The bourne supremacy, p.78
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       The Bourne Supremacy, p.78

         Part #2 of Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum
 
Page 78

 

  'Do you have information?'

  'I believe so, sir, but it is somewhat embarrassing for me to relay it. '

  'Why is that? This is an emergency, a government matter!'

  'Please understand, Officer, I am only a minor employee, and it is quite possible the night concierge did not recall your directive. He is a very busy man. '

  'What are you trying to say?'

  'Well, Officer - sir - the woman I overheard asking for the concierge bore a striking resemblance to the description in the government directive. But it would be most embarrassing for me if it was learned that I called you. '

  'You will be protected. You may remain anonymous. What is the information?'

  'Well, sir, I overheard. . . ' With cautious, ambivalent words the 1st assistant clerk did his best for himself and consequently the worst for his superior, Lee Teng. His final statements, however, were concise and without equivocation. 'It is the Apex Car Rental Agency in Bonham Strand East. I suggest you hurry as she is on her way there now. '

  The early evening traffic was less dense than the rush hour, but still formidable. It was the reason why Catherine and Marie looked uneasily at each other in the back seat of the Mandarin's limousine as the chauffeur, rather than accelerating into the sudden wide space in front of him, swung the enormous automobile into an empty section of the kerb in Bonham Strand East. There was no sign of a rental agency on either side of the street.

  'Why are we stopping?' asked Staples sharply. 'Mr Teng's instructions, Mrs,' answered the chauffeur turning around in the seat. 'I will lock the car with the alarm on. No one will bother you as the lights flash beneath all four door handles. '

  'That's very comforting but I'd like to know why you're not taking us to the car. '

  'I will bring the car to you, Mrs. '

  'I beg your pardon?'

  'Mr Teng's instructions. ' He was very firm and he is making the proper phone call to the Apex garage. It is in the next block, Mrs. I shall be back presently. ' The chauffeur removed his hat and his jacket, placed both on the seat, switched on the alarm and climbed out.

  'What do you make of it?' asked Marie, raising her leg over her knee and holding tissues she had taken from the ladies' room against the flat of her right foot. 'Do you trust this Teng?'

  'Yes, I do,' replied Catherine, her expression bewildered. 'I can't understand it. He's obviously being extra cautious - but there are extra risks for himself - and I don't know why. As I told you back at the Mandarin that computerized missive about me said "Government control". Those two words are not taken lightly in Hong Kong. What in the world is he doing? And why?'

  'Obviously, I can't answer you,' said Marie. 'But I can make an observation. '

  'What is it?'

  'I saw the way he looked at you. I'm not sure you did. '

  'What?

  'I'd say he's very fond of you. '

  'Fond . . . of me?'

  'It's one way to put it. There are stronger ways, of course. '

  Staples turned away and looked out the window. 'Oh, my God,' she whispered.

  'What's the matter?'

  'A little while ago, back at the Mandarin, and for reasons too unreasonable to analyse - it started with a foolish woman in a chinchilla stole - I thought about Owen. '

  'Owen?

  'My former husband. '

  'Owen Staples? The banker, Owen Staples?'

  'That's my name and that's my boy - was my boy. In those days one stayed with the acquired name. '

  'You never told me your husband was Owen Staples. '

  'You never asked me, my dear. '

  'You're not making sense, Catherine. '

  'I suppose not,' agreed Staples, shaking her head. 'But I was thinking about the time Owen and I met a couple of years ago in Toronto. We had drinks at the Mayfair Club and I learned things about him I never would have believed before. I was genuinely happy for him despite the fact that the bastard nearly made me cry. '

  'Catherine, for heaven's sake what's that got to do with right now?'

  'It's got to do with Teng. We also had drinks one evening, not at the Mandarin, of course, but at a cafe on the waterfront in Kowloon. He said it wouldn't be good joss for me to be seen with him here on the island. '

  'Why not?

  That's what I said. You see, he was protecting me then just as he's protecting me now. And I may have misunderstood him. I assumed he was simply looking after an additional source of income but I may have been terribly wrong. '

  'In what way?' 'He said a strange thing that night. He said he wished things were different, that the differences between people were not so obvious and those differences not so disturbing to other people. Of course, I accepted his banalities as a rather amateurish attempt at. . . at statecraft, as my former husband phrased it. Perhaps it was something else. '

  Marie laughed quietly, as their eyes locked. 'Dear, dear Catherine. The man's in love with you. '

  'Christ in Calgary, I don't need this!'

  Wenzu sat in the front seat of MI6 Vehicle Two, his patient gaze on the entrance of the Apex agency on Bonham Strand East. Everything was in order; both women would be in his custody within a matter of minutes. One of his men had gone inside and spoken to the dispatcher. The agent had proffered his government identification and was shown the evening's records by the frightened employee. The dispatcher, indeed, had a reservation for a Mrs Catherine Staples but it had been cancelled, the car in question assigned to another name, the name of a chauffeur from the hotel. And since Mrs Catherine Staples was no longer leasing a car, the dispatcher saw no reason to call Police Control Four. What was there to say? And no, certainly not, no one else could pick up the car as it was reserved by the Mandarin.

  Everything was in order, thought Wenzu. Victoria Peak would feel an enormous sweep of relief the moment he reached the sterile house with his news. The major knew the exact words he would say. The women are taken - the woman is taken. '

  Across the street a man in shirtsleeves entered the agency door. He appeared hesitant to Lin and there was something. . . A taxi suddenly drove up and the major bolted forward, reaching for the door handle - the hesitant man was forgotten.

  'Be alert, lads,' said Lin into the microphone attached to the dashboard radio. 'We must be as quick and as unobtrusive as possible. No Arbuthnot Road can be tolerated here. And no weapons, of course. Ready, now!'

  But there was nothing to be ready for; the taxi drove away without disgorging anyone.

  'Vehicle Three' said the major curtly. 'Get that license number and call the cab company! I want them in radio contact. Find out exactly what their taxi was doing here!

  Better yet, follow it and do as I tell you. It could be the women. '

  'I believe there was only a man in the back seat, sir,' said the driver.

  They could have ducked below the seat! Damned eyes. A man, you say?'

  'Yes, sir. '

  'I smell a rotten squid. '

  'Why, Major?'

  'If I knew, the stench would not be so strong. '

  The waiting continued and the immense Lin began to perspire. The dying sun cast both a blinding orange light through the windshield and pockets of dark shadows along Bonham Strand East.

 
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