“Have lunch with me,” I blurted.
“I don’t think so.”
“Are you afraid your husband will disapprove?”
“The man does carry a gun. But the truth is, Jake, I have to work. I promised Tommy I’d e-mail him something by the end of the week, and it’s the end of the week.”
“Some other time?” I was trying to get Pen to commit. It seemed like the most important thing in the world at the time.
She touched my hand. It was an unexpected gesture and made me flinch with a shock of electricity.
“We’ll see,” she said.
Pen rose, retrieved her notebook, and slipped it into her bag. I didn’t want her to leave. I said, “Pen, the man who attacked you yesterday—I don’t think that was a case of mistaken identity.”
“Neither do I.”
She looked at me with eyes that were quite bottomless.
“Honestly, Jake, I enjoy the attention. But I’m not a damsel in distress, and you don’t look much like a Knight of the Round Table.” She patted my hand again, this time without the electrical charge. “I thank you for the offer. Maybe next time.”
I watched her leave. At the entrance to the pool area she turned and looked back at me. She smiled some more and shook her head.
“Smooth,” I said quietly to no one in particular. “You are sooooo smooth.”
I moved the Neon about two hundred feet and parked at the end of 47? Avenue. I wanted to take a look at the mobile home owned by the “gay guys” Ruth had mentioned, for the simple reason that I didn’t believe they were gay or that it was a coincidence that they had moved in so soon after Pen and Sykora. I was betting that they were the people who were at the other end of the bugs Marshall Lantry had found in Pen’s trailer.
I hadn’t expected to see much, and I didn’t the first time I walked past the mobile home, except for the Toyota Camry parked in front. But on the return trip, I saw the trailer door open and a man wearing a blue sports jacket step out. He was about five-seven, with black hair, and despite the many extra pounds he carried, he walked to the Toyota as if he were trying to outrace a tornado. His progress was slowed by a second man wearing a white dress shirt and gray slacks. He seemed slightly crazed, like someone who had been struck by lightning and couldn’t quite believe he had survived.
The second man said something to the first. Blue Jacket spun around and said something back. I was too far away to hear what was spoken, but the gestures and body language were undeniably angry. They glared at each other as if they couldn’t bear to be in each other’s company for another moment, and I thought maybe they were gay. Certainly I knew several straight couples married for years that behaved in exactly the same manner.
Either that or government employees stuck together for too long in a confined space.
Blue Jacket sat inside the Toyota and slammed the door behind him. Gray Slacks stood with his hands on his hips and watched him drive away.
I thought of Pen and Sykora.
Mostly I thought of Pen.
At the same time, I caressed the back of my hand where she had touched me.
Nuts, I told myself. Ruth was right.
I went for a sub sandwich. Unrequited love drove with me, leapt out of the car at the light, ran in circles, then hopped back in again. It was goofy and childish and distracted me from the task at hand—nnding Mr. Mosley’s killer—but there it was. I found myself hurrying back to the motel so I could listen to Pen on my monitor.
A voice called, “Agent Greene, Agent Greene,” after I parked my car in the Hilltop lot. I turned toward the sound. Victor was standing just outside the office and waving at me. I glanced around—there was no one else in the lot—and walked immediately to him, still carrying my sandwich.
“What did you call me?” I made the question sound like an accusation.
Victor took a step backward. He cleared his throat and said, “Agent Greene?”
“Who told you I was an agent?”
“What happened was”—Victor was stammering—“the maid was making your bed and, and …”
“She heard voices.”
“That’s what she said. She said she heard voices. And, and …”
“Get on with it, Victor.”
“She opened your desk drawer and found your tape recorder thingy.”
“She did, huh?”
“She didn’t mean no harm. She heard voices and … There was a tape recorder and written on the tape recorder, it read …”
“I know what it read.”
“And she told me.”
“Who else did she tell?”
“Who else? Ahh, no one. Just me.”
“And who did you tell?”
“No one. I figured you were undercover so I, I …”
“So you yelled my name across the parking lot.”
“Oh, dear. I did, didn’t I? I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry, Victor.”
“But I am.”