I circled the large house again, searching for an entry point. While I did, I saw Baird in the kitchen. He set his ice cream down and picked up something else—I couldn’t see what. He passed from one window to the next as he made his way into the living room where Riley was hanging.
I didn’t like shooting through windows. Glass has a way of deflecting bullets. I would have tried it anyway except for the angle. The windows were so high I could only see Baird’s head and shoulders. If I missed …
I kept moving around the house, wondering how Baird got inside. Then I saw it—the back door was slightly ajar. I moved toward it. Baird had smashed the window and simply reached in to turn the lock.
Muehlenhaus, how careless can you be? my inner voice wanted to know.
I slipped past the door into the kitchen. Broken glass crunched beneath my feet. I hesitated for a moment, then moved forward, holding the SIG with both hands. As I approached the living room I could hear Baird’s voice.
“Where should we begin?” he said. “Your tits? Nah, I’m gonna want to play with those later. How ’bout…”
I heard Riley’s muffled cry.
“Or how ’bout here,” Baird said. “Right behind your knee. I injured a knee playing football in high school once. It really hurt.”
I came around the corner into the living room, the SIG leading the way. Baird was turned at an angle and didn’t see me. He was holding a kitchen torch, one of those butane gas jobs that are used to melt the sugar on the top of crème br?lée. He seemed to be having a problem getting it to flame.
“Hey,” I said.
He spun toward me. His eyes blinked as if they were adjusting to a bright light. Beyond that, he didn’t seem frightened at all.
“You again,” Baird said. “Fucking McKenzie, right?”
I moved deeper into the living room. I wanted to get close. Yet not too close.
“Ruining everything again,” he said. “Who are you, anyway?”
I didn’t answer. Instead, I gestured with the muzzle of the gun for him to move away from Riley. He moved a foot. I gestured again. He moved another foot. And again. Baird sighed as if bored, yet he took a third step. Riley was no longer in the line of fire. I gestured some more, just the same.
“What do you want?” Baird asked. His head turned in the direction of where I was driving him. He saw his gun sitting on the table. “Are you a friend of Navarre? He’s not who he says he is, you know.”
He moved closer to the table.
“His real name is Dave Maurell. He stole millions. Millions. I’m just trying to get my share.”
He was still holding the kitchen torch, and I knew what he was thinking; I could read it in his face. He was wondering if he dared throw the torch at me and try diving for the gun while I was distracted.
At the same time, I could see Riley out of the corner of my eye. She was hanging perfectly still. Whatever terror, whatever discomfort she was feeling had been momentarily forgotten while she watched the scene unfold.
“I’ll split it with you. There’s enough for everyone. If Dave hadn’t been so greedy…”
Baird’s knee hit the table. He looked down at it. The gun was only a few inches from his hand, no more.
My body was so tense that my hands began to tremble. I deliberately took a deep breath and let half out, forcing myself to relax. My hands became still.
“Fuck that,” he said. “I know what you’re trying to make me do.” He dropped the torch to the floor and raised his hands above his head. “You’re just gonna have to try to take me in like that asshole deputy—”
I shot him in the center of the chest.
The first bullet was probably enough to kill him.
I added four more to make sure.
The Cook County attorney was furious. The deputy had died of gunshot wounds on the way to the hospital, and he wanted to prosecute someone, anyone, and I was the anyone closest at hand. He was especially determined since the ME was willing to testify that the bullet wounds in Baird’s chest were inconsistent with my official statement that he was reaching for the gun on the table when I shot him.
Once the other evidence started rolling in, though, he changed his mind. Anne Rehmann picked Baird’s photo out of a six-pack, identifying him as the man who assaulted her in her office—it took her all of two seconds. DNA tests proved that it was Baird who raped and murdered Mrs. Rogers. Ballistics confirmed that the bullets that killed both Mrs. Baird and the Cook County deputy were fired from Baird’s gun. (The deputy’s colleagues wanted to throw me a parade for putting his killer in the ground.) The clincher was Ms. Riley Muehlenhaus Brodin, who assured the county attorney that she would not only testify on my behalf, she would spend a million dollars for my defense and another million dollars to guarantee that he never held public office again.