“Give it a rest, Daniel,” Riley told him.
“Ms. Brodin, you are not to answer any questions without an attorney present. Those are your grandfather’s instructions as well as my own.”
“Oh, shut up.”
Riley started down the steps. Schroeder winked at me before following her. I was glad to see him. It meant that Muehlenhaus was taking Riley’s safety seriously.
Daniel clearly wanted to go with them, yet was compelled to deliver a message first.
“You’re McKenzie?” he wanted to know.
“Mr. Muehlenhaus demands that you no longer involve yourself with any member of his family.”
“Tell Mr. Muehlenhaus that I will follow his instructions—as usual.”
He didn’t seem to like my answer, so he added, “Do you understand the implications of what I am telling you?”
“Yes, I do.”
Daniel stared for a moment as if he were unsure what to make of me. He spun to look at Riley and Schroeder, who were now a half block away and walking briskly.
“Ms. Brodin,” he called and raced after them.
By then the first two cars had been towed away and a wrecker was latching on to my Audi. I noticed that three kinds of fluid had pooled beneath it. Not a good sign.
“What a shitty morning this has been,” I said.
“All of these expensive apartment buildings have security cameras,” Pelzer told me. “Most of them look out onto the street. I’m going to check the footage. It had better support your story.”
“Then we should be okay.”
“Have you searched Lake Minnetonka yet?”
“Up and down, over and around. We can’t even find the damn boat, much less Navarre. We’ll keep looking, though.”
“How the hell do you hide a thirty-eight-foot cabin cruiser?”
“If I knew … We had Ms. Rehmann going through our mug books—well, our computerized imaging system. She sat through it yesterday and again this morning but didn’t recognize the suspect. You might have better luck. After all, you’re a trained observer.”
“I could arrest you right now and make it stick, shooting up the goddamn street. It wouldn’t be any trouble at all. You realize that, right?”
“Keep it in mind.”
That’s two favors you owe him, my inner voice reminded me as I watched him walk away.
No one offered to give me a ride home, and I didn’t have the nerve to ask for one. Instead, I made my way the few blocks to Washington Avenue. J.D. Hoyt’s was on the corner. They served the best grilled pork chops in the Cities. I had one for lunch—where had the morning gone?—while I waited for a cab. I took the cab to my house. It was locked up tight, yet I carefully searched it anyway. What was it that Jim Butcher wrote? “Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean there isn’t an invisible demon about to eat your face.”
My cell phone played “Summertime,” and I jumped at the sound of it. It was my mechanic. He was first-generation Hmong, yet he spoke better English than I did—which wasn’t that great an accomplishment. After all, for the most part I was educated in public schools. His voice was so serious it made my stomach feel queasy.
“Hang on to yourself, McKenzie,” he said. I did while he carefully itemized the damage to my Audi. “I don’t think your insurance is going to cover this,” he added.
“It hadn’t in the past,” I reminded him.
“What do you want me to do?”
“Are you sure? We’re talking four grand just to replace the catalytic converter.”
“It’s a sixty-five-thousand-dollar car.”
“Yes, and one of the most expensive to repair as it is.”
“You’re the boss.”
I noticed his tone had lightened considerably by the time he said good-bye.
I went to my basement, opened my safe, and retrieved a 9 mm Beretta. It felt like an old friend in my hand, which, I suppose, said something about the way I lived my life. I loaded it and was putting it in my holster when the cell rang again.
“I don’t have much time,” Riley said. “Grandpa’s guard dog will be back in a second.”
“He’s a good man. Stay close to him.”
“I’d feel better if you did. You shouldn’t go back to your condo, either. Do you have somewhere else to stay? Friends who can put you up?”
“I don’t know. I’ve always attracted a peculiar breed of fair-weather friends, people who are always up for a party or a road trip or some kind of outing as long as someone else is paying. A couple years ago on the Fourth, we rented a plane and flew in large circles around the Cities watching the fireworks. There were a lot of volunteers for that.”
“Don’t you have any real friends? Someone you can trust?”
“You’re lucky. I can stay with my grandfather, I guess.”
“McKenzie, will you keep searching for Juan Carlos?”
“No matter what my grandfather says?”