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|The Prey Series|
Tubbs was half-asleep on the couch, his face covered with an unfolded Star-Tribune. The overhead light was still on, and when he'd collapsed on the couch, he'd been too tired to get up and turn it off. The squeak wasn't so much consciously felt, as understood: he had a visitor. But nobody knocked.
Tubbs was a political.
In his case, political wasn't an adjective, but a noun. He didn't have a particular job, most of the time, though sometimes he did: an aide to this state senator or that one, a lobbyist for the Minnesota Association of Whatever, a staffer for so-and so's campaign. So-and-so was almost always a Democrat.
He'd started with Jimmy Carter in '76, when he was eighteen, stayed pure until he jumped to the Jesse Ventura gubernatorial revolt in '98, and then it was back to the Democrats. He'd never done anything else.
He was a political; and frequently, a fixer.
Occasionally, a bagman.
Several times like just now a nervous, semi competent blackmailer.
Tubbs slept, usually, in the smaller of his two bedrooms. The other was a chaotic office, the floor stacked with position papers and reports and magazines, with four overflowing file cabinets against one wall. An Apple iMac sat in the middle of his desk, surround by more stacks of paper. A disassembled Mac Pro body and a cinema screen hunkered on the floor to one side of the desk, along with an abandoned Sony desktop. Boxers of old three-and-a-half-inch computer disks sat on bookshelves over the radiator. They'd been saved by simple negligence: He no longer knew what was on any of them.
The desk had four drawers: one was taken up with current employment and tax files, the others were occupied by office junk: envelopes, stationery, yellow legal pads, staplers, rubber bands, thumb drives, Post-It notes, scissors, several pairs of fingernail clippers, Sharpies, business cards, dozens of ballpoints, five or six coffee cups from political campaigns and lobbyist groups, tangles of computer connectors.
He had two printers, one a heavy-duty Canon office machine, the other a Brother multiple-use copy/fax/scan/print model.
There were three small thirty-inch televisions in his office, all fastened to the wall above the desk, so he could work on the iMac and watch C-Span, Fox and CNN all at once. A sixty-inch LED screen hung on the living room wall opposite the couch where he'd been napping.
This time he opened his eyes.
Tubbs reached out for his cell phone, punched the button on top, checked the time: 3:15 in the morning. He'd had any number of visitors at 3:15, but to get through the apartment house's front door, they had to buzz him. He frowned, sat up, listening, smacked his lips; his mouth tasted like a chicken had been roosting in it, and the room smelled of cold chili.
Then his doorbell blipped: a quiet ding-dong. Not the buzzer from outside, which was a raucous ZZZZTTT, but the doorbell. Tubbs dropped his feet off the couch, thinking, neighbor. Had to be Mrs. Thomas R. Jefferson. She sometimes got disoriented at night, out looking for her deceased husband, and several times had locked herself out of her own apartment.
Tubbs padded across the floor in his stocking feet. There was nothing tubby about Tubbs: He was a tall man, and thin. Though he'd lived a life of fundraising dinners and high-stress campaigns, he'd ignored the proffered sheet cake, Ding-Dongs, Pepsi, Mr. Goodbars and even the odd moon-pies, as well as the stacks of Hungry Man microwave meals found in campaign refrigerators. A vegetarian, he went instead for the soy-based proteins, the non-fat cereals and the celery sticks. If he found himself cornered at a church-basement dinner, he looked for the Jello with shredded carrots and onions, and those little pink marshmallows.
Tubbs had blonde hair, still thick as he pushed into his fifties, a neatly cropped mustache, and a flat belly.Given his habits and his diet, he figured his life expectancy was about ninety-six. Maybe ninety-nine.
One big deficit: He hadn't had a regular woman since his third wife departed five years earlier. On the other hand, the irregular women came along often enough -- campaign volunteers, legislative staff, the occasional lobbyist. He had always been a popular man, a man with political stories that were funny, generally absurd, and sometimes terrifying. He told them well.
As he walked toward the door, he scratched his crotch. His dick felt sort of... bent. Chafed. A little swollen.
The latest irregular woman was more irregular than most. They'd had a strenuous workout earlier that evening, a day that had left Tubbs exhausted. Hours of cruising the media outlets, talking to other operators all over the state, assessing the damage; a tumultuous sexual encounter; and finally, the biggest blackmail effort of his life, the biggest potential payoff...
He was beat, which was why, perhaps, he wasn't more suspicious.
Tubbs checked the peephole. Nobody there. Probably Mrs. Jefferson, he thought, who hadn't been five-two on her tallest day, and now was severely bent by osteoporosis.
He popped open the door, and,
Tubbs regained consciousness on the floor of a moving car, an SUV. He was terribly injured, and knew it. He no longer knew exactly how it had happened, if he ever had, but there was something awfully wrong with his head, his skull. His face and hands were wet with blood, and he could taste blood in his mouth and his nose was stuffed with it. He would have gagged if he had the strength.
He could move his hands, but not his feet, and with a little clarity that came after a while, he knew something else: he was lying on a plastic sheet. And he knew why: so the floor of the car wouldn't get blood on it.
The images in his mind were confused, but deep down, in a part that hadn't been impacted, he knew who his attackers must be, and he knew what the end would be. He'd be killed. And he was so hurt, that he wouldn't be able to fight it.
Tubbs was dying. There wasn't much in the way of pain, because he was too badly injured for that. Nothing to do about it, but wait until the darkness came.
The car was traveling on a smooth road, and its gentle motion nevertheless suggested speed. A highway, headed out of St. Paul. Going to a burial ground, or maybe to the Mississippi. He had no preference. A few minutes after he regained consciousness, he slipped away again.
Then he resurfaced, and deep down in the lizard part of his brain, a spark of anger burned. Nothing he could do? A plan formed, not a good one, but something. Something he could actually do. His hands were damp with blood. With much of his remaining life force, he pushed one wet hand across the plastic sheet, and tried as best he could to form the letters TG.
That was it. That was all he had. A scrawl of blood on the underside of a car seat, where the owner wouldn't see it, but where a crime-scene technician might.
He pulled his hand back and then felt his tongue crawl out of his mouth, beyond his will, the muscles of his face relaxing toward death.
He was still alive when the car slowed, and then turned. Still alive when it slowed again, and this time, traveled down a rougher road. Felt the final turn, and the car rocking to a stop. Car doors opening.
His killers pulled him out of the backseat by pulling and lifting the plastic tarp on which he lay. One of them said, "Skinny fuck is heavy."
The other answered, "Hey. I think he's breathing."
"Yeah? Give me the bat."
Just before the darkness came, Tubbs sensed the fetid wetness of a swamp; an odor, a softness in the soil beneath his body. He never heard or felt the crunch of his skull shattering under the bat.
Lucas Davenport was having his hockey nightmare, the one where he was about to take the ice in a NCAA championship game, but couldn't find his skates. He knew where they were locker 120 but the locker numbers ended at 110 down one aisle, and picked at 140 on the next one.
He knew 120 was somewhere in the vast locker room, and as the time ticked down to the beginning of the match, and the fan-chants started from the bleachers overhead, he ran frantically barefoot up and down the rows of lockers, scanning the number plates...
He knew he was dreaming even as he did it. He wanted nothing more than to end it, which was why he was struggling toward consciousness at eight o'clock on a Sunday morning and heard Weather chortling in the bathroom.
Weather, his wife, was a surgeon, and on working days, was always out of the house by 6:30; even on sleep-in days, she hardly ever slept until eight. Lucas, on the other hand, was a night-owl. He was rarely in bed before two o'clock, except for recreational purposes; and he was content to sleep until nine o'clock, or later.
This morning, he could hear her laughing in the bathroom, and realized that she was watching the built-in bathroom TV as she put on her make-up. She'd resisted the idea of a bathroom television, but Lucas installed one anyway, claiming that it would increase their efficiency get the local news out of the way, so they could start their days.
In reality, it had more to do with shaving. He'd started shaving when he was fifteen, and had never had a two-week beard. Even counting the rare days when he hadn't shaved for one reason or another, he'd still gone through the ritual at least twelve thousand times, and he enjoyed it. Took his time with it. Found that the television added to the whole ceremony, news and music.
Now, as he struggled to the surface, and out of the hockey arena, he called, "What?"
She called back, "More on Smalls. The guy is truly fucked."
Lucas said, "Have a good day," and rolled over and tried to find a better dream, preferably involving twin blondes with long plaited hair and really tight, round... ZZZ.
Just before he went back to dreamland, he thought about Weather's choice of words. She didn't lightly use obscenity, but in this case, she was correct: Smalls was really, truly fucked.
Lucas Davenport was tall, heavy-shouldered, and hawk-faced, and, at the end of the first full month of autumn, still well-tanned, which made his blue eyes seem bluer yet, and made a couple of white scars stand out on his face and neck. The facial scar was thin, like a piece of pale fishing line strung down over his eyebrow and onto one cheek. The neck scar, centered on his throat, was circular with a vertical slash through it. Not one he liked to remember: the young girl had pulled the piece-of-crap .22 out of nowhere, and had shot him and would have killed him if Weather hadn't been there with a jackknife. The vertical slash was the result of the tracheotomy that saved his life. The slug had barely missed his spinal cord.
The tan would be fading over the next few months, and the scars would become almost invisible until, in March, he'd be as pale as a piece of typing paper.
Lucas rolled out of bed at nine o'clock, spent some time with himself in the bathroom, and caught a little more about Porter Smalls.
Smalls was a conservative Republican politician. Lucas generally didn't like right wingers, finding them generally to be self-righteous and uncompromising. Smalls was more relaxed than that. He was conservative, especially on the abortion issue, and he was death on taxes; on the other hand, he had a Clintonesque attitude about women, and even a sense of humor about his own peccadillos. Minnesotans went for his whole bad-boy act, especially in comparison to the stiffs who usually got elected to high office.
Smalls was rich. As someone at the Capitol once told Lucas, he'd started out selling apples. The first one he bought for a nickel, and sold for a quarter. With the quarter, he bought five more apples, and sold them for a dollar. Then he inherited twenty million dollars from his father, and became an overnight success.
Weather loathed Smalls because he advocated Medicaid cuts as a way to balance the state budget. He was also virulently pro-life, and Weather was strongly pro-choice. He was also anti-union, and wanted to eliminate all public employee unions with a federal law. "Conflict of interest," he said, "Payoffs with taxpayer money."
Lucas paid little attention to it. He generally voted for Democrats, but not always. He'd voted for a nominally Republican governor, not once, but twice. Whatever happened, he figured he could live with it.
Anyway, Smalls looked like he was headed for reelection over an attractive young Minnesota heiress, though it was going to be close. Her qualifications for office were actually better than Smalls', she looked terrific, and had an ocean of money. If she had a problem, it was that she carried with her a whiff of arrogance and entitlement; and maybe more than a whiff.
Then, on the Friday before, a dewy young volunteer, as conservative as Smalls himself, and with the confidence that comes from being both dewy and affluent it seemed like everybody involved in the election had money had gone into Smalls' campaign office to drop off some numbers on federal aid to Minnesota for bridge construction, also known as U.S. Government Certified A-1 Pork.
She told the cops that Smalls' computer screen was blanked out when she walked into the office. She wanted him to see the bridge files as soon as he came in, so she put them on his keyboard.
When the packets hit the keyboard, the screen lit up... with a kind of child porn so ugly that the young woman hardly knew what she was seeing for the first few seconds. Then she did what any dewy Young Republican would have done: she called her father. He told her to stay where she was: he'd call the police.
When the cops arrived, they took one look, and seized the computer.
And somebody, maybe everybody, blabbed to the media.
Porter Smalls was in the shit.
Sunday morning, a time for newspapers and kids: Lucas pulled on a pair of blue jeans, a black shirt, and low-cut black boots. When he was done, he admired himself in Weather's full-length admiring mirror, brushed an imaginary flake from his shoulder, and went down to French toast and bacon, which he could smell sizzling on the griddle even on the second floor.
The housekeeper, Helen, was passing it all around when he sat down. His son, Sam, a toddler, was babbling about trucks, and had three of them on the table; Letty was talking about a fashion-forward girl who'd worn a tiara to high school, in a kind of make-or-break status move; Weather was reading a Times review about some artist who'd spent five years doing a time-lapse movie of grass growing and dying; and Baby Gabrielle was throwing oatmeal at the refrigerator.
There were end-of-the-world headlines about Smalls, in both the Minneapolis and New York papers. The Times, whose editorial portentousness approached traumatic constipation, tried to suppress its glee under the bushel basket of feigned sadness that another civil servant had been caught in a sexual misadventure; they hadn't even bothered to use the word "alleged."
Lucas was halfway through the Star-Tribune's comics when his cell-phone buzzed. He took it out of his pocket, looked at the caller's ID, clicked it and said, "Good morning, Neil. I assume you're calling from the Cathedral."
Neil Mitford, chief weasel for the governor of Minnesota, ignored the comment. "The guy needs to see you this morning. He should be out of church and down at his office by 10:30 or so. He's got to talk to a guy at 10:45, more or less, until 11:30 or so. He'd like to see you either at 10:30 or 11:30."
"I could make the 10:30," Lucas said. "What's it about?"
"He's got a Smalls problem." When Lucas didn't react, Mitford added, "See, that was a pun. There's this phrase, 'He's got a small problem'..."
"A pun, but not a good one, which is why I didn't laugh," Lucas said. "See you at 10:30."
"Come in the back," Mitford said. "We'll have a guard down at the door for you."
Lucas checked his watch, and saw that he would make it to the Capitol right on time, if he left in the next few minutes, and drove slowly enough.
"Wait," Weather said. "We were all going shopping."
"It's hard to tell the governor to piss up a rope," Lucas said. "Even on a Sunday."
"But we were going to pick out Halloween costumes..."
"I'd just be bored and in your way, and you wouldn't let me choose, anyway," Lucas said. "You and Letty will be fine..."
Letty shrugged and said to Weather, "That's all true."
So Lucas idled up Mississippi River Boulevard, top down on the Porsche, to Summit Avenue, then along Summit with its grand houses, and over to the Capitol.
The Minnesota Capitol is sited on a hill overlooking St. Paul, and because of the expanse of the hill, looks taller and wider than the U.S. Capitol. Also, whiter.
Lucas left the car a block away, and strolled through the cheerful morning, stopping to look at a late-season butterfly that was perched on a zinnia, looking for something to eat. The big change-of-season cold front had come through the week before, but, weirdly, there hadn't yet been a killing frost, and there were still butterflies and flowers all over the place.
At the Capitol, an overweight guard was waiting for him at a back door. He and the guard had once worked patrol together on the Minneapolis police force the guard was double-dipping and they chatted for a few minutes, and then Lucas climbed a stairs and walked down to the governor's office.
The governor, or somebody, had left a newspaper blocking the doorjamb, and Lucas pushed open the door, picked up paper, and let the door lock behind him. He was standing in a darkened outer office and the governor called, "Lucas? Come on in."
The governor was a tall, slender blond named Elmer Henderson who might, in four years, be a viable candidate for vice-president of the United States on the Democratic ticket. The media said he'd nail down the left-wingers for a presidential candidate who might prefer to run a little closer to the middle.
Henderson might himself have been a candidate for the top job, if he had not been, in his younger years, quite so fond of women in pairs and trios, known at Harvard as the "Henderson Hogie," and cocaine. He certainly had the right pedigree: Ivy League undergraduate and law, flawless if slightly robotic wife and children, perhaps a half billion dollars from his share of the 3M inheritance.
He was standing behind his desk, wearing a dark going-to-church suit, open at the throat, the tie curled on his desktop. He had a sheath of papers in his hands, thumbing them, when Lucas walked in. He looked over his glasses and said, "Lucas. Sit. Sorry to bother you on a Sunday morning."
"It's okay." Lucas took a chair. "You need somebody killed?"
"Several people, but I'd hesitate to ask, at least here in the office, on the Lord's Day," the governor said. He gave the papers a last shuffle, set them aside, pressed a button on a box on his desk and said, "Get in here," and asked Lucas, "You've been reading about Porter Smalls?"
"Yeah. You guys must be dancing in the aisles," Lucas said.
"Should be," said a voice from behind Lucas. Lucas turned his head as Mitford came through a side door, which led into his compact, paper-littered office. "This is one of the better political moments of my life. Porter Smalls takes it between the cheeks."
"What an unhappy expression," the governor said. He dropped into his chair, sighed, and put his stocking feet on the desktop. "But appropriate, I suppose. He's certainly being screwed by all and sundry."
"And it kills the Medicaid nonsense," Mitford said, as he took another chair. "He was carrying that on his back, and anything he was carrying is tainted. 'You want to pass a bill sponsored by a kiddie-porn addict? What kind of human being are you?'"
"Grossly unfair," the governor said. He didn't seem particularly worried about the unfairness of it. He'd been looking at Mitford, but now turned to Lucas. "You know what the problem is?"
"He didn't do it. Wasn't his child porn," the governor said. "I talked to him yesterday afternoon, over at his house, for a long time. He didn't do it."
"I thought you guys were blood enemies," Lucas said.
"Political enemies. I went to kindergarten with him, and knew him before that. Went to the same prep school, he went to Yale and I went to Harvard. His sister was a good friend of mine, for a while." He paused, looked up at the ceiling, and smiled a private smile, then recovered. "I tell you, from the bottom of my little liberal heart, Porter didn't do it."
"Could have gone off the rails somewhere," Lucas suggested.
The governor shook his head. "No. He doesn't have it in him, to look at kiddie porn. I know the kind of women he looks at. I can describe them in minute detail, and nobody would call them kiddies: he likes them big-titted, big-assed and blond. He liked them that way in kindergarten and he still likes them that way. Go look at his staff, you'll see what I mean."
"Can't always tell..." Lucas began, but the governor held up a finger.
"Another thing," he said. "This volunteer said she walked into his office and put some papers on his keyboard and up popped the porn. If it really happened like that, it means that he had a screen of kiddie porn up on his computer, and walked away from it to a campaign finance meeting, leaving the door unlocked and the kiddie porn on the screen. The screen blanked for a while, but was still there, waiting to be found. Vile stuff, I'm told. Vile. Anyway, that's the only way her story works: the screen was blanked when she walked in, and popped back up when she put the papers on the keyboard. Porter was near the top of his class at Yale Law. He's not stupid; he's not a huge risk-taker. Do you really believe he would do that?"
"Even smart people..."
"Oh, horseshit," the governor said, waving him off.
"Porter goes to the emergency room if the barber cuts his hair too short," the governor said. "He wants and expects to live forever, preferably with a big-titted, big-assed blond sitting on his face."
Lucas thought for a moment, then conceded the point: "That thing about the volunteer: it worries me."
"It should," the governor said. He kicked his feet off the desktop and said, "I want you to look into this, Lucas. But quietly. I don't want to disturb anybody without... without there being something worthwhile to disturb them with."
"One more question," Lucas said. "This guy is a major pain in your party's ass. Why...?"
"Because it's the right thing to do, mostly," the governor said. "There's something else, too. This sort of shit is going too far. Way too far. Most Republicans aren't nuts. They're perfectly good people. So are most of us Democrats. But this kind of thing, if it's deliberate it's a threat to everybody. All you have to do is say 'kiddie porn' and a guy's career is over. Doesn't make any difference what he's done, what his character is like, how hard he's worked, it doesn't even matter if there's proof once it gets out in the media, they'll repeat it endlessly, and there's no calling it back. You could have the Archbishop of Canterbury go on TV tomorrow and say he had absolute proof that Porter Smalls is innocent, and fifty other bloggers would be sneering at him in two minutes and CNN would be calling the bishop a liar. So we're talking about dangerous, immoral, anti-democratic stuff."
"You're saying the media is dangerous, immoral and anti-democratic?"
"Well... yes," Henderson said. "They don't recognize it in themselves, but they're basically criminals. In the classic sense of that word."
"All right," Lucas said.
"And, of course, there's the other thing," the governor said. "The less righteous thing."
Lucas said, "Uh-oh."
Mitford said, "We're already hearing rumors that he was framed. That there were hints before anyone found the porn, that something was coming on Smalls. If it turns out that some over-zealous young asshole Democratic hacker did it, if this is a campaign dirty trick... then there could be a lot more trouble. If that's what happened, we need to know it first. The election's too close to be screwing around."
The governor added, "But the preliminary investigation has to be quiet. Invisible might be a better word."
Mitford said, "Totally quiet. That fuckin' tool over in the attorney general's office wants to move into this office. He thinks prosecuting Smalls is one way to do it. If he finds out that you're digging around, he'll paper your ass so fast you'd think you were a new country kitchen. You'll be working for him."
"You don't sound as offended as the governor," Lucas said to Mitford. "About Smalls being framed."
"I'm paid to keep my eye on the ball, so that's what I do," Mitford said. "Short term, there's no benefit to us, saving an asshole like Smalls. If we get a reward, it's gonna have to be in heaven, because we sure as shit won't get it now. If the party found out we were trying to help Smalls, then... well, you know, we're thinking about the vice-presidency. On the other had, if we did this, meaning we in the all-inclusive sense, and if that comes out, say, the Friday before the election..."
"I can't afford to lose the state House," Henderson said. He wasn't running. He still had two years to go on his second term.
"But Smalls is in the U.S. Senate," Lucas said. "How could that affect the state House?"
"Because our majority is too narrow. If it turns out that we tried to sabotage a U.S. Senate race, with child porn, Smalls will eat us alive in the last few days before the election. He could pump up the Republican turnout just enough that we could lose those extra three or four close-run seats. If we lose the House, and the Senate stays Republican, which it will, they'll spend the next two years dreaming up ways to embarrass me."
"We can't have that," Mitford said. "I mean, really."
"But. If Smalls owes us, even under the rose, he'll pay up," the governor said. "He's that kind of guy. He won't go after us... if he owes us."
"All right," Lucas said. He stood up. "I'll do it."
"Excellent," the governor said. "Call me every day."
"But what if he did it?" Lucas asked.
"He didn't," the governor said.
Lucas said, "I'm going to tell Rose Marie about it. I can't... not do that." Rose Marie was the Public Safety Commissioner and an old friend.
The governor was exasperated: "Jesus Christ, Lucas..."
"I can't not do that," Lucas insisted.
The governor threw up his hands. "All right. When you tell her, you tell her to call me. I'll need... Wait. Hell no. I'll call her right now. You get going on this. I'd like to get something pretty definitive in, say, mmm, three days. Two would be better."
"Go." Henderson waved him away.
Rose Marie Roux had been a cop, then a lawyer and prosecutor, then a state senator, then the Minneapolis chief of police, and finally, the commissioner of public safety under Henderson. She had jurisdiction over a number of law enforcement agencies, including the BCA. She viewed Lucas as both a friend and as an effective tool for achieving her policy goals, not all of them involving crime-fighting. She'd gotten him his job at the BCA.
Rose Marie's husband was ten years older than she was, and when he'd retired, he'd talked her into dumping the suburban Minneapolis house in favor of a sprawling co-op apartment in downtown St. Paul. Lucas gave the governor a few minutes to talk to her, and then, as he walked back to his car, called her himself.
"You at home?"
"Yeah, come on down. I'll buzz you into the garage."
Lucas had been to the apartment often enough that he knew the routine; buzzed into the garage, he parked in one of the visitors' slots, and took the elevator to the top floor. Rose Marie's husband opened the door; he was holding the Times in one hand, and a piece of jelly toast in the other. "She's out on the deck," he said.
"You raked the leaves off the deck, yet?
"Thank God for the penthouse; not a leaf to be seen," he said.
Rose Marie, wrapped in a wool shawl, was sitting on a lounge chair smoking a cigarette; nicotine gum, she said, was for pussies. She was a short woman, going to weight, with an ever-changing hair color. Lucas liked her a lot.
When Lucas stepped out on the deck, she said, "I appreciate what you did, bringing me into it. This will be interesting, all the way around. Although it has a downside, of course."
She crushed the cigarette out on ceramic saucer by the side of the chair. As Lucas sat down facing her, she asked, "How much do you like your job?"
"It's okay. Been doing it for a while," Lucas said.
"If this kind of thing happens too often, you'll get pushed out," Rose Marie said. "It's inevitable."
Lucas shrugged. "I do it because it's interesting. This assignment's interesting. If I wasn't doing this, I'd be chasing chicken thieves in Black Duck."
Rose Marie said, "I keep thinking about what I'm going to do when this job is over. If Elmer makes vice-president, he'll take care of both of us. If he doesn't, then I'm unemployed, and you probably will be, too."
"That's a cheerful thought," Lucas said.
"Gotta face facts," Rose Marie said. "We've both had a good run. But I don't feel like retiring, and you're way too young to retire. We're both financially fine, but what the fuck do we do? Become consultants? I don't feel like running for anything..."
"I haven't spent a lot of time worrying about it," Lucas said.
"You should," Rose Marie said. "Even if Elmer makes vice-president, I'm not sure you'd want what he could get you. I'd be fine, because I'm basically a politician, I could work in DC, or for his office here. But you... I don't know what you'd do. I don't think you'd want to wind up as some FBI functionary. Or Elmer's valet."
"Well. Sooner or later, your name will be connected to this job," Rose Marie said. "Whether or not it pans out. If the attorney general doesn't jump you for the prosecution, Porter Smalls will come after you for the defense. A lot of people in the DPS and over at the BCA don't like this kind of thing, the political stuff. And you've been doing a lot of it. When I'm not here to protect you, when Elmer's not here..."
"Ah, it's all right, Rose Marie," Lucas said. "I've been fired before. Stop worrying about it."
"Yeah." She peered at him for a moment, then asked, "What are you going to do? About Smalls?"
"Try to keep it quiet, as long as I can," Lucas said.
"How are you going to do that?" she asked.
"Haven't worked it out yet. I've got a couple ideas, but you wouldn't want to hear them."
"No. Actually, I wouldn't."
"So. Moving right along..." Lucas stood up.
Rose Marie said, "I'll talk to Henry. Make sure he has a feel for the situation." Henry Sands was director of the BCA and had been appointed by Henderson. If he knew Henderson was behind Lucas' investigation, he'd keep his mouth shut. Unless, of course, he could see some profit in slipping a word to a reporter. He didn't much like Lucas, which was okay, because Lucas didn't much like him back.,
"Good," Lucas said. "And hey relax. Gonna be all right."
"No, it won't," she said. "I can almost guarantee that whatever it is, it won't be all right."
Lucas started back down to the car, still thinking it over. Rose Marie was probably right about the political stuff. Even if you were on the side of the Lord, the politics could taint you. Which created a specific problem: There was at least one man at the BCA who'd be invaluable to Lucas' investigation Del Capslock. Del had contacts everywhere, on both sides of the law, and knew the local porn industry inside-out.
The problem was, Del depended on his BCA salary, and all the benefits, for his livelihood. He had a wife and kid, and was probably fifteen years from retirement. Everybody in the BCA knew that he and Lucas had a special relationship, but that was okay... as long as Lucas didn't drag him down.
Lucas didn't particularly worry about himself. Back in the 90s, he'd been kicked out of the Minneapolis Police Department and had gone looking for something to do. He'd long had a mildly profitable sideline as a designer of role-playing games, which had gone back to his days at the University. After he left the MPD, he'd gotten together with a computer guy from the University's Institute of Technology. Together they created a software game that could be plugged into 911 computer systems, to run simulations of high-stress law-enforcement problems.
Davenport Simulations the company still existed, though he no longer had a part of it had done very well through the 90s, and even better after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Instead of one simulation aimed at police departments, they now produced dozens of simulations for everything from bodyguard training to aircraft gunfight situations. When the management bought Lucas out, he walked away with enough money to last several lifetimes.
He was rich. Porter Smalls was rich. The governor was really rich, and for that matter, so was Porter Smalls' opponent; even the volunteer who'd started the trouble was rich, or would be. Rich people all over the place; gunfight at the one-percent corral.
Anyway, he was good, whatever happened. If the Porter Smalls assignment turned into a political quagmire, he could always... putter in the garden.
Lucas popped the doors on the 911 and stood beside the open door for a minute, working through it.
Del was out of it. So were his other friends with the BCA.
Which left the question, who was in, and where would he get the intelligence he would need? He had to smile at the governor's presumption: get it done, he'd said, in a day or two, and keep it absolutely private. He didn't care how, or who, or what. He just expected it to be done, and probably wouldn't even think about it again until Lucas called him.
Lucas decided to go right to the heart of the problem, and start with Porter Smalls. He called the number given him by Mitford, and was invited over. Smalls lived forty-five minutes from downtown St. Paul, on the east side of Lake Minnetonka.
His house was a glass-and-stone mid-century, built atop what might have been an Indian burial mound, though the land was far too expensive for anyone to look into that possibility. In any case, the house was raised slightly above the lake, with a grassy backyard, spotted with old oak and linden trees.
Lucas was met at the door by a young woman who said she was Smalls' daughter, Monica. "Dad's up on the sun porch," she said. "This way."
Lucas followed her through a quiet living room and down a hall, then up a narrow, twisting stairway. Lucas noted, purely as a matter of verifying previous information, that she was both big-titted and big-assed, as well as blond, so Henderson's description of Small's sexual preferences were showing some genetic support.
At the top of the stairs, she said, "Dad's out there," nodding toward an open door, and asked if Lucas would like something to drink.
Lucas said, "Anything cold and diet?"
"Diet Coke," she said.
"Is Mrs. Smalls around?" Lucas asked.
"If 'by around,' you mean the Minneapolis loft district with her Lithuanian lover, then yes."
"Maybe I shouldn't have asked," Lucas said.
"No, that's all right," she said cheerfully. "It's been in the papers."
Smalls was sitting on a draftman's stool on the open sun porch, looking out over the lake through a four-foot-long brass telescope. He was wearing faded jeans and an olive-drab, long-sleeved linen shirt under an open wool vest.
Lucas thought he looked less like a right-wing politician than he did like a professor of economics, maybe, or a poet. He was a small man, five-seven or five-eight, slender no more than a hundred and fifty pounds and tough-looking, like an aging French bicycle racer. He wore his white hair long, with tortoise-shell glasses over crystalline blue eyes.
Lucas knocked on the doorjamb and said, "Hello," and Smalls turned and said, "There you are," and stood to shake Lucas' hand. "Elmer said you'd be coming around."
"You want me?" Lucas asked.
"I'll take anything I can get, at this point," Smalls said. He pointed at a couple of wooden deck chairs, and they sat down, facing each other. Before going to the telescope, Smalls had apparently been reading newspapers, which were stacked around the feet of his chair. "What do you think? How fucked am I?"
Lucas thought about Weather and said, "My wife was watching TV this morning, as she was getting ready for work, and the story came up, and she said, 'Smalls is truly fucked."
Smalls nodded. "She may be right. She would be right, if I were guilty... Your wife works?"
"She's a surgeon," Lucas said.
"And you made a couple of bucks in software," Smalls said.
"Yes, I did. You've been looking me up?"
"Just what I can get through the internet," Smalls said. He reached down, picked up an iPad, flashed it at Lucas, dropped it again on the pile of paper. "You think you can do me any good?"
"If I proved you were innocent, would it do you any good?" Lucas asked.
Smalls considered for a moment, staring over the lake, pulling at his lower lip. Then he looked up and said, "Have to be fast. Nine days to the election. If you don't find anything before the weekend, I couldn't get the word out quickly enough to make a difference. I need to be at the top of the Sunday paper, at the latest. My opponent has more money than Jesus, Mary and Joseph put together, along with a body that... nevermind. Of course, even if I lose, it'd be nice if I weren't indicted and sent to prison. But I don't want to lose. I don't deserve to lose, because I'm being framed."
"The governor tells me you didn't do it," Lucas said.
"Of course I didn't," Smalls snapped, his glasses glittering in the sun. "For one thing, I'm not damn fool enough to leave a bunch of kiddie porn on an office computer, with all kinds of people walking in and out. The idea that I'd do that... that's insulting."
"We talked about that," Lucas said. "The governor and I."
"And that rattlesnake Mitford, I have no doubt," Smalls said.
Monica came out with a bottle of Diet Coke and a glass with ice. She'd overheard the last part of the conversations, and said, "I promise you, Mr. Davenport, Dad's not a damn fool."
Lucas poured some Coke, took a sip, said, "Thanks," to Monica and asked Smalls, "What do you know about this volunteer? Has she got anything against you? Did you have any kind of personal involvement with her?"
"No. That's another thing I'm not damn fool enough to do. Not since Clinton. If I were going to play around, there are lots of good-looking, smart, discreet adult women available. I really wouldn't have a problem."
"People sometimes get entangled..."
"Not me," Smalls said. He started to say something more, but then looked up at his daughter and grinned and said, "Monica, could you get me a beer? Or wait, no. I don't want a beer. This talk could get embarrassing, so... sweetie... could you just go away?"
"You sure you want to be by yourself, with a cop?" Monica asked.
"I think I can handle it," Smalls said. She patted him on the shoulder and walked back into his house, and down the stairs. When she was gone, Smalls said, "She's a lawyer, too. A pretty good one, actually." They both thought about that for a second, then Smalls said, "Look: I've done some fooling around. Got caught, too. Not by the morality police. It was worse than that: the old lady walked in on me."
"Twice. The last time, she had her lawyer with her."
"So I can be a fool, but not the kind of damn fool I'd have to be if I were guilty of this kiddie porn stuff," Smalls said. "I think before I jump. The women I've been involved with, they're pretty good gals, for the most part. They knew what they were getting into, and so did I. That sort of thing, for a guy at my level, is okay. Elmer couldn't get away with it, anymore, but I'm not quite as prominent as the governor. The other thing is, political people are pretty social, and they knew what the situation was between Brenda and I. So, looking outside was considered okay, as long as it was discreet."
"I get that," Lucas said. "I guess."
"But some things are not okay," Smalls said. "Going after volunteers the young ones is not okay. A relationship with a lobbyist is not okay. I wouldn't look at kiddie porn, even if I were bent that way, which I'm not. If I were interested in drugs, which I'm not, I wouldn't snort cocaine or smoke pot around witnesses, at a party. I wouldn't chisel money from my expense accounts. You know why I wouldn't do any of that? Because I'm not stupid. I'm not stupid, and I've seen all that stuff done, by people who were supposedly smart, and they got caught, and some of them even went to jail. If I were to do any of that, and get caught, I'd feel like an absolute moron. That's one thing I won't tolerate in myself. Moronic behavior."
"All right," Lucas said. "So this volunteer..."
"To tell you the truth..." Smalls was already shaking his head. "I believe her. I think she's telling the truth."
"Yup. It sort of baffles me, but I believe her," Smalls said. "I'm not a hundred percent sure of her, but mostly, I think somebody planted that porn on my computer. People are always going in and out of my office. I think somebody went in there, called it up, and walked back out. Then she walked in..."
"But how'd they know she'd toss the files on the keyboard?"
"How do we know this was the only time they tried it?" Smalls asked. "Maybe they did this ten times, just waiting for somebody to touch the keyboard. But the thing is, her story is too stupid. I keep coming back to stupidity, and whoever did this to me, isn't entirely stupid. But the way she says it happened, this volunteer, this girl... is too stupid. If she's the one who did it, I'd think she would have made up a better story."
Lucas shook his head. "Unless your office is a lot more public than I think it is..."
Smalls held up a hand: "Stop right there. Wrong thinking. The thing is, it is public," he said. "It's a temporary campaign office, full of rented chairs and desks and office equipment. I have another office, the Senate office. In that office, my secretary would monitor people coming and going. Nobody would get in the private office, without her knowing, and watching them every minute. There's classified stuff in there. In the campaign office, there are staff people going in and out all the time."
"You think a staff person might have been involved?" Lucas asked.
"Had to be. There are undoubtedly a couple of devoted Democrats around just as... and this is off the record... just as there are a couple of pretty devoted Republicans over in Taryn Grant's campaign staff."
"If you want to be rude about it," Smalls said. "So you get a couple young people as spies, and some of them are a little fanatical about their status, and about helping one party or the other win. So, yeah, somebody on the staff. That's a good possibility. A probability."
Lucas asked, "Do you know what happened to your computer?"
"The St. Paul police have it," Smalls said.
"You think you could get access to it?" Lucas asked. "Through your attorney?"
"Maybe. Probably. I don't know if I could get to the computer itself, but we should be able to get a duplicate of the hard drive, which would give you everything relevant," Smalls said.
Lucas nodded. "Okay. You're innocent, right?"
"So: Call your attorney," Lucas said. "Today. Right now, on Sunday. Tell him that you want to duplicate the hard drive to start preparing a defense. Take it to court if you have to, but get the hard drive for me. If you have to go to court, you argue that you will be irreparably harmed, with only a week to the election, if you're not allowed to see what you're accused of. You'll get it. When they give you access, call me, and I'll send somebody down to monitor the copy process."
"Somebody from your company?"
"No. It'll be a computer expert named Ingrid Caroline Eccols everybody calls her ICE, for her initials," Lucas said. "She's an independent contractor, and she knows this kind of thing, inside and out."
"Not exactly," Lucas said. "She does a little bit of everything. She's worked for law enforcement agencies, from time to time, and the St. Paul crime lab folks know her. I think she may have worked on the other side, too. I do trust her, when she says she'll take a job. The key thing is, when it comes to copying the drive, she won't miss anything. There won't be any games. She'll get everything there is to get."
"John Shelton is my attorney," Smalls said. "I'll get him going. You get this ICE."
"Another thing: I need a list of everybody who works for and around the committee. Send it to my personal e-mail." Lucas took out a business card and a pen, wrote his e-mail address on the back of it, and handed it to Smalls.
"I'll do it this afternoon," Smalls said.
"Do it right away," Lucas said. "I need all the help I can get from you, or I'll spend a lot of time sitting on my ass."
"Let me tell you another little political thing," Smalls said. "The Democrats have me right where they want me. My opponent is young, good-looking, about a hundred times richer than I am and is running a good campaign. Her problem was, I was going to beat her by six points, 53-47 or thereabouts, before the child porn thing happened. She might have cut a point off that. Now, she's going to take me down, probably 52 or 53 to 48 or 47. My core constituency will sit on its hands if they think I'm guilty of this child porn thing. I'm already hearing that."
"I knew some of that," Lucas said.
"But here's the thing," Smalls said, leaning toward Lucas: "The Democrats don't need to get me indicted, or to be guilty. They just need the accusation out there, with the attorney general running around, looking under rocks. If I'm innocent, they'll be perfectly happy to apologize for all of this, about an hour after I lose the election. 'That really wasn't right about old Porter Smalls...' So to do me any good, you pretty much have to find out what happened. Not just that I'm probably innocent. 'Probably' won't cut it. We need to hang somebody, and in the next five days or so."
Lucas didn't say that his mission wasn't to save Smalls' career; he just said, "Okay."
"Damn. I'll tell you what, Davenport, you may have done the worst possible thing, here," Smalls said.
"Elmer says you're really, really good. You've given me a little hope. Now I've got further to fall."
Although it was Sunday, Lucas decided to stop back at the BCA headquarters, on his way home. He walked through the mostly empty building up to his office, where he found an e-mail from Smalls, saying that he'd talked to his attorney, who would go after the hard drive that afternoon. He asked Lucas to put ICE in touch with the attorney. Lucas called ICE, who said she'd take the job, "though I don't like working for a wing-nut."
"You're not working for a wing-nut," Lucas said. "You're working for democracy in America."
"For two hundred dollars an hour. Let's not forget that."
Lucas spent an hour at BCA headquarters, looking at e-mailed reports on investigations that his people were running, but nothing was pressing. Del, Shrake, and Jenkins were trying to find a designer drug lab believed to be in the Anoka area, and Virgil Flowers was seeking the Ape-Man Rapist of Rochester. Lucas wrote notes to them all that he'd be working an individual op for a couple of weeks, but he'd be in touch daily.
While he was doing that, an e-mail came in from Smalls, saying that he wouldn't have the list of campaign employees and volunteers until late in the day. Lucas then tried to call the young woman who'd discovered the porn, and was told by her mother that she was at a friend's house at Cross Lake, and wouldn't be back before midnight. Lucas arranged to meet her the next morning at her home in Edina.
That done, he made a call to the St. Paul cops, got shifted around to the home phone of a cop named Larry Whidden, of the narcotics and vice unit. Whidden was out in his back yard, scraping down the barbeque, as an end-of-season chore. Lucas asked to see his investigative reports, and Whidden said, "As far as I'm concerned, you can look at everything we got, if the chief says okay. It's pretty political, so I want to keep all the authorizations very clear."
Lucas called the chief, who wanted to know why Lucas was interested. "Rose Marie asked me to take a look," Lucas said. "To monitor it, more or less. No big deal, but she wants to stay informed."
"Politics," the chief said.
"Tell you what, Rick," Lucas said, "How did you get appointed?"
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Politics," Lucas said. "It is what it is."
"Funny. Okay. But I'll tell you what, this whole thing ranks really high on my badshitometer. If Smalls is guilty, he could still do a lot of damage thrashing around. If he's innocent, he's gonna be looking for revenge, and he's in exactly the right spot to get it."
"All the more reason for somebody like yourself to spread the responsibility around," Lucas said.
"I'd already thought of that," the chief said. "I'll call Whidden."
Whidden called Lucas five minutes later and said, "I can go in later and Xerox the book for you, but you're gonna have to wait a while. I got my in-laws coming over. Why don't you come by at six? You want to look at the porn, I can have Jim Reynolds come in."
So Lucas had run out of stuff to do. He tried to think about it for a while, but didn't have enough material to think about. He called home, and nobody answered they were still out shopping for super-hero costumes for Sam. He left a message that he'd probably be home at seven o'clock. That done, he went out to a divorced guys' matinee, to catch the Three Stooges movie he'd missed when it came by in the Spring. The divorced guys were scattered around the theater as always, single guys with popcorn carefully spaced apart from each other, emitting clouds of depression like smoke from 80's Volkswagen diesel.
Despite that, Lucas laughed at the movie from the moment a nun got poked in the eyes and fell on her ass; took him back to his childhood, with the ancient movies on the obscure TV channels. And Jesus, nuns getting poked in the eye? You'd have to have a heart of pure ice not to laugh at that.
He was out of the movie at five-thirty, called ahead to St. Paul, and at five-forty-five, he parked at the St. Paul police department, in the guest lot. He walked inside, had a friendly chat with the policewoman in the glass cage, and was buzzed through to the back, where he found Whidden leaning against the wall, sucking on a Tootsie Pop.
Whidden said, "This way," and led him down to vice, where he took a fat file off an unoccupied desk, and said, "Copy of what we got. Want to look at the porn?"
"Maybe take a peek," Lucas said.
He followed Whidden down to the lab, where Jim Reynolds, a very thin man in a cowboy shirt, was looking at spreadsheet. He saw Lucas and Whidden, stood up and said "Over here," and to Lucas, "Thanks for the overtime."
"No problem. Christmas is coming."
Reynolds took them to a gray Dell desktop computer. "Smalls is getting a court order for copies of the hard drives," he told them. "They'll be here first thing tomorrow."
"He's denying any knowledge," Lucas said. "What do you think?"
"I've usually got an opinion," Reynolds said. "But this thing is a little funky. I don't know."
"The circumstances of the discovery," Reynolds said. "When you get into it, you'll see."
Whidden said, "I'm sixty-five percent that he's guilty. But, if I was on the jury... I don't think I'd convict him."
Reynolds brought up the porn file: the usual stuff, for kiddie porn: young boys and girls having sex with each other, young boys and girls with adults. Nothing new there, as kiddie porn went.
Lucas asked, "How much is there?"
"Several hundred individual images and thirty-eight video clips," Reynolds said. "Some European we've seen them before and some, we don't know where it comes from. We haven't looked at it all, but what we've seen, it's pretty bad stuff."
"What about this volunteer, the whole thing about throwing some papers on the keyboard?" Lucas asked.
"We've tested that, and that's the way it works," Reynolds said. "You're looking at the porn, you walk away. In two minutes, the screen blanks. Touch a key, and it comes back up with whatever was on the screen. In this case, the porn file."
There wasn't much to talk about, so Lucas thanked Whidden for the file, and Reynolds for the demonstration, and drove home. He arrived twenty minutes before dinner would be ready, and when Weather asked him if there was anything new, he said, "Yeah. I've been asked to prove that Porter Smalls is innocent."
"Shut up," she said.
Porter Smalls' list of campaign staff members came in, more than forty of them, both paid and volunteer. After dinner, Lucas spent a while digging around on the Internet, looking for background on them. He found a few things on Facebook, but quickly realized that nobody was going to post, "Guess who I framed?"
He'd just given up when ICE called. "I talked to your wing-nut's lawyer, and he says we'll get a copy of the hard drive tomorrow, around ten-thirty, eleven o'clock," she said.
"I was told you'd get it first thing," Lucas said.
"Well, I was told that the attorney general's office wants a representative there, and they're bringing along their own computer guy. They couldn't get him there any sooner."
"I need to talk to you as soon as you've got it, but don't tell anybody you're bringing it to me. Let them think it's for Smalls' attorney and nobody else," Lucas said. "Could you bring the stuff here, to my place?"
"I'll have to see what the attorney says, but I don't see why not."
"Call me, then," Lucas said. "One other thing: I'm researching a bunch of people, I really need to get background on them. But all I get from Google is a lot of shit."
"You know that old thing about 'Garbage in, garbage out?'" ICE asked.
"Google is now the biggest pile of garbage ever assembled on earth," ICE said. "Give it a couple more years, and you won't be able to find anything in it. But, hate to tell you, I don't do databases. I do coding and decoding and some hardware. But I don't do messaging or databases. I don't even tweet."
"You got anybody who's good at databases?" Lucas asked. "I really need to get some research done."
"Yeah. I do know someone. So do you. He probably knows more about databases than anybody in the world. Literally."
"Who's that?" Lucas asked.
"Kidd the artist," ICE said.
"Kidd? The artist?" Lucas knew Kidd fairly well, and knew he did something with computers, in addition to his painting. They'd been jocks at the University of Minnesota at the same time, Lucas in hockey and Kidd as a wrestler. Weather owned one of Kidd's riverscapes, and had paid dearly for it a price Lucas would have considered ridiculous, except that Weather had been offered three times what she'd paid, and had been told by an art dealer that the offer wasn't nearly good enough.
ICE said, "Yeah. Believe me, he does databases."
"He's really good?"
"Lucas, the guy's a legend." ICE said. "He not only does databases, he does everything. There's a story it might not be true that Steve Jobs was afraid that Microsoft's new operating system would crush the life out of Apple. This was back in the late 90s, or maybe 2000. So Jobs asked Kidd to help out, and Kidd supposedly said he'd see what he could do. The next Microsoft release... well, you've heard of Windows ME?"
"It did more damage to Windows' reputation among consumers than anything before or since." ICE said. "It sucked. It worse than sucked. Supposedly, Kidd had a finger deep in its suckedness." She hesitated, then said, "Of course, that might all be a fairy tale."
Lucas said, "Well, I guess I'll give him a call."
"Say hello for me," ICE said. "Tell him if he ever ditches his wife, I'm around."
"That way, huh?"
"He is so hot... don't even get me started."
Lucas had never thought of Kidd as hot, or even particularly good-looking. He certainly didn't know anything about fashion Lucas had never seen him in anything but jeans and tennis shoes and t-shirts or sweatshirts, sometimes with the sleeves cut off. Weather gave money to the Minneapolis Institute of Art, quite a lot of money, and they'd once gone to a function that specified business casual dress, and Kidd was there... in jeans, running shoes and a sweatshirt, but with the sleeves intact. He said it was casual, for his business.
Still, in regard to his hotness... Weather seemed to enjoy Kidd's company. A lot. Sort of like she enjoyed the company of Virgil Flowers, another predator, in Lucas' opinion. And Kidd had a wife who was herself so hot, in Lucas' view, that she was either far too good for the likes of Kidd, or...
Kidd had something that Lucas didn't recognize. Not that there was anything wrong with that, Lucas thought.
Lucas dug Kidd's phone number out of his desk, and called him. Kidd picked up: "Davenport," he said. "Wasn't there, didn't do it."
"How's Lauren?" Lucas asked.
"Who wants to know? And why?"
"Just making small talk," Lucas said. "I need to talk to you... about computers. A friend told me that you understand databases."
"Ingrid Caroline Eccols." There followed a silence so long that Lucas finally asked, "You still there?"
"Thinking about ICE," Kidd said. "So, What's the situation?"
"I'd rather explain it in person," Lucas said. "But time is short: would you be around tomorrow, early afternoon?"
"Yeah, but ICE isn't invited."
"She's a problem?"
"I couldn't even begin to explain the many ways in which she could be a problem," Kidd said.
"Okay. She's not invited," Lucas said.
"Can Lauren sit in?"
Lucas hesitated, then said, "It's a very confidential matter."
"She's a very confidential woman," Kidd said. "And if it's that confidential, I'd rather she hear about it. You know, in case I need a witness at some later date."
"Then fine, she's invited, if she wants to be there."
"Oh, she'll be there," Kidd said. "She thinks you're totally hot."
Everybody was hot, everybody was rich. Better than chasing chicken thieves in Black Duck, Lucas thought, as he settled at his desk with the file from Whidden.
The file looked pretty good, until he opened it. Once opened, half of it turned out to be printouts of 911 conversations, repetitive reports on the seizing of the computer from the campaign offices, and reports of conversations and interviews with office personnel, most of whom knew nothing whatever, and an interview with Brittany Hunt, the volunteer who found the pictures.
Hunt was twenty and had been working as a volunteer since June, and would return to college Sarah Lawrence the following winter, having spent half a year working on the campaign.
She knew only slightly more than the completely ignorant office employees. She'd had a report on the ten-year cost of proposed bridge repairs, for which Smalls had gotten appropriations from the feds. She'd walked into his office a little after ten o'clock in the morning, and since Smalls himself had ordered the report, she'd placed it where he'd be sure to see it, and know that she'd fulfilled his request: she dropped it on his keyboard.
Instantly, she said, a picture flashed up, and she'd reflexively looked at it: at first it seemed like a jumble of dead people, and then she realized that it was a group sex photo, and that two of the people in the photo were children.
She called Dad, and Dad dialed 911. The rest was history. Lucas learned almost nothing from the report that he hadn't gotten from Smalls, except that Sarah Lawrence women freely used sexual references that Lucas heretofore thought confined to pornographic films.
He finished the file, and went into the kitchen in search of orange juice. Weather and Letty were leaning on the kitchen breakfast bar, programming something into Weather's cell phone. Weather looked up and asked, "Well? What was in the file? Did he do it?"
Lucas got a bottle of orange juice from the refrigerator, and twisted its cap off. "File was useless. One good thing: I'm not far behind the St. Paul cops."
"I'm shocked that you're behind at all," Weather said.
"Me too," said Letty. "Shame."
"Thank you for your support," Lucas said. "You'll find me in the garage, sharpening my lawnmower blade."
Letty looked at Weather and asked, "Is that a euphemism?"
"I hope not."
Lucas ignored them, finished the orange juice, put the bottle in the recyclables, and went off to the garage.
They could taunt him all they wished; but Kidd's scorchingly good-looking wife, Lauren, thought he was totally hot.
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.
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