She goes back to Madrid, although she knows better. Don’t be familiar. Don’t create routine. Don’t leave a trail they can follow.
But she wasn’t trained the way they were - wasn’t taught to cover her tracks the way he was. And she can't just pick a spot and go there without having a reason, a plan. That's part of her programming, just as much as it's part of theirs.
Getting into her old apartment is easy.
She slips in just before dawn, when anyone watching is going to be sleepy, and anyone who isn't won’t think anything of another young woman on her way to early morning work.
The lock is familiar - an old friend. Nicky picks it, nervously listening to the sound of the dripping tap in the apartment across the hall, marking her time by the noise. They'll be expecting her to come back eventually of course, but not right away.
She’ll be in and out in minutes.
The apartment's been ransacked. Her store-spaces are emptied, her desktop computer taken. From the CIA’s point of view, she’s helped a known felon and wanted man. They’ve taken a contract out on her and she’ll be believed dead - at least until he surfaces in the US. Then they’ll know what happened to Desh.
And they’ll come after her. Unfinished business.
She uses the light on her cellphone to guide her through the room, stepping neatly through the chaos left behind by the CIA cleaners. Her breath catches at the destruction, her heart pounding at the violation of her space. Get in, get out, scream her instincts.
In the kitchen, the sink is full of cutlery, the drawers upturned in the search for her stash. The fridge smells rancid - they turned it off and moved it out to check the space behind.
They should have spared themselves the trouble.
Nicky’s not an operative but she knew their habits, learned their patterns, observed the things they were taught. Her nights were studies of their movements, her days theoretical exercises in moving unobserved by technology.
They don’t act randomly.
Of course, the first time she really had to put it in action - the first time her life depended on it - she froze. She panicked. She did all the wrong things and nearly died.
A screwdriver levers off the grill at the bottom of the old fridge. The narrow space beneath has a large snap lock bag heavily taped in place. She takes the bag without looking at it, rummages through her closet for her favourite coat, scarf, and her grandmother’s earrings, and walks out the door leaving nothing behind but memories.
The Monday after Mother’s Day, Pam’s office is full of floral bouquets, rapidly wilting. The secretaries gush about what their children and grandchildren did for them on the weekend.
In her office, she reads through her emails, checks the reports she’s due to read over during the day, and calls the HR department to remind them that she has from Wednesday off for the Senate hearing.
The truth is she spent Sunday with a glass of Merlot and her notes on the Jason Bourne case. Treadstone, Ward Abbott, Blackbriar, Noah Vosen, and CIA Black Ops are not exactly maternal material, but her mother died some years ago, and it’s just another Sunday to her.
Her secretary knocks and comes in with the morning mail. Sharon’s in her mid-twenties, practical and brisk, with more sense than to ask a childfree woman about Mother’s Day. “The morning mail, Pam. A few requests - I think Senator Katt is trying to feel you out as an advisor for the Intelligence Appropriations Committee. A few abusive letters which I’ve logged, and... there’s a card for you.” Sharon looks embarrassed, as though the fact of the card is somehow a reflection on her.
“A card?” Pam’s amused at the thought as she shuffles through the opened mail. “For Mother’s Day?”
“It’s addressed to you - both on the envelope and in the card. But nobody’s signed it so I wasn’t sure if...”
Pam looks up sharply then softens her astonishment beneath a smile. “Send it in with the envelope, please Sharon.”
It’s a ridiculously bright and tawdry thing: red glitter sparkling over a bunch of cartoonish flowers and a champagne bottle. One word is written in blocky capitals above the greeting: Pam. The postmark’s readable: New York City, 10021, May 8. She doesn’t recognise the handwriting on the card or envelope, but she doesn’t really expect to.
A check of the post office number shows it to be in the Upper East Side. Servicing from East 61st to East 80th.
415 East 71st. Birthplace of Jason Bourne. Rebirth place of David Webb?
Happy Mother's Day, Pam.
In a tiny hotel room in Valencia, Nicky gives a false name and a false passport, pays in cash for one night, and bolts her door once she's inside.
The gauze curtains billow with the breeze off the sea, salt air and musty room mingling as she tips the contents of the snap-lock bag out onto the bed.
Passports, credit cards, and euros tumble out in smaller snap-lock bags, each group neatly stacked and sorted, and tied with rubber bands. The credit cards match the names on the passports, and the signatures match those on the cards. Nicky has a mnemonic for the PINs.
Most were issued by the CIA: to be used for when Nicky might need a new exit, a new cover. A few weren't.
She starts re-sorting the stash.
Passports go into three piles: useable, unusable, and disposable.
The CIA-issued passports are mostly unusable, but not every country has up-to-date databases, and knowing which immigration departments have real-time connections with the US Intelligence agencies and which only perform the check during the nightly batch update can make the difference between getting through a border and coming up as a flagged danger and being taken aside for questioning.
She's not Bourne. If they pick her up, the CIA will get hold of her - that, or there'll be a horrendous body count and a trail of blood behind her. She's not an operative, just an agent.
Kill Wombosi? We can do that any time we want. I can send Nicky to do that, for Chrissakes!
After the failure of the mission to kill Wombosi, Nicky started planning ahead. She was never sure just how much the CIA managed to uncover about her past. Maybe her misdirection was successful, maybe not. It wouldn’t have surprised her to find that Conklin knew, but Abbott didn’t pay that kind of attention, and Landy wouldn’t have looked in the first place.
Her fingers slide across the leather passport covers and she picks out a burgundy one - Maria Luisa Ciccone, Italian.
A small banking firm in Lucerne holds a lockbox for Maria. After tomorrow, they won’t.
Nicky exhales and drops the passport to the coverlet, pushing her fingers through her cropped hair. Should she feel more worried at being on the run from the CIA? More nervous given that two days ago, a trained assassin tried to kill her and another trained assassin saved her life?
Out in the street, the world goes by. Inside, Nicky Parson’s world has stopped.
Now she just has to work out where she goes from here.
It's July and Pam can feel the heat radiating off her apartment windows, although the sun set nearly thirty minutes ago. She's settled down with a white wine and the latest Appropriations Committee reports. It's unlikely that she'll uncover any evidence of another Blackbriar project, but Senator Kemmel is convinced that the new DD of the CIA is hiding something. "If there's another project, I won't find it," she warned her boss. Justin shrugged. "Just keep the head of the committee happy, Pam. Go through the numbers and report that you haven't found anything."
A glance over the reports shows nothing unexpected - which, in itself, isn’t unexpected. If there’s funding for another Treadstone or Blackbriar project, it won’t be anywhere that leaves a papertrail.
There’s been no hint of any new projects from her contacts in the CIA, either. Of course, they're reluctant to talk freely with her these days. Her name isn't exactly a door-opener over at the Pentagon after the Senate hearing. Still, what they’re willing to share is that there’s been nothing on Jason Bourne and his whereabouts. Not a jot, not a peep.
Dropping the report to the coffee table, Pam admits she’s not worried about Bourne. He’s more than capable of looking after himself.
If she was concerned for anyone in the days following the situation with Bourne it was for Nicky Parsons.
A glass of wine gives her something to sip as she stares out the window at the New Jersey skyline.
Nicky Parsons impressed her in Berlin. She was out of her depth, but she held it together, even when Pam had been pumping her for all the information she could recall about Treadstone and Jason Bourne.
Pam can almost see the soft, almost doll-like face now. A porcelain lady, dark eyes hiding her thoughts, her expression controlled and neutral. Until she was asked about Bourne - then there'd been a flash of emotion, swiftly covered over. Surprise? Pam had thought so then.
With the benefit of hindsight, she wonders.
The knock at the door makes her jump and she sets down the glass hard enough to set the wine sloshing.
A peep through the eye spy shows it to be her neighbour, Mandy Hunt, dressed in a dreadful striped top and velour shorts that went out of fashion at least twenty years ago.
"Hi, Pam! How are you? Isn't it dreadful hot today? I swear I just went for a walk down the road to the cornerstore and the sweat was just pouring off me like you wouldn't believe. Anyway, I collected the post on the way up and we seem to have gotten one of yours.”
Mandy hands over the postcard and trots off down to her apartment, humming.
Pam closes the door and turns over the card. White saguaro cactus flowers in full bloom. Arizona. But the postage is Fort Worth, Texas. Not surprising. He’d want to get out of the country as surreptitiously as possible...
There’s nothing on the writing side but the address - with the wrong apartment number.
It’s the writing that interests Pam, though: not the blocky capitals of the Mother’s Day card, but a rounded, almost girlish style.
Returning to the US is difficult and fraught, and even once she’s through customs and onto a bus bound for anywhere-but-here, Nicky can’t relax.
She stares out into the night as the miles fly by.
Having gotten into the country, getting out will be relatively easy. US Immigration doesn't usually care who leaves the country. But she wants to stay in the country until...well, until she hears what happened. The mission isn't completed yet, the threads left trailing in the wake of Bourne's reappearance.
You really don't remember anything, do you?
She remembers ugly grey seats with a rainbow-striped accent with a suspiciously musty smell. The well-thumbed copy of Kerouac's On The Road she tucked into the netting pouch behind the seat in front. The hacking cough of the old lady across the aisle.
He paused by her seat, and she squinted up into the fluorescent lights of the aisle. She can still hear his voice, young and light but courteous as he asked, "Is this seat taken?" Words came easier then, before the heavy weight of knowledge pushed conversation to the side.
White male, young - perhaps her own age. Clean-cut, good looking. Not big, but with a sense of strength about him.
The bus was filling up and there weren't any empty rows remaining.
Nicky made a decision: better him than some of the people filing onto the bus now. "You can have it."
He nodded and tucked his duffle into the overhead rack, then eased into the aisle seat beside her. Didn't say anything, just eased himself into the seat, leaned back and closed his eyes.
Now, on a Greyhound plunging through the night towards Indianapolis, Nicky picks over her choices.
South. Texas, maybe. Or New Mexico. She speaks Spanish fluently - as well as French and Italian - and she could get a job doing just about anything. Her professional history is all in the north-east: New York, Washington, Chicago.
They won't expect her to go back to the small town she came from, and she wouldn't anyway. Doesn't think she could.
It was enough to get away the first time.
"First time away from home?"
"Does it show?"
His smile encouraged conversation, if only to see him smile a little more. "Only if you've been there." A big square hand was held out, the handshake comfortable and dry. "David Webb."
"Nicky Parsons. Army?"
“Isn’t Fort Leonard Wood back that way?” She pointed in the opposite direction to the way the bus was headed.
“Yeah. I’m visiting an old friend. You know your army bases.”
It wasn’t quite a question, and Nicky chose to answer what he didn’t ask. "I looked at the army."
"Not for you?"
"I don't think I'm soldier material."
"I didn't think I was either. But..." David shrugged. "So where are you headed?"
"Columbia." It made her flush back then - the essays and analyses she wrote, Ms. Walker's encouragement and kindness in helping her, the little sniff her mother gave when the news came, like Nicky was too big for her boots just by getting in.
"Columbia? On a scholarship? You must be pretty smart to get that kind of thing."
"I looked at college," he said. "But I don't think I'm student material."
Sitting in the darkness, years away from that young woman, that young man, Nicky smiles.
Even if he never remembers, she will.
The heat of summer is slowly giving ground to autumn's cool. Already Pam can feel the change in the weather, the change in the tenor of the city. Schools are back in session, and the New York tourist trade has drifted back to its customary 'busy' instead of the summer's 'insane'.
The Senate is also back in session after the summer break, so her life is busy with a new round of reports, investigations, and committees. News out of Langley or the New York office has been non-existent through her contacts, although Pam's due to have lunch with Tom in a week.
Commuting to Washington for consultations grows annoying, but she endures it - no worse than going in to Langley, and at least they don't grill her the way the directors did. Pam knew being a high-profile woman in a career dominated by men was always going to be difficult. Until she discovered about Treadstone and Blackbriar, though, she thought she'd done quite well keeping her head up in the testosterone-laden organisation of the CIA.
After the postcard in July, Pam has her feelers delicately out for news. However there's nothing of Jason Bourne or Nicky Parsons on any intelligence agency radar that she has access to.
Until the morning Sharon brings her the letter.
Sharon's silent, and when she doesn’t speak, Pam looks up. It's not like her secretary to be reticent, but today...
She’s holding an envelope. Pam hold out a hand for it, assuming it’s for her. Sharon doesn’t offer it.
"Someone sent me a letter. For you." She holds it up. The envelope is plain, no postmark, with 'PAM LANDY' written in blocky caps again.
"Someone left this in your mailbox?"
"It was posted in another envelope - address and everything. This letter was inside. Pam, I know you used to work with that Treadstone project..."
"I uncovered it," Pam corrects, putting the keyboard aside. "Treadstone wasn't ever one of my projects."
"But you knew Jason Bourne - the assassin!"
She doesn’t correct the nomenclature. In the end, David Webb was nothing more than a man tired of killing and haunted by the past he failed to escape. "He gave me the files I used to expose Treadstone. I doubt I ever knew him." When Sharon doesn’t answer, real fear in her eyes, Pam sighs and sits back. “Sharon, if an assassin trained by the CIA wanted you or me or anyone dead, they’d be dead. Especially if that assassin was Jason Bourne.”
There’s no telling Sharon about the times she was in Jason Bourne’s sights, the times he could have killed her if he’d really wanted to. Pam can’t reveal that Bourne refused to kill three men who were instrumental in creating him. And she can’t share the young man he became at the end - David Webb, lost and found and alone, but determined to see the job through.
Reason works to persuade Sharon not to panic. Reason and trust. And the letter itself helps.
It’s not even addressed to Pam. It’s a copy of Lincoln’s famous letter to Mrs. Bixby, in elegant hand-written copperplate, on thick cream parchment.
Dated September 13, 1970. The envelope is postmarked twenty-eight years later.
Happy Birthday, David.
Las Cruces is a city large enough to be absorbed into without comment, but small enough that the CIA would hardly have a presence in it - unless they knew she was here.
Nicky takes care to stay under the radar.
It’s not difficult. Down here, people are less interested in who's on the CIA's Most Wanted and more interested in whether the barista is an illegal immigrant.
To the casual observer, Nicky appears to be just one more student at New Mexico State University. The familiarity of the cover grants her the leeway she needs to survive day-to-day. It’s something of a relief not to have to formulate reports and consider international repercussions when reading the local news.
Of course, the unnerving sensation of being watched continues.
She tells herself it’s just her imagination, that there’s no-one after her. They don’t even know where she is. But she locks and bolts the door at night, has a handgun stashed behind her bedside table, and changes her route home every couple of weeks.
The day the news breaks about Jason Bourne, she's sitting in one of the student cafes on campus, reading up on one of the current texts on US foreign policy. She glances surreptitiously around, but no-one's paying attention to the news feed but her.
The announcement of an inquiry. The arrest of Noah Vosen and the man in Bourne’s photo. Pam Landy and the Senate inquiry into the Treadstone/Blackbriar projects. No body has been found, although they’ve dredged the river.
Nicky drinks in the news.
Pleasure and relief buoys her out the door towards home. A chapter of her life has completed, and she can now move on.
Stepping into the desert heat of New Mexico, Nicky goes over her options. Staying in the US long term isn't viable. She's still wanted by the CIA and if they won't send an asset after her anymore, neither will they be particularly reluctant to bring her in for questioning if she pops up on the grid.
The thought of being hunted bothers her a little. Not because it means she'll have to spend the rest of her life on the move, but because she always thought of herself as a patriot. Maybe not in the traditional rah-rah sense, but in her own way - doing what needed to be done, whether for Treadstone or helping the CIA bring Bourne in.
Vosen’s willingness to throw her under the bus for helping Bourne was a stark wake-up call.
You’re either for us, or against us...
So, where to?
Mexico is the best option for the moment - from there, she can make her way through Central and South America, maybe head out to Australia and up into Asia. Getting lost in Asia would be easy enough. She’d have to learn the languages of course, but she’s always been good at languages. And so long as they don’t want references, she has a lot of transferable skills from Treadstone.
When she gets home, Jason Bourne - or David Webb, or whoever he is these days - is washing up her dishes.
He looks incongruously large in the small space, and Nicky stares and carefully ignores the fact that the grip of the gun on the benchtop is wet, as though he reached for it when the door began to open, but judged her not a threat and put it back.
“I...” He looks down at his hands, wipes one on his jeans and holds it out to her. He doesn’t smile, but then, he didn’t that first time, either. “Is this seat taken?”
An hour later, they’re crossing the border on their way to Mexico.
At Christmas, Pam arrives at Tom’s house for Christmas dinner, and discovers she’s been sent a card of a wintry panorama from a name she’s never heard of - and probably never will again.
Postmark is Australia. The handwriting is the same rounded one that was on the postcard.
There's a letter inside - one of those group-issued ones that chat cheerily on about topics that the readers have no interest in. Pam skims it - it’s for a family up in Chicago who would probably be astonished to hear that their newsletter is in the hands of a former CIA operations director - then folds it up, smiling.
Merry Christmas to you, too, Nicky and David.