The bourne supremacy, p.155
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       The Bourne Supremacy, p.155

         Part #2 of Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum
Page 155


  'I'm not sure you've told me anything. '

  'Part truth, part lie - your own strategy. A courier is sent to Sheng, preferably a half-senile old man who's been paid by a blind and fed the information over the phone. No traceable source. He carries a verbal message, ears only, Sheng's only, nothing on paper. The message contains enough of the truth to paralyse Sheng. Let's say that the man sending it is someone in Hong Kong who stands to lose millions if Sheng's scheme falls apart, a man smart enough and frightened enough not to use his name. The message could allude to leaks, or traitors in the boardrooms, or excluded triads banding together because they've been cut out - all the things you're certain will happen. The truth. Sheng has to follow up, he can't afford not to. Contacts are made and a meeting is arranged. The Hong Kong conspirator is every bit as anxious to protect himself as Sheng, and every bit as leery, demanding a neutral meeting ground. It's set. It's the trap. ' Bourne paused, glancing at McAllister. 'Even a third-rate demolitions grunt could show you how to carry it off. '

  'Very quick and very professional,' said the ambassador. 'And with a glaring flaw. Where do we find such a conspirator in Hong Kong?

  Jason Bourne studied the elder statesman, his expression bordering on contempt. 'You make him up,' he said. That's the lie. ' Havilland and Alex Conklin were alone in the white-walled room, each at either end of the conference table facing the other. McAllister and Morris Panov had gone to the undersecretary's office to listen on separate telephones to a mocked-up profile of an American killer created by the consulate for the benefit of the press. Panov had agreed to provide the appropriate psychiatric terminology with the correct Washington overtones. David Webb had asked to be alone with his wife until it was time to leave. They had been taken to a room upstairs; the fact that it was a bedroom had not occurred to anyone. It was merely a door to an empty room at the south side of the old Victorian house, away from the water-soaked men and ruins on the north side. Webb's departure had been estimated by McAllister to be in fifteen minutes or less. A car would drive Jason Bourne and the undersecretary to Kai Tak Airport. In the interest of speed and because the hydrofoils stopped running at 2100 hours, a medical helicopter would fly them to Macao, where all immigration permits would be cleared for the delivery of emergency supplies to the Kiang Wu Hospital on the Rua Coelho Do Amaral.

  'It wouldn't have worked, you know,' said Havilland, looking over at Conklin.

  'What wouldn't have?' asked the man from Langley, his own thoughts broken off by the diplomat's statement. 'What David told you?

  'Sheng would never have agreed to a meeting with someone he didn't know, with someone who didn't identify himself. '

  'It'd depend on how it was presented. That kind of thing always does. If the critical information is mind-blowing and the facts authentic, the subject doesn't have much of a choice. He can't question the messenger - he doesn't know anything -so he-has to go after the source. As Webb put it, he can't afford not to. '

  'Webb? asked the ambassador flatly, his brows arched. 'Bourne, Delta. Who the hell knows? The strategy's sound. '

  There are too many possible miscalculations, too many chances for a mis-step when one side invents a mythical party. '

  Tell that to Jason Bourne. '

  'Different circumstances. Treadstone had a willing agent provocateur to go after the Jackal. An obsessed man who chose extreme risk because he was trained for it and had lived with violence too long to let go. He didn't want to let go. There was no place else for him. '

  'It's academic,' said Conklin, 'but I don't think you're in a position to argue with him. You sent him out with all the odds against him and he comes back with the assassin in tow - and he finds you. If he said it could be done another way, he's probably right and you can't say he isn't. '

  'I can say, however,' said Havilland, resting his forearms on the table and fixing his eyes on the CIA man, 'that what we did really did work. We lost the assassin, but we gained a willing, even obsessed provocateur. From the beginning he was the optimum choice, but we never for a minute thought that he could be recruited to do the final job willingly by himself. Now he won't let anybody else do it; he's going back in, demanding his right to do it. So in the end we were right -1 was right. One sets the forces in motion, on a collision course, always watching, ready to abort, to kill, if one has to, but knowing that as the complications mount and the closer they come to each other's throat, the nearer the solution is. Ultimately - in their hatreds, their suspicions, their passions -they create their own violence, and the job is done. You may lose your own people but you have to weigh that loss against what it's worth to disrupt the enemy, to expose him. '

  'You also risk exposing your own hand, the hand you insisted had to be kept out of sight. '

  'How so?' 'Because it's not the end yet. Say Webb doesn't make it. Say he's caught, and you can bet your elegant ass the order will be to take him alive. When a man like Sheng sees that a trap is set to kill him, he'll want to know who's behind it. If pulling out a fingernail or ten doesn't do it - and it probably wouldn't -they'll needle him full of juice and find out where he comes from. He's heard everything you've told him-'

  'Even down to the point where the United States government cannot be involved,' interrupted the diplomat.

  'That's right, and he won't be able to help himself. The

  chemicals will bring it all out. Your hand's revealed. Washington is involved. '

  'By whom?'

  'By Webb, for Christ's sake! By Jason Bourne, if you like. '

  'By a man with a history of mental illness, with a record of random aggression and self- deception? A paranoid schizophrenic whose logged telephone calls show a man disintegrating into dementia, making insane accusations, wild threats aimed at those trying to help him?' Havilland paused, then added quietly. 'Come now, Mr Conklin, such a man does not speak for the United States government. How could he? We've been searching for him everywhere. He's an irrational, fantasizing time bomb who finds conspiracies wherever his sick, tortured mind takes him. We want him back in therapy. We also suspect that because of his past activities he left the country with an illegal passport-'

  'Therapy . . . ? Alex broke in, stunned by the old man's words. 'Past activities?'

  'Of course, Mr Conklin. If it's necessary, especially over a hot line - Sheng's hot line - we're willing to admit that he once worked for the government and was severely damaged by that work. But in no way is it possible he would have any official standing. Again, how could he? This tragic, violent man may have been responsible for the death of a wife he claims disappeared. '

  'Marie? You'd use Marie?'

  'We'd have to. She's in the logs, in the affidavits volunteered by men who knew Webb as a mental patient, who tried to help him. '

  'Oh, Jesus!' whispered Alex, mesmerized by the cold, precise elder statesman of covert operations. 'You told him everything because you had your own back-ups. Even if he was taken, you could cover your ass with official logs, psychiatric evaluation - you could disassociate yourself! Oh, God, you bastard. '

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