The bourne supremacy, p.117
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       The Bourne Supremacy, p.117

         Part #2 of Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum
Page 117


  He is the enemy. He's our target. That's all we have to know. Marie is yours, not theirs.

  Jason Bourne lunged out of the grass as the guard inhaled his first draft of tobacco. The smoke exploded from his gaping mouth. The garrotte was arced in place, the trachea severed as the patrol fell back in the underbrush, his body limp, his life over.

  Whipping out the bloody wire, Jason shook it in the grass, then rolled the spools together and shoved them back into his pocket. He pulled the corpse deeper into the foliage, away from the path, and began searching the pockets. He first found what felt like a thick wad of folded toilet tissue, not at all uncommon in China where such paper was continuously

  in short supply. He unsnapped his penlight, cupped it and looked at his find, astonished. The paper was folded and soft but it was not tissue. It was renminbi, thousands of yuan, more than several years' income for most Chinese. The guard at the gate, the 'captain of the Kuomintang', had money -somewhat more than Jason thought usual - but nowhere near this amount. A wallet was next. There were photographs of children, which Bourne quickly replaced, a driving permit, a housing allocation certificate and an official document proclaiming the bearer to be . . . a member of the People's Security Forces] Jason pulled out the paper he had taken from the first guard's wallet and placed both side by side on the ground. They were identical. He folded both and put them into his pocket. A last item was as puzzling as it was interesting. It was a pass allowing the bearer access to Friendship Stores, those shops that served foreign travellers and which were prohibited to the Chinese except for the highest government officials. Whoever the men were below, thought Bourne, they were a strange and rarefied group. Subordinate guards carried enormous sums of money, enjoyed official privileges light years beyond their positions, and bore documents identifying them as members of the government's secret police. If they were conspirators - and everything he had seen and heard from Shenzhen to Tian an men Square to this wildlife preserve would seem to confirm it - the conspiracy reached into the hierarchy of Beijing. No time! It's not your concern!

  The weapon strapped to the man's waist was, as he expected, similar to the one in his belt, as well as the gun he had thrown into the woods at the Jing Shan gate. It was a superior weapon, and weapons were symbols. A sophisticated weapon was no less a mark of status than an expensive watch, which might have many imitators, but those who had a schooled eye for the merchandise would know the genuine article. One might merely show it to confirm one's status, or deny it as government issue from an army that bought its weapons from every available source in the world. It was a subtle point of recognition; only one superior kind allocated to one elite circle. No time! It's no concern of yours! Move!

  Jason extracted the shells, put them in his pocket and threw the gun into the forest. He crawled out to the path and started slowly, silently, down towards the flickering light beyond the wall of high trees below.

  It was more than a glen, it was a huge well dug out of prehistoric earth, a rupture dating from the Ice Age that had not healed. Birds flapped above in fear and curiosity; owls hooted in angry dissonance. Bourne stood at the edge of the precipice looking down through the trees at the gathering below. A pulsating circle of torches illuminated the meeting ground. David Webb gasped, wanting to vomit, but the ice-cold command dictated otherwise.

  Stop it. Watch. Know what we're dealing with.

  Suspended from the limb of a tree by a rope attached to his bound wrists, his arms stretched out above him, his feet barely inches off the ground, a male prisoner writhed in panic, muted cries coming from his throat, his eyes wild and pleading above his gagged mouth.

  A slender, middle-aged man dressed in a Mao jacket and trousers stood in front of the violently twisting body. His right hand was extended, clasping the jewelled hilt of an upended sword, its blade long and thin, its point resting in the earth. David Webb recognized the weapon - weapon and not a weapon. It was a ceremonial sword of a fourteenth-century warlord, a ruthless class of militarists who destroyed villages and towns and whole countrysides even suspected of opposing the will of the Yuan emperors, Mongols who left nothing but fire and death and the screams of children in their wake. The sword was also used for ceremonies far less symbolic, far more brutal than appearances at the dynasty's courts. David felt a wave of nausea and apprehension gripping him as he watched the scene below.

  'Listen to me!' shouted the slender man in front of the prisoner as he turned to address his audience. His voice was highpitched but deliberate, instructive. Bourne did not know him, but his was a face that would be hard to forget. The close-cropped grey hair, the gaunt, pale features - above all, the stare. Jason could not see the eyes clearly but it was enough that the fires of the torches danced off them. They, too, were on fire. Behind him, silent, almost passive, stood the impostor. The man who looked like David - No, like Jason Bourne.

  'The nights of the great blade begin? the slender man screamed suddenly. 'And they will continue night after night until all those who would betray us are sent to helll Each of these poisonous insects has committed crimes against our holy cause, crimes we are aware of, all of which could lead to the great crime demanding the great blade. ' The speaker turned to the suspended prisoner. ' You! Indicate the truth and only the truth! Do you know the Occidental?'

  The prisoner shook his head, throated moans accompanying the wild movement.

  'Liar!' shrieked a voice from the crowd. 'He was in the Tian

  an men this afternoon!'

  Again the prisoner shook his head spastically in panic. 'He spoke against the true China!' shouted another. 'I heard him in the Hua gong Park among the young people!' 'And in the coffee house on the Xidan bei!' The prisoner moved convulsively, his wide, stunned eyes fixed in shock on the crowd. Bourne began to understand. The man was hearing lies and-he did not know why, but Jason knew. A Star Chamber inquisition was in session; a troublemaker, or a man with doubts, was being eliminated in the name of a greater crime, in the remote possibility that he might have committed it. The nights of the great blade begin -night after night It was a reign of terror inside a small, bloody kingdom within a vast land where centuries of bloodstained warlords had prevailed.

  'He did these things?' shouted the gaunt-faced orator. 'He said these things?'

  A frenzied chorus of affirmatives filled the glen.

  'In the Tian an men. . . !'

  'He talked to the Occidental. . . !'

  'He betrayed us all. . . !'

  'He caused the trouble at the hated Mao's tomb. . . !'

  'He would see us dead, our cause lost. . . !'

  'He speaks against our leaders and wants them killed. . . !'

  'To oppose our leaders,' said the orator, his voice calm but rising, 'is to vilify them, and, by so doing, to remove the care one must accord the precious gift called life. When these things occur, the gift must be taken away. '

  The suspended man writhed more furiously, his cries growing louder and matching the moans of the other prisoners who were forced to kneel in front of the speaker in full view of the imminent execution. Only one kept refusing, continuously trying to rise in disobedience and disrespect, and continuously beaten down by the guard nearest him. It was Philippe d'Anjou. Echo was sending another message to Delta, but Jason Bourne could not understand it.

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