Nina’s smile was replaced by a frown. “Are we talking about the same thing?” she said.

I asked her to sit down. She sat. I explained what had happened at Joley’s house. I told her that the FBI now believed that Victoria’s kidnapping and the two subsequent attempts on my life might have been perpetrated by someone who was trying to settle a grudge against me. She wondered what that had to do with her.

“If the FBI is right—and I’m not convinced they are—this person is using people I care about to get to me. First Victoria Dunston, then Joley Waddell. I’m afraid next he’ll go after you and Erica.”

“Why would he do that?”

“Because I love you.”

Nina gave it half a dozen beats before she replied. “You can be such a jerk, McKenzie.”

“What did I say?”

“I love you.”


“You can’t say that while we’re walking around a lake or holding hands in front of a fireplace or standing on the damn street corner. No, I have to be in danger before I hear it.”

“I’ve said I love you before.”


“Dozens of times.”

“Name one.”

“It’s not like I keep track.”

“Well, I do.”

“Nina, you’re missing the point.”

“The point is that one of your crusades has gotten you into trouble and now you’re bringing it into my place. I don’t want you to do that. You need to keep your business out of my place.”

“That’s not the point.”

“McKenzie, I am not going into hiding just because you’re in trouble. No way. If I did that, I’d spend the rest of my life on the lam—is that what you call it, on the lam?—because let’s face it, you’re always in trouble. If we were talking about Erica, that’d be different. Fortunately. Erica is leaving the country tomorrow at about ten o’clock with a dozen chaperones and about a hundred of her closest friends, so she’ll be all right. As for me, I have a business to run, and since we are fast approaching the dinner hour, I suggest you get out of here and let me run it.”

The conversation had not gone the way I had expected. I decided to try again. I reached across the desk and took both of Nina’s hands in mine. I squeezed them gently.

“Sweetie,” I said. “I need you to be safe. I understand that you’re reluctant to go into hiding, but we can hire bodyguards—”


“Nina, be reasonable.”

“Look down,” she said.

I glanced at the sheaf of papers our hands were resting on.

“That’s an insurance policy,” she said. “It covers my business. Why do I have a feeling that hanging around with you is going to raise my premiums?”


“Forget it. I am not going to have guys with guns around my place.” She pulled her hands out of mine. “It seems to me that this is your problem, McKenzie, not mine.”

She has you there, my inner voice said.

“Okay,” I said aloud.

“McKenzie, I’ll be fine. Now go away, will you?”

Schroeder Private Investigations was a cop shop. Every man who had ever worked there had been an investigator for one law enforcement agency or another—sheriff ’s office, police department, even the FBI. They all acted like it, too, answering calls in white shirtsleeves and shoulder holsters, sitting behind gray metal desks with cigarettes dangling from their mouths. It was located on the third floor of an outdated office building in downtown Minneapolis. The directory listing the building’s occupants was hand-written. So were the legends identifying each office; they were painted in gold and red on a ten-inch-wide, floor to-ceiling glass panel next to the doors. A heavy curtain kept everyone from seeing inside. I walked in without knocking.

A woman intercepted me in a reception area just inside the door. “I’m here to see Greg Schroeder,” I said. “My name is McKenzie.”

She led me halfway across the large, busy room until a voice boomed out. “Rushmore McKenzie,” the voice said. “I’ll be a sonuvabitch.” She abandoned me as Schroeder approached.

Schroeder’s fortunes had ebbed and flowed over the years. At one time, he had had as many as a dozen investigators working for him, yet when I first met him he was alone. Now there were five investigators in the office and I couldn’t say how many more on the street.

“Last time I saw you was down in Victoria, Minnesota,” Schroeder said. “Seems to me I saved your ass.”

“So you did. Difficult shot, if I recall.”

“Come.” Schroeder led me to a metal desk against the far wall. “Sit.”

I sat in front of the desk.

“So, to what do I owe the pleasure?” Schroeder said.

I told him I wanted to hire a few bodyguards.

“To protect whose body?”

I opened my wallet and retrieved a photograph of Nina. Schroeder took one glance and said, “That’s a body worth protecting. Who is she?”

“Nina Truhler.”

“Your girl?”


“Tell me about her.”

I gave him every detail I could think of, including the license plate number of her Lexus.

“What are we protecting her from?”