They were playing Handel’s Rinaldo when I stepped out of the bar and started walking up the street, only it barely registered. My head was down, my shoulders were hunched, and my hands were in my pockets—the perfect vic. I should have been more attentive, more aware. Still, if you had just been told that a person or persons unknown was paying fifty thousand dollars to see you dead, I bet it would throw you for a loop, too.
The kids outside the Vietnamese restaurant the night before now made sense to me, and so did the extra bullet hole in my Audi. Jeezus, they were shooting at me, trying to kill me, and I didn’t even notice. How dumb was that? On the other hand, I just couldn’t imagine what I had done—or to whom—to deserve such attention. I skimmed in my head the list of enemies I had given Harry. Nothing popped out at me. Probably the hit had something to do with Victoria Dunston’s kidnapping, only that was just a guess, and it seemed even goofier to me than the hit itself. If I had just collected a million-dollar ransom, I’d take the money and run. Wouldn’t you? “Damn,” I muttered. Then it occurred to me that if the kidnapper was behind the contract, he was using my money to pay for it.
My head came up when I shouted the profanity. There were plenty of people on the street hopping from club to club and theater to theater. Most of them looked my way. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw two young black men in satin Chicago Bulls warm-up jackets that didn’t. Instead, they glanced down and away.
My Cherokee was parked at a meter on Eighth and Marquette. I knew I’d never make it. Instead, I turned north on Hennepin and joined the river of pedestrians, going with the flow, seeking safety under the blazing streetlamps. Only they didn’t make me feel safe. Last week a gangbanger had attempted to shoot a rival with a .44 Magnum, missed, and killed an innocent bystander who had stepped out of a bar not ten feet from where I was now walking. There were plenty of pedestrians and bright lights then, too.
I thought of my own guns locked in my safe at home. What are you doing walking around unarmed? my inner voice wanted to know. People are trying to kill you. On the other hand, what would I have done with my weapons if I had thought to bring them along? Start a running gun battle on crowded Hennepin Avenue? You should have listened to Schroeder; you should have hired someone to watch your back.
I kept walking. Traffic moved incessantly along the avenue. I tried to hail a cab. One stopped, but before I could reach it, it was seized by a young woman decked out in little more than a faux fur jacket and a belt.
One of the things they teach you about surveillance is to never reveal that you’re aware you are being followed until you can use the information to your advantage. While trying for the cab, I looked behind me. A mistake. The two black men saw me seeing them. They began gathering speed. I gave up on a cab and increased my own pace. They started running. I started running, weaving in and out of the foot traffic, crossing Sixth against the light. I had no idea where I was running to until I reached the parking lot on Fifth Street. The state had built a light rail train system connecting downtown Minneapolis with the Minneapolis–St. Paul International Airport and the Mall of America. The Hennepin Avenue Station loomed in front of me. I cut across the parking lot at a gallop, juking and jiving around parked cars to reach it. I was dragging by the time I jumped the tracks—it was the second time that day I had run for my life and the second time I realized how badly I had let myself go. Never again, I told myself as I crossed the platform and headed toward the train. I figured I was home free until the transit cop standing in the doorway blocked my path.
“Do you have a pass?” he asked. He was smiling when he said, “You can’t buy a pass on the train. You have to buy them—” He pointed at a vending machine on the platform.
Oh, for chrissake, my inner voice shouted. I was too out of breath to say it aloud.
I dashed across the platform. I found two one-dollar bills in my pocket and was fumbling with them when my pursuers arrived, moving confidently, looking no worse for chasing me. Bet they work out, I told myself as I fed the bills into the vending machine.
One of them slid a hand under his Bulls jacket. The other reached behind his back.
“Hey,” I shouted.
I pointed at the light pole. There was a security camera mounted there, and it was pointed right at the platform.
“Smile,” I said.
They looked at the camera and then at me. They didn’t smile. I pointed at the transit cop standing in the doorway to the train and looking out. They didn’t smile some more.