Truth or Die(10)
Author:James Patterson

    She wasn’t.

    Two minutes later, the image of the man stepping off the elevator at the other end of the hallway told Owen so much at once that his brain tingled with overload, which was no small feat.

    Male … solo … decent physique … running shoes … baseball cap with curled bill … no room key in hand … no suitcase or carryon …

    The man paused by the elevator bank to look at the directional sign for the rooms on the floor. If he’d just been checking in, thought Owen, he’d almost certainly have had luggage. If he’d been staying at the hotel already, he’d have had no need to look at the sign.

    Plus, with that curled bill on his baseball cap, he could shield his face from any security cameras in the hotel.

    But most incriminating of all?

    None of that mattered.

    The guy could’ve been a blind midget wearing a clown suit, and it wouldn’t have changed anything. It was four in the morning and he was heading straight toward room 1701. Thirty yards away and closing.

    As if his chair had springs, Owen jumped up and slap-closed his laptop, stuffing it in his already packed backpack along with the wireless receiver for the transmitting camera outside in the hallway.

    He sprinted into the bathroom, where he’d already filled the tub to the brim with water, not an inch of porcelain left dry. With a hard yank, he turned the shower on full blast.

    As for the hotel’s hair dryer, it was already plugged in, the surge protector dismantled and the outlet rewired to deliver the maximum current possible. Suffice it to say, that sort of thing doesn’t get a chapter in Electrical Wiring for Dummies.

    Quickly backing out of the bathroom, Owen took one last look at the setup before shutting the door, his eyes darting about to make sure all the elements were in place.

    The shower curtain drawn closed, tucked inside the tub.

    The cord of the hair dryer knotted around the towel bar to ensure that it would remain plugged into the outlet no matter what.

    And the floor mat strategically placed on the tile floor to ensure that Owen wouldn’t slip when he came barging in behind the guy.

    From the room next door.

    This was the plan, all right. Based on two things Owen knew as surely as he knew that sunrise was only a few hours away.

    The first was primal. Sometimes in life it’s as simple as kill or be killed.

    Second, professional hit men aren’t exactly suckers. You can’t expect them to fall for the “I’m in the shower” trick simply because you’ve got the door to the room cracked open and have the water running. They’ll search the rest of your room first, top to bottom.

    So hiding behind the armchair in the corner or squeezing yourself under the bed? Probably the very last dumb idea you’ll ever have.

    No, if you want the true element of surprise, you need to think outside the box. Better yet, come up with your own box.

    Just make sure there’s a connecting door.

    “I’d like two rooms,” he’d told the clerk at the front desk when he checked in. “And they need to be adjoining.”

    Owen slipped through the double doors separating room 1701 from 1703, pulling the first one closed behind him. His heart was pounding like a jackhammer against his chest, but he couldn’t help noticing that it wasn’t just fear. As crazy as it sounded, he also felt a twinge of excitement, a sort of in-the-moment buzz of anticipation that came from an intellectual curiosity always in hyperdrive. A prodigy’s conceit, if you will.

    In other words, he desperately wanted to know if his plan would work. And there was only one way to find out.

    Pressing his ear up against the door, all Owen could now do was wait and wonder.

    “Will you walk into my parlor?” said the Spider to the Fly.

    CHAPTER 11

    I OWNED only one cell phone, as opposed to Claire’s three, and it was pinned to my ear as I entered the lobby of the Lucinda at four in the morning, pretending to be completely engrossed in a conversation.

    The lobby—which sadly looked as if it hadn’t been updated since the Koch administration—was completely empty, as it should’ve been, given the hour, save for a wary-eyed woman behind the front desk in a turquoise blazer who was clearly in the midst of deciding whether or not to ask me if I was a guest of the hotel.

    That was when I delivered the clincher to my imaginary friend on the other end of the imaginary line.

    “Yeah, I’m heading up to my room now,” I announced.

    As I walked past the front desk, walking straight toward the elevators, the woman didn’t say a word. I was in.

    Then I was up … to the seventeenth floor. With a tug on my baseball cap, I stepped off the elevator and stopped briefly before the sign telling me which rooms were in which direction, left or right.

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