The bourne supremacy, p.113
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       The Bourne Supremacy, p.113

         Part #2 of Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum
 
Page 113

 

  'But in case you are, I insist you tell the truth! I am a French businessman urgently seeking this minister of textiles because my car was unpardonably delayed. I will not be embarrassed!' 'As you wish. The money, please. ' Jason shoved the yuan bills through the fence; the guard clutched them and threw the binoculars over the gate. Bourne caught them and looked pleadingly at the Chinese. 'Have you any idea where the minister might have gone?'

  'Yes, and I was about to tell you without additional money. Men so grand as you and he would no doubt go to the dining house named Ting Li Guan. It is a favourite of rich foreigners and powerful men of our heavenly government. ' 'Where is it?'

  'In the Summer Palace. You passed it on this road. Go back fifteen, twenty kilometres, and you will see the great Dong an men gate. Enter it and the guides will direct you, but show your papers, sir. You travel in a very unusual way. '

  Thank you!' yelled Jason, running to the car. 'Vive la France?

  'How beautiful,' said the guard, shrugging, heading back to his post and counting his money.

  The officer walked quietly up to the gatehouse and tapped on the glass. Astonished, the night watchman leaped out of his chair and opened the door.

  'Oh, sir, you startled me! I see you were locked inside. Perhaps you fell asleep in one of our beautiful resting places. How unfortunate. I will open the gate at once!'

  'Who was that man?' asked the officer calmly.

  'A foreigner, sir. A French businessman who has had much misfortune. As I understood him, he was to meet the minister of textiles here hours ago and then proceed to dinner, but his automobile was delayed. He's very upset. He does not wish to be embarrassed. '

  'What minister of textiles?'

  'Minister Wang Xu, I believe he said. '

  'Wait outside, please. '

  'Certainly, sir. The gate?'

  'In a few minutes. ' The soldier picked up the telephone on the small counter and dialled. Seconds later he spoke again. 'May I have the number of a minister of textiles named Wang Xu. . . ? Thank you. ' The officer pressed down the centre bar, released it, and dialled again. 'Minister Wang Xu, please?'

  'I am he,' said a somewhat disagreeable voice at the other end of the line. 'Who is this?' 'A clerk at the Trade Council Office, sir. We're doing a routine check on a French businessman who has you listed as a reference-'

  'Great Christian Jesus, not that idiot Ardisson! What's he done now?'

  'You know him, sir?'

  'I wish I didn't! Special this, special that! He thinks that when he defecates the odour of lilacs fills the stalls. '

  'Were you to have dinner with him tonight, sir?'

  'Dinner? I might have said anything to keep him quiet this afternoon! Of course, he hears only what he wants to hear.

  On the other hand, it's perfectly possible that he would use my name to obtain a reservation when he didn't have one. I told you, special this, special that! Give him whatever he wants. He's a lunatic but harmless enough. We'd send him back to Paris on the next plane if the fools he represents weren't paying so much for such third-rate material. He's cleared for the best illegal whores in Beijing! Just don't bother me, I'm entertaining. ' The minister abruptly hung up.

  His mind at ease, the army officer replaced the phone and walked outside to the night watchman. 'You were accurate,' he said.

  The foreigner was most agitated, sir. And very confused. ' 'I'm told both conditions are normal for him. ' The army man paused for a moment, then added, 'You may open the gate now. '

  'Certainly, sir. ' The guard reached into his pocket and pulled out a ring of keys. He stopped, looking over at the officer. 'I see no automobile, sir. It is many kilometres to any transportation. The Summer Palace would be the first-'

  'I've telephoned for a car. It should be here in ten or fifteen minutes. '

  'I'm afraid I will not be here then, sir. I can see the light of my relief's bicycle down the road now. I am off duty in five minutes. '

  'Perhaps I'll wait here,' said the officer, dismissing the watchman's words. 'There are clouds drifting down from the north. If they bring rain, I could use the gatehouse for shelter until my car arrives. ' 'I see no clouds, sir. ' 'Your eyes are not what they once were. ' 'Too true. ' The repeated ringing of a bicycle bell broke the outer silence. The relief guard approached the fence as the current watchman started to unlock the gate. These young ones announce themselves as though they were descending spirits from heaven. '

  'I should like to say something to you,' said the officer sharply, stopping the watchman in his tracks. 'Like the foreigner, I, too, do not wish to be embarrassed for catching an hour of much needed sleep in a beautiful resting place. Do you enjoy your job?

  'Very much, sir. '

  'And the opportunity to sell such things as Japanese binoculars turned over to you for safekeeping?'

  'Sir?'

  'My hearing's acute and your shrill voice is loud. '

  'Sir?'

  'Say nothing about me and I will say nothing about your unethical activities, which would undoubtedly send you into a field with a pistol put to your head. Your behaviour is reprehensible. '

  'I have never seen you, sir! I swear on the spirits in my soul!'

  'We in the party reject such thoughts. '

  Then on anything you like?

  'Open the gate and get out of here. ' 'First my bicycle, sir!' The watchman ran to the far edge of the fence, wheeled out his bicycle and unlocked the gate. He swung it back, nodding with relief as he literally threw the new man the ring of keys. Mounting the saddle of his bicycle, he sped off down the road.

  The second guard walked casually through the gate holding his bicycle by the handlebars. 'Can you imagine?' he said to the officer. The son of a Kuomintang warlord taking the place of a feeble- minded peasant who would have served us in the kitchens. '

  Bourne spotted the white notch in the tree trunk and drove the sedan off the road between two pine trees. He turned off the lights and got out. Rapidly he broke numerous branches to camouflage the car in the darkness. Instinctively, he had worked quickly - he would have done so in any event - but to his alarm, within seconds after he finished concealing the sedan, headlights appeared far down on the road to Beijing. He bent down, kneeling in the underbrush, and watched the car pass by, fascinated by the sight of a bicycle strapped to its roof, then concerned when moments later the noise of the engine was abruptly cut off; the car had stopped around the r bend ahead. Wary that some part of his own car had been seen by an experienced field man who would park out of sight and return on foot, Jason raced across the road into the tangled brush beyond the trees. He ran in spurts to his right, from pine to pine to the mid-point of the curve, where again he knelt in the shadowed greenery, waiting, studying every foot of the thoroughfare's borders, listening for any sound that did not belong to the hum of the deserted country road.

  Nothing. Then finally something, and when he saw what it was, it simply did not make sense. Or did it? The man on the bicycle with a friction light on the front fender was pedalling up the road as if his life depended on a speed he could not possibly attain. As he drew closer Bourne saw that it was the watchman. . . on a bicycle . . . and a bicycle had been strapped to the roof of the car that had stopped around the bend. Had it been for the watchman? Of course not; the car would have proceeded to the gate . . . A second bicycle? A second watchman - arriving on a bicycle? Of course. If what he believed was true, the guard at the gate would be changed, a conspirator put in his place.

 
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