The bourne supremacy, p.62
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       The Bourne Supremacy, p.62

         Part #2 of Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum
Page 62


  All of this had been made possible through her relationship with a late middle-aged English widower who after his retirement from Scotland Yard had opted to become chief of Crown Colonial Affairs in Hong Kong. At 65, Ian Ballantyne had accepted the fact that his tenure at the Yard was over, but not the use of his professional skills. He was willingly posted to the Far East, where he shook up the intelligence division of the colony's police and in his quiet way shaped an aggressively efficient organization that knew more about Hong Kong's shadow world than did any of the other agencies in the territory, including MI6, Special Branch. Catherine and Ian had met at one of those bureaucratically dull dinners demanded by consular protocol, and after prolonged conversation laced with wit and appraisal of his table partner, Ballantyne had leaned over and said simply: 'Do you think we can still do it, old girl?'

  'Let's try,' she had replied.

  They had. They enjoyed it, and Ian became a fixture in Staples's life, no strings or commitments attached. They liked each other; that was enough.

  And Ian Ballantyne had just given the lie to everything undersecretary of state Edward McAllister told Marie Webb and her husband in Maine. There was no taipan in Hong Kong named Yao Ming, and his impeccable sources - read very well paid - in Macao assured him there had been no double murder involving a taipan's wife and a drug runner at the Lisboa Hotel. There had been no such killings since the departure of the Japanese occupation forces in 1945. There had been numerous stabbings and gunshot wounds around the tables in the casino, and quite a few deaths in the rooms attributed to overdoses of narcotics, but no such incident as described by Staples's informer.

  'It's a fabric of lies, Cathy old girl,' Ian had said. 'For what purpose, I can't fathom. '

  'My source is legitimate, old darling. What do you smell?'

  'Rancid odours, my dear. Someone is taking a great risk for a sizeable objective. He's covering himself, of course - one can buy anything over here, including silence - but the whole damn thing's fiction. Do you want to tell me more?'

  'Suppose I told you it's Washington-oriented, not UK?'

  'I'd have to contradict you. To go this far London has to be involved. '

  'It doesn't make sense!'

  'From your viewpoint, Cathy. You don't know theirs. And I can tell you this - that maniac, Bourne, has us all on a sticky wicket. One of his victims is a man nobody will talk about. I won't even tell you, my girl. '

  'Will you if I bring you more information?'

  'Probably not, but do try. '

  Staples sat at her desk filtering the words.

  One of his victims is a man nobody will talk about.

  What did Ballantyne mean? What was happening? And why was a former Canadian economist in the centre of the sudden storm?

  Regardless, she was safe.

  Ambassador Havilland, attach� case in hand, strode into the office in Victoria Peak as McAllister bounced out of the chair, prepared to vacate it for his superior.

  'Stay where you are, Edward. What news?'

  'Nothing, I'm afraid. ' 'Christ, I don't want to hear that!'

  I'm sorry. '

  'Where's the retarded son of a bitch who let this happen?'

  McAllister blanched as Major Lin Wenzu, unseen by Havilland, rose from the couch against the back wall. 'I am the retarded son of a bitch, the Chinaman who let it happen, Mr Ambassador. '

  'I'll not apologize,' said Havilland, turning and speaking harshly. 'It's your necks we're trying to save, not ours. We'll survive. You won't. '

  'I'm not privileged to understand you. '

  'It's not his fault,' protested the undersecretary of state.

  'Is it yours?' shouted the ambassador. 'Were you responsible for her custody?'

  'I'm responsible for everything here. '

  'That's very Christian of you, Mr McAllister, but at the moment we're not reading the scriptures in Sunday school. '

  'It was my responsibility,' broke in Lin. 'I accepted the assignment and I failed. Simply put, the woman outsmarted us. '

  'You're Lin, Special Branch?'

  'Yes, Mr Ambassador. '

  'I've heard good things about you. '

  'I'm sure my performance invalidates them. '

  'I'm told she also outsmarted a very able doctor. '

  'She did,' confirmed McAllister. 'One of the best in the territory. '

  'An Englishman,' added Lin.

  'That wasn't necessary, Major. Any more than your slipping in the word Chinaman in reference to yourself. I'm not a racist. The world doesn't know it, but it hasn't time for that crap. ' Havilland crossed to the desk; he placed the attach� case on top, opened it and removed a thick manila envelope with black borders. 'You asked for the Treadstone file. Here it is. Needless to say, it cannot leave this room and when you're not reading it, lock it in the safe. '

  'I want to start as soon as possible. '

  'You think you'll find something there?'

  'I don't know where else to look. Incidentally, I've moved to an office down the hall. The safe's in here. '

  'Feel free to come and go,' said the diplomat. 'How much have you told the major?'

  'Only what I was instructed to tell him. ' McAllister looked at Lin Wenzu. 'He's complained frequently that he should be told more. Perhaps he's right. '

  'I'm in no position to press my complaint, Edward. London was firm, Mr Ambassador. Naturally, I accept the conditions. '

  'I don't want you to "accept" anything, Major. I want you more frightened than you've ever been in your life. We'll leave Mr McAllister to his reading and take a stroll. As I was driven in I saw a large attractive garden. Will you join me?"

  'It would be a privilege, sir. '

  That's questionable, but it is necessary. You must thoroughly understand. You've got to find that woman!'

  Marie stood at the window in Catherine Staples's flat looking down at the activity below. The streets were crowded, as always, and she had an overpowering urge to get out of the apartment and walk anonymously among those crowds, in those streets, walk around the Asian House in the hope of finding David. At least she would be moving, staring, hearing, hoping - not thinking in silence, half going crazy. But she could not leave; she had given her word to Catherine. She had promised to stay inside, admit no one and answer the phone only if a second, immediate call was preceded by two previous rings. It would be Staples on the line.

  Dear Catherine, capable Catherine - frightened Catherine. She tried to hide her fear, but it was in her probing questions, asked too quickly, too intensely, her reactions to answers too astonished, frequently accompanied by a shortness of breath as her eyes strayed, her thoughts obviously racing. Marie had not understood, but she did understand that Staples's knowledge of the dark world of the Far East was extensive and when such a knowledgeable person tried to conceal her fear of what she heard, there was far more to the tale than the teller knew.

  The telephone. Two rings. Silence. Then a third. Marie ran to the table by the couch and picked up the phone as the third bell began. 'Yes?'

  'Marie, when this liar, McAllister, spoke to you and your husband, he mentioned a cabaret in the Tsim Sha Tsui, if I recall. Am I right?'

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