The Bourne Identity | Study Guide

Robert Ludlum

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The Bourne Identity | Book 2, Chapter 16 | Summary



Still at the Pentagon, Congressman Walters's question, "Who the hell is this Cain?" hangs in the air. The Monk, David Abbott, breaks the silence, explaining that Cain, a professional assassin—they credit Cain with at least 38 killings—should not receive "public exposure." The CIA's Peter Knowlton confirms this, adding that they thought he was out of commission but now know he is active. Several specific killings are described: a sheik from Oman, a banker in Madrid. They think Cain is a master of disguise, changing his appearance for every hit. He's fluent in English, French, and various Vietnamese dialects.

Colonel Jack Manning mentions a name that will become very familiar. "Operation Medusa" was a "clandestine outgrowth of the search-and-destroy concept, designed to function behind enemy lines during the Vietnam War." Peter Knowlton, the CIA's associate director, explains Medusa's crew of expats, outlaws, and renegades fought "a war-within-a-war." The training was intense, the pay high, and the internal casualty rate over 90%. This is where Cain learned his trade. Operation Medusa was Cain's home, his training ground, and the thing that turned him into this monster. Two a half years before this meeting, Cain's name began to come up in connection with killings all over the world. Yet no one knows which Medusa operative he is. He changed his name, and the clandestine nature of Medusa itself is still, years after the war, of crucial international security.

The Monk speaks again, bringing up Alfred Gillette's earlier point. What if all this concentration on Cain is a red herring? Are they ignoring Carlos, the real killer, in favor of the more mysterious Cain? Monk suggests perhaps the true story is more complicated. Isn't it possible Cain is operating in competition and because of Carlos? In which case the capture of one could lead to the other. The meeting is finally breaking up. As the Monk casually examines the Operation Medusa dossier, seeing who is on the short list of possible Cains, he spots the name he seeks: "Bourne, Jason C.—Last know station: Tam Quan."

Now we go back to Paris and Les Classiques. The designer René Bergeron is furious and scared. He cannot locate Jacqueline Lavier or her erstwhile dining companion, Mr. Briggs (actually Jason Bourne). He and the gray-haired switchboard operator (Philippe d'Anjou) are sure she's been captured, perhaps even tortured. "She knows enough," the gray-haired switchboard operator says, "she's called Parc Monceau." This is the first mention of such a place, and its significance remains unclear for now.

The switchboard man (Philippe d'Anjou, although he hasn't been named yet) is sure Cain is Jason Bourne, whom he knew from their Operation Medusa days as "Delta." "He cared not one whit for either side ... a modern-day pirate in the purest sense," he explains to Bergeron. He thinks Delta chose the alias "Cain" as a way to set himself up in opposition to that other c-named killer: Carlos. Either way, they agree, their boss will kill this Cain/Delta/Bourne.

Back in Carlos's church, the reader, once again, sees an old man making plans with the criminal master. His assignment, for which he will receive five times his usual fee, is to go to the Vietnamese embassy in Paris and tell the attaché, "'Late March 1968 Medusa, the Tam Quan sector. Cain was there. Another also.'"


Internecine arguments between the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), military, and the Senatorial branch are not surprising these days. Contemporary readers are used to the notion that various agencies and branches of government do not communicate adequately or willingly. However, at the time of writing The Bourne Identity, many Americans still hoped to trust their government. The Vietnam War had only finished in 1975—though the United States had begun to withdraw as early as 1973. President Richard Nixon resigned the following year in the midst of the Watergate conspiracy. The Cold War with the Soviet Union was frigid, and the Iranian hostage crisis was about to break. The American people craved security and stability, with incoming President Ronald Reagan (1911–2004, 40th president of the United States, 1981–89) as the ultimate grandfather figure. Ludlum is working with a, then, still edgy idea: the U.S. government should be trustworthy, but forces within and without conspired to break that trust.

Parc Monceau is a real neighborhood in Paris. Off the beaten tourist path, it feels like an oasis of calm and money, with delicate pale architecture and quiet streets. It is also well-known as a popular location for diplomats and embassies, an international area. The area's namesake park feels empty compared to other popular Parisian green spaces.

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