The bourne supremacy, p.105
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       The Bourne Supremacy, p.105

         Part #2 of Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum
 
Page 105

 

  'It's the five-hour excursion,' explained Jason accurately, reading the Chinese characters printed on the identification tag affixed to the man's lapel. 'After Tian an men Square we visit the Ming tombs, then drive out to watch the sunset from the Great Wall. '

  'Now, really, I've seen the Great Wall! My God, it was the first place all twelve of those bureaucrats from the Trade Commission took me, prattling incessantly through the interpreter that it was a sign of their permanence. Shirt If the labour weren't so unbelievably cheap and the profits so extraordinary-'

  'I, too, am in business, but for a few days also a tourist. My line is wicker imports. What's yours, if I may ask?'

  'Fabrics, what else? Unless you consider electronics, or oil, or coal, or perfume - even canework. ' The businessman allowed himself a superior but knowing smile. 'I tell you these people are sitting on the wealth of the world and they haven't the vaguest idea what to do with it. '

  Bourne looked closely at the tall Frenchman. He thought of Medusa's Echo and a Gallic aphorism that proclaimed that the more things changed the more they remained the same. Opportunities will present themselves. Recognize them, act on them. 'As I said,' continued Jason while staring up at the chaos on the staircase, 'I, too, am a businessman who is taking a short sabbatical - courtesy of our government's tax incentives for those of us who plough the foreign fields - but I've travelled a great deal here in China and have learned a good deal of the language. ' 'Cane has come up in the world,' said the Parisian sardonically.

  'Our best quality work is a staple line on the Cete d'Azur, as well as points north and south. The Grimaldi family has been a client for years. ' Bourne kept his eyes on the staircase.

  'I stand corrected, my business friend . . . in the foreign fields. ' For the first time the Frenchman actually looked at Jason.

  'And I can tell you now,' said Bourne, 'that no more visitors will be permitted into Mao's tomb, and that everyone on every tour in the vicinity will be cordoned off and possibly detained. '

  'My God, why?

  'Apparently something terrible happened inside and the guards are shouting about foreign gangsters . . . Did you say you were assigned to this tour but not really a part of it?'

  'Essentially, yes. '

  'Grounds for at least speculation, no? Detention, almost certainly. '

  'Inconceivable?

  This is China-'

  'It cannot be! Millions upon millions of francs are in the balance! I'm only here on this horrid tour because-'

  'I suggest you leave, my business friend. Say you were out for a stroll. Give me your identification tag and I'll get rid of it for you-'

  'Is that what it is?'

  'Your country of origin and passport number are on it. It's how they control your movements while you're on a guided tour. '

  'I'm for ever in your debt!' cried the businessman ripping the plastic tag off his lapel. 'If you're ever in Paris-'

  'I spend most of the time with the prince and his family in-'

  'But of course. ' Again, my thanks!' The Frenchman, so different and yet so much like Echo, left in a hurry, his well-dressed figure conspicuous in the hazy, greyish yellow sunlight as he headed towards the Heavenly Gate - as obvious as the false quarry who had led a hunter into a trap.

  Bourne pinned the plastic tag to his own lapel and now became part of an official tour; it was his way out through the gates of Tian an men Square. After the group had been hastily diverted from the mausoleum to the Great Hall, the bus passed through the northern gate and Jason saw through the window the apoplectic French businessman pleading with the Beijing police to let him pass. Fragments of reports of the outrage had been fitted together. The word was spreading. A white Occidental had horribly defiled the coffin and the hallowed body of Chairman Mao. A white terrorist from a tour without the proper identification on his outer clothing. A guard on the steps had reported such a man.

  'I do recall,' the tour guide said in obsolete French. She was standing by the statue of an angry lion on that extraordinary Avenue of Animals where huge stone replicas of large cats, horses, elephants and ferocious mythical beasts lined the road, guarding the final way to the tombs of the Ming Dynasty. 'But my memory faileth concerning your knowledge of our language. And I do believe that I heard you employ our tongue but a moment ago. '

  A student of French literature and speaks as though she were in the seventeenth century. . . an indignant businessman, now undoubtedly far more indignant.

  '1 didn't before,' replied Bourne in Mandarin, 'because you were with others and I didn't wish to stand out. But let's speak your language now. '

  'You do so very well. '

  'I thank you. Then you do recall that I was added to your tour at the last minute?' The manager of the Beijing Hotel actually spoke to my superior, but, yes, I do recall. ' The woman smiled and shrugged. 'In truth, as it is such a large group, I recall only giving a tall man his tour-group emblem, and it is in front of my face now. You will have to pay additional yuan on your hotel bill. I am sorry but then you are not part of the tourist programme. '

  'No, I'm not, because I'm a businessman negotiating with your government. '

  'May you do well,' said the guide with her piquant smile. 'Some do, some do not. '

  'My point is that I may not be able to do anything,' said Jason, smiling back. 'My Chinese speech is far better than my Chinese reading. A few minutes ago several words fell into place for me and I realized I'm t6 be at the Beijing Hotel in about half an hour from now for a meeting. How can I do that?

  'It is a question of finding transportation. I will write out what you need and you can present it to the guards at the Da hong men-'

  'The Great Red Gate?' interrupted Bourne. The one with the arches?

  'Yes. There are bus-vehicles that will take you back to Beijing. You may be late, but then it is customary, I understand, for government people to be late also. ' She took out a notebook from the pocket of her Mao jacket and then a reed-like ballpoint pen.

  'I won't be stopped?

  'If you are, ask those who stop you to call the government people,' said the guide, writing out instructions in Chinese and tearing off the page.

  This is not your tour group!' barked the operator of the bus in lower-class Mandarin, shaking his head and stabbing his finger at Jason's lapel. The man obviously expected his words to have no effect whatsoever on the tourist, so he compensated with exaggerated gestures and a strident voice. It was also apparent that he hoped that one of his superiors under the arches of the Great Red Gate would take notice of his alertness. One did.

  'What's the problem? asked a well-spoken soldier, walking rapidly up to the door of the bus, parting his way through the tourists behind Bourne.

  Opportunities will present themselves. . .

  There's no problem,' said Jason curtly, even arrogantly in Chinese, as he withdrew the guide's note, thrusting it into the hand of the young officer. 'Unless you wish to be responsible for my missing an urgent meeting with a delegation from the Trade Commission, whose military procurements chief is a General Liang-Somebody-or-other. '

  'You speak the Chinese language. ' Startled, the soldier pulled his eyes away from the note.

 
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