By then the machine had spat out a pass. I carried it just as casually as I could across the platform to the train. I stepped aboard and showed my pass to the transit cop.
The two black men stared at the cop. Possibilities flickered over their faces. The cop nodded at them. “The train’s leaving in a few seconds,” he said. “You guys better hurry.”
The two men gave him a maybe-next-time shrug and turned away.
“Have a nice night,” the cop called to them.
One of the black men gave him a wave.
Minnesota Nice. Gotta love it.
I had never actually ridden the Hiawatha Line before and was surprised by how smooth and efficient the trip was. The train took me past the Government Plaza, the Metrodome, the VA Medical Center, and on to the airport. Once there, I disembarked at the Lindbergh Terminal and made my way to the cabstand. A porter asked if I had any alcohol on my person. About three-quarters of the nine hundred airport cabdrivers are Somali, most of them Muslim, and some refuse fares that are traveling with duty-free booze—it’s forbidden in Islam to carry alcohol. “I wish,” I said. He hailed a blue-and-white, and I had the driver take me back to Eighth and Marquette in downtown Minneapolis. There was no one lurking in the shadows that I could see, so I paid off the driver, fired up the Cherokee, and drove to Falcon Heights.
I pulled into my driveway, triggering a sensor that set off a ribbon of light that led all the way to my garage in back of the house. Only I didn’t park in the garage. Instead, I stopped parallel to my front door. My plan was to pack a bag and take the next stage out of Dodge. My address wasn’t listed in the phone book, yet I knew it wouldn’t be too difficult to learn where I lived. For fifty thousand dollars people would be willing to make the extra effort. I hadn’t decided where to hide—certainly not Nina’s. I’d call her, I decided, but not stay with her. Lead assassins to her doorstep? Not a chance, I don’t care how many guards Schroeder put on duty.
I was pondering likely hideouts when I left the Jeep Cherokee and crossed my lawn to the porch. The porch stretched the length of the front of my house and was divided into two sections. One half was open and empty except for the wood and canvas chair that hung from thin chains attached to the ceiling. The other half was enclosed by a fine mesh screen to keep the mosquitoes at bay and was furnished with lounge chairs, wicker tables, and a sofa. I sometimes entertained there and on a couple of occasions spent the night. Which reminded me, I should bring the furniture in before the weather turned cold.
I climbed the concrete steps and crossed the porch to the front door. Mail, mostly credit card solicitations, was crammed into a black box. I removed it from the box and tucked it under my arm while I tried to fit my key into the lock. The key met with resistance. I examined the key in the light from the driveway and streetlamps beyond, thinking I had selected the wrong one by mistake or was holding it upside down. Only there was nothing wrong with it. I tried again and failed. What the hell? I rubbed my thumb over the lock. There was something there, a tiny sliver of wood protruding from the slot. Someone had jammed a toothpick into the lock and broken it off, and I thought, Thieves do that. It worked as a kind of burglar alarm for anyone inside the house, warning them if the owners came home early. Or perhaps the lock had been sabotaged to force me to go to my back door, where there was less chance of being observed by neighbors. Either way…
I dropped the mail, turned, leapt over the low wooden railing, and began fleeing across my lawn. A voice behind me shouted, “Stop.”
I didn’t listen.
“Stop.” This time the word was punctuated by the sound of two gunshots.
I turned my head when I hit Hoyt. I was being chased by a man who looked an awful lot like the felon, Chopper’s friend, the one who said he wasn’t interested in collecting the fifty thousand dollars that was on my head. Liar, liar, pants on fire, my inner voice said. I kept running.