The bourne supremacy, p.120
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       The Bourne Supremacy, p.120

         Part #2 of Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum
 
Page 120

 

  The verdict was swift and unanimous: Guilty on the first count, probable on the second. The sentence: One brother would die, the other would live, to be escorted south to Hong Kong, where the money would be retrieved. The choice was to be decided by the age-old ritual of Yi zang li, literally 'one funeral'. Each man was given an identical knife with blades that were serrated and razor sharp. The area of combat was a circle, the diameter ten paces. The two brothers faced each other and the savage ritual began as one made a desperate lunge and the other sidestepped away from the attack, his blade lacerating the attacker's face.

  The duel within the deadly circle, as well as the audience's primitive reactions to it, covered whatever noise Bourne made in his decision to move quickly. He raced down through the underbrush, snapping branches and slashing away the webbed reeds of high grass until he was twenty feet behind the tree where the assassin was standing. He would return and move closer, but first there was d'Anjou. Echo had to know he was there.

  The Frenchman and the last male Chinese prisoner were off to the right of the circle, the guards flanking them. Jason crept forward as the crowd roared insults and encouragement at the gladiators. One of the combatants, both now covered with blood, had delivered a near-fatal blow with his knife, but the life he wanted to end would not surrender. Bourne was no more than eight or nine feet from d'Anjou; he felt around the ground and picked up a fallen branch. With another roar from the crazed audience he snapped it twice. From the three sections he held in his hand he stripped the foliage and reduced the bits of wood into manageable sticks. He took aim and hurled the first end over end, keeping the trajectory low. It fell short of the Frenchman's legs. He threw the second; it struck the back of Echo's knees! D'Anjou nodded his head twice to acknowledge Delta's presence. Then the Frenchman did a strange thing. He began moving his head slowly back and forth. Echo was trying to tell him something. Suddenly, d'Anjou's left leg collapsed and he fell to the ground. He was yanked up harshly by the guard on his right, but the man's concentration was on the bloody battle taking place within the one-funeral circle.

  Again Echo shook his head slowly, deliberately, finally holding it steady and staring to his left, his gaze on the grey-haired bystander, who had moved away from the tree to watch the deadly combat. And then he turned his head once more, now directing his stare at the maniac with the sword.

  D'Anjou collapsed again, this time struggling to his feet before the guard could touch him. As he rose he moved his thin shoulders back and forth. And breathing deeply, Bourne closed his eyes in the only brief moment of grief he could permit himself. The message was clear. Echo was taking himself out, telling Delta to go after the impostor - and while doing so to kill the evangelical butcher. D'Anjou knew he was too battered, too weak to be any part of an escape. He would only be an impediment, and the impostor came first. . . Marie came first. Echo's life was over. But he would have his bonus in the maniacal butcher's death, the zealot who would surely take his life.

  A deafening scream filled the glen; the crowd was abruptly silent. Bourne snapped his head to the left, where he could see beyond the edge of the row of onlookers. What he saw was as sickening as anything he had observed during the past violent minutes. The messianic orator had sunk his ceremonial sword in the neck of a combatant; he pulled it out as the bloodied corpse rattled in death and sprawled on the ground. The minister of killing raised his head and spoke.

  'Surgeon?

  'Yes, sir?' said a voice from the crowd.

  'Tend to the survivor. Mend him as best you can for his imminent journey south. If I'd let this continue both would be dead and our money gone. These close-knit families bring years of hostility to the Yi zang li. Take his brother away and throw him into the swamps with the others. All will be sweet carrion for the more aggressive birds. '

  'Yes, sir. ' A man with a black medicine bag stepped forward into the dirt-ringed circle as the dead body was hauled away and a stretcher appeared out of the darkness from the far end of the crowd. Everything had been planned, everything considered. The doctor administered a hypodermic into the arm of the moaning, blood-covered brother who was carried out of the circle of brotherly death. Wiping his sword with a fresh silk cloth, the orator nodded his head in the direction of the two remaining prisoners.

  Stunned, Bourne watched as the Chinese beside d'Anjou calmly undid his bound wrists and reached up to the back of his neck, untying the supposedly strangling strip of cloth and rope that had apparently kept his gaping mouth incapable of any sound but throaty moans. The man walked over to the orator and spoke in a raised voice, addressing both his leader and the crowd of followers. 'He says nothing and he reveals nothing, yet his Chinese is fluent and he had every opportunity to speak to me before we boarded the truck and the gags were in place. Even then I communicated with him by loosening my own, offering to do the same for him. He refused. He is obstinate and corruptly brave, but I am sure he knows what he will not tell us. '

  'Tong ku, long ku!' came wild shouts from the crowd, demanding torture. To these were added fen hong guil narrowing the site of the pain to be inflicted to the testicles of the Occidental.

  'He is old and frail and will collapse into unconsciousness, as he has done before,' insisted the false prisoner. Therefore I suggest the following, with our leader's permission. '

  'If there's a chance of success, whatever you wish,' the orator said.

  'We have offered him his freedom in exchange for the information but he does not trust us. He's been dealing with the Marxists too long. I propose taking our reluctant ally to the Beijing airport and using my position to secure him passage on the next plane to Kai Tak. I will clear him through immigration and all he must do before boarding with his ticket is give me the information. What could be a greater show of trust? We will be in the midst of our enemies, and if his conscience is so offended, all he has to do is raise his voice. He has seen and heard more than any person who ever walked away from us alive. We might in time become true allies, but first there must be trust. '

  The orator studied the provocateur's face, then shifted his gaze to d'Anjou, who stood erect, peering out of his swollen eyes, listening without expression. Then the man with the sword turned and addressed the grey-haired man by the tree, suddenly speaking in English. 'We have offered to spare this insignificant manipulator if he tells us where his comrade can be found. Do you, agree?'

  'The Frenchman will lie to you!' said the killer in a clipped British accent, stepping forward.

  To what purpose?' asked the orator. 'He has his life, his freedom. He has little or no regard for others, his entire dossier is proof of that. '

  'I'm not sure,' said the Englishman. They worked together in an outfit called Medusa. He talked about it all the time. There were rules - codes, you might call them. He'll lie. '

  The infamous Medusa was made up of human refuse, men who would kill their brothers in the field if it could save their own lives. '

  The assassin shrugged. 'You asked for my opinion,' he said. That's it. '

  'Let us ask the one to whom we are prepared to offer mercy. ' The orator reverted to Mandarin, issuing orders as the impostor returned to the tree and lit a cigarette. D'Anjou was brought forward. 'Untie his hands; he's not going anywhere. And remove the rope from his mouth. Let him be heard. Show him we can extend . . . trust, as well as less attractive aspects of our nature. '

 
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