He went down on his stomach and swept the flashlight beam along the boards of the hardwood floor, trying to spot a single board that was higher or lower than the others. A misfit board could have been lifted and something placed under it.
The floor was perfectly level. Watkins looked up at the ceiling and along the crown molding. He reminded himself that if there was a bomber, he had never seen this person's work before, and didn't know his specialties, his quirks, his favorites. He kept looking.
Bombs were not just weapons. They were something more, expressions of the bomber's thoughts about you, his predictions of your behavior—what you would see, even what you would think and feel. He'd staged a presentation designed to fool you. He didn't even know your name, but you were the one he was really after. Bombs were acts of murder, but they were also jokes on you, riddles the bomber hoped were too tough for you, chances for you to pick wrong when it was almost impossible to pick right.
Watkins turned his attention to the furniture. First he moved his flashlight along the bottom edges of the furniture and then behind it, and then he moved to the couch. The easiest place to put a charge was in one of the seat cushions. The cushions usually had a zipper in the back or underneath so the cover could be cleaned or the stuffing replaced. One couch cushion could hold a pretty big bomb. Three of them could blow pieces of the house all over the neighborhood.
He touched the front of each cushion with his fingers, palpating it to sense whether there was anything hard, or if the stuffing was too full, or there were any empty spaces. He cautiously pushed the spaces between two cushions apart to detect any wires. He worked his way to lifting them up to be sure they weren't too heavy.
Next he moved to the big armchairs and repeated the process. After each piece was cleared, he slid it over beside the couch. When he had moved everything to one side, Watkins surveyed the newly bare part of the room to be sure he had missed nothing. He looked at baseboards and molding, sockets, light fixtures, and lamps. He announced, "The living room is clear." Then he picked up his tool bag and went to the kitchen door.
He took out his mirror and extended its telescoping handle. He slipped it into the thin crack between the swinging door and the jamb, moved it up and down, and rotated it. There was nothing connected to the door. There was nothing on the floor. He adjusted his mirror to reflect the kitchen counters. There were a toaster, a blender, a row of spices, a couple of bottles. One was olive oil.
He saw a small black rectangular box on the kitchen counter. What was that, a phone— A radio— Either could be bad for him. There seemed to be a very thin white cord leading from the countertop to a plug on the wall behind the juicer. He withdrew the mirror, put it away, and picked up the monocular from his tool bag. He leaned into the kitchen, aimed the monocular at the device, and read the brand name. Canon. A camera— No lens, but it looked like camera equipment. As he stared at it, a tiny red indicator on the end came on.
In that silent moment Watkins identified the device on the counter. It was a photographer's intervalometer, a device often planted in the wild to detect movement of an animal on a trail and trigger a camera many times in succession as the animal passed by.
Watkins half turned his body toward the front door to go back, then realized he was not going to make it. The first electrical impulse would be for a charge near the front door, and the next impulses would race around the house, each one setting off a charge where he might take shelter, tearing the house down over him one explosion at a time. "No," he thought. "Toward it."
Watkins pivoted back toward the kitchen, pushed off with his legs and heard the first click of the intervalometer as it sent the first impulse, but there was no explosion. He burst through the swinging door, building speed as he lumbered across the kitchen, dashing for the back door.
The intervalometer's second click set off an explosion at the front of the house, the one designed to kill him if he'd retreated to the front door. The shock shook him and his ears hurt, as though it had damaged his eardrums. He flung the back door open and launched himself off the back porch to the lawn. He managed to remain on his feet in the heavy bomb suit, still struggling to run. The second explosion punched out the kitchen windows behind him and showered him with glass, and the third took out the windows over his right shoulder. One after another, the charges blew, the next set at the corners of the house. Watkins kept moving, not able to turn and look back, but he heard a crash he believed was the collapse of the roof over the living room.
The house was being imploded, the way demolition teams imploded skyscrapers and apartment complexes. He knew the only thing that had kept him alive for the past ten seconds was the necessity that the last charge to blow was the one near the intervalometer that set off the charges. The kitchen charge would be the biggest.
In another half second it came, knocking him off his feet onto the grass, clapboards and two-by-fours striking his back. Then clouds of white dust obscured the world.
This excerpt ends on page 15 of the hardcover edition.
Excerpted from THE BOMB MAKER © 2018 by Thomas Perry. Reprinted with the permission of the publisher, The Mysterious Press, an imprint of Grove Atlantic, Inc. All rights reserved.