The bourne supremacy, p.32
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       The Bourne Supremacy, p.32

         Part #2 of Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum
 
Page 32

 

  'Your representative, perhaps,' offered Liang, his eyes noncommittal. 'In sales? He wouldn't have the authority. No, he said it was one of the companies over here. We can't accept, of course, but I'd like to know who made such a generous offer. Surely, Mr Liang, since you personally authorized the reservation, you can tell me. '

  The noncommittal eyes became more distant, then blinked; it was enough for David but the charade had to be played out. 'I believe one of our staff - our very large staff -

  came to me with the request, sir. There are so many reservations, we are so busy, I really can't recall. '

  'Certainly there are billing instructions. '

  'We have many honoured clients whose word on a telephone is sufficient. '

  'Hong Kong has changed. '

  'And always changing, Mr Cruett. It is possible your host wishes to tell you himself. It would not be proper to intrude on such wishes. '

  'Your sense of trust is admirable. '

  'Backed by a billing code" in the cashier's computer, naturally. ' Liang attempted a smile; it was false.

  'Well, since you have nothing else, I'll strike out on my own. I have friends at the Pen across the street,' said Webb, referring to the revered Peninsula Hotel.

  That will not be necessary. Further arrangements can be made. '

  'But your clerk said-'

  'He is not the assistant manager of the Regent, sir. ' Liang briefly glared at the young man behind the counter.

  'My screen shows nothing to be available,' protested the clerk in defence.

  'Be quiet!' Liang instantly smiled, as falsely as before, aware that he had undoubtedly lost the charade with his command. 'He is so young - they are all so young and inexperienced - but very intelligent, very willing. . . We keep several rooms in reserve for misunderstood occasions. ' Again he looked at the clerk and spoke harshly while smiling. 'Ting, ruan-ji!' He continued rapidly in Chinese, every word understood by an expressionless Webb. 'Listen to me, you boneless chicken! Do not offer information in my presence unless I ask you! You will be spit from the garbage shoot if you do it again. Now assign this fool Room Two-zero-two. It is listed as Hold; remove the listing and proceed. ' The assistant manager, his waxen smile even more pronounced, turned back to David. 'It is a very pleasant room with a splendid view of the harbour, Mr Cruett. '

  The charade was over, and the winner minimized his victory with persuasive appreciation. 'I'm most grateful,' said

  David, his eyes boring into those of the suddenly insecure Liang. 'It will save me the trouble of phoning all over the city telling people where I'm staying. ' He stopped, his right hand partially raised, a man about to continue. David Webb was acting on one of several instincts, instincts developed by Jason Bourne. He knew it was the moment to instil fear. 'When you say a room with a splendid view, I assume you mean you hao jingse de fangian. Am I right? Or is my Chinese too foolish?'

  The hotel man stared at the American. 'I could not have phrased it better,' he said softly. 'The clerk will see to everything. Enjoy your stay with us, Mr Cruett. '

  'Enjoyment must be measured by accomplishment, Mr Liang. That's either a very old or very new Chinese proverb, I don't know which. '

  'I suspect it's new, Mr Cruett. It's too active for passive reflection, which is the soul of Confucius, as I'm sure you know. '

  'Isn't that accomplishment?' 'You are too swift for me, sir. ' Liang bowed. 'If there's anything you need, don't hesitate to reach me. '

  'I hardly think that will be necessary, but thank you. Frankly, it was a long and dreadful flight, so I'll ask the switchboard to hold all calls until dinner time. '

  'Oh?5 Liang's insecurity became something far more pronounced; he was a man afraid. 'But surely if an emergency arises-'

  'There's nothing that can't wait. And since I'm not in Suite Six-ninety, the hotel can simply say I'm expected later. That's plausible, isn't it? I'm terribly tired. Thank you, Mr Liang. '

  Thank you, Mr Cruett. ' The assistant manager bowed again, searching Webb's eyes for a last sign. He found none and turned quickly, nervously, and headed back to his office.

  Do the unexpected. Confuse the enemy, throw him off balance. . . Jason Bourne. Or was it Alexander Conklin?

  'It is a most desirable room, sir!' exclaimed the relieved clerk. 'You will be most pleased. '

  'Mr Liang is very accommodating,' said David. 'I should show my appreciation, as, indeed, I will, for your help. ' Webb

  took out his leather money clip and unobtrusively removed an American $20 bill. He extended a handshake, the bill concealed. 'When does Mr Liang leave for the day?'

  The bewildered but overjoyed young man glanced to his right and left, speaking as he did so in disjointed phrases. 'Yes! You are most kind, sir. It is not necessary, sir, but thank you, sir. Mr Liang leaves his office every afternoon at five o'clock. I, too, leave at that hour. I would stay, of course, if our management requested, for I try very hard to do the best I can for the honour of the hotel. '

  'I'm sure you do,' said Webb. ' 'And most capably. My key, please. My luggage will arrive later due to a switch in flights. '

  'Of course, sir!'

  David sat in the chair by the tinted window looking across the harbour at the island of Hong Kong. Names came to him, accompanied by images - Causeway Bay, Wanchai, Repulse Bay, Aberdeen, The Mandarin, and finally, so clear in the distance, Victoria Peak with its awesome view of the entire colony. Then he saw in his mind's eye the masses of humanity meshing through the jammed, colourful, frequently filthy streets, and the crowded hotel lobbies and lounges with their softly lit chandeliers of gold filigree where the well-dressed remnants of the empire reluctantly mingled with the emerging Chinese entrepreneurs - the old crown and the new money had to find accommodation. . . Alleyways? For some reason thronged and run-down alleyways came into focus. Figures raced through the narrow thoroughfares, crashing into cages of small screeching birds and writhing snakes of various sizes - wares of peddlers on the lowest rungs of the territory's ladder of commerce. Men and women of all ages, from children to ancients, were dressed in rags, and pungent, heavy smoke curled slowly upward, filling the space between the decaying buildings, diffusing the light, heightening the gloom of the dark stone walls blackened by use and misuse. He saw it all and it all had meaning for him, but he did not understand. Specifics eluded him; he had no points of reference and it was maddening.

  Marie was out there. He had to find her! He sprang up from the chair in frustration, wanting to pound his head to

  clear the confusion, but he knew it would not help - nothing helped, only time and he could not stand the strain of time. He had to find her, hold her, protect her - as she had once protected him by believing in him when he had not believed in himself. He passed the mirror above the bureau and looked at his haggard, pale face. One thing was clear. He had to plan and act quickly, but not as the man he saw in the glass. He had to bring into play everything he had learned and forgotten as Jason Bourne. From somewhere within him he had to summon the elusive past and trust unremembered instincts.

  He had taken the first step; the connection was solid, he knew that. One way or another, Liang would provide him with something, probably the lowest level of information, but it would be a beginning - a name, a place, or a drop, an initial contact that would lead to another and still another. What he had to do was to move quickly with whatever he was given, not giving his enemy time to manoeuvre, backing whomever he reached into positions of deliver-and-survive or be-silent-and- die - and mean it. But to accomplish anything he had to be prepared. Items had to be purchased and a tour of the colony arranged. He wanted an hour or so of observing from the back seat of an automobile, dredging up whatever he could from his damaged memory.

 
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