I woke to being poked in the shoulder. “Yo, boss, your watch.”
“Huh,” I blinked. After a moment, “What fucking time do you call this?”
“Two am, boss.” I blinked again and Kane came into focus. “I assume you’ll want an early start so wake me at 6.”
“Give me a minute, I’ll find fresh sheets,” I pulled myself reluctantly out of bed.
He shook his head. “No thanks, sleeping in your bed is too weird for me. I’ll just doss on the couch. Don’t go outside, don’t do anything stupid and don’t get yourself killed in the next few hours, ‘k boss?” He headed out of the room.
I pulled some clothes on, then tried to decide how to spend the next 4 hours. I finally walked out of the bedroom, picked up the laptop and went back in. Kane was already asleep and snoring.
I checked email, put in a few bids in online auctions and then went to SimBook. A couple of hours past easily as I went looking through albums from my friends, checked some recommended links, and played truly mindless stupid games.
It was about 5:30 when my laptop flickered as it changed from the power supply to batteries. I closed the laptop and left the room. Light was flooding in the windows, in spite of the hour. I heard Kane stir as I walked past to look out the window.
The light was coming from some emergency flood lights mounted around Marta’s house. I assume Ted didn’t like being left in the dark last time and enough light angled toward my place that my front was fairly well lit.
“S’up, boss?” asked Kane rubbing his eyes.
“Our amateurs cut the power for the second time this week but next door has installed emergency lights. So they don’t have the cover of darkness this time.”
“For fucking god’s sake, get back from that window. Suppose they start shooting?”
I moved back a few paces. “I wish they would. That I can understand.”
He shook his head. “I’d just as soon they didn’t. Harder to guard against.”
My cell rang. “Yes, Ted, we are awake.” “No, we haven’t seen anything.” “I don’t think my body guard would appreciate it if I wandered outside to see if anything was happening. He’s already ordered me back from the windows once.” “No, I’m not going to tell him to go look either. I’m pretty sure that your lights would have ruined their plans. We’ll have a look around before we go and pick up the list you promised me.” “Around seven thirty, give or take a little.”
I turned to Kane. “If you think you can sleep more, I’ll wake you around 7.”
He nodded, “Worth a shot for more shut eye. I don’t think the amateurs will do anything now. Wake me if anything suspicious happens, right?”
“All right.” I watched as he settled back on the couch. I went and grabbed the laptop again. I kept busy until nearly 7. At that point, I went into the kitchen area and starting making pancakes. I didn’t have to wake Kane, the aroma of the pancakes woke him.
“Breakfast? You cook?”
“Cook, clean, and take care of the kids.” I laughed. “I have my faults but caring my for family isn’t one of them. Pancakes, coffee and juice, take what you need to get you through the morning.” He nodded, then grabbed a plate and a cup. We ate quietly. Tania rang me at precisely 10 past 7. No news of note, for which I was thankful. News, in this case, simply couldn’t be good.
“Time to go pick up the list. I’m sure Ted’s finished with it by now.”
“Let me go start the car.”
“No need, Ted’s just over there.” I nodded in the general direction of the house next door.
“I thought you said Marta lived there?”
“Marta took Ted in after his leg was broken. I don’t know if they have a relationship beyond being friends but that’s not my business. They are both friends of mine and good people as long as you aren’t their target.” I shrugged at Kane. “Probably true about a lot of people in the profession.” It seemed true about Kane, thankfully.
We walked next door and Ted gave me his printout. “I’ve organised the list by their map locations.” He spread a map on the table, each location circled in red. “I’ve done a complete list but it seems unlikely they’re in one of the houses in town. The odds of a neighbour noticing something would be very high. We are very nosey around here.”
I studied the map. There were more red circles on it than I would have believed given the size of town. Then again, a lot of people left when they finished school, hoping for a better life somewhere bigger. “Thanks Ted, I knew I could rely on you.”
“You better be fucking careful. Your family needs you.” Ted glanced over at Kane but made no comment. We had survived the night and were still in each other’s company. That alone said a lot.
I circled part of the map with my finger. “We should start with these as they are closest to the house, quick to get here. If that proves fruitless, we can search the lots over here,” I circled another area, “in the direction of the amphitheatre. If that doesn’t work out, we can search on the other side of the river. I hope to hell that’s not where they are, there is a lot of swamp and hiding would be simple. It would take a week to do a half decent search.” Kane and Ginger nodded.
Kane pointed at the map, “You’ve left out this bit.”
“True, but that’s our wealthy section of town. It’s hard to imagine that people could camp out there without being noticed and having the police summoned.” I looked at Kane then Ginger. “We can look but it doesn’t seem worth it.”
They nodded and I gathered up the map and list. “Later, Ted.” He just waved vaguely as we left.
As we walked toward my car, Kane said, “I’m not really sure about this plan. If they are following us, it won’t take long for them to work out what we are up to.”
“I don’t know. It seems as though they mostly watch the house for opportunities to do something annoying. Us being out of the way may just suit them.” I looked back at our modest home. “Besides, right now, I can’t stand being there. I need to be doing something.”
“Right, boss,” he said as he shrugged at me.
Taking the car only turned out to be moderately useful. We parked a safe distance away from each target and walked the rest of the way each time. Which meant we did nearly as much walking as we would have without a car.
At each location, we’d check for signs of recent activity. Mostly looking for if there had been a car around and if it looked anything around had been used. Three out of four places we checked had no sign anyone had been there for months. The fourth would have tyre marks or enough of a path to warrant a closer look. But none looked currently occupied.
It was both a tense and tedious activity. Tense as you approached a vacant house, lot or park - not sure of what you might find. Tedious as you check the area, slowly and carefully. After finishing each one, I’d tick the location off Ted’s list.
We had just looked at the eighth location for the day and were returning to the car when Kane coughed quietly. “Boss, can we have a break?” he asked.
I was about to say no when I glanced at my watch. It was already 1:45 and we’d not stopped for even a short break yet today. My feet hurt and I was hungry. “Yeah, we’ll have lunch and give our feet a rest. I hadn’t realised it was this late already. You hungry?”
“Yes, boss, but if you want to keep going I will.”
I shook my head. “Why the fucking hell wouldn’t Sophie cut you a break? You seem like an ideal partner. Yet I saw her rip into you several times in just a few hours. I actually thought you were going to hit her at one point.”
“I wanted to tear her into pieces but that’s not what I was paid to do. It was tempting though.”
We drove over to the local diner. Kane ordered their largest steak. I had grilled chicken. The food at the diner wasn’t the best but it would do.
We were nearly finished when my phone rang. I glanced at the display as I opened it up. “Tania? Something wrong?”
“So, the hellcat does have a name,” replied a male voice. “I assume you want your wife back, Mr Shrimpton, in one piece and not several. If you do, you will listen very carefully to what I tell you to do.”
My heart started racing. They had Tania. He hadn’t mentioned the toddlers but I wasn’t sure if that was a good or bad sign. “If you hurt her, you are a dead man.” Kane’s focus snapped to me, his eyes wide. “Let me talk to her.” Fucking shit, this was not part of my plan.