The bourne supremacy, p.140
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       The Bourne Supremacy, p.140

         Part #2 of Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum
 
Page 140

 

  A trace! They had bounced him around, keeping him on the line long enough to put an electronic trace on his call! Pay phones were the most difficult to track down. The vicinity was determined first; next the location or premises, and finally the specific instrument, but it was only a matter of minutes and fractions of minutes between the first step and the last. Had he stayed on long enough? And if so, to what degree of progress? The vicinity? The hotel? The pay phone itself? Jason tried to reconstruct his conversation with the operator - the second operator when the trace would have begun. Maddeningly, frantically, but with all the precision he could summon, he tried to recapture the rhythm of their words, their voices, realizing that when he had accelerated she had slowed down. It will take me some time. . . Actually, I do not, sir. The laws of confidentiality are most strict in Hong Kong - a lecture! Oh, sir, please wait. You were correct . . . my screen now shows - a mollifying explanation, taking up time. Time! How could he have allowed it? How long. . . ?

  Ninety seconds - two minutes at the outside. Timing was an instinct for him, rhythms remembered. Say two minutes. Enough to determine a vicinity, conceivably to pinpoint a location, but given the hundreds of thousands of miles of trunk lines probably inadequate to pick up a specific phone. For some elusive reason images of Paris came to him, then the blurred outlines of telephone booths as he and Marie raced from one to another through the blinding Paris streets, making blind, untraceable calls, hoping to unravel the enigma that was Jason Bourne. Four minutes. It takes that long, but we have to get out of the area! They've got that by now! The taipan's men - if there was a huge, obese taipan to begin with - might have traced the hotel, but it was unlikely they would have tracked the pay phone or the floor. And there was another time span to be considered, one that could work for him if he in turn worked quickly. If the trace had been made and the hotel unearthed, it would take the hunters some time to reach the southern Mongkok, presuming they were in Hong Kong, which the telephone prefix indicated. The key at the moment was speed. Quickly.

  The blindfold stays, Major, but you're moving,' he said to the assassin, as he swiftly undid the gag and the knots on the mattress springs, coiling the three nylon ropes and stuffing them into the commando's jacket.

  'What? What did you say?'

  That's better yet,' said Bourne, raising his voice. 'Get up. We're going for a walk. ' Jason grabbed his knapsack, opened the door and checked the hallway. A drunk staggered into a room on the left and slammed the door. The right corridor was clear, all the way up to the pay phone and the fire exit beyond it. 'Move,' ordered Bourne, shoving his prisoner.

  The fire escape would have been rejected by underwriters at a glance. The metal was corroded and the railings bent under pressure. If one was escaping a fire, a smoke-filled staircase might have been preferable. Still, if it descended in the darkness without collapsing that was all that mattered. Jason grabbed the commando's lapel, leading him down the creaking metal steps until they reached the first landing. Beneath there was a broken ladder extended in its track half way to the alley below. The drop to the pavement was no more than six or seven feet, easily negotiated going down and - more important - coming back up.

  'Sleep well,' said Bourne, taking aim in the dim light and crashing his knuckles into the base of the commando's skull. The assassin collapsed on the staircase as Bourne whipped out the cords and secured the killer to the steps and the railing, at the last yanking down the pillowcase, covering the impostor's mouth and tying the cloth tighter. The nocturnal sounds of Hong Kong's Yau Ma Ti and the nearby Mongkok would easily cover whatever cries Allcott-Price might manage - if he awoke before Jason awakened him, which was doubtful.

  Bourne climbed down the ladder, dropping into the narrow alleyway only seconds before three young men appeared, running around the corner from the busy street. Out of breath, they huddled in the shadows of a doorway as Jason remained on his knees - he hoped out of sight. Beyond the alley's entrance another group of youths raced by in pursuit, shouting angrily. The three young men lurched from the darkened doorway and ran out, heading in the opposite direction, away from their pursuers. Bourne got up and walked quickly to the mouth of the alley, looking back up at the fire escape. The impostor could not be seen.

  He collided simultaneously with two running bodies.

  Bouncing off them and into the wall, he could only assume that the young men were part of the crowd chasing the previous three who had hidden in the doorway. One of these, however, held a knife menacingly in his hand. Jason did not need this confrontation, he could not permit it! Before the youth realized what had happened, Bourne lashed out and gripped the young man's wrist, twisting it clockwise until the blade fell from the youngster's hand while he screamed in pain.

  'Get out of here!' shouted Jason in harsh Cantonese. 'Your gang is no match for your elders and betters! If we see any of you around here, your mothers will get corpses for their labours. Get out!'

  'Aiya!'

  'We look for thieves! For eye-eyes from the north! They steal, they-'

  "Out!' The young men fled from the alleyway, disappearing into the busy street in the Yau Ma Ti. Bourne shook his hand, the hand the assassin had tried to crush in the hotel doorframe. In his anxiety he had forgotten about the pain; it was the best way to tolerate it.

  He looked up at the sound - sounds. Two dark sedans came racing down Shek Lung Street and stopped in front of the hotel. Both vehicles had official written all over them. Jason watched in anguish as men climbed out of each car, two from the first, three from the one behind it.

  Oh, God, Marie! We're going to lose! I've killed us - oh, Christ, re killed us!

  He fully expected the five men to rush into the hotel, question the desk clerk, take up positions and make their moves. They would learn that the occupants of Room 301 had not been seen leaving the premises; therefore presumably they were still upstairs. The room would be broken into in less than a minute, the fire escape discovered seconds later! Could he do it? Could he climb back up, cut loose the killer, get him down into the alley and escape! He had to! He took a last look before racing back to the ladder.

  Then he stopped. Something was wrong - something unexpected, totally unexpected. The first man from the lead car had removed his suit coat - his official dress code - and unloosened his tie. He ran his hand through his hair, dishevelling it, and walked - unsteadily? - towards the entrance of the run-down hotel. His four companions were spreading out away from the cars, looking up at the windows, two over to the right, two to the left, towards the alleyway -towards him. What was happening! These men were not acting officially. They were behaving like criminals, like Mafiosi closing in on a kill they could not be associated with, a trap laid for others, not themselves. Good God, had Alex Conklin been wrong back at Dulles Airport in Washington?

  Play the scenario. It's deep down and it's there. Play it out. You can do if,' Delta]

  No time. There was no time to think any longer. There were no precious instants to lose thinking about the existence or the non-existence of a huge, obese taipan, too operatic to be real. The two men heading towards him had spotted the alleyway. They began running - towards the alley, towards the 'merchandise', towards the destruction and death of everything Jason held dear in this rotten world he would gladly leave but for Marie.

 
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