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XXXX want to do it, of course, but XXXX so XXXX myself in Fort Detrick, Maryland, with a camera and a mission.
He was reading her e-mail, had gotten some kind of bug inside her computer. Some software trick, I assume; he probably out-sourced it to another “contractor”, someone like me with a skill and a sense of duty stronger then their conscience. He gave me a dozen pages of printouts of her and her boyfriend's e-mails. He was an sergeant in the infantry, lived two hours away. So the lady officer was fucking an enlisted man behind her husband's back.
They were going to meet at a motel, halfway between their respective homes. It was a regular thing, I guess, once every few weeks. I took a week's vacation from the magazine – I told them I was going to Vermont to watch the leaves turn – and headed up there.
Now, I don't know what you think of reporters, but the truth is I'd never done anything like this before. I wasn't a paparazzi, I was a science reporter when I had the opportunity, and did business news when I didn't. I actually went online to look up instructional manuals and videos for private investigators. But I figured it couldn't be too hard. The physicist wanted pictures of them fucking, but told me he'd settle for just walking in and out if I couldn't manage that.
And you know what? It was easy. It was so, stupidly, god-damned easy.
I took a room at a motel – not the lovebirds' shack, a different one, one I could flee to if things went bad. There was a coffee shop adjoining the same parking lot as their motel. I sat at a table outside, sipping coffee in the hot autumn sun and pretending to read, while straining to catch the license plates of the cars that pulled up. After a few hours he pulled in, parked, walked to the front office. That gave me enough time to get the camera out of hiding in my backpack and in position, and I snapped a dozen shots of him walking into room 6, holding the camera in my lap, with my book tented over it as though that might hide it. I couldn't aim for a damn, of course, but I got lucky and got his face in one shot. He was pretty dumpy for an Army sergeant, maybe forty, getting a little pudgy around the waist. She followed half an hour later, and I got shots of her too.
They left again twenty minutes later, for a romantic dinner most likely, since they left his car. I didn't bother trying to follow. Instead I got a greasy burger at McDonald's and hid in the shrubbery bordering the motel. I kept expecting someone to see me. I spent the whole time waiting for the shout of “what do you think you're doing!”, but it never came. Nobody noticed me snapping away as they came back, got out of the car, hand in hand, God they just looked in love with each other. The pictures didn't catch it, but if you'd been there you could just see it, the way he held her hand, the way they couldn't take their eyes off each other. She was married and for all I knew he was too, but they just looked perfect together in the dying autumn light.
Anyway. I got shots of them coming back. Then I waited for it to get fully dark, and it wasn't long to wait. There was a little window in the back of their room, way up high, just a slit to let the light in. It had a curtain, but they'd forgotten to draw it, and through it I got ten or twenty shots of them screwing. That was all I needed and it was all I could take. I got in my car and drove all night until I got to fucking Vermont, and I e-mailed the physicist his damned pictures, and what he did with them I don't know and I don't want to know.
And then I sat down and watched the god-damned leaves turn, and tried as hard as I could not to think about lights in the night sky or the physicist or using the love of two people for each other against them. I just watched the leaves. I don't know what the hell people see in them.