Carr turned up the radio.

'Well, here I am,' said the man. There was a quaver in his voice. 'I've got the funny money right here in the case. Let's see the real stuff.'

'Take it easy,' Rico said. 'I've got the ten grand…Look.'

Carr heard the crinkling of the paper bag he had given Rico earlier containing Uncle Sam's marked ten thousand dollars. He guessed Rico had poured the money out on the bed for the count.

Carr turned the volume on the radio even higher. There was the unsnapping of the latches on the attaché case … a frenzied moment of scrambling. A loud blast made him jump out of his chair. He instinctively pulled his gun. Ears throbbing, he dashed out the door and across the parking lot to Rico's room, Kelly a few feet behind.

Attacking the motel door with powerful kicks, they entered the room guns first.

Rico was lying on the floor next to the bed, hands clutching his face. Kelly ran to the open window.

No one else was in the room.

Tires squealed outside. 'He's gone!' screamed Kelly. He ran to the phone.

Revolver still in hand, Carr moved closer to Rico and began to kneel down. He was involuntarily repulsed. Rico's face was blown back and away like a skinned rabbit. A distorted eye socket was gouged open to meet the ear, and bits of brain matter and blood made a circular design on the corner of the cheap bedspread.

Carr, on his knees, stared at the ruined body.

Kelly yelled, gasped, into the phone, 'I want an ambulance! Sunset Motel, Sunset at California Street! A federal officer has been shot.'

Carr placed his fingers gently on Rico's neck. No pulse. No breathing. He stared at his fingers, now wet with blood.

Rico's pants leg was up and the small revolver, the undercover gun, was showing. It was still in the holster.

Kelly stood next to him and crossed himself. 'Holy Mother of God,' he cried, turning his head away. 'He must have used a sawed-off shotgun.'

To Carr, the squalid room became more unbearable with each group that arrived-ambulance attendants shaking their heads, young policemen running about, and, finally, coroner's deputies in olive-drab overalls.

Later, as police detectives and Treasury agents cordoned off the motel room, combing for evidence, Carr and Kelly stood together outside the door. They were unable to look at one another. The motel lot was full of men and women who had come out of their rooms to gape.

Across the boulevard the habitués of the hot-dog stand pointed and gawked like children watching a puppet show.

A coroner's ghoul walked from a black station wagon carrying a blue rubber body bag.

'Don't use that,' Carr said.

'Whaddaya mean?' mumbled the ghoul. He looked at Carr's eyes for a moment.

'Oh, yeah, sure.'

A few minutes later Carr stepped out of the way as the man pushed the gurney toward the station wagon. The body of Rico de Fiore was wrapped in a sheet and blanket.

The fatigue had set in.

On the way back to Hollywood from downtown, Carr leaned back in the passenger seat and closed his eyes. Kelly weaved in and out of freeway traffic and rambled fitfully about the lack of clues.

Though early in the morning, it was already hot enough to turn on air conditioning or jump in a pool. They had been up all night, going from county morgue to field office to police department; a headachy night of repeating the story, making reports, phone calls, composite sketches. Kelly pulled into a no-parking curb zone in front of Rico's apartment building. A sign posted in the middle of an ivy lawn read APARTMENT FOR RENT. ADULTS ONLY-NO PETS.

Carr opened a window inside the studio apartment, thus furnishing the room with a shaft of dust-reflecting light and a view of a cement retaining wall. 'When you rent a place, make sure there are no windows facing the street,' Carr had told Rico, as if the young agent hadn't known better.

The furniture was neat and impersonal-a painted chest of drawers, flower-patterned sofa, and small wooden desk. On the wall above the sofa hung a desert-scene print in an aluminum frame, which came with the room.

The apartment reminded Carr of scores of the easily forgettable 'temporary duty' places he had rented in his early career. A trailer in Las Vegas, the two-bedroom hovel in San Francisco's mission district, a brownstone walk-up in Baltimore; the duty was temporary because it ended when everyone except the undercover man was suddenly arrested. He remembered the loneliness brought on as much by the environment of self-interest as by solitude. He had learned to take the edge off the loneliness by working harder, meeting more paper pushers, pressing more strongly for the hundred-grand buys.

Kelly rummaged through pots and pans in the kitchen. He pulled a large roaster pan from a bottom drawer of the stove and removed the lid. 'Here's the issue equipment,' he said. He sat down at a chrome-legged dinette table and removed items from the roaster pan: a government-issued cassette tape recorder with telephone attachment, a shoulder holster, binoculars, expense voucher forms, government transportation requests. He put the items in a cardboard box.

Carr found one of Rico's phony driver's licenses hidden under army-rolled socks in the chest of drawers. He picked it up and handed it to Kelly.

Carr remembered picking Rico up at the airport two months ago and handing him the license. 'Don't forget to memorize the date of birth on the license before you fill out the rental application,' he had said. It was always the little things.

Kelly was up and crashing about, pulling drawers out of cupboards, turning them upside down, spilling things. 'His daily reports have got to be here somewhere.'

'They're here somewhere,' Carr said.

He had met Rico late every night at the hot-dog stand on Alvarado to check them. Rico's reports were always up to date.

Carr had said, 'Keep the pressure on. Make the seller put up or shut up. It’s what real crooks do. Make 'em deliver and give the arrest signal. You know the scenario and they don't. Keep it simple.'

'You like to play with their minds,' Rico said. 'All I want to do is make a few buys, testify before the grand jury, and go home to New York. Times Square at midnight is kindergarten compared to temporary duty in Hollywood.' They both laughed.

Rico was the best he had seen-cautious, with the ability to take orders, but, more important, the ability to break them if necessary, to be resourceful, to recognize things as they were and forget the always safe and sure Manual of Operations answer. Like Carr, Rico could feel the pulse.

Kelly, trancelike, sat down at the kitchen table again. He talked into the cardboard box.

Then he slammed a fist into an open palm. 'Sheeyit!'


Carr, a trim man with mournful brown eyes, wove his way through flocks of Chinatown tourists. The smell of incense and fried shrimp was familiar. He headed for Ling's Bar, passing novelty shops with bored-looking Oriental sales people standing in doorways. Having just come from the funeral, he needed a drink.

He paused and noticed his reflection in the window glass of a jade-jewelry shop. He was shocked by his seedy, tired appearance. Darkness under the eyes and a sprinkle of broken blood vessels on his cheekbones. Features fighting age. Temples more gray than brown. Maybe a haircut would help, and perhaps a shoeshine.

Or maybe a new wardrobe… His lapels were outdated. He refused to buy new suits to look stylish while crawling under a house to search for counterfeit money or wrestling a hype.

His appearance had been one of Sally's pet topics. She had even given him a hair blower. He had used it

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