I began to see things beneath the cabin while I waited to regain my breath—canvas lawn chairs, old planks, a stack of red-tinged shingles, an ax, a metal minnow bucket, a boat anchor, a busted oar, the cracked windshield of a speed boat—only it was the brown earth that seemed most out of place. With all the snow around, it seemed incongruous that this small patch of dirt would remain unmolested.
I pulled off my right chopper with my teeth. Underneath it I was wearing a knit glove, yet even with that protection I could feel the heat leaving my hand and the bitter cold settling in. I unsnapped a pocket of my snowmobile suit and pulled out my 9 mm Heckler & Koch, as fine an example of precision German engineering as there ever was. I had been issued a Glock like all the other street cops in St. Paul, but I had never liked the grip. That’s why I was carrying the 12-gauge pump when I killed the suspect outside the convenience store six months earlier, because I didn’t like the grip. It was something I still thought about late at night … .
Moving in a low crouch, I swung out from under the cabin and edged along the elevated wall to the front. The owners had built a redwood deck leading to the door, and it made me pause. God knew I didn’t want Teachwell to hear me coming, and creaking planks would be a dead giveaway, emphasis on dead. I slipped to the edge of the deck where I could get a good look at the entrance. There was a screen door and behind it another door made of solid wood. Around the lock I could see the unmistakable gouges left by a pry bar. Teachwell didn’t have a key—he had forced the lock to gain entry.
I crept back to the steps. There were six of them. The door was another six strides from the top. I squeezed the gun tightly. It featured a cocking lever built into the grip. Fifteen pounds of pressure compressed the lever and cocked the gun. When it was fired, the mechanism would recock automatically as long as I held down the lever. Release the lever, and the gun was deactivated. The lever allowed me to carry the Heckler & Koch safely with a round in the chamber. Only it occurred to me as I readied myself to hit the door that I had never fired the 9mm with a glove on.
I cursed silently, removed the knit glove and gripped the frozen metal with my bare hand. My fingers were exposed only for a few moments and I was astonished at how swiftly numbness set in. I transferred the piece to my gloved hand, slapped my bare hand against my chest, flexed the fingers, then gripped the Heckler & Koch again. It certainly was cold. That, as much as anything, propelled me up the steps—I needed to get out of the cold. I flung open the screen door and rammed the inside door with my shoulder even as I twisted the handle. I had guessed right, the lock was broken. The door opened so quickly that I nearly lost my balance. I was four steps inside the cabin before I recovered.
The cabin consisted of one room. There were several wooden columns to support the roof, but no interior walls save for those that enclosed the bathroom. In one corner was a kitchen table, refrigerator, stove and sink; in a second were two regular-size beds and two sets of bunk beds; in the third I saw several metal cabinets, and in the fourth there was a fireplace. The fireplace was working. Sitting in a wooden chair in front of the fire was Teachwell. He held a book in his hand, an index finger marking his place. His expression was one of complete surprise.
I brought the gun up and sighted on his chest, my legs spread, weight evenly distributed, my left hand supporting the right.
I couldn’t believe I said that.
“What … ?”
“Don’t move!” I cried.
“Who are you?” Teachwell wanted to know. Teachwell was five-eight and carried sixty pounds more than was healthy. He was wearing a white dress shirt, slacks that looked like the bottom half of a business suit, and wing tips. His hair, what there was of it, was white and his face had the pasty cast of a man who never went outside. He looked about as threatening as a Twinkie, only I was never one to take chances.
“Stand up!” I barked.
Teachwell seemed confused. I repeated the order. He set the book carefully on the chair as he rose.
“Turn around.” Teachwell hesitated. “Now.”
The man turned.
“Hands against the fireplace.”
Teachwell did as he was told, extending his hands until the palms rested on the fireplace mantel. Without prompting, he moved his legs back and spread them apart. Just like in the movies. I closed the cabin door and removed my other mitten and glove with my teeth. I frisked Teachwell from top to bottom, all the while making sure he could feel the muzzle of the gun against his spine. Satisfied, I stepped back and ordered the businessman to the chair.
“Hands behind your head,” I added.
Teachwell locked the fingers of both hands behind his neck and repeated the question he had asked earlier. “Who are you?”
“McKenzie. St. Paul Police Department.”
“You’re a long way from home, Officer McKenzie.”
I brushed the hood back and removed my ski mask. The ice that had frozen to my eyebrows and lashes was melting now and I wiped the moisture away with my sleeve.
“Mr. Teachwell, you’re under arrest.” Bobby’s going to love this, I told myself. I recited his rights. When I finished I said, “Now, where’s the money?”