If Casselman seemed soft, Mellgren looked as hard as fired brick. Lean features, his eyes squinting in the light even though the sun was behind him—he looked like a guy who hated baby ducks, slow dances, and first kisses. His suit jacket was too tight across his chest and I noticed the slight bulge under his left armpit. He was packing.

“He owns all those home stores—you’ve heard of them,” Charlotte added. “Sells appliances and stuff. Refrigerators. Microwaves. All sorts of stuff. Sells it at a discount. Makes a ton.”


Why would a man bring a concealed weapon to a funeral ? I asked myself. Because three of his friends have been murdered within a week. Oh, yeah. Then I remembered that I was armed, too, and pushed the question from my head.

“Next to Brian is Collin Kamp,” Charlotte said. Like Casselman, Kamp was in shape once and could be again if he made the effort before too much more time had passed. “CK Computers.”

“I heard of them.”

“The stores are everywhere. Collin sells at a discount, too. They all sell at a discount. Even John Whelpley …”

I eyed the fourth man. He wore a full beard flecked with gray. Compensating for the lack of hair on his head, I reasoned.

“He sells top-of-the-line fashions from Europe at real low prices. Some of it is awfully chic, too. I often wonder how he does it. Then there was poor Katherine Katzmark. She sold discount kitchenware. And David Bruder sold used cars.”

“What about your husband?” I asked.

“Geno? Geno owns an export packaging company,” she answered proudly. “He’ll pack anything for shipment anywhere in the world and back again—pack it to withstand all conditions, from Minnesota winters to Saudi summers, the vibration of airplanes, the rolling of ships, that sort of thing. It was his company that brought the window-washing equipment over from Germany that they put on top of the IDS Tower. You should have seen it, with the helicopters and everything. It was on the news.”

“I remember that,” I lied.

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“He’s also an expert with documentation, making sure everything gets through customs without a problem. Every country has its own rules, you know.”

“Is your husband here, Charlotte?”

“No. He flew out to Leningrad yesterday morning. Well, I guess they call it St. Petersburg now.”

“When’s he due back?”

“Tomorrow. He hopes to make the ball, but we’ll see. Why? You’re not going to pull a Napoleon Cook on me, are you? Take advantage of a defenseless woman all alone in the hour of her grief?”

“I wouldn’t think of it.”

“Well, think of it,” Charlotte said and started giggling again, prompting even more horrified glances.

When the priest finished, the mourners who had gathered around Napoleon Cook’s coffin began drifting toward their cars. Charlotte shook my hand and said, “Seriously, it was a pleasure meeting you.”

“The pleasure was mine.”

“You’re just saying that because it’s true.” She giggled some more. “Am I going to see you at the ball tomorrow night?”

“Probably not,” I told her.

“I wish I could skip it, too, but Geno says—anyway, I gotta go.”

“Take care,” I told her and watched her stroll toward the cars that lined the cemetery’s narrow street, swinging her purse from the strap like a little girl. I like her, I told myself. Talks too much, though.

I searched the dispersing crowd and found the Casselmans. Warren was shaking hands with a man I didn’t recognize. Lila, the dutiful wife, stood at his side. After Warren and the companion said their good-byes, Warren nudged Lila toward a black limousine. A man dressed in a chauffeur’s uniform appeared and quickly opened the back door and held it until first Lila and then Warren slid inside. Him I recognized immediately, even fully clothed. It was the man in the pale green briefs who had greeted Lila so warmly the evening before.

And people claim daytime soaps are exaggerated.

“What have you seen that I missed?”

Bobby Dunston was resting against the front fender of my Jeep Cherokee when I returned from the graveside.

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

“Same as you. Eyeballing the mourners to see if the killer pays his respects.”

“Unfortunately, the Family Boyz didn’t show.”

“Did you think they would?”

“Should we be talking, Bobby? What would the ATF, FBI, and all the other justice boys say?”

“You sound bitter.”

“I am bitter.”

“You shouldn’t be. They got you out of a jam, whether you admit it or not.”

Bobby gestured to the big Oldsmobile parked directly behind my Cherokee. Alec Baldwin was behind the wheel. He wiggled the fingers of his right hand in greeting.

“I see you brought a date.”

“He brought me.”

My eyes swept from Bobby to Alec and back again. Something wasn’t right. The way Bobby held his arms across his chest in a defensive posture, the way Alec waited patiently in the car …

“What’s going on, Bobby?”

“There’s something I was asked to tell you.”

“Asked or told?”

“David Bruder was right-handed.”

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