“I’m not going to tell you if you’re just going to shoot me anyway.”

Another theatrical sigh, and I lowered my gun just so. “Don’t worry about it, Karen.” I was going for weary resignation, trying to make her feel that nothing bad was going to happen. “Too many people have died over this already.”

“The money is in the suitcase.”

“Yeah, that’s what I figured. I just wanted to make sure.”

“You said ten percent.”

“To hell with that.”

“You said—”

“You knew when DuWayne Middleton gave up Donny Orrick it was only a matter of time before I identified Teachwell. You told him that he had one last chance to get me. You offered him a trade, didn’t you? You traded Nina’s name for the money. Didn’t you?”

“I had no choice.”

“None at all,” I said.

Karen glared at me. “Take it and go,” she said.

I brought my gun back up and sighted between her breasts. “Just leave you here? I don’t think so.”

“You said—”

“People were hurt because of you, Karen. People died.” I counted seven but only listed four. “Then there was Victoria. An innocent. A child. There’s a separate hell for people like you, Karen. For people who hurt children. I’m going to send you there.”

“You said you wouldn’t shoot me!”

“You hurt my friend’s daughter—a child I love as well as if she were my very own. Did you honestly think I was going to let you get away with that?”

“You promised.”

“I made a promise to Bobby Dunston, too. Not in so many words, but a promise just the same.”

“McKenzie, please.”

“I promised to kill the bastards who terrorized his daughter.”

“You like me. I know you do.”

“Two are already dead.”


“You’re the only one left.”


“Say good-bye, Karen.”


I squeezed the trigger.


Karen’s eyes were wide and unblinking, her breath a locomotive’s chug. “You, you—you’re insane!” she cried.

“You betcha.”

Five minutes later I was standing in Karen’s front yard. My shirt was unbuttoned, and Harry was pulling at the tape that held the body wire to my chest.

“On the count of three,” he said. “One, two—” and he ripped off the tape.

I cried out in pain. “That was cold, man,”

“What were you thinking, pulling a gun on her, making her squirm like that?”

“She had it coming.”

“Yeah, but a good defense attorney might be able to do something with it.”

“She confessed before I pulled my gun, which was in self-defense, I might add. Besides, you have the money. Now that you know the rest of the story, it should be easy for you to put all the evidence together. You probably won’t even need the tape.”

“It’s already happening. The gun we took off Teachwell’s body, it was used to kill both Scottie and Tommy Thomforde. And Schroeder’s operative. Guess who bought it?”


“It’s not as easy for ex-cons to get firearms as people believe.”

“Why did Teachwell shoot Tommy, do you think?”

“We spoke to Tommy’s ex. She said that he said that he was about to come into some serious cash. We think Scottie must have let something slip when he was drinking with Tommy at Lehane’s. Tommy was probably using the information for blackmail. You said it yourself—he needed money.”

“That’s what it’s always about, isn’t it? Money.”

“Tell me something.”


“Just between us—you were wired, you knew we were listening in. But if we hadn’t been here, would you have?”

“Would I have what?”

“Killed her, McKenzie. Would you have killed Karen?”

“If I had wanted to kill her, I wouldn’t have called you.”

“With us waiting outside, it gave you a good excuse for not killing her. I understand. I wonder if Bobby will.”

Just So You Know

Contrary to popular opinion, victim impact statements don’t usually affect sentencing. Most prison terms imposed are mainly the result of plea agreements or strict adherence to sentencing guidelines. So when Victoria Dunston rose in federal court to confront Karen Studder at her sentencing, we knew that it wasn’t going to accomplish much except, possibly, to give her some emotional closure. Only she didn’t address Karen. Victoria stared at her long enough for all of us to get nervous about it, but then turned to the judge and said, “I have nothing to say to her. I did, I mean, I thought I did. I had a nice speech I memorized, only I think I’d rather talk to you.”

“Go ahead, young lady,” said the judge.

“I thought that this was going to be okay, coming to court and everything. Only it’s not what I expected. I don’t feel any better. I feel—I kinda feel worse because nothing bad is gonna happen to her. Not really bad, you know? I wanted something bad to happen to her. I wanted her to die.”