The bourne supremacy, p.73
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       The Bourne Supremacy, p.73

         Part #2 of Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum
Page 73


  Catherine Staples hailed a taxi.

  'The woman's name is Staples, Catherine Staples? said Lin Wenzu sharply into the phone on the corridor wall of the Monkey Tree, raising his voice to be heard over the din. 'Insert the consulate disk and search it through the computer. Quickly! I want her address and make damn-damn sure it's current!' The muscles of the major's jaw worked furiously as he waited, listening. The answer was delivered, and he issued another order. 'If one of our team's vehicles is in the area, get on the radio and tell him to head over there. If not, dispatch one immediately. ' Lin paused, again listening. 'The American woman,' he said quietly into the phone. They're to watch for her. If she's spotted, close in and take her. We're on our way. '

  'Vehicle Five, respond? repeated the radio operator, speaking into a microphone, his hand on a switch in the lower right-hand corner of the console in front of him. The room was white and without windows, the hum of the air conditioning low but constant, the whir of the filtering system even quieter. On three walls there were banks of sophisticated radio and computer equipment above spotless white counters made of the smoothest Formica. There was an antiseptic quality about the room; hardness was everywhere. It might have been an electronics laboratory in a well-endowed medical centre, but it was not. It was another kind of centre. The communications centre of MI6, Special Branch, Hong Kong. 'Vehicle Five responding? shouted an out-of-breath voice over the speaker. 'I received your signal, but I was a street away covering the Thai. We were right. Drugs. '

  'Go on scrambler!' ordered the operator, throwing the switch. There was a whistling sound that stopped as abruptly as it had started. 'You're off the Thai,' continued the radioman. 'You're nearest. Get over to Arbuthnot Road, the Botanical Gardens entrance is the quickest way. ' He gave the address of Catherine Staples's building and ended with a final command. 'The American woman. Watch for her. Take her. '

  'Aiya,' whispered the breathless agent from Special Branch.

  Marie tried not to panic, imposing a control over herself she did not feel. The situation was ludicrous. It was also deadly serious. She was dressed in Catherine's ill-fitting robe, having taken a long hot bath and, far worse, having washed her clothes in Staples's kitchen sink. They were hanging over the plastic chairs on Catherine's small balcony and were still wet. It had seemed so natural, so logical, to wash away the heat and the dirt of Hong Kong from herself as well as from the stranger's clothes. And the cheap sandals had raised blisters on the soles of her feet; she had broken an ugly one with a needle and walking was difficult. But she dared not walk, she had to run.

  What had happened? Catherine was not the sort of person to issue peremptory commands. Any more than she herself was, especially with David. People like Catherine avoided the imperative approach because it only clouded a victim's thinking - and her friend Marie St Jacques was a victim now, not to the degree that poor David was, but a victim nevertheless. Move! How often had Jason said that in Zurich and Paris? So frequently she still tensed at the word.

  She dressed, the wet clothes clinging to her body, and rummaged through Catherine's closet for a pair of slippers. They were uncomfortable but softer than the sandals. She could run; she had to run.

  Her hair! Oh, Christ, the hair! She ran to the bathroom, where Catherine kept a porcelain jar filled with hairpins and clasps. In seconds, she secured her hair on the top of her head, walked rapidly back into the flat's tiny living room, found her foolish hat, and jammed it on.

  The wait for the elevator was interminable! According to the lighted numbers above the panels, both elevators jogged between floors 1,3, and 7, neither venturing above to the 9th floor. Preceding residents going out for the evening had programmed the vertical monsters, delaying her descent.

  Avoid elevators whenever you can. They're traps. Jason Bourne. Zurich.

  Marie looked up and down the hallway. She saw the fire exit staircase door and ran to it.

  Out of breath, she lunged into the short lobby, composing herself as best she could to deflect the glances directed at her by five or six tenants, some entering, some leaving. She did not count; she could barely see; she had to get out!

  My car's in a garage a block to your right as you leave the building. It's called Ming's. Was it to the right? Or was it left! Out on the pavement she hesitated. Right or left! 'Right' meant so many things, 'left' was more specific. She tried to think. What had Catherine said! Right! She had to go right; it was the first thing that came to her mind. She had to trust that.

  Your first reflections are the best, the most accurate, because the impressions are stored in your head, like information in a data bank. That's what your head is. Jason Bourne. Paris.

  She started running. Her left slipper fell off; she stopped, stooping down to retrieve it. Suddenly a car came careening around the gates of the Botanical Gardens across the wide street, and, like an angry heat-searching missile, whipped to its left and zeroed in on her. The automobile swerved in a semicircle, screeching as it spun in the road. A man leaped out and raced towards her.

  Chapter Eighteen

  There was nothing else to do. She was cornered, trapped. Marie screamed, and screamed again, and again, as the Chinese agent approached, her hysteria mounting as the man politely but firmly took her by the arm. She recognized him -he was one of them, one of the bureaucrats! Her screams reached a crescendo. People stopped and turned in the street. Women gasped as startled, hesitant men stepped haltingly forward, others looking around frantically for the police, several shouting for them by name.

  'Please, Mrs? cried the Oriental, trying to keep his voice controlled. 'No harm will come to you. Allow me to escort you to my vehicle. It is for your own protection. '

  'Help me' shrieked Marie as the astonished twilight strollers gathered into a crowd. 'This man's a thief I He stole my purse, my money! He's trying to take my jewellery!'

  'See here, chap!' shouted an elderly Englishman, hobbling forward, raising his walking stick. 'I've sent a lad for the police but until they arrive, by God, I'll thrash you!'

  'Please, sir,' insisted the man from Special Branch quietly. This is a matter for the authorities, and I am with the authorities. Permit me to show you my identification. '

  'Easy, mater roared a voice with an Australian accent as a man rushed forward, gently pushing the elderly Briton aside and lowering his cane. 'You're a grand fair dinkum, old man, but don't half bother yourself! These punks call for a younger type. ' The strapping Australian stood in front of the Chinese agent. Take yer hands off the lady, punk-head! And I'd be goddamned quick about it if I were you. '

  'Please, sir, this is a serious misunderstanding. The lady is in danger and she is wanted for questioning by the authorities. '

  'I don't see you in no uniform!'

  'Permit me to show you my credentials. '

  "That's what he said an hour ago when he attacked me in Garden Road!' shouted Marie hysterically. 'People tried to help me then! He lied to everyone! Then he stole my purse! He's been following me!' Marie knew that none of the things she kept screaming made sense. She could only hope for confusion, something that Jason had taught her to use.

  I'm not saying it agyne, mate!' yelled the Australian, stepping forward. Tyke yer bloody hands off the lady!'

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