The bourne supremacy, p.2
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       The Bourne Supremacy, p.2

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


  The priest stood still for a moment surveying the huge crowded room. A number of customers in varying stages of drunkenness looked up at him from the tables. Several rolled coins in his direction as they turned away, while a few got out of their chairs, dropping Hong Kong dollars beside their drinks and headed for the door. The heshang was having an effect, but not the effect desired by the obese, tuxedoed man who approached him.

  'May I be of assistance, Holy One? asked the cabaret's manager through the sustained crescendos.

  The priest leaned forward and spoke into the man's ear. The manager's eyes widened, then he bowed and gestured towards a small table by the wall. The priest nodded back in appreciation and walked behind the man to his chair as adjacent customers took uncomfortable notice.

  The manager leaned down and spoke with a reverence he did not feel. 'Would you care for refreshment, Holy One?'

  'Goat's milk, if it is by chance available. If not, plain water will be more than sufficient. And I thank you. '

  'It is the privilege of the establishment,' said the tuxedoed man, bowing and moving away, trying to place a dialect he could not recognize. It did not matter. This tall, white-robed priest had business with the laoban, and that was all that mattered. He had actually used the laoban's name, a name seldom spoken in the Golden Mile, and on this particular evening the powerful taipan was on the premises - in a room he would not publicly acknowledge knowing. But it was not the province of the manager to tell the laoban that the priest had arrived; the berobed one had made that clear.

  All was privacy this night, he had insisted. When the august taipan wished to see him, a man would come out to find him. So be it; it was the way of the secretive laoban, one of the wealthiest and most illustrious taipans in Hong Kong.

  'Send a kitchen boy down the street for some fuck-fuck mother goat's milk,' said the manager harshly to a head boy on the floor. 'And tell him to be damn-damn quick. The existence of his stinking offspring will depend upon it. '

  The holy man sat passively at the table, his zealous eyes now gentler, observing the foolish activity, apparently neither condemning nor accepting but merely taking it all in with the compassion of a father watching errant yet precious children.

  Abruptly through the whirling lights there was an intrusion. Several tables away a bright camper's match was struck and quickly extinguished. Then another, and finally a third, this last held under a long black cigarette. The brief series of flashes drew the attention of the priest. He moved his shrouded head slowly towards the flame and the lone, unshaven, coarsely dressed Chinese drawing in the smoke. Their eyes met; the holy man's nod was almost imperceptible, barely a motion, and was acknowledged by an equally obscure movement as the match went out.

  Seconds later the crudely dressed smoker's table was suddenly in flames. Fire shot up from the surface, spreading quickly to all the articles of paper on the surface - napkins, menus, dim sum baskets, isolated eruptions of potential disaster. The disheveled Chinese screamed and with a shattering crash overturned the table as waiters raced, shrieking, towards the flames. Customers on all sides leaped from their chairs as the fire on the floor - narrow strands of pulsing blue flame - inexplicably spread in rivulets around excited, stamping feet. The pandemonium grew as people rapidly slapped out the small fires with tablecloths and aprons. The manager and his head boys gestured wildly, shouting that all was under control; the danger had passed. The rock group played with even greater intensity, attempting to draw the crowd back into its frenzied orbit and away from the area of diminishing panic.

  Suddenly, there was a greater disturbance, a more violent eruption. Two head boys had collided with the shabbily dressed Zhongguo ren whose carelessness and outsized matches had caused the conflagration. He responded with rapid Wing Chun chops - rigid hands crashing into shoulder blades and throats as his feet hammered up into abdomens, sending the two shi-ji reeling back into the surrounding customers. The physical abuse compounded the panic, the chaos. The heavy-set manager, now roaring, intervened and he, too, fell away, stunned by a well-placed kick to his ribcage. The unshaven Zhongguo ren then picked up a chair and hurled it into screaming figures near the fallen man, as three other waiters rushed into the melee in defense of their Zongguan. Men and women who only seconds ago were merely screaming, now began thrashing their arms about, pummeling anyone and everyone near by. The rock group gyrated to its outer limits, frantic dissonance worthy of the scene. The riot had taken hold, and the burly peasant glanced across the room at the single table next to the wall. The priest was gone.

  The Zhongguo ren picked up a second chair and smashed it down across a nearby table, splintering the wooden frame and swinging a broken leg into the crowd. Only moments to go, but those moments were everything.

  The priest stepped through the door far back in the wall near the entrance of the cabaret. He closed it quickly, adjusting his eyes to the dim light of the long, narrow hallway. His right arm was stiff beneath the folds of his white caftan, his left diagonally across his waist, also under the sheer white fabric. Down the corridor, no more than twenty-five feet away, a startled man sprang from the wall, his right hand plunging beneath his jacket to yank a large, heavy-caliber revolver from an unseen shoulder holster. The holy man nodded slowly, impassively, repeatedly, as he moved forward with graceful steps appropriate to a religious procession.

  'Amita-fo, Amita-fo,' he said softly, over and over again as he approached the man. 'Everything is peaceful, all is in peace, the spirits will it. '

  'Jou matyeh?' The guard was beside a door; he shoved the ugly weapon forward and continued in a guttural Cantonese bred in the northern settlements. 'Are you lost, priest? What are you doing here? Get out! This is no place for you!'

  'Amita-fo, Amita-fo . . . '

  'Get out! Now!'

  The guard had no chance. Swiftly the priest pulled a razor-thin, double-edged knife from the folds at his waist. He slashed the man's wrist, half severing the hand with the gun from the guard's arm, then arced the blade surgically across the man's throat; air and blood erupted as the head snapped back in a mass of shining red; he fell to the floor, a corpse.

  Without hesitation, the killer-priest slid the knife into the cloth of his caftan, where it held, and from under the right side of his robe withdrew a thin-framed Uzi machine gun, its curved magazine holding more ammunition than he would need. He raised his foot and crashed it into the door with the strength of a mountain cat, racing inside to find what he knew he would find.

  Five men - Zhongguo ren - were sitting around a table with pots of tea and short glasses of potent whisky; there were no written papers anywhere in sight, no notes or memoranda, only ears and watchful eyes. And as each pair of eyes looked up in shock, the faces were contorted with panic. Two well-dressed negotiators plunged their hands inside their well-tailored jackets while they spun out of the chairs; another lunged under the table, as the remaining two sprang up screaming and raced futilely into silk-covered walls, spinning around in desperation, seeking pardons yet knowing none would be forthcoming. A shattering fusillade of bullets ripped into the Zhongguo ren. Blood gushed from fatal wounds as skulls were pierced and eyes were punctured, mouths torn apart, bright red in muted screams of death. The walls and the floor and the polished table glistened sickeningly with the bloody evidence of death. Everywhere. It was over.

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