“It’s quiet,” Sykora whispered. I waited for him to add, “Too quiet,” but he didn’t, and I started thinking, a guy born and raised in New York City, this must be traumatic for him, a world without noise or lights. There were no sirens, no traffic, no radios or TV, no people and the sounds they make, no dogs barking in the distance—even the crickets hadn’t grown large enough yet to make a racket. And although it worked to our advantage, suddenly I was sorry the night sky was hidden by clouds. Otherwise Sykora would really have had something to see. As it was, the only light visible appeared just as we reached the mouth of the path. It was about 150 yards in front of us and shone through the windows of a small cabin.
I had brought my binoculars and used them now to give the cabin a hard look. It was old and it was small, no more than twenty feet by twenty feet with a wooden facade badly in need of paint and a tattered shingle roof. The cabin was built on cinder blocks on the side of a hill. The blocks in the back were stacked two high; in the front there were five. The front door and a single window faced Whitefish Lake, with the road cutting between the cabin and the shoreline. There was a wooden staircase without a railing leading to the front door, which was only wide enough for one person. Despite the chill in the air, the interior door was open; light streamed through the outer screen door. There was a second window in the side of the cabin facing us. I studied the windows and door carefully.
Sykora squatted next to me.
“What do you see?” he whispered.
“Nothing. Wait …”
A large man suddenly appeared in the second window. He rubbed his face vigorously, stretched, moved forward out of sight. I swung the binoculars to the front window. He appeared there, slowly moved to the front door, and leaned against it, looking out.
“Frank?” Sykora asked.
Sykora moved toward the light. I grabbed his arm and pulled him back.
“Where are you going?”
“Pen’s in there.”
“So are guys with guns. Give it a minute.”
“I don’t see Brucie.”
Sykora shook my hand free, but I grabbed his arm again.
Sykora stared at the cabin for a moment, then edged slowly back next to me.
“I’ll go through the front door. You cover me from the window.”
“Don’t be foolish,” I told him. “Look at the cabin. Look at how it’s elevated. Standing on the hill, I won’t be able to see above the windowsill, much less give you cover. Plus, we don’t know where your wife is yet—will she be in the line of fire? And we don’t know where Brucie is.”
“He’s in the cabin. Where else would he be?”
“Watching the road? Waiting in the dark to shoot us?”
“Frank isn’t smart enough for that.”
“Listen. Are you listening?” Sykora was speaking with the intensity of a computer salesman hawking the latest hardware. “Frank won’t be expecting us. I know this guy. The most vulnerable mark is the one who’s been to the circus before. He figures he has experience, he figures he’s too smart to get clipped. That’s Frank.”
“Frank? Or us?”
“Are you afraid, McKenzie?”
“You bet your ass I am.”
“Then you’re an idiot. With all my misgivings about the FBI, I never thought they hired idiots.”
“Pen’s in there,” he said again.
“Probably. And for her sake, let’s get this right. C’mon. We don’t need to rush this. We can take our time. Watch and wait. See what moves.”
“Yes. Patience, man. It’s a virtue.”
“Who told you that?”
“Fine,” Sykora said, but I knew he wasn’t fine.
Frank moved away from the door and retraced his steps past the front window and the side window before disappearing again from view. I trained the binoculars on the outside of the cabin and spent long, silent minutes sweeping the yard, hoping to see a shadow move. None did. A tiny hole opened in the clouds, allowing the full moon to light up the yard like a flare. I saw no one. Then the hole closed, and once again the cabin was seized in darkness.
I whispered, “There’s a stand of trees on the right. I’m going to move over there, see if I can get a better view of the cabin and the yard. Wait here.”
“Do you have your gun?” Sykora asked. He was gripping his own Glock with both hands.
I slipped the Beretta out of my holster, showed it to him.
“Good,” he said. “Cover me.”
But Sykora was done with waiting. He was on his feet sprinting toward the entrance to the cabin. I muttered a few obscenities and followed him.
Sykora ran quickly and didn’t halt until he hit the side of the cabin next to the door with his shoulder. I heard the thud twenty feet away. So did Frank. He popped to his feet. I had been right about the window—I could see only his head and the top of his shoulders. He was looking toward the door.
Sykora flung open the door and charged through it.
Frank’s shoulders hunched upward and his head slid to the side as if he were sighting down a rifle.
My shriek was loud and guttural, a variation on the word “no.”