Sully grabbed his duffel and walked around to shake Chigaru’s hand. “I think we’ve got it as under control as we’re ever going to. I’ll see to it that the second half of your money is wired into your account before my head hits the pillow tonight.”
Drake fished another bottle of water out of the cooler in the car. The ice had melted almost completely by now, but the drinks were still cold enough to be sweet relief.
Chigaru gave a small bow, then dropped the car keys into Sully’s hand. “Good hunting, my friend.”
Jada and Drake thanked him as well and then fell into step with Sully, headed for the hotel. Chigaru remained by the car, leaning against the trunk of the car with his sunglasses glinting in the late afternoon sunlight.
“What, he’s just going to hang around out here?” Jada asked, her voice low.
“A guy that suave? I’m sure someone’ll be along to pick him up,” Drake said.
“You’re just jealous that you’re not that suave.”
“Suave is overrated and very last century. I’m rugged and sometimes adorably awkward,” Drake replied.
Before Jada could fill the obvious opening with good-natured mockery, Sully pushed between them, shouldering them apart like a teacher worried that his young charges were dancing a little too close at a junior high school mixer.
“Can you two cut it out with the cute banter?” Sully said. “You’re making me nauseous.”
Drake smiled innocently. He would have liked to tell Sully that he was just trying to keep Jada’s mind off her father’s death and the reason they were in Egypt to begin with, but he didn’t want to talk about it with Jada right beside them.
“I’m sure Chigaru’s arranged for transport,” Sully told Jada. “I figure he’ll be gone within the hour.”
Drake glanced over his shoulder at Chigaru, who leaned against their car, smoking, as if he hadn’t a care in the world. Even at a distance, the man looked in control of the world around him. He might have been little more than a minion for hire, but it was clear he didn’t see it that way.
“As soon as it gets dark, I’ll sweep the car,” Drake muttered to Sully.
“Sweep for what?” Jada asked.
“Bugs,” Sully said. “Maybe explosives.”
She paled. “We just drove more than two hours in that car.”
“He wouldn’t blow it up with himself inside. He’s an entrepreneur, not a suicide bomber.”
Jada narrowed her eyes and glanced back at the parking lot. They were almost to the hotel door, but they could still see Chigaru leaning against the car. She pressed her lips together in irritation.
“It just seems wrong. You paid him.”
Sully laughed softly. “There’s always somebody willing to pay more, darlin’. Remember that. Money can’t buy more than a minute’s worth of loyalty.”
Drake glanced over the lake—visible to him now only through the fronds of a young palm—and despite the glare off the water, he saw a silver go-fast boat jet into view. It must have cut its engines a moment later, for it seemed to stop short in the water, rising and falling on its own wake as it settled and drifted, the nose turning to point toward the hotel like an arrow. Or a bullet.
Narrowing his gaze, he saw a second, apparently identical boat about a hundred yards farther out, also drifting with its nose pointing toward the Auberge du Lac. The sudden arrival of the second boat couldn’t have anything to do with them—he knew that would be too much of a coincidence—but both of the crafts seemed to have an air of purpose around them, as if they were there on business rather than pleasure.
Then Sully called his name, breaking his train of thought, and he saw that Jada was holding the interior door open for them. Drake followed them in, basking in the cool, air-conditioned interior of the hotel, and the go-fast boats were forgotten.
As late as the 1940s, political figures from around the world had met and stayed at the Auberge du Lac for minisummits that helped determine the fate of global relations. The hotel still had the flavor of that bygone era, with its lazy ceiling fans and huge round arched windows and the woodwork in the lobby that seemed to hint at the architect’s love of Swiss ski chalets. It seemed to Drake like the sort of place that Rick and Ilsa would have escaped to for a romantic tryst if only Casablanca had ended differently.
Sully glanced right, then split off to the left, taking up a position with his back to a pillar. From there he could watch them at the check-in counter and still watch the door and most of the lobby. Drake fought the temptation to wisecrack. The time for digressions had passed. Once they had stepped into the lobby, they had entered the territory of mystery. Somewhere here there were clues as to why Luka Hzujak had been cut up and dumped on a train platform in an old steamer trunk, and Drake’s usually mischievous nature was tempered by the weight of the man’s death.
Drake and Jada approached the front desk. The man who greeted them gave only the hint of a smile. His red jacket was neatly pressed, and his gray hair and seamless features seemed to have undergone the same process.
“Good afternoon, sir,” the man said, nodding first to Drake and then to Jada. “Madam. How may I help you?”
“We have reservations. This is Mr. Merrill,” Jada said, indicating Drake as she gave the name on his fake passport. “You’ll have mine under Hzujak.”
She spelled her last name for him. Drake was glad she had remembered to grab her real passport when they had stopped at the apartment she’d been hiding out in back in New York. She had traveled under her new, false identification—just as Drake and Sully had—but here it was important that she be Jada Hzujak.
The clerk tapped keys on a computer keyboard and studied his monitor, frowning. He’d seen something in the reservation he didn’t like. He took their passports—Jada’s real one and Drake’s fake—and set them beside his computer. A few more taps, some sleight of hand, and then he was handing Drake a small envelope containing a pair of plastic key cards.
“There are two booked into your room, Mr. Merrill. You are traveling with a Mr. David Farzan?”
“Right here,” Sully said, his gruff voice carrying though he had spoken in a sort of stage whisper. He waved a hand as he strode up to the desk to join them and slipped his fake passport onto the counter.
The clerk smiled and nodded. “Excellent,” he said, taking Sully’s fake passport, keying in the passport number, and then handing it back. “You gentlemen are in Room 137. I trust you’ll find everything to your liking, but if you need anything at all, just ring the front desk.”
He frowned as he realized they didn’t have any luggage other than the duffels but did not comment. Instead, he handed another envelope to Jada with her single key card inside and returned her passport.
“Miss Hzujak, you’ll be in Room 151.”
Jada stiffened, then shook her head. “No, that’s wrong.”
Drake and Sully exchanged a look, realizing what was happening.
“I spoke to someone on the phone,” Jada said emphatically. “I’m supposed to have Room 213.”
The red-jacketed man narrowed his eyes. “Yes, I see there is a note in the computer system to that effect. But that room is unavailable.”
“You mean it’s taken by someone else?” Drake asked. He didn’t like the vibe he was getting off the clerk. The whole situation felt strangely tense and awkward, and not just because the hotel employee didn’t want to upset his customers.
“What does ‘not precisely’ mean?” Sully asked. “If the room isn’t occupied, you have no reason not to give it to her.”
The clerk seemed at a loss for words, itchy and nervous, and he glanced around as if he were hoping a supervisor would come to his rescue.
“Why don’t we talk to your manager?” Drake suggested. “If you can’t explain this, get us someone who can.”
Offended, the clerk sniffed in irritation. He glanced around, but this time he spoke in a surreptitious fashion, not wishing to be overheard.
“The room is not available because it is being refurbished. There has been a little bit of damage since it was last occupied.”
Now Drake got it, and he didn’t like it. A trickle of ice ran down his back.
“So one of your guests trashed the room?” he asked.
“Certainly not,” the clerk said, even more insulted, but this time on behalf of the hotel. “Room 213 was vandalized. Repairs are being made but if you please, it is not something the hotel wishes its other guests to learn. It isn’t good for our reputation, you understand?”
“We do,” Sully said. “But she still needs that room. And if you want us to keep quiet about your troubles, you’ll give it to her.”
For the first time, the clerk’s expression turned from irritation to anger. Then his smile returned, forced and insincere.
“Sir, I have explained that this is quite impossible.”
Drake moved up against the counter and leaned in close so that he could speak as quietly as possible.
“Listen. We don’t want to make some kind of spectacle, here. Maybe the person who arranged this for Miss Hzujak didn’t explain the circumstances to you, but here they are. Several weeks ago, her father stayed in Room 213. Soon after his return to New York, he passed away.”
A flicker of sympathy in the clerk’s eyes. That was good. Drake forged ahead.
“This is her goodbye to him, understand? And she’s going to have it. I’m sure most of the damage in the room has been cleaned up. Are the windows broken?”
“No, but I—”
“Everything else is cosmetic. Send a maid up there to put fresh sheets on the bed and give her the damn key to 213. You can charge us twice the normal rate. Call it a surcharge, whatever you want. But she’s going to have that room before the next hour expires or things are going to get really messy.”
It was closer to twenty minutes when they escorted Jada to Room 213. The maid had come and gone. There were clean sheets on the bed and fresh toiletries in the bathroom, but the entertainment center had a gaping hole where the television ought to have been and the lid was missing from the toilet tank. The in-room safe had been forced open and not yet replaced. A single piece of art—a piece of papyrus covered with a primitive painting of a hunting scene—hung from the wall. Two other hooks were conspicuously bare, with squares of paint around them that didn’t match the rest of the walls, which had faded in the sunlight. Other art obviously had hung there, keeping the paint from being bleached by the sun.
“I’ve stayed in worse,” Jada said, tossing her duffel onto the bed and then flopping beside it. She seemed to have forgotten the gun she carried, but Drake thought it was a bad time to remind her.
Sully made a circuit of the room while Drake went straight to the windows. The room had a water view, and he could still see the go-fast boats out there, drifting. He opened the French doors and stepped onto the small balcony, searching the railings and beneath the chairs and the little round table for anything Luka might have left behind.
When he reentered the room, Jada was by the door, fiddling with the knob that controlled the old ceiling fan. It began to rotate slowly, making him realize just how hot it was in the room. He went to the small air-conditioning unit in the corner and found that it was broken. More accurately, someone had taken it apart and it hadn’t been properly put back together again.
“Whoever ransacked the place, they did a job on the AC. It’s screwed. You’re going to be sweating tonight,” he told Jada.
“The fan will help,” she said. “I’ll open the windows. With a breeze off the water, it’ll be fine once the sun goes down.”
Sully stood back with his hands on his hips, staring at the bureau. He had pulled the drawers out and set them on the floor, working much more neatly than whoever had broken in and searched the room before they arrived.
“Get the bed, will you?” Sully asked.
Drake dropped to his knees, searching underneath, then stood and stripped the fresh bedclothes, checking under the mattress. They both knew there was no point to the search. If there had been anything here, whoever had ransacked the place would have found it already. But he looked just the same, checking the seams of the mattress to see that nothing had been cut and re-sewn. If they were going to look, they might as well be thorough.
While Drake went over the bed, Sully moved the bureau and then the entertainment center, then went into the bathroom. Jada watched the proceedings with fascination at first and then with growing amusement.
“I hope you’re going to remake the bed,” she said, pushing her magenta hair behind her ears.
Drake frowned at her. “We’re looking for—”
“Anything my father might have left behind,” Jada finished for him. She kneeled on the mattress, hands defiantly on her hips. “Do you think I’m stupid, Nate? If someone tossed this room, they were looking for something. Stands to reason that there’s something to look for. Whoever Henriksen has working for him, they must know a lot of things we don’t. My father came here, he figured something out.”
“We knew that part already,” Sully said.
They both looked up to see him standing in the bathroom door with his arms crossed.
“Yeah, but if they’re searching, it doesn’t just mean he was on to something,” Jada continued. “It means they knew it, and he knew—or at least suspected—that someone was going to try to take those secrets from him. They think he was worried enough to hide something.”
Drake looked around the room. “The question is, Did they find it? Whatever ‘it’ is.”
Jada threw the sheets back on the bed, not bothering to make it up, and flopped onto the mattress again, staring at the ceiling. She crossed her ankles, making herself right at home.