The bourne supremacy, p.77
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       The Bourne Supremacy, p.77

         Part #2 of Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum
Page 77


  'I'll take a taxi. Write out the address. ' Staples looked around for the hotel drug store. There were too many people in the lobby, too much confusion. 'Where can I buy some -skin lotion or Vaseline; sandals or thongs?' she asked, turning to the clerk.

  There is a newspaper stand down the hallway to the right, Mrs. They have many of the items you describe. But, may I please have money, as you must present a receipt to the dispatcher. It is one thousand dollars, Hong Kong, whatever remains to be returned or additional monies to be added-'

  'I don't have that much on me. I'll have to use a card. '

  'So much the better. '

  Catherine opened her purse and pulled out a credit card from an inside pocket. 'I'll be right back,' she said, placing it on the counter as she started for the hallway on the right. For no reason in particular, she glanced over at Lee Teng and his distraught lady. To her brief amusement, the overdressed woman in the foolish fur was nodding appreciatively as Teng pointed to the line of overpriced shops reached by climbing a staircase above the lobby. Lee Teng was a true diplomat. Without question, he had explained to the overwrought guest that she had an option that would both serve her needs and her nerves and hit her errant husband in his financial solar plexus. This was Hong Kong, and she could purchase the best and the most glittering, and for a price everything would be ready in time for the grand ball at Government House. Staples continued towards the hallway.

  Catherine? The name was so sharply spoken Staples froze. 'Please, Mrs Catherine?

  Rigid, Staples turned. It was Lee Teng, who had broken away from his outraged, now mollified, guest. 'What is it?' she asked, frightened as the middle-aged Teng approached, his face lined with concern, sweat evident on his balding skull.

  'I saw you only moments ago. I had a problem. '

  'I know all about it. '

  'So do you, Catherine. '

  'I beg your pardon?' Teng glanced at the counter, oddly enough not at the young man who had helped her but at the other clerk who was at the opposite end of the desk. The man was by himself, with no guests in front of him, but he was looking at his associate. 'Damn bad joss!' exclaimed Teng under his breath.

  'What are you talking about?' asked Staples.

  'Come over here,' said the Number 1 concierge of the night shift as he pulled Catherine to the side, away from the sight of the counter. He reached into his pocket and removed a perforated half page of paper on which there was a computer print-out. 'Four copies of this were sent down from upstairs. I managed to obtain three but the fourth is under the counter. '

  Emergency. Government control. A Canadian woman by the name of Mrs Catherine Staples may attempt to lease an automobile for personal use. She is fifty-seven years of age, with partially grey hair, of medium height and a slender figure. Delay all proceedings and contact Police Central Four.

  Wenzu had drawn a conclusion based on an observation, thought Catherine, along with the knowledge that anyone who willingly drove a car in Hong Kong was either crazy or had a peculiar reason for doing so. He was covering his bases quickly and completely. The young man just got me a car over in Bonham Strand East. He obviously hasn't read this. '

  'He found you a rental at this hour?'

  'He's writing up the credit charge now. Do you think he'll see this?'

  'It is not him that I worry about. He is in training and I can tell him anything and he will accept what I say. The other one not so; he wants my job badly. Wait here. Stay out of sight. '

  Teng walked to the counter as the clerk was anxiously looking around, the layered credit card slips in his hand. Lee Teng took the charges and put them in his pocket. That won't be necessary,' he said. 'Our customer has changed her mind. She found a friend in the lobby who will drive her. '

  'Oh? Then I should tell our associate not to bother. As the amount is over the limit, he is clearing it for me. I am still somewhat unsure and he offered-'

  Teng waved him shut as he crossed to the second clerk on the telephone at the other end of the counter. 'You may give me the card and forget the call. There are too many distressed ladies tonight for me! This one has found other means of transportation. '

  'Certainly, Mr Teng,' said the second clerk obsequiously. He handed over the credit card, apologized quickly to the operator on the line and hung up the telephone.

  'A bad night. ' Teng shrugged, turning, and heading back into the crowded lobby-lounge. He approached Catherine, pulling out his billfold as he did so. 'If you are short of money, I will cover it. Don't use this. '

  'I'm not short at home or at the bank, but I don't carry so much with me. It's one of the unwritten rules. '

  'One of the better ones,' said Teng, nodding.

  Staples took the bills in Teng's hand and looked up at the Chinese. 'Do you want an explanation? she asked.

  'It's not required, Catherine. Whatever Central Four says, I know you are a good person, and if you are not and you run away and I never see my money again, I am still many thousands, Hong Kong, to the better. '

  'I shan't run anywhere, Teng. '

  'You will not walk, either. One of the chauffeurs owes me a good turn, and he's in the garage now. He will drive you to your car in Bonham Strand. Come, I'll take you down there. '

  'There's someone else with me. I'm taking her out of Hong Kong. She's in the ladies' room. '

  'I'll wait in the hallway. Do hurry. ' 'Sometimes I think the time passes more quickly when we are flooded with problems,' said the second, somewhat older clerk to his younger associate-in-training as he removed the half-page computer print-out from beneath the counter and unobtrusively shoved it into his pocket.

  'If you are right, Mr Teng has barely experienced fifteen minutes since we came on duty two hours ago. He's very good, isn't he?'

  'His lack of head hair helps him. People look upon him as having wisdom even when he has no wise words to offer. '

  'Still, he has a way with people. I wish to be very much like him one day. '

  'Lose some hair,' said the "second clerk. 'In the meantime, since there is no one bothering us, I have to go to the toilet. By the way, just in case I ever need to know a rental agency open at this hour, it was the Apex on Bonham Strand East, wasn't it?

  'Oh, yes. '

  That was very diligent of you. '

  'I simply went by the list. It was near the end. '

  'Some of us would have stopped before then. You are to be commended. '

  'You are too kind to an unworthy trainee. '

  'I want only the best for you,' said the older clerk. 'Always remember that. '

  The older man left the counter. He cautiously went past the potted palms until he saw Lee Teng. The night concierge was standing at the foot of the hallway to the right; it was enough. He was waiting for the woman. The clerk turned quickly and walked up the staircase to the line of shops with less dignity than was proper. He was in a- hurry and entered the first boutique at the top of the steps.

  'Hotel business,' he said to the bored saleswoman as he grabbed the phone off the wall behind a glass counter of glistening precious stones. He dialled.

  'Police Central Four. '

  'Your directive, sir, regarding the Canadian woman, Mrs Staples-'

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