To say the area was exclusive would be redundant. Lake Minnetonka was actually a collection of sixteen interconnected lakes and heaven knows how many bays and inlets, and it was all exclusive—all twenty-two and a half square miles of it—and the impression it radiated was that nothing bad could ever happen here. ’Course, Virginia Piper might disagree.
Before I reached the house, I stopped the Cherokee, opened the back, and pulled out my Kevlar vest. I put it on and checked my guns. The nine I holstered on my belt at my left hip, positioning it for a quick cross-draw. The .380 I slid between my belt and spine. Only then did I drive up to the house where Thomas Teachwell once lived.
I followed the circular drive in back of the house until the nose of the Cherokee was facing out in case I needed to make a quick getaway. There were no other vehicles in the driveway and no people. I knew there were neighbors, but not close—I couldn’t see their houses through the trees that dotted the property. I stepped out of the vehicle. A gentle breeze floated up from the lake and stirred the leaves. It was so quiet I could hear my heartbeat. A splendid isolation.
There’s a lot to be said for exclusivity, my inner voice said. You could afford to live here. Well, yeah, except the people on the lake weren’t the kind that attended the Minnesota State Fair, and if they went to a ball game, they watched from the comfort of a luxury suite. I doubted I’d fit in. Besides—I pulled the nine from its holster and cautiously approached Teachwell’s home—I wasn’t house hunting.
I approached the house in a crouch that strained my back and caused my ankle to throb. I let the Beretta lead the way while I watched the doors, watched the windows, watched for movement of any kind from anywhere. It was still. It was quiet. I poked my nose above windowsills. Rooms were laid out like the photo spreads of House Beautiful. There was no one lounging on the sofa eating Cheetos and watching Oprah, no one sitting at the table cutting coupons. I took a chance and rang the front doorbell. It echoed through the house like a ship’s bell over a calm and empty sea and went unanswered.
I moved cautiously around the house. A multi-tiered lawn, landscaped with stone walls and gardens, sloped for the length of a football field to the shore of the big lake. Jutting into the lake was a wide wooden dock; a bass boat, a speedboat, and a luxury yacht were tethered to its pilings. A stone boat house about half the size, yet twice as opulent, as my own house was set a few yards back from the shore. A tall, slim, blond woman in an oversized white turtleneck stepped out of the boat -house. I watched her stroll the length of the shoreline to the dock and over it to the bass boat. She pulled out two life jackets and started back to the boat house. I holstered the Beretta and marched across the lawn. The sight of me startled her. She dropped the life jackets and moved backward, nearly stepping into the lake. I called to her. She recognized me then, halted, and held her ground. Her jaw was set and her fists were clenched when I reached her.
“What do you want, McKenzie?”
“I’m looking for your husband.”
She gestured at my hip. “With a gun?”
“You thought he would be here?”
“Where is your husband, Mrs. Teachwell?”
“I don’t know.”
“Be sure, Mrs. Teachwell. Be very sure you don’t know.”
She glared at me for a few moments. “I haven’t seen him,” she said.
I wondered briefly if she was the “babe” that Victoria had overheard the T-Man speaking to on his cell phone. “You can lie to me all you want, Mrs. Teachwell,” I said. “Not to the FBI. They’ll subpoena phone records, they’ll confiscate your computer—”
“I haven’t seen him since—oh, why are you here, McKenzie? Thomas and I are divorced. Do you understand? Divorced. I’m not a part of his life anymore. He doesn’t want me to be part of his life. He’s—he’s changed.”
I’ll say, I thought. “I need to find him,” I said aloud.
Mrs. Teachwell pressed her fists against her hips in defiance and shook her head.
“It’s serious, Mrs. Teachwell.”
“It wasn’t before?”
“He kidnapped a twelve-year-old girl. He committed murder.”
Mrs. Teachwell shook her head again, only this time it was as if she wanted to shake my words out of her ears.
“It isn’t true.” She turned and faced the lake. “He wouldn’t do that.”
Mrs. Teachwell folded her arms in front of her in self-defense and lowered her head. Her shoulders trembled for a few moments, and I thought she was going to weep. It wasn’t the reaction I expected from a divorced woman who’s had no contact with her ex.
I waited for a few beats, then asked again, “Where is your husband?”
She shook her head violently.
I could have comforted her, I suppose. Rested my hand on her shoulder and told her that it would be all right. I couldn’t bring myself to do it. She had been in love with Thomas Teachwell. I had the impression that she still was. That made her my enemy. I listened to her make some throat sounds, but the tears I expected didn’t come. She spoke to me over her shoulder.
“Mr. McKenzie,” she said.