One of Remley’s stitches had popped open, and his head was starting to bleed.
“You better get a towel on that,” Tom said.
“I want to help,” said Remley. “I want to steal.”
Tom grabbed a roll of paper towels from beneath the cash register. “You’ll be a bigger help if you’re not bleeding all over the floor. Go on. Take this and sit down someplace until it stops.”
Remley left, grumbling. Ellen clapped her hands.
“Right,” she said. “Where do we begin?”
The Everything Store was organized according to the demands of limited space, rather than any sort of thoughtful order. Tom reached into his backpack and gave Ellen the roll of trash bags.
“You start left, I’ll start right,” he said. “We want anything that records, the smaller the better. Think concealment. A camcorder from 1995 probably won’t do the trick.”
“Unless,” Ellen said, “we hide a smaller camera inside.”
Tom laughed. “Thinking outside the box, good. I like it.”
They split up. The nice thing about Ellen was that she didn’t have to be told to work quickly. Even with the alarm disaster diverted, Tom was less than convinced that they were out of danger. For all he knew, Alarm One Security had yet another fail safe, one that involved calling the cops out to any suspicious site, regardless of a luckily guessed password.
The futility of the search only reminded him of the futility of the whole enterprise – taping and blackmailing Josephine Prelligate? Why not just swallow a cyanide capsule and be done with it? – but then he hit pay dirt: a pocket-sized, voice-activated tape recorder, complete with a blank cassette. The only thing it needed was a set of batteries, and there were usually a few in the back to test incoming electronics. He kept looking, and a few more shelves down he found a hands-free telephone, the type telemarketers were so fond of. He could cut off the plastic headband, maybe, jerry-rig the microphone to be concealed under his clothes.
Halfway through the store he ran into Ellen. She shook a trash bag at him.
“Struck gold,” she said, reaching into the bag. She pulled out a teddy bear.
“Cute,” Tom said. “I guess nights get lonely in New York.”
“No, look at it, asshole.” She turned the bear over and opened its back in an adorable vivisection. Inside the bear was a small plastic box, from the top of which ran a half-dozen brightly colored wires. “It’s a nanny-cam. One of those things suburban moms use to make sure nobody’s diddling their kids.”
Tom’s eyes lit up. “This is perfect. This is exactly what we need. Does it do audio?”
“Not sure,” Ellen said. “We’ll have to do a dry run.”
Tom stuffed the bear into his bag, then zipped it up. “Come on. I think we’ve got what we need. I just want to grab some batteries and then we can get the hell out of here.”
They moved quickly to the back room. Tom found a pack of batteries, then went with Ellen to gather Remley from the office. He’d made himself at home in Uncle Paul’s office chair, and was nosing through stacks of Paul’s records with one hand, the other half-heartedly holding a paper towel to his forehead. As soon as he was over Remley’s shoulder, Tom noticed the spots of blood that had landed on the desk.
“Damn it, Remley, would you look at this mess?”
Remley didn’t seem to hear. He was hunting faster now, digging through the upset of papers he’d scattered around the desk. “It’s in here. I just saw it.”
Tom started snatching up the records to try and reorganize them. “I ask for a little discretion, and what do you do? You make this place look like a murder scene.”
“Ah HA!” Remley grabbed at a balance sheet and waved it in the air. “You need to look at this, Tom.”
Tom grabbed it and glanced at the sheet of numbers. “Okay, I looked. Would you get up and help me clean, already?”
Remley rose from his seat and jabbed a finger at the balance sheet. “Look. Look. What does it say?”
Tom’s eyes stopped at the line above Remley’s index finger.
Payment – R. Strahm – 1500
“That’s… odd,” Tom admitted.
Remley looked smug. “Ain’t it just?”