By the end of the meal the two men were establishing something of a rapport. Moffatt asked a few polite questions about what it was like to work for Al Jazeera, answered by Stewart with well-practised ease; deception was part of his business. His answers were brief to the point of being cursory and he quickly turned the conversation back to Moffatt. As they worked their way through three courses, Stewart gradually managed to get Moffatt to open up more and relax. Although the man wouldn’t talk about his “special assignment” specifically, he was only too happy to recount anecdotes from his past. Clearly not shy of the sound of his own voice, Stewart concluded.
‘So, are you up for a nightcap then?’ he asked as they rose from the table.
Moffatt nodded, temptation getting the better of him. They left the restaurant and Stewart led the way to his room. Once ensconced safely within and with the door locked, Stewart took Moffatt’s jacket and hung it behind the door, indicating a small armchair as he did so. Moffatt sat in anticipation while Stewart produced a bottle of Scotch from under a pile of clothes in his suitcase. There were two glasses already on a tray next to the ubiquitous coffee-making paraphernalia of any hotel room the world over.
‘I think you’ll find this will hit the spot,’ Stewart smiled as he poured two generous measures, ‘cheers!’
‘Cheers!’ Moffatt replied, taking a large sip.
‘That’s good, that’s very good,’ he enthused, once he recovered the power of speech that had been momentarily lost as the golden liquid burned the back of his throat.
The two drank in companionable silence for a few moments. Noticing Moffatt’s glass was nearly empty, Stewart leant across and poured a couple of fingers. Moffatt swirled his generously-filled tumbler before taking another large slurp. Stewart was more circumspect with his own measure. Before Stewart had even raised his glass, Moffatt had drained his. The addictive needs of an habitual drinker were kicking in, Stewart noted. By now the whisky would be slowing the man’s reflexes and affecting his judgement. He would be feeling no pain.
‘Please, have another,’ Stewart offered.
‘You’re not joining me?’ Moffatt queried.
‘What? Oh yes, of course.’
Stewart poured another small shot for himself then appeared to wipe the bottle quickly on his jacket before passing it to Moffatt.
‘Here, help yourself.’
Moffatt took the bottle and poured himself another oversized measure.
Stewart stood and crossed to the sliding plate-glass door leading to the balcony.
‘Let’s get some fresh air,’ he suggested, ‘this air-conditioning really gets to my sinuses after a while.’
He slid open the door before passing through to the balcony. He took a theatrically loud deep breath and called out:
‘It’s a lovely evening. You should experience it for yourself.’
‘No, you’re all right,’ Moffatt replied from within, ‘I don’t much care for heights.’
On the balcony a look of unadulterated rage briefly registered on Stewart’s face. He reached inside his jacket and returned inside.
Moffatt looked up as Stewart re-entered the room. What he saw made no sense. He looked at his drink as though it were to blame and then, in a slow, almost comical double-take, back at Stewart.
‘What’s that? Is this a joke?’
Stewart stood foursquare in front of him pointing a gun directly at his head.
‘No joke, I’m afraid. Now stand up.’
Any geniality in Stewart’s manner had completely disappeared, replaced by a steely detachment.
Moffatt did not move, a puzzled smile frozen on his face.
‘I don’t understand…’
‘Stand the fuck up. Now!’ Stewart barked out the last word so hard it almost physically slapped Moffatt in the face.
‘I don’t think so, old man; I don’t like people pointing guns at me,’ Moffatt glanced at the door as though trying to figure how to make his escape.
‘I don’t think you’re going to shoot me,’ he continued, ‘not in a busy hotel in the middle of Riyadh. They execute murderers here, you know.’
While Moffatt was still speaking Stewart, moving with alarming alacrity, raised his gun hand high above his shoulder and brought it down with force, striking Moffatt’s temple with the pistol butt.
Shocked, dazed, surprised, and in considerable pain, Moffatt slumped sideways. Stewart’s other hand snaked out and grabbed his shirt just under the neck and, with surprising strength, dragged him to his feet.
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