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The Great Wall (near Shuiguan)

Scene 8

Suddenly the man stopped running and turned around with a smooth, swift movement: he had distinctly Asian eyes but they had blue pupils and his features were quite European. He had a handsome head – but for the patch of little scars that spread across his face like a meteorite shower across the sky. He lifted the club like a tennis racquet in his left hand – relaxed, yet athletically fast: he quite evidently knew how to use it. Maille grabed a branch and tried to use it to ward off the other man's blows.

«Watch the ground», Kyuri had constantly taught him, «the stronger your opponent's arms, the weaker are your feet. Always try therefore to bring him to a point which will make him stumble.» So wise the advice, so difficult the task. The man was skilful and Maille had every physical difficulty in overcoming him – all the more because he was fighting with his back to the abyss. But all of a sudden the meteorite-man slipped and lost his briefcase and the dossier. However, he sprang swiftly back to his feet, grabbed the dossier and leapt over the wall.

In the man's bag Maille found a couple of crumpled tissue-papers, a book with 365 Analects of Kong Tse (Confucius) along with a metal can with crumbs of Asafoetida, the unmistakable symbol of Dr Hing's agents. That was the peculiar perfume that had filled the air.

The agent from «Buro 106» was still lying stunned on the ground. He was semi-conscious, his lips were cut and there was blood trickling down over his throat. Maille helped him to his feet as ably as he could and turned him in the direction of the little houses, where they had been dropped by their taxis. But of course the cars were missing.