Devanter was nowhere to be seen as I cautiously made my way to the Jeep Cherokee, but I could hear the lawn tractor. It sounded a long way off, behind the house. I turned the SUV around and headed down the drive, under the arches, onto the private lane and drove to where it intersected the main road. I found an unobtrusive spot in the shadow of a large oak tree and parked.
Casselman had made a mistake. He should not have trusted his wife to provide an alibi—she had been with Bruder on Tuesday and Cook on Friday. Apparently, he didn’t know.
I switched on my radio, found jazz station KBEM, and waited. During the news break at the top of the hour I learned that one of the three people wounded during the attack on David Bruder had died earlier that morning at the Hennepin County Medical Center. I switched off the radio. That made eight dead since this all began. Good God in heaven.
I waited near the intersection for nearly two hours before Casselman sped past me driving the same Audi Lila had piloted the previous evening. He was alone. I was tempted to follow him as I had followed Napoleon Cook. Instead, I returned to Birchwood.
I parked close to the house and watched for Devanter. I didn’t see him and he didn’t answer when I rang the bell. Nor did Lila. I circled the house, discovering a twenty-five-foot-high wall of red, pink, and yellow roses climbing a trellis fixed to the south face. Beyond the house I found a carefully manicured lawn about the size of a football field that sloped leisurely to Lake Minnetonka. The lake was blue and quiet—boats in the distance gave it a picture postcard appeal. Having a wonderful time, wish you were here. Closer to the back of the house I found Lila standing next to a lounger by a swimming pool the size of a volleyball court. Why she needed a swimming pool when there was a perfectly good lake only a hundred paces away was beyond me.
She saw me approach but pretended not to, becoming the seductress I saw at Rickie’s, slowly discarding the oversize black shirt to reveal a white, scoop-neck tanksuit with shimmery gold straps lacing the back. A swimsuit not designed for water. She pivoted slowly, tugging at this and smoothing that, locking her fingers behind her neck and stretching, giving me a good look at her strong, sleek body, playing me like one of the strippers at Déjà Vu. She sat on the lounger and, with her back to me, slipped the straps of the swimsuit off her shoulders before lying back and stretching out. I stood watching her, not liking the way she made me feel.
“See anything you like?” she asked, her eyes closed.
“One or two things,” I admitted.
She moved her hands up her body, taking her time, guiding them to her breasts. She began gently massaging herself with fingertips and palms, her lips parting with a sigh.
“Do you think I’m beautiful?”
“Then why don’t you say so? Most men do.”
“I hate to follow the crowd.”
She smiled slightly, licking her thin lips with the tip of her tongue as she slid her hands off her breasts, across her flat stomach to her thighs. At the same time a German shepherd puppy trotted across the lawn. He sniffed at my leg, wagged his tail, then found a cool spot in the recliner’s shadow. The dog broke Lila’s spell. I stepped backward, took a deep breath, and asked, “Does this act work with everyone?”
“So far,” she said, smirking.
I shook my head, telling myself more than her, “That’s not why I’m here.”
“Why are you here?”
“I still want to know where your husband was Tuesday night, the night Jamie was killed.”
“He told you. He was with me.”
“You were with David Bruder.”
The smirk froze on her face.
“Bruder Tuesday. Napoleon Cook Friday. And Geno Belloti last night.”
The smirk thawed quickly into a soft smile, but her eyes remained hard and shiny. She reminded me of a cat, the kind you find behind the reinforced glass at the Como Zoo, a predator.
Lila swung her long legs off the lounge chair. “Napoleon was sure we were being followed. You?”
She reached down and very deliberately scratched the shepherd’s ears. “What I was doing at the Paradise Motel is my affair,” she said without irony.
“True. But where your husband was is mine.”
The shepherd’s wagging tail brushed her ankle. “Sic ’em,” she shouted suddenly, pointing at me. “Kill. Tear him up.”
I reached for my Beretta but didn’t pull it from the holster. No need. The dog jumped at Lila’s hand, wagged his tail furiously and let loose with a string of low, playful barks. Just a confused puppy.
Lila scratched his ears again. “Some watchdog. Well, I guess I’m going to have to talk to you after all.”
“Where was your husband?”
“I don’t know.”
“It doesn’t bother you, not knowing?”
“Maybe he was with Jamie.”
Lila giggled. “You think Warren killed Jamie and Katherine?” She giggled harder.
“Just a thought.”
“Well, think again.”
“Was your husband having an affair with Jamie Bruder?”
“Sweet, adorable little Jamie? Sugar and spice, everything nice Jamie? Get serious.”
“Why not? You were sleeping with David Bruder.”
“I was sleeping with all of them. I even slept with Katherine.”