The bourne supremacy, p.168
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       The Bourne Supremacy, p.168

         Part #2 of Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum
 
Page 168

 

  `If they're cousins,' said Jason, `why did you object to the watch I gave one of them before? You said it was too expensive. '

  `Because he'll sell it, sir, and I don't care to see him spoiled. He'll expect too much from me. '

  On such considerations, thought Bourne, were the tightest borders in the world patrolled. They were directed by Wong to enter the last gate on the right at precisely 8:55; he would cross separately a few minutes later. Their red-striped passports were studied, sent to an inside office and amid many abrupt smiles on the part of a cousin, the honoured diplomats were rapidly passed through. They were instantly welcomed to China by the prefect of the Zhuhai Shi-Guangdong Province Control who returned their passports. She was a short, broad-shouldered, muscular woman. Her English was obscured by a thick accent but was understandable.

  `You have government business in Zhuhai Shi?' she asked, her smile belied by her clouded, vaguely hostile eyes. The Guangdong garrison, perhaps? I can arrange auto transport, please?'

  `Bu xiexie,' said the undersecretary of state, declining, and then for courtesy's sake reverting to English to show respect for his host's diligence in learning it. `It's a minor conference, lasting for only a few hours, and we'll return to Macao later tonight. We'll be contacted here, so we'll have some coffee and wait. ' `In my office, please?'

  Thank you, but I think not. Your people will be looking for us in the . . . Kafie dian � the I. '

  `Over on the left-right, sir. On the street. Welcome again to the People's Republic. '

  `Your courtesy will not be forgotten,' said McAllister, bowing.

  `You are with thanks,' replied the heavy-set woman, nodding and striding away.

  `To use your words, analyst,' said Bourne, `you did that very well. But I should tell you she's not on our side. '

  `Of course not,' agreed the undersecretary. `She's been instructed to call someone either here at the garrison or in Beijing confirming that we've crossed over. That someone will reach Sheng, and he'll know it's me � and you. No one else. '

  `He's airborne,' said Jason as they walked slowly towards the dimly lit coffee shop at the end of a dingy concrete walkway that emerged on the street. `He's on his way here. Incidentally, we'll be followed, you know that, don't you?'

  `No, I don't know that,' replied McAllister, looking briefly at Bourne. `Sheng will be cautious. I've given him enough information to alarm him. If he thought there was only one file � which happens to be the truth � he might take chances, thinking he could buy it from me and kill me. But he thinks, or has to assume, that there's a copy in Washington. That's the one he wants destroyed. He won't do anything to upset me or to make me panic and run. Remember, I'm the amateur and I frighten easily. I know him. He's putting it all together now and is probably carrying more money to me than I've ever dreamed of. Of course, he expects to get it back once the files are destroyed and he does kill me. So, you see, I have a very strong reason not to fail � or not to succeed by failing. '

  The man from Medusa again stared at the man from Washington. `You've really thought this out, haven't you?'

  Thoroughly,' answered McAllister, looking straight ahead. `For weeks. Every detail. Frankly, I didn't think you'd be a part of it because I thought you'd be dead, but I knew I could reach Sheng. Somehow � unofficially, of course. Any other way, including a confidential conference, would entail protocol, and even if I got him alone, without his aides, I couldn't touch him. It would look like a government-sanctioned assassination. I considered reaching him directly, for old time's sake, and using words that would trigger a response � pretty much what I did last night. As you said to Havilland, the simplest ways are usually the best. We tend to complicate things. '

  `In your defence, you frequently have to. You can't be caught with a smoking gun. '

  That's such a trite expression,' said the analyst with a derisive laugh. `What does it mean? That you were led or misled into an error? Policy doesn't revolve around a single man's embarrassment, or it shouldn't. I'm constantly appalled by the people's cries for righteousness when they have no idea, no concept, of how we have to deal. '

  `Maybe the people every now and then want a straight answer. '

  They can't have one,' said McAllister as they approached the door of the coffee shop, `because they couldn't understand. '

  Bourne stood in front of the door without opening it. `You're blind,' he said, his eyes locked with the undersecretary's. `I wasn't given a straight answer, either, much less an explanation. You've been in Washington too long. You should try a couple of weeks in Cleveland or Bangor, Maine. It might broaden that perspective of yours. '

  `Don't lecture me, Mr Bourne. Less than forty-six per cent of our population care enough to cast a vote � which determines the directions we take. It's all left to us � the performers and the professional bureaucrats. We're all you've got . . . May we go inside, please? Your friend, Mr Wong, said we were to spend only a few minutes being seen having coffee and then go out on the street. He said he'd meet us there in exactly twenty-five minutes and twelve have already elapsed. '

  Twelve? Not ten or fifteen, but twelve?"

  `Precisely. '

  `What do we do if he's two minutes late? Shoot him?'

  `Very funny,' said the analyst, pushing the door open.

  They walked out of the coffee shop and on to the dark, bruised pavement of the run-down square fronting the Guangdong checkpoint. As it was a slow time at the gates, there were no more than a dozen people crossing the thoroughfare and disappearing into the darkness. Of the three streetlights in the immediate vicinity, only one was working, dimly. Visibility was poor. The 25- minute mark passed, and was stretched to 30, then approached 38.

  Bourne spoke. `Something's wrong. He should have made contact by now. '

  Two minutes and we shoot him?" said McAllister, instantly disliking his own attempt at humour. `I mean I gathered that staying calm was everything. '

  `For two minutes, not close to fifteen,' replied Jason. `It's not normal,' he added softly, as if to himself. `On the other hand, it could be normally abnormal. He wants us to make contact with him. '

  `I don't understand-`

  `You don't have to. Just walk alongside me, as if we were strolling, passing the time until we're met. If she sees us, the lady wrestler won't be surprised. Chinese officials are notoriously late for conferences; they feel it gives them the advantage. '

  `"Let them sweat"?

  `Exactly. Only that's not who we're meeting now. Come on, let's go to the left; it's darker, away from the light. Be casual; talk about the weather, anything. Nod your head, shake it, shrug � just keep up steady, low-keyed movements. '

  They had walked for about fifty feet when it happened. `Kam Pek!' The name of the casino in Macao was whispered, shot out of the shadows beyond a deserted news-stand.

  `Wong?'

  `Stay where you are and make a show of conversation, but listen to me!'

  `What's happened?

  `You're being followed. '

  `Two points for a brilliant bureaucrat,' said Jason. `Any comment, Mr Undersecretary?'

 
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