The two men hustled me to the spur, down the spur to the dirt road and across the road into the woods on the far side. Neither spoke.
We hiked for twenty minutes through the underbrush. I was the only one making noise—the other two seemed to know the location of every twig, root, or branch that I tripped over or ran into. My damaged body protested their rough treatment but I tried mightily to keep from crying out—I had a reputation to protect, after all. Unfortunately, my body betrayed me and several low grunts escaped my clenched teeth.
“You’re such a whiner, McKenzie,” one of the men told me.
Finally, we broke into a small clearing filled with men, maybe two dozen of them, who flinched visibly when we emerged from the underbrush. They all carried automatic weapons, M-16s mostly, plus a smattering of shotguns, and they all wore nylon jackets with big, bright letters on the front and back over their dull body armor. Some of the letters read ATF. Some read FBI.
My companions led me to where two men stood, reading a map spread across the hood of a vehicle with a red-filtered light. “Look at what we found.” Both men turned in unison.
“Who the hell are you supposed to be, James Bond?” asked the smaller of the two, the one I had dubbed Harry Dean Stanton.
“I told you,” said the man I knew as Alec Baldwin. “That’s ten bucks you owe me.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” said Harry as he reluctantly flipped through several folded bills he fished from his pocket until he found the correct denomination.
“We weren’t properly introduced,” Alec said. “I’m Bullert. He’s Wilson.”
I preferred the names I had given them.
“So, tell me, McKenzie,” said Alec as he took the ten from Harry and shoved it into his pocket. “What brings you to this neck of the woods?”
“It was such a nice evening, I thought I’d take a stroll.”
“You know something, McKenzie?” said Harry. “This is the only thing you’ve done that I didn’t anticipate.”
I looked from one to the other and then at the small knots of agents waiting in the clearing.
“I have a feeling you guys have been playing me like a violin ever since this thing began. Want to tell me what’s going on?”
“It gets complicated,” said Alec as his agent handed my gun to him.
“It doesn’t look like I’m going anywhere.”
“My partner says you’re pretty smart,” said Harry. “I think you rely too much on bluff and muscle. Why don’t you tell us what you think you know.”
“Warren Casselman and his pals are gunrunners,” I said. “They buy discarded Warsaw Pact ordnance from former Russian communists and smuggle it into Minnesota using their various businesses—Belloti, CK Computers, Mellgren’s, Katherine Katzmark’s Worldware. I saw their crates and cartons in Stalin’s crib. Stalin and the Family Boyz handle distribution and muscle. You can jump in at any time.”
“You’re doing fine,” Alec said. “I told you he was good.”
“Dumb luck,” said Harry.
“David Bruder probably used his used car lots to help launder the money—he wouldn’t be the first car salesman to do it. Jamie Carlson Bruder had worked for his attorneys—maybe she found out about it and threatened to blow the whistle. Or maybe she didn’t. The point is, Napoleon Cook learned that Jamie was talking with a former cop and panicked. Cook was a nervous guy. He probably told Stalin that they were all going to prison unless something was done. Stalin killed Jamie or had her killed after torturing her to find out what’s what. Then he came after me. I’m guessing Bruder grabbed his son and went on the run to avoid the same fate. When he came out of hiding, the Boyz killed him.”
“Oh yeah, he’s Einstein,” Harry told Alec.
“He got most of it right.”
“I want my ten bucks back.”
“What did I miss?” I asked.
“You’re correct about the Entrepreneurs and the Family Boyz,” said Alec. “They’ve been selling arms for about five years, now. In fact, their operation has become so lucrative for the Boyz that they gave up their daytime job.”
“Dealing grass from Mexico,” I interjected.