DEEP CITY in Times Roman

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Getting the Shaft?

“Mix the saltpeter—”

Lynette giggled, then broke into laughter. She laughed so hard, in fact, she held the receiver away from her mouth.

“This is a pay phone,” Sophia snapped. “And it’s long distance. Quit giggling and write this down.” Lynette hadn’t heard Sophia’s usually gentle voice sound so clipped, so ugly. She picked up a pen and began scribbling.

The doorbell rang.

“Someone’s here. Can I call you back on your cell phone?”

“No. They can trace that. Don’t phone me at Tom’s, either. I will phone you exactly one hour from now—you’ll still be house-sitting at your sister’s, right?”

“Yes. I’ll wait for you. But I don’t think anyone would trace my cell—”

“Not worth risking. In an hour, then. Now, I have a date with James Joyce.”

“I thought you were still seeing Daniel.”

Lynette heard Sophia’s loud sigh through the phone receiver. Hmmphf! she thought. Today, she has no sense of humor. She took the receiver with her to answer the door, which Shirley was already opening. She’d craned her neck around it. “Lynette?” she asked almost breathlessly. She panted and stepped into the foyer. Fumes of her Chanel No. 5 filled the room while she brush raindrops off her trench coat and shook water from her short, frizzy hair. The scene made Lynette giddy again.

“Quit laughing.” Shirley scowled. “There’s a good reason why I’m so wet. And you should be praising me big time for my innovative mind, my fortitude, my loyalty, instead of snickering at me.” Panting still, she pulled out a tissue and dabbed her forehead.

“I’m sorry.” Lynette cupped her hands over her mouth and tried to stifle her laughter. “It’s just that . . . you look like my mother’s spaniel after a bath.” Lynette giggled again. Then she inhaled deeply. “Would you like a towel?”

“No,” Shirley snapped. “I don’t know why I let you snare me into this, this thing.” She shook her head again, spraying Lynette with droplets. “You want to know why I’m so wet? I didn’t get this wet walking in from the car, no. I got soaked trying to cover for us, trying to dodge that field. I ran two and a half blocks—nonstop, mind you—trying to get away from that character Fieldspot.”

Lynette gasped, raised her eyebrows, and plopped into a chair. “She’s after you, now, too? What’s she doing in Wheat Ridge? We’re miles from our regular library and stomping grounds. What happened?”

Shirley crossed her arms. “I noticed your car wasn’t in the drive when I first pulled up, and even at home, you always leave it out, rain or shine—I swear you’re trying to see how long it takes for the thing to rust—”

“Sophia talked me into keeping the car in the garage. She’s more paranoid that I am about this.”

“So I drove around the corner to King Soopers. I didn’t see your car there, either, but I got out and started poking through the aisles, picking up a few odds and ends, but keeping an eye out for you. Then who should come around behind me, pretending to scan labels on tomato sauce, but glancing up every few minutes, squinting, and eying me like she was some private dick?”


Shirley nodded. “I thought, brother, what now? And tried to maneuver my way around four-packs of toilet paper stacked high so I could lose the ol’ biddy. I thought I’d escaped her, but just when I was about to slip through the door, I glanced back. There she was by the ATM machine, still eying me. I knew she was gonna follow me, too. So I cut outa there quick, but I didn’t want her to see my car. She’d jot down the license number, I know she would. So instead, I jogged—and I do mean jogged, like I thought I would die, jogged—here. And I don’t think she saw which way I went. And thank God, I looked through your garage windows. I don’t know where I woulda gone if you weren’t here.”

“I just hope they don’t have this address. Of course, the library has my home address—it’s part of their files.” She bounced out of the chair, took Shirley’s coat and draped it over another chair, then she gave her friend a loose hug. “Sit down and warm up with some coffee.”

Still looking rattled, Shirley took a seat. “She’s seen us together, so that’s probably why she’s watching me.”

Lynette reached for her pack of cigarettes on the coffee table, drew out one, and lit it. “This is just too fishy.”

“What’s uncanny is it’s like she knew I was going to that store.” Shirley shook her head. “I mean, I didn’t even plan to go there till I couldn’t see your car.”

“Yes, it’s like she’s telepathic, psychic, or something.” Lynette pulled one of her knees to her chest. “She’s probably casing this place.” She looked at the marble foyer for a few seconds and noted she’d need to run a vacuum over it later. Then she looked back at Shirley. “She’s probably casing this place. You know what that means, don’t you?”

Shirley wrinkled her brow and shrugged.

“We can’t build the bomb here. She’s tailing me. She’s tailing you. But why? And how? Is she tapping our phone lines?”

Shirley shook her head. “That still wouldn’t explain her popping up in King Sooper’s.”

“You’re right. Let me think this through. She appears where ever we go somewhere, even if we don’t know we’ll be there. And that place could be across the country. It’s as if,” she paused. “It’s as if we send some sort of signal every time we move, no matter how we travel.”

“Yeah, like a tailing device.”

“That’s it!” Lynette brought a fist to the arm of the chair. “We are being bugged. Must be our cell phones. They send out signals that surveillance groups can use to locate people.”

Shirley shook her head. “Left mine home today.”

Lynette frowned. “Really? Hmmm. It blows that idea.”

“I dunno.” Shirley fiddled with the hem of her blouse. “In the old detective and spy movies, sometimes, a guy would put a sensor in a person’s clothes. It’d broadcast where that person was.”

“But where? When?”

Shirley shrugged.

“Whatever. But where can we build this thing?”

“Not at my house.”

Lynette shook her head. “No. Fieldspot would find us there, too.” She blew a smoke ring, then watched it rise, drift, and hover over Shirley’s head. “We need someplace remote—far away from this city and Fieldspot. Far away from libraries. And far from any stray Unis or Uni spies.”

“But if we’re being bugged, it won’t matter where we go.”

“True.” Lynette crossed her arms. “Okay. Whatever Fieldspot has bugged, it’s with us here. That eliminates a lot. First, I’m trying my purse. If she’s bugging us, we’ll find any device she’s using.” With that, she sprang from the chair, grabbed her purse, and emptied it onto her sister’s kitchen table. Shirley followed her and started checking her shoes for some small, telling device.

After rummaging through her bag and finding nothing, Lynette squeezed each inch of the lining. “Here! That’s it! Here’s the transmitter!” she squealed.

“Rip that thing out of there!”

“Wait. Don’t. Hmmm.” Lynette smiled. “Check out your purse, too. And I have a better idea.” She smiled. “I’m mailing this purse—and yours, if you like—to Marianne, a friend in California. We’ll do it tonight, late. The Wheatridge post office is open at night, so Fieldspot likely will be sleeping. And she likely won’t trail me there to see what I’m doing. Besides, if she does, I’m prepared: I’ll wrap it in a box.” She laughed. “Imagine that ol’ snoop poking around on the opposite side of the country from where we’ll be. I better enclose a letter to my friend and warn her about the old bag. My friend has such a sense of humor, she might take Fieldspot on a true snipe hunt.”

“Snipe hunt?” Shirley wrinkled her nose.

Lynette laughed. “My mom’s expression. She used to watch The Mickey Mouse Club. A serial, “Spin and Marty” ran on it. Snipes don’t exist. But a camp leader took a group of the boy campers on a snipe hunt during the show.” When Lynette looked back at Shirley, her eyes glimmered. “And Fieldspot needs to go on a snipe hunt, very soon.”

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