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Authors: John Sandford

Tags: #Suspense, #Mystery, #Thriller

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BOOK: Invisible Prey
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“Mom was horrified.”

“Absolutely,” Lucas said. “So Virgil asks her if she’d gained any weight lately.”

“She was heavy?”

“No, not especially. I’d say…solid. Plays broomball in the winter. Blades in the summer. Or, more to the point, about a size ten-twelve. She said no, she hadn’t gained any weight since she had the kid, sixteen years ago. So Virgil points out that the dress with the semen stain is a size ten and the girl herself is about a size four. The kid looks like that fashion model who puts all the cocaine up her nose.”

“Oooo.” Sloan thought about it for a moment, then asked, “What’s Mom say?”

“She says that they trade clothes all the time,” Lucas said. “If you want to believe that a size-four fashion-aware teenager is going to drag around in a size ten.”

“That’s a…problem,” Sloan agreed.

“Another problem,” Lucas said. “Virgil put the screws on a neighbor boy who seemed to be sniffing around. The neighbor kid says the girl’s been sexually active since she was twelve. That Mom knew it. Maybe encouraged it.”

“Huh.”

“So what do you think?” Lucas asked.

“Mom’s on record saying she doesn’t do oral?” Sloan asked.

“Yeah.”

“Jury’s not gonna believe that,” Sloan said. “Sounds like there’s a lot of sex in the family. She can’t get away with playing the Virgin Mary. If they think she’s lying about that, they’ll think she’s lying about the whole thing.”

“Yup.”

Sloan thought it over for a while, then asked, “What’s the point of this investigation?”

“Ah, jeez,” Lucas said. He rubbed his eyes with his knuckles. “That’s another problem. I don’t know what the point is. Maybe the whole point is to push Burt Kline out of his job. The original tip was anonymous. It came into child protection in St. Paul. St. Paul passed it on to us because there were out-state aspects—the biggest so-called overt act might’ve been that Kline took the girl up to Mille Lacs for a naked weekend. Anyway, the tip was anonymous. Maybe Kline said something to a Democrat. Or maybe…Virgil suspects the tip might’ve come from Mom. As part of a blackmail hustle.”

“Flowers is smart,” Sloan admitted.

“Yeah.”

“And Mom’s cooperating now?”

“She runs hot and cold,” Lucas said. “What she doesn’t believe is, that she can’t cut off the investigation. She thought we’d be working for her. Or at least, that’s what she thought until Virgil set her straight.”

“Hmph. Well, if the point is to push Burt out of his job…I mean, that’s not good,” Sloan said. He shook a finger at Lucas. “Not good for you. You don’t want to get a rep as a political hit man. If the point is to stop a pederast…”

“If he is one.”

Silence.

“Better get that straight,” Sloan said. “Here’s what I think: I think you ask whether it was rape. Do you believe he did it? If you do, screw him—indict him. Forget all the politics, let the chips fall.”

“Yeah,” Lucas said. He fiddled with his Coke glass. “Easy to say.”

 

M
ORE SILENCE,
looking out the window at a freshly striped parking lot. A battered Chevy, a repainted Highway Patrol pursuit car, with rust holes in the back fender, pulled in. They were both looking at it when Del Capslock climbed out.

“Del,” Lucas said. “Is he hangin’ out here?”

“No,” Sloan said. “He’s been in maybe twice since opening night. Where’d he get that nasty car?”

“He’s got an undercover gig going,” Lucas said.

Capslock scuffed across the parking lot, and a moment later, pushed inside. Lucas saw the bartender do a check and a recheck, and put down the paper.

Del was a gaunt, pasty-faced man with a perpetual four-day beard and eyes that looked too white. He was wearing a jeans jacket out at the elbows, a black T-shirt, and dusty boot-cut jeans. The T-shirt said, in large letters,
I found Jesus!
and beneath that, in smaller letters,
He was behind the couch.

Lucas called, “Del.” Del looked around in the gloom, saw them in the booth, and walked over.

Sloan said, “My tone just got lowered.”

“Jenkins said you might be here,” Del said to Lucas. “I was in the neighborhood…” He waved at the bartender. “’Nother Coke. On the house.” To Sloan, he said, “Whyn’t you turn on some goddamn lights?” And to Lucas, “People have been trying to call you. Your cell phone is turned off.”

“I feel like such a fool,” Lucas said, groping for the phone. He turned it on and waited for it to come up.

“That’s what they thought you’d feel like,” Del said. “Anyway, the governor’s calling.”

Lucas’s eyebrows went up. “What happened?” His phone came up and showed a list of missed calls. Six of them.

“You know Constance Bucher?” Del asked. “Lived up on Summit?”

“Sure…” Lucas said. The hair prickled on the back of his neck as he picked up the past tense in
lived.
“Know
of
her, never met her.”

“Somebody beat her to death,” Del said. He frowned, picked at a nit on his jeans jacket, flicked it on the floor. “Her and her maid, both.”

“Oh, boy.” Lucas slid out of the booth. “When?”

“Two or three days, is what they’re saying. Most of St. Paul is up there, and the governor called, he wants your young white ass on the scene.”

Lucas said to Sloan, “It’s been wonderful.”

“Who is she?” Sloan asked. He wasn’t a St. Paul guy.

“Constance Bucher—Bucher Natural Resources,” Lucas said. “Lumber, paper mills, land. Remember the Rembrandt that went to the Art Institute?”

“I remember something about a Rembrandt,” Sloan said doubtfully.

“Bucher Boulevard?” Del suggested.


That
Bucher,” Sloan said. To Lucas: “Good luck. With both cases.”

“Yeah. You get any ideas about your pal, give me a call. I’m hurtin’,” Lucas said. “And don’t tell Del about it.”

“You mean about Burt Kline?” Del asked, his eyebrows working.

“That fuckin’ Flowers,” Lucas said, and he went out the door.

3

L
UCAS WAS DRIVING
the Porsche. Once behind the wheel and moving, he punched up the list of missed calls on his telephone. Three of them came from the personal cell phone of Rose Marie Roux, director of the Department of Public Safety, and his real boss; one came from the superintendent of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, his nominal boss; the other two came from one of the governor’s squids. He tapped the phone, and Rose Marie answered after the first ring.

“Where are you?” she asked without preamble. He was listed in her cell-phone directory.

“In Minneapolis,” Lucas said. “I’m on my way. She’s what, four doors down from the cathedral?”

“About that. I’m coming up on it now. About a million St. Paul cops scattered all…Ah! Jesus!”

“What?”

She laughed. “Almost hit a TV guy…nothing serious.”

 

“I
HEAR
the governor’s calling,” Lucas said.

“He is. He said, quote, I want Davenport on this like brass on a doorknob, unquote.”

“He’s been working on his metaphors again,” Lucas said.

“Yeah. He thinks it gives him the common touch,” she said. “Listen, Lucas, she was really,
really
rich. A lot of money is about to go somewhere, and there’s the election coming.”

“I’ll see you in ten minutes,” Lucas said. “You got an attitude from St. Paul?”

“Not yet. Harrington is here somewhere, I’ll talk to him,” Rose Marie said. “I gotta put the phone down and park…He’ll be happy to see us—he’s trying to get more overtime money from the state.” Harrington was the St. Paul chief.

“Ten minutes,” Lucas said.

He was on the west side of Minneapolis. He took Highway 100 north, got on I-394, aimed the nose of the car at the IDS building in the distance, and stepped on the accelerator, flashing past minivans, SUVs, pickups, and fat-assed sedans, down to I-94.

Feeling all right, whistling a little.

He’d had a past problem with depression. The depression, he believed, was probably genetic, and he’d shared it with his father and grandfather; a matter of brain chemicals. And though depression was always off the coast, like a fog bank, it had nothing to do with the work. He actually
liked
the hunt, liked chasing assholes. He’d killed a few of them, and had never felt particularly bad about it. He’d been dinged up along the way, as well, and never thought much about that, either. No post-traumatic stress.

As for rich old ladies getting killed, well, hell, they were gonna die sooner or later. Sometimes, depending on who it was, a murder would make him angry, or make him sad, and he wouldn’t have wished for it. But if it was going to happen, he’d be pleased to chase whoever had done it.

He didn’t have a mission; he had an
interest.

 

E
MMYLOU
H
ARRIS
came up on the satellite radio, singing “Leaving Louisiana in the Broad Daylight,” and he sang along in a crackling baritone, heading for bloody murder through city traffic at ninety miles per hour; wondered why Catholics didn’t have something like a St. Christopher’s medal that would ward off the Highway Patrol. He’d have to talk to his parish priest about it, if he ever saw the guy again.

Gretchen Wilson came up, with Kris Kristofferson’s “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down,” and he sang along with her, too.

 

T
HE DAY WAS
gorgeous, puffy clouds with a breeze, just enough to unfold the flags on buildings along the interstate. Eighty degrees, maybe. Lucas took I-94 to Marion Street, around a couple of corners onto John Ireland, up the hill past the hulking cathedral, and motored onto Summit.

Summit Avenue was aptly named. Beginning atop a second-line bluff above the Mississippi, it looked out over St. Paul, not only from a geographical high point, but also an economic one. The richest men in the history of the city had built mansions along Summit, and some of them still lived there.

 

O
AK
W
ALK WAS
a three-story red-brick mansion with a white-pillared portico out front, set back a bit farther from the street than its gargantuan neighbors. He’d literally passed it a thousand times, on his way downtown, almost without noticing it. When he got close, the traffic began coagulating in front of him, and then he saw the TV trucks and the foot traffic on the sidewalks, and then the wooden barricades—Summit had been closed and cops were routing traffic away from the murder house, back around the cathedral.

Lucas held his ID out the window, nosed up to the barricades, called “BCA” to the cop directing traffic, and was pointed around the end of a barricade and down the street.

Oak Walk’s driveway was jammed with cop cars. Lucas left the Porsche in the street, walked past a uniformed K-9 cop with his German shepherd. The cop said, “Hey, hot dog.” Lucas nodded, said, “George,” and climbed the front steps and walked through the open door.

 

J
UST INSIDE
the door was a vestibule, where arriving or departing guests could gather up their coats, or sit on a bench and wait for the limo. The vestibule, in turn, opened into a grand hallway that ran the length of the house, and just inside the vestibule door, two six-foot bronze figures, torchieres, held aloft six-bulb lamps.

Straight ahead, two separate stairways, one on each side of the hall, curled up to a second floor, with a crystal chandelier hanging maybe twenty feet above the hall, between the stairs.

The hallway, with its pinkish wallpaper, would normally have been lined with paintings, mostly portraits, but including rural agricultural scenes, some from the American West, others apparently French; and on the herringboned hardwood floors, a series of Persian carpets would have marched toward the far back door in perfectly aligned diminishing perspective.

The hall was no longer lined with paintings, but Lucas knew that it had been, because the paintings were lying on the floor, most faceup, some facedown, helter-skelter. The rugs had been pulled askew, as though somebody had been looking beneath them. For what, Lucas couldn’t guess. The glass doors on an enormous china cabinet had been broken; there were a dozen collector-style pots still sitting on the shelves inside, and the shattered remains of more on the floor, as if the vandals had been looking for something hidden in the pots. What would that be?

A dozen pieces of furniture had been dumped. Drawers lay on the floor, along with candles and candlesticks, knickknacks, linen, photo albums, and shoe boxes that had once contained photos. The photos were now scattered around like leaves; a good number of them black-and-white. There was silverware, and three or four gold-colored athletic trophies, a dozen or so plaques. One of the plaques, lying faceup at Lucas’s feet, said, “For Meritorious Service to the City, This Key Given March 1, 1899, Opening All the Doors of St. Paul.”

Cops were scattered along the hall, like clerks, being busy, looking at papers, chatting. Two were climbing the stairs to the second floor, hauling with them a bright-yellow plastic equipment chest.

 

L
IEUTENANT
J
OHN
T. S
MITH
was in what Lucas thought must have been the music room, since it contained two grand pianos and an organ. Smith was sitting backward on a piano bench, in front of a mahogany-finished Steinway grand, talking on a cell phone. He was looking at the feet and legs of a dead black woman who was lying facedown on a Persian carpet in a hallway off the music room. All around him, furniture had been dumped, and there must have been a thousand pieces of sheet music lying around. “Beautiful Brown Eyes.” “Camping Tonight.” “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.” “Tammy.”

An amazing amount of shit that rich people had, Lucas thought.

 

S
MITH SAW
L
UCAS,
raised a hand. Lucas nodded, stuck his head into the hallway, where a St. Paul crime-scene crew, and two men from the medical examiner’s office, were working over the body.

Not much to see. From Lucas’s angle, the woman was just a lump of clothing. One of the ME’s investigators, a man named Ted, looked up, said, “Hey, Lucas.”

BOOK: Invisible Prey
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