The bourne supremacy, p.96
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       The Bourne Supremacy, p.96

         Part #2 of Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum
Page 96


  'I haven't time. I have to get back now. Oh, Christ! I don't know where it is and I don't have an address!'

  'We know the building, madame. A tall, attractive white woman alone in Tuen Mun is noticed. Word spreads. Well take you there at once. ' The banker turned and spoke in rapid Chinese, addressing a half-opened door behind him as Marie sat up. She was suddenly aware of the crowd of people peering inside. She got to her feet - her painful feet - and stood for a moment, weaving but slowly finding her balance, holding the ripped folds of her blouse together.

  The door was pulled back and two old women entered, each carrying an article of brightly coloured silk. The first was a kimono-like garment which was gently lowered over her head becoming a half-dress, covering her torn blouse and much of her soiled green slacks. The second was a long, wide sash which was wrapped around her waist and tied, also gently. Tense as she was Marie saw that each article was exquisite.

  'Come, madame,' said the banker, touching her elbow. 'I will escort you. ' They walked out into the fabric shop, Marie nodding and trying to smile as the crowd of Chinese men and women bowed to her, their dark eyes filled with sadness.

  She had returned to the small apartment, removed the beautiful sash and garment, and lay down on the bed trying to make sense where no reason was to be found. She buried her face in the pillow now, trying to push the horrible images of the morning out of her head, but the ugliness was beyond purging. Instead, it made the sweat pour out of her, and the tighter she closed her eyes, the more violent the images became, interweaving the terrible memories of Zurich on the Guisan Quai when a man named Jason Bourne had saved her life.

  She stifled a scream and leaped off the bed, standing there, trembling. She walked into the tiny kitchen and turned on the tap, reaching for a glass. The stream of water was weak and thin and she watched vacantly as the glass filled, her mind elsewhere.

  There are times when people should put their heads on hold - God knows I do it more than a reasonably respected psychiatrist should. . . Things overwhelm us. . . we have to get our acts together. Morris Panov, friend to Jason Bourne.

  She shut off the tap, drank the lukewarm water and went back towards the confining room that served the triple functions of sleeping, sitting and pacing. She stood in the doorway and looked around, knowing what she found so grotesque about her sanctuary. It was a cell, as surely as if it were in some remote prison. Worse, it was a very real form of solitary confinement. She was again isolated with her thoughts, with her terrors. She walked to a window as a prisoner might, and peered at the world outside. What she saw was an extension of her cell; she was not free down in that teeming street below either. It was not a world she knew, and it did not welcome her. Quite apart from the obscene madness of the morning on the beach, she was an intruder who could neither understand nor be understood. She was alone, and that loneliness was driving her crazy.

  Numbly Marie gazed at the street. The street? There she was! Catherine! She was standing with a man by a grey car, their heads turned, watching three other men ten yards behind them by a second car. All five were glaringly apparent, for they were like no other people in the street. They were Occidentals in a sea of Chinese, strangers in an unfamiliar place. They were obviously excited, concerned about something, as they kept nodding their heads and looking in all directions, especially across the street. At the apartment house. Heads? Hair! Three of the men had close- cropped hair - military cuts . . . marines. American marines!

  Catherine's companion, a civilian to judge by his hair, was talking rapidly, his index finger jabbing the air . . . Marie knew him! It was the man from the State Department, the one who had come to see them in Maine! The undersecretary with the dead eyes who kept rubbing his temples and barely protested when David told him he did not trust him. It was

  McAllister! He was the man Catherine said she was to meet.

  Suddenly abstract and terrible pieces of the horrible puzzle fell into place as Marie watched the scene below. The two marines by the second car crossed the street and separated. The one standing with Catherine talked briefly with McAllister, then ran to his right, pulling a small hand-held radio from his pocket. Staples spoke to the undersecretary of state and glanced up at the apartment house. Marie spun away from the window.

  He'll be alone, no one with me.

  All right.

  It was a trap! Catherine Staples had been reached. She was not a friend; she was the enemy Marie knew she had to run. For God's sake, get away! She grabbed the white-shelled purse with the money and for a split second stared at the silks from the fabric shop. She picked them up and ran out of the flat.

  There were two hallways, one running the width of the building along the front with a staircase on the right leading down to the street; the other hallways bisected the first to form an inverted T leading to a door in the rear. It was a second staircase used for carrying garbage to the bins in the back alley. Catherine had casually pointed it out when they arrived, explaining that there was an ordinance forbidding refuse in the street, which was the main thoroughfare of Tuen Mun. Marie raced down the bisecting hall to the rear door and opened it. She gasped, suddenly confronted by the stooped figure of an old man with a straw broom in his hand. He squinted at her for a moment, then shook his head, his expression one of intense curiosity. She stepped out into the dark landing as the Chinese went inside; she held the door slightly open, waiting for the sight of Staples emerging from the front stairs. If Catherine, finding the flat empty, quickly returned to the staircase to rush down into the street to McAllister and the marine contingent, Marie could slip back into the apartment arid pick up the skirt and second blouse Staples had bought for her. In her panic she had only fleetingly thought about them, grabbing the silks instead, not daring to lose precious moments rummaging through the closet where Catherine had hung them among various other clothing. She thought about them now. She could not walk, much less run through the streets in a torn blouse and filthy slacks. Something was wrong. It was the old man! He just stood there staring at the crack in the doorframe.

  'Go away!' whispered Marie.

  Footsteps. The clacking of high-heeled shoes walking rapidly up the metal staircase in the front of the building. If it was Staples she would pass the bisecting hallway on her way to the flat.

  'Deng yi dengf yelped the old Chinese, still standing motionless with his broom, still staring at her. Marie closed the door farther, watching through barely a half inch of space.

  Staples came into view, glancing briefly, curiously at the old man, apparently having heard his sharp, high-pitched angry voice. Without breaking stride she continued down the hall, intent only on reaching the flat. Marie waited; the pounding in her chest seemed to echo throughout the dark stairwell. Then the words came, pleas shouted in hysteria.

  Marie, Marie, where are you? The footsteps hammered now, racing on the cement. Catherine rounded the corner and began running towards the old Chinese and the door - towards her. 'Marie, it's not what you think! For God's sake, stop!'

  Marie Webb spun and ran down the dark steps. Suddenly, a shaft of bright yellow sunlight spread up the staircase, and just as suddenly was no more. The ground floor door three storeys below had been opened; a figure in a dark suit had entered swiftly, a marine taking up his post. The man raced up the steps; Marie crouched in the corner of the second landing. The marine reached the top step, about to round the turn, steadying himself on the railing. Marie lunged out, her hand - the hand with the bunched silks - crashing into the astonished soldier's face, catching him off balance; she slammed her shoulder into the marine's chest, sending him reeling backwards down the staircase. Marie passed his tumbling body on the steps as she heard the screams from above. 'Marie! Marie! I know it's you! For Christ's sake, listen to me!'

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