“Mr. Teachwell, I have never been so cold in my life,” I told him, although I was feeling much better now that I could see the fire and feel the warmth of the cabin. “I’m tired. I’m hungry. I’m a little scared.” I waved the nine through the air and shouted. “Where in hell is the money!”
Teachwell’s voice didn’t reply, but his eyes did. They glanced at a spot behind my right shoulder. It was a fleeting gesture, yet it was enough. I turned cautiously. Two large, blue, hard-sided suitcases on a bed. I backed away from Teachwell, watching him even as I crossed the cabin, found the handle of one suitcase with my free hand and pulled it off the bed—it must have weighed fifty pounds. I was surprised by its weight. I dragged the suitcase to the kitchen area. It required both hands to hoist the suitcase on top of the table, which meant I had to set down the gun. Teachwell was far enough away that I decided to risk it. He didn’t move.
After regaining my weapon, I unlatched the suitcase and slowly lifted the cover. My ears filled with a loud rushing sound that was like air escaping from a leaking tire. I swallowed hard and the sound stopped. I purposely blinked my eyes once, twice, three times, closed them for a few seconds, opened them again. There were countless stacks of bills held together with rubber bands in the suitcase. Under each rubber band was a torn piece of note paper on which Teachwell had written an amount; $10,000, $20,000, $50,000. I reached out and gingerly touched the green bills before pulling my hand back.
“Mr. Teachwell?” I’m sure he heard the admiration in my voice. “How much money did you steal?”
“Six million, two hundred and fifty-seven thousand, one hundred and sixty-nine dollars.” His voice was confident and clear, a man proud of his accomplishment.
“Wow,” I said.
And then, “Wow,” again.
I slowly closed the suitcase. It hurt my eyes to look at that much cash in one place.
“Mr. Teachwell, I’m impressed.”
“Officer …” Teachwell hesitated, his eyes moving from me to the gun I held loosely in my hand. I waited for it.
“I’ll give you half,” he announced. Teachwell started to rise from the chair, but I gestured him back down again with the Heckler & Koch.
“I’ll give you half,” he repeated. “That’s three million, one hundred twenty-eight thousand, five hundred eighty-four dollars and fifty cents.”
“No way.” I didn’t dispute his math, only his reason.
“Think of it. Think of all that money.”
I shook my head.
“It’s all arranged,” Teachwell continued. “Tomorrow we’re all set to cross the border at Rainy River. From there we go to Winnipeg. In Winnipeg we catch a flight to Quebec. In Quebec we hop a freighter that winds through the Saint Lawrence Seaway and down the east coast. It stops once in New York. We don’t even get off the boat. The next stop is Fortaleza, Brazil. From there, Rio de Janeiro. A man with three million, one hundred twenty-eight thousand, five hundred eighty-four dollars and fifty cents in Rio, you’d live like a god.”
I unsnapped the other pocket of the snowmobile suit and produced my cell phone.
“Think of what you could buy. Think of what you’re giving up!”
I didn’t want to think. Thinking would only lead to trouble. If I started thinking … It certainly was warm in Rio and I wouldn’t mind being treated like a god—it sure beat driving a squad up and down the streets of St. Paul for a living. And after what I had gone through—the ugly accusations, the missed promotions, the publicity—I sure deserved it.
“Take a suitcase. Any suitcase. Just take a suitcase and walk away.”
Just take a suitcase … . The bills were unmarked. Untraceable. If I helped Teachwell escape, who would know?
Stop it, McKenzie! I shouted at myself and shook the thought from my head. Then I had another thought.
“The money is insured, right?”
“I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that you could turn me in and collect a reward and a finder’s fee. Only cops can’t collect rewards or finder’s fees.”
Not St. Paul cops.
Damn, I told myself. I also told myself, It’s been a long time coming.
I activated the cell phone and pressed eleven numbers in quick succession with my thumb. I did it before I could talk myself out if it.
“St. Paul Police Department, Sergeant Hodapp,” a voice answered.
“Sarge, it’s McKenzie.”
“Mac, I thought you were taking the day off.”
“About that. Sarge?”
Stacy Carlson was nine years old and she was dying. Her parents told me so while I watched her playing happily on the front lawn of their home, and the news hit me so hard I nearly lost my breath.
“Does she know?”
“We haven’t told her,” Molly Carlson said. “But, yes, I think she knows. We took her to enough doctors, even took her to the Mayo Clinic.”