The Rhythm Section
Mark Burnell
Contributed by Elene Blackwelder
Chapter 18

Petra goes to the Magenta House building to see Alexander. There, as she waits to get into his office, she sees Alexander’s secretary, Margaret, wrapping a gift for her niece. Petra gets sentimental, remembering the last time she saw her niece and nephew. Furthermore, she is uncertain as to whether her sister-in-law, Christopher’s wife, has already given birth to a boy or a girl — from the last time that Stephanie saw her, at her own fake funeral, when she was pregnant. The meeting with Alexander begins and he briefs her on an Iranian terrorist, Abbas Karim Kassir. Just like Khalil, Kassir worked under the command of Sheikh Ismail Mahmud Hussayn. Kassir had been captured by Israeli forces, Mossad, and questioned about his arms deals with Marin before he died. Kassir disclosed that Khalil was “planning a spectacular terrorist assault on the West but he didn’t know what it involved or when it was going to happen” (Burnell, 153). Alexander orders Petra to take Serra’s contract of assassinating Leon Giler, the media mogul,figuring how this will enable him to trust her more and, ultimately, set her on a path leading to Khalil before he executes his plan. This chapter also builds up the relationship between Marina (Petra’s pseudonym) and her neighbor, Frank White. Although they go out on a movie and have supper at his house, Marina refuses to kiss him. She remains unapologetic for her coldness and says, “What did you think? That you’d get me drunk and fuck me? Is that what you thought?” (Burnell, 162).      


Although Petra has only been trained as a field agent and has a distaste for anything that involves an assassination, Alexander insists that she should take Serra’s contract and kill Giler. However, the narrator emphasizes her submission to Alexander’s orders when she admits “there would be no denying Alexander—not here, not now—so she nodded her compliance” (Burnell, 155). This conveys to the audience the fear that surrounds her when she talks to Alexander, as she is very aware of the fact that she cannot blackmail him any longer with Proctor’s evidence. The narrator also draws parallels between Frank White, her neighbor, and the aforementioned Proctor. This is portrayed to the reader when Petra calls Magenta House in the middle of the night requesting a dossier on him. Frank’s similarities to Proctor’s mannerisms, as well as the story of how he lost his wife to a soap opera producer, pain which was later compounded with the death of his daughter, seem fabricated and intended to dupe Petra into liking him more. This is further emphasized by the fact that he talks about his past ordeals without any emotion. When Petra says, “His answer was as flat as the kick in Petra’s stomach was pronounced”, she shows that Frank had become void of any feelings towards his family, a character that she associates with people in her line of work (Burnell, 161).

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