After Labor Day, the county pulls the lifeguards off the wooden towers at the various lakes it supervises. The rule was you swam at your own risk, but that didn’t stop a half-dozen teenagers from frolicking on the beach at McCarrons Lake. Why they weren’t in school, I couldn’t say. There were also a couple of young women sprawled on blankets and jumbo-sized towels intent on catching what was left of the summer’s rays. A middle-aged jogger leaned against the now-closed snack shack and stretched. He was wearing headphones; sweat stained the front and back of his shirt, and I thought he might be one of Honsa’s agents. There was another man parked in an SUV near the entrance of the asphalt parking lot. He sat behind his steering wheel while reading a newspaper and eating a Dairy Queen sundae. I figured he might be an agent, too.

I was sitting in the Toyota in the parking lot where Scottie had told me to park, in the row nearest the beach and facing the water. Twisting in my seat I could see several other cars in the lot, but whom they belonged to I couldn’t say. There were empty picnic tables scattered through the park and unused playground equipment near the beach. Traffic moved incessantly on Rice Street. There were two strip malls up near Larpenteur Avenue, plus a fast-food joint, a car wash, a pawnshop, a bank, a school bus depot, and a Dairy Queen that had not yet closed for the season. Modest houses ringed the lake. Scottie could have been anywhere, and after a while I stopped searching for him.

As before, I waited.

Finally the cell rang.

“Yeah,” I said.

“There’s a Plymouth Reliant in the row behind you and off to your right,” Scottie said.

I found it easily enough. Tan, with plenty of rust, one of Plymouth’s highly touted K-cars.

“I see it,” I said.

“Boxers or briefs?”

“Excuse me?”

“Do you wear boxers or briefs?”

“Getting a little personal, aren’t we?”

Scottie chuckled. “You’re gonna love this, McKenzie,” he said.

“Love what?”

“I want you to get out of your car and walk to the lake and jump in.” “Jump in?”

“First you’re going to strip down to your skivvies, then jump in.”

While I hesitated, Honsa’s words came back to me: Whatever Thomforde tells you to do, you do. No arguments. No discussion. If he tells you to jump in a lake, you jump. Understand?

“You hear me, McKenzie?” Scottie asked.

“I hear you.”

I stepped out of the Toyota and walked to the water’s edge. The beach seemed more stone than sand, and the tiny rocks crunched under my feet. The teenagers didn’t seem to notice me. I figured that was going to change in a hurry.

“Start stripping,” Scottie said.

I set the cell on the sand next to me. It was about seventy-three degrees, a comfortable temperature, I thought until I removed my shoes and socks and stood barefoot. Next came my sports coat. My polo shirt was going to be tricky. While facing the open water, I pulled the back of the shirt up and over my head so that it covered my chest. With my right hand I gripped the body wire through the material of the shirt and yanked quickly. The wire, tape, and a fistful of chest hair came off, leaving a red blotch between my nipples that I hoped Scottie couldn’t detect at a distance. I tried not to wince as I dropped the shirt and wire on top of my jacket. Next came my jeans. I peeled them off carefully. The plastic box containing the GPS transmitter peeked out from under the hem of my blue boxers. The way the tape holding it was wrapped around my inner thigh, there was no way I could remove it without Scottie noticing. And if I could have, what then? I dropped the jeans on top of my other clothes, retrieved the cell phone, and stood with my legs close together.

“You’re not embarrassed, are you, McKenzie?” Scottie asked.

“Do you care?”

Scottie thought that was funny. “Take off your watch, too,” he said. I did, dropping it on top of my jeans. He hadn’t noticed the slight bulge in my shorts.

“All right,” he told me. “You know what to do. Jump in the lake.”