The bourne supremacy, p.97
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       The Bourne Supremacy, p.97

         Part #2 of Jason Bourne series by Robert Ludlum
 
Page 97

 

  She lurched out into the alley and another nightmare began its dreadful course, played out in the blinding sunlight of Tuen Mun. Running through the connecting thoroughfare behind the row of apartment buildings, her feet now bleeding inside the training shoes, Marie threw the kimono-like garment over her head and stopped by a row of garbage cans where she removed her green slacks and threw them inside the nearest one. She then draped the wide sash over her head, covering her hair, and ran into the next alleyway that led to the main street. She reached it and seconds later walked into the mass of humanity that was a slice of Hong Kong in the new frontier of the colony. She crossed the street.

  'There!' shouted a male voice. The tall one!'

  The chase began, but abruptly, without any indication, it was different. A man raced down the pavement after her, suddenly stopped by a wheeled stand blocking his way; he tried to shove it aside only to put his hands into recessed pots of boiling fat. He screamed, overturning the cart, and was now met with shrieks from the proprietor, obviously demanding payment as he and others surrounded the marine, forcing him back into the kerb.

  There's the bitch?

  As Marie heard the words, she was confronted by a phalanx of women shoppers. She spun to her right and ran into another alley off the street, an alley she suddenly discovered was a dead-end, closed by the wall of a Chinese temple. It happened again! Five young men - teenagers in paramilitary outfits - suddenly appeared from a doorway and gestured for her to pass.

  'Yankee criminal!' Yankee thief!' The shouts were in the cadence of a rehearsed foreign language. The young men locked arms and without violence intercepted the man with close- cropped hair, crowding him against a wall.

  'Get out of my way; you pricks!' shouted the marine, 'Get out of my way or I'll take every one of you brats!'

  'You raise your arms . . . or a weapon-' cried a voice in the background.

  'I never said anything about a weapon!' broke in the soldier from Victoria Peak.

  'But if you do either,' continued the voice, 'they will release their arms, and five Di-di Jing Cha - so many trained by our American friends - will certainly contain one man. '

  'Goddamn it, sir! I'm only trying to do my job! It's none of your business!'

  Tm afraid it is, sir. For reasons you do not know. '

  'Shit!' The marine leaned against the wall, out of breath, and looked at the smiling young faces in front of him.

  'Lai!' said a woman to Marie, pointing to a wide, oddly shaped door with no visible handle on what appeared to be a thick, impenetrable exterior. 'Xiao xin. Kaa-fill. '

  'Carefull I understand. ' An aproned figure opened the door and Marie rushed inside, instantly feeling the harsh blasts of cold air. She was standing in a large walk-in refrigerator where carcasses of meat hung eerily on hooks under the glow of mesh-encased light bulbs. The man in the apron waited a full minute, his ear at the door. Marie wrapped the wide silk sash around her neck and clutched her arms to ward off the sudden, bitter cold made worse by the contrasting oppressive heat outside. Finally, the clerk gestured for her to follow him; she did so, threading her way around the carcasses until they reached the huge refrigerator's entrance. The Chinese yanked a metal lever and pushed the heavy door open, nodding for Marie, who was shivering, to walk through. She now found herself in a long, narrow deserted butcher's shop, the bamboo blinds on the front windows filtering the intense noonday sunlight. A white-haired man stood behind the counter by the far right window, peering through the slats at the street outside. He beckoned for Marie to join him quickly. Again she did as she was instructed, noticing an oddly shaped floral wreath behind the glass of the front door which appeared to be locked.

  The older man indicated that Marie should look through the window. She parted two curved bamboo slats and gasped, astonished at the scene outside. The search was at its frenzied peak. The marine with scalded hands kept waving them in the air as he went from store to store across the street. She saw

  Catherine Staples and McAllister in a heated conversation with a crowd of Chinese who obviously were objecting to foreigners disturbing the peaceful if hectic way of life in Tuen Mun. In his panic McAllister apparently had shouted something offensive and was challenged by a man twice his age, an ancient in an Oriental gown who had to be restrained by younger, cooler heads. The undersecretary of state backed away, his arms raised, pleading innocence, as Staples shouted to no avail in her efforts to extricate them both from the angry mob.

  Suddenly, the marine with the hurt hands came crashing out of a doorway across the street; shattered glass flew in all directions as he rolled on the pavement, yelling in pain as his hands touched the cement. He was pursued by a young Chinese dressed in the white tunic, sash and knee- length trousers of a martial-arts instructor. The marine sprang to his feet and, as his Oriental adversary ran up to him, he pounded a low left hook into the young man's kidney, and followed it with a well-aimed right fist into the Oriental face, pummelling his assailant back into the store-front while screaming in agony at the pain both blows caused his scalded hands.

  A last marine from Victoria Peak came running down the street - one leg limping, his shoulders sagging as if damaged from a fall - a fall down a flight of stairs, thought Marie as she watched in amazement. He came to the aid of his anguished comrade and was very effective. The amateurish attempts at combat by the berobed students of the unconscious martial-arts instructor were met by a flurry of slashing legs, crashing chops and the whirling manoeuvres of a judo expert.

  Suddenly again, with no warning whatsoever, a cacophony of Oriental music swelled, the cymbals and primitive wood instruments reaching abrupt crescendos with each stride of the ragtag band that marched down the street, its followers carrying placards mounted with flowers. The fighting stopped as arms were restrained everywhere. Silence spread along the main avenue of commerce of Tuen Mun. The Americans were confused; Catherine Staples choked back her frustration and Edward McAllister threw up his hands in exasperation.

  Marie watched, literally hypnotized by the change outside. Everything came to a stop, as if a halt had been ordered by an announcement from some sepulchral presence not to be denied. She shifted her angle of sight between the bamboo blinds and looked at the ragged group approaching. It was led by the banker Jitai! It was heading for the butcher's shop!

  Her eyes darting, Marie saw Catherine Staples and McAllister race past the odd gathering in front of the shop. Then across the street the two marines once again took up the chase. They all disappeared in the blinding sunlight.

  There was a knock on the front door of the butcher's shop. The old man with white hair removed the wreath and opened it. The banker, Jitai, walked in and bowed to Marie.

  'Did you enjoy the parade, madame?' he asked.

  'I wasn't sure what it was. '

  'A funeral march for the dead. In this instance, no doubt, for the slain animals in Mr Woo's cold storage. '

  ' You. . . ? This was all planned?

  'In a state of readiness, you might say,' explained Jitai. 'Frequently our cousins from the north manage to get across the border - not the thieves but family members wishing to join their own - and the soldiers want only to capture them and send them back. We must be prepared to protect our own. '

  'But me. . . ? You knew?

  'We watched; we waited. You were in hiding, running from someone, that much we did know. You told us that when you said you did not care to go before the magistrate, to "press charges", as you put it. You were directed into the alley outside. '

 
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