"You can trust me, me, Jake," she said. "Listen, this is a terrible thing that's happening, but if it has to happen this is a good time for it. I've got good money from the beast"-her unaffectionate term for her ex-"and tomorrow morning I'll go out first thing and get you a lawyer. A Jake," she said. "Listen, this is a terrible thing that's happening, but if it has to happen this is a good time for it. I've got good money from the beast"-her unaffectionate term for her ex-"and tomorrow morning I'll go out first thing and get you a lawyer. A good good lawyer." lawyer."
"No, no, no," he said. "You don't do that first, first, then they wonder, how come you got a lawyer already before anybody came around?" then they wonder, how come you got a lawyer already before anybody came around?"
"Oh," she said. "All right. But as soon as you need a lawyer, trust me, I can pay for a good one."
"Thank you, Wendy."
"Maybe he can do some sort of plea bargain for you," she said. "If you know useful stuff on those guys."
"Jake," she said, "you want as little jail time as you can possibly-"
"I don't want any any jail time!" His heart was suddenly pounding so loudly he could hear it in his ears, as though it were coming through the telephone. jail time!" His heart was suddenly pounding so loudly he could hear it in his ears, as though it were coming through the telephone.
"Well, we can hope," she said. "But just to look at the possibilities, you are going to get charged, Jake. I mean, let's be realistic here. You are gonna get charged."
"We'll get you a good lawyer, you cooperate, we'll get you back out in no time."
"I'm staying right here, Jake. We'll see this through together. Get a good night's sleep now."
"Make them give you a pill. Jake? I mean it. Make them give you a pill."
"I will," he said.
"Okay. We'll talk in the morning. Good night, Jake."
He broke the connection, and he did ask for a pill, and they gave him one. Then he lay on his back in the dim room and stared at the ceiling.
Before this, he'd been worried. Now he was terrified.
Briggs spent half an hour in Dalesia's former room at Trails End, but felt restless and couldn't sit still. He kept walking around the room, opening the door to look out at the traffic rolling on the Ma.s.sPike, going into the bathroom to critically inspect his face and conclude, yet again, that he didn't need to shave at the moment, and in general behaving like something caged in the zoo.
It was the job those three were on; that's what had agitated him. He'd been away from that business a long time, and he'd forgotten the rush it involved, the sense that, for just a little while, you were living your life in italics. You weren't really aware of it when it was happening to you, but Briggs had seen it in Parker and Dalesia and the other one, and he'd found himself envying, not the danger or the risk or even the profit, but that feeling of heightened experience. A drug without drugs.
Half an hour was all he could stand, and then he said the h.e.l.l with it; he didn't have to stay here; he could do whatever he wanted. He wasn't even checked in, so he wouldn't have to check out.
He packed the stuff he'd unpacked thirty minutes earlier, wiped the room down just in case, left the card key on the bedside table, and went out to the van. His one bag went in where all the weaponry had been transported, and he got behind the wheel and headed south, taking an underpa.s.s beneath the Ma.s.sPike. Forty-five minutes later he was on Interstate 95, which would run him down the entire U.S. Atlantic coast to Florida. He figured, when he grew tired, he'd find a motel. Maybe in Maryland.
Not long after leaving Trails End, Briggs had pa.s.sed an upscale restaurant out in the country, where Detective Second Grade Gwen Reversa, her tour done for the day, was having dinner with her friend. These days, Gwen was dating a lawyer. Well, it beat dating a cop. Somehow, in your off-duty hours, you needed to be with somebody you could talk to who would understand your language, your references, your a.s.sumptions. That was why actors dated actors, doctors dated doctors, mathematicians dated mathematicians.
Gwen had dated a couple of cops, but male cops just couldn't seem to get up to speed when it came to independent women. They would would open the door for you, if they had to break your leg to get to it. They would protect you; they would make your decisions for you; they would explain for you how the world worked; and it would never occur to them they were patronizing, condescending b.a.s.t.a.r.ds who should count themselves lucky Gwen kept a lock on her carry sidearm when off duty. They would condescend even when talking about the job, as though a person of either gender could make it to detective second grade without knowing the first thing about the work she was doing. open the door for you, if they had to break your leg to get to it. They would protect you; they would make your decisions for you; they would explain for you how the world worked; and it would never occur to them they were patronizing, condescending b.a.s.t.a.r.ds who should count themselves lucky Gwen kept a lock on her carry sidearm when off duty. They would condescend even when talking about the job, as though a person of either gender could make it to detective second grade without knowing the first thing about the work she was doing.
So a lawyer was better than that. Barry Ridgely, criminal defense attorney, attractive, good dresser, forty-one, divorced, two kids in private school, no real bad habits. Gwen had, naturally, checked him out when they'd first started seeing each other, and he was fine. He liked good restaurants, and so did she. He liked shoptalk, and so did she. It was just fine.
Tonight, Gwen's shoptalk was all about the man whose name, she was pretty sure, was not John B. Allen. "He just didn't look right," she said, not for the first time. "You know how people look right in their jobs, or they don't look right?"
"I know what you mean," Barry said. The restaurant was half full but quiet, dim-lit, comfortable. He said, "I got a guy right now, veterinarian, strangled his wife. He looks looks like a veterinarian, you know? Caring, easygoing, patient." like a veterinarian, you know? Caring, easygoing, patient."
"But he strangled his wife."
"She wasn't a pet. I tell you, Gwen, if I could bring a puppy into that courtroom, I'd get my guy off in a New York minute."
Gwen laughed and said, "Let me tell you about my landscape designer."
"Oh, sure," he said. "Sorry, didn't mean to interrupt." Which was one of the many nice things about him.
"That's okay," she told him, because it was. "I love the image of the puppy in court. But my my guy, in the Lexus, is no landscape designer. You look at him, he could be a prison guard, he could be a mine worker. He isn't outdoors, he isn't saying, 'Put the petunias over there.' He just isn't." guy, in the Lexus, is no landscape designer. You look at him, he could be a prison guard, he could be a mine worker. He isn't outdoors, he isn't saying, 'Put the petunias over there.' He just isn't."
Barry nodded. "Then why'd he say he was?" he asked, and put some monkfish in his mouth so he wouldn't interrupt her any more.
"He was at Elaine Langen's house when I interviewed her," Gwen told him. "Not in the house, outside it. I didn't see him then, but that's when I saw his car, the Lexus. She's the one said he was a landscape designer." She stopped, considering that. "That's right, she's she's the one lied first, then he told the same lie when I stopped him, later on. And since then he's disappeared, I asked some people on the force, unofficially, you know, keep an eye out for the Lexus, it hasn't been seen since." the one lied first, then he told the same lie when I stopped him, later on. And since then he's disappeared, I asked some people on the force, unofficially, you know, keep an eye out for the Lexus, it hasn't been seen since."
"You said it was Jersey plates," Barry pointed out, and poured them both some more chardonnay. "Maybe he went home."
"Or maybe he's lying low," she said. "If he isn't a landscape designer, and I know d.a.m.n well he isn't, then what's he doing here, what's he doing with Elaine Langen, and why are they both lying about it?"
"No," she said, sure of that. "She would, with anything in pants, but not him. He's a cold guy. With me, when I stopped him, he wore this affability like a coat, it wasn't him."
"The cloak of invisibility," Barry suggested.
"Exactly. Who knows who he is, down in there?"
"Well, if he's still around," Barry said, "and if he still has something to do with Mrs. Langen, you'll find him."
"Is he connected to my gunshot victim? I wonder," Gwen said. "You know, the guy I told you about in the hospital."
"A farmer boyfriend of Mrs. Langen."
"Who may have shot him, I don't know yet. But she and this Allen guy." Gwen shook her head. "I just have the feeling, whatever those two are up to, and it isn't hanky-panky, it would be very interesting to find out."
"You'll find out," he told her. "I know you, you're a bulldog."
"Thanks, Barry," she said, grinning comfortably at him. "Tell me about this veterinarian of yours. Why'd he strangle his wife?"
A little north of where they sat, in the restaurant that was only a restaurant for tonight, Elaine Langen, having not eaten her dinner and not drunk her coffee, but definitely having drunk her scotch and her wine, saw that the speeches were about to begin, and murmured to her husband, Jack, at her left hand, "Liddle girls' room." She stood carefully, so as not to stagger, and walked in more or less a straight line out of the room, out of the building, and into her car.
As Elaine was slipping shakily into the white Infiniti, Parker and Dalesia and McWhitney were getting into Dalesia's Audi and driving, at first with parking lights only, slowly out of the factory building and away along the road in the opposite direction from where they would meet the armored cars later tonight. Their goal was a diner down near the Ma.s.sPike, where they could have their dinner in guaranteed anonymity. They reached the diner, and as they drove into its parking area, the four armored cars from Boston rolled by unseen up on the Pike, slowing for their exit just ahead.
A few minutes later, when the armored cars turned in at the entrance to the Green Man Motel, their headlights cut short the goodbye kiss of Dr. Madchen and his Isabelle, who whispered hurried endearments, got into their separate cars, away from the headlights of all those trucks, and drove away to their for-the-moment homes.
The twelve crew members from the armored cars were booked into six rooms. It was nine-thirty now, and their escort would pick them up at one in the morning to lead them to the bank. In the meantime, they could shower, watch television, play cards, visit together, even nap. And when they did leave here at one o'clock, their traveling kits would stay in the rooms because they'd be coming back here once the move was finished, to get some real sleep before heading back east late tomorrow morning.
During the lead time before the robbery, Dalesia had been the man on the ground, learning the routes, finding places like the diner where they were eating now, and choosing the vehicles they would use tonight. Now, after they'd finished and paid, they got back into the Audi, and Dalesia led them first to the civilian car they would drive instead of one of their own. "It's a wreck," he told them, "but it runs. At least it'll run as long as we need it."
The used-car dealership he drove them to, just east of Rutherford, did not boast cutting-edge-security on its premises, but then, it didn't have cutting edge in its goods for sale either. This was not an operation connected with a new-car dealer, selling pretty good trade-ins, but a small private guy whose stock consisted of clunkers waiting for their fourth or fifth owner, and meantime lined up in gloomy rows under flapping pennants.
Two floodlights atop the trailer used for an office were the main deterrent to thieves, but Dalesia ignored them, pulling onto the lot and stopping in front of the trailer door. Illuminated by the floodlights, he twisted around to hand a key on a cardboard tag to McWhitney in the backseat, saying, "The first time, I picked my way in, but then I found an extra key to the front door in the desk, so here it is and just leave it. Top drawer."
Next, Dalesia gave McWhitney a small piece of notepaper from Trails End Motor Inne, saying, "When you get in, on your left, there's a keypad. The number's two-eight-five-seven. He's got that in his Rolodex under 'Alarm.' The car key you want is on hook seventeen, for that Chevy Celebrity back there. And this is your route from here back to the factory."
"See you there," McWhitney said, and got out of the Audi.
They waited until he'd entered, stepped inside to disarm the alarm, and stepped back out to wave that everything was okay, and then Dalesia drove them away from there, southeast. Along the way, he said, "The situation with this police car, this is the wrong season for it. It's in a very d.i.n.ky little town, this time of year they don't have a police force at all. I broke into their town hall to check them out, and they've got two retired cops come in the beginning of December and play police department until the middle of March. It's because they're right next to the base of a ski area, so all of a sudden the joint's jumping. The rest of the year, the police car's kept in a separate little garage out behind the town hall."
"But it looks like a police car," Parker said. As they drove, he was changing into the hat, shirt, and jacket of a police uniform.
"It is is a police car, Tootsie Roll on top, the whole thing. You'll see." a police car, Tootsie Roll on top, the whole thing. You'll see."
It was a twenty-minute drive to the garaged police car, during which time, at Deer Hill Bank, the last of the invited guests finally trailed away, leaving Jack Langen and the hired security guy, Bart Hosfeld, and the other people in charge of tonight's big move. "Time to start bringing everything upstairs," Bart said, and the moving company people, who'd been waiting outside for nearly half an hour, came in to start the move. Every piece of paper from the downstairs vaults had been boxed and labeled, and now the boxes would be brought up to bank level and stacked near the front door, to make the transition as rapid as possible once the armored cars arrived.
At the hospital, the pill they'd given Jake had taken effect, but it had to fight a very troubled mind. Jake was groggily asleep, harried by bad dreams, never sinking all the way down into real rest. He argued with his dreams, fretfully, inconclusively, and some of the argument surfaced in muttering, low, distressed phrases that nearly made words.
The police car, which looked exactly like a police car, was twelve years old and had only forty-three thousand miles on it. It was a little stiff at first, but then smoothed down. Parker turned on the police radio to listen to the night as he drove toward the intersection where the job would go down.
In her room at the Green Man, Sandra Loscalzo also listened to the night, and it seemed to her that something unusual was going on out there. Every once in a while, there'd be a directive or a report that didn't appear to contain a subject, and she was beginning to believe they were all on the same subject: "I've finished running Route Eleven. Everything clear."
"Be sure you're in position to control the traffic light in Hurley when the time comes."
Things like that kept snagging her attention-the glimmerings of some sort of movement in the night, like a whale too far below your ship to see. Something was starting up out there. Was it connected to her three guys?
There was one more vehicle for Dalesia to pick up tonight, the truck they'd transfer the goods to. This truck couldn't be stolen, because they'd have to use it more than once after the robbery, so Dalesia and McWhitney two days ago had taken the Ma.s.sPike west to Albany, New York, and rented a truck, McWhitney using his legitimate business credit card from his bar. It had been stashed since then in the munic.i.p.al parking lot in Rutherford. Now, after delivering Parker to the police car, Dalesia drove to Rutherford, left the Audi in the truck's place, and drove the truck to the factory.
McWhitney was already there with the Chevy Celebrity, a car about as old as Parker's police car but which had gone through a much more strenuous life. It was dinged and scratched and dented all over, and the m.u.f.fler sounded like a bad case of asthma, but it ran.
McWhitney had all four of the Celebrity's doors open, so its interior lights illuminated to some extent the area around the car. Too much light might attract attention, which they didn't want.
When Dalesia got out of the truck and joined him, McWhitney was studying the Carl-Gustafs and their rockets in this soft light. Looking up, he said, "I never loaded one of these things before."
"If they were that easy to do wrong," Dalesia said, "they wouldn't sell them to so many third-world countries."
"That sounds good. I'll watch."
"Sure," Dalesia said, and armed the weapons with self-confident speed.
Watching him, McWhitney said, "Parker in place?"
"Just waiting," Dalesia said.
"Like all of us."
And like the armored car crews, all of whom were ready by one, when a police escort came to lead them to the Deer Hill Bank.
The five engines made enough noise pulling out of the parking area that Sandra went to the window and looked out. A whole lot of armored cars? Going where? Too late to get out to her own car and follow them. She went back to her scanners.
At one-thirty, when the moving men were just starting to load the four armored cars, under the direction of Jack Langen and other bank officials, separating files from commercial paper from cash, Dalesia used McWhitney's pickup truck to leave the factory and go meet Elaine Langen and get the number of the armored car that they would want. And an hour later, Dalesia drove fast into the parking lot of the diner at the intersection where the robbery was to take place, and where Parker was waiting in the police car, because anybody who saw a police car behind a diner late at night would just a.s.sume the cops were cooping.
Parker saw the pickup drive in, and was out of the police car before Dalesia had stopped. Dalesia called out his open window, "Didn't show! The d.a.m.n party at the bank's over, over, Parker." Parker."
Parker got into the pickup. "I'll direct you to her house," he said, and removed the police hat and jacket along the way.
When they reached the Langen house, it was completely dark. There was a door at the end of the multi-car garage, with a window in it. They smashed the window, unlocked the door, stepped in, and the white Infiniti was there. They moved fast through the dark house, up to the second floor, found her room, switched on the light, and she lay on her back on the bed, asleep, dressed except for shoes.
"Wha?" she said, blinking, lifting her arms to protect her eyes. "Wha?"
"Up," Parker told her. "Fast!"
"Oh, my G.o.d!" She sat up, horrified. "I forgot!"
"You got drunk. On your feet. Now!"
"I will, I will, oh, I can't believe I-"
Wailing, she hurried away into the bathroom, and seven minutes later she was moving fast down the stairs with them, saying, "The maid sleeps way in the back, she won't hear a thing."
"You just go there and out," Parker said.
"I can't go back there for just one minute."
They all went through the house to the garage, Parker saying, "Make it three minutes."
"Five tops," Dalesia said.
"Oh, G.o.d. I never thought I'd do a- It was the stress, it was my father's- Oh, never mind." Distracted, she triggered open the garage door. "I don't know why I'm explaining myself."
"We'll follow you."
Driving back toward the bank, seeing those headlights well back but constantly there in her rearview mirror, Elaine cursed herself for a fool. Everything she did was wrong. Shooting Jake, for G.o.d's sake! Getting drunk and forgetting what she was supposed to do tonight, and for those those people. people.
With a wince every time her eyes saw those headlights, small, sharp, accusing, she thought, what if they didn't come after me until it was too late? It isn't too late now, I can make up for it, but what would they have done if I'd spoiled the whole thing? They would not have let me live, she a.s.sured herself. They would not have let me live.
I want to get away from here. But not that way.
But she had another chance; she could still do it right. She'd go to the bank; she'd tell Jack she'd gone home for a nap but really wanted to see at least part of the big move, so here she was, back. She'd make chitchat for a few minutes, find out which armored car would contain the cash, and then plead tiredness, say she'd seen enough to get the general idea, and leave. Pausing next to that pickup truck.
She had just made out the lights and activity spilling out of the bank, far ahead, when the headlights behind her clicked off. She drove on, more and more slowly, and saw that the scene in front of the bank was of constant ordered activity, brightly illuminated. In order not to disturb the neighbors more than necessary, the lights had been set to shine toward the area in front of the bank but nowhere else, so it was a white cone of busy movement up there, surrounded by the blackness of this moonless overcast night, as though it were a scene on stage.