Digital Fortress Chapter 32
David Becker stood in the hallway outside suite 301. He knew that somewhere behind the ornately carved door was the ring. A matter of national security.
Becker could hear movement inside the room. Faint talking. He knocked. A deep German accent called out.
Becker remained silent.
The door opened a crack, and a rotund Germanic face gazed down at him.
Becker smiled politely. He did not know the man’s name. “Deutscher, ja?” he asked. “German, right?”
The man nodded, uncertain.
Becker continued in perfect German. “May I speak to you a moment?”
The man looked uneasy. “Was willst du? What do you want?”
Becker realized he should have rehearsed this before brazenly knocking on a stranger’s door. He searched for the right words. “You have something I need.”
These were apparently not the right words. The German’s eyes narrowed.
“Ein ring,” Becker said. “Du hast einen Ring. You have a ring.”
“Go away,” the German growled. He started to close the door. Without thinking, Becker slid his foot into the crack and jammed the door open. He immediately regretted the action.
The German’s eyes went wide. “Was tust du?” he demanded. “What are you doing?”
Becker knew he was in over his head. He glanced nervously up and down the hall. He’d already been thrown out of the clinic; he had no intention of going two for two.
“Nimm deinen Fu? weg!” the German bellowed. “Remove your foot!”
Becker scanned the man’s pudgy fingers for a ring. Nothing. I’m so close, he thought. “Ein Ring!” Becker repeated as the door slammed shut.
David Becker stood a long moment in the well-furnished hallway. A replica of a Salvador Dali hung nearby. “Fitting.” Becker groaned. Surrealism. I’m trapped in an absurd dream. He’d woken up that morning in his own bed but had somehow ended up in Spain breaking into a stranger’s hotel room on a quest for some magical ring.
Strathmore’s stern voice pulled him back to reality: You must find that ring.
Becker took a deep breath and blocked out the words. He wanted to go home. He looked back to the door marked 301. His ticket home was just on the other side-a gold ring. All he had to do was get it.
He exhaled purposefully. Then he strode back to suite 301 and knocked loudly on the door. It was time to play hardball.
The German yanked open the door and was about to protest, but Becker cut him off. He flashed his Maryland squash club ID and barked, “Polizei!” Then Becker pushed his way into the room and threw on the lights.
Wheeling, the German squinted in shock. “Was machst-“
“Silence!” Becker switched to English. “Do you have a prostitute in this room?” Becker peered around the room. It was as plush as any hotel room he’d ever seen. Roses, champagne, a huge canopy bed. Rocio was nowhere to be seen. The bathroom door was closed.
“Prostituiert?” The German glanced uneasily at the closed bathroom door. He was larger than Becker had imagined. His hairy chest began right under his triple chin and sloped outward to his colossal gut. The drawstring of his white terry-cloth Alfonso XIII bathrobe barely reached around his waist.
Becker stared up at the giant with his most intimidating look. “What is your name?”
A look of panic rippled across the German’s corpulent face. “Was willst du? What do you want?”
“I am with the tourist relations branch of the Spanish Guardia here in Seville. Do you have a prostitute in this room?”
The German glanced nervously at the bathroom door. He hesitated. “Ja,” he finally admitted.
“Do you know this is illegal in Spain?”
“Nein,” the German lied. “I did not know. I’ll send her home right now.”
“I’m afraid it’s too late for that,” Becker said with authority. He strolled casually into the room. “I have a proposition for you.”
“Ein Vorschlag?” The German gasped. “A proposition?”
“Yes. I can take you to headquarters right now…” Becker paused dramatically and cracked his knuckles.
“Or what?” the German asked, his eyes widening in fear.
“Or we make a deal.”
“What kind of deal?” The German had heard stories about the corruption in the Spanish Guardia Civil.
“You have something I want,” Becker said.
“Yes, of course!” the German effused, forcing a smile. He went immediately to the wallet on his dresser. “How much?”
Becker let his jaw drop in mock indignation. “Are you trying to bribe an officer of the law?” he bellowed.
“No! Of course not! I just thought…” The obese man quickly set down his wallet. “I… I…” He was totally flustered. He collapsed on the corner of the bed and wrung his hands. The bed groaned under his weight. “I’m sorry.”
Becker pulled a rose from the vase in the center of the room and casually smelled it before letting it fall to the floor. He spun suddenly. “What can you tell me about the murder?”
The German went white. “Mord? Murder?”
“Yes. The Asian man this morning? In the park? It was an assassination-Ermordung.” Becker loved the German word for assassination. Ermordung. It was so chilling.
“Ermordung? He… he was…?”
“But… but that’s impossible,” the German choked. “I was there. He had a heart attack. I saw it. No blood. No bullets.”
Becker shook his head condescendingly. “Things are not always as they seem.”
The German went whiter still.
Becker gave an inward smile. The lie had served its purpose. The poor German was sweating profusely.
“Wh-wh-at do you want?” he stammered. “I know nothing.”
Becker began pacing. “The murdered man was wearing a gold ring. I need it.”
“I-I don’t have it.”
Becker sighed patronizingly and motioned to the bathroom door. “And Rocio? Dewdrop?”
The man went from white to purple. “You know Dewdrop?” He wiped the sweat from his fleshy forehead and drenched his terry-cloth sleeve. He was about to speak when the bathroom door swung open.
Both men looked up.
Rocio Eva Granada stood in the doorway. A vision. Long flowing red hair, perfect Iberian skin, deep-brown eyes, a high smooth forehead. She wore a white terry-cloth robe that matched the German’s. The tie was drawn snugly over her wide hips, and the neck fell loosely open to reveal her tanned cleavage. She stepped into the bedroom, the picture of confidence.
“May I help you?” she asked in throaty English.
Becker gazed across the room at the stunning woman before him and did not blink. “I need the ring,” he said coldly.
“Who are you?” she demanded.
Becker switched to Spanish with a dead-on Andalusian accent. “Guardia Civil.”
She laughed. “Impossible,” she replied in Spanish.
Becker felt a knot rise in his throat. Rocio was clearly a little tougher than her client. “Impossible?” he repeated, keeping his cool. “Shall I take you downtown to prove it?”
Rocio smirked. “I will not embarrass you by accepting your offer. Now, who are you?”
Becker stuck to his story. “I am with the Seville Guardia.”
Rocio stepped menacingly toward him. “I know every police officer on the force. They are my best clients.”
Becker felt her stare cutting right through him. He regrouped. “I am with a special tourist task force. Give me the ring, or I’ll have to take you down to the precinct and-“
“And what?” she demanded, raising her eyebrows in mock anticipation.
Becker fell silent. He was in over his head. The plan was backfiring. Why isn’t she buying this?
Rocio came closer. “I don’t know who you are or what you want, but if you don’t get out of this suite right now, I will call hotel security, and the real Guardia will arrest you for impersonating a police officer.”
Becker knew that Strathmore could have him out of jail in five minutes, but it had been made very clear to him that this matter was supposed to be handled discreetly. Getting arrested was not part of the plan.
Rocio had stopped a few feet in front of Becker and was glaring at him.
“Okay.” Becker sighed, accentuating the defeat in his voice. He let his Spanish accent slip. “I am not with the Seville police. A U.S. government organization sent me to locate the ring. That’s all I can reveal. I’ve been authorized to pay you for it.”
There was a long silence.
Rocio let his statement hang in the air a moment before parting her lips in a sly smile. “Now that wasn’t so hard, was it?” She sat down on a chair and crossed her legs. “How much can you pay?”
Becker muffled his sigh of relief. He wasted no time getting down to business. “I can pay you 750,000 pesetas. Five thousand American dollars.” It was half what he had on him but probably ten times what the ring was actually worth.
Rocio raised her eyebrows. “That’s a lot of money.”
“Yes it is. Do we have a deal?”
Rocio shook her head. “I wish I could say yes.”
“A million pesetas?” Becker blurted. “It’s all I have.”
“My, my.” She smiled. “You Americans don’t bargain very well. You wouldn’t last a day in our markets.”
“Cash, right now,” Becker said, reaching for the envelope in his jacket. I just want to go home.
Rocio shook her head. “I can’t.”
Becker bristled angrily. “Why not?”
“I no longer have the ring,” she said apologetically. “I’ve already sold it.”