The bourne supremacy, p.23
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       The Bourne Supremacy, p.23

         Part #2 of Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum
Page 23


  'And if I told you I attended a symposium on the Sung and Yuan dynasties down in Boston - which was very much in line with my duties-'

  'I am startled,' interrupted the man courteously, 'that Jason Bourne would employ such a lamentably feeble excuse. '

  He had not wanted to go to Boston. That symposium was light years away from his lectures, but he had been officially asked to attend. The request came from Washington, from the Cultural Exchange Program and filtered through the university's Department of Oriental Studies. Christ! Every pawn was in place! 'Excuse for what?' 'For being where he was not. Large crowds mingling among the exhibits, certain people paid to swear you were there. '

  That's ridiculous, not to say patently amateurish. I don't pay. '

  ' You were paid. '

  'I was? How?

  Through the same bank you used before. In Zurich. The Gemeinschaft in Zurich - on the Bahnhofstrasse, of course. '

  'Odd I haven't received a statement,' said David, listening carefully.

  'When you were Jason Bourne in Europe, you never needed one, for yours was a three-zero account - the most secret, which is very secret indeed in Switzerland. However, we found a draft- transfer made out to the Gemeinschaft among the papers of a man - a dead man, of course. '

  'Of course. But not the man I supposedly killed. '

  'Certainly not. But one who ordered that man killed, along with a treasured prize of my employer. '

  'A prize is a trophy, isn't it?'

  'Both are won, Mr Bourne. Enough. You are you. Get to the Regent Hotel in Kowloon. Register under any name you wish but ask for Suite Six-nine-zero - say you believe arrangements were made to reserve it. '

  'How convenient. My own rooms. '

  'It will save time. '

  'It'll also take me time to make arrangements here. '

  'We are certain you will not raise alarms and will move as rapidly as you can. Be there by the end of the week. '

  'Count on both. Put my wife back on the line. '

  'I regret I cannot do that. '

  'For Christ's sake, you can hear everything we say!'

  'You will speak with her in Kowloon. '

  There was an echoing click and he could hear nothing on the line but static. He replaced the phone, his grip so intense a cramp had formed between his thumb and forefinger. He removed his hand and shook it violently, his grip still intact. He was grateful that the pain allowed him to re- enter reality more gradually. He grabbed his right hand with his left, held it steady and pressed his left thumb into the cramp. . . and as he watched his fingers spread free, he knew what he had to do do without wasting an hour on the all-important unimportant trivia. He had to reach Conklin in Washington, the gutter rat who had tried to kill him in broad daylight on New York's 71st Street. Alex, drunk or sober, made no distinction between the hours of day and night, nor did the operations he knew so well, for there was no night and day where his work was concerned. There was only the flat light of fluorescent tubes in offices that never closed. If he had to, he would press Alexander Conklin until the blood rolled out of the gutter rat's eyes; he would learn what he had to know, knowing that Conklin could get the information.

  Webb rose unsteadily from the chair, walked out of his study and into the kitchen, where he poured himself a drink, grateful again that although his hand still trembled, it did so less than before.

  He could delegate certain things. Jason Bourne never delegated anything, but he was still David Webb and there were several people on campus he could trust - certainly not with the truth but with a useful lie. By the time he returned to his study and the telephone he had chosen his conduit. Conduit, for God's sake! A word from the past he thought he had been free to forget. But the young man would do what he asked; the graduate student's master's thesis would ultimately be graded by his adviser, one David Webb. Use the advantage, whether it's total darkness or blinding sunlight, but use it to frighten or use it with compassion, whatever worked.

  'Hello, James? It's David Webb. '

  'Hi, Mr Webb. Where'd I screw up?'

  'You haven't, Jim. Things have screwed up for me and I could use a little extra-curricular help. Would you be interested? It'll take a little time. '

  This weekend? The game?

  'No, just tomorrow morning. Maybe an hour or so, if that. Then a little bonus in terms of your curriculum vitae, if that doesn't sound too horseshit. '

  'Name it. '

  'Well, confidentially - and I'd appreciate the confidentiality - I have to be away for a week, perhaps two, and I'm about to call the powers that be and suggest that you sit in for me. It's no problem for you; it's the Manchu overthrow and the Sino-Russian agreements that sound very familiar today. '

  'Nineteen-hundred to around nineteen-o-six,' said the master's candidate with confidence.

  'You can refine it, and don't overlook the Japanese and Port Arthur and old Teddy Roosevelt. Line it up and draw parallel::; that's what I've been doing. '

  'Can do. Will do. I'll hit the sources. What about tomorrow?

  'I have to leave tonight, Jim; my wife's already on her way. Have you got a pencil?'

  'Yes, sir. '

  'You know what they say about piling up newspapers and the mail, so I want you to call the newspaper delivery and go down to the Post Office and tell them both to hold everything sign whatever you have to sign. Then call the Scully Agency here in town and speak to Jack or Adele and tell them to. . . '

  The master's candidate was recruited. The next call was far easier than David expected, as the president of the university was at a dinner party in his honour at the President's Residence and was far more interested in his forthcoming speech than in an obscure - if unusual - associate professor's leave of absence. 'Please reach the dean of studies, Mr. . . Wedd. I'm raising money, damn it. '

  The dean of studies was not so easily handled. 'David, has this anything to do with those people who were walking around with you last week? I mean, after all, old boy, I'm one of the few people here who know that you were involved with some very hush-hush things in Washington. '

  'Nothing whatsoever, Doug. That was nonsense from the beginning; this isn't. My brother was seriously injured, his car completely written off. I've got to get over to Paris for a few days, maybe a week, that's all. '

  'I was in Paris two years ago. The drivers are absolute maniacs. '

  'No worse than Boston, Doug, and a hell of a lot better than Cairo. '

  'Well, I suppose I can make arrangements. A week isn't that long, and Johnson was out for nearly a month with pneumonia-'

  'I've already made arrangements with your approval, of course. Jim Crowther, a master's candidate, will fill in for me. It's material he knows and he'll do a good job. '

  'Oh, yes, Crowther, a bright young man, in spite of his beard. Never did trust beards, but then 1 was here in the sixties. '

  'Try growing one. It may set you free. ' Tit let that go by. Are you sure this hasn't anything to do with those people from the State Department? I really must have the facts, David. What's your brother's name? What Paris hospital is he in?'

  'I don't know the hospital, but Marie probably does; she left this morning. Good-bye, Doug. I'll call you tomorrow or the next day. I have to get down to Logan Airport in Boston. '

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