I gave a formal statement to a neatly pressed stenographer in a white interrogation room in the cleanest police station I had ever seen. The building was one of those flat, ultra-modern, energy-efficient, multipurpose brick jobs that also housed most of the suburb’s other facilities—city hall, community center, parks and recreation, water treatment plant. It was next to a sprawling network of baseball diamonds, football and soccer fields, six well-kept tennis courts, and a fenced-in obstacle course where teenage extremists could practice death-defying feats on skateboards. If I had been their age, I probably would have joined them.
After I finished, Officer Johnson sat me in a molded plastic chair outside an oak door. On the door at about eye level if you’re six feet was a name plate that read, CHIEF B. CASEY. I made me think of Bernie Casey, who was a wide receiver for the Rams before he became a pretty good actor and painter. Nowadays, anyone who can do two things well is considered a Renaissance man. Three things and you’re off the charts, people don’t know what to call you.
“What does the ‘B’ stand for,” I asked Johnson.
“Bart. But don’t call him that. He doesn’t like it.”
I could relate to that.
Across from my chair was a glass display case. While I waited, I studied its contents: 9 mm Intratec spring knife, .22 carbine with bayonet, 12-gauge shotgun, nunchucks, timing chain, Louisville Slugger, and a rusted tire iron. A typed index card taped to the outside of the case read: “Weapons used to attack St. Anthony Village police officers in the month of August.” I shuddered, wondering what September would bring.
Some time after noon Chief Casey arrived.
“Inside,” he said, hurrying past me.
His office was small and windowless and extremely cluttered. The chief sat behind a dark wood desk that was far too big for the room and motioned me to the only chair that was empty.
The chief read my statement twice. When he finished, he told me to sign it.
He said, “The assistant county attorney wants to speak with you.”
“Don’t go anywhere I can’t find you.”
He had no right to say that. Unless you’re actually charged with a crime, you have every legal right to go anywhere you please, even France. Only I didn’t argue the point. Where would I go?
“Johnson,” he called.
Officer Johnson and I did a dance number in the doorway until we figured a safe way to pass each other. As I left I heard the chief speak sternly to him.
“Johnson, I don’t like cops who are loose with their hands.”
It took an hour to drive home, feed the ducks, take a shower, get dressed again, and snap a holstered 9 mm Beretta to my belt. The Beretta nine-millimeter is the official sidearm of the United States Armed Forces and is the standard issue of law enforcement agencies throughout the country, including Minneapolis. If the St. Paul cops had used it instead of the Glock 17, my whole life might have been different.
I slipped a black sport coat over the Beretta and stared at myself in the full-length mirror. The gun was properly concealed. No one would know it was there. But I knew.
I hate guns.
The street where Jamie Carlson Bruder lived was empty. No surprise there. You live in a half-million-dollar house, how often would you go outside? And quiet—well, that’s why people bought half-million-dollar homes in this neighborhood, because it was quiet. Yet something was terribly wrong. I felt it as I parked my SUV in the same spot as the evening before and walked to Jamie’s front door. I knew it in the same way that I knew my mother had died before anyone had the chance to tell me.
I used the doorbell, then knocked loudly. When no one answered, I circled the house, peeking into windows as I went, ignoring this time the trellis of roses. There was no BMW in the driveway, no beautiful blond scratching in the dirt. I pounded hard on the back door. No reply. It was only seventy-five, but it felt a good twenty degrees warmer. I used the back of my hand to wipe sweat off my forehead.
Colin Gernes used to like burglars, would speak longingly of the good old days when burglars were gentlemen thieves who gently jimmied windows and doors, who were actually considerate of their victim’s possessions, who never carried, never hurt anyone—Gernes’s kind of crook. That was before cocaine. That was before junkies gave burglary a bad name by smashing windows with bricks and hammers, beating, raping, and killing anyone unfortunate enough to be inside, running off with the loot to their junkie fence for ten cents on the dollar or a gram of low-grade dope. That’s what I was thinking of as I slipped the burglary tools out of my inside jacket pocket—the “new” burglar.
The tools were illegal for me to carry—a stiff “wire” and the pick I made myself, a long, narrow piece of hard metal with a tiny L on one end. I used them to work Bruder’s cheap lock, cursing him when it sprang and the door swung open. A five-hundred-thousand-dollar house and a $2.99 lock. “Call this protection?” A pro could have managed the job in less than thirty seconds. It took me about three minutes.