“Last summer, we were attacked while you were driving down 94,” I said. “The guy smashed the back of your Lexus and threw a couple of shots at us. You told the story for months afterward, told anyone who would listen.”

“Did I mention how angry I was?”

“At the time, yes, very angry. Not so much later while you were telling the story.”

“You’re saying that I find it all as much fun as you do,” Nina said.

“I never said it was fun.”

She took my hand and spent a few moments twisting it in hers. “What you do is dangerous. Maybe it’s more interesting than working eight-to-five, and maybe that makes you more interesting. It’s still dangerous, and I can’t help feeling… You know what my greatest fear is? That one day Bobby Dunston is going to come knocking on my door…”

“That’s not going to happen.”

“McKenzie, I look terrible in black.”

Actually, Nina looked terrific in black, but I knew what she meant.

I kissed her cheek. I said, “I’m not a cop, I’m not a licensed PI. If things get dicey, I can always walk away.”

“Except you never do. Ahh, nuts. I knew what I was getting into when I visited you in the hospital. Remember the cracked skull?”

“Epidural hematoma.”

“Whatever,” Nina said. She frowned at me, then she smiled, and then she kissed me, softly, without haste, on the mouth. It was a message kiss. It said, “You and me, kid. You and me.” At least, that’s what I heard.

“We’ll be closing soon,” Nina said. “Afterward, I’ll be going to your house, and I’ll be hungry.”

The end to a perfect day, I thought.

The best egg rolls in the Twin Cities were served by a Vietnamese restaurant on Johnson Street in northeast Minneapolis. The beef lo mein was pretty good, too, so I called in an order for both, plus some cream cheese puffs. There were two Asian kids hanging in the lobby when I arrived to pick it up. One of them was wearing a Minnesota Timberwolves jersey, 21, Kevin Garnett’s old number. They were studying the fish in a large, colorful tank with such intensity that I half expected them to announce, “We’ll take that one.”

The cashier asked my name, and I said, “McKenzie.”

At the sound of it, Number 21 pivoted toward me. There was an expression on his face that said he knew me. I didn’t know him, so I blew it off. A moment later, he pulled his pal out of the restaurant. That should have told me something. It didn’t.

The cashier filled my order; I paid and left. Stepping through the door, I noticed that the kids were standing next to a battered Chevy Malibu across the street and down the block. Neither was looking at me. I went to the Audi, started it up, checked for traffic, and pulled into Johnson Street. As I accelerated away I heard two soft pops that reminded me of a small-caliber pistol. I glanced in my rearview and saw Number 21 standing in the middle of the street and gesturing wildly.

Was he shooting at you? my inner voice wanted to know.

Of course not, I told myself. You’re just paranoid after everything that’s happened today.

I was checking the scores on ESPN—the Twins were making yet another run at the Central Division championship, and normally I would have taken time to watch or at least listen to the game, except hey, I’d been busy. My house phone rang. Usually that meant that someone wanted me to donate money to one worthy cause or another; my friends nearly always call me on my cell. Then I realized that my cell was on the bottom of the Mississippi River.

I answered. Bobby Dunston was on the other end. “I’ve just seen the ballistics report,” he said. “The FBI’s been very good about sharing.”

“What in the hell are you doing reading ballistics reports?”

“The bullet the FBI dug out of your upholstery was a nine-millimeter. It matched the slug they removed from Scottie Thomforde’s chest. Which means it was the second kidnapper who came after you at Parade.”

“Should you be working, Bobby?”

“I want to find the man who kidnapped my daughter. How ’bout you?”


“I’m not working. Jeannie Shipman dropped by to give me an update.”

“Your young, beautiful, smart-as-hell partner?”

“That’s the one. McKenzie, I want you to know that I don’t think this is over. Watch your back, man.”

“Screw my back, Bobby. Watch your own. Take Victoria and the rest of your family and go to my lake home for a few days. You have keys. Tory could use the vacation. I bet everyone else could, too.”

“Tory is tough.”

“No, she’s not. She’s terrified and putting up a front to hide it, mostly from herself.”