That was a waste of time,” Bourne said as he took the keys from Moira.
She said nothing, climbed on the bike behind him.
As they were heading back down the narrow dirt path the way they had come, a compact Indonesian man with a weathered face the color of old mahogany on a souped-up motorbike broke out of the forest ahead of them, coming straight toward them. He drew a handgun and Bourne spun them around, then headed farther up into the hills.
This was far from a perfect place for an ambush. He’d taken a look at the local map and knew that in a moment they’d break out of the trees onto the terraced rice paddies that surrounded the village of Tenganan.
“There’s an irrigation system that runs above the paddies,” Moira said in his ear.
He nodded just as the terraced quilt of vivid emerald green appeared, sparkling in the brilliant sunlight. The sun blazed down on men and women with straw hats and long knives bent over the rice plants. Others walked behind teams of plodding cows, tilling sections of the paddies where the rice had been harvested, the remains burned off so that other crops—potatoes, chilies, or long beans—could be grown, ensuring that the rich, volcanic soil wouldn’t be depleted of minerals. Still other women, their posture ramrod-straight, transported large sacks balanced on their heads. They moved like tightrope walkers, negotiating the sinuous, narrow margins between the paddies, placing one foot carefully in front of the other.
A sharp crack caused them to bend low over the motorbike, even as it brought the heads of the workers up. The Indonesian had shot at them as he’d broken through the last stand of trees bordering the paddies.
Bourne veered off, treading the fine, serpentine line between the rice fields.
“What are you doing?” Moira shouted. “We’ll be entirely out in the open, nothing but sitting ducks!”
Bourne was nearing one of the paddies where the stalks were being burned off. Smoke, pungent and thick, rose up into the clear sky.
“Grab a handful as we pass by!” he called back to her.
Immediately she understood. With her right arm tight around his waist, she leaned to her left, scooped up a handful of burning rice stalks, flung them backward. Released, they flew into the air, directly in front of their pursuer.
While the Indonesian’s vision was momentarily obstructed, Bourne veered back to his right, following the winding edge through the labyrinth of the paddies. He had to be careful; the smallest miscalculation would plunge them down into muddy water and densely packed plants, rendering the motorbike useless. Then they really would be sitting ducks.
The Indonesian took aim at them again, but a woman was in his way, and then a pair of cows, and he put his handgun away, needing both hands to negotiate the trickier path Bourne had chosen.
Cleaving to the outside of the paddies, Bourne took them up the hill, past terrace after terrace, some filled with brilliant green rice plants, others ashy brown following the harvest. A haze of aromatic smoke drifted over the hillside.
“Here!” Moira said urgently. “Here!”
Bourne saw the abutment of the drainage system, a five-inch ribbon of concrete on which he needed to drive the motorbike. Waiting until the last moment, he turned sharply to the left, running parallel to the terraces, which were laid out below them in a dizzying pattern, like hieroglyphics, immense and mysterious, carved into the hillside.
Due to his size and that of his motorbike, the Indonesian was able to close the gap between them. He was no more than two arm’s-lengths behind them when Bourne came upon a worker—an old man with spindly legs and eyes the size of raisins. In one hand he held one of the fat-bladed knives used to harvest the rice, in the other a clump of freshly sliced raw rice. Seeing the two motorbikes approaching, the man froze in astonishment. As he passed, Bourne snatched the knife out of his hand.
Moments later Jason spied a rough wooden plank that crossed over the irrigation streamlet into the jungle on their right. He went over it, but as he did so the half-rotten board cracked, then splintered just as the front wheel bit into the dirt on the other side. The motor-bike slewed dangerously, almost spilling them into the densely packed trees.
Their pursuer revved his motorbike, made the leap across the span left by the ruined bridge. He followed Bourne and Moira down a steeply sloping path, filled with rocks and half-buried tree roots.
The way grew steeper, Moira held on tighter. He could feel her heart hammering in her chest, her accelerated breath against his cheek. Trees flashed by frighteningly close on either side. Rocks caused the motorbike to rear up like a bucking bronco, forcing Bourne to fight to keep it under control. One mistake would send them plummeting off the path, down into the forest of thick-boled trees. Just when it seemed as if the trail couldn’t get any steeper, it turned into a series of rock steps, down which they clattered and bumped with heart-stopping speed. Moira, risking a glance over her shoulder, saw the Indonesian, bent low over the handlebars of his motorbike, intent on overtaking them.
All at once the natural stairs gave out and the path resumed, this time at a more bearable pitch. Their pursuer tried to aim his handgun, but Bourne slashed a stand of bamboo with the knife he’d taken from the old man, and the thin trees came crashing down across the path. The mahogany man was forced to jam the gun between his teeth. It took all his skill to keep from veering off into the looming forest.
As the path flattened out, they whizzed past small shacks, men wielding axes or stirring pots over fires, women with babies in the crooks of their arms, and the ubiquitous feral dogs, thin and cowed, which shied away from the racing vehicles. Clearly they were on the outskirts of a village. Could it be Tenganan? Bourne wondered. Had Suparwita foreseen this chase?
Soon thereafter they passed through a stone archway and entered the village proper. Children playing badminton outside the local school stopped and stared as the bikes flashed by. Chickens scattered, squawking, and huge fighting cocks dyed pink, orange, and blue were so agitated they overturned their wicker cages, in turn disturbing the cows and calves lying in the center of the village. The villagers themselves, emerging from the walled compounds of their houses, ran after their precious fighting cocks.
Like all hill villages, this one was built on terraces, much like the rice paddies: swaths of packed earth and scraggly grass interspersed with stone ramps that led to the next level. Running down the center was a wall-less structure used by the elders for town meetings. On either side were shops, part of the living compounds, selling single and double ikat weavings. Catching sight of the first of the weaving shop signs through the chaos of running feet and animal sounds, Bourne felt a chill run down his spine. So this was, indeed, Tenganan, the village of Suparwita’s prediction.
In the chaos that had erupted in the village, Bourne cut a line of washing, which undulated in the air like a scaled reptile, before fluttering in their wake. Skillfully guiding the motorbike through a narrow alley, he doubled back the way they had come.
Risking a glance behind him, he saw he’d failed to lose the Indonesian; he came roaring at them unabated, unfazed by the downed laundry. Bourne with a burst of speed lengthened the distance between him and his pursuer enough to make a sharp U-turn, reversing course to make a run past the small man and out of the village. But once again, the Indonesian seemed unsurprised, almost as if he were expecting this tactic. He pulled up, drew his gun, and fired, forcing Bourne to whirl the motorbike back the way he had been going, even as a second shot passed just wide of his left shoulder. Bourne kept going in the only direction open to him, continued on over the bumpy packed dirt and stone ramps, away from his dogged pursuer.