The Merkaba (3)
There came a knock on the door.
He opened, “Szia!”
“I’m Hajnal. Nice to meet you…” she spoke good English.
“I’m Tyler. Come in, please…”
She placed her handbag on the bed and took off her gloves and black overcoat. She was of short height, 5’ 2” and slim-built. Tight skin and olive-toned. Sharp facial features, thick lips and defined cheekbones. Her hair was thick, curly long and natural blown, dyed in black shines.
“What do you like me to do?” she perched on the foot of the elevated mattress rather detached. She wore white and tight top and bottom.
“Are you free to hang around?” asked Tyler.
“Yes, how long…”
“I heard you got trapped here in an assault…”
“I was…how long do you want me to stay?”
“Full day…full night…”
“It costs you.”
She said, “One thousand forints.”
“Fine. Do you know Jaco?”
“Yes, I met him at a bar a year ago…”
“Do you date him often?”
“No. Two times. I think you should pay me…”
“Of course,” Taylor shook his wallet, “I pay you fifteen hundred everyday this time. If you do like I say…I give you more.”
She rolled the money and put into her purse. She got up and grabbed some lacy black attires from her bag, “May I use your toilet...” Her hair index doubled her body mass. Her backside was worth something to take a closer look.
“What’s that?” uttered Tyler.
“Pantyhose…” she dropped her shoulders, “Sasa said you’re American…”
Tyler frowned, “I get it…I get it. Sit down! What’s the rush! You agreed to stay…”
She hit back on the bed wadding the fabric in her crotch totally disappointed.
Tyler asked, “What would you drink? Hey Hajnal, we have lunch here and then go to Hotel National to meet Alexey. Do you know him?”
“No,” she shook her head rolling big eyes.
“Neither do I,” he reached the minibar, “I am not sure if he’s there…”
“You can call…” She lit a long cigarette.
He paused, “Can you, please? I can’t speak your language.”
“What’s his full name?”
“Uh! I don’t know…he’s Russian…I think. I give you a hundred forints if you find him.”
She was at it immediately. Picked the phone and dialled the operator to connect with Hotel National. She noted down and passed, “Aleksandre Giorgashvili, Room 33,” she opened her palm blowing fumes at him.
“Gosh! You got it! I’m not going to bet again,” he shoved a hundred forints into her palm.
He ordered a snack to the room and over it she told what happened that day.
“Can you recognise their faces?” asked Tyler.
“No…maybe…they are foreign.”
“Absolutely not,” said Hajnal, “Slavic, Bulgarian. My father was from Bulgaria but I can’t speak…”
“Can you describe their looks.”
“Dark-toned guy is called Vanco. He has a gold tooth, black moustache, bald, thin and tall. The other guy is fat and reddish. I broke his knuckles. Did it help?”
“Absolutely,” said Tyler, “Did the police probe?”
“Yes but I don’t know anything.”
Forty minutes later, they arrived at Blaha Lujza tér – this square named after actress Lujza Blaha. It was a construction site and most of the baroque-style venues were covered in full or partially. Tyler continued to take pictures of the surrounding.
They entered Hotel National and enquired about a room. “Would you show us a room before we check in?” Tyler insisted.
A housekeeping girl in uniform guided them up the staircase. Interior designed in lavish baroque and the rooms were large. This hotel provided a Turkish bath and an elegant restaurant. He observed carefully to details of the door locks, windows without balconies, probably he could manage open a window hidden in the cover of tarp. He noticed room number plates on reserved tables at the restaurant that could give a face to Alexey. He decided to book a room.
“Sir, we’re closed for renovation,” said the girl at the counter.
“When? I can see guests are here!”
“Yes but they leave very soon.” She pointed to a notice, “Mr Tyler, please read the Health Hazard notice. A demolition is scheduled for 23rd April. No one can stay and eight hours to be observed for dust settlement.”
The People’s Theatre in front of Hotel National was closed since 1964. Authorities planned to demolish the building in a matter of days.
Tyler said, “I’ll be gone by Thursday…only three nights.”
Finally, she agreed and he preferred Room 35 on the same floor to Alexey, facing the street façade and one room in between.
Two hours later, they arrived and checked in at Hotel National. Tyler left his belongings at Hotel Grub and brought some important items. So did Hajnal picked her clothes from home.
Hajnal scribbled her registration with a cigarette in her fingers.
The girl cried, “Oh! It’s your Birthday! 19th April, we serve a complimentary ‘Rigo Jancsi’…it’s very special, chocolate cake and unique custom of the hotel.” In 1896, Princess of Belgian, Klara Ward, fell in love with Jancsi Rigo at the National restaurant over a cake.
Once out, Tyler asked, “Is it your birthday?”
“Szar!” she shook her head, “Empty! Can we go in there…a dohánybolt…buy a fag!”
Her lie over a cake helped Tyler that evening to burn his synchronised flash bulbs and twelve seconds to recharge taking photographs around the dining tables at the restaurant. He captured some good frames of Alexey in the long shot he tried on his Nikon F camera.
Next morning, Tyler pulled out his gun and she asked, “What is that?”
“A shoulder holster,” he uttered.
“Yes, we’re going after Alexey,” he replied.
At breakfast they watched him leave the hotel. There was one entrance facing József Boulevard and the tarp scaffold blocked view from his hotel room. He asked Hajnal to sit at the lobby and watch the entrance. He gave a small paging device, “Press this button if he comes in and don’t miss.”
She lit a long stick.
The architectural stonework on the façade wall projected cornices and parapets for grip but at his age of fifty he didn’t want to risk a foothold. He left his window and door open, dropped his coat, picked his camera and crossed to the other corridor. He unlocked the door with a hex key, entered Room 33 and drove the deadbolt.
It was a large room just like his. Wasting no time, he dug into the work table and picked a TAM – Tbilisi file. He began to take pictures page by page. He ran out of his Kodachrome. He inserted a new cartridge and attempted on another file. There were many folders to go. He rushed the pages shooting at random. He picked a MAC – Skopje file and opened…
Suddenly, the door unlocked. He ran across the room and hid behind the bed. There wasn’t space enough to crawl under. He lay on the floor beside the bed. It could be housekeeping…
He saw Alexey reach the table and open a drawer to pick something…a key wallet. He closed a folder which was left open on the table and just walked out of the door locking behind.
It was too close a call. Tyler lay there holding the Colt in his hand.
Hajnal sat at the lobby smoking a fag, watching prudently, wearing a black mini dress and high-heels. In a spectacle she caught Alexey coming down the staircase. She just stared with her big eyes as he crossed the lobby to the restaurant. He went into the kitchen.
At the end of the kitchen he entered a booth and she lost him. A kitchen staff pointed to the door and she entered to find a staircase that led to the basement.
Tyler got on his feet and reached the table. He’d not risk wasting more time. He did not replace any folder but he noticed an address card holder. He grabbed it and quickly made way to his room.
He dropped the stuff, pulled on his coat and ran to the staircase. Hajnal was not at the lobby. A cigarette left burning in the ashtray.
Meanwhile, Hajnal spotted him in a tunnel. She heard echoes of noises coming from the worksite as she reached the next staircase. She climbed up cautiously and pulled her head first to scrutinise an empty closet. The clamours were loud at this point. Nobody was in sight.
Few minutes later, she came out of the entrance hall of the People’s Theatre closed for demolition. A work force drilled and dismantled the whole place. She quickly returned to the hotel and to her room.
“Where have you been?” asked Tyler.
“He went underground so I followed him to the theatre.”
Actors of the former national theatre used this tunnel to reach the hotel restaurant or a discrete room to spend their evening meals with friends, acquaintances or mistresses in secret.
The card holder was bulging thick and stuffed in the slots. Getting a snap of every contact was important but he shot the pages and picked some at random. Tyler left Alexey’s door unlocked. He was shaking as he hurried to cover the contents. “I am almost done. I have to return this to his room and lock the door to accomplish a neat job. I will come in through the window.”
Like he said he took the risk to spider climb on the face of the wall back to his room.
That same day Tyler checked out and returned to Hotel Grub with Hajnal. Developed the negatives and studied the contents. Those names and addresses in the card holder hold vital clues but he couldn’t figure out.
On 23rd Friday, they returned to Blaha Lujza tér and watched the old national theatre flattened to earth – literally it was blown up.