I was debating whether to shinny up the pillars to check the balcony doors when a squad car pulled up. A middle-aged cop came over to me at an unhurried gait.
"You got some reason to be out here?"
"Probably the same one you do." I waved my meter toward the house. "I'm with Florey and Kapper, the mechanical engineers. We heard some woman thinks little green men are hovering around here in the night. I'm just checking the circuits."
"You set something off in the garage," the cop said.
I smiled. "Oh, dear: I was trying brute force. They warned us against that at IIT, but I wanted to see if someone could actually lift those doors. Sorry to bring you out here for nothing."
"Not to worry: you saved me from our eighty-third call to look at suspicious mail."
"It's a hassle, isn't it," I said, hoping he wouldn't ask for my ID. "I've got friends in the Chicago PD who feel stretched to the limit these days."
"Same out here. We've got the reservoir and a bunch of power stations we have to keep an eye on. It's about time the FBI nailed this anthrax bastard--we waste an unbelievable amount of manpower, responding to hysterical calls about letters from old Aunt Madge who forgot to put her return address on the envelope."
We hashed over the current situation the way everyone did these days. Police forces were badly affected, because they had to gear up for incalculable terror attacks and couldn't keep up with their local crime loads. Drive-by shootings, which had dropped to their lowest level in decades, had jumped in the last six months.
The cop's cell phone rang. He grunted into it. "I'd better be going. You okay out here?"
"Yeah. I'm taking off, too. Place looks clean to me, except for the usual garbage--" I pointed a toe at an empty cigarette wrapper near the foundation. "I don't see how anyone could be using the place."
"You find Osama bin Laden in the attic, give me a call: I could use the extra credit." He waved good-bye and got back into his squad car.
I couldn't think of anything else to look for, and, anyway, it was getting too dark to see clearly. I walked to the edge of the gardens, where they faded into a substantial woods, and looked up at the house. From here I could see the attic windows, but they presented a blank face to the sky.
From Blacklist by Sara Paretsky. Copyright Sara Paretsky 2003. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher, Putnam Publishing.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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