I now had a name and an address but no handle on Jamie. Was she married to this guy? His mistress? Employee? I was guessing wife. To learn for sure I drove to the Ramsey County Court House on Fourth and Wabasha in downtown St. Paul, first floor, room 110.
The clerk there regarded me with practiced indifference. She was one of those faceless foot soldiers often found inside the bureaucracy who struggle above all else to remain anonymous, to avoid the attentions of supervisors, coworkers, and clients, who have no desire to distinguish themselves from their fellows, who are little more than government statistics and like it that way. When I asked about marriage records, she quickly led me to the county ledgers. “No smoking,” she said quietly. I thanked her and she moved away just as quickly, relieved that she didn’t have to make a decision.
Marriage licenses in Minnesota are not available online. Nor have they as yet been gathered in a central location. Each county keeps its own and possibly some of them even use computers. Ramsey County was still living in the last century. To locate Jamie’s marriage license I was required to search several large and unwieldy ledgers—one page at a time. Of course, Jamie could have been married in Hennepin County, Washington County, Dakota County, or any of Minnesota’s other eighty-seven counties, for that matter. Only she apparently lived in St. Paul, which is in Ramsey County, so I took a shot. After ninety minutes and two paper cuts I discovered that Bruder, David Christopher had married Kincaid, Jamie Anne, on June 20th two years earlier.
I left the Ramsey County Vital Records feeling pretty smug—Bobby Dunston had nothing on me. I sequestered myself in an old-fashioned telephone booth, the kind superheroes change their clothes in, and searched the St. Paul directory for Bruder’s number. I punched it up on my cell phone. A voice as pure as sunlight told me that David and Jamie were unable to come to the phone, but if I was kind enough to leave a message, they would call back. I declined.
I was hungry again when I left the courthouse and I wasn’t in the mood to sit alone in a restaurant. Instead I stopped at the gleaming hot dog cart on 4th Street.
The vendor was named Yu, a soft-spoken Korean immigrant, who wore a bright red T-shirt and a tan and black baseball cap with JOE’S DOGS spelled out above the brim. She knew me well enough to wave, but not to give me priority over the customers lined six deep in front of her cart. When it came my turn, she stuffed a Polish sausage into a poppy seed bun and dug out a Dr Pepper from the cooler without waiting to be asked.
“McKenzie,” she said in her sweet accent. “Good see you.”
“Good to see you, Yu,” I said as I handed her a five and told her to keep the change. “How’s business?”
“Business good when weather good.” She looked up. The sky was a thin blue and empty of clouds. “Good today.”
We chatted about the weather for a bit until several other hungry customers took my place in front of the cart. Six bites and a few swigs of pop later I was back in my SUV.
The traffic was light and it took me only ten minutes to reach Highland Park. I drove west on Randolph, missed my turn, and ended up motoring past the sprawling campus of Cretin-Derham Hall, the private high school that was alma mater to Paul Molitor, Steve Walsh, Chris Weinke, Corbin Lacina, Joe Mauer, and several other professional athletes as well as many of St. Paul’s movers and shakers. I would have liked to have gone to Cretin, except I didn’t have the money and I couldn’t hit a breaking ball. I was forced to attend public high school, instead—not that I’m bitter or anything. I flipped an illegal U-turn, back-tracked to Edgecumbe Road and went south into the part of Highland Park that smelled most of money.
A few more turns and I found the Bruder house, a large, brick structure shaded by a balanced mixture of birch and evergreens. In some places it would have been called an estate. The house was perched atop a small hill on a corner lot. I parked in front of a sidewalk that meandered from the curb to the front door. I drove a fully loaded, steel blue Jeep Grand Cherokee 4 X 4 Limited valued at nearly $40,000, yet I was sure if I left it there too long, it would be removed as litter.