The bourne supremacy, p.86
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       The Bourne Supremacy, p.86

         Part #2 of Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum
 
Page 86

 

  'It's the same crisis facing all of us,' said Havilland gently. 'Only this time we have a warning. Also, Lin, who else could we have chosen? What other Chinese but the proven chief of Special Branch would have been cleared by London for what you were initially told, to say nothing of what you know now? Set up your command post inside the airport's tower. The glass is dark. '

  In silence, the huge major turned angrily and left the room. 'Is it wise to let him goT asked McAllister, as he, the ambassador and Catherine Staples watched Lin leave.

  'Certainly,' answered the diplomat of covert operations.

  'I spent several weeks here with MI6,' continued the undersecretary rapidly. 'He's been known to disobey in the past. '

  'Only when the orders were given by posturing British officers with less experience than himself. He was never reprimanded; he was right. Just as he knows I'm right. '

  'How can you be sure?'

  'Why do you think he said we've crippled him? He doesn't like it but he accepts it. ' Havilland walked behind the desk and turned to Catherine. 'Please sit down, Mrs Staples. And Edward, I should like to ask a favour of you and it has nothing to do with confidentiality. You know as much as I do and you're probably more current, and I'll no doubt call for you if I need information. However, I'd like to talk with Mrs Staples alone. '

  'By all means,' said the undersecretary, gathering up papers on the desk, as Catherine sat down in a chair facing the diplomat. 'I've a great deal of thinking to do. If this Kai Tak thing isn't a hoax - if it's a direct order from Sheng - then he's conceived of a strategy we really haven't considered, and that's dangerous. From every avenue, every direction I've explored, he has to offer up his clearinghouse, his damned economic commission, under stable conditions, not unstable. He could blow everything apart - but he's not stupid, he's brilliant. What's he doing?

  'Consider, if you will,' broke in the ambassador, frowning as he sat down, 'the reverse of our approach, Edward. Instead of implanting his financial clearing house of assorted taipans during a period of stability, he does so in instability - but with sympathy, the point being to restore order quickly. No raging giant but rather a protective father, caring for his emotionally disturbed offspring, wanting to calm it down. '

  'To what advantage?'

  'It takes place rapidly, that's all. Who would so closely examine a group of respected financiers from the colony put in place during a crisis? After all, they represent stability. It's something to think about. '

  McAllister held the papers in his hands and looked at Havilland. 'It's too much of a gamble for him,' he said. 'Sheng risks losing control of the expansionists in the Central Committee, the old military revolutionaries who are looking for any excuse to move into the colony. A crisis based on violence would play right into their hands. That's the scenario we gave Webb, and it's a realistic one. '

  'Unless Sheng's own position is now strong enough to suppress them. As you said yourself, Sheng Chou Yang has made China a great deal of money, and if there was ever a basically capitalistic people it's the Chinese. They have more than a healthy respect for money, it's an obsession. ' They also have respect for the old men of the Long March and it, too, is obsessive. Without those early Maoists most of China's younger leadership would be illiterate peasants breaking their backs in the field. They revere those old soldiers. Sheng wouldn't risk a confrontation. '

  Then there's an alternative theory that could be a combination of what we're both saying. We did not tell Webb that a number of the more vocal leaders of Peking's old guard haven't been heard from in months. And in several instances, when the word was officially released, this one or that had died of natural causes, or a tragic accident, and in one case was removed in disgrace. Now if our assumption is right, that at least some of these silenced men are victims of Sheng's hired gun-'

  Then he's solidified his position by elimination,' broke in McAllister. 'Westerners are all over Peking; the hotels are filled to capacity. What's one more - especially an assassin who could be anyone - an attach�, a business executive. . . a Chameleon. '

  'And who better than the manipulative Sheng to set up secret meetings between his Jason Bourne and selected victims. Any number of pretexts would do, but primarily military high-tech espionage. The targets would leap at it. '

  'If any of this is near the truth, Sheng's much further along than we thought. '

  Take your papers. Request anything you need from our intelligence people and MI6. Study everything, but find us a pattern, Edward. If we lose a Governor tonight we may be on our way to losing Hong Kong in a matter of days. For all the wrong reasons. '

  'He'll be protected,' muttered McAllister, heading for the door, his face troubled.

  'I'm counting on it,' said the ambassador as the undersecretary left the room. Havilland turned to Catherine Staples. 'Are you really beginning to understand me? he asked.

  The words and their implications, yes, but not certain specifics,' replied Catherine; looking oddly at the door the undersecretary of state had just closed. 'He's a strange man, isn't he?'

  'McAllister?'

  'Yes. '

  'Does he bother you?

  'On the contrary. He lends a certain credibility to everything that's been said to me. By you, by that man Reilly - even by your President, I'm afraid. ' Staples turned back to the ambassador. 'I'm being honest. '

  'I want you to be. And I understand the wavelength you're on. McAllister's one of the best analytical minds in the State Department, a brilliant bureaucrat who will never rise to the level of his own worth. '

  'Why not?'

  'I think you know, but if you don't you sense it. He's a thoroughly moral man and that morality has stood in the way of his advancement. Had I been cursed with his sense of moral outrage I never would have become the man I am - and in my defense I never would have accomplished what I have. But I think you know that, too. You said as much when you came in here. '

  'Now you're the one being honest. I appreciate it. '

  'I'm glad. I want the air cleared between us because I want your help. '

  'Marie?'

  'And beyond,' said Havilland. 'What specifics disturb you? What can I clarify?'

  This clearing house, this commission of bankers and taipans Sheng will propose to oversee the colony's financial policies-'

  'Let me anticipate,' interrupted the diplomat. 'On the surface they will be disparate in character and position and eminently acceptable. As I said to McAllister when we first met, if we thought the whole insane scheme had a prayer, we'd look the other way and wish them great success, but it doesn't have a chance. All powerful men have enemies; there'll be skeptics here in Hong Kong and in Peking -jealous factions who've been excluded - and they'll dig deeper than Sheng expects. I think you know what they'll find. '

  That all roads, above and below ground, lead to Rome. Rome here being this taipan, Sheng's father, whose name your highly selective documents never mention. He's the spider whose webs reach out to every member of that clearing house. He controls them. For God's sake, who the hell is he?'

 
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