DuWayne stopped chewing for a moment and his eyelid fluttered again. “Dogman,” he muttered quietly.

He had nothing more to say, so I took the nine-millimeter from its holster, stepped forward, and pressed the muzzle against his knee. Karen hissed as if she were seeing something that alarmed her and said, “McKenzie, stop it.” DuWayne didn’t react at all. I could have been a character on TV for all I frightened him.

Well, this isn’t going well at all, my inner voice said.

“Okay, DuWayne, I get it,” I said aloud. “You’re a stand-up guy. I should be embarrassed for even thinking that I could scare you.” DuWayne smiled around a mouthful of Cocoa Puffs. “I was hoping we could do this without involving your mother. Guess I was wrong.”

“What you talking about?” DuWayne said.

I spoke to Karen as I slowly backed away from him. “Better call Mrs. Middleton. Tell her to bring a coat. It’s getting chilly outside.” I kept the Beretta in my hand, and from the way DuWayne reacted, I was glad I did.

“You leave my mother be.” He pointed the spoon at me. I had no doubt he could have dug a hole in my chest with it. In return, I pointed the gun at his chest.

“I’d love to, DuWayne,” I said. “I really would.”

“You makin’ me angry. You don’t want me to be angry.”

I doubt the guy playing the Hulk in the movie could have said it better. Hell, change his complexion and DuWayne could have been the Hulk.

“Here’s the thing,” I said. “The money you gave your mother, the five thousand she’s using to fix up her house, it’s marked.”

That caused both of DuWayne’s eyelids to flutter. “Wha’? Marked?”

“I’m guessing the five K is a ten percent service fee that the contractor paid you to float the hit on me—ten percent of fifty thousand, that sounds right. It’s part of a million-dollar ransom paid three days ago for the safe return of a twelve-year-old girl who was kidnapped—the daughter of the cop who runs the St. Paul Police Department’s homicide unit, no less. Before the ransom was paid, the FBI marked every single bill. What did he pay you with? Twenties or fifties? I’m guessing the FBI will want to know how your mother got it. And if she says she got it from you…”

“D’Wayneee,” Mrs. Middleton called from the hallway. I stepped farther away from DuWayne and hid the Beretta behind my back. DuWayne slipped his spoon into the bowl and resumed eating. Mrs. Middleton entered the room. “You want more cereal, hon?” she asked.

“No, thank you, Ma, I’m good,” DuWayne said.

Mrs. Middleton looked both Karen and me up and down. She didn’t offer us any Cocoa Puffs.

“You gonna be here long?” she asked.

“It’s all right, Ma,” DuWayne said. “We just talkin’. They be leavin’ in a sec.”

Mrs. Middleton nodded her head and left the room.

I brought the gun out from behind my back. I didn’t trust DuWayne as far as I could throw him, which admittedly wasn’t very far.

“You gonna leave my mama be,” DuWayne said.

“Absolutely,” I said. “I won’t hassle you, either. All I want is a name. A location, too, if you have it.”

“I don’t got neither.”

“That’s not the answer I wanted to hear.”

“Lookit. Man comes to me, white man. I ain’t lookin’ for him, he lookin’ for me. He says a mutual friend, man we both know, says I could help ’im. I says help ’im what? He tells me. I says that’s whacked, fifty large. He says he wants to make sure it gets done in a hurry. What am I gonna do, argue with him? He gives me five thousand. In fifties. A packet of fifties.” My fifties, I thought but didn’t say. “So I do what he ax, I spread the word.”

“What’s his name?”

“I told you, I don’ know his name.”

“How’s he planning to pay off on the hit?”

“He hears you’re dead, he contacts me. We work it out. Man’s bein’ real careful.”

“You don’t even know his name? Or where to find him?”


“You’re doing all this on the honor system?”

“He don’ pay off, it gets real unhealthy for him. He know that.”

“But how can you find him?” Karen asked.

DuWayne shrugged. “There’s ways,” he said.

Yeah, there are, my inner voice reminded me.

“Who’s your mutual friend?” I asked.

“Wha’ about my mother?”

“The five thousand dollars that the contractor gave you, that was my money. If you give me a name, your mother can keep it, I don’t care. We won’t involve the FBI in her business, either. Does that work for you?”

“You trouble my mama, you die hard.”

“I got a whole list of people who want to kill me,” I said. “Your name isn’t even close to the top.”

DuWayne just stared.

“We’re on the same page here, pal,” I said. “I don’t want trouble for your mother. Or you. What we’re talking about, it’s just business, am I right?”

“That’s right,” DuWayne said. “It’s business.”

“Give me a name and I’ll give you another five thousand, in cash. Clean money this time.”