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|The Prey Series|
The night was warm, the twilight inviting: middle-aged couples in pastel shirts, holding hands, strolled the old cracked sidewalks along the Mississippi. A gaggle of college girls jogged down the bike path, wearing sweatsuits and training shoes, talking as they ran, their uniformly blond ponytails bouncing behind them. At eight, the streetlights came on, whole blocks at once, with an audible pop. Overhead, above the new green of the elms, nighthawks made their skizzizk cries, their wing-flashes like the silver bars on new first-lieutenants.
Spring was shading into summer. The daffodils and tulips were gone, while the petunias spread across their beds like Mennonite quilts.
Koop was on the hunt.
He rolled through the residential streets in his Chevy S-10, radio tuned to Country-Lite, his elbow out the window, a bottle of Pig's Eye beer between his thighs. The soft evening air felt like a woman's fingers, stroking his beard.
At Lexington and Grand, a woman in a scarlet jacket crossed in front of him. She had a long, graceful neck, her dark hair up in a bun, her high heels rattling on the blacktop. She was too confident, too lively, moving too quickly; she was somebody who knew where she was going. Not Koop's type. He moved on.
Koop was thirty-one years old, but at any distance, looked ten or fifteen years older. He was a short, wide man with a sharecropper's bitter face and small, suspicious gray eyes; he had a way of looking at people sideways. His strawberry-blond hair was cut tight to his skull. His nose was pinched, leathery, and long, and he wore a short, furry beard, notably redder than his hair. His heavy shoulders and thick chest tapered to narrow hips. His arms were thick and powerful, ending in rocklike fists. He had once been a bar brawler, a man who could work up a hate with three beers and a mistimed glance. He still felt the hate, but controlled it now, except on special occasions, when it burned through his belly like a welding torch...
Koop was an athlete of a specialized kind. He could chin himself until he got bored, he could run forty yards as fast as a professional linebacker. He could climb eleven floors of fire stairs without breathing hard.
Koop was a cat burglar. A cat burglar and a killer.
Koop knew all the streets and most of the alleys in Minneapolis and St. Paul. He was learning the suburbs. He spent his days driving, wandering, looking for new places, tracking his progress through the spiderweb of roads, avenues, streets, lanes, courts, and boulevards that made up his working territory.
Now he drifted down Grand Avenue, over to Summit to the St. Paul Cathedral, past a crack dealer doing business outside the offices of the archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and down the hill. He drove a couple of laps around United Hospitals, looking at the nurses on their way to their special protected lot a joke, that. He looked in at antique stores along West Seventh, drove past the Civic Center, and then curled down Kellogg Boulevard to Robert Street, left on Robert, checking the dashboard clock. He was early. There were two or three bookstores downtown, but only one that interested him. The Saint had a reading scheduled. Some shit about Prairie Women.
The Saint was run by a graying graduate of St. John's University. Books new and used, trade your paperbacks two-for-one. Coffee was twenty cents a cup, get it yourself, pay on the honor system. A genteel meat-rack, where shy people went to get laid. Koop had been inside the place only once. There'd been a poetry reading, and the store had been populated by long-haired women with disappointed faces Koop's kind of women and men with bald spots, potbellies, and tentative gray ponytails tied with rubber bands.
A woman had come up to ask, "Have you read the Rubaiyat?"
"Uh...?" What was she talking about?
"The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam? I just read it again," she babbled. She had a thin book in her hand, with a black poetical cover. "The Fitzgerald translation. I hadn't read it since college. It really touched me. In some ways it's analogous to the poems that James was reading tonight."
Koop didn't give a shit about James or his poems. But the question itself, Have you read the Rubaiyat? had a nice ring to it. Intellectual. A man who'd ask that question, Have you read the Rubaiyat?, would be... safe. Thoughtful. Considerate.
Koop hadn't been in the market for a woman that night, but he took the book and tried to read it. It was bullshit. Bullshit of such a high, unadulterated order that Koop eventually threw it out his truck window because it made him feel stupid to have it on the seat beside him.
He threw the book away, but kept the line: Have you read the Rubaiyat?
Koop crossed I-94, then recrossed it, circling. He didn't want to arrive at the bookstore until the reading had begun: he wanted people looking at the reader, not at him; what he was doing tonight was out of his careful pattern. He couldn't help it the drive was irresistible but he would be as careful as he could.
Back across the interstate, he stopped at a red light and looked out the window at the St. Paul police station. The summer solstice was only two weeks away, and at eight-thirty, there was light enough to make out faces, even at a distance. A group of uniformed cops, three men, a couple of women, sat talking on the steps, laughing about something. He watched them, not a thing in his mind, just an eye...
The car behind him honked.
Koop glanced in the left mirror, then the right, then up at the light: it had turned green. He glanced in the rearview mirror again and started forward, turning left. In front of him, a group of people started across the street, saw him coming, stopped.
Koop, looking up, saw them and jammed on his brakes, jerking to a halt. When he realized they'd stopped, he started through the turn again; and when they saw him stop, they started forward, into the path of the truck. In the end, they scattered, and Koop swerved to miss a barrel-shaped man in coveralls who was not quite agile enough to get out of the way. One of them shouted, an odd cawing sound, and Koop gave him the finger.
He instantly regretted it. Koop was the invisible man. He didn't give people the finger, not when he was hunting or working. He checked the cops, still a half block away. A face turned toward him, then away. He looked in the rearview mirror. The people in the street were laughing now, gesturing to each other, pointing at him.
Anger jumped up in his stomach. "Faggots," he muttered. "Fuckin'-A fags..."
He controlled it, continued to the end of the block, and took a right. A car was easing out of a parking place across the street from the bookstore. Perfect. Koop did a U-turn, waited for the other car to get out, backed in, locked the truck.
As he started across the street, he heard the cawing sound again. The group he'd almost hit was crossing the end of the block, looking toward him. One of them gestured, and they made the odd cawing sound, laughed, then passed out of sight behind a building.
"Fuckin' assholes." People like that pissed him off, walking on the street. Ass-wipes, he oughta... He shook a Camel out of his pack, lit it, took a couple of angry drags, and walked hunch-shouldered down the sidewalk to the bookstore. Through the front window, he could see a cluster of people around a fat woman, who appeared to be smoking a cigar. He took a final drag on the Camel, spun it into the street, and went inside.
The place was crowded. The fat woman sat on a wooden chair on a podium, sucking on what turned out to be a stick of licorice, while two dozen people sat on folding chairs in a semicircle in front of her. Another fifteen or twenty stood behind the chairs; a few people glanced at Koop, then looked back at the fat woman. She said, "There's a shocking moment of recognition when you start dealing with shit and call it what it is, good Anglo-Saxon words, horseshit and pig shit and cow shit; I'll tell you, on those days when you're forkin' manure, the first thing you do is rub a little in your hair and under your arms, really rub it in. That way, you don't have to worry about getting it on yourself, you can just go ahead and work..."
At the back of the store, a sign said "Photography," and Koop drifted that way. He owned an old book called Jungle Fever, with pictures and drawings of naked black women. The book that still turned him on. Maybe he'd find something like that...
Under the "Photography" sign, he pulled down a book and started flipping pages. Barns and fields. He looked around, taking stock. Several of the women had that "floating" look, the look of someone reaching for connections, of not really being tuned to the author, who was saying, "... certain human viability from hand-hoeing beans; oh, gets hot, sometimes so hot that you can't spit..."
Koop was worried. He shouldn't be here. He shouldn't be hunting. He'd had a woman last winter, and that should have been enough, for a while. Would have been enough, if not for Sara Jensen.
He could close his eyes and see her...
Seventeen hours earlier, having never in his life seen Sara Jensen, Koop had gone into her apartment building, using a key. He'd worn a light coat and hat against the prying eyes of the video cameras in the lobby. Once past the cameras, he took the fire stairs to the top of the building. He moved quickly and silently, padding up the stairs on the rubber-soled loafers.
At three in the morning, the apartment hallways were empty, silent, smelling of rug cleaner, brass polish, and cigarettes. At the eleventh floor, he stopped a moment behind the fire door, listened, then went quietly through the door and down the hall to his left. At 1135, he stopped and pressed his eye to the peephole. Dark. He'd greased the apartment key with beeswax, which deadened metal-to-metal clicking and lubricated the lock mechanism. He held the key in his right hand, and his right hand in his left, and guided the key into the lock. It slipped in easily.
Koop had done this two hundred times, but it was a routine that clattered down his nerves like a runaway freight. What's behind door number three? A motion detector, a Doberman, a hundred thousand in cash? Koop would find out... He turned the key and pushed: not quickly, but firmly, smoothly, his heart in his mouth. The door opened with a light click. He waited, listening, then stepped into the dark apartment, closed the door behind him, and simply stood there.
And smelled her.
That was the first thing.
Koop smoked unfiltered Camels, forty or fifty a day. He used cocaine almost every day. His nose was clogged with tobacco tars and scarred by the coke, but he was a creature of the night, sensitive to sounds, odors, and textures and the perfume was dark, sensual, compelling, riding the sterile apartment air like a naked woman on a horse. It caught him, slowed him down. He lifted his head, ratlike, taking it in. He was unaware that he left his own scent behind, the brown scent of old tobacco smoke.
The woman's living room curtains were open, and low-level light filtered in from the street. As his eyes began to adjust, Koop picked out the major pieces of furniture, the rectangles of paintings and prints. Still he waited, standing quietly, his vision sharpening, smelling her, listening for movement, for a word, for anything for a little red light from an alarm console. Nothing. The apartment was asleep.
Koop slipped out of his loafers and in surefooted silence crossed the apartment, down a darker hallway past a bathroom to his left, an office to his right. There were two doors at the end of the hall, the master bedroom to the left, a guest room to the right. He knew what they were, because an ex-con with Logan Van Lines had told him so. He'd moved Jensen's furniture in, he'd taken an impression of her key, he'd drawn the map. He'd told Koop the woman's name was Sara Jensen, some rich cunt who was, "like, in the stock market," and had a taste for gold.
Koop reached out and touched her bedroom door. It was open an inch, perhaps two. Good. Paranoids and restless sleepers usually shut the door. He waited another moment, listening. Then, using just his fingertips, he eased the door open a foot, moved his face to the opening, and peered inside. A window opened to the left, and as in the living room, the drapes were drawn back. A half-moon hung over the roof of an adjoining building, and beyond that, he could see the park and the lake, like a beer ad.
And he could see the woman clearly in the pale moonlight.
Sara Jensen had thrown off the light spring blanket. She was lying on her back, on a dark sheet. She wore a white cotton gown that covered her from her neck to her ankles. Her jet-black hair spread around her head in a dark halo, her face tipped slightly to one side. One hand, open, was folded back, to lie beside her ear, as if she were waving to him. The other hand folded over her lower belly just where it joined the top of her pelvic bone.
Just below her hand, Koop imagined that he could see a darker triangle; and at her breasts, a shading of her brown nipples. His vision of her could not have been caught on film. The darkening, the shading, was purely a piece of his imagination. The nightgown more substantial, less diaphanous than it seemed in Koop's mind, but Koop had fallen in love.
A love like a match firing in the night.
Koop paged through the photo books, watching, waiting. He was looking at a picture of a dead movie star when his woman came around the corner, looking up at "Hobbies & Collectibles."
He knew her immediately. She wore a loose brown jacket, a little too long, a bit out of fashion, but neat and well-tended. Her hair was short, careful, tidy. Her head was tipped back so she could look up at the top shelves, following a line of books on antiques. She was plain, without makeup, not thin or fat, not tall or short, wearing oversize glasses with tortoiseshell frames. A woman who wouldn't be noticed by the other person in an elevator. She stood looking up at the top shelf, and Koop said, "Can I reach something for you?"
"Oh... I don't know." She tried a small smile, but it seemed nervous. She had trouble adjusting it.
"Well, if I can," he said politely.
"Thanks." She didn't turn away. She was waiting for something. She didn't know how to make it happen herself.
"I missed the reading," Koop said. "I just finished the Rubaiyat. I thought there might be something, you know, analogous..."
And a moment later, the woman was saying, "... it's Harriet. Harriet Wannemaker."
Sara Jensen, spread on her bed, twitched once.
Koop, just about to step toward her dresser, froze. Sara had been a heavy smoker in college: her cigarette subconscious could smell the nicotine coming from Koop's lungs, but she was too far down to wake up. She twitched again, then relaxed. Koop, heart hammering, moved closer, reached out, and almost touched her foot.
And thought: What am I doing?
He backed a step away, transfixed, the moonlight playing over her body.
He let out his breath, turned again toward the dresser. Women keep every goddamned thing in the bedroom or the kitchen and Jensen was no different. The apartment had a double-locked door, had monitor cameras in the hall, had a private patrol that drove past a half-dozen times a night, occasionally stopping to snoop. She was safe, she thought. Her jewelry case, of polished black walnut, sat right there on the dressing table.
Koop picked it up carefully with both hands, pulled it against his stomach like a fullback protecting a football. He stepped back through the door and padded back down the hall to the living room, where he placed the case on the rug and knelt beside it. He carried a small flashlight in his breast pocket. The lens was covered with black tape, with a pinhole through the tape. He turned it on, held it between his teeth. He had a needle of light, just enough to illuminate a stone or show a color without ruining his night vision.
Sara Jensen's jewelry case held a half-dozen velvet-lined trays. He took the trays out one at a time, and found some good things. Earrings, several pair in gold, four with stones: two with diamonds, one with emeralds, one with rubies. The stones were fair one set of diamonds were more like chips than cut stones. Total retail, maybe five thousand. He'd get two thousand, tops.
He found two brooches, one a circle of pearls, the other with diamonds, a gold wedding band, and an engagement ring. The diamond brooch was excellent, the best thing she owned. He would have come for that alone. The engagement stone was all right, but not great. There were two gold bracelets and a watch, a woman's Rolex, gold and stainless steel.
He put everything into a small black bag, then stood, stepping carefully around the empty trays, and went back through the bedroom. Slowly, slowly, he began opening the dresser drawers. The most likely place was the upper left drawer of the chest. The next most likely was the bottom drawer, depending on whether or not she was trying to hide it. He knew this from experience.
He took the upper drawer first, easing it out, his hands kneading through the half-seen clothing. Nothing hard...
The belt was in the bottom left-hand drawer, at the back, under some winter woolens. So she was a bit wary. He drew it out, hefting it, and turned back toward Sara Jensen. She had a firm chin, but her mouth had gone slightly slack. Her breasts were round and prominent, her hips substantial. She'd be a big woman. Not fat, just big.
Belt in his hands, Koop started to move away, stopped. He'd seen the bottle on the dressing table, and ignored it as he always ignored them. But this time... He reached back and picked it up. Her perfume. He started for the door again and almost stumbled: he wasn't watching the route, he was watching the woman, spread right there, an arm's length away, his breath coming hard.
Koop stopped. Fumbled for a moment, folding the belt, slipped it into his pocket. Took a step away, looked down again. White face, round cheek, dark eyebrows. Hair splayed back.
Without thinking, without even knowing what he was doing shocking himself, recoiling inside Koop stepped beside the bed, bent over her, and lightly, gently dragged his tongue over her forehead...
Harriet Wannemaker was frankly interested in a drink at McClellan's: she had color in her face, the warmth of excitement. She'd meet him there, the slightly dangerous man with the mossy red beard.
He left before she did. His nerves were up now. He hadn't made a move yet, he was still okay, nothing to worry about. Had anybody noticed them talking? He didn't think so. She was so colorless, who cared? In a few minutes...
The pressure was a physical thing, a heaviness in his gut, an inflated feeling in his chest, a pain in the back of his neck. He thought about heading home, ditching the woman. But he wouldn't. There was another pressure, a more demanding one. His hand trembled on the steering wheel. He parked the truck on Sixth, on the hill, opened the door. Took a nervous breath. Still time to leave...
He fished under the seat, found the can of ether and the plastic bag with the rag. He opened the can, poured it quickly into the bag, and capped the can. The smell of the ether was nauseating, but it dissipated in a second. In the sealed bag, it quickly soaked into the rag. Where was she?
She came a few seconds later, parked down the hill from him, behind the truck, spent a moment in the car, primping. A beer sign in McClellan's side window, flickering with a bad bulb, was the biggest light around, up at the top of the hill. He could still back out...
No. Do it.
Sara Jensen had tasted of perspiration and perfume... tasted good.
Sara moved when he licked her, and he stepped back, stepped away, toward the door... and stopped. She said something, a nonsense syllable, and he stepped quickly but silently out the door to his shoes: not quite running, but his heart was hammering. He slipped the shoes on, picked up his bag.
And stopped again. The key to cat burglary was simple: go slow. If it seems like you might be getting in trouble, go slower. And if things get really bad, run like hell. Koop collected himself. No point in running if she wasn't waking up, no sense in panic but he was thinking asshole asshole asshole.
But she wasn't coming. She'd gone back down again, down into sleep; and though Koop couldn't see it he was leaving the apartment, slowly closing the door behind himself the line of saliva on her forehead glistened in the moonlight, cool on her skin as it evaporated.
Koop slipped the plastic bag in his coat pocket, stepped to the back of his truck, and popped the camper door.
Heart beating hard now...
"Hi," she called. Fifteen feet away. Blushing? "I wasn't sure you could make it."
She was afraid he'd ditch her. He almost had. She was smiling, shy, maybe a little afraid but more afraid of loneliness...
Now it had him. A darkness moved on him literally a darkness, a kind of fog, an anger that seemed to spring up on its own, like a vagrant wind. He unrolled the plastic bag, slipped his hand inside; the ether-soaked rag was cold against his skin.
With a smile on his face, he said, "Hey, what's a drink. C'mon. And hey, look at this..."
He turned as if to point something out to her; that put him behind her, a little to the right, and he wrapped her up and smashed the rag over her nose and mouth, and lifted her off the ground; she kicked, like a strangling squirrel, though from a certain angle, they might have been lovers in a passionate clutch; in any case, she only struggled for a moment...
Sara Jensen hit the snooze button on the alarm clock, rolled over, holding her pillow. She'd been smiling when the alarm went off. The smile faded only slowly: the peculiar nightmare hovered at the back of her mind. She couldn't quite recover it, but it was there, like a footstep in an attic, threatening...
She took a deep breath, willing herself to get up, not quite wanting to. Just before she woke, she'd been dreaming of Evan Hart. Hart was an attorney in the bond department. He wasn't exactly a romantic hero, but he was attractive, steady, and had a nice wit though she suspected that he suppressed it, afraid that he might put her off. He didn't know her well. Not yet.
He had nice hands. Solid, long fingers that looked both strong and sensitive. He'd touched her once, on the nose, and she could almost feel it, lying here in her bed, a little warm. Hart was a widower, with a young daughter. His wife had died in an auto accident four years earlier. Since the accident, he'd been preoccupied with grief and with raising the child. The office gossip had him in two quick, nasty affairs with the wrong women. He was ready for the right one.
And he was hanging around.
Sara Jensen was divorced; the marriage had been a one-year mistake, right after college. No kids. But the breakup had been a shock. She'd thrown herself into her work, had started moving up. But now...
She smiled to herself. She was ready, she thought. Something permanent; something for a lifetime. She dozed, just for five minutes, dreaming of Evan Hart and his hands, a little bit warm, a little bit in love...
And the nightmare drifted back. A man with a cigarette at the corner of his mouth, watching her from the dark. She shrank away... and the alarm went off again. Sara touched her forehead, frowned, sat up, looked around the room, threw back the blankets with the sense that something was wrong.
"Hello?" she called out, but she knew she was alone. She went to use the bathroom, but paused in the doorway. Something... what?
The dream? She'd been sweating in the dream; she remembered wiping her forehead with the back of her hand. But that didn't seem right...
She flushed the toilet and headed for the front room with the image still in her mind: sweating, wiping her forehead...
Her jewelry box sat on the floor in the middle of the front room, the drawers dumped. She said aloud, "How'd that get there?"
For just a moment, she was confused. Had she taken it out last night, had she been sleepwalking? She took another step, saw a small mound of jewelry set to one side, all the cheap stuff.
And then she knew.
She stepped back, the shock climbing up through her chest, the adrenaline pouring into her bloodstream. Without thinking, she brought the back of her hand to her face, to her nose, and smelled the nicotine and the other...
"No." She screamed it, her mouth open, her eyes wide.
She convulsively wiped her hand on the robe, wiped it again, wiped her sleeve across her forehead, which felt as if it were crawling with ants. Then she stopped, looked up, expecting to see him to see him materializing from the kitchen, from a closet, or even, like a golem, from the carpet or the wooden floors. She twisted this way, then that, and backed frantically toward the kitchen, groping for the telephone.
Screaming as she went.
Lucas Davenport held the badge case out the driver's-side window. The pimply-faced suburban cop lifted the yellow plastic crime-scene tape and waved him through the line. He rolled the Porsche past the fire trucks, bumped over a flattened canvas hose, and stopped on a charred patch of dirt that a few hours earlier had been a lawn. A couple of firemen, drinking coffee, turned to check out the car.
The phone beeped as he climbed out, and he bent down to pull it off the visor. When he stood up, the stink from the fire hit him: the burned plaster, insulation, paint, and old rotting wood.
Lucas was a tall man with heavy shoulders, dark-complected, square-faced, with the beginnings of crow's feet at the corners of his eyes. His dark hair was just touched with gray; his eyes were a startling blue. A thin white scar crossed his forehead and right eye socket, and trailed down to the corner of his mouth. He looked like a veteran athlete, a catcher or a hockey defenseman, recently retired.
A newer pink scar showed just above the knot of his necktie.
"This is Sloan. Dispatch said you were at the fire." Sloan sounded hoarse, as though he had a cold.
"Just got here," Lucas said, looking at the burned-out Quonset.
"Wait for me. I'm coming over."
"What's going on?"
"We've got another problem," Sloan said. "I'll talk to you when I get there."
Lucas hung the phone back on the visor, slammed the door, and turned to the burned-out building. The warehouse had been a big light-green World War II Quonset hut, mostly galvanized steel. The fire had been so hot that the steel sheets had twisted, buckled, and folded back on themselves, like giant metallic tacos.
Lucas touched his throat, the pink scar where the child had shot him just before she had been chopped to pieces by the M-16. That case had started with a fire, with the same stink, with the same charred-pork smell that he now caught drifting from the torched-out hulk. Pork-not-pork.
He touched the scar again and started toward the blackened tangle of fallen struts. A cop was dead inside the tangle, the first call had said, his hands trussed behind his back. Then Del had called in, said the cop was one of his contacts. Lucas had better come out, although the scene was outside the Minneapolis jurisdiction. The suburban cops were walking around with grim one-of-us looks on their face. Enough cops had died around Lucas that he no longer made much distinction between them and civilians, as long as they weren't friends of his.
Del was stepping gingerly through the charred interior. He was unshaven, as usual, and wore a charcoal-gray sweatshirt over jeans and cowboy boots. He saw Lucas and waved him inside. "He was already dead," Del said. "Before the fire got to him."
Lucas nodded. "How?"
"They wired his wrists and shot him in the teeth, looks like three, four shots in the fuckin' teeth from all we can tell in that goddamned nightmare," Del said, unconsciously dry-washing his hands. "He saw it coming."
"Yeah, Jesus, man, I'm sorry," Lucas said. The dead cop was a Hennepin County deputy. Earlier in the year, he'd spent a month with Del, trying to learn the streets. He and Del had almost become friends.
"I warned him about the teeth: no goddamned street people got those great big white HMO teeth," Del said, sticking a cigarette into his face. Del's teeth were yellowed pegs. "I told him to pick some other front. Anything would have been better. He coulda been a car-parts salesman or a bartender, or anything. He had to be a fuckin' street guy."
"Yeah... so what'd you want?"
"Got a match?" Del asked.
"You wanted a match?"
Del grinned past the unlit cigarette and said, "C'mon inside. Look at something."
Lucas followed him through the warehouse, down a narrow pathway through holes in half-burned partitions, past stacks of charred wooden pallets. Toward the back, he could see the black plastic sheet where the body was, and the stench of burned pork grew sharper. Del took him to a fallen plasterboard interior wall, where the remnants of a narrow wooden box held three small-diameter pipes, each about five feet long.
"Are these what I think they are?" Del asked.
Lucas squatted next to the box, picked up one of the pipes, looked at the screw-threading at one end, tipped up the other end, and looked inside at the rifling. "Yeah, they are if you think they're fifty-cal replacement barrels." He dropped the barrel back on the others, duckwalked a couple of feet to another flattened box, picked up a piece of machinery. "This is a lock," he said. "Bolt-action single-shot fifty-cal. Broken. Looks like a stress-line crack, bad piece of steel... What was in this place?"
"A machine shop, supposedly."
"Yeah, a machine shop," Lucas said. "They were turning out these locks, I bet. Gettin' the barrels from somewhere else you wouldn't normally see them on single-shots, they're too heavy. We ought to have the identification guys look at them, see if we can figure out where they came from, and who got them at this end." He dropped the broken lock on the floor, stood up, and tipped his head toward the body. "What was this guy into?"
"The Seeds, is what his friends say."
Lucas, exasperated, shook his head. "All we need is those assholes hanging around."
"They're getting into politics," Del said. "Want to kill themselves some black folks."
"Yeah. You want to look into this?"
"That's why I got you out here," Del said, nodding. "You see the guns, you smell the pork, how can you say no?"
"All right. But you check with me every fuckin' fifteen minutes," Lucas said, tapping him on the chest. "I want to know everything you're doing. Every name you find, every face you see. Any sign of trouble, you back away and talk to me. They're dumb motherfuckers, but they'll kill you."
Del nodded, said, "You're sure you don't have a match?"
"I'm serious, Del," Lucas said. "You fuck me around, I'll put your ass back in a uniform. You'll be directing traffic outside a parking ramp. Your old lady's knocked up and I don't wanna be raising your kid."
"I really need a fuckin' match," Del said.
The Seeds: the Hayseed Mafia, the Bad Seed M.C. Fifty or sixty stickup men, car thieves, smugglers, truck hijackers, Harley freaks, mostly out of northwest Wisconsin, related by blood or marriage or simply shared jail cells. Straw-haired baby-faced country assholes: have guns, will travel. And they were lately infected by a virulent germ of apocalyptic anti-black weirdness, and were suspected of killing a minor black hood outside a pool hall in Minneapolis.
"Why would they have the fifty-cals?" Del asked.
"Maybe they're building a Waco up in the woods."
"The thought crossed my mind," Del said.
When they got back outside, a Minneapolis squad was shifting through the lines of fire trucks, local cop cars, and sheriff's vehicles. The squad stopped almost on their feet, and Sloan climbed out, bent over to the driver, a uniformed sergeant, and said, "Keep the change."
"Blow me," the driver said genially, and eased away.
Sloan was a narrow man with a slatlike face. He wore a hundred-fifty-dollar tan summer suit, brown shoes a shade too yellow, and a fedora the color of beef gravy. "How do, Lucas," he said. His eyes shifted to Del. "Del, you look like shit, my man."
"Where'd you get the hat?" Lucas asked. "Is it too late to take it back?"
"My wife bought it for me," Sloan said, sliding his fingertips along the brim. "She says it complements my ebullient personality."
Del said, "Still got her head up her ass, huh?"
"Careful," Sloan said, offended. "You're talking about my hat." He looked at Lucas. "We gotta go for a ride."
"Wisconsin." He rocked on the toes of the too-yellow shoes. "Hudson. Look at a body."
"Anybody I know?" Lucas asked.
Sloan shrugged. "You know a chick named Harriet Wannemaker?"
"I don't think so," Lucas said.
"That's who it probably is."
"Why would I go look at her?"
"Because I say so and you trust my judgment?" Sloan made it a question.
Lucas grinned. "All right."
Sloan looked down the block at Lucas's Porsche. "Can I drive?"
"Pretty bad in there?" Sloan asked. He threw his hat in the back and downshifted as they rolled up to a stop sign at Highway 280.
"They executed him. Shot him in the teeth," Lucas said. "Think it might be the Seeds."
"Miserable assholes," Sloan said without too much heat. He accelerated onto 280.
"What happened to what's-her-name?" Lucas asked. "Wannabe."
"Wannemaker. She dropped out of sight three days ago. Her friends say she was going out to some bookstore on Friday night, they don't know which one, and she didn't show up to get her hair done Saturday. We put out a missing persons note, and that's the last we know until this morning, when Hudson called. We shot a Polaroid over there; it wasn't too good, but they think it's her."
"Stabbed. The basic technique is a rip a stick in the lower belly, then an upward pull. Lots of power. That's why I'm looking into it."
"Does this have something to do with what's-her-name, the chick from the state?"
"Meagan Connell," Sloan said. "Yeah."
"I hear she's trouble."
"Yeah. She could use a personality transplant," Sloan said. He blew the doors off a Lexus SC, allowing himself a small smile. The guy in the Lexus wore shades and driving gloves. "But when you actually read her files, the stuff she's put together she's got something, Lucas. But Jesus, I hope this isn't one of his. It sounds like it, but it's too soon. If it's his, he's speeding up."
"Most of them do," Lucas said. "They get addicted to it."
Sloan paused at a stoplight, then ran the red and roared up the ramp onto Highway 36. Shifting up, he pushed the Porsche to seventy-five and kept it there, cutting through traffic like a shark. "This guy was real regular," he said. "I mean, if he exists. He did one killing every year or so. Now we're talking about four months. He did the last one just about the time you were gettin' shot. Picked her up in Duluth, dumped the body up at the Carlos Avery game reserve."
"Any leads?" Lucas touched the pink scar on his throat.
"Damn few. Meagan's got a file."
They took twenty minutes getting to Wisconsin, out the web of interstates through the countryside east of St. Paul, the landscape green and heavy after a wet spring. "It's better out here in the country," Sloan said. "Christ, the media's gonna get crazy with this cop killed."
"Lotta shit coming down," Lucas said. "At least the cop's not ours."
"Four killed in five days," Sloan said. "Wannemaker will make five in a week. Actually, we might have six. We're looking into an old lady who croaked in her bed. A couple of the guys think she might've been helped along. They're calling it natural, for now."
"You cleared the domestic on Dupont," Lucas said.
"Yeah, with the hammer and chisel."
"Hurts to think about it." Lucas grinned.
"Got it right between the eyes," Sloan said, impressed. He'd never had a hammer-and-chisel job before, and novelty wasn't that common in murder. Most of it was a half-drunk guy scratching his ass and saying, Jesus, she got me really pissed, you know? Sloan went on: "She waited until he was asleep, and whack. Actually, whack, whack, whack. The chisel went all the way through to the mattress. She pulled it out, put it in the dishwasher, turned the dishwasher on, and called 911. Makes me think twice about going asleep at night. You catch your old lady staring at you..."
"Any defense? Long-term abuse?"
"Not so far. So far, she says it was hot inside, and she got tired of him laying there snoring and farting. You know Donovan up in the prosecutor's office?"
"Says he'd of taken a plea to second if it'd been only one whack," Sloan said. "With whack-whack-whack, he's gotta go for first degree."
A truck moved in front of them suddenly, and Sloan swore, braked, swung behind it to the right and passed.
"The Louis Capp thing," Lucas said.
"We got him," Sloan said with satisfaction. "Two witnesses, one of them knew him. Shot the guy three times, got a hundred and fifty bucks."
"I chased Louis for ten years, and I never touched him," Lucas said. There was a note of regret in his voice, and Sloan glanced at him, grinned. "He got any defense?"
"Two-dude," Sloan said. Some other dude done it. "Ain't gonna work this time."
"He was always a dumb sonofabitch," Lucas said, remembering Louis Capp. Huge guy, arms like logs, with a big gut. Wore his pants down under his gut, so the crotch of his pants dropped almost to his knees. "The thing is, what he did was so simple, you had to be there to catch him. Sneak up behind a guy, hit him on the head, take his wallet. The guy must have fucked up to two hundred people in his career."
Sloan said, "He's as mean as he was dumb."
"At least," Lucas agreed. "So that leaves what? The Hmong gang-banger and the fell-jumped-pushed waitress."
"I don't think we'll get the Hmong; the waitress had skin under her fingernails," Sloan said.
"Ah." Lucas nodded. He liked it. Skin was always good.
Lucas had left the department two years earlier, under some pressure, after a fight with a pimp. He'd gone full-time with his own company, originally set up to design games. The computer kids he worked with had pushed him in a new direction, writing simulations for police dispatch computers. He'd been making a fortune when the new Minneapolis chief asked him to come back.
He couldn't return under civil service; he'd taken political appointment as deputy chief. He'd work intelligence, as he had before, with two main objectives: put away the most dangerous and the most active criminals, and cover the department on the odd crimes likely to attract media attention.
"Try to keep us from getting ambushed by the fruitcakes out there," the chief said. Lucas played hard to get for a little while, but he was bored with business, and he finally hired a full-time administrator to run the company, and took the chief's offer.
He'd been back on the street for a month, trying to rebuild his network, but it had been harder than he'd expected. Things had changed in just two years. Changed a lot.
"I'm surprised Louis was carrying a gun," Lucas said. "He usually worked with a sap, or a pipe."
"Everybody's got guns now," Sloan said. "Everybody. And they don't give a shit about using them."
The St. Croix was a steel-blue strip beneath the Hudson bridge. Boats, both sail and power, littered the river's surface like pieces of white confetti.
"You oughta buy a marina," Sloan said. "I could run the gas dock. I mean, don't it look fuckin' wonderful?"
"Are you getting off here, or are we going to Chicago?"
Sloan quit rubbernecking and hit the brakes, cut off a station wagon, slipped down the first exit on the Wisconsin side, and headed north into Hudson. Just ahead, a half-dozen emergency vehicles gathered around a boat ramp, and uniformed Hudson patrolmen directed traffic away from the ramp. Two cops were standing by a Dumpster, their thumbs hooked in their gun belts. To one side, a broad-backed blond woman in a dark suit and sunglasses was facing a third cop. They appeared to be arguing. Sloan said, "Ah, shit," and as they came up to the scene, ran his window down and shouted, "Minneapolis police" at the cop directing traffic. The cop waved him into the parking area.
"What?" Lucas asked. The blonde was waving her arms.
"Trouble," Sloan said. He popped the door. "That's Connell."
A bony deputy sheriff with a dark, weathered face had been talking to a city cop at the Dumpster, and when the Porsche pulled into the lot, the deputy grinned briefly, called something out to the cop who was arguing with the blond woman, and started over.
"Helstrom," said Lucas, digging for the name. "D. T. Helstrom. Remember that professor that Carlo Druze killed?"
"Helstrom found him," Lucas said. "He's a good guy."
They got out of the car as Helstrom came up to Lucas and stuck out his hand. "Davenport. Heard you were back. Deputy chief, huh? Congratulations."
"D. T. How are you?" Lucas said. "Haven't seen you since you dug up the professor."
"Yeah, well, this is sorta worse," Helstrom said, looking back at the Dumpster. He rubbed his nose.
The blond woman called past the cop, "Hey. Sloan."
Sloan muttered something under his breath, and then, louder, "Hey, Meagan."
"This lady working with you?" Helstrom asked Sloan, jerking a thumb at the blonde.
Sloan nodded, said, "More or less," and Lucas tipped his head toward his friend. "This is Sloan," he said to Helstrom. "Minneapolis homicide."
"Sloan," the woman called. "Hey, Sloan. C'mere."
"Your friend's a pain in the ass," Helstrom said to Sloan.
"You'd be a hundred percent right, except she's not my friend," Sloan said, and started toward her. "I'll be right back."
They were standing on a blacktopped boat ramp, with striped spaces for car and trailer parking, a lockbox for fees, and a Dumpster for garbage. "What you got?" Lucas asked Helstrom as they started toward the Dumpster.
"A freak... He did the killing on your side of the bridge, I think. There's no blood over here, except what's on her. She'd stopped bleeding before she went in the Dumpster, no sign of anything on the ground. And there must've been a lot of blood... Jesus, look at that."
Up on the westbound span of the bridge, a van with yellow flashing roof lights had stopped next to the rail, and a man with a television camera was shooting down at them.
"That legal?" Lucas asked.
"Damned if I know," Helstrom said.
Sloan and the woman came up. The woman was young, large, in her late twenties or early thirties. Despite her anger, her face was as pale as a dinner candle; her blond hair was cropped so short that Lucas could see the white of her scalp. "I don't like the way I'm being treated," the woman said.
"You've got no jurisdiction here. You can either shut up or take yourself back across the bridge," Helstrom snapped. "I've had about enough of you."
Lucas looked at her curiously. "You're Meagan O'Connell?"
"Connell. No O. I'm an investigator with the BCA. Who are you?"
"Huh," she grunted. "I've heard about you."
"Yeah. Some kind of macho asshole."
Lucas half-laughed, not sure she was serious, looked at Sloan, who shrugged. She was. Connell looked at Helstrom, who had allowed himself a small grin when Connell went after Lucas. "So can I see her, or what?"
"If you're working with Minneapolis homicide..." He looked at Sloan, and Sloan nodded. "Be my guest. Just don't touch anything."
"Christ," she muttered, and stalked down to the Dumpster. The Dumpster came to her collarbone, and she had to stand on her tiptoes to look in. She stood for a moment, looking down, then walked away, down toward the river, and began vomiting.
"Be my fuckin' guest," Helstrom muttered.
"What'd she do?" Lucas asked.
"Came over like her ass was on fire and started screaming at everyone. Like we forgot to scrape the horseshit off our shoes," Helstrom said.
Sloan, concerned, started after Connell, then stopped, scratched his head, walked down to the Dumpster, and looked inside. "Whoa." He turned away, and said, "Goddamnit," and then to Lucas, "Hold your breath."
Lucas was breathing through his mouth when he looked in. The body was nude and had been in a green garbage bag tied at the top. The bag had split open on impact when it hit the bottom of the Dumpster, or someone had split it open.
The woman had been disemboweled, her intestines boiling out like an obscene corn smut. And Sloan's earlier description was right: she hadn't been stabbed, she'd been opened like a sardine can, a long slit running from her pelvic area to her sternum. He thought at first that maggots were already working on her, but then realized that the sprinkles of white on the body were grains of rice, apparently somebody's garbage.
The woman's head was in profile against the green garbage sack. The garbage sack had a red plastic tie, and it snuggled just above the woman's ear like a bow on a Christmas package. Flies crawled all over her, like tiny black MiGs... Above her breasts, two inches above the top of the slash, were two smaller cuts in what might be letters. Lucas looked at them for five seconds, then backed away, and waited until he was a half-dozen strides from the Dumpster before he started breathing through his nose again.
"The guy who dumped her must be fairly strong," Lucas said to Helstrom. "He had to either throw her in there or carry her up pretty high, without spilling guts all over the place."
Connell, white-faced, tottered back up the ramp.
"What'd you just say?"
Lucas repeated it, and Helstrom nodded. "Yeah. And from the description we got, she wasn't a complete lightweight. She must've run around 135. If that's Wannemaker."
"It is," Sloan said. Sloan had walked around to the other side of the Dumpster, and was peering into it again. From Lucas's perspective, eyes, nose, and ears over the edge of the Dumpster, he looked like Kilroy. "And I'll tell you what: I've seen a videotape of the body they found up in Carlos Avery. If the same guy didn't do this one, then they both took cuttin' lessons at the same place."
"Exactly the same?" Lucas asked.
"Identical," Connell said.
"Not quite," Sloan said, backing away from the Dumpster. "The Carlos Avery didn't have the squiggles above her ti... breasts."
"The squiggles?" Connell asked.
"Yeah. Take a look."
She looked in again. After a moment, she said, "They look like a capital S and a capital J. "
"That's what I thought," Lucas said.
"What does that mean?" Connell demanded.
"I'm not a mind reader," Lucas said, "Especially with the dead." He turned his head to Helstrom. "No way to get anything off the edge of this thing, is there? Off the Dumpster?"
"I doubt it. It's rained a couple times since Friday, people been throwing stuff in there all weekend... Why?"
"Better not take a chance." Lucas went back to the Porsche, popped the trunk, took out a small emergency raincoat, a piece of plastic packed in a bag not much bigger than his hand. He stripped the coat out, carried it back to the Dumpster, and said, "Hang on to my legs so I don't tip inside, will you, D.T.?"
Lucas draped the raincoat carefully over the edge of the Dumpster and boosted himself up until he could lay his stomach over the top. His upper body hung down inside, his face not more than a foot from the dead woman's.
"She's got, uh..."
"She's got something in her hand... Can't see it. Like maybe a cigarette."
"I'm not." He hung closer. "She's got something on her chest. I think it's tobacco... stuck on."
"Garbage got tossed on her."
Lucas dropped back onto the blacktop and started breathing again. "Some of it's covered with blood. It's like she crumbled a cigarette on herself."
"What're you thinking?" Helstrom asked.
"That the guy was smoking when he killed her," Lucas said. "That she snatched it out of his mouth. I mean, she wouldn't have been smoking, not if she was being attacked."
"Unless it wasn't really an attack," Sloan said. "Maybe it was consensual, they were relaxing afterwards, and he did her."
"Bullshit," Connell said.
Lucas nodded at her. "Too much violence," he said. "You wouldn't get that much violence after orgasm. That's sexual excitement you're looking at."
Helstrom looked from Lucas to Connell to Sloan. Connell seemed oddly satisfied by Lucas's comment. "He was smoking when he did it?"
"Get them to make the cigarette, if that's what it is. I can see the paper," Lucas told Helstrom. "Check the lot, see if there's anything that matches."
"We've picked up everything in the parking lot that might mean anything candy wrappers, cigarettes, bottle tops, all that."
"Maybe it's marijuana," Connell said hopefully. "That'd be a place to start."
"Potheads don't do this shit, not when they're smoking," Lucas said. He looked at Helstrom. "When was the Dumpster last cleaned out?"
"Friday. They dump it every Tuesday and Friday."
"She went missing Friday night," Sloan said. "Probably killed, brought here at night. You can't see into the Dumpster unless you stand on your tiptoes, so he probably just tossed her in and pulled a couple of garbage bags over her and let it go at that."
Helstrom nodded. "That's what we think. People started complaining about the smell this morning, and a guy from the marina came over and poked around. Saw a knee and called us."
"She's on top of that small white bag, like she landed on it. I'd see if there's anything in it to identify who threw it in," Lucas suggested. "If you can find the guy who dumped the garbage, you might nail down the time."
"We'll do that," Helstrom said.
Lucas went back for a last look, but there was nothing more to see, just the pale-gray skin, the flies, and the carefully colored hair with the streak of white frost. She'd taken care of her hair, Lucas thought; she'd liked herself for her hair, and now all that liking was gone like evaporating gasoline.
"Anything else?" Sloan asked.
"Nah, I'm ready."
"We gotta talk," Connell said to Sloan. She was squared off to him, fists on her hips.
"Sure," Sloan said, an unhappy note in his voice.
Lucas started toward the car, then stopped so quickly that Sloan walked into him. "Sorry," Lucas said as he turned and looked back at the Dumpster.
"What?" Sloan asked. Connell was looking at him curiously.
"Do you remember Junky Doog?" Lucas asked Sloan.
Sloan looked to one side, groping for the name, then snapped his fingers, looked back at Lucas, a kernel of excitement in his eyes. "Junky," he said.
"Who's that?" Connell asked.
"Sexual psychopath who fixated on knives," Lucas said. "He grew up in a junkyard, didn't have any folks. Guys at the junkyard took care of him. He liked to carve on women. He'd go after fashion models. He'd do grapevine designs on them and sign them." Lucas looked at the Dumpster again. "This is almost too crude for Junky."
"Besides, Junky's at St. Peter," Sloan said. "Isn't he?"
Lucas shook his head. "We're getting older, Sloan. Junky was a long time ago, must've been ten or twelve years..." His voice trailed off, and his eyes wandered away to the river before he turned back to Sloan. "By God, he was seventeen years ago. The second year I was out of uniform. What's the average time in St. Peter? Five or six years? And remember a few years ago, when they came up with that new rehabilitation theory, and they swept everybody out of the state hospitals? That must've been in the mid-eighties."
"First killing I found was in '84, in Minneapolis, and it's still open," Connell said.
"We need to run Junky," Sloan said.
Lucas said, "It'd be a long shot, but he was a crazy sonofabitch. Remember what he did to that model he followed out of that Dayton's fashion show?"
"Yeah," Sloan said. He rubbed the side of his face, thinking. "Let's get Anderson to look him up."
"I'll look him up too," Connell said. "I'll see you back there, Sloan?"
Sloan was unhappy. "Yeah. See you, Meagan."
Back in the car, Sloan fastened his seat belt, started the engine, and said, "Uh, the chief wants to see you."
"Yeah? About what?" Lucas asked. "About this?"
"I think so." Sloan bumped the car out of the ramp and toward the bridge.
"Sloan, what did you do?" Lucas asked suspiciously.
Sloan laughed, a guilty rattle. "Lucas, there's two people in the department who might get this guy. You and me. I got three major cases on my load right now. People are yelling at me every five minutes. The fuckin' TV is camped out in my front yard."
"This wasn't my deal when I came back," Lucas said.
"Don't be a prima donna," Sloan said. "This asshole is killing people."
"If he exists."
There was a moment of silence, then Lucas said, "Society of Jesus."
"Society of Jesus. That's what Jesuits belong to. They put the initials after their name, like, Father John Smith, SJ. Like the SJ on Wannemaker."
"Find another theory," Sloan said. "The Minneapolis homicide unit ain't chasin' no fuckin' Jesuits."
As they crossed the bridge, Lucas looked down at the Dumpster and saw Connell still talking to Helstrom. Lucas asked, "What's the story on Connell?"
"Chief'll tell you all about her," Sloan said. "She's a pain in the ass, but she invented the case. I haven't seen her for a month or so. Goddamn, she got here fast."
Lucas looked back toward the ramp. "She's got a major edge on her," he said.
"She's in a hurry to get this guy," Sloan said. "She needs to get him in the next month or so."
"Yeah? What's the rush?"
"She's dying," Sloan said.
The chief's secretary was a bony woman with a small mole on her cheekbone and overgrown eyebrows. She saw Lucas coming, pushed a button on her intercom, and said, "Chief Davenport's here." To Lucas she said, "Go on in." She made her thumb and forefinger into a pistol and pointed at the chief's door.
Rose Marie Roux sat behind a broad cherrywood desk stacked with reports and memos, rolling an unlit cigarette under her nose. When Lucas walked in, she nodded, fiddled with the cigarette for a moment, then sighed, opened a desk drawer, and tossed it inside.
"Lucas," she said. Her voice had a ragged nicotine edge to it, like a hangnail. "Sit down."
When Lucas had quit the force, Quentin Daniel's office had been neat, ordered, and dark. Roux's office was cluttered with books and reports, her desk a mass of loose paper, Rolodexes, calculators, and computer disks. Harsh blue light from the overhead fluorescent fixtures pried into every corner. Daniel had never bothered with computers; a late-model IBM sat on a stand next to Roux's desk, a memo button blinking at the top left corner of the screen. Roux had thrown out Daniel's leather men's-club furniture and replaced it with comfortable fabric chairs.
"I read Kupicek's report on the tomb burglaries," she said. "How is he, by the way?"
"Can't walk." Lucas had two associates, Del and Danny Kupicek. Kupicek's kid had run over his foot with a Dodge Caravan. "He's gone for a month."
"If we get a media question on the tombs, can you handle it? Or Kupicek?"
"Sure. But I doubt that it'll ever get out."
"I don't know it's a good story." A persistent series of tomb break-ins had first been attributed to scroungers looking for wedding rings and other jewelry, though the departmental conspiracy freaks had suggested a ring of satanists, getting body parts for black Masses. Whatever, the relatives were getting upset. Roux had asked Lucas to look at it. About that time, polished finger and toe bones had started showing up in art jewelry. Kupicek had found the designer/saleswoman, squeezed her, and the burglaries stopped.
"Her stuff does go well with a simple black dress," Lucas said. "'Course, you want to match the earrings."
Roux showed a thin smile. "You can talk that way because you don't give a shit," she said. "You're rich, you're in love, you buy your suits in New York. Why should you care?"
"I care," Lucas said mildly. "But it's hard to get too excited when the victims are already dead... What'd you want?"
There was a long moment of silence. Lucas waited it out, and she sighed again and said, "I've got a problem."
She looked up, surprised. "You know her?"
"I met her about an hour ago, over in Wisconsin, running her mouth."
"That's her," Roux said. "Running her mouth. How'd she hear about it?"
Lucas shrugged. "I don't know."
"Goddamnit, she's working people inside the department." She nibbled at a fingernail, then said, "Goddamnit," again and heaved herself to her feet, walked to her window. She stuck two fingers between the blades of her venetian blinds, looked out at the street for a moment. She had a big butt, wide hips. She'd been a large young woman, a good cop in decent shape. The shape was going now, after too many years in well-padded government chairs.
"There's no secret about how I got this job," she said finally, turning back to him. "I solved a lot of political problems. There was always pressure from the blacks. Then the feminists started in, after those rapes at Christmas. I'm a woman, I'm a former cop, I've got a law degree, I was a prosecutor and a liberal state senator with a good reputation on race relations..."
"Yeah, yeah, you were right for the job," Lucas said impatiently. "Cut to the chase."
She turned back to him. "Last winter some game wardens found a body up in the Carlos Avery reserve. You know where that's at?"
"Yeah. Lots of bodies up there."
"This one's name was Joan Smits. You probably remember the stories in the papers."
"Vaguely. From Duluth?"
"Right. An immigrant from South Africa. Walked out of a bookstore and that was it. Somebody stuck a blade in her just above the pelvic bone and ripped her all the way up to her neck. Dumped her in a snowdrift at Carlos Avery."
Lucas nodded. "Okay."
"Connell got the case, assisting the local authorities. She freaked. I mean, something snapped. She told me that Smits comes to her at night, to see how the investigation is going. Smits told her that there'd been other killings by the same man. Connell poked around, and came up with a theory."
"Of course," Lucas said dryly.
Roux took a pack of Winston Lights from her desk drawer, asked, "Do you mind?"
"This is illegal," she said. "I take great pleasure in it." She shook a cigarette out of the pack, lit it with a green plastic Bic lighter, and tossed the lighter back in the desk drawer with the cigarettes. "Connell thinks she's found the tracks of a serial sex-killer. She thinks he lives here in Minneapolis. Or St. Paul or whatever, the suburbs. Close by, anyway."
"Is there? A serial killer?" Lucas sounded skeptical, and Roux peered across her desk at him.
"You've got a problem with the idea?" she asked.
"Give me a few facts."
"There are several," Roux said, exhaling smoke at the ceiling. "But let me give you another minute of background. Connell's not just an investigator. She's big in the left-feminist wing of the state AFSCME American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees."
"I know what it is."
"That's an important piece of my constituency, Lucas. AFSCME put me in the state senate and kept me there. And maybe sixty percent of them are female." Roux flicked a cigarette ash toward her wastebasket. "They're my rock. Now. If I pull off this chief's job, if I go four, maybe six years, and get a little lucky, I'll go up to the U.S. Senate as a liberal law-and-order feminist."
"Okay," Lucas said. Everybody hustles.
"So Connell came down to talk to me about her serial-killer theory. The state doesn't have the resources for this kind of investigation, but we do. I make nice noises and say we'll get right on it. I'm thinking Nut, but she's got contacts all over the women's movements and she's AFSCME."
Lucas nodded, said nothing.
"She gives me her research..." Roux tapped a thick file-folder on her desk. "I carried it down to homicide and asked them to make some checks. Connell thinks there have been a half-dozen murders and maybe more. She thinks there have been two here in Minnesota, and others in Iowa, Wisconsin, South Dakota, just across the border in Canada."
"What'd homicide say?" Lucas asked.
"I got the eye-rolling routine, and I started hearing Dickless Tracy comments again. Two of the killings had already been cleared. The Madison cops got a conviction. There're local suspects in a couple other cases."
He was about to say bullshit, but Roux tapped her desk with an index finger and rode her voice over his. "But your old pal Sloan dug through Connell's research and he decided there's something to it."
"He mentioned that," Lucas admitted. He looked at the file folder on Roux's desk. "He didn't seem too happy with Connell, though."
"She scares him. Anyway, what Connell had was not so much evidence as an..." She groped for the right word: "... argument."
The chief nodded. "I know. She could be wrong. But it's a legitimate argument. And I keep thinking, What if I ditch it, and it turns out that I'm wrong? A fellow feminist, one of the constituency, comes to me with a serial killer. We blow it off and somebody else gets murdered and it all comes out."
"I'm not sure..."
"Besides, I can feel myself getting in trouble here. We're gonna set a new record for murders this year, unless something strange happens. That doesn't have anything to do with me, but I'm the chief. I take the blame. You're starting to hear that 'We need somebody tough up there.' I'm getting it from both inside and outside the department. The union never misses a chance to kick my ass. You know they backed MacLemore for the job."
"MacLemore's a fuckin' Nazi."
"Yes, he is..." Roux took a drag on the cigarette, blew smoke, coughed, laughing, and said, "There's even more. She thinks the killer might be a cop."
"It's just a theory," Roux said.
"But if you start chasing cops, the brotherhood's gonna be unhappy."
"Exactly. And that's what makes you perfect," Roux said. "You're one of the most experienced serial-killer investigators in the country, outside the FBI. Inside this department, politically, you're both old-line and hard-line. You could chase a cop."
"Why does she think it's a cop?"
"One of the victims, a woman in Des Moines, a real estate saleswoman, had a cellular phone in her car. She had a teenaged daughter at home, and called and said she was going out with a guy for a drink, that she might be getting home late. She said the guy was from out of town, and that he was a cop. That's all."
"Christ." Lucas ran his hand through his hair.
"Lucas, how long have you been back? A month?"
"Five weeks. All right. I know you like the intelligence thing. But I've got all kinds of guys running different pieces of intelligence. We got the division, and the intelligence unit, and the gang squad in that, and vice and narcotics and licensing... I brought you back, gave you a nice soft political job, because I knew I'd eventually run into shit like this and I'd need somebody to handle it. You're the guy. That was the deal."
"So you can run for the Senate."
"There've been worse senators," she said.
"I've got things"
"Everybody's got things. Not everybody can stop insane killers," Roux said impatiently. She came and stood next to him, looking out the window, took another greedy drag on her cigarette. "I could give you some time if we hadn't had this Wannemaker thing. Now I gotta move, before the press catches on. And if we don't do something heavy, Connell might very well leak it herself."
"If it gets out and you're already on it, it'd go easier for all of us."
Lucas finally nodded. "You saved my ass from the corporate life," he said. "I owe you."
"That's right," she said. "I did, and you do." Roux pushed her intercom button and leaned toward it. "Rocky? Round up the usual suspects. Get their asses in here."
Roux took five minutes to put together a meeting: Lester, head of the Criminal Investigation Division, his deputy Swanson, and Curt Myer, the new head of intelligence. Anderson, the department's computer freak, was invited at Lucas's request.
"How're we doing?" Roux asked Lester.
"The bodies are piling up. I've honest to God never seen anything like it." He looked at Lucas. "Sloan tells me there's not much chance that Wannemaker got it in Hudson. She was probably transported there."
Lucas nodded. "Looks like."
"So we got another one."
Roux lit another cigarette and turned to Lucas. "What do you need?"
Lucas looked back at Lester. "Same deal as last time. Except I want Sloan."
"What's the same deal?" Roux asked.
Lester looked at Roux. "Lucas works by himself, parallel to my investigation. Everything he finds out, and everything from the up-front investigation, goes into a book on a daily basis. Anderson does the book. He essentially coordinates."
Lester hooked a thumb at Anderson, who nodded, then turned to Lucas. "You can't have Sloan."
Lucas opened his mouth, but Lester shook his head. "You can't, man. He's my best guy and we're fuckin' drowning out there."
"I've been off the street..."
"Can't help it," Lester said. To Roux: "I'm telling you, pulling Sloan would kill us."
Roux nodded. "You'll have to live with it, at least for a while," she said to Lucas. "Can't you use Capslock?"
He shook his head. "He's got something going with this deputy that was killed. We need to stay on it."
"I could let you have one guy," Lester said. "He could run errands. Tell you the truth, you could help him out. Show him how it's done."
Lucas's eyebrows went up. "Greave?"
"I hear he's an idiot," Lucas said.
"He's just new," Lester said defensively. "You don't like him, give him back."
"All right," Lucas said. He looked at Anderson. "And I need to know where a guy is. A knife guy from years ago."
"His name was Junky Doog..."
When the meeting broke up, Roux held Lucas back. "Meagan Connell is gonna want to work it," she said. "I'd appreciate it if you'd take her."
Lucas shook his head. "Rose Marie, damnit, she's got a state badge, she can do what she wants."
"As a favor to me," Roux said, pressing him. "There's no way homicide'll take her. She's really into this. She's smart. She'd help you. I'd appreciate it."
"All right, I'll find something for her to do," Lucas said. Then: "You know, you never told me she was dying."
"I figured you'd find out by yourself," Roux said.
Roux's secretary had a dictation plug in her ear. When Lucas walked out of Roux's office, she pointed a finger at Lucas and held up her hand to stop him, typed another half-sentence, then pulled the plug out of her ear.
"Detective Sloan stopped by while you were talking," she said, her dark eyebrows arching. She took a manila file-folder from her desk and handed it to him. "He said fingerprints confirm that it's Wannemaker. She had a piece of an unfiltered cigarette in her hand, a Camel. They sent it to the lab in Madison. He said to look at the picture."
"Thanks." Lucas turned away and opened the folder.
"I already looked at it," she said. "Gross. But interesting."
"Umm." Inside the folder was an eight-by-ten color photograph of a body in a snowdrift. The faceup attitude was almost the same as that of the Wannemaker woman, with the same massive abdominal wound; pieces of a plastic garbage bag were scattered around in the snow. The secretary was looking over his shoulder, and Lucas half-turned. "There's a state investigator who's been in and out of here, name of Meagan Connell. Could you find her and ask her to call me?"
12 March 2018
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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