In a linen closet on the third floor of the Alfonso XIII, a maid lay unconscious on the floor. The man with wire‑rim glasses was replacing a hotel master key in her pocket. He had not sensed her scream when he struck her, but he had no way of knowing for sure‑he had been deaf since he was twelve.
He reached to the battery pack on his belt with a certain kind of reverence; a gift from a client, the machine had given him new life. He could now receive his contracts anywhere in the world. All communications arrived instantaneously and untraceably.
He was eager as he touched the switch. His glasses flickered to life. Once again his fingers carved into the empty air and began clicking together. As always, he had recorded the names of his victims‑a simple matter of searching a wallet or purse. The contacts on his fingers connected, and the letters appeared in the lens of his glasses like ghosts in the air.
SUBJECT: ROCIO EVA GRANADA‑TERMINATED
SUBJECT: HANS HUBER‑TERMINATED
Three stories below David Becker paid his tab and wandered across the lobby, his half‑finished drink in hand. He headed toward the hotel’s open terrace for some fresh air. In and out, he mused. Things hadn’t panned out quite as he expected. He had a decision to make. Should he just give up and go back to the airport? A matter of national security. He swore under his breath. So why the hell had they sent a schoolteacher?
Becker moved out of sight of the bartender and dumped the remaining drink in a potted jasmine. The vodka had made him light‑headed. Cheapest drunk in history, Susan often called him. After refilling the heavy crystal glass from a water fountain, Becker took a long swallow.
He stretched a few times trying to shake off the light haze that had settled over him. Then he set down his glass and walked across the lobby.
As he passed the elevator, the doors slid opened. There was a man inside. All Becker saw were thick wire‑rim glasses. The man raised a handkerchief to blow his nose. Becker smiled politely and moved on . . . out into the stifling Sevillian night.