The bourne supremacy, p.64
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       The Bourne Supremacy, p.64

         Part #2 of Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum
Page 64


  'What is it? whispered Jason.

  'We must go slowly, make no noise. '


  The guide shrugged. 'I do not know. There is no harmony. '

  They crawled up through the tangled forest, stopping at every screech of a disturbed bird and the subsequent flutter of wings, letting the moments pass. The hum of the woods was pervasive; the crickets clicked their incessant symphony, a lone owl hooted to be answered by another, and small ferret-like creatures scampered through the underbrush. Bourne and his guide came to the end of the tall trees; there was a second sloping field of high grass in front of them and in the distance were the jagged dark outlines of another climbing forest.

  There was also something else. A glow at the top of the next hill, at the summit of the woods. It was a campfire, the campfire! Bourne had to hold himself in check, stop himself from getting up and racing across the field and plunging into the woods, scrambling up to the fire. Patience was everything now, and he was in the dark environs he knew so well; vague memories told him to trust himself - told him that he was the best there was. Patience. He would get across the field and silently make his way to the top of the forest; he would find a spot in the woods with a clear view of the fire, of the meeting ground. He would wait and watch; he would know when to make his move. He had done it so often before - the specifics eluded him, but not the pattern. A man would leave, and like a cat stalking silently through the forest he would follow that man until the moment came. Again, he would know that moment, and the man would be his.

  Marie. I won't fail us this time. I can move with a kind of terrible purity now - that sounds crazy, I know, but then it's true. . . I can hate with purity - that's where I came from, I think. Three bleeding bodies floating into a riverbank taught me to hate. A bloody handprint on a door in Maine taught me to reinforce that hate and never to let it happen again. I don't often disagree with you, my love, but you were wrong in Geneva, wrong in Paris. I am a killer.

  'What is wrong with you? whispered the guide, his head close to Jason's. 'You do not follow my signal!'

  'I'm sorry. I was thinking. '

  'So am I, thank you For our lives!'

  'You don't have to worry; you can leave now. I see the fire up there on the hill. ' Bourne pulled money from his pocket. 'I'd rather go alone. One man has less chance of being spotted than two. '

  'Suppose there are other men - patrols? You bested me in Macao, but I am not unworthy in this regard. '

  'If there are such men, I intend to find one. '

  'In the name of Jesus, why?'

  'I want a gun. I couldn't risk bringing one across the border. ' "Aiya!"

  Jason handed the guide the money. 'It's all there. Nine thousand five hundred. You want to go back in the woods and count it? I've got a small flashlight. '

  'One does not question the man who has bested one. Dignity would not permit such impropriety. '

  'Your words are terrific, but don't buy a diamond in Amsterdam. Go on, get out of here. It's my territory. '

  'And this is my gun,' said the guide, taking a weapon from his belt and handing it to Bourne as he took the money. 'Use it if you must. The magazine is full - nine shells. There is no registry, no trace. The Frenchman taught me. '

  'You took this across the border?

  'You brought the watch. I did not. I might have dropped it into a garbage bag but then I saw the guard's face. I will not need it now. '

  Thanks. But I should tell you, if you've lied to me, I'll find you. Count on it.

  Then the lies would not be mine and the money would be returned. ' 'You're too much. ' 'You bested me. I must be honourable in all things. '

  Bourne crawled slowly, ever so slowly, across the expanse of tall, starched grass filled with nettles, pulling the needles from his neck and forehead, grateful for the nylon jacket that repelled them. He instinctively knew something his guide did not know, why he did not want the Chinese to come with him. A field with high grass was the most logical place to have sentries; the fronds moved when hidden intruders crawled through them. Therefore one had to observe the swaying grass from the ground and go forward with the prevailing breezes and the sudden mountain winds.

  He saw the start of the woods, trees rising at the edge of the grass. He began to raise himself to a crouching position, then suddenly, swiftly, lowered his body and remained motionless. Ahead, to his right, a man stood on the border of the field, a rifle in his hands, watching the grass in the intermittent moonlight, looking for a pattern of reeds that bent against the breezes. A gust of wind swirled down from the mountains. Bourne moved with it, coming to within ten feet of the guard. Half a foot by half a foot he crawled to the edge of the field; he was now parallel with the man whose concentration was focused in front of him, not on his flanks. Jason inched up so he could see through the reeds. The guard looked to his left. Now!

  Bourne sprang out of the grass and, rushing forward, lunged at the man. In panic, the guard instinctively swung the butt of the rifle to ward off the sudden attack. Jason grabbed the barrel, twisting it over the man's head, and crashed it down on the exposed skull as he rammed his knee into the guard's ribcage. The sentry collapsed. Bourne quickly dragged him into the high grass, out of sight. With as few movements as possible, Jason removed the guard's jacket and ripped the shirt from his back, tearing the cloth into strips. Moments later the man was bound in such a way that with every move he tightened the improvised straps. His mouth was gagged, a torn sleeve wrapped around his head holding the gag in place.

  Normally, as in previous times - Bourne instinctively knew it had been the normal course of similar events - he would have lost no time racing out of the field and starting up through the woods towards the fire. Instead, he studied the unconscious figure of the Oriental below; something disturbed him. . . something not in harmony. For a start, he had expected the guard would be in the uniform of the Chinese army, for he all too vividly recalled the sight of the government vehicle in Shenzhen and knew who was inside. But it was not simply the absence of a uniform, it was the clothes this man wore. They were cheap and filthy, rancid with the smell of grease-laden food. He reached down and twisted the man's face, opening his mouth; there were few teeth, black with decay. What kind of guard was this, what kind of patrol? He was a thug - no doubt experienced - but a brute criminal, contracted in the skid rows of the Orient where life was cheap and generally meaningless. Yet the men at this 'conference' dealt in tens of thousands of dollars. The price they paid for a life was very high. Something was not in balance.

  Bourne grabbed the rifle and crawled out of the grass. Seeing nothing, hearing nothing but the murmurs of the forest before him, he got to his feet and raced into the woods. He climbed swiftly, silently, stopping as before with every screech of a bird, every flutter of wings, each abrupt cessation of the cricket symphony. He did not crawl now, he crept on bent legs, holding the barrel of the rifle, a club if the need arose. There could be no gunshots unless his life depended on them, no warning to his quarry. The trap was closing, it was simply a matter of patience now, patience and the final stalk when the jaws of the trap would snap shut. He reached the top of the forest, gliding noiselessly behind a boulder on the edge of the campsite. Silently he lowered the rifle to the ground, withdrew from his belt the gun that the guide had given him and peered around the huge rock.

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