The bourne supremacy, p.34
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       The Bourne Supremacy, p.34

         Part #2 of Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum
 
Page 34

 

  David had no specific plan, but he knew vaguely what he had to do, for there was no other way of doing it. He walked down the corridor rapidly past the elevators, and ran the remaining distance to his room. He let himself inside and picked up the bedside telephone, pressing the digits he had committed to memory.

  'Concierge's desk,' said a pleasant voice which did not sound Oriental; it was probably Indian.

  'Am I speaking to the concierge?' asked Webb. - 'You are, sir. '

  'Not one of his assistants?'

  'I'm afraid not. Is there a specific assistant you wished to speak with? Someone resolving a problem, perhaps?'

  'No, I want to talk to you,' said David quietly. 'I have a situation that must be handled in the strictest confidence. May I count on yours? I can be generous. '

  'You are a guest in the hotel?'

  'I am a guest. '

  'And there is nothing untoward involved, of course. Nothing that would damage the establishment. '

  'Only enhance its reputation for aiding cautious businessmen who wish to bring trade to the territory. A great deal of trade. '

  'I am at your service,,, sir. '

  It was arranged that a Daimler limousine with the most experienced driver available would pick him up in ten minutes at the ramped courtyard drive on Salisbury Road.

  The concierge would be standing by the car and for his confidence would receive two hundred dollars American, roughly fifteen hundred dollars Hong Kong. There would be no individual's name assigned to the rental - which was to be paid in cash for twenty-four hours - only the name of a firm picked at random. And 'Mr Cruett', escorted by a floor boy, could use a service elevator to the Regent's lower level where there was an exit that led to the New World Centre with its direct access to the pick-up on Salisbury Road.

  The amenities and the cash disposed of, David climbed into the back seat of the Daimler; he was encouraged to confront the lined, tired face of a uniformed middle-aged driver whose weary expression was only partially leavened by a strained attempt to be pleasant.

  'Welcome, sir! My name is Pak-fei, and I shall endeavour to be of excellent service to you! You tell me where, and I take you. I know everything!'

  'I was counting on that,' said Webb softly.

  'I beg your words, sir?' 'Wo bushi luke,' said David, stating that he was not a tourist. 'But as I haven't been here in years,' he continued in Chinese, 'I want to reacquaint myself. How about the normal, boring tour of the island and then a quick trip through Kowloon? I have to be back in a couple of hours or so. . . And from here on, let's speak English. '

  'Ahh! Your Chinese is very good - very high class, but I understand everything you say. Yet only two zhongtou-'

  'Hours,' interrupted Webb. 'We're speaking English, remember, and I don't want to be misunderstood. But these two hours and your tip, and the remaining twenty-two hours and that tip, will depend on how well we get along, won't it?'

  'Yes, yes!' cried Pak-fei, the driver, as he gunned the Daimler's motor and authoritatively careened out into the intolerable traffic of Salisbury Road. 'I shall endeavour to provide very excellent service!'

  He did, and the names and images that had come to David in the hotel room were reinforced by their actual counterparts. He knew the streets of the Central District, recognized The Mandarin Hotel, and the Hong Kong Club, and Chater

  Square with the colony's Supreme Court opposite the banking giants of Hong Kong. He had walked through the crowded pedestrian lanes to the wild confusion that was the Star Ferry, the island's continuous link to Kowloon. Queen's Road, Hillier, Possession Street. . . the garish Wanchai, it all came back to him, in the sense that he had been there, been to those places, knew them, knew the streets, even the short-cuts to take going from one place to another. He recognized the winding road to Aberdeen, anticipated the sight of the gaudy floating restaurants and, beyond, the unbelievable congestion of junks and sampans of the boat people, a massive floating community of the perpetually dispossessed; he could even hear the clatter and slaps and shrieks of the mah-jong players, hotly contesting their bets under the dim glow of swaying lanterns at night. He had met men and women -contacts and conduits, he reflected - on the beaches of Shek O and Big Wave, and he had swum in the crowded waters of Repulse Bay, with its huge ersatz statuary and the decaying elegance of the old colonial hotel. He had seen it all, he knew it all, yet he could relate it all to nothing.

  He looked at his watch; they had been driving for nearly two hours. There was a last stop to make on the island and then he would put Pak-fei to the test. 'Head back to Chater Square,' he said. 'I have business at one of the banks. You can wait for me. '

  Money was not only a social and industrial lubricant, but in large enough amounts it was a passport to manoeuvrability. Without it, men running were stymied, their options limited, and those in pursuit frequently in limbo for the options were beyond their means to sustain the hunt. And the greater the amount, the more facile its release; witness the struggle of the man whose resources permit him to apply for no more than a $500 loan as compared with the relative ease another has with a line of credit of $500, 000. So it was for David at the bank in Chater Square. Accommodation was swift and professional; an attache case was provided without comment for the transport of the funds, and the offer of a guard to accompany him to his hotel was made should he feel more comfortable with one. He declined, signed the release

  papers and no further questions were asked. He returned to the car in the busy street.

  He leaned forward, resting his left hand on the soft fabric of the front seat inches from the driver's head. He held an American $100 bill between his thumb and index finger. 'Pak-fei,' he said, 'I need a gun. '

  Slowly the driver's head turned. He gazed at the bill, then turned further to look at Webb. Gone was the forced ebullience, the overweening desire to please. Instead, the expression on his lined face was passive, his sloped eyes distant. 'Kowloon,' he answered. 'In the Mongkok. ' He took the hundred dollars.

  Chapter Nine

  The Daimler limousine crawled through the congested street in Mongkok, an urban mass that had the unenviable distinction of being the most densely populated city district in the history of mankind. Populated, it must be recorded, almost exclusively by Chinese. A Western face was so much a rarity that it drew curious glances, at once hostile and amused. No white man or woman was ever encouraged to go to Mongkok after dark; no Oriental Cotton Club existed here. It was not a matter of racism but the recognition of reality. There was too little space for their own - and they guarded their own as millennia of Chinese had done from the earliest dynasties. The family was all, it was everything, and too many families lived not so much in squalor but within the confines of a single room with a single bed and mats on coarse, clean floors. Everywhere the multitude of small balconies attested to the demands of cleanliness, as no one ever appeared on them except to hang continuous lines of laundry. The tiers of these open balconies filled the sides of adjacent apartment houses and seemed to be in constant agitation as the breezes blew against the immense walls of fabric, causing garments of all descriptions to dance in place by the tens of thousands, further proof of the extraordinary numbers that inhabited the area.

 
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