“You learn something new every day,” I told him.
“Okay, so your average single-wide trailer runs about nine hundred to eleven hundred and fifty square feet”—I was always impressed that Lantry knew these things—“which is good cuz we can do the job with only two bugs.” Lantry found one and bounced it in the palm of his hand. It was black, about the size of a wine cork, and had a tiny antenna on top. “Couple of these babies for the trailer and another for the telephone ought to do the trick. They’ll pick up a whisper from fifty meters. What we’ll do is, we’ll stash a receiver in the trunk of a car, connect the receiver to a voice-activated tape recorder with four-hour cassettes. We’ll park the car about a block away from the trailer. The recorder has a real-time indicator so you’ll know what was said and when it was said. You just cruise by every couple of hours—”
“That’s not going to work,” I said. “There’s no place to park the car. It’s a very dense, very high-traffic area. The car would be spotted in ten minutes. People would be asking questions about it an hour later.”
“That makes it tougher.” Lantry set the bug back on the shelf and glanced over the rest of his equipment.
“Also, I want to be able to monitor what is being said in real time.”
“Tougher still,” Lantry said. “How close can you get?”
“I have a motel room nearby.”
“Three hundred, maybe three hundred and fifty yards as the crow flies.”
“Why didn’t you say so? Piece of cake.” Lantry snatched a bug off yet another shelf. Like the other listening device, it was black. It was about two-thirds the size of a business card and had the width of a ballpoint pen. There was a cable jack and two wires with clamps protruding from the top.
“The double-oh-six,” he said. “It monitors telephone conversations when the phone is in use. It’s a room transmitter at all other times. It transmits on UHF so no dork with a police scanner will intercept your conversations. Great range. Just one of these and you’re covered. But it’s expensive. It retails for about five hundred and seventy-five pounds in England.”
“How much is that in real money?”
“How do I install it?”
“You don’t. I’ll do it.”
I chewed on the inside of my cheek, thinking it over. “There’s no reason for you to take a chance like that.”
“Better me than you, McKenzie. You’ll only screw it up.”
He was probably right, and I told him so.
“I can let myself in,” Lantry said. “Question is—can you make sure the trailer is empty?”
“For how long?”
“How much time do you need?”
“Ten minutes. Maybe fifteen.”
“I can do that.”
“Next question—how many times do you need to go in? Once to plant the bug, yeah. But do we need to remove it later?”
“Can it be traced back to you?”
“Then leave it for the maid.”
“Final question—who’s the target?”
“A federal agent named Sykora.”
“Getting a little ambitious, aren’t you, son?”
“Paper clip bent.”
“Bent enough to take violent action should we be discovered?”
Lantry wasn’t being sarcastic. He meant it.
“Know what’s more fun?” I told him. “Not getting caught.”
“Yeah, but it’s the fear that makes it … Never mind.”
“I need this done right away.”
“Tomorrow soon enough?”
“How much is this going to set me back?”
“Normally I’d give you a discount seein’ how we go back some.”
“But for the FBI—the price is five large, McKenzie, including expenses. Nonnegotiable.”
“A workman is worthy of his hire.”
“And I want it in cash.”
“You gonna tell me why you’re doing this?”
“Marshall, my friend. We live in an age of confusion, mistrust, and deteriorating moral values.”
“A terrible thing.”
“I fear for the future of the Republic.”
“You want to get something to eat?”
The carport next to Pen’s trailer was still empty when I rapped on her aluminum door at 9:00 A.M. I waited a moment, listening to the wind chimes she had hung there, then knocked again. Pen swung open the door like she expected to see a loving friend on the other side.
“Jake Greene.” She spoke my name as if I were that friend. “Good morning.”
“Good morning to you.”
“How are you this beautiful, sunshiny day?”
A simple question, yet the way she asked it made me feel as if the success of her own day depended on my answer.
“I’m fine. How are you after yesterday?”