Chapter 10 of The Holy Lance, a fantasy thriller

The conspirators add murder to kidnapping as the plot clicks nicely along. As always, comments are welcome.

CHAPTER 10

An attractive young receptionist wearing a Bluetooth headset sits behind a large, semicircular, polished maple front desk that guards the 10th floor entrance to the inner labs and offices of the Laboratory Testing Services of St. Petersburg . The marble floor gleams under the soft, recessed lighting. The firms name is proudly proclaimed in chrome letters on the walnut-paneled wall behind the front desk. Two leather arm chairs and a chrome and small chrome and glass table with the latest edition of the Russian magazine “Expert” sitting on it are the only other accommodations in the spare yet sleek entry. Beyond and to the left of the reception desk is a double set of wooden doors.

Sasha Krupsky, still wearing the black trench coat from the day’s earlier operation, steps off the elevator and approaches the receptionist.

“Dr. Beria, please.”

“May I give him your name, sir?” the receptionist requests in a friendly yet formal tone.

Krupsky refuses to answer directly.

“We have an appointment.”

The receptionist, well-versed in the need for discretion of many of the lab’s customers, does not insist.

“Of course, sir.”

She punches in a three digit extension on her switchboard.

“Dr. Beria, your four o’clock appointment is here. . . Yes, sir.”

She turns her attention back to Krupsky.

“He’ll be right with you. Won’t you have a seat?”

Krupsky turns to sit down, but before he reaches a chair the wooden doors open and Dr. Beria, thin, middle-aged, balding, in a white lab coat, walks into the reception area. Krupsky turns and Beria addresses him.

“Mr. Krupsky?”

Krupsky again refuses to acknowledge his name and appears irritated that Dr. Beria has used it in front of the receptionist.

“This way, please.” Beria says simply.

Krupsky walks briskly past the doctor who follows him and closes the door behind them. The interior hallway is four meters wide and sterile, with a highly polished white, linoleum floor. The overhead fluorescent lighting does nothing to soften the almost severe setting. The two men pass a number men and women, some in white lab coats, others in business dress, moving with purpose to and from the offices lining the hallway. Krupsky does his best to avoid direct eye contact with any of them.

Beria takes a stab at conversation.

“This is a most interesting case. I can say without hesitation this is the most interesting DNA case I’ve had in my entire career.”

Krupsky, irritated that Beria is so willing to discuss the “case” within earshot of so many offers a bit of advice to the doctor.

“Interesting or no, the less said, the better, Doctor.”

 “Unfortunately, there are still some details to discuss,” is the doctor’s surprising response.

Krupsky stops in his tracks.

“Such as?”

The two men stand in front of a door with Dr. Beria’s nameplate on it. Instead of responding to Krupsky’s inquiry, Beria opens the door and gestures for Krupsky to enter the office.

“I’m sure you’ll appreciate the luxury of privacy. Won’t you come in?”

Krupsky enters the office and Beria follows him, closing the door behind him. Beria’s office does not inspire confidence in either Beria’s technical expertise, or his stature in the company.  A plain, small metal desk occupies most of the office’s space; two metal and faux leather chairs face the desk; the ceiling lighting is fluorescent; a small window with a drawn venetian blind is opposite the door; the walls are completely unadorned; and a gray metal file cabinet is in a corner behind the desk. The office is utilitarian in the extreme.

Beria gestures for Krupsky to sit. After unbuttoning his trench coat, Krupsky sits in one of the two chairs in front of Beria’s desk. Dr. Beria turns to the file cabinet, opens the top drawer, and pulls out a manila file. He sits down and sets the file on the desk in front of him without opening it.

“Now, as to those additional details. Let me be frank. The price is double for such, as I said, such an unusual case.”

Beria picks up the file.

“Payable in cash in advance.”

Krupsky remains calm, doing nothing to betray his intentions.

“Of course. I’ll return within the hour.”

Beria, delighted and surprised that his clumsy attempt to hold the file for ransom has worked, places the file back on his desk and responds with a smile.

“We close at five.”

Krupsky stands up to leave.

“Five o’clock? Then I had better be on my way. Good day to you, Doctor. Please make certain that you are available when I return. I’m afraid I don’t have an appointment for five o’clock.”

“I’ll make time for you. It is not a problem.”

Krupsky extends his hand.

“Good day, Doctor.”

Doctor Beria extends his right hand to shake Krupsky’s. Instead of a handshake, Krupsky yanks Beria’s hand down, grabs him behind the head with his left hand, and slams Beria’s head, face first, on the desk, being careful to avoid the manila file. Krupsky immediately releases his right hand and reaches under his trench. He pulls a pistol with a small silencer attached out of his shoulder holster. With his left hand, he tosses the unconscious Beria back into his chair before he reaches across the desk, places the nozzle of the silencer against Beria’s chest, and fires twice.

Krupsky holsters his pistol, takes the report from the desk, tucks it under his trench coat which he buttons to the collar, and leaves Beria’s corpse and his office. Within less than ten seconds he is opening the double doors leading to the reception area. As he breezes by the receptionist, he instructs her.

“Dr. Beria asked not to be disturbed for the rest of the day.”

“Certainly, sir. I’ll see to it. Good day.”

Krupsky heads for the elevator. As he reaches for the down button, the elevator door opens and he steps inside. He turns to satisfy himself that Beria’s body has not been discovered in the half minute since he was murdered. All is still. The elevator door closes taking Krupsky briskly away from the scene of the crime.