The bourne supremacy, p.4
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       The Bourne Supremacy, p.4
 

         Part #2 of Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum
Page 4

 

  The doors of the Cobra opened. A frame of steel steps snapped to the ground as an obviously bewildered man climbed down into the floodlights. He was escorted by a major general in uniform. The civilian was slender, middle-aged, and of medium height and dressed in a pinstripe suit, white shirt and paisley tie. Even under the harsh, decelerating wash of the rotor blades his careful grooming remained intact, as though it were important to him and not to be abused. He followed the officer and together they walked up a concrete path to a door at the side of the house which opened as both men approached. However, only the civilian went inside; the general nodded, giving one of those informal salutes veteran soldiers reserve for the non-military and officers of their own rank.

  'Nice to have met you, Mr McAllister,' said the general. 'Someone else will take you back. '

  'You're not coming in?' asked the civilian.

  'I've never been in, replied the officer, smiling. 'I just make sure it's you, and get you from Point B to Point C. '

  'Sounds like a waste of rank, General. '

  'It probably isn't,' observed the soldier without further comment. 'But then I have other duties. Good-bye. '

  McAllister walked inside, into a long paneled corridor, his escort now a pleasant-faced, well- dressed husky man who had all the outward signs of Internal Security about him -physically quick and capable, and anonymous in a crowd.

  'Did you have a pleasant flight, sir?' asked the younger man.

  'Does anybody, in one of those things?'

  The guard laughed. 'This way, sir. '

  They went down the corridor, passing several doors along both walls, until they reached the end where there was a pair of larger double doors with two red lights in the upper left and right corners. They were cameras on separate circuits.

  Edward McAllister had not seen devices like those since he left Hong Kong two years ago, and then only because he had been briefly assigned to British Intelligence MI6, Special Branch, for consultations. To him the British had seemed paranoid where security was concerned. He had never understood those people, especially after they awarded him a citation for doing minimal work for them in affairs they should have been able to cope with themselves. The guard rapped on the door; there was a quiet click and he opened the right panel.

  'Your other guest, sir,' said the husky man.

  'Thank you so very much,' replied a voice. The astonished McAllister instantly recognized it from scores of radio and television newscasts over the years, its inflections learned in an expensive prep school and several prestigious universities, with a postgraduate career in the British Isles. There was, however, no time to adjust. The grey-haired, impeccably dressed man with a lined, elongated face that bespoke his seventy-plus years got up from a large desk and walked gingerly across the room, his hand extended. 'Mr Undersecretary, how good of you to come. May I introduce myself. I'm Raymond Havilland '

  'I'm certainly aware of who you are, Mr Ambassador. It's a privilege, sir. '

  'Ambassador without portfolio, McAllister, which means there's very little privilege left. But there's still work. '

  'I can't imagine any President of the United States within the past twenty years surviving without you. '

  'Some muddled through, Mr Undersecretary, but with your experience at State I suspect you know that better than I do. ' The diplomat turned his head. 'I'd like you to meet John Reilly. Jack's one of those highly knowledgeable associates we're never supposed to know about over at the National Security Council. He's not so terrifying, is he?

  'I hope not,' said McAllister, crossing to shake hands with Reilly, who had got up from one of the two leather chairs facing the desk. 'Nice to meet you, Mr Reilly. '

  'Mr Undersecretary,' said the somewhat obese man with red hair that matched a freckled forehead. The eyes behind the steel-rimmed glasses did not convey geniality; they were sharp and cold.

  'Mr Reilly is here,' continued Havilland, crossing behind the desk and indicating the vacant chair on the right for McAllister, 'to make sure I stay in line. As I understand it, that means there are some things I can say, others I can't, and certain things that only he can say. ' The ambassador sat down. 'If that appears enigmatic to you, Mr Undersecretary, I'm afraid it's all I can offer at this juncture. '

  'Everything that's happened during the past five hours since I was ordered to Andrews-Air Force Base has been an enigma, Ambassador Havilland. I have no idea why I was brought here. '

  'Then let me tell you in general terms,' said the diplomat, glancing at Reilly and leaning forward on the desk. 'You are in a position to be of extraordinary service to your country and to interests far beyond this country - exceeding anything you may have considered during your long and distinguished career. '

  McAllister studied the Ambassador's austere face, uncertain how to reply. 'My career at the Department of State has been fulfilling and, I trust, professional, but it can hardly be called distinguished in the broadest sense. Quite frankly, the opportunities never presented themselves. '

  'One has presented itself to you now,' interrupted Havilland. 'And you are uniquely qualified to carry it out. '

  'In what way? Why? 'The Far East,' said the diplomat with an odd inflection in his voice, as though the reply might itself be a question. 'You've been with the State Department for over twenty years since you received your doctorate in Far Eastern Studies at Harvard. You've served your government commendably with many years of outstanding foreign service in Asia, and since your return from your last post your judgements have proved to be extremely valuable in formulating policy in that troubled part of the world. You're considered a brilliant analyst. '

  'I appreciate what you say, but there were others in Asia. Many others who attained equal or higher ratings. '

  'Accidents of events and posting, Mr Undersecretary. Let's be frank, you've done well. Besides, no one compares with you as a specialist in the internal affairs of the People's Republic of China - I believe you played a pivotal role in the trade conferences between Washington and Peking. Also, none of the others spent seven years in Hong Kong. ' Here Raymond Havilland paused, then added. 'Finally, no one else in our Asian posts was ever assigned to or accepted by the British government's MI6, Special Branch, in the territory. '

  'I see,' said McAllister, recognizing that the last qualification, which seemed the least important to him, had a certain significance for the diplomat. 'My work in intelligence was minimal, Mr Ambassador. The Special Branch's acceptance of me was based more on its own - disinformation, I think is the word - than any unique talent of mine. Those people simply believed the wrong set of facts and the sums didn't total. It didn't take long to find the "correct figures", as I remember they put it. '

  They trusted you, McAllister. They still trust you. '

  'I assume that trust is intrinsic to this opportunity, whatever it is?'

  'Very much so. It's vital. '

  'Then may I hear what the opportunity is?'

  'You may. ' Havilland looked over at the third participant, the man from the National Security Council. 'If you care to,' he added.

  'My turn,' said Reilly, not unpleasantly. He shifted his heavy torso in the chair and gazed at McAllister, with eyes still rigid but without the coldness they had displayed previously, as though he was now asking for understanding. 'At the moment our voices are being taped - it's your constitutional right to know that - but it's a two-sided right. You must swear to absolute secrecy concerning the information imparted to you here, not only in the interests of national security but in the further and conceivably greater interests of specific world conditions. I know that sounds like a come-on to whet your appetite but it's not meant to be. We're deadly serious. Will you agree to the condition? You can be prosecuted in a closed trial under the national security non-disclosure statutes if you violate the oath. '

 
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