Kasym examines the framed hotel policy on the back of the door while the man in the blazer speaks from notes in a virtual monotone.
“For first target there is map. You will see we have provided you the directions to the entry point, information on parking permits you will need, and all the information on the internal security.”
Kasym touches the wood frame lightly and examines the tiny letters on the sign under the glass.
“Kasym,” Taalay calls out from within the room, interrupting the man. “Over here, please.”
Kasym turns around and meanders into the center of the motel room, where the droning man sits on a chair in the far corner. Another man dressed just like him lies on the far bed with his hands behind his head. A third man, a big one, stands by the window, looking out of it as if on guard. Taalay sits on the nearest bed, with papers, a phone, and small laptop computer arranged around him.
“We need to understand all these details,” Taalay continues.
Kasym draws his finger across the top of the TV, watching a line form in the thin layer of dust. While he’s seen with very little interest how technology has evolved in the twenty years he’s been way, he observes with regret that humans have not.
“You were followed,” he says without looking away from the dust.
The three men exchange looks. Taalay sits up.
“By who?” the man in the chair asks skeptically.
“How could you know this?” the one on the bed seconds him.
“Brother, if we are in danger . . .” Taalay begins.
Kasym waves his hand in dismissal. “I took care of them.”
The man in the chair goes on, disregarding the interchange with Kasym altogether.
“Once inside first target, you have three layers of security. No weapons allowed, of course.”
“No weapons,” Kasym orders, pointing directly at the man.
The man pauses to look up to Kasym for a moment, and then looks back to his notes. “Right. Yes. No weapons allowed. The secretary’s office you will find on the fifth floor of the southwest side, near corridor three. It is room 5–A. The directions are written out for you.”
“Yes, that’s all in order.” Taalay says. “And what is the progress on this final item, the press pass?”
“For the press,” the man in the chair says while punching some keys on his computer. “This is more difficult. We will take photograph. Pyotr has camera. We can take now, or . . .”
The big man by the window, Pyotr, walks to Kasym and positions his body against the wall. Kasym pushes his arms away violently.
“Not now?” Pyotr says.
He stands over Kasym, as if unafraid of him.
“Brother, this is important,” Taalay says impatiently. “Now is good,” he says to Pyotr.
Pyotr holds up a small thin camera near his face and takes a picture.
“Again, please,” Pyotr says. “You looked away. Look in phone.”
He takes another picture, and then looks at the device. “Good.” He walks back to the window.
“So,” the man in the chair goes on, “we get this to our man, our contact, and he makes a pass.”
“I think there’s been some kind of mistake,” Taalay says, looking over his notes.
The man in the chair tilts his head.
Taalay continues. “I sent to you the credentials. We only need them approved for entry.”
“Credentials? Is this more of your hacking?”
“Is good, but not for this,” the man says, sounding confused.
“It is from Kyrgyz News Agency,” Taalay asserts.
“Right, but . . .” the man trails off.
“What?” Taalay responds. “We spent a lot of money setting this up. And many years. They are one hundred percent. It will be impossible to disallow.”
The man is not convinced. “It is this organization. Only certain news agencies will be given access. Maybe BBC, or Russian.”
“But, it is national news agency of entire nation.”
“This is,“ he pauses as if to consider the most appropriate word, “not impressive. How it works in America is, you need impressive credential. You need new pass. Our pass.”
“I believe they will work. It is real. There are articles, credits.”
“But to get into this building,” the man laughs to himself. “It is very difficult. Very difficult. Extremely difficult.”
“No, submit our passes,” Taalay orders. “It is too late now to change the entire organization. We’ve invested too much. We need to have them.”
“Okay,” the man says faithlessly.
“No credentials,” Kasym says. His comment drops like a stone in the room.
Taalay shakes his head. “We can’t get in without.”
“I agree,” the man in the chair says. “This much is certainly true. You cannot get in. Not in a lifetime you cannot get in without any credential. I think you need even better credential that what you have, but I do what you ask. This is America. The security is best in the world.”
“We don’t need them,” Kasym says quietly.
The man in the chair appears nonplussed. “Who is giving the orders?” he asks, looking between Kasym and Taalay.
“These passes will work, brother,” Taalay says.
“No. I enter without papers. Without pass. These men are useless to us. We go now. We go today.”
“Kasym,” his brother looks at him with admonishment. “We must have a detailed plan or you will be back in prison, or both of us will, or we will be killed.”
“Is long process for approval to press pool.” The man says. “Is your money. You pay, we do work. You also pay for opinion, expertise. Our opinion is, you do not get in without pass.”
Kasym turns to face the room. “There is one concern only. It is not papers or pass. It is agency recruit. The information from the computer. Is he eliminated?”
“Yes, is taken care of,” the man on the bed says confidently.
Kasym walks over to him. “Tell me.”
“We went to house, to address, dispatched subject. Not difficult.”
“Did you confirm?”
“There was only one man in the house.”
“Did you confirm?”
“There was no ID. He was old man, asleep. We found nothing.”
“An old man.” Kasym looks at Taalay. “They recruit the young.”
“Kasym,” Taalay says, “It was a long time ago. This does not make you expert.”
Kasym cradles his head. “If he lives, all our work is for nyet.”
“But it is such a small chance.”
“Any chance means death to my vision,” Kasym yells. “Is only thing that matters. Not these fools!” He sweeps his arm across the lap of the man in the chair, knocking his computer to the floor. The man stands to face Kasym, his chest puffed. Pytor moves toward Kasym from the other side, clenching his fists.
“Wait!” Taalay gets up and puts himself between them. “Brother, this does help us.”
After an tense silence, the man from the chair says, “This is not how we conduct our business.”
Kasym backs up to face the three men intently. “Get out. Before I kill you all.”
Pyotr scoffs at Kasym, looking ready to fight, as he’s surely done many times. The man on the bed gets up and stands next to Pytor. The three men make a formidable physical contrast to the thin Kasym and his even smaller brother.
“You pay us for work done, and we go. The full amount,” the man from the chair demands, matter-of-factly.
While looking at his brother, Kasym, perfectly still, finds Pyotr’s mind and burrows into it like a bullet. Once inside, he finds it simple, pliable, like clay in his hands. He takes hold of it and twists it into a mass of impossible thoughts. Pyotr turns around and kneels by the window, his back straight. He brings his bald head up high, and then slams it down, smashing his face violently and repeatedly against the corner of the metal heater sticking out from the wall under the window. Light sprays of blood shoot out from his head.
The other men recoil in horror. Taalay appears shocked by the sight and cowers against the back wall. He looks at Kasym, who keeps his gaze, and a diabolical look in his eyes.
The rhythm of Pyotr’s strikes begins to slow. After the last hit, his body slides off the heater, lowering to the floor in a lifeless heap.
Kasym turns to face the remaining two men.
“Spare them, brother. Spare them!” Taalay yells, gripping his brother’s shoulders.
The men scamper for the door, speechless.