5 A Legacy of Smoke and Shadow: A Misplaced Identity

Continued from Part 4: Sagittarius

Muse 5: A Misplaced Identity

 (Image source: traveladventures.org)

A Misplaced Identity

When his cell phone buzzes, Edmond Chase expects to hear that the maintenance team he dispatched to Marrakech has secured Fariq al-Abayghur. Mercedes Karpov is very good at immobilizing a target, even if she has to drug him into tomorrow, until the Nemesis clean-up guys arrive and take him into custody.

He presses the talk button and says, “Chase.”

“You didn’t tell me she iced him,” Mohammed (call me Al) al-Ghamedi said. Al-Ghamedi was a local Nemesis contact in Marrakech, and would have been the first to arrive at the address Mercedes texted to Chase.

“What?” Chase asks in astonishment. Were it anyone else saying those words, he’d tell him to look again, that the man was probably deeply drugged. But he knows al-Ghamedi is thorough and would have checked.

“She wouldn’t have…” 

“Ed, this moke is deader’n a doornail.” Al-Ghamedi is a great fan of American gangster movies, and his speech is liberally seasoned with language from 1940s film noir.

Chase thinks for a minute, then asks, “Al, have you searched the body?”

“Nope, not really. I gave him a quick once-over to make sure he was a goner, but he’s all gussied up in a ceremonial Fantasia get-up, you know?”

“OK. Listen, Al, do me a favor. Give him a thorough search, then call me back.”

“Will do, Boss.”

As Chase waits for al-Ghamedi’s call-back, he paces his study, thinking about the strange turn of events.

Mercedes’ plan, the one he’d thought impossible, had not included killing Fariq al-Abayghur. He’d never have condoned that. So how did the man end up dead?

Chase’s first suspicion is always the same when there is an unexplained death, especially when the deceased is someone he considers “kill-worthy.” But what are the odds? Slim to none, he's sure.

OK, maybe he isn’t so sure.

One thing he is sure about is that Mercedes did not kill the man. He remembers the rainy day three years ago when she’d laid out her plan. She’d apparently had the terrorist in her sights a long time, ever since she’d become convinced he had something to do with her father’s death.  And that was his fault, Chase knows.

That afternoon in the tea shop, Mercedes told him that she’d learned that al-Abayghur participated in the Popular Arts Festival Fantasia extravaganza. She said she’d received an anonymous tip -- a note tucked into her morning newspaper, of all things -- but had never identified the source. That tip was all she needed, and she was off and running. 

It had taken nearly four years, but she’d found him, followed him, seduced and secured him. Chase knew that al-Abayghur would never have picked her out as a threat. Hell, he wasn’t entirely sure the he could find her in a crowd if she didn’t want to be found. Mercedes Karpov was a master at… well, he might have said she was a master at disguise, but it went beyond that. She was a master at becoming invisible. Slipping in and out of the smoke and shadows unnoticed was her strong suit. It was one of the reasons he’d recruited her into Nemesis in the first place.

One of the reasons, but not the primary reason, he reminds himself. 

From the moment he laid eyes on the dry-eyed young woman at her father’s funeral, she had haunted him.  He told himself it was because she had no one left after her father was gone, and in a way, he’d felt responsible for his death. He couldn’t help but wonder if Phil Brin had been killed because of the Nemesis investigation.

He’d assumed a sort of avuncular role in Mercedes’ life, checking in with her from time to time. He doubts she was really fooled. He was only seven years older than she, a little young to play the uncle. But he’d manage to fool himself very well.

He’d never told her of his feelings toward her. Worse, he’d never even admitted them to himself.

Then he’d gotten the call from Moscow. When he returned from his meeting with Boris Rogosin, he’d felt obligated to tell Mercedes Brin that much of what she knew about her father was a lie. As it turned out, she’d known her father had a Russian heritage. She hadn’t known that he was working undercover for the Russian government, though, and when he told her, she smiled the first real smile he’d ever seen on her face.

“I knew it!” she exclaimed. “I knew he wasn’t some kind of terrorist. Oh, thank you!”

And with that, she’d thrown her arms around Chase. When she kissed him soundly, he was sure his heart had stopped. When she pulled away, the moment passed and he told himself not to start planning the wedding; it was just a thank-you kiss.

She'd immediately begun calling herself Mercedes Karpov.

As he wears a path into the carpet while he awaits al-Ghamedi’s call, Chase wonders if he should have told her the rest. Although he’d told her a little about her father’s real identity, he hadn’t told her all of it. And he’d not told her about The Monk.


The window of the dismal hotel room is shuttered against the heat. From beyond it, Mercedes hears the wail of Muezzin calling the faithful to prayer. But the words coming from the shadowed corner of her room are no prayer.

The deep voice says, “Where the hell have you been? I was beginning to worry. Shall we drink a toast to a job well-done?"

Mercedes looks down the barrel of the Makarov she has aimed at the shape of a man slouched on the threadbare chair. In her mind’s eye, she sees the bright red dot of an imaginary laser sight dancing eagerly over his heart.

“Who the hell are you?” she demands, but gets only a chuckle in reply.

Keeping the gun trained on him, she reaches a hand up to pull the chain dangling from the fan above and turns on the harsh overhead light. The man’s face is brought into sharp focus. She’s sure she has never seen him before.

“I asked you who you are,” she said in a measured tone. “Unless you have a death wish, I suggest you answer the question. I’d have little trouble explaining your death to the Gendarmes Touriste. 

“Here I am,” she continues, her voice now that of a frightened girl, “a woman vacationing alone, returning to find an intruder in my hotel room. What was I to do? Attacked, I had to defend myself.  I was lucky I could grab your gun while your attention was, ahem, elsewhere. I’m sure they’d understand. Now, tell me who the fuck you are and what you are doing in my room.”

“Ah, come now, Mercedes. You wouldn’t shoot your own blood relative, would you?”


  1. hmmm...interesting on the relative twist there at the end...a new player...a relative she does not know...

    i dont know the grammar rules on triple negatives, but this is a bit of a clunky sentence..

    He’d not only never told her of his feelings toward her, he’d never even admitted them to himself.

  2. Thanks, Brian. I fixed that sentence up.

  3. I'm enjoying this Patti. Once again, it's your characterisation that draws me in. You are also very good at setting up a situation of intrigue.

    I would seriously like to suggest that you look into expanding on some of these longer stories of yours either as novellas or novels. I think that your subject matter lends itself well to a novel and it would be great to see your characters grow.

    Mercedes is an excellent character. I like how she's been abandoned by just about everyone in her life and that she has the ability to escape into another persona. She has already has quite a lot of depth. I'm looking forward to more. Very well done!

  4. ah, i had a feeling we'd be seeing this chap sooner or later...nice

  5. Gotta run for a bit... be back shortly!

  6. Hmm... the middle third of this chapter reads too much like a reminder of what we already know. Rework that... the best parts of it are those pertaining to how that information is received by Mercedes. Other than that, it's very "summary."

    That stated, the opening third is the dialog/description balance I missed in the previous chapter, and the closing third is a nice cliffhanger... although I'm not liking the dialog in it.

  7. Love the last line, but I must admit, I am a little disappointed in the little girl voice.

  8. Is she feigning the little girl voice? I'd forgotten about the man in the corner! I'm liking your cliffhangers


Thoughts? I would love to hear from you.