Bobby told him about my mission to find Jamie Carlson and my early morning visitor. Thompson was singularly unimpressed.

“Find the husband,” he said and started to move away. He had no intention of entertaining other theories. Find the husband. Case closed.

“Yesterday it was Katherine’s boyfriend!” Bobby shouted at his back. “Today it’s the husband! Who’s it going to be tomorrow?”

Thompson turned. He had one of those who-do-you-think-you’re-talking-to expressions on his face. “You are out of line, Detective,” he said, his monotone rising several octaves.

Bobby didn’t reply and Thompson smirked like he had won some kind of victory. He spun toward the TV crews filming from behind the yellow tape and the news hounds with pens poised over notebooks. Thompson made his way to the waiting reporters. “It’s a sad day for St. Paul … .”

I tuned him out when Bobby spoke to me. “You’re in a restricted police area.”

“Excuse me?”

“You’re not a cop. You’re not even a licensed PI.”


“So, investigate this Bradley Young ’til hell freezes over, I don’t care. That’s someone else’s problem. But you stay away from this. You don’t go near Jamie, or her husband, or her child … .”


“Serious shit, McKenzie. I have a serial on my hands. You keep your distance, I’m not kidding.”

“Bobby, you’re forgetting something.”

“What am I forgetting?”

“Stacy Carlson, the little girl …”

“Dying of leukemia.”

“Jamie can’t help her now. But maybe Jamie’s child can.”

“Can children donate bone marrow?”

“I don’t know. But …”

“But.” Bobby glared at me just to prove he was serious. “Do not get in the way. I swear to God I’m not kidding. I’ll bust your ass for obstruction.”

He might have said more, but we were both distracted by movement at the front door of the house. The wagon boys were bringing Jamie out, her body encased in a bag of black vinyl, the bag zipped shut.

“So many women die in the bedroom,” Bobby murmured.

I didn’t realize night had fallen until it became impossible to see the wall on the far side of my living room. There was nothing particularly interesting about the wall. I would have been hard pressed to describe it although I had been staring at it since I arrived home. It just happened to be opposite the chair closest to my front door where I had collapsed in a stupor. Nor could I tell you how long I had been looking at it or what I had been thinking of. Perhaps I had fallen asleep, although I don’t remember that, either. All I knew is that several hours had passed and even then I couldn’t tell you exactly how many.

I roused myself and went from room to room, turning on every light I owned, including the rechargeable flashlight I keep plugged in the socket next to my bed. Soon my house was bathed in the light of several dozen 150-, 100-, and 60-watt bulbs. Probably impressed Xcel Energy but didn’t do much for me. You’re supposed to feel safe in your own home. Secure. Yet Jamie Carlson Bruder had been murdered in hers and a man I didn’t even know had attempted to assassinate me in mine.

It was only then that I had the presence of mind to check my voice mail. The electronic female told me I had two messages. The first was from the guy who cleans my fireplace. “Winter’s coming,” he warned.

The second was from Chief Casey telling me to call. I punched in the number he left but he had already retired for the day and I didn’t feel like leaving a message.

I wondered what he wanted, and thinking about it kicked open the door that I had so carefully and firmly locked when I left Jamie’s home. My mind suddenly became a satellite dish, five hundred channels. I surfed through them all, never holding an image for more than a few fleeting moments, each one rated TVMA. I didn’t want to think about them. To distract myself, I tried to get involved in the baseball game that was broadcast by one of the so-called superstations, but after three innings I realized I didn’t even know who was playing. I went from the TV to Time magazine and attempted to read a report on the goings-on in the war zone that is much of Africa. A think-tank expert suggested that the fighting, including the systematic slaughter of countless innocent civilians, was rooted deep in tribal history and construed by many in the region as a matter of principle and honor. That’s when I lost it.