When Loomis got to the office the next morning there was a message on his machine from the Cap'n which accounted for his twenty minute drive the night before. It was a raging, lunatic message in which he abused his wife, himself and Loomis, for not being there to take the call. It warned of dire consequences if Loomis was not in his office around noon the next day to talk to him. When he called it was about quarter to one and he was every bit the Captain on the deck with a storm bearing down.
"All right, Loomis, I know you've got nothing because I've been with her every minute this week."
"Except for twenty minutes last night."
Loomis held the line while Fishbein worked his way through that. He hated knowing that anyone had seen him in the state he had been in, but he liked knowing he was getting his moneys worth.
"Yeah," he said. "She make any calls while I was gone?"
"You'll get a full, written report as soon as I see you, but no. She didn't."
"All right. Things have changed. You remember you mentioned two kinds of pictures?"
"I want the second kind."
"Cap'n Fishbein, I want to make sure we understand each other. You tell me exactly what you want."
"I want." Fishbein took a deep breath, held it a second and released it slowly, like a diver. "I want the dirtiest, filthiest, most explicit, most compromising photographs of my wife and Elroy Keever . . . fucking that you can get."
Gallagher would be ecstatic, but Loomis cringed. He hated this kind of thing. The dirtier they wanted them, the better chance he stood of getting his head busted.
"Cap'n, I have to point out to you that what you're asking for will very likely be no more use to you in your divorce than more . . . standard shots. They will also be more expensive."
Loomis quickly added up five nights for himself, three nights for Marty, one night for Gallagher and gave himself an extra $500 for hazard pay. He hired a third guy at $100 dollars and decided $500 wasn't going to do it before he came up with a figure he could live with.
"If we get what you're asking for its going to cost you $3,000. Minus the advance. Then you add $150 for every day we wait."
"Mayflower Motel after ten tonight."
"I beg your pardon?"
"You know where it is?"
"In Lavalette. Right on the highway."
"That's right. Be there tonight after ten. You won't have to wait."
"Cap'n Fishbein, we've come up with some details you may be interested in."
"Interest me tomorrow. Can you have the pictures by then?"
"Don't come to the boat, we're shutting down for a few days."
"Until this thing gets settled. I can't stand to be anywhere near that woman. Meet me in Asbury, on the boardwalk at one o'clock. First bench out of the Pavilion."
"Oh, Cap'n. Is that really necessary?"
Someone new came on the line. Someone who had the ability to crawl through the telephone lines and take Loomis' throat in his teeth. He only just stopped himself from doing it.
"Just. Do it. I'll have the money, in cash. And Loomis, don't you dare fuck up. I'm . . . I urge you not to make any mistakes."
He hung up.
Well, he might not get to Aruba this February, but he would be glad to see the back of this job anyway. His client was coming unglued. He called Gallagher and arranged to meet at the office at nine. He called the Pine Tree Inn in Lakewood and spoke to his friend Herbert Goz who was willing to earn an easy $100 that night. Goz was the dayshift bartender. He was a deafeningly scary looking guy whose nature was actually one of compromise. An ideal man for the job because he would avoid trouble whenever possible, but could end it the second he decided to. His only problem was it sometimes took him awhile to decide. He would be there at nine. Loomis closed up the shop and headed home, hoping Martha would be available for dinner. The Chevy, like an old hound, was always ready to go and always barely made it there. Martha was home. She wanted to make up for their fight. Loomis didn't know they had had one and barely stopped himself from saying so. They stayed in for dinner.
* * * * *
Lavalette is one of six or eight tiny towns that hack up the upper Barnegut Peninsula like a jellied eel. Some of them are only a block or two long; none of them are more than half a mile. Route 35 runs right down the middle with a block or two on the left to the ocean and a block or two on the right to Barnegut Bay. A few of these towns, notably Bay Head, are elegant, old-timey sea-side resorts. Most of them are either flashy boardwalk towns, like Seaside Heights or middle-class beach cottage towns, like Lavalette. Everything was tiny. Rows and rows of little wooden cabins separated by little sandy lanes, a miniature A&P, a combination Lavalette Police Department and volunteer fire department garage and the Mayflower Motel.
Loomis, Gallagher and Goz were parked on Lanyard Lane, which intersected Route 35 across from the Mayflower. They had decided to take Herbert's Buick Regal instead of Loomis' Chevy. The Buick was almost ten years old, but very reliable and much faster. Herbert was sitting quietly with his hands on the wheel, carefully picking an ethical course for himself through the evening. Gallagher's eyes were shining and he kept handling his camera like a GI landing at Omaha Beach. Loomis had been strictly forbidden by his partners from playing the country station on the radio so he ruled that the radio could not be played at all and just sat and smoked.
At quarter to ten Elroy Keever's pickup turned into the Mayflower parking lot. Gallagher started to open the door to get some long-range shots, but Loomis held his arm. If the guy was watchful leaving work he'd be hyper landing at he love-nest. They watched Keever as he opened the office door, waved at someone and caught a room key that was tossed at him. No registration means either a monthly rate or a friend at the desk. Keever left his pick-up at the office and walked back towards the beach. Loomis told them to sit tight and walked across the road toward the office. There was a single row of about ten rooms running from the office on a slight rise toward the beach. The end of the building was where the dunes crested and there was a quick drop to the beach. There were only two other vehicles in the lot and Loomis stood by one of them fumbling, as if for his keys, and saw Keever enter the next to last room. He had turned around once, but did not seem concerned by what he saw.
Loomis walked back around the office to the rear of the motel and back up toward the beach. The bathroom light was on in Keever's room, but the motel was built around the dunes and that window happened to be at least twelve feet off the ground. He could hear the shower being turned on. He continued to the top of the rise, down onto the beach and found a dark spot from which he could see the door of Keever's room. He checked his watch. Still ten minutes to ten. He stood, took a deep breath, instructed his shoulders to relax and walked over the rise and onto the motel's walkway. The door to the last room was locked and the curtains were pulled back far enough for him to be sure the room was empty. He walked quickly past Keever's room and could see that there wasn't the slightest chance of a useful shot through or under the curtains. The next room was unoccupied, as were the next three. He left the walkway and crossed the parking lot, away from the office, crossed the road and climbed back into the car.
"What is it?" Gallagher was jumping out of his skin.
"It's a boom-snap," said Loomis.
"All right!" said Gallagher, pumping his arm like a hockey player.
Loomis and Goz exchanged a pained look. Loomis' was squinty eyes. Goz' was a pursed lower lip and a curled upper lip. A boom-snap was the last alternative at the lowest rung of an ethically ambiguous procedure. When there was no clear view through a window, no cracks in the casement and no chance to bore a hole in an adjoining room, there was no choice but to sneak up to the door, listen for heavy breathing, bust open the door, grab a few shots and run like hell. Gallagher loved boom-snaps because they were so sleazy and because they resulted in the most graphic photos. Goz hated them because they always initiated an agonizing period of self-appraisal. Loomis hated them because they were scary.
"Calm down, pig. It looks like he's got a friend in the office. Here's what we do. We wait till she gets here. Till she's in the room. Then I walk across and try and distract his friend. Goz drives across the road and the parking lot as far from the office as possible. No lights, not too slow. Keever's in the next to last room. Park at least two rooms this side of his, parallel to the motel, facing back. Keep your foot off the brake. I'll come out of the office, walk around the back of the motel. When you see me come back up off the beach, Gallagher leaves the car and meets me at Keever's door. I give the signal. I take out the door. Gallagher jumps in, takes two or three fast shots. Wait a second. If either of them jumps out of bed take another. As soon as we're in the room Goz turns on the car lights, brings it up next to the room and opens the side door. We hop in, we blast off down the yellow brick road. Questions?"
"What happens if I get a boner?" asked Gallagher.
Loomis slapped the back of Gallagher's head.
"You've had a boner since you were toilet trained. Shut up, here she comes." They watched a cab turn into the Mayflower and pull up right in front of the next to last room. Someone in a raincoat got out, knocked once and was let into the room. Loomis held up a finger until the other two were looking at it.
"Questions?" They each shook their heads.
"Good. Then it goes just like I said."
And it did. Loomis got the desk clerk turned completely around. When Gallagher met Loomis at the door they waited less than a minute for squeaking bed springs. The door popped cleanly and the first flash caught them perfectly. It was Mrs. Fishbein, alright, and the second flash showed that the two lovers had been blinded by the first. They waited a second and then there was a sudden movement which Gallagher froze and captured for ever. It showed Keever lunging away from them toward the bedside table, pulling the covers completely off Mrs. Fishbein, whose hands were still shielding her eyes. It featured Keever's butt and what appeared to be some sort of tattoo. As Keever started shouting, 'I'll kill him, I'll kill the fucker,' they turned, piled into the car and roared off down the road.
"Slow down, slow down. Pull into that side street," said Loomis. Gallagher wanted to high five. Loomis obliged him and even Goz seemed to be energized. They all felt like Israeli paratroopers, it had gone so smoothly. A minute later they saw the pickup going north with Mrs. Fishbein in the passenger seat.
"You want to follow them?" asked Goz.
"No, I just wanted to see if he'd leave her there and go looking for us. We're all right, now. Back to the office."
They picked up a six-pack and some donuts. Loomis and Goz sat in the office talking about Goz' graduate credits at Rutgers while Gallagher was developing the shots at his office. When he returned he was smirking even more than usual.
"I think you're going to like these," he said.
They were good. Nothing absolutely pornographic, but the first one had both of their faces with him on top of her. The second one had her naked to the waist and him sitting on his heels with his erection in profile. It was the third one that Loomis studied closely. Gallagher nodded.
"I like that one too. Full frontal of her plus Mr. Keever's hairy ass. I'll blow that up tomorrow, but I think that's a coiled snake on the left cheek, there."
Loomis threw the 8X10 on the desk.
"Remember him reaching for the table?"
"He wasn't going for his reading glasses." Loomis pointed and the other two looked. Under the lamp on the bedside table was a gun. It appeared to be some variety of Colt semi-automatic. Goz and Gallagher stared at it for a moment and then looked at Loomis.
"Looks like we were about three or four seconds from getting our asses shot off."
* * * * *
Loomis spent the morning writing up his notes and thinking about the Cap'n. He had met the guy once, talked to him once on the phone and observed him four times. On one of these occasions he seemed happy, or at least content -- having dinner with his wife. On every other occasion he had been in the grip of one extremity or another; rage, sorrow, vengefulness and whatever brand of anxiety hiring a private investigator brings on. What kind of guy was he, really? Loomis couldn't say, but he liked him, somehow. He seemed dogged and serious and he seemed to have weighed carefully the meaning of what he proposed to do. Or at least to understand the extent to which it might cost him. Loomis liked this quality in people, but as he thought about his last conversation with Fishbein, he worried that the cost to the Cap'n was too high, but that he was determined to pay it anyway. There had been a wildness to him, a coming loose, which contrasted sharply with Loomis' initial appraisal of the man. Whatever was going on inside that house was turning him inside out and what it revealed was unfamiliar, unrestrained.
Loomis called Marty and said if he wanted to get paid off immediately in cash to be on the boardwalk in Asbury at quarter to one. He told him where the meet was to take place and asked him to be somewhere nearby where he could keep an eye on it without being seen. Not that he thought the captain was going to come Uzi-ing out of the Pavilion, but it probably was the proximity of the pistol the night before that made him seek a little extra assurance.
This turned out to have been an excellent idea, even if it bore its own complications.