habit of apologizing. It's an overworked protestation and not at all natural. I don't for a minute believe you're an apologetic person."
"Then you know something I don't know."
"About you, yes. A great deal. And very little of it makes sense."
The man sat forward in the chair. His open shirt fell away from his taut frame, exposing the bandages on his chest and stomach. He folded his hands in front of him, the veins in his slender, muscular arms pronounced.
He questioned, "Other than the things we've talked about?"
"Things I said while in coma?"
Washburn denied truthfully, "No, not really. We've discussed most of that gibberish. The languages, your knowledge of geography—cities I've never or barely heard of—your obsession for avoiding the use of names, names you want to say but won't; your propensity for confrontation—attack, recoil, hide, run—all rather violent, I might add. I frequently strapped your arms down, to protect the wounds. But we've covered all that. There are other things."
"What do you mean? What are they? Why haven't you told me?"
Washburn stated, "Because they're physical. The outer shell, as it were. I wasn't sure you were ready to hear. I'm not sure now."
What could he not be ready to hear about? He wanted to unlock the keys to his memories. There was so much he didn't know. So much that wasn't connecting.
The man leaned back in the chair, dark eyebrows below the dark brown hair joined in irritation. "Now it's the physician's judgment that isn't called for. I'm ready. What are you talking about? Shall we begin with that rather acceptable looking head of yours? The face, in particular."
"What about it?"
"It's not the one you were born with."
"What do you mean?"
"Under a thick glass, surgery always leaves its mark. You've been altered, old man."
"You have a pronounced chin; I daresay there was a cleft in it. It's been removed. Your upper left cheekbone—your cheekbones are also pronounced, conceivably Slavic generations ago—has minute traces of a surgical scar. I would venture to say a mole was eliminated. Your nose is an English nose, at one time slightly more prominent than it is now. It was thinned ever so subtly. Your very sharp features have been softened, the character submerged. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
"You're a reasonably attractive man but your face is more distinguished by the category it falls into than by the face itself."
Washburn said, "Yes. You're the prototype of the white Anglo-Saxon people see every day on the better cricket fields, or the tennis court. Or the bar at Mirabel's. Those faces become almost indistinguishable from one another, don't they? The features properly in place, the teeth straight, the ears flat against the head—nothing out of balance, everything in position and just a little bit soft."
He questioned softly, "Soft?"
"Well, 'spoiled' is perhaps a better word. Definitely self-assured, even arrogant, used to having your own way."
Very different from his characteristics now. Washburn was right this didn't make any sense. Even if it made some sense to the doctor it didn't to him.
The doctor continued suddenly, "Then there is your eye color. When I was still a resident I heard about changes in eye color. How it had to do with the mental state of the patient. Before meeting you I never had the chance to see it first hand. Your eyes are naturally a blue color. However when you are provoked either in anger or fear they go to an almost grey color. From what little I knew and the research I have done it known as killer grey. Very few have it and those that do have not led easy lives."
Killer grey eyes? Who in the world was he?
Chapter 3: Lost memories part 2
A/N Thanks for your reviews and support.
white collar black wolf: Thanks for your your review my friend.
"Nature favored you in this regard; no altering was either possible or required."
He questioned, "Required for what?"
Washburn continued gently, "For changing your appearance. Very professionally, I'd say. Visas, passport, driver's licenses—switched at will. Hair: brown, blond, auburn. Eyes—can't tamper with the eyes—green, gray, blue? The possibilities are far-ranging, wouldn't you say? All within that recognizable category in which the faces are blurred with repetition."
The man got out of the chair with difficulty, pushing himself up with his arms, holding his breath as he rose. "It's also possible that you're reaching. You could be way out of line."
"The traces are there, the markings. That's evidence."
"Interpreted by you, with a heavy dose of cynicism thrown in. Suppose I had an accident and was patched up? That would explain the surgery."
Washburn countered, "Not the kind you had. Dyed hair and the removal of clefts and moles aren't part of a restoration process."
"You don't know that!" said the unknown man angrily. "There are different kinds of accidents, different procedures. You weren't there; you can't be certain."
Washburn snapped, "Good! Get furious with me. You don't do it half often enough. And while you're mad, think. What were you? What are you?"
"A salesman … an executive with an international company, specializing in the Far East. That could be it. Or a teacher … of languages. In a university somewhere. That's possible, too."
Washburn countered, "Fine. Choose one. Now!"
"I … I can't." The man's eyes were on the edge of helplessness.
"Because you don't believe either one," came the gentle querie.
The man shook his head. "No. Do you?"
"No," said Washburn. "For a specific reason. Those occupations are relatively sedentary and you have the body of a man who's been subjected to physical stress. Oh, I don't mean a trained athlete or anything like that; you're no jock, as they say. But your muscle tone's firm, your arms and hands used to strain and quite strong. Under other circumstances, I might judge you to be a laborer, accustomed to carrying heavy objects, or a fisherman, conditioned by hauling in nets all day long. But your range of knowledge, I daresay your intellect, rules out such things."
Now he was curious, "Why do I get the idea that you're leading up to something? Something else."
"Because we've worked together, closely and under pressure, for several weeks now. You spot a pattern."
"I'm right then?"
"Yes. I had to see how you'd accept what I've just told you. The previous surgery, the hair, the contact lenses."
"Did I pass?"
"With infuriating equilibrium. It's time now; there's no point in putting it off any longer. Frankly, I haven't the patience. Come with me." Washburn preceded the man through the living room to the door in the rear wall that led to the dispensary. Inside, he went to the corner and picked up an antiquated projector, the shell of its thick round lens rusted and cracked.
"I had this brought in with the supplies from Marseilles," he said, placing it on the small desk and inserting the plug into the wall socket.
"It's hardly the best equipment, but it serves the purpose. Pull the blinds, will you?"
The man with no name or memory went to the window and lowered the blind; the room was dark. Washburn snapped on the projector's light; a bright square appeared on the white wall. He then inserted a small piece of celluloid behind the lens. The square was abruptly filled with magnified letters.
GEMEINSCHAFT BANK BAHNHOFSTRASSE. ZURICH. ZERO—SEVEN—SEVENTEEN—TWELVE—ZERO—FOURTEEN—TWENTY-SIX—ZERO
What in the world? The numbers rang familiar in the back of his mind but he couldn't place it.
"What is it?" asked the nameless man. "Look at it. Study it. Think." "It's a bank account of some kind."
"Exactly. The printed letterhead and address is the bank, the handwritten numbers take the place of a name, but insofar as they are written out, they constitute the signature of the account holder. Standard procedure.”
He questioned curious, “Where did you get it?”
“From you," the questioning look was enough to get the other to elaborate, "This is a very small negative, my guess would be half the size of a thirty-five millimeter film. It was implanted—surgically implanted—beneath the skin above your right hip. The numbers are in your handwriting; it’s your signature. With it you can open a vault in Zurich.”
Come again? An account in Zurich? That would mean he would have to make his way there.
He flinched when words came to mind, "You need an emergency source of money. If things go south I need to know you can survive. David... please for my sake."
A colder version of his own voice replied, "Okay, Gordon. Only for you though."
He blinked in surprised. David? Was that his first name?
Washburn asked his interest peaked immediately, "Did you have a flashback? What did you remember?"
He answered still feeling the confusion, "Two names. I think one of them is mine as I answered to it. Gordon was the other speaker he said ' You need an emergency source of money. If things go south I need to know you can survive. David... please for my sake.' I think my name is David."
Washburn smiled as he replied, "It's good to meet you then David. Now we have a starting pointing."
Chapter 4: Lost memories part 3
A/N thanks for everyone's reviews and support.
books came from Marseilles, six of them in varying sizes and thicknesses, four in English, two in French. They were medical texts, volumes that dealt with injuries to the head and mind. There were cross sections of the brain, hundreds of unfamiliar words to absorb and try to understand.
Lobus occipitalis and temporalis, the cortex and the connecting fibers of the corpus callosum; the limbic system—specifically the hippocampus and mammillary bodies that together with the fornix were indispensable to memory and recall. Damaged, there was amnesia.
There were psychological studies of emotional stress that produced stagnate hysteria and mental aphasia, conditions which also resulted in partial or total loss of memory. Amnesia. Amnesia.
“There are no rules,” said the dark-haired man, rubbing his eyes in the inadequate light of the table lamp.
“It’s a geometric puzzle; it can happen in any combination of ways. Physically or psychologically—or a little of both. It can be permanent or temporary, all or part. No rules!”
“Agreed,” said Washburn, sipping his whiskey in a chair across the room. “But I think we’re getting closer to what happened. What I think happened.”
“Which was?” asked the man apprehensively.
“You just said it: ‘a little of both.’ Although the word ‘little’ should be changed to ‘massive.’ Massive shocks.”
“Massive shocks to what?” replied the tired amnesiac.
Even with the return of his name he still couldn't remember much. There had been no flashbacks since that day. Just dreams that he couldn't remember when he woke up.
“The physical and the psychological. They were related, interwoven—two strands of experience, or stimulae, that became knotted,” Washburn intoned calmly.
“How much sauce have you had?”
“Less than you think; it’s irrelevant.”
The doctor picked up a clipboard filled with pages. “This is your history—your new history—begun the day you were brought here. Let me summarize. The physical wounds tell us that the situation in which you found yourself was packed with psychological stress, the subsequent hysteria brought on by at least nine hours in the water, which served to solidify the psychological damage. The darkness, the violent movement, the lungs barely getting air; these were the instruments of hysteria. Everything that preceded it—the hysteria—had to be erased so you could cope, survive. Are you with me?”
“I think so. The head was protecting itself.”
“Not the head, the mind. Make the distinction; it’s important. We’ll get back to the head, but we’ll give it a label. The brain.”
“All right. Mind, not head … which is really the brain," came David's acquiesce.
“Good.” Washburn flipped his thumb through the pages on the clipboard. “These are filled with several hundred observations. There are the normal medicinal inserts—dosage, time, reaction, that sort of thing—but in the main they deal with you, the man himself. The words you use, the words you react to; the phrases you employ—when I can write them down—both rationally and when you talk in your sleep and when you were in coma. Even the way you walk, the way you talk or tense your body when startled or seeing something that interests you. You appear to be a mass of contradictions; there’s a subsurface violence almost always in control, but very much alive. There’s also a pensiveness that seems painful for you, yet you rarely give vent to the anger that pain must provoke.”
“You’re provoking it now,” interrupted David. “We’ve gone over the words and the phrases time and time again—”
“And we’ll continue to do so,” broke in Washburn, “as long as there’s progress.” “I wasn’t aware any progress had been made.”
“Not in terms of an identity or an occupation. But we are finding out what’s most comfortable for you, what you deal with best. It’s a little frightening.”
“In what way?” David asked curious but frightened to know.
“Let me give you an example.” The doctor put the clipboard down and got out of the chair.
He walked to a primitive cupboard against the wall, opened a drawer, and took out a large automatic handgun. The man with no memory tensed in his chair; Washburn was aware of the reaction.
“I’ve never used this, not sure I’d know how to, but I do live on the waterfront.” He smiled, then suddenly, without warning, threw it to the man.
The weapon was caught in midair, the catch clean, swift, and confident. “Break it down; I believe that’s the phrase.”
“Break it down. Now.”
The man looked at the gun. And then, in silence, his hands and fingers moved expertly over the weapon. In less than thirty seconds it was completely dismantled. The words triggered something within his mind. He felt a stab of pain in his mind but ignored it in favor of looking up at the doctor.
“See what I mean?” said Washburn. “Among your skills is an extraordinary knowledge of firearms.”
“Army?” asked David, his voice intense, once more apprehensive.
“Extremely unlikely,” replied the doctor. “When you first came out of coma, I mentioned your dental work. I assure you it’s not military. And, of course, the surgery, I’d say, would totally rule out any military association.”
“Let’s not dwell on it now; let’s go back to what happened. We were dealing with the mind, remember? The psychological stress, the hysteria. Not the physical brain, but the mental pressures. Am I being clear?”
“As the shock recedes, so do the pressures, until there’s no fundamental need to protect the psyche. As this process takes place, your skills and talents will come back to you. You’ll remember certain behavior patterns; you may live them out quite naturally, your surface reactions instinctive. But there’s a gap and everything in those pages tell me it’s irreversible.”
Washburn stopped and went back to his chair and his glass. He sat down and drank, closing his eyes in weariness.
David's head was now pounding. Something in his mind was triggered by the words army. What was it? What was he missing?
It hit him like a ton of bricks. Not all members of the military were official. Some would have their name stricken from the records. Was he one of such people?
The doctor opened his eyes, leveling them at his patient. “We return to the head, which we’ve labeled the brain. The physical brain with its millions upon millions of cells and interacting components. You’ve read the books; the fornix and the limbic system, the hippocampus fibers and the thalamus; the callosum and especially the lobotomic surgical techniques. The slightest alteration can cause dramatic changes. That’s what happened to you. The damage was physical. It’s as though blocks were rearranged, the physical structure no longer what it was.” Again Washburn stopped.
“And,” pressed the man.
“The recessed psychological pressures will allow—are allowing—your skills and talents to come back to you. But I don’t think you’ll ever be able to relate them to anything in your past.”
“Why? Why not?”
“Because the physical conduits that permit and transmit those memories have been altered. Physically rearranged to the point where they no longer function as they once did. For all intents and purposes, they’ve been destroyed.”
The man sat motionless. “The answer’s in Zurich,” he said.
“Not yet. You’re not ready; you’re not strong enough.”
“I will be.”
“Yes, you will.”
The weeks passed; the verbal exercises continued as the pages grew and the man’s strength returned. It was midmorning of the nineteenth week, the day bright, the Mediterranean calm and glistening. As was the David's habit he had run for the past hour along the waterfront and up into the hills; he had stretched the distance to something over twelve miles daily, the pace increasing daily, the rests less frequent.
David sat in the chair by the bedroom window, breathing heavily, sweat drenching his undershirt. He had come in through the back door, entering the bedroom from the dark hallway that passed the living room. It was simply easier; the living room served as Washburn’s waiting area and there were still a few patients with cuts and gashes to be repaired. They were sitting in chairs looking frightened, wondering what le docteur’s condition would be that morning.
Actually, it wasn’t bad. Geoffrey Washburn still drank like a mad Cossack, but these days he stayed on his horse. It was as if a reserve of hope had been found in the recesses of his own destructive fatalism. And the man with no memory understood; that hope was tied to a bank in Zurich’s Bahnhofstrasse.
Why did the street come so easily to mind? The bedroom door opened and the doctor burst in, grinning, his white coat stained with his patient’s blood.
“I did it!” he said, more triumph in his words than clarification. “I should open my own hiring hall and live on commissions. It’d be steadier.”
“What are you talking about?” “As we agreed, it’s what you need. You’ve got to function on the outside, and as of two minutes ago Monsieur Jean-Pierre No-Name is gainfully employed! At least for a week.”
“How did you do that? I thought there weren’t any openings.”
“What was about to be opened was Claude Lamouche’s infected leg. I explained that my supply of local anesthetic was very, very limited. We negotiated; you were the bartered coin.”
“If you’re any good, he may keep you on.” Washburn paused. “Although that’s not terribly important, is it?”
“I’m not sure any of this is. A month ago, maybe, but not now. I told you. I’m ready to leave. I’d think you’d want me to. I have an appointment in Zurich.”
“And I’d prefer you function the very best you can at that appointment. My interests are extremely selfish, no remissions permitted.”
“I’m ready,” he growled.
“On the surface, yes. But take my word for it, it’s vital that you spend prolonged periods of time on the water, some of it at night. Not under controlled conditions, not as a passenger, but subjected to reasonably harsh conditions—the harsher the better, in fact.”
“Every single one I can devise in this primitive Menningers of Port Noir. If I could conjure up a storm and a minor shipwreck for you, I would. On the other hand, Lamouche is something of a storm himself; he’s a difficult man. The swelling in his leg will go down and he’ll resent you. So will others; you’ll have to replace someone.”
“Thanks a lot," David snarked.
“Don’t mention it. We’re combining two stresses. At least one or two nights on the water, if Lamouche keeps to schedule—that’s the hostile environment which contributed to your hysteria—and exposure to resentment and suspicion from men around you—symbolic of the initial stress situation.”
“Thanks again. Suppose they decide to throw me overboard? That’d be your ultimate test, I suppose, but I don’t know how much good it would do if I drowned.”
“Oh, there’ll be nothing like that,” said Washburn, scoffing. “I’m glad you’re so confident. I wish I were.” “You can be. You have the protection of my presence. I may not be Christiaan Barnard or Michael DeBakey, but I’m all these people have. They need me; they won’t risk losing me.”
“But you want to leave. I’m your passport out,” David sighed.
“In ways unfathomable, my dear patient. Come on, now. Lamouche wants you down at the dock so you can familiarize yourself with his equipment. You’ll be starting out at four o’clock tomorrow morning. Consider how beneficial a week at sea will be. Think of it as a cruise.”
Chapter 5: Finding another way part 1
There had never been a cruise like it. The skipper of the filthy, oil-soaked fishing boat was a foul-mouthed rendering of an insignificant Captain Bligh; the crew a quartet of misfits who were undoubtedly the only men in Port Noir willing to put up with Claude Lamouche.
The regular fifth member was a brother of the chief netman, a fact impressed on the man within minutes after leaving the harbor at four o’clock in the morning.
“You take food from my brother’s table!” whispered the netman angrily between rapid puffs on an immobile cigarette.
“From the stomachs of his children!”
“It’s only for a week,” protested the amnesiac.
It would have been easier—far easier—to offer to reimburse the unemployed brother from Washburn’s monthly stipend, but the doctor and his patient had agreed to refrain from such compromises.
“I hope you’re good with the nets!”
He was not. There were moments during the next seventy-two hours when the man thought the alternative of financial appeasement was warranted.
The harassment never stopped, even at night—especially at night. It was as though eyes were trained on him as he lay on the infested deck mattress, waiting for him to reach the brink of sleep.
“You! Take the watch! The mate is sick. You fill in.”
“Get up! Philippe is writing his memoirs! He can’t be disturbed.”
“On your feet! You tore a net this afternoon. We won’t pay for your stupidity. We’ve all agreed. Fix it now!”
The nets. If two men were required for one flank, his two arms took the place of four. If he worked beside one man, there were abrupt hauls and releases that left him with the full weight, a sudden blow from an adjacent shoulder sending him crashing into the gunnel and nearly over the side. And Lamouche.
A limping maniac who measured each kilometer of water by the fish he had lost. His voice was a grating, static-prone bullhorn. He addressed no one without an obscenity preceding his name, a habit the patient found increasingly maddening. But Lamouche did not touch Washburn’s patient; he was merely sending the doctor a message: Don’t ever do this to me again. Not where my boat and my fish are concerned.
Lamouche’s schedule called for a return to Port Noir at sundown on the third day, the fish to be unloaded, the crew given until four the next morning to sleep, fornicate, get drunk, or, with luck, all three. As they came within sight of land, it happened. The nets were being doused and folded at midships by the netman and his first assistant.
The unwelcomed crewman they cursed as Sangsue” (“the Leech”) scrubbed down the deck with a long-handled brush. The two remaining crew heaved buckets of sea water in front of the brush, more often than not drenching the Leech with truer aim than the deck.
A bucketful was thrown too high, momentarily blinding Washburn’s patient, causing him to lose his balance. The heavy brush with its metal-like bristles flew out of his hands, its head upended, the sharp bristles making contact with the kneeling netman’s thigh.
“Désolé,” said the offender casually, shaking the water from his eyes.
“The hell you say!” shouted the netman.
“I said I was sorry,” replied the man. “Tell your friends to wet the deck, not me.”
“My friends don’t make me the object of their stupidity!”
“They were the cause of mine just now.” The netman grabbed the handle of the brush, got to his feet, and held it out like a bayonet. “You want to play, Leech?”
Something in him clicked. “Come on, give it to me.”
“With pleasure, Leech. Here!” The netman shoved the brush forward, downward, the bristles scraping the patient’s chest and stomach, penetrating the cloth of his shirt.
Whether it was the contact with the scars that covered his previous wounds, or the frustration and anger resulting from three days of harassment, the man would never know. He only knew he had to respond. And his response was as alarming to him as anything he could imagine.
He gripped the handle with his right hand, jamming it back into the netman’s stomach, pulling it forward at the instant of impact; simultaneously, he shot his left foot high off the deck, ramming it into the man’s throat.
The guttural whisper came from his lips involuntarily; he did not know what it meant. Before he could understand, he had pivoted, his right foot now surging forward like a battering ram, crashing into the netman’s left kidney.
“Che-sah!” he whispered.
The netman recoiled, then lunged toward him in pain and fury, his hands outstretched like claws.
The patient crouched, shooting his right hand up to grip the netman’s left forearm, yanking it downward, then rising, pushing his victim’s arm up, twisting it at its highest arc clockwise, yanking again, finally releasing it while jamming his heel into the small of the netman’s back. The Frenchman sprawled forward over the nets, his head smashing into the wall of the gunnel.
“Mee-sah!” Again he did not know the meaning of his silent cry.
A crewman grabbed his neck from the rear. The patient crashed his left fist into the pelvic area behind him, then bent forward, gripping the elbow to the right of his throat. He lurched to his left; his assailant was lifted off the ground, his legs spiraling in the air as he was thrown across the deck, his face and neck impaled between the wheels of a winch. The two remaining men were on him, fists and knees pummeling him, as the captain of the fishing boat repeatedly screamed his warnings.
“Le docteur! Rappelons le docteur! Va doucement!”
The words were as misplaced as the captain’s appraisal of what he saw. The patient gripped the wrist of one man, bending it downward, twisting it counterclockwise in one violent movement; the man roared in agony. The wrist was broken.
Washburn’s patient viced the fingers of his hands together, swinging his arms upward like a sledgehammer, catching the crewman with the broken wrist at the midpoint of his throat. The man somersaulted off his feet and collapsed on the deck.
“Kwa-sah!” The whisper echoed in the patient’s ears. The fourth man backed away, staring at the maniac who simply looked at him. It was over.
Three of Lamouche’s crew were unconscious, severely punished for what they had done. It was doubtful that any would be capable of coming down to the docks at four o’clock in the morning. Lamouche’s words were uttered in equal parts astonishment and contempt.
“Where you come from I don’t know, but you will get off this boat.”
The man with no memory understood the unintentional irony of the captain’s words. I don’t know where I came from, either.
It was the truth. He did not know who he was or where he learned these things. Everything he had just done seemed to be done on instinct.
When they returned to the island the man without memories was the first off. They had not been due back so soon and that made the village curious. He ignored them in favor of returning to the doctor's home.
“You can’t stay here now,” said Geoffrey Washburn, coming into the darkened bedroom.
“I honestly believed I could prevent any serious assault on you. But I can’t protect you when you’ve done the damage.”
“It was provoked.”
“To the extent it was inflicted? A broken wrist and lacerations requiring sutures on a man’s throat and face, and another’s skull. A severe concussion, and an undetermined injury to a kidney? To say nothing of a blow to the groin that’s caused a swelling of the testicles? I believe the word is overkill.”
“It would have been just plain ‘kill,’ and I would have been the dead man, if it’d happened any other way.” The patient paused, but spoke again before the doctor could interrupt. “I think we should talk. Several things happened; other words came to me. We should talk.”
“We should, but we can’t. There isn’t time. You’ve got to leave now. I’ve made arrangements.”
Washburn threw him a bag and said, "I have contacted an old friend of mine. He will take you wherever you wish to go. The group he works for isn't exactly legal but he owes me a favor. Just don't attack him."
The man without memories asked, "Who is he? Washburn I can't go into something like this blind."
"I don't have time to explain it to you. I can say that if you attack him he will kill you."
The man with no memory held his breath. “Then it’s time,” he said quietly.
“It’s time,” replied Washburn. “I think I know what’s going through your mind. A sense of helplessness, of drifting without a rudder to put you on a course. I’ve been your rudder, and I won’t be with you; there’s nothing I can do about that. But believe me when I tell you, you are not helpless. You will find your way.”
“To Zurich,” added the patient.
“To Zurich,” agreed the doctor. “Here. I’ve wrapped some things together for you in this oilcloth. Strap it around your waist.”
“What is it?”
“All the money I have, some two thousand francs. It’s not much, but it will help you get started. And my passport, for whatever good it will do. We’re about the close enough in age age and it’s eight years old; people change. Don’t let anyone study it. It’s merely an official paper.”
“What will you do?”
“I won’t ever need it if I don’t hear from you.”
“You’re a decent man.”
“I think you are, too.… As I’ve known you. But then I didn’t know you before. So I can’t vouch for that man. I wish I could, but there’s no way I can.”
Chapter 6: Finding another way part 2
A/N thanks for your reviews and support.
white collar black wolf: thanks for your review my friend. Welcome back. Haven't seen you around in awhile. Hope all is well.
With a death in my family these chapters are coming out a little later than expected. Sorry.
The docks were no place for a hunted man at night. More than once he had to hide because of the villagers. They wanted to take a pound of flesh from him for recompense.
A boat that he knew did not belong pulled up along the docks. A man in a black shirt and black pants docked. On his right hand golden rings glinted in the small amount of light at the docks. Silver necklace lay just above the shirt. It appeared to be some kind of dragon's or demon's head.
The man's cold grey eyes met his own. They widened with shock then narrowed with intrigue.
Was this the man Washburn wanted him to meet? Why did he get the feeling that he knew this man?
The man said in gravelly rumble, "Richard Grayson it has been a long time. When Geoffrey said he needed to call in my favor that I owed him I never expected to find a dead man."
The unknown man blinked in surprise as he questioned, "You know me?"
The man stepped closer to him a curious ligjtvin his grey eyes. However the sounds of the villagers were returning. He couldn't be found like this. They would kill him.
"Get on the boat," came a short order.
If Washburn trusted this man he would to. At least for the moment. It seemed that the man knew who he was. To get answers he would have to have more trust than he had given since he woke up.
He carefully got onto the boat only giving the water a mistrustful glance. There would never be a time that he would be comfortable in a boat again. He would act the part when necessary but other than that he would avoid them.
Once he was on the deck the boat began moving. Whoever was driving the boat knew their welcome had been out stayed. It was just in time too. He could see several angry villagers gather at where they pulled from.
The man asked motioning for the one without memories to follow him, "How did you end up here, Richard? The last I had heard was that you were dead. If you had not killed your own killer I have little doubt that your father would have gone back on his no killing rule. I still don't understand that rule of his. Then again it seems I was never meant."
He died? People who knew him thought he was dead?
There was a story behind this he just knew it. Questions ran through his mind.
Not one was more important than this, "Who am I?"
The stopped suddenly and the one without memories jumped back. If this man chose to attack him he would have to be ready.
Grey eyes clashed against grey. The other's were assessing. It felt as if he was looking into the younger's very soul.
"You don't have any memories," he said, "That explains why you didn't try your luck with the villagers. Young Grayson we might as well take this conversation below. I know you have a lot of questions. Some of them I can answer. Some of them I cannot."
So they went down below. Still wary of the man he declined food and drink. For his part the man introduced himself as Ra's Al Ghul. Without even knowing how he knew this his mind supplied the Demon's Head. Someone to be feared and respected.
Then a story began. At first the man without memories had a hard time believing it.
His name was Richard John Grayson son of a pair of gypsies. He was raised for the first eight years of his life in the circus. When he was eight his parents were murdered right before his eyes.
After that he was adopted by a billionaire by the name of Bruce Wayne. Like Richard he had seen his parents murdered in front of him. What most didn't know was that Bruce Wayne was the Batman.
Originally trained by the League of Shadows the man ruled Gotham with an iron fist. There was a rule he followed that most did not. Bruce Wayne refused to kill.
Richard joined the crusade against crime. He became the first Robin and eventually the leader of the Teen Titans. That only came around when he had a fight with his adopted father. No one was sure what the fight was about. Only that it took years for the relationship to heal.
In that time Richard as Robin had made quite a few enemies. It wasn't until he met Slade that things truly changed. Slade was also known as Deathstroke wanted him as an apprentice.
Hundreds of battles were fought between the two. Richard didn't want to in someone else's shadow. Slade simply wanted a person to uphold his legacy.
Eventually the fighting between them came to an end. Together they had taken a demon lord down together. An agreement was forged between them. Robin wouldn't attack Slade and Slade wouldn't attack Robin. As far as Ra's knew this agreement still held true to that day.
When he turned seventeen he returned from Jump City back to Gotham. Slowly he made up with his father.
Ra's seemed to hesitate before continuing. Then he told of how a year later he disappeared. No one knew why he disappeared just that one day he was gone.
It wasn't until almost a decade later that Richard Grayson resurfaced. He had a knew name and a new history. Even the criminal underworld heard of the name Neal Caffery. If someone wanted art stolen or forged it was Caffery they called.
Ra's wasn't sure of the next events that transpired. Only that word was spread of Neal Caffery's death. Many of the bat family had been devastated by the abrupt loss. Even he who had fought with the oldest boy felt the loss.
Then he explained that the way he knew Washburn was through his daughter. She had been severely injured on a nearby island. Some local fisherman had taken her to the doctor. Without concern for who she might be he healed her. In return when Ra's found out he promised a favor that could be called in. One that had been called in that night.
Chapter 7: Finding another way part 3
The trip to Switzerland had been a long one. Ra's answered many of young Richatd's questions but that only seemed to leave him with more.
An offer was made for him to stay with Ra's. That they would go to Nanda Parbat. There he could try his hand with the mind healers there.
The name had brought back something. Ra's could see it in the young man's face. It wasn't quite a memory but it was close.
That didn't surprise the Demon's Head. Nanda Parbat was an image that invoked fear and respect. A castle hidden deep within the desert. Only a few could find it without being lead there.
When they landed in Switzerland the boy gave him the basics of what he knew. Richard had gone overboard somewhere off the coast of Marsae. He had been shot in several places and showed Ra's the spots.
It would do the boy good to return with Ra's to Nanda Parbat. However his promise made from years before still stood. He would not interfere in Grayson's choices. Instead he would send aid in the form of the Detective.
He inquired carefully, "Are you sure you don't wish to leave with me, young Grayson?"
Grey blue eyes met his own grey eyes as the man replied, "I have to know who I am, Ra's. Part of that is here."
Ra's sighed but accepted the answer. He would contact the detective and leave it to him. This was not his child or grandson. Helping the detective could only go so far.
He was shaken awake by Alfred at two in the afternoon. He didn't have a meeting at Wayne Enterprises. What did his friend want?
Alfred said, "Ra's Al Ghul is on the phone. He is asking for you, Master Bruce."
All weariness left him immediately as he sat up. Ra's didn't make contact for fickle reasons.
He changed into clean clothes and made his way down to the cave. Damian was already down there sitting in the chair next to his. The put off look he was giving the screen said it all. Ra's was not there to speak to Damian.
He turned to face the screen and growled, "What do you want Ra's? You are not one for social calls."
Ra's face was the same as it always was. This time however there was a knowing smirk on his face. Whatever he wanted it most likely spelled trouble.
Ra's answered in his calm low tones, "Detective I come bearing news. Normally I would not interfere in such matters but he came upon my radar. One of your boys to be exact."
That had better not be Jason again. Jason had caused nothing but trouble since Richard died. Then he was declared Mia on a CIA operation. Finding that video in his computer had been a shock. They had searched high and low for the missing member but no sign of him.
As they closed ranks so not to lose another Jason got it in his head to try and draw Richard out through trouble. It didn't work.
Every time they got a tip on Richard's possible location they went out in full force. Not once did any lead pan out. In all ways that counted his oldest son had disappeared.
That had been the breaking point for Jason. No one had seen or heard from him since Richard's supposed death.
Ra's said breaking through his thoughts, "If you are thinking of young Todd, I can say truthfully it wasn't him this time. Instead I ran across young Grayson."
That had Damian sitting up stiffly in his chair. Bruce stood straighter his surprise evident.
Richard was seen? Where? How did he get on Ra's radar?
He had many but first he had to know where. He asked trying to keep his tone neutral, "Where is he, Ra's?"
"Switzerland detective. I should warn you however. He has severe amnesia. To the point where he does not even know who he is."
Bruce didnt hesitate, "We will take it from here, Ra's," Bruce hesitated for a fraction of a second before he said, "Thank you Ra's. Why would you tell us though?"
Ra's face grew grave as he replied, "I have children of my own, detective. If it was myself I would want to know. I saw your boy safely this far but the rest is up to him. Good luck to you."
With that the line clicked dead. Bruce couldn't believe it. Over a month since Richard had gone dark and there was finally a sighting. Only to find out that his son had amnesia. This would have to he handled carefully.
Chapter 8: Doctor Panov part 1
A/N thanks for your reviews and support.
The sun was bright, filtering through the trees along the elegant Bahnhofstrasse, bouncing off the windows of the shops, and creating blocks of shadows where the great banks intruded on its rays.
It was a street where solidity and money, security and arrogance, determination and a touch of frivolity all coexisted; and Dr. Washburn’s patient had walked along its pavements before.
He strolled into the Burkli Platz, the square that overlooked the Zurichsee, with its numerous quays along the waterfront, bordered by gardens that in the heat of summer became circles of bursting flowers. He could picture them in his mind’s eye; images were coming to him. But no thoughts, no memories.
He doubled back into the Bahnhofstrasse, instinctively knowing that the Gemeinschaft Bank was a nearby building of off-white stone; it had been on the opposite side of the street on which he had just walked; he had passed it deliberately.
He approached the heavy glass doors and pushed the center plate forward. The right-hand door swung open easily and he was standing on a floor of brown marble; he had stood on it before, but the image was not as strong as others.
He had the uncomfortable feeling that the Gemeinschaft was to be avoided. It was not to be avoided now.
“Bonjour, monsieur. Vous désirez …?” The man asking the question was dressed in a cutaway, the red boutonnière his symbol of authority.
The use of French was explained by the client’s clothes; even the subordinate gnomes of Zurich were observant. “I have personal and confidential business to discuss,” replied J. Bourne in English, once again mildly startled by the words he spoke so naturally.
The reason for the English was twofold: he wanted to watch the gnome’s expression at his error, and he wanted no possible misinterpretation of anything said during the next hour.
“Pardon, sir,” said the man, his eyebrows arched slightly, studying the client’s topcoat.
“The elevator to your left, second floor. The receptionist will assist you.”
The receptionist referred to was a middle-aged man with close-cropped hair and tortoise-shell glasses; his expression was set, his eyes rigidly curious.
“Do you currently have personal and confidential business with us, sir?” he asked, repeating the new arrival’s words.
“I do,” he confirmed.
“Your signature, please,” said the official, holding out a sheet of Gemeinschaft stationery with two blank lines centered in the middle of the page.
The client understood; no name was required. The handwritten numbers take the place of a name … they constitute the signature of the account holder. Standard procedure. Washburn. The patient wrote out the numbers, relaxing his hand so the writing would be free.
He handed the stationery back to the receptionist, who studied it, rose from the chair, and gestured to a row of narrow doors with frosted glass panels. “If you’ll wait in the fourth room, sir, someone will be with you shortly.” “The fourth room?”
“The fourth door from the left. It will lock automatically.”
“Is that necessary?” The receptionist glanced at him, startled.
“It is in line with your own request, sir,” he said politely, an undertone of surprise beneath his courtesy. “This is a three-zero account. It’s customary at the Gemeinschaft for holders of such accounts to telephone in advance so that a private entrance can be made available.”
“I know that,” lied Washburn’s patient with a casualness he did not feel.
“It’s just that I’m in a hurry.” “I’ll convey that to Verifications, sir.”
"Verifications?” Mr. J. Bourne of New York City, U.S.A., could not help himself; the word had the sound of an alarm.
“Signature Verifications, sir.” The man adjusted his glasses; the movement covered his taking a step nearer his desk, his lower hand inches from a console. “I suggest you wait in Room Four, sir.”
The suggestion was not a request; it was an order, the command in the praetorian’s eyes.
“Why not? Just tell them to hurry, will you?” The patient crossed to the fourth door, opened it and walked inside.
The door closed automatically; he could hear the click of the lock. J. Bourne looked at the frosted panel; it was no simple pane of glass, for there was a network of thin wires webbed beneath the surface. Undoubtedly if cracked, an alarm would be triggered; he was in a cell, waiting to be summoned.
The rest of the small room was paneled and furnished tastefully, two leather armchairs next to one another, across from a miniature couch flanked by antique tables. At the opposite end was a second door, startling in its contrast; it was made of gray steel.
Up-to-date magazines and newspapers in three languages were on the tables. The patient sat down and picked up the Paris edition of the Herald-Tribune. He read the printed words but absorbed nothing. The summons would come any moment now; his mind was consumed by thoughts of maneuver. Maneuver without memory, only by instinct.
Finally, the steel door opened, revealing a tall, slender man with aquiline features and meticulously groomed gray hair. His face was patrician, eager to serve an equal who needed his expertise.
He extended his hand, his English refined, mellifluous under his Swiss intonation as he greeted, "So very pleased to meet you. Forgive the delay; it was rather humorous, in fact.” “In what way?”
“I’m afraid you rather startled Herr Koenig. It’s not often a three-zero account arrives without prior notice. He’s quite set in his ways, you know; the unusual ruins his day. On the other hand, it generally makes mine more pleasant. I’m Walther Apfel. Please, come in.”
The bank officer released the patient’s hand and gestured toward the steel door. The room beyond was a V-shaped extension of the cell. Dark paneling, heavy comfortable furniture and a wide desk that stood in front of a wider window overlooking the Bahnhofstrasse.
“I’m sorry I upset him,” said J. Bourne. “It’s just that I have very little time.” “Yes, he relayed that.”
Apfel walked around the desk, nodding at the leather armchair in front and ordered, “Do sit down. One or two formalities and we can discuss the business at hand.”
Both men sat; the instant they did so the bank officer picked up a white clipboard and leaned across his desk, handing it to the Gemeinschaft client. Secured in place was another sheet of stationery, but instead of two blank lines there were ten, starting below the letterhead and extending to within an inch of the bottom border.
“Your signature, please. A minimum of five will be sufficient.”
“I don’t understand. I just did this.” “And very successfully. Verification confirmed it.” “Then why again?”
“A signature can be practiced to the point where a single rendition is acceptable. However, successive repetitions will result in flaws if it’s not authentic. A graphological scanner will pick them up instantly; but then I’m sure that’s no concern of yours.” Apfel smiled as he placed a pen at the edge of the desk. “Nor of mine, frankly, but Koenig insists.
“He’s a cautious man,” said the patient, taking the pen and starting to write.
He had begun the fourth set when the banker stopped him. “That will do; the rest really is a waste of time.” Apfel held out his hand for the clipboard.
“Verifications said you weren’t even a borderline case. Upon receipt of this, the account will be delivered.” He inserted the sheet of paper into the slot of a metal case on the right side of his desk and pressed a button; a shaft of bright light flared and then went out.
“This transmits the signatures directly to the scanner,” continued the banker.
“Which, of course, is programmed. Again, frankly, it’s all a bit foolish. No one forewarned of our precautions would consent to the additional signatures if he were an imposter.”
“Why not? As long as he’d gone this far, why not chance it?”
“There is only one entrance to this office, conversely one exit. I’m sure you heard the lock snap shut in the waiting room.”
“And saw the wire mesh in the glass,” added the patient.
“Then you understand. A certified imposter would be trapped.”
“Suppose he had a gun?”
“No one searched me.” “The elevator did. From four different angles. If you had been armed, the machinery would have stopped between the first and second floors.” “You’re all cautious.” “We try to be of service.” The telephone rang. Apfel answered. “Yes?… Come in.” The banker glanced at his client. “Your account file’s here.” “That was quick.” “Herr Koenig signed for it several minutes ago; he was merely waiting for the scanner release.” Apfel opened a drawer and took out a ring of keys. “I’m sure he’s disappointed. He was quite certain something was amiss.” The steel door opened and the receptionist entered carrying a black metal container, which he placed on the desk next to a tray that held a bottle of Perrier and two glasses. “Are you enjoying your stay in Zurich?” asked the banker, obviously to fill in the silence. “Very much so. My room overlooks the lake. It’s a nice view, very peaceful, quiet.” “Splendid,” said Apfel, pouring a glass of Perrier for his client. Herr Koenig left; the door was closed and the banker returned to business. “Your account, sir,” he said, selecting a key from the ring. “May I unlock the case or would you prefer doing so yourself?” “Go ahead. Open it.” The banker looked up. “I said unlock, not open. That’s not my privilege, nor would I care for the responsibility.” “Why not?” “In the event your identity is listed, it’s not my position to be aware of it.” “Suppose I wanted business transacted? Money transferred, sent to someone else?” “It could be accomplished with your numerical signature on a withdrawal form.” “Or sent to another bank—outside of Switzerland? For me.” “Then a name would be required. Under those circumstances an identity would be both my responsibility and my privilege.” “Open it.” The bank officer did so. Dr. Washburn’s patient held his breath, a sharp pain forming in the pit of his stomach. Apfel took out a sheaf of statements held together by an outsized paperclip. His banker’s eyes strayed to the righthand column of the top pages, his banker’s expression unchanged, but not totally. His lower lip stretched ever so slightly, creasing the corner of his mouth; he leaned forward and handed the pages to their owner. Beneath the Gemeinschaft letterhead the typewritten words were in English, the obvious language of the client:
Name: Restricted to Legal
Instructions and Owner Access: Sealed Under Separate Cover Current
Funds on Deposit: 7,500,000 Francs
The patient exhaled slowly, staring at the figure. Whatever he thought he was prepared for, nothing prepared him for this. It was as frightening as anything he had experienced during the past five months.
Roughly calculated the amount was over five million American dollars. $5,000,000!
How? Why? Controlling the start of a tremble in his hand, he leafed through the statements of entry. They were numerous, the sums extraordinary, none less than 300,000 francs, the deposits spaced every five to eight weeks apart, going back thirty six months.
He reached the bottom statement, the first. It was a transfer from a bank in Singapore and the largest single entry. Two million, seven hundred thousand Malaysian dollars converted into 5,175,000 Swiss francs.
Beneath the statement he could feel the outline of a separate envelope, far shorter than the page itself. He lifted up the paper; the envelope was rimmed with a black border, typewritten words on the front.
Identity: Owner Access Legal Restrictions: Access—Registered Officer, Treadstone Seventy-One Corporation, Bearer Will Produce Written Instructions From Owner. Subject To Verifications.
“I’d like to check this,” said the client.
“It’s your property,” replied Apfel. “I can assure you it has remained intact.”
The patient removed the envelope and turned it over. A Gemeinschaft seal was pressed over the borders of the flap; none of the raised letters had been disturbed.
He tore the flap open, took out the card, and read:
Owner: Jason Charles Bourne Address: Unlisted
Jason Charles Bourne. Jason. The J was for Jason! His name was Jason Bourne.
The Bourne had meant nothing, the J. Bourne still meaningless, but in the combination Jason and Bourne, obscure tumblers locked into place. He could accept it; he did accept it.
He was Jason Charles Bourne, American. Yet he could feel his chest pounding; the vibration in his ears was deafening, the pain in his stomach more acute. What was it? Why did he have the feeling that he was plunging into the darkness again, into the black waters again?
“Is something wrong?” asked Walther Apfel. Is something wrong, Herr Bourne?"
“No. Everything’s fine. My name’s Bourne. Jason Bourne.” Was he shouting? Whispering? He could not tell.
“My privilege to know you, Mr. Bourne. Your identity will remain confidential. You have the word of an officer of the Bank Gemeinschaft.”
“Thank you," he replied absentmindedly.
He pulled out cash that would last him a few days or could get him out of the country if needed. It took everything he had not to show how shaken up he was.
Everything about the bank had contradicted what he was told by Ra's. What was the truth of who he was? Was he Jason Bourne? Or was he Richard Grayson?
Just trying to think about it made his head pound. When he finally made it back outside he had to sit on the curb. His vision was blurry and he was seeing two of everything.
A calm warm voice inquired, "Jason?"