Suddenly, there were ten people in the conference room, including the Minneapolis police chief. None of them were sitting. Instead they were gathered in a knot at the far end of the room around a tall man wearing a dark blue suit with black hair slicked back like the movie star Alec Baldwin. Standing next to him was a smaller man—thin, grizzled, brown suit—who looked like he’d lived three lifetimes already and was working on his fourth. He reminded me of Harry Dean Stanton, one of my favorite character actors. Alec was doing most of the talking, with Harry adding the occasional comment.
Bobby excused himself from the group and approached us as if he had been waiting impatiently for our arrival. “They want you,” he told Rask. I made a move to join the group but Dunston put a hand on my chest to keep me in place.
“Who are those guys, Bobby?”
“Tall man in blue is ATF. Small man in brown is FBI.”
“What’s going on?”
“Listen to me. Are you listening to me, McKenzie? Don’t say a word, not to anyone. Don’t ask questions. Just go home.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Just like that?”
“Exactly like that.”
“I can’t tell you anything. In a couple of days, maybe. Right now you have to leave.”
“By whose order? The Department of Justice?”
“Remember what I said Saturday night? About you being the best friend I’ll ever have? Well, right now I’m the best friend you’ll ever have. Do what I say. Don’t make a fuss. Just go home.”
I looked past him at the knot of men, picking out Thompson’s face. The way he glared at me, it was like he was daring me to do something, anything.
“Ever have the feeling you’ve been invited for drinks but everyone else is staying for dinner?”
“Frequently,” Bobby told me.
I turned to leave. Bobby laid a gentle hand on my arm. “When you get home, stay there.”
“Because honest to God, McKenzie, you’re in way over your head this time and you’re probably going to get yourself killed.”
Several hours later the chief of the Minneapolis Police Department, dressed in full regalia, stood before a phalanx of reporters, Thomas Thompson at his side. He calmly told them that David Christopher Bruder, a suspect in the brutal murders of two women in St. Paul, had been shot and killed in downtown Minneapolis earlier that afternoon by persons or person unknown, along with a Golden Valley woman who was unfortunate enough to be standing next to him at the stoplight. Three others were wounded, he added, one in critical condition at the Hennepin County Medical Center, names were being withheld pending notification of family members. A full-scale investigation into the shooting had been mounted and certain suspects had been identified, although the chief declined to identify them at this time. As for the Bruder murder investigation, additional information, such as the whereabouts of Bruder’s infant son, Thomas Christopher, would be released by the St. Paul Police Department as soon as it was confirmed.
A reporter asked if the shooting was gang related.
The chief would not speculate at this time.
The reporter persisted, suggesting that “a drive-by shooting” would seem to indicate gang violence.
Again the chief refused to speculate.
What other possibilities existed?
The chief wouldn’t say.
Next it was Thompson’s turn, acting for the St. Paul Police Department. Only one station carried the news conference live but Thompson acted as if he had an audience of millions. There were a lot of “I”s in his address. Yet despite the fact that his statement was twice as long, in the end he had nothing more to add to what the chief had already said. The only favorable comment I could make about his performance was that he didn’t once mention my name.
I lay on my sofa and listened as Cecilia Bartoli sang eighteenth-century Italian songs. Cecilia’s magnificent voice climbed to a ridiculously high note, danced on top of it for a while, and then slid effortlessly down the other side. One song in particular—a simple, straightforward aria by Alessandro Parisotti—aroused my interest enough to check the English translation in the liner notes:
I no longer feel
the sparkle of youth in my heart
“Ain’t that the truth,” I told the empty room.
I closed my eyes.
A sense of unfinished business fell about me like a heavy shroud that provides no warmth. It had been a long, emotionally exhausting day. I just wanted it to end. I should have been so lucky. At seven-thirty-five p.m. the telephone rang.
“The eagle has landed,” a woman said.
“Excuse me?” I was groggy from my nap and the reference went right over my head.
“This is Nina.”
“Hester is here.”
That woke me up.