The bourne supremacy, p.103
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       The Bourne Supremacy, p.103

         Part #2 of Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum
Page 103


  As the excitement mounted and the crowds and the police continued to run towards the collapsed first soldier, the assassin and his captive walked steadily towards the civilian at the steps of the Mao Memorial. The man was afraid to move and again Bourne understood. These men were known to the killer; they were at the core of the tight, elite circle that led to the assassin's client and that client was nearby. They were no mere minions; once they appeared the lesser figures became even less important for these men rarely exposed themselves. The diversion, which was now reduced to a mild disturbance as the police swiftly controlled the crowds and carried the body away, had given the impostor the seconds he needed to control the chain that led to the client. The soldier in his grip was dead if he disobeyed, and with a single shot any reasonably competent marksman could kill the man by the steps. The meeting was in two stages, and as long as the assassin controlled the second stage he was perfectly willing to proceed. The client was obviously somewhere inside the vast mausoleum and could not know what was happening outside, nor would a mere minion dare follow his superiors up into the conference area.

  There was no more time for analysing, Jason knew it. He had to act. Quickly. He had to get inside Mao Zedong's monument and watch, wait for the meeting to conclude one way or another - and the repugnant possibility that he might have to protect the assassin crossed his mind. Yet it was within the realm of reality and the only plus for him was the fact that the impostor had followed a scenario he himself might have created. And if the conference was peaceful, it was simply a matter of following the assassin - by then inevitably buoyed by the success of his tactics as well as by whatever the client delivered - and taking an unsuspecting supreme egotist in Tian an men Square.

  Bourne turned, looking for d'Anjou. The Frenchman was on the edge of a controlled tourist group; he nodded as if he had read Delta's thoughts. He pointed to the ground beneath him, then made a circle with his index finger. It was a silent signal from their days in Medusa. It meant he would remain where he was, but if he had to move he would stay in sight of that specific location. It was enough. Jason crossed behind the assassin and his prisoner and walked diagonally through the crowd, rapidly negotiating the open space to the line on the right half of the staircase, and up to the guard. He spoke in a polite, if pleading, Mandarin.

  'High Officer, I'm most embarrassed! I was so taken by the calligraphy on the People's Monument that I lost my group which passed through here only minutes ago. '

  'You speak our language very well,' said the astonished guard, apparently used to the strange accents of tongues he neither knew nor cared to know. 'You are most courteous. '

  'I'm simply an underpaid teacher from the West who has an enduring love of your great nation, High Officer. '

  The guard laughed. 'I'm not so high, but our nation is great. My daughter wears blue jeans in the street. ' 'I beg your pardon?'

  'It's nothing. Where is your tour-group identification?'

  'My what?'

  The name tag to be worn on all outer clothing. '

  'It kept falling off,' said Bourne, shaking his head helplessly. 'It wouldn't stay pinned. I must have lost it. '

  'When you catch up, see your guide and get another. Go ahead. Get to the back of the line on the steps. Something is going on. The next group may have to wait. You'll miss your tour. '

  'Oh? Is there a problem?'

  'I don't know. The official with the government briefcase gives us our orders. I believe he counts the yuan that could be made here, thinking this holy place should be like Beijing's underground train. '

  'You've been most kind. '

  'Hurry, sir. '

  Bourne rushed up the steps, bending down behind the crowd, once again tightening a secure shoelace, his head angled to watch the assassin's progress. The impostor talked quietly to the civilian with the soldier still in his grip - but something was odd. The short Chinese in the dark suit nodded, but his eyes were not on the impostor; they were focused beyond the commando. Or were they? Jason's angle of vision was not the best. No matter, the scenario was being followed, the client reached on the assassin's terms.

  He walked through the doors into the semi-darkness, as awed as everyone in front of him by the sudden appearance of the enormous white marble sculpture of a seated Mao, rising so high and so majestically that one nearly gasped in its presence. Theatricality helped. The shafts of light that played down on the exquisite apparently translucent marble evoked an ethereal effect that isolated the gigantic sitting figure from the velvet tapestry behind it and the outer darkness around. The massive statue with its searching eyes seemed in itself alive and aware.

  Jason pulled his own eyes away and looked for doorways and corridors. There were none. It was a mausoleum, a hall dedicated to a nation's saint. But there were pillars, wide high shafts of marble that provided areas of seclusion. In the shadows behind any one of them could be the meeting ground. He would wait. He would stay in other shadows and watch.

  His group entered the second great hall and it was, if anything, more electrifying than the first. Facing them was a crystal glass coffin encasing the body of Chairman Mao Zedong, draped in the Red flag, the waxen corpse in peaceful repose - the closed eyes, however, any second likely to open wide and glare in fiery disapproval. There were flowers surrounding the raised sarcophagus, and two rows of dark green pine trees in huge ceramic pots lined the opposing walls. Again shafts of light played a dramatic symphony of colour, pockets of darkness pierced by intersecting beams that washed over the brilliant yellows and reds and blues of the banks of flowers.

  A commotion somewhere in the first hall briefly intruded on the awed silence of the crowd, but was arrested as rapidly as it had begun. As the last tourist in line, Bourne broke away without being noticed by the others. He slipped behind a pillar, concealed in the shadows, and peered around the glistening white marble.

  What he saw paralysed him as a dozen thoughts clashed in his head, above all the single word trap! There was no group following his own! It was the last admitted - he was the last person admitted - before the heavy doors were closed. That was the sound he had heard - the shutting of the doors and the disappointed groans from those outside waiting to be admitted.

  Something is going on. . . The next group may have to wait . . . A kindly guard on the steps. My God, from the beginning it was a trap! Every move, every appearance had been calculated! From the beginning! The information paid for on a rain-soaked island, the nearly unobtainable airline tickets, the first sight of the assassin at the airport - a professional killer capable of a far better disguise, his hair too obvious, his clothes inadequate to cover his frame. Then the complication with an old man, a retired brigadier from the Royal Engineers - so illogically logical! So right, the scent of deception so accurate, so irresistible! A soldier in a truck's window, not looking for him but for them I The priestly black suit - a dark beacon in the sunlight, paid for by the impostor's creator - so easily spotted, so easily followed. Christ, from the beginning! Finally, the scenario played out in the immense square, a scenario that could have been written by Bourne himself - again irresistible to the pursuer. A reverse trap: Catch the hunter as he stalks his quarry!

  Frantically Jason looked around. Ahead in the distance was a steady shaft of sunlight. The exit doors were at the other end of the mausoleum; they would be watched, each tourist studied as he left.

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