Home > Righteous Prey (Lucas Davenport #32)(5)

Righteous Prey (Lucas Davenport #32)(5)
Author: John Sandford

   Until he got bored.

   The band was particularly disappointing. McGruder sang and played rhythm guitar—rhythm guitar because he’d only learned the chords A, C, D, E, G, plus E minor, A minor, and D minor, because they were easy. He simply couldn’t do bar chords, which the B and F required, because the strings fell in the cracks of his index finger.

   He also wrote some songs, three or four chords each. He thought they were pretty good, until he overheard the bass player, in discussing the music they were playing, refer to him as “the dipshit.”

   He’d fired her that same night but hadn’t since been able to escape the secret feeling that he might actually be a dipshit. Even with all the money, the tactical stuff, the karate, the jumping out of airplanes, the high-end pussy. When he was at Harvard, he’d never been one of the guys invited to go out and drink until they were projectile vomiting, or to drive a rental car to Miami and back on a four-day weekend.

   Because, he suspected, nobody liked him. Not even his parents—his parents least of all. He couldn’t imagine what his mother was thinking when she bore him. Must have thought she was getting some kind of stuffed toy, like you’d win at a carnival.

   So here he was, a simmering human soup of resentment, creeping across Hillary Sikes’ yard, dressed in dark green and in black. Halfway across, it occurred to him that dark clothing might not be the best camouflage in a snow-covered landscape. Whatever. At the corner of the garage, he pulled off his backpack, slowly, slowly, and extracted a Japanese chef’s knife with a fat nine-inch blade. The knife was sharp enough to cut through a thread floating in the air.

   McGruder was wearing cross-country ski gloves made of leather and nylon fabric, the better to handle the knife. They were uninsulated and his hands were very cold. He touched his pants pocket and the Sharpie was there. He pulled it out and slipped it into his parka’s handwarmer pocket, along with his hands, and waited.

   The frigid Minnesota air held no water and he could feel the hair prickling inside his nose as he breathed. Not since the day he’d cashed the Bitcoin had he felt like this, so alive; the tension, the engagement, gripping him like a fist. He could still back out, but everything had gone so well that he didn’t believe he would.

   There would come a moment, though, when he’d either have to commit, or not. If he didn’t, he never would. That moment was coming.

   Then it did.

   Down the driveway, he saw a flash of light through the inch-wide gap in the security gate panels. A moment later, the gates were fully open and the Lexus SUV rolled up the curving stone driveway as the garage door started up and the interior lights came on. Hillary Sikes slowed as she approached her parking spot. Her summer-only Ferrari Portofino crouched in an adjacent stall like a crimson bullet; not something she’d want to ding, McGruder thought, so she shouldn’t be looking into the rearview mirror.

   But you never knew, did you? That you couldn’t know was part of the thrill. If she saw him, locked the car and called the cops, he’d be in real trouble.

   With that thought blundering through his brain, McGruder pulled the pin.

   As the car edged into the garage, for a second it blocked the camera that covered the driveway. McGruder lurched forward, duckwalking, at first beside the car. Then, as it drove deeper into the garage, he moved behind it, holding his breath against the exhaust. The garage door rolled down behind him.

   The garage was heated and Sikes swiveled and stepped down from the seat of the Lexus, scarlet Manolo Blahnik BB pumps flashing below an ankle-length silver fox coat; the coat was hanging open.

   Sikes walked briskly around the back of the car, jingling her car keys, and then opened her mouth to scream as McGruder lurched up and slipped the chef’s knife into her chest below the breastbone, angled upward to slice through her heart. He simultaneously slapped a gloved hand over her mouth to smother any scream.

   Through the thin leather of his knife-hand glove, he could feel her heart thrashing against the blade. He pressed her against the car and the scream never made it out of the garage. She died there, lying like a murdered silver fox in a puddle of purple blood. McGruder extracted the blade from her chest, wiped it on her blouse, swiveled, dropped it in the pack. Took the Sharpie from his coat pocket and wrote the numeral “3” above Sikes’ half-open eyes.

   He stood, looked down at her, awaiting the rush: and oddly, he didn’t feel much. A deceased woman, lying on a concrete floor. Nothing to do with him . . .

   One of her pumps had come off. He picked it up, looked at it in the overhead light, turning it, and then impulsively pulled the pump off her other foot and put them both in his backpack. For the trophy room he’d someday build. Ten seconds later, he was out through the garage access door; moving slowly across a short open space and then behind the bridal wreath, to the wall and over.

   The neighborhood, part of the lake country west of Minneapolis, was heavily treed. His car was a quarter mile away, in a lakeside parking lot with two dozen others, kids and parents out on the ice, whacking a puck around. The road was actually a lane, barely wide enough for two cars to pass, trees right down to the edge of the tarmac, with almost no traffic.

   He stayed at the very edge of the lane except when a car went by—there was only one—and then he stepped behind a bush where he would be invisible. At the parking lot, he waited until there was no one walking toward a car, then hurried across the lane to his Subaru Outback.

   He drove a mile out, stopped on a dark back road to pull the stolen plates off his car. They went across a fence into a snowdrift. Another few miles, he was on I-494, following the loop around the Twin Cities to an intersection with I-94 east of St. Paul. On the way, he took a burner phone out of his pocket and called a number he’d already entered.

   The woman on the other end asked, playfully, “How’s my boy?”

   He said, “Done. With the knife. She was wearing a silver fox fur coat, if you need a detail for the press release. It was soaking up her blood when I left.” He didn’t mention the shoes.

   “How do you feel?”

   He thought about it for a moment, then came up with the word: “Ebullient.”


* * *



   AT I-94, MCGRUDER turned east, crossed the St. Croix River into Wisconsin. Forty minutes later, at Menomonie, Wisconsin, the first flakes of snow began bouncing off his windshield. Hadn’t counted on snow. He peered up at the sky but could see nothing at all.

   By the time he reached Eau Claire, he was driving thirty miles an hour on the interstate, through a tunnel of snow defined by his headlights and by the winking red taillights of a semitrailer ahead of him. He could see an occasional flash of lightning in the sky. He eased around the exit at Eau Claire and headed north.

   Driving was still difficult, but he was only going a few blocks up the hill. Now moving at ten miles an hour, alone on the street, he took a left, stopped to look at the street sign to make sure he had it right—he did—and then continued through the business park. Slowing again, he found the building he used as a landmark, then turned onto a dirt trail. Another hundred yards and he saw a pile of broken blacktop, another landmark.

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