Sunday, July 21, 2013

Baxter: Chapter Six

Chapter Six

So that was what Falconer watched Baxter do for five days. It appalled her in several ways and on several levels. He was exhibiting so little caution for someone in his position that it bordered on suicidal. It was like watching a Great Master struggle with fingerpaints in his creaky, cranky senility. 
She had picked a few locks in the office building across the street from him, and built a hide one night, hours after he went to bed. She still did her work facing his condo, just in case. And she did it while wearing FLIR goggles so he couldn’t get the drop on her. Not that she needed to bother, she reminded herself as she continued to take every precaution. 
She had a tarp stained to look like roof tar, and she spread it over a small foam mattress. When the sun was out, which thankfully wasn’t often, it was hot. When it rained, she got wet. But for four days and four nights, she took shifts, sometimes scheduled, sometimes random, hiding in the tent and watching his home. Sometimes when he left, she followed him. Sometimes she waited and recorded his behavior when he returned. When she wasn’t there, a remote camera recorded his coming and goings. 
It was clear he wasn’t expecting anyone. Even someone with his clear disdain for common, sensible tradecraft wouldn’t be so oblivious if he had the slightest idea anyone  was on to him. 
Smith had not given her the direct impression that time was of the essence, but no one expected her to drag her feet. She was known for covering her bases, for being cautious, for making an approach only when she could control as many parameters as possible. She would still have to make her move soon. 
She watched him sleep on the couch once, well pass out was probably more accurate, his face flickering with the video game or movie that was still running. 
So this is what lazy looks like, she thought. But then, because she didn’t have anything else to do, and because she already had satellite wires running to the building’s utility and security lines, because she’d identified the make of stove in the kitchen and how she could blow it up, because she had a picture in her head of every entrance and exit, she just watched him. He would twitch occasionally, and she remembered that in a soft, indistinct way, how when he crashed out for 20 minutes in the corner of the room, he would shiver or shift or mumble in his sleep. His shirt had ridden up, and she was confronted with his starter gut. It wasn’t even that he looked so bad, really, he was just so not Baxter. Maybe a lot more than just his name and identity had been lost in the passing years. 
He woke up twenty minutes later, staggered snoozily to the bathroom, and found his bed. She kept watching, just in case, and began, once again, to rehearse her plan in her mind. It bothered her that she hadn’t found the boat, but Jerry Sumner certainly didn’t have one, never had, and the mark had not gone anywhere near the water the whole time she’d been here. She didn’t like that. 
The only thing she hadn’t done was break into his place and search it in person. She told herself that she didn’t because he was at home so damn much, she’d have to wait for a time when she knew he’d be out for at least an hour, and how would you plan that for a guy with a life like the mark. There was also the fact that, although his dedication to security was disgraceful, it didn’t mean he would be so stupid as to take no precautions for his home at all. Even if he was lazy now, he had once been very, very good, and invading his home was just too risky. 
Eventually she realized those were just very good excuses and that for some reason, she only wanted to go in there once: To do the job. She didn’t know what the discomfort meant, and she decided not to care.
She kept having these occasional strange thoughts during those days as she watched him, realizing this wasn’t a matter of making a specific cunning plan, but of simply choosing one of a dozen options and waltzing through one of the giant holes in what could charitably be considered his defensive perimeter. Another odd thought, she found it notable just how many times she’d seen him smile. He was quick enough with a joke and a laugh when she’d known him in the old days, but even then, the good times between them, the enjoyable times, like that day on the boat, were few and far between. Most of the time it was about learning to stay alive and then, well, staying alive. 
So he was happy. So what. She was still going to kill him. 
Preferably while he was making time with one of those neighborhood sluts. She gave a grim smile of satisfaction. It never occurred to her to identify the feeling as jealousy or to realize that it meant she had lost a tiny bit of self-control when it got to her. 

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