In case they had a camera in the Men’s room, Spence closed the door of his stall and crouched over, hands on knees, to think.
Sartaq and two of the bombers had gone up to the pool from the 50th floor.
Their room is probably there, he reasoned. Counting Megyn and Sartaq plus the five bombers, that’s seven. Probably two rooms.
The 1911 in his right front pocket had eight shots of 45 caliber, 230 grain copper jacketed bullets with an additional seven in the magazine in his left. The heavy bullets would physically knock anyone down he hit but getting Sartaq plus all five with eight rounds was extremely unlikely. He doubted he’d have time to reload.
But if it’s just me and Sartaq and Megyn, I can put two quick shots into him, grab Megyn and get out. That would work.
But which room on the 50th floor were they in?
I’ll figure that out when I get there, he finished his initial plan.
Spence kept his face down as he left the bathroom and walked the far side of the lobby well away from the columns he knew Officer Dian was watching.
The central tower’s elevator was waiting. Knowing there was a camera at the back top, he continued looking at the floor as he entered and pressed the button for 50.
The ascent was quick and direct.
When the doors opened, the hall was empty. Spence stepped out to survey the hall.
To his left was a small, doorless space with a soft drink machine and an ice maker plunking away.
On the right, a door said “Housekeeping” in English with Chinese letters after that.
Straight ahead was a typical hotel corridor with rooms on both sides. The first door on the left was labelled 5033. On the right was 5034.
The first tower, he thought, will have rooms 5001 through 5032.
At eyeball height in the center of each door was a small brass circle.
Peephole looking out.
At the far end of the hall, a green emergency Exit sign was posted above the facing door.
Fifty stories down. That’s a lot of steps.
Part of his mind started calculating, Thirteen steps per flight, two flights per story, that’s thirteen times two times fifty …
Stop that, he ordered himself.
How can I figure out what room they’re in?
Knocking on doors was out. They’d recognize him through the peephole.
Listening, door to door, also seemed unlikely.
Wait and see, part of his mind said. They’re going to come out for the attack if not before.
I need a place to hide.
The Housekeeping door was locked.
In the alcove with soda and ice machines, there was a 12” gap between the two machines. In it, a metal grate ran on the floor back to the wall. A plastic drain pipe stuck out of the ice machine and dripped through the grate. The soft drink machine’s drain pipe, dry, was in the back.
I’ll squeeze in there if I have to and, if someone comes in, I’ll pretend I dropped a coin.
Spence felt good.
I’m a problem solver, a computer detective, he told himself. This is the same thing. Just for real.
The next part was obvious.
When Sartaq shows up with Megyn, Spence nodded, I’ll wait for them to pass, ambush Sartaq with two shots from behind— yes, I’ll shoot him in the back— grab Megyn and we’ll run for the stairs. A couple of flights down— if they’re chasing us they won’t know which floor we choose— we’ll cut through and take the elevator the rest of the way.
He settled down to wait in the alcove.
No one in or out. No elevator, no cleaning crew, no room service, nothing.
In his earpiece radio, he could still hear the occasional Police chatter. There was activity at the Check-Out desk. A middle-aged couple from Kuala Lumpur had a mid-morning flight and needed a taxi. Then, an American businessman asked to keep his bags in storage while he went to Sentosa Island for a few hours. And a family of four including two teenage girls that constantly punched their cell phones were studied and quickly disqualified as terrorists.
Over at the Check-In desk, the hotel manager had informed them they were getting ready for a rush of forty Australians, a tour group in-transit on a bus from the airport.
But nothing happened in Spence’s hall.
Spence was just looking at his watch, 8:07, when an excited voice in his earpiece said the two terrorist swimmers were leaving the pool but the clothed terrorist was still in his lounge chair.
Another voice said, “Two in the elevator from the roof, middle tower.”
A few seconds later Spence recognized the elevator control officer’s voice, “Headed down to fifty.”
Spence pushed his way into the gap between the two machines moments before the elevator door opened.
He counted to three and then leaned his head around the edge of the soda machine. He caught a flash of something pink near the floor as it disappeared to the left.
He squeezed out and crept to the edge of the alcove.
His hand on the wall to steady himself, Spence leaned around the corner to look.
Two men, hotel towels around their waists, walked down the hall, their flip-flops, one pair green, the other pink, slapped in unison with each step.
They were young and trim, healthy but not overly muscular.
Two of the five, Spence was sure.
Halfway down, they stopped and faced left. As one raised his hand toward the door handle, the other started to turn his head back up the hall.
Spence pulled quickly back into the alcove.
A few moments later, he heard the solid ker-chunk of a door closing.
Looking around the corner again, the hall was empty.
Ok, Spence acknowledged, about half way down on the left. Not exact, but better than I had.
Connecting rooms? he wondered.
Half an hour passed before an excited voice in his ear said, “He’s getting up!”
Mickey’s voice came over the radio and cautioned, “Don’t get excited. Stay calm. Now tell me, who is getting up and where is he?”
The first voice, markedly calmer, said, “The main guy, up at the pool.”
“Sartaq?” Mickey’s voice asked.
“I think so.” And a moment later, “He’s going to the elevator.”
Mickey’s authoritative voice was calm and seasoned as he directed, “Elevator control. When the central tower elevator get to the roof and he gets in, take him directly to the floor he wants. No other stops.”
Mickey’s calm voice came over the radio again, “Spence, get a good look at him in the elevator. We’ve got to be certain.”
Spence almost started to reach around to turn on his VOX before remembering he’d gone rogue. As soon as he spoke, someone in the van would remember he’d left to poop an hour and a half ago. They’d know he was up to something.
He pressed his lips together.
“He’s in the elevator now,” a voice on the radio said. “Express service to 50.”
“Spence,” Mickey’s voice sounded urgent. “Is that Sartaq? Can you see his face?”
Mickey commanded, “Anyone in the van. Turn on Spence’s VOX. I can’t hear him.”
“Uhm,” Spence recognized Dian’s surprised voice on the radio. “He’s not in the van, Sir.”
“Arriving at 50,” the radio said.
Spence heard the elevator chime.
He pressed himself back in the gap between ice and soft drink machines.
“Spence, where are you?” Mickey demanded in his ear. He was definitely angry.
Someone walked past the refreshment room and continued down the hall.
Spence squeezed out and peered around the edge.
“He went to the bathroom a while ago but didn’t come back,” Dian squeeked.
Spence smiled to himself as he watched Sartaq’s back walking down the hall.
Sartaq stopped and turned to the door on his right, opposite the room where he was pretty sure the two students had gone.
Spence drew back in the alcove in case Sartaq turned to look.
“Spence, where are you?” Mickey demanded. “Turn on your Vox and report your location.”
Spence leaned out slowly just in time to see Sartaq’s back leg disappear to the right.
His eye glued to the spot where Sartaq disappeared, Spence walked as fast as he could down the hall.
Spence continued walking without pause.
At the far end, he pushed open the emergency exit, stepped through but then turned and used the toe of his shoe to keep the door from closing. He slowly worked the handle and saw the bolt move in and out.
Good, he thought, breathing deeply from his power walk. I won’t be locked out if it closes.
In his ear, Mickey’s voice quivered as he spoke.
“Control! Move Spence’s radio to a private channel for me only. ‘D’ for Delta channel. Take him off the main channel, both sending and receiving.”
Spence’s radio was silent for several seconds before Mickey’s voice came on in his ear. He sounded different, not as severe but still very much in control.
“Spence, you’re off the network. Only I can hear you. If your radio is broken, go to the van and they’ll replace it.”
Spence’s earpiece went silent for several seconds.
Out in the hall nothing moved. Spence’s breathing was almost back to normal.
Mickey’s voice came on.
“I can hear you breathing so I know you’re not dead.”
Spence jumped back and put his arm around back to feel the VOX switch. It was still off.
They must’ve opened his microphone remotely.
“Spence, if you’re in trouble, give us a sign. A knock, a sudden breath, anything.”
Spence held his breath.
“Damnit, Spence. This is a very bad situation. Don’t make it worse. You know what we’ve got to do and I’m sure you realize you cannot be our priority. Don’t be stupid.”
Two beats passed in silence.
Spence reached up, wriggled the soft rubber earpiece out and then yanked hard on the wire running down the back of his shirt. It came away, the ends of the wires stripped bare. He dropped the earpiece and its bone conduction microphone in the corner behind the door. He undid one button, reached into his shirt, ripped open the Velcro fastener and pulled the strap with radio attached out. The clang they made when they hit the first landing down the stairs was louder than expected but very satisfying.
Spence turned back to watch the hall, the digital seconds on his watch counting up ever so slowly.
A few guests came and went but nothing happened at 5053 or 5054 for over an hour.
Then, a couple of minutes after 10:00AM, the student he recognized from the Guangzhou van’s passenger side came out of 5053, walked across the hall and, after a momentary pause, disappeared into 5054.
Spence was sure now.
5053 for the students and 5054 for Sartaq. But where was Megyn?
Down the hall, a door opened and then shut again.
Spence looked through the crack.
The same student was walking toward the elevator, his back toward Spence. When the elevator opened, he stepped in, leaned over slightly and pushed a button down low.
Several minutes later he was back with a bag. It was a light tan and looked like loosely woven fabric with a circular, blond wooden handle. On the side of the bag was a round picture with a silhouette of the hotel’s distinctive three towers and surf-board shaped rooftop, its north end jutting obscenely out.
Sartaq’s door opened and the man entered.
A few seconds later he came out again without the bag, crossed the hall, knocked and disappeared into the other room.
Enough of this musical chairs! Spence fumed.
What I need is for the five stooges to go, leave Sartaq and Megyn alone in the room, and then somehow have them open the door for me.
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