"هنا هو القهوة الخاص بك". The waitress said in Arabic, as she set my coffee down on the table.
"شكرا لك." I returned with a smile, and she walked back into the cafe.
Taking a sip of my coffee, I leaned back in my chair sighing, letting the hot Moroccan sun seep warmth into my bones.
This was a fools errand. A crazy idea that had a 96% chance of failure; that's 4% in our favor—not very inspiring. Still, both Aaron and Jason had a knack for defying the odds.
Come on, Jason. Where are you?
It was Aaron's idea to come back to the place where I had last seen him, or more accurately, felt him. To the same city, and the same cafe in Morocco where Bourne had last left me, and where a couple days later I thought he was watching me.
"It's our only link to him," Aaron had said, "and if what you are saying is true, if Bourne has been checking up on you, then we need to make it as easy as possible for him to find you. And what does a person do when they are looking for someone?"
"They go back to the last place they saw them and trace their steps from there." I had answered.
So that's just what I was doing: sitting alone at a table just outside the cafe, in full view of the street and surrounding buildings, waiting for some sign, some indication, that just maybe Bourne was out there somewhere.
On the table in front of me, was a small scrap of paper with the English words: We need to talk scribbled on it. If Bourne did, by some crazy chance, find me, then he would see my note and know what to do.
The minutes turned into hours.
The street life, at first interesting in all of its diversity, soon became loud and obnoxious to my ears, and the initial anxious excitement I had initially felt, faded after the first three hours.
My mind, once alert and scanning every face in the crowd, now sunk into a dreamlike reverie.
Aaron was safe. The thought still gave me chills.
Shortly after we had been reunited, Aaron hijacked one of the numerous planes in the warehouse, and in an hour's time we were hovering over the South China Sea.
We landed in a large field that was about a mile out from a small village in Myanmar, and what followed was three exhausting days of traveling along the mainland till we at last reached Tangier.
During that time, one thing became clear to me: something had happened in that house in Manila, for Aaron was changed.
He laughed more, smiled more, was even keener in his perception if such a thing is possible, and when he looked at Marta.........
I saw something in his eyes that made me hope. A spark of life that had never been there before. And for once, the realization of the possibility of finality to the snare he was caught in, of a chance to the life that he had heretofore been forbidden, it made me dream for him.
I got up and began to pace, needing to get the blood flowing in my veins after sitting down so long. The sun, once high, was now beginning its decent and the air was noticeably cooler. A small scuffle broke out on the street, as a native had accidentally knocked over a basket containing mangoes on a nearby stall. Some of the mangoes had been squashed under the feet of the bustling crowd and the vender was demanding that the native pay for the damaged goods. Naturally a heated argument broke out and both men began screaming at each other in Arabic, while some of the bystanders also joined the fray, shouting out their opinions and taking the side of either angered man.
This scene attracted my attention for a while, but I soon grew bored of it and returned to my seat at the table.
Suddenly I froze.
There on the glass tabletop, placed over the scrap of paper, was a small black burner phone.
My head instantly whipped up, scanning the faces in the crowd, looking down both ends of the street and at the buildings around me, but there was no one and nothing out of place or that I recognized.
Snatching up the phone, I went to the menu screen and clicked on the contacts.
It was empty except for one number with no name.
With trembling hands, I dialed the number, and waited as it rung, my heart in my throat. It rang only twice before the static over the speaker changed, as if someone had answered but did not speak.
"Jason?" I whispered cautiously.
"You said you needed to talk." It was Jason's voice, no question about it.
"Meet me at the Cap Spartel Lighthouse in one hour." And he hung up before I could say another word.
I blinked, took the phone away from my ear and stared at the screen for a moment before disconnecting the line and dialing the number for Aaron's burn phone.
Again, two rings before the static changed but no answering voice.
"Aaron, its me, Nikki." I said softly.
"Nikki! What phone are you calling on?" he replied easily once he heard my voice.
"The phone that Jason Bourne left on my table."
I heard the creaking of a chair in the background as if he had suddenly sat up at my words. "You made contact with Bourne?!?"
"Brief contact, but yes. He wants to set up a meet at the Cap Spartel Lighthouse in an hour."
Again I heard a noise in the background, but this time it was a faint beeping, and I attributed it to Aaron setting his watch to a 60 minute countdown. "Where are you now?" his voice the low serious tone he uses whenever the gears of his linear tactical mind are moving, forming a plan, a tactical approach.
"I'm still at the cafe." I answered.
"Wait there, I'll pick you up soon." And with that, he hung up.
What is it with men and saying goodbye? Then again, my experience with men was pretty much limited to no-nonsense trained killers.
Dismembering the burner phone in my hands, I dropped it on the street and watched as hundreds of feet crushed it to pieces.
True to his word, within ten minutes a taxi pulled up to the curve and Aaron's face appeared in the window motioning me in.
As soon as I took my place beside Marta in the car, Aaron began grilling me on every detail of my interaction with Jason. There wasn't much to tell, and soon he had to settle with the silence of the taxi, his leg bobbing up and down in anticipation.
Marta too was anxious. She knew how important this meeting with Bourne would be, but most importantly, she knew who he was.
As for myself, I couldn't sort through my tangled mess of emotions. All I knew was that I was eager to see him again. I had.....missed him, in some strange unexplainable way.
The countdown on Aaron's watch had reached twenty minutes when the taxi driver suddenly stopped.
"هذا قدر ما اذهب إلا إذا كنت تريد أن تدفع لي عشرين درهم أكثر." Our driver said turning to look at Aaron.
I knew only the very basics of Arabic so I was mostly at a loss, but Aaron I knew to speak it fluently.
"He wont take us any further unless we pay him an extra twenty dirham's." Aaron explained.
"Why?" Marta asked.
Aaron shrugged. "Something about the lighthouse being out of the way and hard to get to. Most of the drivers here don't take you there unless you pay them extra." He turned to the expectant driver. "سنقوم المشي."
The driver shrugged and popped the trunk, while Aaron motioned for Marta and I to get out. He paid the driver a modest sum, before taking out our backpacks from the trunk, passing mine to me and slipping his and Marta's over his shoulders.
With a glance at his watch, Aaron led us down a dusty road, the sound of the distant waves crashing wafting up our ears.
I used to wonder how Aaron seemed to know where everything is—that is until I started to notice the hour he would spend staring at a map of either the location we were in, or the location we were going to. He would hardly even blink, completely oblivious to all except for the roll of paper spread out in front of him, his eyes starting in the corner and slowly but surely covering every inch, going over every line, until he reached the opposite corner—only to start the process all over again and do it once more to be sure.
Somehow, someway, during that time, he would transfer the map on the paper in front of him, into a mental map in his head that could be referred to at any time and with perfect accuracy.
It was only one truly astounding example of the things he could do. All just by altering two chromosomes.
I was never one for science, but the fact that someone could achieve that level of enhancement just by mixing together a few chemicals is absolutely mind bending for me.
The roar of the ocean was now almost deafening, and up ahead glimmering through the trees could be seen the mysterious blue of the sea. Standing tall on a slight rise overlooking the beach and far out to the horizon, towered a large mosaic engraved lighthouse.
The Cap Spartel Lighthouse.
Aaron's watch suddenly chirped out its opinion that we were out of time, before he quickly silenced it. Still we all hesitated by the tree-line for a moment, staring up at the brick monument, before Aaron took the lead across the sand and to the door.
It was secured by two heavy padlocks with chains, but someone had tampered with them, for the padlocks were unlocked, though left in place with the chains still clinging to them so that one would think that it was still secured from a distance.
I saw a hint of a smirk cross over Aaron's face as he saw this, and I wondered what he thought.
He made a move to reach for the handle, but I beat him to it. "Let me go first." I said, with a meaningful glance at him. "Jason knows me. I can only think how he will react if he sees you first." Aaron nodded at this and backed up a step to give me room to enter.
"Wait at the stairs." I whispered, before slipping inside.
It was eerily quiet. The wind could be heard whistling through the fixtures far up in roof, and the noises it made echoed down the stone stairwell like ghostly whispers.
Slowly I took the stairs step by step, my footsteps sounding on the stone. When I was halfway up I heard the sound of the door opening below me and knew that Aaron and Marta were following behind.
At last I reached the end of the staircase, my legs burning from the hike up, and the room at the top slowly became visible.
Silhouetted against one of the large windows that faced the sea, stood the form of Jason Bourne, his hands in his pockets as he looked out over the horizon.
He heard my step. Turned.
"Nikki," he greeted in a soft voice, a smile spreading over his face that actually looked real.
He took a step towards me, his eyes darting over my figure in his customary cursory glance, looking for injuries, signs of duress, weapons, bugs, anything that would give him a clue—though I did notice his eyes linger on my face as if he was generally curious at how I was doing.
"Hello Jason," I breathed, wondering why I was suddenly short of air.
My eyes also traveled over him, taking in as much as I could of his person. It had seemed like years since I had seen him last.
He was tanner than before, and had ditched the threatening black clothes for simple cargo pants and a plain white collared shirt, the sleeves rolled up to his elbows and with a flattering fit.
Perhaps it was the fact that he was no longer wearing black or a bulky coat, or that he wasn't bleeding, but he seemed stronger and healthier. His face was more relaxed and at peace than I had seen him in years—for remember, I was his psychiatrist long before I became his accomplice. The smile on his face, so real looking, the fact that it was directed at me making feel something deep in the pit of my stomach, took years off of him and made him seem young and dashing again.
Though right now his eyes held a hint of concern for me.
"You said you needed to talk," he began, a line forming on his forehead and the smile fading. Something jumped inside of me and I wanted to snatch back that smile before it vanished forever—it was so rare and beautiful. "Are you alright? Are you in trouble? Has anyone approached you? Are you being followed?"
The questions came hard and fast, while he quickly closed the distance between us and came to stand before me, towering over me in an almost protective way.
"Nikki," he prompted, the line on his forehead broadening in concern, as I had not spoken. "Are you in danger?"
I shook my head as if to clear it. "No," I cried quickly, but hastened to correct myself. "I mean, not right now—not really."
He frowned, and I sighed, taking a breath and collecting my thoughts that seemed to have scattered at some point.
"Jason," I began, calmer this time, "there's something I need to tell you."
He crossed his arms in an expectant manner, waiting.
I opened my mouth to tell him about Aaron, when my brother chose at that exact, poorly timed minute to walk into the room, Marta following.
And before I could stop him, Jason reacted.
In a blink of an eye, he had shoved me to take cover behind him, and whipped out a gun from some concealed spot on his person so fast that I couldn't see from where.
Everything would have been fine, I'm sure, if Jason hadn't made one crucial mistake: he pointed the gun at Marta.
In a millisecond, Aaron had stepped between Marta and the crosshairs, disarming Jason, the gun clattering to the floor. However in the same instant, Jason retaliated with a hard blow to the ribcage, and slammed Aaron bodily into the wall, his hands on his throat.
Aaron kneed him twice in the stomach, forcing him back the inches he needed to kick him hard in the gut. Jason stumbled and fell from the force of the kick, but used the momentum to propel him across the floor towards his gun, which he snatched up, rising to one knee and aiming the weapon at Aaron, who had by this time drawn his own gun from the back of his waistband and was also pointing the barrel at Jason.
"Drop the gun!" Jason shouted.
"Put down the gun!" Aaron cried at the same time, both of them shifting their hands for a better grip as they glared at each other through their sights.
"No!" Marta screamed, jumping in front of Aaron and putting her hands up.
Aaron frowned and lowered the gun, his fighting instinct draining out of him as he saw Marta's face, remembering, after the haze of adrenaline cleared from his eyes, that they needed Bourne.
By that time I was by Jason's side, also with my hands up, and begging him to stop.
"He's with me, Jason! He's not going to hurt you!"
Jason's eyes never left Aaron and his gun never lowered, but I could see the hesitation in his face.
"He's my brother!" I continued, encouraged by the flash of doubt. "Jason, please! He's my brother! Drop the gun!"
For a moment, he didn't move, but then his eyes flicked to my face and I gave an encouraging nod. He lowered the gun, but never shifted his hands, an uneasy distrust on his face.
"Jason," I whispered softly, laying one hand on his shoulder and the other over his gripping the gun, gently prying at his fingers. "Give me the gun."
His eyes flicked to my face, his expression showing slight surprise at my touch.
"Give me the gun," I repeated, my voice barely above a whisper and my eyes never leaving his.
I think my heart broke when he finally relaxed his hands, his fingers brushing mine as I gently took the gun from his grasp. I immediately emptied the chamber and dropped both the cartridge and the gun on the floor.
Across the room, Aaron had already followed suit, kicking the gun across the floor to stop at Jason's feet as a sign of peace, while Marta interlaced her fingers between his with a grateful glance.
Though Aaron's eyes never left Jason, I didn't miss the comforting little squeeze he gave her hand.
Jason stood stock still, his eyes flicking from Aaron to Marta, though mostly eyeing Aaron, while something unreadable flashed in his eyes and his frown deepened as he glanced at Aaron's gun at his feet.
"Who are you?" he said, the tension evident in his voice.
Jason wasn't one to like being without a weapon.
"My name's Aaron Cross, this is Doctor Marta Shearing." Aaron spoke calmly, motioning to Marta who still stood slightly behind him. "I'm Nikki's brother."
Jason turned to me. "You have a brother?"
I smiled, glancing at Aaron. "The best kept secret of my life." I explained.
Jason shifted on the balls of his feet. "Okay......" he looked from me, to Marta, to Aaron, his gaze lingering on the sturdy form of the ex-Outcome operative.
"You're in all this mess too, aren't you?" he said in a low voice. "With skills like yours, you've got to be an operative. And your Nikki's brother. And now she sets up a meeting with me, both of you in tow? What do you want?"
Jason was never one to pass over details.
"We need your help," Marta voiced, taking a step forward so that she came to stand beside Aaron.
Jason scoffed. "Yeah, I kinda got that part. Though I must confess, your boyfriend attacking me kinda gave me pause."
Aaron's eyes narrowed and he crossed his arms, but otherwise didn't rise to the challenge.
Marta, on the other hand, did.
"You stuck a gun in my face!" she shouted, feeling defensive of Aaron. "If Aaron had pulled his on Nikki, what would you do?"
One could hear a pin drop in the silence that followed.
Suddenly Jason gave a dry laugh. "I like her!" he muttered to me.
Marta blushed, suddenly reserved again, and Aaron's eyes narrowed more.
"It was all just a hyper-defensive misunderstanding." I soothed, coming to stand in between them, trying to repair any damage done.
Honestly, I have no idea where Marta's sudden fire came from.
This was not going according to plan. We needed Jason's help, and to get that he had to trust us. Which, so far, was not working out very well.
Hey, at least we got past the guns in everybody's face part.
"Nikki's right," Aaron said, coming to stand beside me in a nonaggressive manner, obviously trying to overlook the tactical vulnerabilities and make a statement of peace to Jason. Something that I was thankful for.
"We're not your enemies." he confirmed, his eyes never leaving Jason's in a way that could only mean he spoke the truth. "I'm sorry I attacked you. It's just....well you pointed the gun at Marta, and I reacted. You know how it is....." he trailed off.
Jason actually glanced at me. "I do, actually." he said in a low voice, barely audible.
"Like Marta said," Aaron continued, "we need your help." He shrugged. "Nikki was our way in."
Jason's eyes passed slowly over every face, frowning as he thought.
At length he folded his arms and sat back on his heels, evidently deciding that Aaron and Marta were no longer a threat.
"Alright," he muttered. "What do you need my help for?"
A hint of a smile crossed over Aaron's face.
"It's a long story."