I found Lieutenant Pelzer leaning against his car when I left the restaurant. Greg Schroeder was arguing with him, waving his hands as he spoke. Pelzer didn’t look too happy about it. In fact, he looked like he was thisclose to expressing his displeasure when he saw me crossing the parking lot.
“So you two have finally met,” I said. “Are you besties now? Going to have matching bracelets made up?”
“No,” Pelzer replied in a voice that made me believe that he didn’t appreciate the joke. “Not even close. Did you get anything?”
I shook my head.
“Keep in touch,” he said. He made to open his car door. Schroeder stopped him.
“Wait a sec, LT,” the detective said.
Pelzer pointed at him yet looked at me. “Is this shamus a pal of yours?” he asked.
“I never saw him before in my life,” I said.
“Then you won’t mind if I jail his ass for obstruction if he opens his mouth one more time.”
“Not even a little bit.”
“Lieutenant.” Schroeder’s voice was low and calm. “Look at it from my point of view.”
“No,” Pelzer said. “You look at it from my point of view, because that’s the one that matters.”
With that, the lieutenant slid into his car, started it up, and drove off.
“What a hard-ass,” Schroeder said.
“Yeah, I’m liking him more and more, too. So what did you do, Greg? Draw Muehlenhaus’s name and point it at him like a gun?”
“Something like that.”
“You could always go over his head—Major Kampa runs Hennepin County’s Investigative Division.”
Schroeder stared at me for a moment, maybe wondering if I was joking, and then began to chuckle. “That could only be good for me,” he said. “I know Kampa and he is so much more reasonable.” He laughed again.
“What did you want to know that Pelzer wouldn’t tell you?” I asked.
“What did you offer Pelzer in return?”
“Yet you two can’t get along. I just don’t understand it.”
“Cops work on a strict quid pro quo basis. You know that even better than I do. If you want this, you have to give ’em that and plenty of it.”
“I’m just following instructions.”
“What can you tell me?”
“What do I get in exchange?”
“My undying gratitude.”
“Greg, everything is about the same as it was yesterday when we spoke on the phone.”
“Does Pelzer know that Riley is probably traveling with Navarre.”
“Did you tell him?”
“Do me a favor—explain that to Mr. Muehlenhaus.”
“Why don’t you?”
“I’d rather you tell him.”
“All right, I will.”
“Come with me—in my car.”
“Probably I should tell you—the old man’s orders were to bring you to the Pointe. Forcibly, if necessary.”
“I’ll meet you there.”
Schroeder paused a moment before he said, “You don’t think I can bring you—forcibly?”
“No, I don’t. Even if you could, though, the price would be too high.”
“No more free drinks at Rickie’s.”
“That would be a tragedy.”
“I think so, too.”
I wanted to follow Schroeder, but he obviously wanted to follow me, so we sat in the parking lot of the Casa del Lago staring at each other through the windshields of our vehicles for about five minutes before he finally flipped me the bird and drove off. I gave him a healthy head start.
Eventually I found myself on Shadywood Road going north through the tiny town of Navarre and wondering, not for the first time, if it had just been a coincidence that Juan Carlos chose that name. I hung a right at the intersection of Shadywood and North Shore Drive and drove east across the bridge. It was another place on the lake where the road came between the homes and their docks. It’s also where Arnaldo and the Nine-Thirty-Seven wannabees made their move.
I admit they caught me by surprise. The black Cadillac came up hard on my rear bumper and blew its horn before I knew it was there. I kept driving and the horn kept blowing—I was startled, yet not particularly afraid. I just wanted a moment to think it through before I did anything rash.
I took my foot off the accelerator and let the Lexus slow on its own. The Caddy pulled around me. I could see Arnaldo’s face through the passenger window. He didn’t look happy. On the other hand, I’d never seen him look happy. He jabbed his finger more or less toward the shoulder of the road as the Caddy sped past.
We weren’t terribly far from the house where Juan Carlos Navarre had lived, where Mrs. Rogers had lived, and it occurred to me that Arnaldo had staked it out in case Navarre returned. He wasn’t actually following me; he merely saw me driving past and jumped on my tail—he must have recognized Nina’s Lexus from when he saw it during our trip to Galena. None of this was important, of course, yet knowing it somehow made me feel better.