All that came much later, though.
Immediately after Baird’s body hit the floor, I turned to the deputy. After I uncuffed his hands, I used his radio to call it in—“Officer down, officer down”—and recited the address of the Muehlenhaus estate. A flood of questions followed, but I was too busy to deal with them. The deputy’s skin was a ghastly ashen color, and his breathing was so shallow that for a moment I thought he was already dead. Yet he was warm to my touch and I could detect a rapid, thready pulse. When I gently rolled him on his back he opened his eyes. They were filled with terror and confusion. I said something to him. I don’t remember what. “You’ll be all right.” Something like that.
“I totally messed up,” he said.
He closed his eyes while I examined his wound—he was shot in the left side and losing a lot of blood. I applied a tourniquet using a kitchen towel and my belt. All the while, I spoke to Riley.
“I got you, sweetie. I’ll be just a few minutes. I know it’s hard. You’ll be all right. Hang in there.”
When I said that last sentence, I turned to look up at her. I swear to God she was laughing behind her gag.
After caring for the deputy, I found a chair and used it to stand on while I freed Riley. The air was filled with sirens as I lowered her to the floor. I grabbed an afghan off the back of one of the living room sofas and wrapped her in it—I didn’t want the deputies and paramedics to see her nude like that.
Riley grasped my hand and wouldn’t let it go. “He was going to…”
“Don’t think about it.”
“What’s going to happen now?”
So many things I couldn’t even begin to tell her. I hugged her close to me and whispered into her ear.
“Just go with the flow,” I said.
Riley hugged me back.
“You told me that once before,” she said. “This time I’ll listen.”
They immediately transported the wounded deputy to Cook County North Shore Hospital in Grand Marais, about twenty minutes away. Grand Marais was one of my favorite towns, yet up until that moment I didn’t know it even had a hospital. The deputies wanted to send Riley, too. She announced she wouldn’t go anywhere unless I went with her. They wanted to question us both separately. She refused to let go of my hand. They tried to be considerate—Riley was the victim, after all—yet it became clear the county cops were becoming frustrated.
“Miss, this would all go so much easier if you would cooperate,” the lead investigator told her.
“Give me a phone and I’ll show you cooperation you won’t believe,” Riley said.
“This is not going with the flow,” I told her. Yet I was glad to see the combative woman I had come to know and love.
She’s going to survive this, my inner voice said. She’s going to be fine.
Still, when we had a private moment I told her, “Soon as you get home, I want you to talk to someone. A professional. I can give you a name, if you like. I know you think you’re okay now, but people rarely come through something like this unscathed.”
She squeezed my hand tighter. “I know,” she said. “That’s why I’m acting like such a bitch. I’m afraid if I think about it, if I…”
It was too late. The tears started to flow and her shoulders began to shake. A moment later her face was pressed against my shoulder and she was weeping loudly and nothing I said or did could console her. After that, the deputies left her alone.
The morning sun flowed through the windows, giving the low white ceiling and the white tile floor of the hospital visiting room a golden hue. The county cops had finished with us—at least for the time being—and Riley and I sat next to each other while waiting for Muehlenhaus and his minions to arrive. She was holding my hand. She had released it only sporadically through the long night and never for very long. The first time was when the paramedics wrapped her damaged wrists in gauze. The second was while the doctors were examining the rest of her after she allowed herself to be taken to the hospital, although she had insisted that I remain in the room—I did so, but I had my back turned at all times. And then again when she dressed in the jeans and sweater she was wearing now.
“Riley,” I said, “where’s Navarre?”
“He left. Borrowed my car about twenty minutes before that Collin Baird character showed up. How did he find us, anyway? Do you know?”
“Through Minnesota Monthly, I think.”
“Comes from being rich and famous, I guess.”
“Why did Navarre leave?”
Riley had recovered her bag as well as her suitcase before leaving the Muehlenhaus estate. She dipped into it and produced a small, square box. She gave it to me, and I opened it.
“Holy—this can’t be real,” I said.
“It’s real, all right. Seven-carat marquise-cut diamond engagement ring.”
“You could carve your name in granite walls with this thing.”