Home > Righteous Prey (Lucas Davenport #32)(4)

Righteous Prey (Lucas Davenport #32)(4)
Author: John Sandford

   The printer ran for a while, stopped, signaling that it was out of paper. Virgil put more High Bright Boise Multi-Use copy paper in the printer and it started grinding away again. When the last page came out, he moved the edited paper manuscript to the “done” box on his desk and saved the electronic manuscript to his local drive, to the cloud, and to a thumb drive.

   He didn’t want to do it, but he’d need to print out and read the whole paper manuscript one last time after he’d edited all five hundred on-screen pages. Doing that, he’d probably find another five hundred small changes.

   He’d learned that if he read the novel on paper, he could more easily spot problems. It was a pain in the ass but had to be done. He kicked back in his chair and looked at the stack of paper: this one was good, he thought.

   His first effort, the beginner novel, had been naïve. He hadn’t known what he was doing, but he had been learning. The second novel, the practice novel, had been better, but was rejected by a New York literary agent, though she’d been encouraging.

   “You write well,” Esther had said, in a thirty-two-second conversation. “You need more complications, more characters, and you need to spend more time developing them. You need to keep the velocity, but you do have to spend enough time with the characters to make them three-dimensional.”

   He’d done that with this third novel.

 

* * *

 

   —

   THE NEXT MORNING, he woke late—he’d been up until two o’clock—and found his girlfriend, Frankie, sitting in the kitchen, feeding the twins and simultaneously reading the Daily Mail, the American edition, as she did each morning.

   “How’d it go?” she asked.

   “Got up to page three hundred eighty-eight on the rewrite. I’ll finish the inserts tonight.” He got Cheerios from the cupboard and milk from the refrigerator. “One more trip through, and it’s gone.”

   One of the twins poked a Cream of Wheat–covered spoon at him and said, “Da,” looked confused for a moment, then went back to her Cream of Wheat. Frankie said, “Good. You’re gonna sell this one.”

   “From your lips to God’s ears,” Virgil said, settling across the table.

   The Daily Mail was voracious in its search for the very worst things that happened in the United States each day, and now, Frankie said, “A Texas congressman got his throat cut last night. Somebody wrote a ‘2’ on his forehead.”

   Eyebrows up: “Like the ‘1’ in San Francisco?”

   “Exactly. Press release came out before the cops found the body.”

   “Fuckin’ cops,” Virgil said.

   “This is gonna be something,” Frankie said. “Actually, it already is something. I’ll bet you ten American dollars that CNN is all over it this afternoon. Breaking News!”

   “Fuckin’ CNN.”

   The late nights on the novel left him feeling grumpy.

 

* * *

 

   —

       A WEEK AFTER that, it was Jamie McGruder’s turn, the Minnesota ninja warrior in training.

   McGruder slipped over the brick wall and duckwalked across ankle-deep snow and past a line of dormant bridal wreath bushes that edged the swimming pool. He was leaving tracks, but the front two inches of his size thirteen boots were stuffed with paper to make them easier to control on his size ten-and-a-half feet.

   McGruder was a tall young man with dark hair, gray eyes, and long, feminine eyelashes. He was wrapped in a dark green Givenchy down parka ($2,990 from Nordstrom) along with black gloves and a black ski mask. He was wearing a black Tumi backpack. He was a hard body who worked out an hour every day under the eyes of a personal fitness coach. Until six months earlier, he’d never considered murder, not that he personally had anything against it.

   He’d scouted the mansion, inside and out, and knew where the security cameras were located. The closest one was at the corner of the empty swimming pool, but on the far side of the bridal wreath.

   The half owner of the house, Anson Sikes, was in New York. His wife, Hillary Sikes, the other half owner, should be on the move, coming home; she rarely left her office later than six o’clock. The housekeeper was in her apartment at the back of the house. He’d seen her shadow on the window shades.

   McGruder had never served in the military but had taken a dozen courses from the wannabe tactical schools. He’d trained in knife fighting, sniping, pistol shooting, scuba diving, and evasive driving. He’d learned to spot enemies who were following him, in cars, on motorcycles, or on foot, and he’d learned how to lose them.

   He’d spent a year in a boxing gym, where an instructor lied and told him that if he continued to work out for another three years, he’d be ranked in the top ten light-heavies. He’d jumped out of an airplane with a tac pack dangling below him; he had a brown belt in karate and would be a black belt within a year.

   In stalking Hillary Sikes, most of that training had proven to be useless, although, he thought, maybe he could use it someday. And he had a pistol in his pack. He was an excellent shot, even if he said so himself.

   All that training, but never yet knowing the thrill of an actual kill.

   Yet.

   McGruder moved slowly through the expensive snow-covered landscaping, mostly duckwalking, but sometimes on his stomach, as much for the thrill of it, the ninja vibe, as for concealment. He took a full minute to cross the last open space to the corner of the garage and settle there in the soft snow.

   In January 2011, in McGruder’s first year at Harvard, he’d turned eighteen and had received the initial payment from the trust set up by his grandfather: one million dollars. He would receive another million at age twenty-one, another at age twenty-five, and the last million at thirty.

   At eighteen, the twelve years to age thirty seemed like an eternity, and a million, well, it wasn’t really all that much, was it? Not in this day and age. You couldn’t exactly go crazy with it, or you’d find yourself broke. His stingy wastrel parents made him pay his college costs from his trust, but okay, he had that covered. What should he do with the rest? Could he use it to make more?

   The boy had a gambling gene and he’d heard about this thing called Bitcoin. Some ultrasmart computer nerds told him it was going to be big. In February 2011, Bitcoin reached parity with the U.S. dollar and McGruder thought, what the fuck, what else are you going to do with your money? Buy more shoes? Another guitar? He put a hundred and ten thousand dollars into Bitcoin at $1.10. A hundred thousand bitcoins.

   In November 2020, Bitcoin reached $18,000 per coin and he dumped the whole lot, only to curse himself later when Bitcoin got to $60,000. Still, his original investment was worth better than a billion dollars even after he paid his taxes, which he carefully did, and being a self-made billionaire at twenty-eight wasn’t all that bad.

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