“That’s what I see all those billboards for, right?” Ian pointed outside to Sunset Boulevard.
“Yes,” Lila replied. “I wanted to go last year, but you were out of the country — again.”
Ian flashed her a smile. “Occupational hazard.”
“I know, that’s why I was hoping this year,” she gestured toward the piece of paper, “we would be able to go together.”
“We still don’t know who sent this note, or what they really want.” Ian’s voice trailed off as he took a closer look at one of the photos. “I know this guy.” He pointed to the photo of a red haired man with a big grin. “I’m not sure where, but…” Ian paused. “Wait.”
He stood up and walked over to a box in the corner and began rifling through a bunch of papers. Picking up a dented Altoids box and flipping it open, Ian pulled out a stack of business cards. “I knew it!” he said triumphantly. He showed Lila a card with the man’s photo and company name on it. “We met last year at a disarmament meeting.” Ian looked puzzled. “So what does he want with a hayride?”
“A hayride?” Lila ventured to guess sarcastically.
“Hardey-har.” Ian joked. ”I mean besides that.”
“A visit to purgatory obviously. Here, check out this website.” Lila pulled up the Haunted Hayride website and showed it to Ian.
“Wow, ‘one of the most paranormally active sites in all of California,’” Ian recited from the website. “Sounds like our kind of place.” He gave a quick grin.
“I’ve been wanting to go for ages, but just under different circumstances.” Lila’s mouth twisted.
Pearson jumped onto her lap and settled in for a nap as Lila began sorting the photos and info pages into piles. “Did you see this one?” She showed Ian a picture of blond girl who looked to be about twelve. “Why would they — whoever they are — have photos of kids?”
Ian’s eyebrows rose. “I don’t know, but maybe,” he paused to rearrange the photos, “these go in families.” He nodded. “Yep, check it out. One set of parents per two to three kids.” He looked over at Lila’s laptop and nudged her shoulder. “Let me take a look.”
She picked up Pearson and moved to the chair beside him so she could watch the screen after he seated himself and began typing. “Russian families spying?” Lila read aloud his search query. She looked puzzled and then her face cleared. “Like in that Magnum episode when he meets up with the woman who was a plant. Her family had been stationed undercover in the U.S.”
Ian pointed to the screen. “Or a few years ago, those ten spies that got sent back to Russia. Eight of them had kids. What better cover than being a nice family?” Ian sat back in his chair. “When I saw this guy,” Ian touched the red haired man’s photo, “he looked much older than in this photo.” He turned to Lila. “What’s his name?”
“Sergey Ivanov.” Lila read, and then quickly began sorting the photos by name. “Good idea,” she muttered, “each of these is tied together by last name.” After she finished, they had four families and one individual.
“I’m hungry,” she announced, “and I think better with food.”
“Tacos?” Ian inquired.
“I’ll get ready.” Lila pushed back her chair, set down Pearson, and went to change out of her work clothes into something more casual.
As they left the building and walked up the street toward their favorite taco place, Ian had the feeling that someone was watching him. He took a casual look around as they were crossing the street, and murmured to Lila, “Don’t look now, but we’ve made some new friends.”
Lila’s eyes widened subtly and her breathing sped up. She pulled Ian to a stop in front of several shop windows, using the reflections to spot whoever might be following them. She took a quick breath as she saw a dark haired man who appeared to be studying an apartment building across from them.