Muse 6: Entropy Echoes, Alas
(NASA image source: www.http://commons.wikimedia.org)
“…You wouldn’t shoot your own blood relative, would you?”
If Mercedes Karpov weren’t so shocked by the words spoken by the uninvited guest slouched in the ratty chair in her hotel room, she might have shot him for the tone in which he’d said them. Dripping in sarcasm, they are clearly a taunt.
It’s totally out of character for her, but she barely notices his tone of voice, because not only are his words shocking, there is something else… Something that makes Mercedes look more closely at the intruder.
He looks to be about her age, maybe a little older. If she were asked what he looked like, the first word she’d use to describe him would be “average.” His medium brown hair is cut in a style you’d find on the majority of men: not too long, not too short, just… well, average. His eyes, also brown, are set in a face composed of regular features. Dressed in jeans and the Moroccan shirt known as a kurta worn by most of the men in Marrakech, there is absolutely nothing remarkable about the man.
And yet, there’s something… She can’t quite put her finger on it, but for some reason, he makes her think of her father.
As she tries to work it out, Mercedes lets her focus flag for a moment. And a moment is all it takes.
When Edmond Chase tries to call Mercedes, his call goes right to voice mail. He ends the call without leaving a message. She’s probably got the phone turned off. At least he hopes she does.
When his cell rings a few minutes later, he breathes a sigh of relief. She must have seen that he’d called. A glance at the screen tells him he’s wrong. It’s al-Ghamedi calling back. When he hears what his Marrakech contact has to say, Chase’s heart sinks.
“I have a feeling you already know this, Boss, but we found The Monk’s card tucked into the sash of al-Abayghur’s Berber outfit.”
“Yeah, I had a feeling that’s what you would find. Look at the back of his head, Al. Anything there? It’d be right at the top of the neck.”
“Roger. Hold on a sec.” When al-Ghamedi comes back on the line, he says, “Right again.”
“This is not good. Is the maintenance team there?” Chase asks, a feeling of dread blossoming in his stomach.
“Yep. Arrived a few minutes ago,” al Ghamedi replies.
“OK, they can take it from there, Al. I want you to go to the Farah Mariana right away and check on Mercedes.” Chase gives him the address of Mercedes’ hotel. “She’s registered as Alexandra Feodorovna. Room 321.”
“Will do. I know where that is.”
Chase says, “Call me when you get there. And look, if she doesn’t answer the door, I want you to break in. She won’t be happy if you awaken her, but just tell her you’re following orders from me. I’ll talk to her.”
“Hey, no need to break in,” al-Ghamedi says in an insulted tone. “I’ve got my picks, and I know how to use ‘em.”
“Hurry,” Chase says and ends the call.
He walks to the small credenza in the corner of the study that serves as a bar and pours himself a healthy three fingers of scotch. He belts them down and refills his glass, which he carries to the chair in front of the fireplace. He sits down, then immediately springs up again and resumes pacing.
“Dammit all,” he mutters.
He’s hoping that when al-Ghamedi calls, he’ll have the unenviable task of soothing a very angry Mercedes, but he suspects that’s wishful thinking.
“Dammit all to hell!”
Chase feels totally helpless, and more than a little guilty. This is what comes of getting emotionally involved, he thinks. I should have told her everything.
Mercedes barely registers the movement, let alone reacts in defense, when the man suddenly leaps up and grabs the Makarov from her hand.
“Didn’t anyone ever tell you never to point a gun at anyone unless you plan to use it, Mercedes?” he challenges.
“Who the fuck are you?” she demands.
“Oh, you’ll find out soon enough, honey, but for now, you can call me Max.” He kicks the discarded djellaba in her direction. “Here, get dressed and put on your shoes. We’re getting out of here before your friends send in the cavalry.”
As soon as Mercedes has dropped the robe over her head and slipped her feet into the babouche slippers she’d kicked off earlier, the man called Max gives her a push toward the door.
“Pull up that hood,” he says, “and keep your eyes down, like a good little Moroccan girl.”
He yanks off the security lock Mercedes had attached to the door when she came in and tosses it on the bed. Before opening the door, he pulls up his loose-fitting kurta and takes out a small Ruger LCR revolver that is all but invisible in his hand. He shoves the big Makarov into the waistband of his jeans and drops the kurta.
Pulling open the door, he says in a low voice, “Go. And don’t try anything. Personally, I have no qualms about killing a blood relative. It wouldn’t be the first time.”
The call from Morocco confirms Chase’s worst fears. Mercedes is not in her hotel room.
He tells al-Ghamedi that he’s on his way.
As he throws a few things into a suitcase, he berates himself again for not telling Mercedes the whole story about her father’s -- and hers by extension -- heritage. He’d thought that finding out that her father was working for the SVR in Russia as a mole in the NYPD would come as more of a shock to her than it had. She’d taken that as good news, swelling with pride in her father. He just couldn’t dump the rest of it on her.
He’d planned to tell her later, but never got around to it. He’d asked himself at the time, What’s the worst that could happen if he put it off a while? Well, now he has his answer.
Chase climbs into the London Taxi he flags in front of his Mayfair flat and tells the driver, “Heathrow.” Not for the first time, he’s grateful for the skill London hacks have in getting around the city quickly.
As the cab carries him to the airport, he thinks, shit happens. Isn’t that what they say?
Somehow, when it came to Mercedes Karpov, it happened all the more often. Her life was testimony to that. It was like some kind of personal entropy, repeating itself over and over again.
Yeah, shit happens.
Yeah, shit happens.
To be continued in Part 7: Family Ties