Today's Reading

Chapter 5

Jane did not cross the street directly from the vacant house to the Hannafin place. Carrying her tote bag, she walked to the end of the block, then half a block farther, before crossing the street and approaching the residence from the north, considerably reducing the chance that anyone would be looking out a window long enough to see both from where she had come and where she had gone.

At the Craftsman-style house, cut-stone steps bordered with bricks led to a deep porch, at both ends of which crimson wisteria in early bloom cascaded from panels of lattice, providing privacy to commit illegal entry.

She rang the bell three times. No response.

She inserted the thin, flexible pick of the LockAid into the keyway of the deadbolt and pulled the trigger four times before all the pin tumblers were cast to the shear line.

Inside, before she locked the door behind her, she called into the stillness, "Hello? Anyone home?"

When only silence answered her, she committed.

The furnishings and architecture were elegantly coordinated. Slate fireplaces with inset ceramic tiles. Stickley-style furniture with printed cotton fabrics in earth tones. Arts-and-Crafts lighting fixtures. Persian rugs.

The desirable neighborhood, the large house, and the interior design argued against her hope that Hannafin might be an uncorrupted journalist. He was a newspaper guy, and in these days, when most newspapers were as thin as anorexic teenagers and steadily dying out, print reporters, even those with a major Los Angeles daily, didn't command huge salaries. The really big money went to TV-news journalists, most of whom were no more journalists than they were astronauts.

Hannafin, however, had written half a dozen nonfiction books, three of which had spent several weeks each on the bottom third of the bestseller list. They had been serious works, well done. He might have chosen to pour his royalties into his home.

The previous day, using one of several patron computers at a library in Pasadena, Jane easily cracked Hannafin's telecom provider and discovered that he relied on not just a cellphone but also a landline, which made what she was now about to do easier. She had been able to access the phone- company system because she knew of a back door created by a supergeek at the Bureau, Vikram Rangnekar. Vikram was sweet and funny—and he cut legal corners when he was ordered to do so either by the director or by a higher power at the Department of Justice. Before Jane had gone on leave, Vikram had an innocent crush on her, even though at the time she'd been married and so far off the playing field that it might as well have been on the moon. As a by-the-book agent, she had never resorted to illegal methods, but she'd been curious about what the corrupt inner circle at Justice might be doing, and she had allowed Vikram to show off his magic every time he wanted to impress her.

In retrospect, it seemed as if she had intuited that her good life would turn sour, that she would be desperate and on the run, and that she would need every trick that Vikram could show her.

According to phone-company records, in addition to a wall-mounted unit in the kitchen, there were three desk models in the Hannafin house: one in the master bedroom, one in the living room, one in the study. She started in the kitchen and finished in the master bedroom, removing the bottom of each phone casing with a small Phillips screwdriver. She wired in a two-function chip that could be remotely triggered to serve as an infinity transmitter or a standard line tap, installed a hook-switch defeat, and closed the casing. She needed only nineteen minutes to complete that work.

If the big walk-in closet in the master bedroom had not suited her plan, she would have found another closet. But it was all right. One hinged door, not a slider. Although currently unlocked, the door featured a keyed deadbolt, perhaps because a small wall safe was concealed in there or maybe because the late Mrs. Hannafin had owned a collection of valuable jewelry. It was a blind lock from within the closet, with no operable thumbturn on that side. A stepstool allowed the higher shelves to be reached with ease.

Hannafin had a lot of clothes with stylish labels: Brunello Cucinelli suits, a collection of Charvet ties, drawers filled with St. Croix sweaters. Jane hid a hammer among some sweaters and a screwdriver in an interior coat pocket of a blue pinstriped suit.

She spent another ten minutes opening drawers in various rooms, not looking for anything specific, just backgrounding the man.

If she departed the house by the front door, the latch bolt would click into place, but the deadbolt wouldn't. When Hannafin returned and found the deadbolt wasn't engaged, he would know that someone had been here in his absence.

She exited instead by a laundry-room door that connected the house and garage, leaving that deadbolt disengaged, which he was more likely to think he had failed to lock.

The side door of the garage had no deadbolt. The simple latch secured it when she stepped outside and pulled it shut behind her.

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