“Aren’t we going inside?”
“Yes,” he replied impatiently.
“That’s not our room,” Odette said.
“Yes it is,” Battat said.
“No,” Odette said.
“This is our room.”
“We’re in 312,” Battat said confidently. She put the key in the slot of 310. That was the signal for Battat to step over to the room. He walked over and stopped directly behind her. His right shoulder was practically touching the door. Odette’s fingers were damp with sweat.
She could actually smell the brass of the key. She hesitated. This is what you’we been waiting for, she reminded herself. An opportunity to prove herself and to make Viktor proud. She turned the key to the right.
The bolt went with it. The door opened.
“I told you this was our room,” she said to Battat. Odette swallowed hard. The words had caught in her throat and she did not want to show her fear. The Harpooner might hear it in her voice. With the door open a sliver, Odette withdrew the key. She slipped it in her pocket and used that moment to listen. The TV was off and the Harpooner was not in the shower. Odette was half hoping he had been in the bathroom, cornered.
But she heard nothing. She opened the door a little more. There was a short, narrow hallway inside. It was cave dark and utterly still. They had assumed the Harpooner would be hiding in the room, but what if he were not? He could be out for a late breakfast. Or he might have left Baku. Perhaps he kept the room as a safe house in case he needed it. But what if he’s waiting for us? she thought then. And she answered her own question. Then we “II have to handle the situation. Viktor used to say that nothing was guaranteed.
“What’s wrong, honey?” Battat asked. The words startled her. Odette looked back at her companion. The American’s brow was pinched. He was obviously concerned. She realized that she was probably waiting too long to go in.
“Nothing’s wrong,” she said. She opened the door a little farther and reached in with her left hand.
“I’m just looking for the light.” Odette pushed the door until it was halfway open. She could see the glowing red numbers of the alarm clock on the night table. There was a jagged line of white light in the center of the drapes. Its brilliance only made the rest of the room seem darker. Odette’s gun was still hidden under her jacket, still behind the half-closed door. She found the light switch with her left hand. She nicked it on. The hall light came on as did the lamps on the night tables. The walls and furniture brightened with a dull yellow orange glow. Odette did not breathe as she stepped into the hallway. The bathroom was to her right. She turned and looked in. There were toiletries on the counter beside the sink. The soap was opened. She looked at the bed. It had not been slept in, though the pillows had been moved around. She saw a suitcase on the luggage stand, but she did not see the Harpooner’s shoes. Maybe he was out.
“Something’s wrong here,” Odette said.
“What do you mean?”
“That’s not our bag on the luggage rack,” she replied. Battat stepped in behind her. He looked around.
“So I was right,” he said.
“This isn’t our room.”
“Then why did the key work?” she asked.
“Let’s go back downstairs and find out,” Battat urged. He was still looking around.
“Maybe the bellman made a mistake and put someone else in here,” Odette suggested. Battat suddenly grabbed Odette’s left shoulder. He roughly shoved her into the bathroom and followed her in. Odette turned and glared at Battat. He put a finger to his lips and moved very close.
“What’s wrong?” she whispered.
“He’s in there,” Battat said quietly.
“Behind the bed, on the floor,” Battat told her.
“I saw his reflection in the brass headboard.”
“Is he armed?” she asked.
“I couldn’t tell,” Battat said.
“I’m betting he is.” Odette put her jacket on the floor. There was no longer any reason to conceal the gun. Battat was standing a few steps in front of her, near the door. Just then she saw a small round mirror and extender arm attached to the wall to his right. She had an idea.
“Hold this,” she whispered and handed Battat the gun. Then she walked around him, popped the mirror from its holder, and moved toward the door. Crouching, she carefully poked the mirror into the corridor. She angled it so that she could see under the bed. No one was there.
“He’s gone,” she said quietly. Odette extended the mirror arm a little farther so she could see more of the room. She angled it slowly from side to side. There was no one in the corners, and she could not see a bulge behind the drapes.
“He’s definitely not here,” she said. Battat squatted behind her and looked into the mirror. Odette wondered if the feverish man had really seen anyone or if he had been hallucinating.
“Wait a second,” Battat said.
“Move the mirror so we can see the head of the bed.” Odette did as he asked. The drapes were moving there. It looked as if they were being stirred by a gentle wind.
“The window’s open,” Odette said. Battat rose. He entered the room cautiously and looked around.
“What?” Odette asked as she stood.
“There’s a rope under the drape,” he said and started toward it.
“The bastard climbed–” Suddenly, Battat turned and hurried back into the bathroom.
“Down!” he shouted and shoved Odette roughly to the floor. He dove down beside her, next to the fiberglass bathtub. Quickly, he pulled her jacket over their heads and lay beside her, his arm across her back.
A moment later, the hotel room was lit by a yellow red flare. There was a whooshing sound as the air became superheated. The flare died after a moment, leaving a sickly sweet smell mixed with the stench of burning fabric and carpet. The room smoke detector was squealing. Odette whipped her jacket from them and knelt.
“What happened?” she shouted.
“There was a TIC on the desk!” Battat yelled.
“A TIC,” Battat said as he jumped to his feet.
“Terrorist in a can. Come on–we’ve got to get out of here!” Battat helped Odette up. She grabbed her jacket and the two of them swung into the hallway. Battat shut the door and staggered over to room 312. He was obviously having difficulty staying on his feet.
“What’s a terrorist in a can?” Odette asked.
“Napalm with a benzene chaser,” Battat said.
“It looks like shaving cream and doesn’t register on airport X-ray machines. All you have to do is twist the cap to set the timer, and blam.” The main fire alarm began to clang behind them.
“Give me the master key,” he said as they reached 312. Odette handed it over. Battat opened the door. Smoke was already spilling through the door that connected the room to 310. Battat hurried past it and ran to the window. The heavy drapes were open. He edged toward the window, standing back just enough so that he could see out but not be seen from below. Odette stepped up behind him. Battat had to lean against the wall to keep from falling. They looked out at the empty parking lot.
“There,” Battat said, pointing. Odette moved closer. She looked out.
“Do you see him?” Battat asked.
“In the white shirt, blue jeans, carrying a black backpack.”
“I see him,” Odette replied.
“That’s the man I saw in the room,” Battat said. So that’s the Harpooner, she thought. The monster cut an unimposing figure as he walked unhurriedly from the hotel. But his easygoing manner only made him seem even more noxious. People might be dying in the fire he set to cover his escape. Yet he did not care. Odette wished she could shoot him from here.
“He’s probably going to keep moving slowly so he won’t attract attention,” Battat told her. He gave the gun back to her. He was panting, having trouble standing.
“You’ve got enough time to catch up to him and take him out.”
“What about you?”
“I’d only slow you down,” he said. She hesitated. An hour ago, she had not wanted him to be part of this. Now she felt as if she was deserting him.
“You’re wasting time,” Battat said. He gave her a gentle push and started toward the door.
“Just go. I’ll get to the stairwell and make my way back to the embassy.
I’ll see if I can do anything from there.”
“All right,” she said, then turned and hurried toward the door.
“He’ll be armed!” Battat yelled after her.
“Don’t hesitate!” She acknowledged with a wave as she left the room. The hallway was filling with smoke. The few guests who had been in their rooms were filing into the hallway to see what was happening.