Peter Abel and the Death at Waldorf-Astoria Hotel

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Saturday WRITERS’ WORLD

By Bisi Daniels; bisi.daniels@thisdaylive.com

Blog: www.bisidaniels.com, 08050220700

In the novel, The False Truth, Peter Abel is the US secret agent out  to stop a plot to make the president of an African country do a Third Term or be assassinated. The masterminds of the plot include close aides and relations of the president, as well as foreigners masquerading as lobbyists for the country. It is in the process of spying on Songa, an aide to the president, for clues that Abel is arrested by the FBI over the death of an aide at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, New York

Abel raced up the staircase and reduced his pace to a casual stroll once he proceeded down the hall of the twenty-third floor. He needed people to believe he had a room on the floor. Although there were no other people walking about at that moment, he still made a conscious effort to appear as natural as possible while he searched for Room 2317.

When he came upon the door, he nonchalantly reached into his pocket and pulled out a key card. This was not the Waldorf Astoria key card for Room 2317. It was the skeleton key card Abel had acquired through a back alley deal in New York City a few years prior. A so-called businessman had sold it to him for two hundred dollars in American cash.

The card proved useless on the first try. He examined the key card, his heart in his mouth. Abel removed the card from the slot, carefully wiped it clean of any dirt or dust, and then reinserted it. After a skillful jiggle, the card made the connection and the top light flashed green. Abel pulled down the handle and the door easily pushed open.

Once inside, Abel immediately noticed how neat the room was. At first, he assumed the housekeeping staff had just completed their work. But when he saw the used towels piled on the bathroom floor, he concluded that was not the case.

Abel walked around the room quietly, opening dresser drawers and rummaging through some papers that were neatly stacked on the side table. When he opened the closet door, he was surprised by how heavily Songa had packed for this particular trip.

Abel ran his hands through as many pockets as he could, searching for something—anything—that might provide even the smallest clue. Unfortunately, Songa’s clothes yielded no such evidence.

After ensuring that each suit dangled from its hanger just as he had found it, Abel pulled the extra pillow down from the shelf. A small smile appeared. There on the shelf in front of him was something useful—a computer carrying case. Abel gleefully reached for it.

He was disappointed to find it lightweight and empty. He searched through the compartments in the case, but found nothing of importance. At first, he thought Songa must have taken his laptop with him to the seminar, but that didn’t make sense. The meeting was held at the United Nations, not at the hotel. If he was going to walk a few blocks in Manhattan, clutching a laptop, he would have surely taken the carrying case for convenience and protection. Perhaps the reason he didn’t take the carrying case was because he didn’t take the computer.

Abel continued to rummage through the closet, glancing at his watch intermittently. He found the hotel safety deposit box in the far corner, but the door was unlocked; nothing appeared to be stored inside. He sat on the bed for a moment to think, checking his watch to ensure that time was not on the verge of running out. He tried to get inside of Songa’s mad mind and connect with his way of thinking. His eyes darted all over the room and landed on the small pile of used towels visible through the doorway to the bathroom.

When he looked back at the bed, something occurred to him. The bed was made, and the bedspread was tucked around the pillows, very neat and clean. If the housekeeping staff had been in the room to make the bed, they would have taken the used towels and replaced them with fresh ones. If they hadn’t been in the room, the bed would not have been made—unless, of course, Songa had spent the night elsewhere.

But if he had spent the night elsewhere, why did he use so many bath towels? The wheels inside of Abel’s brain were spinning at full speed. The scene just wasn’t adding up. It was unlikely that the housekeeping staff had made the bed…so who did? Abel’s mouth curled into a smile when the answer popped into his head. The only person who would make his own bed in an upscale, full-service hotel would be a person who didn’t want anyone touching the bed for some important reason. Abel decided he would start “touching” the bed.

He patted down the bedspread from top to bottom, but nothing seemed out of place. He then pulled back the pillows and shook them to see if anything was hidden inside the pillow cases. Again, he found nothing. Finally, he got down on his knees and snaked his long arm between the mattress and the bedsprings. He waved his arm back and forth in a long sweeping motion until his hand smacked up against a hard object. When he finally yanked his arm out from under the mattress, his hand was clutching Songa’s small, lightweight, high-tech laptop.

What a fool! Abel thought. Did he really think I wouldn’t look under the mattress? Oh, yeah. He doesn’t expect me to look anywhere. I’m supposed to be dead (Abel had feigned his death to be able to travel out). I keep forgetting that.

Abel booted up the machine, hoping it would expose some pertinent information. The laptop had to contain something of value; otherwise Songa wouldn’t have bothered to carry it halfway around the planet in the first place. Abel’s dream came crashing down when the laptop asked him for a password. His shoulders sagged. He put down the laptop gingerly as he racked his brain for possible combinations. After a few minutes, he came up with possible passwords and started to enter them: Songa’s initials, his hidden middle name, the names of his two daughters, his wife’s name, and even the President’s. None of them worked. He looked at his watch again and concluded he had run out of time. As he stood up to put the laptop back, he remembered a trick he had learned at the International Spy Museum in Washington, DC during his last visit: some people use their new environment as a password.

Abel typed in Astoria in reverse order and hit the Enter key. Suddenly he found himself in Songa’s hidden world. He wanted to shout with joy.

The first thing Abel checked was Songa’s stored e-mail. There were hundreds of messages in his inbox, most of which had already been read. Abel wondered if he would have time to rummage through so many notes to find some worth reading. He scrolled down and arbitrarily opened a few messages. One was from the Mubondian government’s Travel Department, confirming his flight to JFK airport. Another was from an event organizer, thanking Songa for agreeing to participate in his agency’s seminar. Abel noticed a message with the subject Buy Viagra Online. He smirked. No matter how much he worked to block those stupid spam messages on his own computer, they always managed to get through. Then he became serious.

Spam messages like this were sent to millions of computers on a daily basis. Most people deleted them immediately. Unless Songa actually suffered from erectile dysfunction, there was no reason for him to read such a message and leave it in his in-box…or was there?

Abel clicked on the message until it appeared on the screen. He caught himself holding his breath as he read.

I have no doubt that the man will sit tight. I have given him every reason why he should. I told him that he owes it to his country, and if he betrays the country, I will not stand by his side. He does not know it, but divorce is the least of his worries. Plan B is still an option, if necessary. Mrs. Tommy has been doing her research and she says it’s coming along nicely – FS.

Abel moved out of Songa’s e-mail programme and into his personal documents. The computer was crammed with all kinds of word processing and spreadsheet documents. He didn’t have time to open very many of them, so he simply ran a global hard drive search for the phrase “Plan B.” Seven files turned up in the list box. Abel set the laptop aside and reached into one of the hidden pockets of his trousers for a blank memory stick he had brought. He quickly saved the Plan B files to the device.

Just as he dropped the memory stick in his jacket pocket, he heard a noise outside the door. Without bothering to turn the device off, Abel closed the laptop and shoved it back between the mattress and the bedsprings. He was about to hide in the closet, but never got the chance. The door flew open.

Abel was expecting to come face-to-face with Songa. Instead, he found himself looking at another man he had seen only in passing back at Victoria Villa. The man didn’t recognize him. Well, if he did, he didn’t seem shocked to see a dead man standing in front of him. He lunged at Abel, grabbing him by the sleeve. Abel tried to pull free, tearing his jacket in the process, but the man’s grip was too intense. He pulled Abel backward and wrestled him to the ground. In an effort to scramble free, Abel slid across the floor until both of them landed in the bathroom doorway. Songa’s man banged his head on the door, causing him to wince in pain. The man loosened his grip just enough for Abel to wrench his right arm free. Abel jammed his thumb into the man’s eye, which forced him to let go completely. Abel jumped to his feet.

He was still cornered in the bathroom. The man managed to regain his composure, even with his left eye completely swollen shut. He got up on his knees and grabbed Abel by the ankle. Abel lost his balance and staggered back next to the toilet. The man tried to stand, but before he got the chance, Abel grabbed hold of the one thing within his reach—the lid to the toilet tank. At first, he intended to hold it up and use it as a shield, but when the man crawled in front of him, he slammed the heavy piece of porcelain down on his head.

The assailant lay motionless on the bathroom floor. Blood gushed out of his mouth and bubbled across the floor. Abel reached down and placed his fingers against the man’s neck. He couldn’t find a pulse. 

Quietly, abel grabbed one of the used towels and wiped the blood off his shoes. he stepped out of the bathroom and closed the door behind him. he immediately felt sorry for the housekeeper who would discover the mess, but he couldn’t waste any time worrying about that. he walked out into the hallway, closed the door, and made an effort to leave the twenty-third floor in the same manner he arrived.