Home > Righteous Prey (Lucas Davenport #32)(6)

Righteous Prey (Lucas Davenport #32)(6)
Author: John Sandford

   Head down, he got out of the car, took a flashlight from his pack, and checked his location. He needed to pull forward another ten feet, and then make a left turn. He got back in the car and did that.

   With the car now wedged between two fifteen-foot piles of dirt, he parked, and again got out into the storm. He had two two-gallon plastic containers of gasoline in the back seat. He got them out, and, hunched against the wildly blowing snow, poured the gas through the passenger compartment.

   When he’d finished, he threw the two containers onto the back seat, opened all the windows and doors, took a wadded piece of computer printer paper out of his parka pocket, lit it with a BIC lighter, and threw the burning paper into the car.

   The gasoline flashed into roaring flame, singeing his eyebrows. He stepped away, then hurried on foot back the way he’d come. He had a good long trek ahead of him, but he was wearing the world’s warmest parka, and with his head bent against the wind, he trudged toward the University of Wisconsin campus.

   Overhead, there was a flash and a peal of thunder. Thundersnow usually didn’t last long; it hadn’t been snowing twenty miles west of Eau Claire, and he believed that like most thunderstorms, this one would be moving east. He’d get to his car, wait the storm out, and then head back to the Cities.

   If he pushed it, he might have time to drop by a club. He was well known at a couple of them and they all had security cameras. If he could get his face on a camera, the night of the murder, that’d be icing on the cake.

   And he would greatly enjoy himself, and enjoy the mental image of the asshole lying on the cold concrete of her garage floor. He might even try walking around in her shoes that night.

 

 

TWO


   Murders done by Night People often aren’t found until the Day People begin to stir. That was the case with Hillary Sikes. Her housekeeper, who lived in an apartment at the back of the house, got up at 6:30, took a shower and dressed, and headed for the kitchen.

   Sikes usually ate two scrambled eggs with Canadian bacon and a cup of vanilla yogurt with strawberry, raspberry, or blueberry jam stirred in. Sikes was an early riser, and the housekeeper could usually hear her thumping around in the bedroom suite—she had a heavy tread.

   This morning, the housekeeper heard nothing at all . . . what she thought (later) was a foreboding silence. She went to the bedroom door and knocked.

   “Miz Sikes? You know what kind of jam you want in the yogurt?”

   No answer.

   She tried again: “Miz Sikes?”

   No answer.

   She pushed open the door, far enough to peek into the bedroom, and saw the bed had been undisturbed since she’d made it the day before.

   When she thought about it for a moment, she hadn’t heard the television the night before, she hadn’t seen lights come on or off . . . though she thought she’d heard the garage door going up and down.

   Confused, she went to the garage and looked inside, and saw the Lexus in its normal parking space. She later told the cops she didn’t know exactly why she did it, but she walked past the Ferrari to look in the Lexus . . .

   And saw the body in its puddle of blood.

   She didn’t immediately scream. Instead, she walked back into the kitchen, got her cell phone, dialed 9-1-1, and when the operator asked, “Is this an emergency?” she opened her mouth to say “yes,” but instead, she began screaming uncontrollably.

   She was sitting on the front porch, in minus-ten temperatures, wrapped in nothing but a quilted housecoat and already suffering from hypothermia, when the cops arrived.

 

* * *

 

   —

   VIRGIL FLOWERS WAS hard asleep at 7:45 when his cell phone rang and Frankie groaned, “Damnit. Somebody’s dead and it’s ten below.”

   Virgil crawled across both her and Honus the Yellow Dog, who snuck up between them on cold nights, to the nightstand. He picked up his phone and looked at the screen: Jon Duncan, his nominal boss at the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

   He put the phone to his ear and asked, “What?”

   “Minnetonka, right now,” Duncan said. “You’ll need to bring some working clothes in case you have to stay a few days. I’ll get you an address and the rest of it as soon as I can.”

   “Man, I . . .”

   “Number Three was killed in Minnetonka.”

   Virgil could hear the capital letters, but they didn’t register for a second. Then he lurched upright: “Not here.”

   “It’s real,” Duncan said. “The newsies started getting press releases right after midnight. The feds are on the way, we’re on the way. The locals are there but standing back. We need you. I’ll see you in Minnetonka.”

   Virgil had been up late, putting the final touches on his novel. At one o’clock that morning, he’d punched the computer key that would send the manuscript to New York, then lay awake for two hours assailed by thoughts of writerly inadequacy. Now this, with four hours of sleep.

   Mostly because of Frankie’s interest—she was a news junkie and had an instinct for things that were about to blow up on the media—Virgil had been following the investigations into the two “Five” murders, as they were now being called.

   When the first press release had landed in the emails of fifty selected journalists, several of them had called the San Francisco cops on the off chance there was something to it. The San Francisco police spokesman said it was unlikely that anybody would have time to search downtown alleys in the middle of the night, based on an anonymous press release, but they’d get to it as soon as they could.

   When they finally did, at six o’clock in the morning, they admitted that there was a dead Duck Wiggins lying in an alley with ligature marks around his neck and the numeral “1” written in black ink on his forehead.

   On the second killing, the Houston cops had at first denied knowledge of a murder at the Asiatic, and then—whoops—admitted that there might have been a body there, behind the dumpster.

   They refused to identify the body before notification of next of kin, but reporters for the Houston Chronicle were told, privately, that the dead man did, in fact, resemble U.S. Representative Clayton “Jack” Daniels. There had been no political meetings at the Asiatic that night; no real reason for Daniels to be there . . . at least none until the police took the tip from the Five. They found the fingerprints of Bonnie “Bunny” Blue, a sometime actress, on the headboard of the bed in the room rented that night by a “Bob Brown.”

   Blue was mostly known for her pneumatic breasts and a full-frontal nude scene in the Texas thriller movie Chainsaw Shark-A-Palooza, in which she was eaten (by sharks).

   She didn’t deny being in the room Daniels had rented, for cash, under the name Bob Brown, but had no knowledge of what had happened to him after he left the hotel room. The Daily Mail was the first with the story, followed by the Chronicle and, simultaneously, for some reason, the E! network, which may have paid for a first-person interview. Blue claimed she’d been exploited by the dominant male paradigm of Houston and she planned to sue Daniels’ estate.

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