The bourne supremacy, p.40
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       The Bourne Supremacy, p.40

         Part #2 of Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum
 
Page 40

 

  'She will be moved immediately. '

  'I'll call you back after I've spoken to her. '

  'There is no need, Jason Bourne. Knowledgeable men are there and they will speak with you. My business is finished and you have never seen me. '

  'I don't have to. A photograph will be taken when you leave that office, but you won't know from where or by whom. You'll probably see a number of people - in the hallway, or in an elevator or the lobby - but you won't know which one has a camera with a lens that looks like a button on his jacket, or an emblem on her purse. Stay well, minion. Think nice thoughts. '

  Webb depressed the telephone bar, disconnecting the line; he waited three seconds, released it, heard the dial tone, and touched the buttons. He could hear the ring. Christ, he couldn't stand it!

  'Wei?'

  'This is Bourne. Put my wife on the line. '

  'As you wish. '

  'David?

  'Are you all right"!? shouted Webb on the edge of hysteria.

  'Yes, just tired, that's all, my darling. Are you all right-'

  'Have they hurt you - have they touched you?

  'No, David, they've been quite kind, actually. But you know how tired I get sometimes. Remember that week in

  Zurich when you wanted to see the Fraumunster and the museums and go out sailing on the Limmat, and I said I just wasn't up to it?

  There'd been no week in Zurich. Only the nightmare of a single night when both of them nearly lost their lives. He running the gauntlet of his would-be executioners in the Steppdeckstrasse, she nearly raped, sentenced to death on a deserted riverfront in the Guisan Quai. What was she trying to tell him?

  'Yes, I remember. '

  'So you mustn't worry about me, darling. Thank God you're here! We'll be together soon, they've promised me that. It'll be like Paris, David. Remember Paris, when I thought I'd lost you? But you came to me and we both knew where to go. That lovely street with the dark green trees and the-'

  That will be all, Mrs Webb,' broke in a male voice. 'Or should I say Mrs Bourne,' the man added, speaking directly into the phone.

  'Think, David, and be careful? yelled Marie in the background. 'And don't worry, darling! That lovely street with the row of green trees, my favourite tree-'

  'Ting zhi!' cried the male voice, issuing an order in Chinese. 'Take her away! She's giving him information! Quickly. Don't let her speak!'

  'You harm her in any way, you'll regret it for the rest of your short life,' said Webb, icily. 'I swear to Christ I'll find you. '

  There has been no cause for unpleasantness up to this moment,' replied the man slowly, his tone sincere. 'You heard your wife. She has been treated well. She has no complaints. '

  'Something's wrong with her! What the hell have you done that she can't tell me?'

  'It is only the tension, Mr Bourne. And she was telling you something, no doubt in her anxiety trying to describe this location - erroneously, I should add - but even if it were accurate it would be as useless to you as the telephone number. She is on her way to another apartment, one of millions in Hong Kong. Why would we harm her in any way? It would be counterproductive. A great taipan wants to meet with you. '

  'Yao Ming?

  'Like you, he goes by several names. Perhaps you can reach an accommodation. '

  'Either we do or he's dead. And so are you. '

  'I believe what you say, Jason Bourne. You killed a close blood relative of mine who was beyond your reach, in his own island fortress on Lantau. I'm sure you recall. '

  'I don't keep records. Yao Ming. When?'

  Tonight. '

  'Where?

  'You must understand, he's very recognizable, so it must be a most unusual place. '

  'Suppose I choose it?

  'Unacceptable, of course. Do not insist. We have your wife. '

  David tensed; he was losing the control he desperately needed. 'Name it,' he said.

  The Walled City. We assume you know it. '

  'Of it,' corrected Webb, trying to focus what memory he had.

  The filthiest slum on the face of the earth, if I remember. '

  'What else would it be? It is the only legal possession of the People's Republic in all of the colony. Even the detestable Mao Zedong gave permission for our police to purge it. But civil servants are not paid that much. It remains essentially the same. '

  'What time tonight?'

  'After dark, but before the bazaar closes. Between nine-thirty and not later than fifteen minutes to ten. '

  'How do I find this Yao Ming - who isn't Yao Ming?

  There is a woman in the first block of the open market who sells snake entrails as aphrodisiacs, predominantly cobra. Go up to her and ask her where a great one is. She will tell you the descending steps to use, which alley to take. You will be met. '

  'I might never get there. The colour of my skin isn't welcome down there. '

  'No one will harm you. However, I suggest you not wear garish clothing or display expensive jewellery. '

  'Jewellery?1

  'If you own a high-priced watch, do not wear it. '

  They'd cut your arm off for a watch. Medusa. So be it.

  Thanks for the advice. '

  'One last thing. Do not think of involving the authorities, or your consulate in a reckless attempt to compromise the taipan. If you do, your wife will die. '

  That wasn't necessary. '

  'With Jason Bourne everything is necessary. You will be watched. '

  'Nine-thirty to nine-forty-five,' said Webb, replacing the phone and getting up from the bed. He went to the window and stared out at the harbour. What was it? What was Marie trying to tell him?

  . . . you know how tired I get sometimes.

  No, he did not know that. His wife was a strong Ontario ranch girl who never complained of being tired.

  . . . you mustn't worry about me, darling.

  A foolish plea, and she must have realized it. Marie did not waste precious moments being foolish. Unless. . . was she rambling incoherently? . . . It'll be like Paris, David. We both knew where to go. . . that lovely street with the dark green trees.

  No, not rambling, only the appearance of rambling; there was a message. But what? What lovely street with 'dark green trees'? Nothing came to him and it was driving him out of his mind! He was failing her. She was sending a signal and it eluded him.

  . . . Think, David, and be careful!. . . don't worry, darling! That lovely street with the row of trees, my favourite tree-

  What lovely street? What goddamned row of trees, what favourite tree? Nothing made sense to him and it should make sense! He should be able to respond, not stare out a window, his memory blank. Help me, help me! he cried silently to no one.

  An inner voice told him not to dwell on what he could not understand. There were things to do; he could not willingly

  walk into the meeting ground of the enemy's choosing without some foreknowledge, some cards of his own to play. . . I suggest you do not wear garish clothing. . . It would not have been garish in any event, thought Webb, but now it would be something quite opposite - and unexpected.

  During the months in which he had peeled away the layers of Jason Bourne one theme kept repeating itself. Change, change, change. Bourne was a practitioner of change; they called him 'the chameleon', a man who could melt into different surroundings with ease. Not as a grotesque, a cartoon with fright wigs and nose putty, but as one who could adapt the essentials of his appearance to his immediate environment so that those who had met the 'assassin' - rarely, however, in full light or standing close to him - gave widely varying descriptions of the man hunted throughout Asia and Europe. The details were always in conflict: the hair was dark or light; the eyes brown, blue or speckled; the skin pale, or tanned, or blotched; the clothes well made and subdued if the rendezvous took place in a dimly lit expensive cafe, or rumpled and ill-fitting if the meeting was hel
d on the waterfront or in the lower depths of a given city. Change. Effortlessly, with the minimum of artifice. David Webb would trust the chameleon within him. Free fall. Go where Jason Bourne directed.

 
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