Books · Journalism · Information
|The Prey Series|
The storm blew up late in the afternoon, tight, gray clouds hustling over the lake like dirty, balled-up sweat socks spilling from a basket. A chilly wind knocked leaves from the elms, oaks, and maples at the water's edge. The white phlox and black-eyed Susans bowed their heads before it.
The end of summer; too soon.
John Mail walked down the floating dock at Irv's Boat Works, through the scents of premix gasoline, dead, drying minnows and moss, the old man trailing behind with his hands in the pockets of his worn gabardines. John Mail didn't know about old-style machinerychokes, priming bulbs, carburetors, all that. He knew diodes and resistors, the strengths of one chip and the weaknesses of another. But in Minnesota, boat lore is considered part of the genetic pattern: he had no trouble renting a fourteen-foot Lund with a 9.9 Johnson outboard. A driver's license and a twenty-dollar deposit were all he needed at Irv's.
Mail stepped down into the boat, and with an open hand wiped a film of water from the bench seat and sat down. Irv squatted beside the boat and showed him how to start the motor and kill it, how to steer it and accelerate. The lesson took thirty seconds. Then John Mail, with his cheap Zebco rod and reel and empty, red-plastic tackle box, put out on Lake Minnetonka.
"Back before dark," Irv hollered after him. The white-haired man stood on the dock and watched John Mail putter away.
When Mail left Irv's dock, the sky was clear, the air limpid and summery, if a little nervous in the west. Something was coming, he thought. Something was hiding below the treeline. But no matter. This was just a look, just a taste.
He followed the shoreline east and north for three miles. Big houses were elbow to elbow, millions of dollars' worth of stone and brick with manicured lawns running down to the water. Professionally tended flower beds were stuck on the lawns like postage stamps, with faux-cobblestone walks snaking between them. Stone swans and plaster ducks paddled across the grass.
Everything looked different from the water side. Mail thought he'd gone too far, but he still hadn't picked out the house. He stopped and went back, then circled. Finally, much further north than he thought it would be, he spotted the weird-looking tower house, a local landmark. And down the shore, one-two-three, yes, there it was, stone, glass and cedar, red shingles, and, barely visible on the far side of the roof, the tips of the huge blue spruces that lined the street. A bed of petunias, large swirls of red, white, and blue, glowed patriotically from the top of a flagstone wall set into the slope of the lawn. An open cruiser crouched on a boat lift next to the floating dock.
Mail killed the outboard, and let the boat drift to a stop. The storm was still below the trees, the wind was dying down. He picked up the fishing rod, pulled line off the reel and threaded it through the guides and out the tip. Then he took a handful of line and threw it overboard, hookless and weightless. The rat's-nest of monofilament drifted on the surface, but thatwas good enough. Helooked like he was fishing.
Settling on the hard bench seat, Mail hunched his shoulders and watched the house. Nothing moved. After a few minutes, he began to manufacture fantasies.
He was good at this: a specialist, in a way. There were times when he'd been locked up as punishment,,was allowed no books, no games, no TV. A claustrophobicand they knew he was claustrophobic, that was part of the punishmenthe'd escaped into fantasy to preserve his mind, sat on his bunk and turned to the blank facing wall and played his own mind-films, dancing dreams of sex and fire.
Andi Manette starred in the early mind-films; fewer later on, almost none in the past two years. He'd almost forgotten her. Then the calls came, and she was back.
Andi Manette. Her perfume could arouse the dead. She had a long, slender body, with a small waist and large, pale breasts, a graceful neckline, when seen from the back with her dark hair up over her small ears.
Mail stared at the water, eyes open, fishing rod drooping over the gunwales, and watched, in his mind, as she walked across a dark chamber toward him, peeling off a silken robe. He smiled. When he touched her, her flesh was warm, and smooth, unblemished. He could feel her on his fingertips. "Do this," he'd say, out loud; and then he'd giggle. "Down here," he'd say He sat for an hour, for two, talking occasionally, then he sighed and shivered, and woke from the daydream. The world had changed.
The sky was gray, angry, the low clouds rolling in. A wind whipped around the boat, blowing the rat's-nest of monofilament across the water like a tumbleweed. Across the fattest part of the lake, he could see the breaking curl of a whitecap.
Time to go.
He reached back to crank the outboard and saw her. She stood in the bay window, wearing a white dressthough she was three hundred yards away, he knew the figure, and the unique, attentive stillness. He could feel the eye contact. Andi Manette was psychic. She could look right into your brain and say the words you were trying to hide.
John Mail looked away, to protect himself.
So she wouldn't know he was coming.
Andi Manette stood in the bay window and watched the rain sweep across the water toward the house, and the darkness coming behind. At the concave drop of the lawn, at the water's edge, the tall heads of the white phlox bobbed in the wind. They'd be gone by the weekend. Beyond them, a lone fisherman sat in one of the orange-tipped rental boats from Irv's. He'd been out there since five o'clock and, as far as she could tell, hadn't caught a thing. She could've told him that the bottom was mostly sterile muck, that she'd never caught a fish from the dock.
As she watched, he turned to start the outboard. Andi had been around boats all of her life, and something about the way the man moved suggested that he didn't know about outboardshow to sit down and crank at the same time.
When he turned toward her, she felt his eyesand thought, ridiculously, that she might know him. He wasso far away that she couldn't even make out the shape of his face. But still, the total packagehead, eyes, shoulders, movementseemed familiar Then he yanked the starter cord again, and a few seconds later he was on his way down the shoreline, one hand holding his hat on his head, the other hand on the outboard tiller. He'd never seen her, she thought. The rain swept in behind him.
And she thought: the clouds come in, the leaves falling down.
The end of summer.
Andi stepped away from the window and moved through the living room, turning on the lamps. The room was furnished with warmth and a sure touch: heavy country couches and chairs, craftsman tables, lamps and nigs. A hint of Shaker there in the corner, lots of natural wood and fabric, subdued, but with a subtle, occasionally bold, touch of colora flash of red in the rug that went with the antique maple table, a streakof blue that hintedof the sky outside the bay windows.
The house, always warm in the past, felt cold with George gone.
With what George had done.
George was movement and intensity and argument, and even a sense of protection, with his burliness and aggression, his tough face, intelligent eyes. Now this.
Andi was a slender woman, tall, dark-haired, unconsciously dignified. She often seemed posed, although she was unaware of it. Her limbs simply fell into arrangements, her head cocked for a portrait.
Her hair-do and pearl earrings said horses and sailboats and vacations in Greece.
She couldn't help it. She wouldn't change it if she could.
With the living room lights cutting the growing gloom, Andi climbed the stairs, to get the girls organized: first day of school, clothes to choose, early to bed.
At the top of the stairs, she started right, toward the girls' roomthen heard the tinny music of a bad movie coming from the opposite direction.
They were watching television in the master bedroom suite. As she walked down the hall, she heard the sudden disconnect of a channel change. By the time she got to the bedroom, the girls were engrossed in a CNN newscast, with a couple of talking heads rambling on about the Consumer Price Index.
"Hi, Mom," Genevieve said cheerfully. And Grace looked up and smiled, a bit too pleased to see her.
"Hi," Andi said. She looked around. "Where's the remote?"
Grace said, unconcernedly, "Over on the bed."
The remote was a long way from either of the girls, halfway across the room in the middle of the bedspread. Hastily thrown, Andi thought. She picked it up, said, "Excuse me," and backtracked through the channels. On one of the premiums, she found a clinch scene, fully nude, still in progress.
"You guys," she said, reproachfully.
"It's good for us," the younger one protested, not bothering with denials. "We gotta find things out."
"This is not the way to do it," Andi said, punching out the channel. "Come talk to me." She looked at Grace, but her older daughter was looking awaya little angry, maybe, and embarrassed. "Come on," Andi said. "Let's everybody organize our school stuff and take our baths."
"We're talking like a doctor again, Mom," Grace said.
On the way down to the girls' bedrooms, Genevieve blurted, "God, that guy was really hung."
After a second of shocked silence, Grace started to giggle, and two seconds later Andi started, and five seconds after that all three of them sprawled on the carpet in the hallway, laughing until the tears ran down their faces.
The rain fell steadily through the night, stopped for a few hours in the morning, then started again.
Andi got the girls on the bus, arrived at work ten minutes early, and worked efficiently through her patient list, listening carefully, smiling encouragement, occasionally talking with some intensity. To a woman who could not escape thoughts of suicide; to another who felt she was male, trapped in a female body; to a man who was obsessed by a need to control the smallest details of his family's lifehe knew he was wrong but couldn't stop.
At noon, she walked two blocks out to a deli and brought a bag lunch back for herself and her partner. They spent the lunch hour talking about Social Security and worker compensation taxes with the bookkeeper.
In the afternoon, a bright spot: a police officer, deeply bound by the million threads of chronic depression, seemed to be responding to new medication. He was a dour, pasty-faced man who reeked of nicotine, but today he smiled shyly at her and said, "My God, this was my best week in five years; I was looking at women."
Andi left the office early, and drove through an annoying, mud-producing drizzle to the west side of the loop, to the rambling, white New England cottages and green playing fields of the Birches School. Hard maples boxed the school parking lot; flames of red autumn color were stitched through their lush crowns. Toward the school entrance, a grove of namesake birch had gone a sunny gold, a brilliant greeting on a dismal day.
Andi left the car in the parking lot and hurried inside, the warm smell of a soaking rain hanging like a fog over the wet asphalt.
The teacher-parent conferences were routineAndi went to them every year, the first day of school: meet the teachers, smile at everyone, agree to work on the Thanksgiving pageant, write a check to the strings program.So looking forward to working with Grace, she's a very bright child, active, school leader, blah blah blah.
She was happy to go to them. Always happy when they were over.
When they were done, she and the girls walked back outside and found the rain had intensified, hissing down from the crazy sky. "I'll tell you what, Mom," Grace said, as they stood in the school's covered entry, watching a woman with a broken umbrella scurry down the sidewalk. Grace was often very serious when talking with adults. "I'm in a very good dress, and it's barely wrinkled, so I could wear it again. Why don't you get the car and pick me up here?"
"All right." No point in all of them getting wet.
"I'm not afraid of the rain," Genevieve said, pugnaciously. "Let's go."
"Why don't you wait with Grace?" Andi asked.
"Nah. Grace is just afraid to get wet 'cause she'll melt, the old witch," Genevieve said.
Grace caught her sister's eye and made a pinching sign with her thumb and forefinger.
"Mom," Genevieve wailed.
"Grace," Andi said, reprovingly.
"Tonight, when you're almost asleep," Grace muttered. She knew how to deal with her sister.
At twelve, Grace was the older and by far the taller of the two, gawky, but beginning to show the curves of adolescence. She was a serious girl, almost solemn, as though expecting imminent unhappiness. Someday a doctor.
Genevieve, on the other hand, was competitive, frivolous, loud. Almost too pretty. Even at nine, everyone said, it was obvious that she'd be a trial to the boys. To whole flocks of boys. But that was years away. Now she was sitting on the concrete, messing with the sole of her tennis shoe, peeling the bottom layer off.
"Gen," Andi said.
"It's gonna come off anyway," Genevieve said, not looking up. "I told you I needed new shoes."
A man in a raincoat hurried up the walk, hatless, head bowed in the rain. David Girdler, who called himself a psychotherapist and who was active in the Parent-Teacher Cooperative. He was a boring man, given to pronunciations aboutproper roles in life, andhard-wired behavior. There were rumors that he used tarot cards in his work. He fawned on Andi. "Dr. Manette," he said, nodding, slowing. "Nasty day."
"Yes," Andi said. But her breeding wouldn't let her stop so curtly, even with a man she disliked. "It's supposed to rain all night again."
"That's what I hear," Girdler said. "Say, did you see this month'sTherapodist? There's an article on the structure of recovered memory"
He rambled on for a moment, Andi smiling automatically, then Genevieve interrupted, loudly, "Mom, we're super-late," and Andi said, "We've really got to go, David," and then, because of the breeding, "But I'll be sure to look it up."
"Sure, nice talking to you," Girdler said.
When he'd gone inside, Genevieve said, looking after him, from the corner of her mouth like Bogart, "What do we say, Mom?"
"Thank you, Gen," Andi said, smiling.
"You're welcome. Mom."
"Okay," Andi said. "I'll run for it." She looked down the parking lot. A red van had parked on the driver's side of her car and she'd have to run around the back of it.
"I'm coming, too," Genevieve said.
"I get the front," Grace said.
"I get the front"
"You got the front on the way over, beetle," Grace said.
"Mom, she called me"
Grace made the pinching sign again, and Andi said, "You get in the back, Gen. You had the front on the way over."
"Or I'll pinch you," Grace added.
They half-ran through the rain, Andi in her low heels, Genevieve with her still-short legs, holding hands. Andi released Gen's hand as they crossed behind the Econoline van. She pointed her key at the car and pushed the electronic lock button, heard the locks pop up over the hissing of the rain.
Head bent, she hurried down between the van and the car, Gen a step behind her, and reached for the door handles.
Andi heard the doors slide on the van behind her; felt the presence of the man, the motion. Automatically began to smile, turning.
Heard Genevieve grunt, turned and saw the strange round head coming for her, the mop of dirty blond hair.
Saw the road-map lines buried in a face much too young for them.
Saw the teeth, and the spit, and the hands like clubs.
Andi screamed, "Run."
And the man hit her in the face.
She saw the blow coming but was unable to turn away. The impact smashed her against her car door, and she slid down it, her knees going out.
She didn't feel the blow as pain, only as impact, the fist on her face, the car on her back. She felt the man turning, felt blood on her skin, smelled the worms of the pavement as she hit it, the rough, wet blacktop on the palms of her hand, thought crazilyfor just the torn half of an instantabout ruining her suit, felt the man step away.
She tried to scream "Run" again, but the word came out as a groan, and she feltmaybe saw, maybe notthe man moving on Genevieve, and she tried to scream again, to say something, anything, and blood bubbled out of her nose and the pain hit her, a blinding, wrenching pain like fire on her face.
And in the distance, she heard Genevieve scream, and she tried to push up. A hand pulled at her coat, lifting her, and she flew through the air, to crash against a sheet of metal. She rolled again, facedown, tried to get her knees beneath her, and heard a car door slam.
Half-sensible, Andi rolled, eyes wild, saw Genevieve in a heap, and bloody from head to toe. She reach out to her daughter, who sat up, eyes bright. Andi tried to stop her, then realized that it wasn't blood that stained her red, it was something else: and Genevieve, inches away, screamed, "Momma, you're bleeding"
Van, she thought.
They were in the van. She figured that out, pulled herself to her knees, and was thrown back down as the van screeched out of the parking place.
Grace will see us, she thought.
She struggled up again, and again was knocked down, this time as the van swung left and braked. The driver's door opened and light flooded in, and she heard a shout, and the doors opened on the side of the truck, and Grace came headlong through the opening, landing on Genevieve, her white dress stained the same rusty red as the truck.
The doors slammed again; and the van roared out of the parking lot.
Andi got to her knees, arms flailing, trying to make sense of it: Grace screaming, Genevieve wailing, the red stuff all over them.
And she knew from the smell and taste of it that shewas bleeding. She turned and saw the bulk of the man in the driver's seat behind a chain-link mesh. She shouted at him, "Stop, stop it. Stop it," but the driver paid no attention, took a corner, took another.
"Momma, I'm hurt," Genevieve said. Andi turned back to her daughters, who were on their hands and knees. Grace had a sad, hound-dog look on her face; she'd known this man would come for her someday.
Andi looked at the van doors, for a way out, but metal plates had been screwed over the spot where the handles must've been. She rolled back and kicked at the door with all her strength, but the door wouldn't budge. She kicked again, and again, her long legs lashing out. Then Grace kicked and Genevieve kicked and nothing moved, and Genevieve began screeching, screeching. Andi kicked until she felt faint from the effort, and she said to Grace, panting, three or four times, "We've got to get out, we've got to get out, get out, get out"
And the man in the front seat began to laugh, a loud, carnival-ride laughter that rolled over Genevieve's screams; the laughter eventually silenced them and they saw his eyes in the rearview mirror and he said, "You won't get out, I made sure of that. I know all about doors without handles."
That was the first time they'd heard his voice, and the girls shrank back from it. Andi swayed to her feet, crouched under the low roof, realized that she'd lost her shoesand her purse. Her purse was there on the passenger seat, in front. How had it gotten there? She tried to steady herself by clinging to the mesh screen, and kicked at the side window. Her heel connected and the glass cracked.
The van swerved to the side, braking, and the man in front turned, violent anger in his voice, and held up a black.45 and said, "You break my fuckin' window and I'll kill the fuckin' kids."
She could only see the side of his face, but suddenly thought: I know him. But he looks different. From where? Where? Andi sank back to the floor of the van and the man in front turned back to the wheel and then pulled away from the curb, muttering, "Break my fuckin' window? Break my fuckin' window?"
"Who are you?" Andi asked.
That seemed to make him even angrier.Who was he? "John," he said harshly.
"Johnwho? What do you want?"
John Who? John the Fuck Who? "You know John the Fuck Who."
Grace was bleeding from her nose, her eyes wild; Genevieve was huddled in the corner, and Audi said again, helplessly, "John who?"
He looked over his shoulder, a spark of hate in his eyes, reached up and pulled a blond wig off his head.
Andi, a half-second later, said, "Oh, no. No. Not John Mail."
The rain was cold, but more of an irritant than a hazard. If it had come two months later, it would've been a killer blizzard, and they'd be wading shin-deep in snow and ice. Marcy Sherrill had done that often enough and didn't like it: you got weird, ugly phenomena like blood-bergs, or worse. Rain, no matter how cold, tended to clean things up. Sherrill looked up at the night sky and thought,small blessings.
Sherrill stood in the headlights of the crime-scene truck, her hands in her raincoat pockets, looking at the feet of the man on the ground. The feet were sticking out from under the rear door of a creme-colored Lexus with real leather seats. Every few seconds, the feet gave a convulsive jerk.
"What're you doing, Hendrix?" she asked.
The man under the car said something unintelligible.
Sherrill's partner bent over so the man under the car could hear him. "I think he said, 'Chokin' the chicken.' " The rain dribbled off his hat, just past the tip of a perfectly dry cigarette. He waited for a reaction from the guy on the grounda born-again Christianbut got none. "Fuckin' dweeb," he muttered, straightening up.
"I wish this shit'd stop," Sherrill said. She looked up at the sky again. TheNational Enquirer would like it, she thought. This was a sky that might produce an image of Satan. The ragged storm clouds churned through the lights from the loop, picking up the ugly scarlet flicker from the cop cars.
Down the street, past the line of cop cars, TV trucks squatted patiently in the rain, and reporters stood in the street around them, looking down at Sherrill and the cops by the Lexus. Those would be the cameramen and the pencil press. The talent would be sitting in the trucks, keeping their makeup straight.
Sherrill shivered and turned her head down and wiped the water from her eyebrows. She'd had a rain cap, once, but she'd lost it at some other crime scene with drizzle or sleet or snow or hail or Everything dripped on her sooner or later.
"Shoulda brought a hat," her partner said. His name was Tom Black, and he was not quite openly gay. "Or an umbrella."
They'd once had an umbrella, too, but they'd lost it. Or, more likely, it had been stolen by another cop who knew a nice umbrella when he saw it. So now Sherrill had the icy rain dripping down her neck, and she was pissed because it was six-thirty and she was still working while her goddamn husband was down at Applebee's entertaining the barmaid with his rapierlike wit.
And more pissed because Black was dry and snug, and she was wet, and he hadn't offered her the hat, even though she was a woman.
And even more pissed knowing that if he had offered, she'd have had to turn it down, because she was one of only two women in the Homicide Unit and she still felt like she had to prove that she could handle herself, even though she'd been handling herself for a dozen years now, in uniform and plainclothes, doing decoy work, undercover drugs, sex, and now Homicide.
"Hendrix," she said, "I wanna get out of this fuckin' rain, man"
From the street, a car decelerated with a deepening groan, and Sherrill looked over Black's shoulder and said, "Uh-oh." A black Porsche 911 paused at the curb, where the uniforms had set up their line. Two of the TV cameras lit up to film the car, and one of the cops pointed at the crime van. The Porsche snapped down the drive toward the parking lot, quick, like a weasel or a rubber band.
"Davenport," Black said, turning to look. Black was short, slightly round, and carried a bulbous nose over a brush mustache. He was exceedingly calm at all times, except when he was talking about the President of the United States, whom he referred to asthat socialist shithead, or, occasionally,that fascist motherfucker, depending on his mood.
"Bad news," Sherrill said. A little stream of water ran off her hair and unerringly down her spine. She straightened and shivered. She was a tall, slender woman with a long nose, kinky black hair, soft breasts, and a secret, satisfying knowledge of her high desirability rating around the department.
"Mmmm," Black said. Then, "You ever get in his shorts? Davenport's?"
"Of course not," Sherrill said. Black had an exaggerated idea of her sexual history. "I never tried."
"If you're gonna try, you better do it," Black said laconically. "He's getting married."
The Porsche parked sideways on some clearly painted parking-space lines and the door popped open as its lights died.
"That's what I heard," Black said. He flicked the butt of his cigarette into the grass bank just off the parking lot.
"He'd be nine miles of bad road," Sherrill said.
"Mike's a fuckin' freeway, huh?" Mike was Sherrill's husband.
"I can handle Mike," Sherrill said. "I wonder what Davenport"
There was a sudden brilliant flash of light, and the feet sticking out from under the car convulsed. Hendrix said, "Goldarnit."
Sherrill looked down. "What? Hendrix?"
"I almost electrocuted myself," said the man under the car. "This rain is a pain in the behind."
"Yeah, well, watch your language," Black said. "There's a lady present."
"I'm sorry." The voice was sincere, in a muffled way.
"Get out of there, and give us the fuckin' shoe," Sherrill said. She kicked a foot.
"Darn it. Don't do that. I'm trying to get a picture."
Sherrill looked back across the parking lot. Davenport was walking down toward them, long smooth strides, like a professional jock, his hands in his coat pockets, the coat flapping around his legs. He looked like a big broad-shouldered mobster, a Mafia guy with an expensive mohair suit and bullet scars, she thought, like in a New York movie.
Or maybe he was an Indian or a Spaniard. Then you saw those pale blue eyes and the mean smile. She shivered again. "He does give off a certain"Sherrill groped for a word"pulse."
"You got that," Black said calmly.
Sherrill had a sudden image of Black and Davenport in bed together, lots of shoulder hair and rude parts. She smiled, just a crinkle. Black, who could read her mind, said, "Fuck you, honey."
Deputy Chief Lucas Davenport's trench coat had a roll-out hood like a parka, and he'd rolled it out, and as he crossed the lot, he pulled it over his head like a monk; he was as dry and snug as Black. Sherrill was about to say something when he handed her a khaki tennis hat. "Put this on," he said gruffly. "What're we doing?"
"There's a shoe under the car," Sherrill said as she pulled the cap on. With the rain out of her face, she instantly felt better. "There was another one in the lot. She must've got hit pretty hard to get knocked out of her shoes."
"Real hard," Black agreed.
Lucas was a tall man with heavy shoulders and a boxer's hands, large, square, and battered. His face reflected his hands: a fighter's face, with those startling blue eyes. A white scar, thin like a razor rip, slashed down his forehead and across his right eye socket, showing up against his dark complexion. Another scar, round, puckered, hung on his throat like a flattened wad of bubble guma bullet hole and jack-knife tracheotomy scar, just now going white. He crouched next to the feet under the car and said, "Get out of there, Hendrix."
"Yes, yes, another minute. You can't have the shoe, though. There's blood on it."
"Well, hurry it up," Lucas said. He stood up.
"You talk to Girdler?" Sherrill asked.
"A witness," she said. She was wearing the good perfume, the Obsession, and suddenly thought of it with a tinkle of pleasure.
Lucas shook his head. "I was out in Stillwater. At dinner. People called me every five minutes on the way in, to tell me about the politics. That's all I knowI don't know anything about what you guys got."
Black said, "The woman"
"Manette," said Lucas.
"Yeah, Manette and her daughters, Grace and Genevieve, were leaving the school after a parent-teacher conference. The mother and one kid were picked up in a red van. We don't know exactly howif they were tear-gassed, or strong-armed, or shot. We just don't know. However it was done, it must have been a few seconds before the second daughter was taken off the porch over there." Black pointed back toward the school. "We think what happened was, the mother and Genevieve ran out to the car in the rain, were grabbed. The older daughter was waiting to get picked up, and then she was snatched."
"Why didn't she run?" Lucas asked.
"We don't know," Sherrill said. "Maybe it was somebody she knew."
"Where were the witnesses?"
"Inside the school. One of them is an adult, a shrink of some kind, one was a kid. A student. They only saw the last part of it, when Grace Manette was grabbed. But they say the mother was still alive, on her hands and knees in the van, but she had blood on her face. The younger daughter was facedown on the floor of the van, and there was apparently a lot of blood on her, too. Nobody heard any gun shots. Nobody saw a gun. Only one guy was seen, but there might have been another one in the van. We don't see how one guy could have roped all three of them in, by himself. Unless he really messed them up."
"Huh. What else?"
"White guy," Sherrill said. "Van had a nose on itit was an engine front, not a cab-over. We think it was probably an Econoline or a Chevy G10 or Dodge B150, like that. Nobody saw a tag."
"How long before we heard?" Lucas asked.
"There was a 911 call," Sherrill said. "There was some confusion, and it was probably three or four minutes after the snatch, before the call was made. Then the car took three or four more minutes to get here. The call was sort of unsure, like maybe nothing happened. Then it was maybe five more minutes before we put the truck on the air."
"So the guy was ten miles away before anybody started looking," Lucas said.
"That's about it. Broad daylight and he's gone," Black said. They all stood around, thinking about that for a moment, listening to the hiss of rain on their hats, then Sherrill said, "What're you doing here, anyway?"
Lucas's right hand came out of his pocket, and he made an odd gesture with it. Sherrill realized he was twisting something between his fingers. "This could be difficult," Lucas said. He looked at the school. "Where're the witnesses?"
"The shrink is over there, in the cafeteria," Sherrill said. "I don't know where the kid is. Greave is talking to them. Why is it difficult?"
"Because everybody's rich," Lucas said, looking at her. "The Manette woman is Tower Manette's daughter."
"I'd heard that," Sherrill said. She looked up at Lucas, her forehead wrinkled. "Black and I are gonna lead on this one, and we really don't need the attention. We've still got that assisted-suicide bullshit going on"
"You might as well give up on that," Lucas said. "You're never gonna get him."
"Pisses me off," Sherrill said. "He never thought his old lady needed to kill herself until he ran into his little tootsie. I know he fuckin' talked her into it"
"Tootsie?" Lucas asked. He grinned and looked at Black.
"She's a wordsmith," Black said.
"Pisses me off," Sherrill said. Then: "So what's Tower Manette doing? Pulling all the political switches?"
"Exactly," Lucas said. "And Manette's husband and the kids' father, it turns out, is George Dunn. I didn't know that. North Light Development. The Republican Party. Lotsa bucks."
"And Manette's the Democrats," Black said gloomily. "Jesus Christ, they got us surrounded."
"I bet the chief is peeing her political underwear," Sherrill said.
Lucas nodded. "Yeah, exactly," he said. "Can this shrink give us a picture of the guy?"
Sherrill shook her head doubtfully. "Greave told me the guy didn't see much. Just the end of it. I didn't talk to him much, but he seems a little hinky."
"Great. And Greave's doing the interview?"
"Yeah." There was a moment of silence. Nobody said it, but Greave's interrogations weren't the best. They weren't even very good. Lucas took a step toward the school, and Sherrill said to his back, "Dunn did it."
Ninety percent of the time, she'd be right. But Lucas stopped, turned, shook his head at her. "Don't say that, Marcy'cause maybe he did." His fingers were still playing with whatever-it-was, turning it, twisting it. "I don't want people thinking we went after him without some evidence."
"Do we have any?" Black asked.
Lucas said, "Nobody's said anything about it, but Dunn and Andi Manette just separated. There's another woman, I guess. Still"
Sherrill said, "Be polite."
"Yeah. With everybody. Stay on their asses, but be nice about it," Lucas said. "And I don't know. If it's Dunn, he'd have to have somebody working with him."
Sherrill nodded. "Somebody to take care of them, while he was talking to the cops."
"Unless he just took them out and wasted them," Black suggested.
Nobody wanted to think about that. They all looked up at the same moment and got their faces rained on. Then Hendrix slid out from under the Lexus, with a ratcheting of metal wheels, and they all looked down at him. Hendrix was riding a lowboy, wore a white mechanic's jumpsuit and spectacles with lenses the size of nickels: he looked like an albino mole.
"There's a bloodstain on the shoeI thinkit's blood. Don't disturb it," he said to Sherrill, passing her a transparent plastic bag.
Sherrill looked at the black high-heeled shoe, said, "She's got good taste."
Lucas flipped whatever-it-was between his middle and ring fingers, fumbled it, and then unconsciously slipped it over the end of his index finger. "Maybe the blood's from the asshole."
"Fat chance," Black said.
He pulled the mole to his feet and Lucas frowned and said, "What's that shit?"
He pointed at the leg of the mole's jumpsuit. In the headlights of the crime-scene truck, one of his pant legs was stained pink, as though he were bleeding from a calf wound.
"Jesus," Black said. He pulled on the seams of his own legs, lifting the cuffs above the shoes. "It's blood."
The mole dropped to his knees, pulled a paper napkin from a pocket, and laid it flat on the wet blacktop. When it was wet, he picked it up and heldit in the truck lights. The handkerchief showed a pinkish tinge.
"They must've emptied her out," Sherrill said.
The mole shook his head. "Not blood," he said. He held the towel between himself and the truck lights and looked through it.
"Then what is it?"
The tech shrugged. "Paint. Maybe lawn chemicals. It's not blood, though."
"That's something," Sherrill said, her face pale in the headlights. She looked down at her shoes. "I hate wading around in it. If you don't clean it up right away, it stinks."
"But it's blood on the shoe," Lucas said.
"I believe it is," said the mole.
Sherrill had been watching Lucas fumble with the whatever-it-was and finally figured it out. A ring. "Is that a ring?" she asked.
Lucas quickly pushed his hand in his coat pocket; he might have blushed. "Yeah. I guess."
"You guess? Don't you know?" She handed the shoe bag to Black. "Engagement?"
"Can I see it?" She stepped closer and consciously batted her eyes.
"What for?" He stepped back; there was no place to hide.
"So I can fuckin' steal the stone," Sherrill said impatiently. Then, wheedling again: " 'Cause I want to look at it, why do you think?"
"Better show it to her," Black said. "If you don't, she'll be whining about it the rest of the night"
"Shut up," Sherrill snapped at Black. Black shut up and the mole stepped back. To Lucas, "Come on, let me see it. Please?"
Lucas reluctantly took his hand out of his pocket and dropped the ring into Sherrill's open palm. She half-turned, so she could see the stone in the headlights. "Holy cow," she said reverently. She looked at Black. "The diamond is bigger'n your dick."
"But not nearly as hard," Black said.
The mole sadly shook his head. This kind of talk between unmarried men and women was another sign that the world was going to heck in a handbasket; that the final days were here.
They all started through the drizzle toward the school, the mole looking into the sky, for signs of God or Lucifer; Black, carrying the bloody shoe; Lucas with his head down; and Sherrill marvelling at the three-carat, tear-shaped diamond sparkling in all the brilliant flashing cop lights.
The school cafeteria was decorated with hand-painted Looney Tunes characters, and was gloomy despite it: the place had the feel of a bunker, all concrete block and small windows too high to see out of.
Bob Greave sat at a too-short cafeteria table in a too-short chair, drinking a Diet Coke, taking notes on a secretarial pad. He wore a rust-colored Italian-cut suit and a lightweight, beige micro-fiber raincoat. A thin man in a trench coat sat next to him, in another too-short chair, his bony knees sticking up like Ichabod Crane's. He looked as though he might twitch.
Lucas walked through the double doors with Black, Sherrill, and the mole trailing like wet ducklings. "Hey, Bob," Lucas said.
"Is that the shoe?" Greave asked, looking at the bag Black was carrying.
"No, it's Tom's," Lucas said, a half-second before he remembered about Black and had to smother a nervous laugh. Black apparently didn't notice. The man with the incipient twitch said, "Are you Chief-Davenport?"
Lucas nodded. "Yeah."
"Mr, Greave"the man nodded at the detective"said I had to stay until you got here. But I don't have anything else to say. So can I go?"
"I want to hear the story," Lucas said.
Girdler ran through it quickly. He had come to the school to talk to the chairperson about the year's PTA agenda, and had encountered Mrs. Manette and her daughters just outside the door, in the shelter of the overhang. Mrs. Manette had asked his advice about a particular problemhe was a therapist, as was sheand they chatted for a few moments, and he went inside.
Halfway down the hall and around a corner, he recalled a magazine citation she'd asked for, and that he couldn't remember when she'd first asked. He started back, and when he turned the corner, fifty or sixty feet from the door, he saw a man struggling with Manette's daughter.
"He pushed her into the van and went around it and drove away," Girdler said.
"And you saw the kids in the van?"
"Mmmm, yes" he said, his eyes sliding away, and Lucas thought,He's lying. "They were both on the floor. Mrs. Manette was sitting up, but she had blood on her face."
"What were you doing?" Lucas asked.
"I was running down the hall toward the doors. I thought maybe I could stop them," Girdler said, and again his eyes slid away. "I got there too late. He was already going out the drive. I'm sure he had a Minnesota license plate, though. Red truck, sliding doors. A younger man, big. Not fat, but muscular. He was wearing a t-shirt and jeans."
"You didn't see his face."
"Not at all. But he was blondand had long hair, like a rock 'n' roll person. Hair down to his shoulders."
"Huh. And that's it?"
Girdler was offended: "I thought it was quite a bit. I mean, I chased after him, but he was gone. Then I ran back and got the women in the office to dial 911. If you didn't catch him, it's not my fault."
Lucas smiled and said, "I understand there was a kid here. A girl, who saw some of it."
Girdler shrugged. "I doubt she saw much. She seemed confused. Maybe not too bright."
Lucas turned to Greave, who said, "I got what I could from her. It's about the same as Mr. Girdler. The kid's mother was pretty upset."
"Great," Lucas said.
He hung around for another ten minutes, finishing with Girdler, talking to Greave and the other cops. "Not much, is there?"
"Just the blood," Sherrill said. "I guess we already knew there was blood, from Girdler and the kid."
"And the red stuff in the parking lot," said the mole, looking at the napkin he'd used to soak it up. "I bet it's some kind of semi-water-soluble paint, and he painted the van to disguise it."
"Everybody says it was red, and this is red. I think it's a possibility. But I just don't see"
The mole scratched his head. "Why did he do it this way? Why right in the middle of the day, and three-to-one? I wonder if it could be a mistake or some spur-of-the-moment thing by a guy on drugs? But if it was spur-of-the-moment, how would he know to take Mrs. Manette? He must've known who she was unless he just came here because it's a rich kid's school and he'd take anybody, and he saw the Lexus."
"Then why not just snatch a kid? You don't want the folks if you're looking for ransom. You want the parents getting the money for you," Black said.
"Sounds goofier'n shit," Sherrill said, and they all nodded.
"That could be an answershe's a shrink, and maybe the guy used to be a patient. A nut," Black said.
"Whatever, I hope it was planned and done for the money," Lucas said,
"Yeah?" The mole looked at him with interest. "Why?"
" 'Cause if it was some doper or a goddamn gang-banger doing a spur-of-the-moment thing, and they haven't dropped them off by now"
"Then they're dead," Sherrill finished.
"Yeah." Lucas looked around the little circle of cops. "If it wasn't planned, Andi Manette and her kids are outa here."
The chief lived in a 1920's brown-brick bungalow in a wooded neighborhood east of Lake Harriet in Minneapolis, cheek-by-jowl with half the other smart politicians in the city; a house you had to be the right age to buy in 1978.
The gabble of a televised football game was audible through the front door, and a moment after Lucas pushed the doorbell, the chief's husband opened it and peered out nearsightedly; his glasses were up on his forehead. "Come on in," he said, pushing open the door. "Rose Marie's in the study."
"How is she?" Lucas asked.
"Unhappy." He was a tall, balding lawyer, who wore a button vest and smelled vaguely of pipe tobacco. He reminded Lucas of Adlai Stevenson. Lucas followed him down through the house, a comfortable accumulation of overstuffed couches and chairs, mixed with turn-of-the-century oak, furnishings they might have inherited from prosperous farmer-parents.
Rose Marie Roux, the Minneapolis Chief of Police, was sitting in the den, in a La-Z-Boy, with her feet up. She was wearing a sober blue business suit with white sweat socks. She was smoking.
"Tell me you found them," she said, curling her toes at Lucas.
"Yeah, they were shopping at the Mall of America," Lucas said. He dropped into the La-Z-Boy facing the chief. "They're all okay, and Tower Manette's talking about running you for the U.S. Senate."
"Yeah, yeah," Roux said sourly. Her husband shook his head. "Tell me," she said.
"She was hit so hard she was knocked out of her shoes and there's blood on one of them," Lucas said. "We've got some eyewitness who says that Andi Manette and the younger of the daughters were covered with blood, although there's a possibility it was something else, like paint. And we've got a description of the guy who did it"
"The perp," said Roux's husband.
They both looked at him. He hadn't seen the inside of a courtroom since he was twenty-five. He got his cop talk from the television. "Yeah, the perp," Lucas said. And to Rose Marie, "The description is pretty general: big, tough, dirty-blond."
"Damnit." Roux took a drag on her cigarette, blew it at the ceiling, then said, "The FBI will be in tomorrow"
"I know. The Minneapolis AIC is talking to Lester," Lucas said. "He wanted to know if we were going to declare it as a kidnapping. Lester said we probably would. We're covering the phone lines at Tower Manette's office and house. The same for Dunn and Andi Manette, offices and houses."
"Gotta be a kidnapping," Roux's husband said, getting comfortable with the conversation. "What else couldit be?"
Lucas looked at him and said, "Could be a nutManette's a shrink. Could be murder. Marital murder or something in the family. There's lots of money around. Lots of motive."
"I don't want to think about that," Roux said. Then, "What about Dunn?"
"Shaffer talked to him. He's got no alibi, not really. But we do know it wasn't him in the van. He says he was in his carhe's got a phone in his car, but he didn't use it within a half-hour of the kidnapping."
"You don't know him? Dunn?" Rose Marie Roux asked.
"No. I'll get to him tonight."
"He's a tough guy," she said. "But he's not crazy. Not unless something happened since the last time I saw him."
"Marital problems," Lucas suggested again.
"He's the type who'd have some," Roux said. "He'd manage them. He wouldn't flip out." She grunted as she pushed herself out of the La-Z-Boy. "Come on, we've got an appointment."
Lucas looked at his watch. Eight o'clock. "Where? I was gonna see Dunn."
"We've got to talk to Tower Manette first. At his place, Lake of the Isles."
"You need me?"
"Yeah. He called and asked if I'd put you on the case. I said I already had. He wants to meet you."
The chief traded her sweat socks for panty hose and short heels and they took the Porsche five minutes north to Lake of the Isles.
"Your husband saidperp," Lucas said in the car.
"I love him anyway," she said.
Manette's house was a Prairie-style landmark posed on the west rim of the lake, above a serpentine driveway. The drive was edged with a flagstone wall, and Lucas caught the color of a late-summer perennial garden in the flash of the headlights. The house, of the same brown brick used in Roux's, was built in three offset levels, and every level was brilliantly lit; peals of light sliced across the evergreens under the windows and dappled the driveway. "Everybody's up," Lucas said.
"She's his only child," Roux said.
"How old is he now?"
"Seventy, I guess," Roux said. "He's not been well."
"He had an aneurysm, mmm, last spring, I think. A couple of days after they fixed it, he had a mild stroke. He supposedly made a complete recovery, but he's not been the same. He got frail, or something."
"You know him pretty well," Lucas said.
"I've known him for years. He and Humphrey ran the Party in the sixties and seventies."
Lucas parked next to a green Mazda Miata; Roux struggled out of the passenger seat, found her purse, slammed the door, and said, "I need a larger car."
"Porsches are a bad habit," Lucas agreed as they crossed the porch.
A man in a gray business suit, with the professionally concerned face of an undertaker, was standing behind the glass in the front door. He opened it when he saw Roux reach for the doorbell. "Ralph Enright, chief," he said, in a hushed voice. "We talked at the Sponsor's Ball."
"Sure, how are you?" Roux said. "I didn't know you and Tower were friends."
"Um, he asked me to take a consultive role," Enright said. He looked as though he were waxed in the morning.
"Good," said Roux, nodding dismissively. "Is Tower around?"
"In here," Enright said. He looked at Lucas. "And you're"
"Of course. This way."
"Lawyer," Roux muttered, as Enright started into the depths of the house. Lucas could see the light glittering from his hair. "Gofer."
The house was high-style Prairie, with deep Oriental carpets setting off the arts-and-crafts furniture. A touch of deco added glamour, and a definite deco taste was reflected in the thirties art prints. Lucas knew nothing of decoration or art, but the smell of money seeped from the walls.That he recognized.
Enright led them to a sprawling center room, with two interlocking groups of couches and chairs. Three men in suits were standing, talking. Two well-dressed women sat on chairs facing each other. They all had the expectant air of a group waiting for their picture to be taken.
"Rose Marie" Tower Manette walked toward them. He was a tall man with fine, high cheekbones and a trademark shock of white hair falling over wooly-bear white eyebrows. Another man, tanned, solid, tight-jawed, Lucas knew as a senior agent with the Minneapolis office of the FBI. He nodded and Lucas nodded back. The third man was Danny Kupicek, an intelligence cop who had worked for Lucas on special investigations. He raised a hand and said, "Chiefs."
The two women were unfamiliar.
"Thanks for coming," Manette said. He was thinner than Lucas remembered from seeing him on television, and paler, but there was a quick aggressive flash in his eyes. His suit was French-cut but conservative, showing his narrow waist, and his tie might have been chosen by a French president: the look of a ladies' man.
But the corner of his mouth trembled when he reached out to Roux, and when he shook hands with Lucas, his hand felt cool and delicate; the skin was loose and heavily veined. "And Lucas Davenport, I've heard about you for years. Is there any more news? Why don't we step into the library; I'll be right back, folks."
The library was a small rectangular room stuffed with leather-bound books, tan, oxblood, green covers stamped with gold. They all came in sets: great works, great thoughts, great ideas, great battles, great men.
"Great library," Lucas said.
"Thank you," Tower said. "Is there anything new?"
"There have been some further disturbing developments," Roux said.
Tower turned his head away, as though his face were about to be slapped. "That is?"
Roux nodded at Lucas, and Lucas said, "I just got back from the school. We found one of your daughter's shoes in the parking lot, under her car, out of the rain. There was blood on it. We've got her blood type from medical school, so we should be able to tell fairly quickly if it's her blood. If itis hers, she was probably bleeding fairly heavilybut that could be from a blow to the nose or a cut lip, or even a small scalp wound. They all bleed profusely But there was some blood. Witnesses also suggest that your daughter and her younger daughter, Genevieve"
"Yes, Gen," Manette said weakly.
" apparently were bleeding after the assault, when they were seen in the back of the kidnapper's van. But we've also found that the kidnapper may have tried to disguise his van by painting it with some kind of red water-soluble paint, so that may be what was seen on your daughter. We don't know about that."
"Oh, God." Manette's voice came out as a croak: the emotion was real.
"This could turn out badly," Roux said. "We're hoping it won't, but you've got to be ready."
"There must be something I can do," Manette said. "Do you think a reward? An appeal?"
"We could talk about a reward," Roux said. "But we should wait awhile, see if anyone calls asking for ransom."
"Do you have any ideasanything at allabout what might be going on?" Lucas asked. "Anybody who might want to get at you, or at Miz Manette?"
"No" But he said it slowly, as if he had to think about it. "Why?"
"She may have been stalked. This doesn't look like a spontaneous attack," Lucas said. "But there's an element of craziness about it, too. All kinds of things could've gone wrong. I mean, he kidnapped three people in broad daylight and got away with it."
"I'll tellyou what, Mr. Davenport," Manette said. He took three shaky steps to an overstuffed library chair and sat down. "I've got more enemies than most men. There must be several dozen people in this state who genuinely detest mepeople who blame me for destroying their careers, their prospects, and probably their families. That's politics. It's unfortunate, but that's what happens when your side loses in a political contest. You lose. So there are people out there"
"It doesn't feel political," Roux said. Lucas noticed that she'd taken a cigarette out of a pocket and was rolling it, unlit, in her left hand.
Manette nodded. "I agree. As crazy as some of those people may be, I don't think this kind of thing would ever occur to them."
Lucas said, "There's always the possibility"
Roux looked at him, "Political people always leave themselves escape hatches. With this, there's no escape hatch. Even if he just dropped them off on the corner, he'd be looking at years in prison for the kidnapping. A political mindwouldn't do that."
"Unless he was nuts," Lucas said.
Roux nodded, and looked at Manette and said, "There is that possibility."
"Which brings us to your daughter's psychiatric practice," Lucas said to Manette. "We need access to her records."
"The woman on the couch"Manette tipped his head toward the living room"the younger one, is Andi's partner, Nancy Wolfe. I'll talk to her."
"We'd like to start as soon as we can," Lucas said. "Tomorrow morning."
"I hope it's a kidnapping," Manette said. "I hope it's for profitI don't like to think of some nut taking them."
"How about George Dunn?" Lucas asked. "He says he was in his car during the attack. No witnesses."
"That sonofabitch," Manette said. He pushed himself out of the chair and took a quick turn around the room and made a sound like a clog's growl. "He's a goddamn psycho. I didn't think before tonight that he'd do anything to hurt Andi or the girls, but now I don't know."
"You think he might?"
"He's a cold-hearted sonofabitch," Manette said. "He could do anything."
They talked about the case for a few more minutes, then the two women came to the door and looked inside. "Tower? Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," he said.
The women stepped inside. The younger of the two, Nancy Wolfe, was a slender, well-tanned woman. She wore a soft woollen dress, but no jewelry or makeup, and her auburn hair showed a few threads of gray. Speaking to Manette, she said, "You need some quiet. I'm telling you that as an M.D., not as a psychiatrist."
The other woman was paler, older, with a loose, jowly face touched expertly with rouge. She nodded, stepped closer to Manette, and took his arm. "Just come on upstairs, Tower. Even if you can't sleep, you could lie down"
"I don't go to bed until two o'clock in the morning," Manette said irritably. "There's no point in going up now."
"But it's been exhausting," the woman said. She seemed to be talking about herself, and Lucas realized that she must be Manette's wife. She spoke to Roux: "Tower's under a lot of stress, and he's had health problems."
"We wanted him to know that we're doing everything we can," Roux said. She looked back at Manette. "I've assigned Lucas to oversee the investigation."
"Thank you," Manette said. And to Lucas: "Anything you need, anybody that I know, that you want to talk to, just call. And let me know about that reward, if it would be useful."
"George Dunn," Lucas said.
"Get him on the phone, will you, Helen?" Manette said to his wife. "I'll talk to him."
"And after that, Tower, I want you to kick back and close your eyes, even if it's just for half an hour," Wolfe said. She reached out and touched his hand. "Take some time to think."
Lucas dropped the chief at her house, promising to call back at midnight, or when anything broke.
"Lester's running the routine," Roux said as the car idled in her driveway. "I need you to pluck this thing out of the sky, so to speak."
"Doesn't have a plucking feel about it," Lucas said. "Something complicated is going on."
"If you don't,we're gonna get plucked," Roux said. Then: "You want fifteen seconds of politics?"
"This is one of those cases that people will talk about for a generation," Roux said. "If we find Manette and her kids, we're gold. We'll be untouchable. But if we fuck it up" She let her voice trail away.
"Let me go pluck," Lucas said.
George Dunn's house was a modest white ranch, tucked away on a big tree-filled lot on a dead-end street in Edina. Lucas left the Porsche in the driveway and climbed the stone walk to the front door, pushed the doorbell. A thick-faced cop, usually in uniform, now in slacks and a golf shirt, pushed open the door.
"Hey, Rick," Lucas said. "They've got you watching the phones?"
"Yeah." In a lower voice, "And Dunn."
"Where is he?"
"Back in his officethe light back there." The cop nodded to the left.
The house was stacked with brown cardboard moving boxes, a dozen of them in the front room, more visible in the kitchen and breakfast area. There was little furniturea couch and chair in the living room, a round oak table in the breakfast nook. Lucas followed a hall back to the light and found Dunn sitting at a rectangular dining table in what had been meant as a family room. A large-screen TV sat against one wall, the picture on, the sound off. A stereo system was stacked on a pile of three cardboard boxes.
Dunn was huddled over a pile of paper, with a crooked-neck lamp pulled close to them, his face half-in and half-out of the light. To his left, a half-dozen two-drawer file cabinets were pushed against a wall. Half of them had open drawers. Another stack of cardboard boxes sat on the floor beside the file cabinets. On the far side of the room, three chairs faced each other across a glass coffee table.
Lucas stepped inside the room and said, "Mr. Dunn."
Dunn looked up. "Davenport," he said. He dropped his pen, pushed back from the table, and stood to shake hands.
Dunn was a fullback ten years off the playing field: broad shoulders, bullet head, beat-up face. His front teeth were so even, so white and perfect, that they had to be a bridge. He wore a gray cashmere sweater, with the sleeves pushed up, showing a gold Rolex; jeans, and loafers without socks. He shook hands, held the grip for a second, nodded, pointed at a chair, sat down, and said, "Ask."
"You want a lawyer?" Lucas asked.
"I had one. It was a waste of money," Dunn said.
Lucas sat down, leaned forward, an elbow on his thigh. "You say you were in your car when your wife was taken. But you don't have any witnesses and you made no calls that would confirm it."
"I made one call to her, while she was on her way over to the school. I told that to the other guys"
"But that was an hour before she was taken. A prosecutor might say that the call tipped you off to exactly where she'd be, so you'd have time to get there. Or send somebody," Lucas said. "And after that call, you were out of your office, and out of everybody's sight."
"I know it. If I'd done this thing I'd have a better alibi," Dunn said. He made a sliding gesture with one hand. "I'd have been someplace besides my car. But the fact is, I spend maybe a quarter of my business day in my car. I've got a half-dozen developments going around the Cities, from west of Minnetonka to the St. Croix. I hit every one every day."
"And you use your car phone all the time," Lucas pointed out.
"Not after business hours," Dunn said, shaking his head. "I called the office from Yorkvillethat's the job over in Woodburyand after that, and after I talked to Andi, I just headed back in. When I got here, the cops were waiting for me."
"Who do you think took her?" Lucas asked.
Dunn shook his head. "It's gotta be one of the nuts she handles," he said. "She gets the worst. Sex criminals, pyromaniacs, killers. Nobody's toocrazy for her."
Lucas gazed at him for a moment. The gooseneck lamp made a pool of light around his hands, but his pug's face was half in shadow; in an old black-and-white movie, he might have been the devil. "How much do you dislike her?" Lucas asked. "Your wife?"
"I don't dislike her," Dunn said, bouncing once in the chair. "I love her."
"That's not the word around town."
"Yeah, yeah, yeah." He put his fingers to his forehead, scrubbed at it. "I screwed a woman from the office. Once." Lucas let the silence grow, and Dunn finally launched himself from his chair, walked to a box, opened it, took out a bottle of scotch. "Whiskey?"
"No, thanks." And he let the silence go.
"We're talking about a major-league cookie, this chick, in my face five days a week," Dunn said. He made a Coke-bottle tits-and-ass figure with his hands. "Andi and I had a few disagreementsnot big ones, but we've got a lot going on. Careers, busy all the time, we don't see each other enough like that. So this chick is there, in the officeshe was my traffic managerand finally I jump her. Right there on her desk, pencils and pens all over the place, Post-it notes stuck to her butt. The next thine I know, she gets her little handbag and her business suit and shows up at Audi's office to announce that she loves me and I love her." He ran his hands through his hair, then laughed, a short, half-humorous bark. "Christ, what a nightmare that must've been."
"Doesn't sound like one of your better days," Lucas admitted. He remembered days like that.
"Man, I wish I hadn't done it," Dunn said. He lipped the bottle of whiskey in his hand, caught it. "I lost my wife and a pretty goddamn good traffic manager on the same day."
Lucas watched him for a long beat. He wasn't acting.
"Is there any reason you might've killed your wife for her money?"
Dunn looked up, vaguely surprised: "Christ, you don't fuck around, do you?"
Lucas shook his head. "Could you have done that? Does it make sense?"
"No. Just between you and methere isn't that much money."
"I know, Tower Manette and his millions, the Manette Trust, the Manette Foundation, all that shit," Dunn said. He flicked a hand as if batting away a cobweb, then walked across the room, stepped through a doorway and flicked on a light. He opened a refrigerator door, dropped a couple of ice cubes in his glass, and came back. "Andi gets a hundred thousand a year, more or less, from her share of the Manette Trust. When the kids turn eighteen, they'll get a piece of it. And they'll get bigger pieces when they turn twenty-five and forty. If they were to die I wouldn't see any of that. What I'd get is the house, and the stuff in it. Frankly, I don't need it."
"So what about Manette? You said"
"Tower had maybe ten million back in the fifties, plus the income from the trust, and a board seat at the Foundation. But he was running all over the world, buying yachts, buying a house in Palm Beach, screwing everything in a skirt. And he was putting the good stuff up his nosehe was heavy into cocaine back in the Seventies. Anyway, after a few years, the interest on the ten mil wasn't cutting it. He started dipping into the principal. Then he got into politicsbought his way in, reallyand he dipped a little deeper. It must've seemed like taking water out of the ocean with a teacup. But it added up. Then, in the late seventies and eighties, he did everything wronghe was stuck in bonds during the big inflation, finally unloaded them at a terrific loss. Then sometime in there, he met Helen"
"Helen's his second wife, right?" Lucas said. "She's quite a bit younger than he is?"
Dunn said, "I guess she's what? Fifty-three, fifty-four? She's not that young. His first wife, Berniethat's Andi's motherdied about ten years ago. He was already seeing Helen by that time. She was a good-looking woman. She had the face and real star-quality tits. Tower always liked tits. Anyway, Helen was in real estate and she got him deep into REITs as a way to recoup his bond losses"
"What's areet?" Lucas asked.
"Sorry; real-estate investment trust. Anyway, that was just before real estate fell out of bed, and he got hammered again. And the crash of eighty-seven Hell, the guy was the kiss of death. You didn't want to stand next tohim."
"So he's broke?"
Dunn looked up at the ceiling as if he were running a calculator in his head. After a moment, he said, "Right now, if Tower hunted around, he might come up with a million? Of course, the houseis paid for, that's better'n a mil, but he can't really get at it. He has to live somewhere and it has to be up to his standards So figure that he gets sixty thousand from the million that's his, and another hundred thousand from thetrust And he's still got that seat on the Foundation board, but that probably doesn't pay more than twenty or thirty. So what's that? Less than two hundred?"
"Jesus, he's eating dog food," Lucas said, with just a rime of sarcasm in his voice.
Dunn pointed a finger at Lucas: "But that'sexactly what he feels like.Exactly, He was spending a half-million a year when a Cadillac cost six thousand bucks and a million was really something. Now he's scraping along on maybe a quarter mil and a Caddy costs forty thousand."
"Listen, a million ain't that much any more," Dunn said wryly. "A guy who owns two good Exxon stationshe's worth at least a mil, probably more. Two gas stations. We're not talking about yachts and polo."
"So if you took your wife off, you wouldn't have done it for the money," Lucas said.
"Hell, if anybody got taken off, it should've been me. I'm worth fifteen or twenty times what Tower is. Of course, it ain't as good as Tower's money," he said ruefully.
" 'Cause I earned it," Dunn said. "Just like you did, with your computer company. I read about you inCities' Biz. They said you're worth probably five million, and growing. You must feel itthat your money's got a taint."
"I've never seen any of it, the money," Lucas said. "It's all paper, at this point." Then: "What about insurance? Is there insurance on Andi?"
"Well, yeah." Dunn's forehead wrinkled and he scratched his chin. "Actually, quite a bit."
"Who'd get it?"
Dunn shrugged. "The kids unless Ah, Christ. If the kids died, I'd get it."
"Yeah except, you know,Nancy Wolfe wouldget a half-million. They do pretty well in that partnership, and they both have key-mankey-womaninsurance to help cover their mortgage and so on, if somebody died."
"Is a half-million a lot for Nancy Wolfe?"
Dunn thought again, and then said, "It'd be quite a bit. She pulls down something between $150,000 and $175,000 a year, and she can't protect any of ittaxes eat her aliveso another half mil would be nice."
"Will you sign a release saying that we can look at your wife's records?" Lucas asked.
"Sure. Why wouldn't I?"
"Because a lot of medical people think psychiatric records should be privileged," Lucas said. "That people need treatment, not cops."
"Fuck that. I'll sign," Dunn said. "You got a paper with you?"
"I'll have one sent over tonight," Lucas said.
Dunn was watching Lucas's hand and asked, "What're you playing with?"
Lucas looked down at his hand and saw the ring. "Ring."
"Uh-oh. Coming or going?" Dunn asked.
"Thinking about it," Lucas said.
"Marriage is wonderful," Dunn said. He spread his arms. "Look around. A box for everything and everything in its box."
"You seem sort oflighthearted about this whole thing."
Dunn suddenly leaned forward, his face like a stone. "Davenport, I'm so fuckin' scared I can't spit. I honest-to-God never knew what it meant, being scared spitless. I thought it was just a phrase, but it's not You gotta get my guys back."
Lucas grunted and stood up. "You'll stick around." It wasn't a question.
"Yeah." Dunn stood up, facing him. "You're a tough guy, right?"
"Maybe," Lucas said.
"Football, I bet."
"Yeah, you got the cuts Think you could take me?" Dunn had relaxed again, and a faintly amused look crossed his face.
Lucas nodded. "Yeah."
Dunn said, "Huh," like he didn't necessarily agree, and then, losing the smile, "What d'you thinkyou gonna find my wife and kids?"
"I'll find them," Lucas said.
"But you won't guarantee their condition," Dunn said.
Lucas looked away, into the dark house: he felt like something was pushing his face. "No," he said to the darkness.
27 February 2020
The Prey series, the Virgil Flowers series, the Kidd series, The Singular Menace, The Night Crew, Dead Watch, The Eye and the Heart: The Watercolors of John Stuart Ingle, and Plastic Surgery: The Kindest Cut are copyrighted by John Sandford. All excerpts are used with permission.
All original content on the website (excluding some other specifically disclaimed text) is copyright © 1997-2019 by Roswell Anthony Camp. Please do not steal anything from these pages. If you want to borrow something, write and ask first. Help keep moofs happy.