She shook her head. “I’ll only take a few things in. The rest I’ll stash somewhere outside the fence.”
Daniel raised his eyebrows in confusion, but Kevin was nodding.
“I’ve had to run out in the middle of the night before,” she explained to Daniel, pitching her voice low, though Arnie could probably still hear. She had no idea how much he knew about Kevin’s old job. “Sometimes it’s not so easy to get back to pick up your things.”
Daniel’s brow creased. Some of the sadness she’d been expecting before flickered across his expression. This was a world not many people entered on purpose.
“You don’t need to worry about that here,” Kevin said. “We’re secure.”
Kevin was one of those people who had chosen this life, which made his every judgment suspect to her.
“Better to keep in practice,” she insisted.
Kevin shrugged. “If that’s what you want, I know a place that might work.”
The house was quite a bit nicer on the inside than the outside. She’d expected moldy wallpaper, 1970s oak paneling, sagging couches, linoleum, and Formica. While there was still an attempt at a rustic theme, the fixtures were new and state of the art. There were even granite countertops on the kitchen island under the elk-horn chandelier.
“Wow,” Daniel murmured.
“But how many contractors were inside this place?” she muttered to herself. Too many witnesses.
Kevin heard, though she hadn’t meant him to. “None, actually. Arnie used to be in construction. We got all the materials from across the state line and did the work ourselves. Well, mostly Arnie did it. Satisfied?”
Alex pursed her balloon lips.
“How did you two meet?” Daniel asked Arnie politely.
She really ought to study Daniel, Alex thought, practice his ways of interacting. This was how to act like a normal person. Either she’d never really known how or she’d forgotten completely. She had her lines down for waitressing, for cubicle jobs; she knew how to respond in a work environment in the least memorable way. She knew how to talk to patients when she was doing her illicit doctor gig. Before that, she’d learned the best ways to pull answers from a subject. But outside of the prescribed roles, she always avoided contact.
It was Kevin who answered Daniel’s question. “Arnie was in a little trouble that related tangentially to a project I was working on a while back. He wanted out, and he gave me some very valuable information in exchange for my killing him.”
The silent Arnie grinned widely.
“We hit it off,” Kevin continued, “and kept in touch. When I decided to start preparing for retirement, I contacted him. Our needs and interests aligned perfectly.”
“Match made in heaven,” Alex said in a sweet voice. Great, so people might be looking for him, too, she didn’t add aloud.
Kevin and Daniel went to the downstairs master to gather a wardrobe for Daniel and outfit him with toiletries. Alex showed herself upstairs, easily locating the small room Kevin had offered her. It would work. He was using it for storage right now, but there was enough space for her cot and personal things. One of the large plastic storage bins would make a decent substitute for a desktop. The bathroom was down the hall; it connected to both the hallway and what would be Daniel’s bedroom.
It had been a very long time since she’d shared a bathroom. At least this one was bigger and posher than she was used to.
The brothers were still busy when she went back to the car to sort through her stuff. There were three dogs on the porch; one she was pretty sure was Einstein, one huge black Rottweiler, and a reddish-brown, sad-faced dog with floppy ears who reminded her of the dog whose leg gets broken at the end of Lady and the Tramp. So that probably meant he was a hound dog or a bloodhound or something – she wasn’t sure which was which.
The Rottweiler and the hound started toward her with more interest than menace, but it was enough for her to take a huge step back toward the door. Einstein raised his head and gave a low, cough-like bark, and the other two stopped. They sat down where they were, like they had when Kevin had given them the at-ease command.
She wasn’t sure if Einstein actually had the authority to give the other dogs orders – did dogs recognize rank? – so she moved cautiously along the porch, waiting for them to attack. They held their relaxed positions, just watching her curiously. As she passed, the hound’s tail thumped loudly against the wooden slats of the floor, and she had the odd impression that he was playing up the sad eyes in anticipation of being petted. She hoped he wasn’t too disappointed that she wasn’t brave enough to try it.
She dug through her things wedged in the trunk, pulling together an emergency kit and fitting it into a backpack; this she would keep with her at all times. She took most of her dirty clothes to wash inside – hopefully there was a washing machine – but left the businessy stuff with the other bags in the trunk. She had to have at least one set of clothes with her off-property stash. She’d run out one memorable night – after assassin two was gassed trying to cut her throat – in just her underwear and had to steal a neighbor’s coveralls out of the back of his work van. She’d learned that lesson. And to always sleep in pajamas that could double as daytime clothes.
Even with the cot, it was an easy load to take up the stairs. She went back for one of the duffel bags, this one containing her basic lab gear. She shouldn’t waste the downtime when she could be prepping. As she passed the master bedroom, she heard squabbling, and the sound made her happy to be out of the way of it.