Becker stood bleary‑eyed beside the telephone booth on the terminal concourse. Despite his burning face and a vague nausea, his spirits were soaring. It was over. Truly over. He was on his way home. The ring on his finger was the grail he’d been seeking. He held his hand up in the light and squinted at the gold band. He couldn’t focus well enough to read, but the inscription didn’t appear to be in English. The first symbol was either a Q, an O, or a zero, his eyes hurt too much to tell. Becker studied the first few characters. They made no sense. This was a matter of national security?
Becker stepped into the phone booth and dialed Strathmore. Before he had finished the international prefix, he got a recording. “Todos los circuitos estan ocupados,” the voice said. “Please hang up and try your call later.” Becker frowned and hung up. He’d forgotten: Getting an international connection from Spain was like roulette, all a matter of timing and luck. He’d have to try again in a few minutes.
Becker fought to ignore the waning sting of the pepper in his eyes. Megan had told him rubbing his eyes would only make them worse; he couldn’t imagine. Impatient, he tried the phone again. Still no circuits. Becker couldn’t wait any longer‑his eyes were on fire; he had to flush them with water. Strathmore would have to wait a minute or two. Half blind, Becker made his way toward the bathrooms.
The blurry image of the cleaning cart was still in front of the men’s room, so Becker turned again toward the door marked damas. He thought he heard sounds inside. He knocked. “Hola?”
Probably Megan, he thought. She had five hours to kill before her flight and had said she was going to scrub her arm till it was clean.
“Megan?” he called. He knocked again. There was no reply. Becker pushed the door open. “Hello?” He went in. The bathroom appeared empty. He shrugged and walked to the sink.
The sink was still filthy, but the water was cold. Becker felt his pores tighten as he splashed the water in his eyes. The pain began to ease, and the fog gradually lifted. Becker eyed himself in the mirror. He looked like he’d been crying for days.
He dried his face on the sleeve of his jacket, and then it suddenly occurred to him. In all the excitement, he’d forgotten where he was. He was at the airport! Somewhere out thereon the tarmac, in one of the Seville airport’s three private hangars, there was a Learjet 60 waiting to take him home. The pilot had stated very clearly, I have orders to stay here until you return.
It was hard to believe, Becker thought, that after all this, he had ended up right back where he’d started. What am I waiting for? he laughed. I’m sure the pilot can radio a message to Strathmore!
Chuckling to himself, Becker glanced in the mirror and straightened his tie. He was about to go when the reflection of something behind him caught his eye. He turned. It appeared to be one end of Megan’s duffel, protruding from under a partially open stall door.
“Megan?” he called. There was no reply. “Megan?”
Becker walked over. He rapped loudly on the side of the stall. No answer. He gently pushed the door. It swung open.
Becker fought back a cry of horror. Megan was on the toilet, her eyes rolled skyward. Dead center of her forehead, a bullet hole oozed bloody liquid down her face.
“Oh, Jesus!” Becker cried in shock.
“Esta muerta,” a barely human voice croaked behind him. “She’s dead.”
It was like a dream. Becker turned.
“Senor Becker?” the eerie voice asked.
Dazed, Becker studied the man stepping into the rest room. He looked oddly familiar.
“Soy Hulohot,” the killer said. “I am Hulohot.” The misshapen words seemed to emerge from the depths of his stomach. Hulohot held out his hand. “El anillo. The ring.”
Becker stared blankly.
The man reached in his pocket and produced a gun. He raised the weapon and trained it on Becker’s head. “El anillo.”
In an instant of clarity, Becker felt a sensation he had never known. As if cued by some subconscious survival instinct, every muscle in his body tensed simultaneously. He flew through the air as the shot spat out. Becker crashed down on top of Megan. A bullet exploded against the wall behind him.
“Mierda!” Hulohot seethed. Somehow, at the last possible instant, David Becker had dived out of the way. The assassin advanced.
Becker pulled himself off the lifeless teenager. There were approaching footsteps. Breathing. The cock of a weapon.
“Adios,” the man whispered as he lunged like a panther, swinging his weapon into the stall.
The gun went off. There was a flash of red. But it was no tblood. It was something else. An object had materialized as if out of nowhere, sailing out of the stall and hitting the killer in the chest, causing his gun to fire a split second early. It was Megan’s duffel.
Becker exploded from the stall. He buried his shoulder in the man’s chest and drove him back into the sink. There was a bone‑crushing crash. A mirror shattered. The gun fell free. The two men collapsed to the floor. Becker tore himself away and dashed for the exit. Hulohot scrambled for his weapon, spun, and fired. The bullet ripped into the slamming bathroom door.
The empty expanse of the airport concourse loomed before Becker like an uncrossable desert. His legs surged beneath him faster than he’d ever known they could move.
As he skidded into the revolving door, a shot rang out behind him. The glass panel in front of him exploded in a shower of glass. Becker pushed his shoulder into the frame and the door rotated forward. A moment later he stumbled onto the pavement outside.
A taxi stood waiting.
“Dejame entrar!” Becker screamed, pounding on the locked door. “Let me in!” The driver refused; his fare with the wire‑rim glasses had asked him to wait. Becker turned and saw Hulohot streaking across he concourse, gun in hand. Becker eyed his little Vespa on the sidewalk. I’m dead.
Hulohot blasted through the revolving doors just in time to see Becker trying in vain to kick start his Vespa. Hulohot smiled and raised his weapon.
The choke! Becker fumbled with the levers under the gas tank. He jumped on the starter again. It coughed and died.
“El anillo. The ring.” The voice was close.
Becker looked up. He saw the barrel of a gun. The chamber was rotating. He rammed his foot on the starter once again.
Hulohot’s shot just missed Becker’s head as the little bike sprang to life and lurched forward. Becker hung on for his life as the motorcycle bounced down a grassy embankment and wobbled around the corner of the building onto the runway.
Enraged, Hulohot raced toward his waiting taxi. Seconds later, the driver lay stunned on the curb watching his taxi peel out in a cloud of dust.