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Authors: John Sandford

Tags: #Suspense, #Mystery, #Thriller

Invisible Prey (44 page)

BOOK: Invisible Prey
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Coombs was released after three days in jail, with her house as bond. She never went back—the election was coming, and the grand jury, which did what Wentz told them to do, decided not to indict.

 

R
OSE
M
ARIE
R
OUX
told Lucas, “You got lucky. About six ways. If Coombs had wound up dead, you might be looking for a job—this being an election year.”

“I know. The thought never crossed my mind that Widdler’d yank out a gun and try to shoot her in broad daylight on a main street,” Lucas said. “And you know what? If it’d been real, if it hadn’t been a setup, she’d have gotten away with it. She’d have walked across the street and gone upstairs to the Skyway and then over to Galtier and down in the parking garage, and that would have been it.”

Mitford, who had come over to listen in, said, to Rose Marie, “We pay him to be lucky. Lucky is even better than good. Everybody is happy.” And to Lucas: “Don’t get unlucky.”

 

T
HE PUBLIC ARGUMENT
would have gone on, and could have gotten nastier, except that Ruffe Ignace published an exclusive interview with the teenage victim of Burt Kline’s sexual attentions.

Ignace did a masterly job of combining jiggle-text with writing-around, and everybody over fourteen understood that Kline had semicolon-shaped freckles where many people wouldn’t have looked, and that the comely teenager had been asked (and agreed) to model white cotton thongs and a half-shell bra in a casino hotel in Mille Lacs. Ignace did not actually say that little pink nipples were peeking out, but you got the idea.

Coombs moved to page seven.

 

A
MITY
A
NDERSON
was charged with receiving stolen goods, but in Wentz’s opinion, nothing would hold up. “We don’t have any witnesses,” he complained. “They’re all dead.”

 

T
HE
D
ES
M
OINES
prosecutor who had gotten a conviction in the Toms’ case said, “I’m still convinced that Mr. Child was involved in the murder,” but the tide was going out, and the state attorney general said the case would be revisited. Sandy spent a week in Iowa leading a staff attorney through the paper accumulated in Minnesota.

 

T
HE ESTATES
of Claire Donaldson, Jacob Toms, and Constance Bucher sued the estates of Leslie and Jane Widdler for recovery of stolen antiques, for wrongful death, and for a laundry list of other offenses that guaranteed that all the Widdler assets would wind up in the hands of the heirs of Donaldson, Toms, and Bucher, et al., and an assortment of lawyers. The Widdler house on Minnehaha Creek was put up for sale, under the supervision of the Hennepin County District Court, as part of the consolidation of Widdler assets.

 

L
UCAS ASKED
Flowers again, “Why in the hell did you shoot her in the foot?”

Flowers shook his head. “I was aiming for center-of-mass.”

“Jesus Christ, man, you gotta spend some time on the range,” Lucas said, his temper working up.

“I don’t want to shoot anyone,” Flowers said. “If you manage things right, you shouldn’t have to.”

“You believe in management?” Lucas asked, getting hot. “Fuckhead? You believe in management?”

“I didn’t get my ass run over by a car,” Flowers snapped. “I managed that.”

Del, who was there, said, “Let’s back this off.”

Lucas, that night, said to Weather, “That fuckin’ Flowers.”

She said, “Yeah, but you gotta admit, he’s got a nice ass.”

 

A
FTER A
brief professional discussion, the museums that owned the Armstrong quilts decided that the sewing basket had probably been Armstrong’s and that the quilts were genuine.

Coombs said, “They know that’s wrong.”

Lucas said, “Shhh…” He was visiting, on the quiet, two weeks after the shooting of Widdler; they were sitting on the back patio, drinking rum lemonades with maraschino cherries.

She said, “You know, I had time not to shoot her. I did it on purpose.”

Lucas: “Even if I’d heard you say that, I’d ask, ‘Would you do it again if you thought you’d spend thirty years in prison?’”

Coombs considered, then said, “I don’t know. Sitting there in jail, the…practicalities sort of set in. But the way it worked out, I’m not sorry I did it.”

“You should go down to the cathedral and light a couple of candles,” Lucas said. “If there wasn’t an election coming, Wentz might have told everybody to go fuck themselves and you’d have a hard road to go.”

“I’d have been convicted?”

“Oh…probably not,” Lucas said, taking a sip of lemonade. “With Flowers and me testifying for you, you’d have skated it, I think. Probably would have had to give your house to an attorney, though.”

She looked around her house, a pleasant place, mellow, redolent of the scent of candles and flowers and herbs of the smokable kind, and said, “I was hoping to leave it to Gabriella, when I was ninety and she was seventy.”

“I’m sorry,” Lucas said. And he was, right down in his heart. “I’m so sorry.”

 

A
T THE END
of the summer, a man named Porfirio Quique Ramírez, an illegal immigrant late of Piedras Negras, was cutting a new border around the lilac hedge on the Widdlers’ side yard, in preparation for the sale of the house. The tip of his spade clanged off something metallic a few inches below the surface. He brushed away the dirt and found a green metal cashbox.

Porfirio, no fool, turned his back to the house as he lifted it out of the ground, popped open the top, looked inside for five seconds, slammed the lid, stuffed the box under his shirt, pinned it there with his elbow, and walked quickly out to his boss’s truck. All the way out, he was thinking, “Let them be real.”

They were. Two weeks later, he crossed the Rio Grande again, headed south. All but three of the gold coins were hidden in the roof of the trunk of his new car, which was used, but had only twenty-five thousand on the clock.

The Mexican border guard waved him through, touched the front fender of the silver SL500—the very car the Widdlers had dreamed of—for good luck, and called, smiling, to the mustachioed, sharp-dressed hometown boy behind the wheel,

“Hey, man! Mercedes-Benz!”

Author’s Note

There are two people mentioned in this book who are
not
fictional.

 

Mentioned in passing is Harrington, the St. Paul chief of police. His full name is John Harrington, he
is
the chief, and years ago, when he was a street cop, he used to beat the bejesus out of me at a local karate club. One time back then, I was walking past a gun shop near the dojo, and saw in the window a shotgun with a minimum-length barrel and a pistol grip. I bumped into Harrington going in the door of the dojo—he was dressed in winter street clothes—and I mentioned the shotgun to him. He said, “Let’s go look.” So we walked back to the shop, big guys, unshaven, in jeans and parkas and watch caps, and maybe a little beat-up, and went inside, and John said, “My friend here saw a shotgun…” The clerk got it out and delivered his deathless line as he handed it over the counter to Sergeant Harrington: “Just what you need for going into a 7-Eleven, huh?” In any case, my wife and I were delighted when John was named St. Paul chief. He’s the kind of guy you want in a job like that.

 

Karen Palm, mentioned early in the book as the owner of the Minnesota Music Café, is a longtime supporter of the St. Paul Police Federation and hosts some of the more interesting music to come through town; along with a lot of cops. Sloan’s bar, Shooters, is modeled on the Minnesota Music Café.

 

Nancy Nicholson (who is not mentioned by name as a character) took a good chunk of time out of her busy day to show me around the most spectacular private mansion in St. Paul, and introduced me to such subjects as torchieres and butlers’ pantries, the existence of which I hadn’t even suspected, much less known how to spell. Thank you, Nancy.

 

Lucas used
The Antiques Price Guide,
by Judith Miller, when he was researching antiques. That’s a real guide, published by Dorling Kindersley (DK), and I used it to get a hold on the values mentioned in the book.

—J.S.

BOOK: Invisible Prey
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