Home > Righteous Prey (Lucas Davenport #32)(7)

Righteous Prey (Lucas Davenport #32)(7)
Author: John Sandford

   Daniels’ wife said Blue could go fuck herself, if she wasn’t too busy fucking everybody else in Houston, and she wasn’t getting a dime. In Hollywood, a screenwriter thought the murders might be a concept. He noted the liberal tendency reflected in the press releases and began trying to sell it to Amazon and Netflix as a series to be called The Antifa Assassins.

   The sensation had not abated when Three was found dead in her Minnesota garage.

   Virgil had the best clearance rate in the BCA. Sometimes, when the suits got nervous, his reputation jumped up and bit him on the ass. Virgil told Frankie what Duncan had said and she scrambled off the bed and down the stairs, calling, “It’s really cold outside. You’ll need a hot breakfast.”

   Virgil kept a bug-out bag because he often travelled on short notice. After a fast shower and shave, he added a dressy blue cashmere sweater he’d gotten for Christmas, and a Glock semi-automatic pistol, to the top of the bag, pulled on a pair of Vasque winter hiking boots, and headed down the stairs.

   The farmhouse had been built in the 1940s, a couple of years after World War II, and the kitchen smelled like all the soups that had been made there since; it currently still held the lingering odor of the balsam fir they’d put up for Christmas and left up until after New Year’s. In his spare time, Virgil, along with Frankie’s older kids, had done some modest modernizing, mostly out of sight. The well water no longer smelled of ancient cow manure.

   “Eat,” Frankie said. “Cream of Wheat with brown sugar and half and half. I made extra coffee and got out the Yeti bottle. Three! I mean . . . You’re gonna be famous.”

   “We’re not there, yet,” Virgil said.

   He was a tall man, lanky, casual, blue-eyed with blond hair worn too long for a BCA agent; he had smile lines on his cheeks and a few worry lines on his forehead. He might have been a surfer, if Minnesota had surf.

   He worked out of his home office, covering the southern third of Minnesota, with the authority to call on the St. Paul headquarters for backup when he needed it. He ate three-fourths of the Cream of Wheat and gave the rest of it to Honus, who sat quietly drooling on the floor next to his boots.

   Frankie said, “Number Three. I’ll probably be on the network morning shows—Virgil Flowers’ paramour—to tell them how modest you are and how you broke it. Maybe that red silk blouse with the cleavage. Something hot.”

   Frankie was a short, busty blonde with the face of a fallen angel, who salvaged old buildings for a living. She and Virgil, cooperating, had produced the set of twins, one of each, and someday might get married. Frankie insisted on hearing about Virgil’s murder cases, in detail, with an emphasis on the blood shed by the villains, as she called them.

   “Everything you wear is hot,” Virgil said, “Because you’re in it.” He got his parka, ski hat, and winter gloves, kissed her goodbye. “This is gonna be a mess.”

   One of the twins began to cry in the second upstairs bedroom and then Sam, Frankie’s twelve-year-old son by another father, came out of his first-floor bedroom rubbing his eyes, looking cranky, and asked, “What the fuck is going on?”

   “Say ‘fuck’ again and I’ll kick your ass up around your ears,” Virgil said. “I’ll see you guys when I see you.”

   Sam scratched his stomach and said, “Shoot somebody for a change, huh?”

   “Don’t forget the Yeti,” Frankie said, and Virgil snagged the bottle as he went out the door.

   A thermometer on the back porch said it was seven degrees below zero. Virgil crunched across the crystalline snow to the garage, backed his Tahoe out, and pointed it north toward the Twin Cities. The farm had recently been expanded to include a stable, a barn, and two horses. A forever-uncelebrated side effect of the Three murder was that Virgil wouldn’t be shoveling horseshit on this particular morning.

   Which was good, because it was frosty. A weather forecast from a local radio station predicted temperatures would rise to three degrees above zero by noon, before falling again. The fields around the house were covered by a thin coat of snow, with a shiny, frozen surface that glittered orange when the sun peeked over the horizon.

   They hadn’t had snow for three weeks, and not much then, just missing a storm that had hit the Twin Cities two days earlier. The drive north to the Cities was uneventful, on mostly clear highways, much of it following the Minnesota River north, the river marked by a bosque of barren gray trees. At one point, outside the town of St. Peter, he saw a murder of crows dive-bombing one of the trees, and assumed an owl was lurking there, the mortal enemy of corvids everywhere.

   The snow had gotten deeper as he drove north, showing signs of drifting by the time he crossed the I-494 ring highway. Duncan called again, with an address and information about the victim, Hillary Sikes, and told him to drive faster. Virgil arrived at Sikes’ home at nine o’clock, an hour and a half after the first call from Duncan. At a checkpoint a block out from the house, a local cop checked his ID and waved him through.

   Sikes’ driveway looked like a police union convention, a dozen cops in and around the driveway in groups of two and three, all wearing Covid masks, and pumping gouts of steam into the frigid air as they talked. Virgil found a parking spot up the narrow street, put on a mask, and walked back.

   Lucas Davenport, an old friend and a U.S. Marshal, had his butt propped against the front fender of an SUV. He was wearing a blue Patagonia parka with the hood down, jeans, boots, sunglasses, and a mask. He nodded when he saw Virgil coming.

   Virgil said, “So?”

   “Crime scene still at work,” Lucas said. “Body was found by the live-in housekeeper who got up at six-thirty and wondered why nobody had slept in the victim’s bed. She looked in the garage and called the cops. The cops called the BCA, and the BCA called the FBI. Looks like Sikes was stabbed to death by somebody who knew where the security cameras were. He came over the side wall, crawled along the bushes by the swimming pool and then waited by the garage door.”

   “Tracks in the snow?”

   “Guy had long, narrow feet. Or long narrow shoes,” Lucas said. “Might have been dropped off and then picked up by the wall, so there could be two people involved.”

   “Other security cameras?”

   “Looking into it, but the houses here are set back in the woods and have driveways that curve up through a lot of trees. The cameras are on the houses, and don’t monitor the road.”

   “You look pretty relaxed,” Virgil said.

   “I’m not standing in front of a media firing squad, like some people,” Lucas said, with a grin. “This is gonna be a shit show.”

   Lucas was as tall as Virgil, with a heavier build, blue eyes, dark hair shot with gray at the temples. A scar tracked across his forehead from hairline to eyebrow, then continued on a cheek, the result of a fishing accident.

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