The bourne supremacy, p.87
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       The Bourne Supremacy, p.87

         Part #2 of Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum
Page 87


  'I wish we knew,' said Havilland, his voice flat.

  'You really don't?' asked Catherine Staples, astonished.

  'If we did, life would be far simpler and I would have told you. I'm not playing games with you; we've never learned who he is. How many taipans are there in Hong Kong? How many zealots wanting to strike back at Peking in any way they can in the cause of the Kuomintang? By their lights China was stolen from them. Their Motherland, the graves of their ancestors, their possessions - everything. Many were decent people, Mrs Staples, but many others were not. The political leaders, the warlords, the landlords, the immensely rich - they were a privileged society that gorged themselves on the sweat and suppression of millions. And if that sounds like a crock of today's Communist propaganda, it was a classic case of yesterday's provocation that gave rise to such bilge. We're dealing with a handful of obsessed expatriats who want their own back. They forget the corruption that led to their own collapse. '

  'Have you thought of confronting Sheng himself? Privately!

  'Of course, and his reaction is all too predictable. He would feign outrage and tell us bluntly that if we pursue such despicable fantasies in an attempt to discredit him, he'll void the China Accords, claiming duplicity, and move Hong Kong into Peking's economic orbit immediately. He'd claim that many of the old line Marxists in the Central Committee would applaud such a move, and he'd be right. Then he would look at us and probably say, "Gentlemen, you have your choice. Good day. "'

  'And if you made Sheng's conspiracy public the same thing would happen and he knows you know it,' said Staples, frowning. 'Peking would pull out of the Accords, blaming Taiwan and the West for messing around. The West's face is beet red with internal capitalistic corruption, so the territory marches to a Marxist drum - actually they wouldn't have a choice. And what follows is economic collapse. '

  That's the way we read it,' agreed Havilland.

  'The solution?'

  There's only one. Sheng. '

  Staples nodded her head. 'Hardball,' she said.

  The most extreme act, if that's what you mean. '

  That's obviously what I mean,' said Catherine. 'And Marie's husband, this Webb, is intrinsic to the solution?'

  'Jason Bourne is intrinsic to it, yes. '

  'Because this impostor, this assassin who calls himself Bourne, can be trapped by the extraordinary man he emulates - as McAllister put it, but not in that context. He takes his place and pulls out Sheng where he can implement the solution, the extreme solution. . . Hell, he kills him. '

  'Yes. Somewhere in China, of course. '

  'In China . . . of course?'

  'Yes, making it appear internal fratricide with no external connections. Peking can't blame anyone but unknown enemies of Sheng within its own hierarchy. In any case, at that juncture, if it happens, it's probably going to be irrelevant. The world won't officially hear of Sheng's death for weeks, and when the announcement is made, his "sudden demise" will undoubtedly be attributed to a massive coronary or a cerebral haemorrhage, certainly not to murder. The giant does not parade its aberrations, its conceals them. '

  'Which is precisely what you want. '

  'Naturally. The world goes on, the taipans are cut off from their source, Sheng's clearing-house collapses like a house of cards, and reasonable men go forward honoring the Accords to everyone's benefit. . . But we're a long way from there, Mrs Staples. To begin with, there's today, tonight. Kai Tak. It could be the beginning of the end, for we have no immediate countermeasures to put in place. If I appear calm it's an illusion born of years of concealing tension. My two consolations at this moment are that the colony's security forces are among the best on earth, and second - the tragedy of death notwithstanding - is that Peking has been alerted to the situation. Hong Kong's concealing nothing, nor does it care to. So, in a sense, it becomes both a joint risk and a joint venture to protect the Governor. '

  'How does that help if the worst happens?'

  'For what it's worth, psychologically. It may avert the appearance if not the fact of instability, for the emergency has been labeled beforehand as an isolated act of premeditated violence, not symptomatic of the colony's unrest. Above all, it's been shared. Both delegations have their own military escorts; they'll be put to use. '

  'So by such subtle points of protocol a crisis can be contained?'

  'From what I've been told, you don't need any lessons in containing crises, or precipitating them either. Besides, everything can go off the wire with one development that throws subtleties on to the garbage heap. Despite everything I've said, I'm frightened to death. There's so much room for error and miscalculation - they're our enemies, Mrs Staples. All we can do is wait, and waiting is the hardest part, the most draining. '

  'I have other questions,' said Catherine.

  'By all means, as many as you like. Make me think, make me sweat, if you can. It may help us both to take our minds off the waiting. '

  'You just referred to my questionable abilities in containing crises. But you added - I think more confidently - that I could also precipitate them. '

  'I'm sorry, I couldn't resist. It's a bad habit. '

  'I assume you meant the attache, John Nelson. '

  'Who? . . . Oh, yes, the young man from the consulate. What he lacks in judgement he makes up in courage. '

  'You're wrong. '

  'About the judgement?' asked Havilland, his thick eyebrows arched in mild astonishment. 'Really?'

  'I'm not excusing his weaknesses, but he's one of the finest people you've got. His professional judgement is superior to that of most of your more experienced personnel. Ask anyone in the consulates who's been in conferences with him. He's also one of the few who speak a damn good Cantonese. '

  'He also compromised what he knew was a highly classified operation,' said the diplomat curtly.

  'If he hadn't, you wouldn't have found me. You wouldn't have come within arm's reach of Marie St Jacques, which is where you are now. An arm's reach. '

  'An "arm's reach". . . ?' Havilland leaned forward, his eyes angry, questioning. 'Surely, you won't continue to hide her. ' 'Probably not. I haven't decided. '

  'My God, woman, after everything you've been told! She's got to be here! Without her we've lost, we've all lost! If Webb found out she wasn't with us, that she'd disappeared, he'd go mad! You've got to deliver her!'

  'That's the point. I can deliver her any time. It doesn't have to be when you say. '

  'No!" thundered the ambassador. 'When and if OUT Jason Bourne completes his assignment, a series of telephone calls will be placed putting him in direct contact with his wife!'

  'I won't give you a telephone number,' said Staples matter-of-factly. 'I might as well give you an address. '

  'You don't know what you're doing! What do I have to say to convince you?'

  'Simple. Reprimand John Nelson verbally. Suggest counseling, if you wish, but keep everything off the record and keep him here in Hong Kong, where his chances for recognition are the best. '

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