“Two in the head, di dah di dah di dah.”

“Rings a bell, doesn’t it?”

“Ding fucking dong. A whole carillon. Give me a minute, will you? And turn that damn thing off, I can’t hear myself think.”

The TV had the sound off, the way she generally had it, but he knew what she meant. He hit the Power button and the screen went dark.

After a long moment she said, “It wasn’t the client in Louisville and it’s not the client in Boston. It was somebody else who was after you personally.”

“Only way it adds up.”

“Only way I can see, Keller. It can’t be some avenging angel, has to even the score for Thurnauer or the guy in Louisville -“

“Hirschhorn.”

“Whatever. In Boston he staked the place out, waited for you to do it, then made his move. He didn’t care if Thurnauer got killed, just so he got his shot at you.”

“And in Louisville…”

“In Louisville he must have been watching Hirschhorn’s house. After you gassed the guy in his garage, he followed you back to the motel and-“

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“And?”

“Doesn’t work, does it? He couldn’t have followed you back to the room you already checked out of twelve hours ago.”

“Keep going, Dot.”

“I’ll tell you, it’d be easier if I had a map and a flashlight. I’m in the dark here. If he went to the wrong room, the old room, it’s because he already knew where you were staying. He knew about the room before you did Hirschhorn.”

“Bingo.”

“Definitely not the client,” she said, “because how would he know where you were staying? He didn’t even know who you were. Keller, I’m bumping into the furniture here. Help me out, will you?”

“Remember the drunk?”

“Looking for his friend, wasn’t he? What was the friend’s name?”

“What difference does it make?”

“None. Forget it.”

“The name was Ralph, if it matters, but-“

“How could it matter? He didn’t exist, did he? Ralph, I mean. Obviously the drunk existed, except I don’t suppose he was really drunk.”

“Probably not.”

“He knew where you were staying. How did he know? You didn’t make any calls from your room, did you?”

“I don’t think so. If I used the room phone at all, it was well after he came knocking on my door.”

“And you didn’t use your own name at the motel?”

“Of course not.”

“Must have tagged you from the airport, then. Or he put a homing device on your car, but the client gave you the car, and we already established that the client didn’t do this. Somebody else knew you were coming, or else, Jesus, followed you out from New York -is that possible?”

“No.”

“Are you sure?”

“Sure enough. Look, I think I know who it was.”

“Who, for God’s sake?”

“Go back to Louisville for a minute. I get off the plane and there’s a guy there to meet me.”

“As arranged.”

“As arranged, and there’s another guy, has a sign I can’t make out. I walk up to him until I’m almost in his face, trying to read what’s on his sign.”

“That’s the guy?”

“I think so.”

“Because he can’t spell?”

“Because he wasn’t waiting for anybody, unless you count me. Look, Dot, it has to be somebody who doesn’t know who I am.”

“What does he do, just kill people at random?”

“He knows what I do,” he said, “but not who I am. If he knew my name and address he wouldn’t have to chase all over the country after me. Why go after me when I’m working and on guard? Between jobs, what do I do? Watch a movie, take a walk, go out for a meal.”

“Maybe he wants a challenge.”

“No,” he said, “I don’t think so. I think he knew the guy who was meeting me, knew him by sight, and knew he was going to the airport to pick up the out-of-town shooter. So he made a sign of his own, one that wouldn’t match anybody coming off a plane, and he stood around and waited. And then I showed up and made sure he got a good close look at me.”

“And then you went to the right guy, and that confirmed the ID.”

“Who followed us to the car they had for me in long-term parking. And when I drove off in it he got on my tail.”

“Straight to the motel.”

“I stopped for a bite on the way, and looked at a map, but then I went and found a motel, and I wouldn’t have been hard to tail. I wasn’t looking out for it. I didn’t have any reason to.”

“And he came and knocked on your door. Suppose you open up. Then what? Bang bang?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Why not? Be easy, wouldn’t it?”

“It would have been easy any time during the next couple of days. But he waited until I did Hirschhorn. And in Boston he waited until I got Thurnauer.”

“What is he, polite? He lets the other person go first?”

“Evidently.”

“A real gentleman,” she said. “I’m trying to sort this out, Keller. He came looking for Ralph to make sure he was right about what room you were in. Then, once he knew for sure, he sat tight.”

“He probably followed me around some.”

“While you bought stamps and drove over the bridge to Indiana. Is that what’s on the other side of the river? Indiana?”

“That’s right.”

“And then you finally made your move on Hirschhorn, and he was close enough to know about it, and then what? He followed you back to the motel?”

“He wouldn’t have had to follow too close. He knew where I was going.”

“So you both drove there, and you went to your new room and he went to the old one.”

“I parked in back, near the old room,” he remembered. “Out of habit, I guess. He’d have seen the car and known I was home for the night. Then he gave me a little time to unwind and go to bed, and then he came calling.”

“Had a key?”

“Or had enough tradecraft to get through a motel room lock without one. Which isn’t the hardest thing in the world.”

“He goes in and there’s two heads on the pillow. He must figure you got lucky.”

“I guess.”

“It’s dark, so he doesn’t notice that neither head is yours. Doesn’t he turn on the light afterward? You’d think he’d want the chance to admire his work.”

“He might.”

“But not necessarily?”

“Why bother, if he knows he nailed both parties? But if he does put the light on, then what?”

“He’s been following you around all this time, Keller, he must know what you look like.”

“The man he shot might look enough like me to pass,” he said, “especially with his face in a pillow and two bullets in his head. But say he realizes his mistake. What’s he going to do? Go door-to-door looking for me?”

“He can’t do that.”

“Odds are he figures I dumped the car, checked out, somebody drove me to the airport and I’m gone. One way or another he missed me. But my guess is he never turned on the light and never knew he screwed up until he read about it the next day in the paper.”

“I’m trying to sort this out,” she said, “and it’s not easy. You want some iced tea?”

“Sure, but don’t get up. I’ll get it.”

“No, it helps me think if I move around a little. What did you do after Louisville?”

“Came home and lived my life.”

“In terms of work, I mean. There was the job in New York, which was the one I had the bad feeling about, because I should have turned it down. Where was our friend while you were busy with that one?”

“No idea.”

“If he got on you here in the city, even if he missed you he’d wind up knowing your name and address. But nothing like that happened. Keller, what do you figure gets him off and running? What’s his wake-up call?”

“It has to be he learns a contract’s been put out and a hit’s going down.”

“So he starts off knowing who the subject is, but not the shooter.”

“Has to be.”

“And he stakes out the subject, or he picks up the shooter coming in, like he did with you in Louisville. New York, that artist, maybe he didn’t get wind of the contract in the first place.”

“Maybe not.”

“Or he did, but he couldn’t pick you up on the way in. Nobody met you, nobody fingered the artist. What was his name?”

“Niswander.”

“You showed up at the opening.”

“Along with half the freeloaders in Lower Manhattan,” he said.

“If he staked out Niswander, waiting for somebody to hit him, well, he’s still waiting, because you went and knocked off the client instead. What came after that?”

“ Tampa.”

“ Tampa. Something something beach.”

“ Indian Rocks Beach.”

“You were down and back the same day. Even if he was ready to play, it was over and done with before he could have drawn a bead on you. And then comes Boston, and that brings us up-to-date, unless I’m forgetting something.”

“I think that covers it.”

“You saw him in Boston, isn’t that what you said? Getting out of a cab and looking at Thurnauer’s house?”

“It wasn’t Thurnauer’s place. I think it was the girl’s.”

“I’m glad you cleared that up. Point is you saw him, didn’t you?”

“I saw somebody. Maybe it was him and maybe not.”

“Here’s the real question. Was it somebody you saw before?”

“I don’t know.”

“Like in Louisville, standing around with a sign.”

“When I saw him get out of the cab,” he said, “I assumed it was Thurnauer. What did I see? A guy in a hat and coat, all bundled up and trying not to get soaked. And I saw him from the back. I never got a look at his face.”

“So maybe it was the same guy and maybe it wasn’t.”

“Helps a lot, doesn’t it?”

“Getting back to Louisville,” she said. “Did you get a good look at him then?”

“Did I look at him? Yes. Can I picture him now? No, not really. I got a better look at the sign he was holding.”

“That’s not much help, Keller. He’s probably not still carrying it.”

“He was wearing a leather jacket,” he said, “and that’s no help, either. He was about my height, not young, but not old, either. Not fat, not thin. Nothing terribly memorable about him.”

“You could be describing yourself, Keller.”

“Well, it wasn’t me.”

“No, you’d remember if it was. What’s his angle? I’ll tell you, he doesn’t sound like the Caped Crusader to me, not the way he stands aside and lets you fulfill the contract before he makes his move. If all this was in aid of truth and justice and the American Way, wouldn’t he go for an ounce of prevention?”