The bourne supremacy, p.57
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       The Bourne Supremacy, p.57

         Part #2 of Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum
Page 57


  'Cool' Catherine, 'Ice-cold' Catherine, 'Stick' Staples. The nicknames were unfair and did not give an accurate picture or appraisal of the woman. Marie had got to know Catherine Staples during her days with the Treasury Board in Ottawa when she and others in her section briefed the diplomatic corps prior to their overseas assignments. Staples had come through twice, once for a refresher course on the European Common Market. . . the second, of course, for Hong Kong! It was thirteen or fourteen months ago, and although their friendship could not be called deep - four or five lunches, a dinner that Catherine had prepared and one reciprocated by Marie - she had learned quite a bit about the woman who did her job better than most men.

  To begin with, her rapid advancement at the Department of External Affairs had cost her an early marriage. She had forsworn the marital state for the rest of her life, she declared, as the demands of travel and the insane hours of her job were unacceptable to any man worth having. In her mid-fifties, Staples was a slender, energetic woman of medium height who dressed fashionably but simply. She was a no-nonsense professional with a sardonic wit that conveyed her dislike of cant, which she saw through swiftly, and self-serving excuses - which she would not tolerate. She could be kind, even gentle, with men and women unqualified for the work they were assigned through no fault of their own, but brutal with those who had issued such assignments, regardless of rank. If there was a phrase that summed up Senior Foreign Service Officer Catherine Staples, it was tough-but-fair. . . also, she was frequently very amusing in a self-deprecating way. Marie hoped she would be fair in Hong Kong.

  There's nothing here that rings a bell,' said Marie, getting out of the chair and bringing the directory back to the receptionist. 'I feel so stupid. '

  'Do you have any idea what he looks like?

  'I never thought to ask. '

  'I'm sorry. '

  'I'm sorrier. I'll have to place a very embarrassing call to Vancouver. . . Oh, I did see one name. It has nothing to do with my cousin, but I think she's a friend of a friend. A woman named Staples. '

  'Catherine the Great?' She's here, all right, although a few of the staff wouldn't mind seeing her promoted to ambassador and sent to Eastern Europe. She makes them nervous. She's top flight. '

  'Oh, you mean she's here now?'

  'Not thirty feet away. You want to give me your friend's name and see if she has time to say hello?

  Marie was tempted, but the onus of officialdom prohibited the shortcut. If things were as Marie thought they were and alarms had been sent out to friendly consulates, Staples might feel compelled to co-operate. She probably would not, but she had the integrity of her office to uphold. Embassies and consulates constantly sought favours from one another. She needed time with Catherine, and not in an official setting. That's very nice of you,' Marie said to the receptionist. 'My friend would get a kick out of it. . . Wait a minute. Did you say "Catherine"!"

  'Yes. Catherine Staples. Believe me, there's only one. '

  'I'm sure there is, but my friend's friend is Christine. Oh, Lord, this isn't my day. You've been very kind, so I'll get out of your hair and leave you in peace. '

  'You've been a pleasure, hon. You should see the ones who come in here thinking they bought a Cartier watch for a hell of a good price until it stops and a jeweller tells them the insides are two rubber bands and a miniature yo-yo. ' The receptionist's eyes dropped to the Gucci purse with the inverted Gs. 'Oh, oh,' she said softly.


  'Nothing. Good luck with your phone call. '

  Marie waited in the lobby of the Asian House for as long as she felt comfortable, then went outside and walked back and forth in front of the entrance for nearly an hour in the crowded street. It was shortly past noon and she wondered if Catherine even bothered to have lunch - lunch would be a very good idea. Also, there was another possibility, an impossibility perhaps, but one she could pray for, if she still knew how to pray. David might appear, but it would not be as David, it would be as Jason Bourne, and that could be anyone. Her husband in the guises of Bourne would be far more clever; she had seen his inventiveness in Paris and it was from another world, a lethal world where a mis-step could cost a person his life. Every move was premeditated in three or four dimensions. What if I. . . ? What if he. . . ? The intellect played a far greater role in the violent world than the non-violent intellectuals would ever admit - their brains would be blown away in a world they scorned as barbarian because they could not think fast enough or deeply enough. Cogito ergo- nothing. Why was she thinking these things? She belonged to the latter and so did David! And then the answer was very clear. They had been thrown back; they had to survive and find each other.

  There she was Catherine Staples walked - marched - out of the Asian House and turned right. She was roughly forty feet away; Marie started running, pummelling off bodies in her path as she tried to catch up. Try never to run, it marks you. I don't care! I must talk to her!

  Staples cut across the pavement. There was a consulate car waiting for her at the kerb, the maple leaf insignia printed on the door. She was climbing inside.

  'No! Wait? shouted Marie, crashing through the crowd, grabbing the door as Catherine was about to close it.

  'I beg your pardon?' cried Staples as the chauffeur spun around in his seat, a gun appearing out of nowhere.

  'Please! It's me Ottawa. The briefings. '

  'Marie? Is that you?'

  'Yes. I'm in trouble and I need your help. '

  'Get in,' said Catherine Staples, moving over on the seat. 'Put that silly thing away,' she ordered the driver. This is a friend of mine. '

  Cancelling her scheduled lunch on the pretext of a summons from the British delegation - a common occurrence during the round-robin conferences with the People's Republic over the 1997 Treaty - Foreign Service Officer Staples instructed the driver to drop them at the beginning of Food Street in Causeway Bay. Food Street encompassed the crushing spectacle of some 30 restaurants within the stretch of two blocks. Traffic was prohibited on the street and even if it were not, there was no way motorized transport could make its way through the mass of humanity in search of some four thousand tables. Catherine led Marie to the service entrance of a restaurant. She rang the bell and fifteen seconds later the door opened, followed by the wafting odours of a hundred Oriental dishes.

  'Miss Staples, how good to see you,' said the Chinese dressed in the white apron of a chef - one of many chefs. 'Please-please. As always, there is a table for you. '

  As they walked through the chaos of the large kitchen, Catherine turned to Marie. Thank God there are a few perks left in this miserably underpaid profession. The owner has relatives in Quebec - damn fine restaurant on St John Street -and I make sure his visa gets processed, as they say, "damn-damn quick". ' She nodded at one of the few empty tables in the rear section; it was near the kitchen door. They were seated, literally concealed by the stream of waiters rushing in and out of the swinging doors, as well as by the continuous bustle taking place at the scores of tables throughout the crowded restaurant.

  'Thank you for thinking of a place like this,' said Marie.

  'My dear,' replied Staples in her throaty, adamant voice. 'Anyone with your looks who dresses the way you're dressed now and makes up the way you're made up, doesn't care to draw attention to herself. '

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