The bourne supremacy, p.102
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       The Bourne Supremacy, p.102

         Part #2 of Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum
Page 102


  The majesty of its sheer vastness first catches the visitor's eye, then the architectural immensity of the Great Hall of the People on the right, where reception areas accommodate as many as three thousand people. The single banquet hall seats over five thousand, the major 'conference room' ten thousand with space to spare. Opposite the Gate, reaching towards the clouds, is a four-sided shaft of stone, an obelisk mounted on a two-storey terrace of balustraded marble, all glistening in the sunlight, while in the shadows below on the huge base of the structure are carved the struggles and triumphs of Mao's revolution. It is the Monument to the People's Heroes, Mao first in the pantheon. There are other buildings, other structures - memorials, museums, gates and libraries - as far as the eye can see. But, above all, the eye is struck by the compelling vastness of open space. Space and people. . . and for the ear something else, totally unexpected. A dozen of the world's great stadiums, all dwarfing Rome's Colosseum, could be placed within Tian an men Square and not exhaust the acreage; people in hundreds of thousands can wander about the open areas and still leave room for hundreds of thousands more. But there is an absence of an element whose lack would never have been found in Rome's bloody arena, much less tolerated in the contemporary great stadiums of the world. Sound; it is barely there, only decibels above silence, interrupted by the soft rippling notes of bicycle bells. The quiet is at first peaceful and then frightening. It is as though an enormous, transparent geodesic dome had been lowered over a hundred acres, as an unspoken, but understood, command from a nether kingdom repeatedly informs those below that they are in a cathedral. It is unnatural, unreal, and yet there is no hostility towards the unheard voice, only acceptance - and that is more frightening. Especially when the children are quiet.

  Jason observed these things quickly and dispassionately. He paid the driver the sum based on the odometer reading and shifted his concentration to the purpose and problems facing him and d'Anjou. For whatever reason, whether a phone call had reached him or whether he had opted for back-up instructions, the commando was on his way to Tian a men Square. The pavane would begin with his arrival, the slow steps of the cautious dance bringing the killer closer and closer to his client's representative, the assumption being that the client would remain out of sight. But no contact would be made until the impostor was convinced the rendezvous was clean. Therefore the 'priest' would mount his own surveillance, circling the appointed co-ordinates of the meeting ground, searching out whatever armed minions were in place. He would take one, perhaps two, pressing them at the point of a knife or jamming a silenced gun into their ribs to elicit the information he needed; a false look in the eyes would tell him that the conference was a prelude to execution. Finally, if the landscape seemed clear, he would propel a minion under a gun to approach the client's representative and give his ultimatum: the client himself must show up and walk into the net of the assassin's making. Anything else was unacceptable; the central figure, the client, had to be the deadly balance. A second meeting ground would be established. The client would arrive first, and at the first sign of deception he would be blown away. That was the way of Jason Bourne. It would be the commando's if he had half a brain in his head.

  Bus number 7421 rolled lethargically into place at the end of the line of vehicles disgorging tourists. The assassin in priestly garb emerged, helping an elderly woman down to the pavement, patting her hand as he nodded his gentle goodbyes. He turned away, walked rapidly to the rear of the bus, and disappeared around it.

  'Stay a good thirty feet behind and watch me,' said Jason. 'Do as I do. When I stop, you stop; when I turn, you turn. Be in a crowd; go from one group to another but make sure there are always people around you. '

  'Be careful, Delta. He is not an amateur. '

  'Neither am I. ' Bourne ran to the end of the bus, stopped, and edged his way around the hot, foul-smelling louvres of the rear engine. His priest was about fifty yards ahead, his black suit a dark beacon in the hazy sunlight. Crowds or no crowds he was easy to follow. The commando's cover was acceptable, his playing of it even more so, but like most covers there was always the glaring but unrecognized liability. It was in limiting those liabilities that the best distinguished themselves from the merely better. Professionally, Jason approved the clerical status, not the clerical colour. A roman priest might be wedded to black, but not an Anglican vicar; a solid grey was perfectly acceptable under the collar. Grey faded in the sunlight, black did not.

  Suddenly, the assassin broke away from the crowd and walked up behind a Chinese soldier taking pictures, the camera at eye level, the soldier's head moving constantly. Bourne understood. This was no insignificant enlisted man on leave in Beijing; he was too mature, his uniform too well tailored - as d'Anjou had remarked about the army officer in the truck. The camera was a transparent device to scan the crowds; the initial meeting ground was not far away. The commando, now playing his role to the fullest, clasped a fatherly right hand on the military man's left shoulder. His left was unseen but his black coat filled the space between them - a gun had been jammed into the officer's ribs. The soldier froze, his expression stoic even in his panic. He moved with the assassin, the commando now gripping his arm and issuing orders. The soldier abruptly, out of character, bent over, holding his left side, recovering quickly and shaking his head; the weapon had been rammed again into his ribcage. He would follow orders or he would die in Tian an men Square. There was no compromise.

  Bourne spun around, lowering his body and tying a perfectly firm shoelace, apologizing to those behind him. The assassin had checked his rear flank; the evasive action was demanded. Jason stood up. Where was he? Where was the impostor! There! Bourne was bewildered; the commando had let the soldier go! Why! The army officer was suddenly running through the crowds, screaming, his gestures wildly spastic, then in a frenzy he collapsed and chattering, excited people gathered around his unconscious body.

  Diversion! Watch him. Jason raced ahead, feeling the time was right. It had not been a gun but a needle - not jammed but puncturing the soldier's ribcage. The assassin had taken out one protector; he would look for another, and perhaps another after that. The scenario Bourne had predicted was being played out. And as the killer's concentration was solely on his search for his next victim, the time was right! Now! Jason knew he could take out anyone on earth with a paralysing blow to the kidneys, especially a man whose least concern was an attack on himself - for the quarry was attacking and his concentration was absolute. Bourne closed the gap between himself and the impostor. Fifty feet, forty, thirty-five, thirty . . . he broke away from one crowd into another . . . the black-suited 'priest' was within reach. He could take him! Marie! A soldier. Another soldier! But now, instead of an assault there was communication. The army man nodded and gestured to his left. Jason looked over, bewildered. A short Chinese in civilian clothing and carrying a government briefcase was standing at the foot of a wide stone staircase that led up to the entrance of an immense building with granite pillars everywhere supporting twin sloping pagoda roofs. It was directly behind the Heroes Monument, the carved calligraphy over the huge doors proclaiming it to be the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall. Two lines were moving up the steps, guards separating the individual groups. The civilian was between the two lines, the briefcase a symbol of authority; he was left alone. Suddenly, without any indication that he would make such a move, the tall assassin gripped the soldier's arm, propelling the smaller army man in front of him. The officer's back arched, his shoulders snapping upright; a weapon had been shoved into his spine, the commands specific.

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