He needed to find Dan, before the Amsterdam cell realised he wasn’t going to be of any use and disposed of him. Nobody can find him faster than I can. A splinter of guilt lodged in his gut as he remembered Dan’s excitement at being moved to this assignment, with its apparently limitless equipment budget. My fault. He still had the drugs in his pocket. Four pills, that’s how long I’ve got to find him. It didn’t sound like a very long time. Would Nicholas send him more, if he’d disobeyed and gone to look for Dan on his own? He didn’t know.
Not completely on his own. He had Dr Nash - or, rather, whatever it was that she knew. More information would help him locate Dan, or at least the people who had taken him. After she had given him that, he would let her go, which he imagined was exactly what she wanted.
What else did he need? A change of clothes, he supposed, a toothbrush, and the pod, with Judith’s films and Robin’s files on it. All the rest of his equipment was in his mind. Was his mind. It was going to have to serve Dan better than it had served Jon Nash.
Time to get out, before the driver came, before anyone thought to look for them. At the end of the corridor, he took a moment to peek through the unmarked double doors he’d noticed earlier. The unsubtle flourescent lighting and functional blue-white paint in the stairwell confirmed his suspicion that this was for service access. It would do.
He messaged Robin - Open the door - and strode back up the corridor, feeling stronger as the most recent visimorphine got to work. Her door was slightly open, a chink of the warm apricot light present since Nicholas had switched it on, the most salient feature in the low-lit hallway. He knocked, and Robin opened the door carefully from one side, wearing her wool coat - he tried to avoid looking directly at the weave - and different shoes. She’d adopted that same ready stance, looking as though she might attack him with her cane, and he was compelled to say “It’s me,” which sounded stupid and redundant out loud. He thought he saw her roll her eyes. Well, the hell with her and what she thinks of me. She can go just as soon as she tells me what I need to know.
The blinds having been permanently drawn in his own room, he saw from the window behind Robin that it had grown fully dark outside and that the view across the square was now lit in overlapping districts of soft, orange sodium and harsher, brighter halogen. A thin fog lent the furthest reaches of the square a slight softness, forming halos around the lights. Fewer people now, which was good; they moved briskly in the chill air, their breath ghosting around them.
He shut the door behind him. “We need a base of operations. You’ve been to Amsterdam before.”
She raised an eyebrow. There wasn’t time for this - didn’t she realise? “Dr Nash. Robin. We need to find Dan. Where should we be based?”
A short pause while she considered - he hoped she was considering - their options. Lifted her chin a little as she said “The Van Hoeck. It’s across town, on the Haarlemmerweg.” Something about the way she said it - the tilt of her head? - made him think I need to come back to this, to work out what she’s not saying. But there was no time, not now.
“Let’s go, then.” He lifted her bag, which was heavier than he expected. Gritted his teeth and held out his arm, just touching her sleeve so that she knew where to reach. Closing the door behind them, he started along the hallway, but she halted, mule-like. “Why aren’t we going the other way?”
“Back staircase is this way.” She breathed in and out, nostrils flaring briefly, but nodded, and they continued. Through the double-doors, he paused. “There are stairs here. Can you manage?”
She didn’t answer, but stepped forward impatiently with the cane, and he guided her to the stair’s edge. Once they had started descending, she was surprisingly quick.
Two stories down, the stairwell opened out into a short hallway. On the right, a door he calculated led directly out into the main lobby; ahead, another door marked WASSERIJ in functional black plastic capitals. He realised Robin had spoken, and said “What?”
“How do you -- never mind.” He wheeled her around to face the last door, a fire exit. Wondered whether the door was alarmed. Maybe a fire alarm would provide a useful distraction while they got clear. He started forward, but Robin stayed put, anchoring him with surprising firmness. “What?”
“We’re not going to the Van Hoeck.”
Well, that explained her earlier expression. “Why not?”
“It’s nowhere near where we need to be.”
“Then why --”
“Shut up. We’re going to the Willemsparkweg. Can you find that?”
“I know where it is,” he snapped. A little away from the centre but still clearly marked on the map he had looked at yesterday. And when they got there, he was going to extract everything from her that she knew, and then send her away so that he did not have to be told to shut up or deal any longer with this exasperating, irritable woman who rolled her eyes and slapped him and treated him like an idiot. What had Nicholas called him? A fine tool.
He pushed against the fire-door and they were out in the cold air in a small, cobbled lane. No alarm.
“Put the cane away,” he said, and for a moment he thought she was going to argue with him about it, but she clicked the little button in the top and he watched it fold down into itself until it was just two hundred and thirty-one millimetres long. She stuck it into the side-pocket of the black leather handbag and took his arm again.
Taking a slightly circuitous route that avoided the square and and any view of the hotel, he made for the next transit stop.