“You’re not supposed to have boys, Frank. You’re supposed to sit quietly in your house, not go running off to some goddamn roadhouse and recruit talent like you were a capo running a crew back home.”
“That ain’t the point, Fed. The point is McKenzie found ’em in that motel you stuck ’em in.”
“How the fuck should I know how. He found ’em, that’s all.”
“I told you he was smart.”
“You told me you was gonna take care of him. Well, he ain’t taken care of.”
“Look, I issued a Seeking Information Alert on him. We’re watching his house, we’re watching his friends—”
“That ain’t good enough. You gotta put his face on milk cartons or somethin’. Put ’im on the news.”
“To do that I’d have to give my boss a better explanation for why we’re looking for him. You want to do that? ‘Well, sir, we lied before. The real reason we’re looking for McKenzie is because we killed his pal and raped his lawyer’s wife and now he wants revenge.’”
“We didn’t kill—ahh, fuck it. Look. We had a deal, okay? Protection for information.”
“That’s right. When are you going to keep your end of it?”
“I told you, the shipment will be here in a few days.”
“I told ya where.”
“When you gonna take care of McKenzie?”
“That’s when the shipment is comin’ in. Soon.”
“Don’t screw with me, Frank.”
“Yeah, whaddaya gonna do, Fed? You gonna call your boss? You gonna tell ’im what you been doin’?”
“No, Frank. I’m gonna call your boss.”
There was a long pause. Finally Frank said, “I know where you live, Fed.”
“Yeah, and I know where you live. So let’s be smart, huh, Frank? We’ll both get what we want.”
Frank hung up without saying good-bye. Sykora did the same a moment later. I turned off the recorder and removed the cassette. I wanted to make sure nothing happened to it. I wrapped it in a sock and locked it in my suitcase.
The sound of a door opening startled me. I spun to face the entrance to my room, but of course it was closed.
“May I come out now?” Pen asked.
“You’re wound so tight lately. Mysterious phone calls …”
“I used the phone for bureau business, what’s mysterious about that?”
“You’ve never done it before. Not like this.”
“Steve, please. Tell me what’s going on.”
“It’s nothing to worry about, Pen. Nothing at all. I’m going to take a shower.”
At 3:22 A.M. according to the cheap digital clock radio next to the bed, I came suddenly awake. I listened, stared at the outline of the desk, heard nothing, saw nothing. I thought of Pen and Sykora in bed together, lying side by side, and the idea of it angered me.
I closed my eyes and went back to sleep.
I woke up with more aches and pains than I had when I went to bed.
“You’re getting so old,” I told my reflection in the mirror. Plus I hadn’t worked out in days. No sports. No martial arts. Nothing. “You used to be an athlete.”
My reflection stared at me like he didn’t believe it.
I heard Sykora tell his wife, “I’ll see you later,” while I shaved.
She said, “You don’t kiss me good-bye anymore?”
There was movement followed by Pen’s voice.
“You can do better than that.”
A few moments later I heard the smacking sound that sometimes follows a long kiss.
“Not bad,” said Pen. “You could use more practice.”
“I know. I’m sorry. I’m sorry about everything, Lucky. But it’ll be all right soon. Soon we’ll be back in New York.”
“We could be just as happy here as we were in the city. I’ve met people. I’ve talked to them. They like Minnesota.”
“It’s not New York.”
“That’s one of the things they like about it.”
“Good for you, Pen,” I said out loud.
A moment later, Sykora was gone. I finished dressing and opened the drapes of my single window. I ate a few sticks of Twizzlers for breakfast and sat on the edge of the unmade bed.
“So what are we going to do today, Pen?”
I heard a long, not altogether unpleasant groan—a woman stretching—followed by a deep sigh.
“I gotta get to work,” Pen said.
Sounds like a plan, my inner voice agreed.
It was a delightful spring morning. There were clouds in the sky, but not enough to worry about, and the air had a pleasant taste to it.
I parked in front of Ruth Schramm’s trailer. It was considerably older than Pen’s and smaller. It was dark brown with tan trim and narrow strips of rust extending from the edge of the V-shaped roof down the metal sides. There was a wooden porch leading to a door that had been built about twenty years ago and painted once.