April 29 – April 30
They found a cab without any further run-ins with suspicious vehicles coming up or down the street. Etel seemed more relaxed now that they were moving more rapidly away from danger. The killing of Kelemen and the ensuing shooting gallery had wracked her nerves pretty badly. But she was hanging in there. She wasn’t shaking anymore. She didn’t say anything during the ride. She just held tightly on to the shoulder bag she had taken with her from Kelemen’s apartment.
The clock in the cab dashboard indicated it was one a.m. when they arrived at the hotel Scarr was staying at. Scarr went straight down to the hotel parking lot, pulled the Audi out, and parked it up front on the lit driveway where Etel stood waiting for him. She got into the Audi while Scarr went in through the glass door of the lobby.
The clerk who had signaled Kelemen’s men was still on shift. When he saw Scarr go to the elevator, he didn’t even greet him. As for Scarr, he didn’t know the extent of the clerk’s involvement with Kelemen’s gang. He figured the clerk had probably been asked by his goons to finger the man who was staying at this hotel under the name Ellis Mann. And he had probably been incentivized with petty cash for the fingering. But Scarr cared about none of that. The order of the hour was to change hotels. Kelemen’s men were going to be back here.
Fortunately, it took him less than five minutes to check out because he traveled light. And as a general rule, he always required maids change sheets and towels and completely clean his room each time he left it. This might have given the impression to the housekeeping staff that he had a cleaning obsession. But it was his way to ensure the room was clear of forensic traces from his presence.
Soon the Audi pulled away from the hotel driveway. While packing up in his room, he had called Kish, had given him a rundown on recent developments, and asked for a new hotel address. The Audi was headed there now, with Etel sitting on the front passenger seat where Georgina had sat just a few nights ago. Unlike Georgina, who had used the raffish grace of her legs to get a semblance of conversation going between them, Etel was awfully quiet. She was quiet, with a sad, almost thoughtful expression looming over her eyes. And Scarr thought there would be time to reach her and get her to spill everything she knew about Jeter’s whereabouts.
The small hotel–– The Crest Hotel–– they checked into had an L-shaped gravel driveway set back from the road, which meant cars parked there could not be seen from the street.
When checking in, Scarr used a different name than Ellis Mann. The new name was Max Hogan… And Max Hogan ID’d himself with a membership card to a business club, and paid in cash for three nights. But the reception clerk apologized, saying the room type Scarr wanted, a two-bed corner room, was not available. In fact, there were no two-bed bedrooms available. Instead, Scarr and Etel got a good room with one king-sized bed that had the usual modern features and furnishings.
As soon as Scarr turned the light on in their room and closed the door, Etel asked, “Max Hogan… is that an alias?” When Scarr looked at her, she added, “In the restaurant, when the manager got your information, the name the cop gave wasn’t Max Hogan.”
“What should I call you?”
“Scarr––” he said after a moment. “You can call me that.”
Etel nodded. Then hesitantly, she said, “Thank you.”
“We aren’t through yet.”
“Yes, I know.”
Etel went past him and put the shoulder bag on the nightstand. Then she seated herself on the edge of the bed. The mattress barely sagged under her frail weight. Apparently she was no longer concerned about the ripped top of her jumper shorts coming down to rest at her waist. And besides the jumper shorts, she had no spare clothing. Something had to be done about that.
Scarr came over to her, and her body stiffened all over at his close proximity to her, and the broad-framed bed with round log-shaped pillows.
“Don’t worry,” Scarr said, sensing her discomfort. “The bed is all yours.”
Even though he wasn’t seeing her–– not even for a second–– with the potential as a sexual partner, Scarr acknowledged her legitimate feelings of unease at being in a hotel room alone with a man whose behavior towards women she was unsure about.
“Where will you sleep?” She asked him, maybe out of real concern for his sleep, or maybe simply out of benign curiosity.
Scarr peeled the coat off his shoulders, and pulled the scarf off his neck. And keeping his gloves on, he moved with those items to an armchair with bun feet. The Eagle was sleeping in its bulging nest under his right armpit.
“I’ll be just fine here,” Scarr said. And he sat down in the armchair and looked at her at length.
She returned his gaze. Her fear of him was but a distant echo throbbing her heart, but only faintly now. In those quiet seconds of exchanging looks, she thought maybe some sort of bonding was beginning to happen; because the more she looked at him, the more she was finding him fascinating to look at, especially the scar that thickened the skin under his jaw. However, she was afraid to ask him how he had gotten the scar. She thought he wouldn’t answer even if she asked. She thought she was starting to know his personality.