Oh, he didn’t like that at all.
After securing the others, two FBI agents moved toward Casselman and Stalin, chains in their hands. The rattling of the chains sounded like small bells and when one of them fell to the floor, everyone glanced down at it. Except Stalin. He grabbed the barrel of the M-16 held by the guard, spun the agent around, and kneed him hard in the groin. The agent released the gun and Stalin started running, weapon in hand. He ran about fifteen yards, whirled, and fired the M-16, the shots pounding high into the ceiling of the hangar. He sprinted for the woods as we picked ourselves off the floor. Several agents fired wildly at him, missed, and began pursuit.
“No, no, stop. Call your people back,” I told Harry. “Keep them out of the woods.”
Harry was confused by my request.
“Trust me. Please.”
Harry recalled his men.
“This had better be good.”
I held up my hand and gazed into the woods in the direction Stalin had escaped.
“Wait for it,” I said.
The agents, the prisoners, Merci—we all silently watched the dark trees, although only I knew what we were watching for. Suddenly a dim light flicked on. “There,” I said, pointing. It was the Jag’s interior light. It came to life when Stalin opened the car door, when he jerked the string that pulled the pinless grenade out of the tomato can, releasing the trigger and igniting the fuse. I started counting, “One football, two football, three football …”
I could see the woman in my mind’s eye, the Rosie Riveter who raced to the factory to do her bit during World War II, the last good war—who bent to the task of cutting fuses, a thankless task as tedious as any assembly line job, as tedious as putting bolt A into nut B ten thousand times a day. She was young and she was pretty and her mind would wander and she would think about what she was going to have for dinner on Meatless Tuesday and if her friend who had a friend who had a friend would come through with the nylons in time for the Friday night dance at the USO and what she should do about the 4-F down the street who made her feel like a woman, who made her almost forget her fiancé who was fighting in North Africa. And during those brief reveries she would sometimes cut the fuses short.
“Four football, five football …”
I felt no guilt, no remorse when the grenade exploded, lifting the Jag three feet into the air, twisting and dropping it lengthwise across the road. My hands did not shake and my stomach did not churn as I watched the fire slowly burn itself out. This was four, I told myself. Four dead men. Yet the revulsion and nausea and dizziness that had accompanied the others was not present this time. I tried to make it come, repeated silently to myself, “You’re sick to your stomach.” Only I didn’t feel sick. I felt indifferent.
Harry stared at me, not quite sure what to do or say.
Alec stepped between us and sighed.
“Suspect killed while resisting arrest. I hate it when that happens.”
The drive back to Falcon Heights was unencumbered by traffic. At three a.m., we had the freeways to ourselves. Even the drunks had gone home.
Merci sat next to me. She wore my jacket over her shoulders and my heater was going full blast, yet she shivered just the same. Several times I asked her if she was all right and each time she said yes. Despite the early hour I felt refreshed, invigorated the way I usually felt after a tough workout. I asked Merci if she wanted to stop for a bite—there was an all-nighter on the strip that served a fair omelet. She wasn’t up for it. She had spent too much time with the decanter of scotch.
“I thought they were going to kill me.”
“They moved faster than I anticipated. I’m sorry.”
“Sorry.” She repeated the word like it was something she had never heard before. “Sorry isn’t going to cut it. You owe me money.”
I nodded my understanding.
“You said a hundred bucks an hour.”
“So I did.”
“I figure you owe me twelve hundred. Plus another fifty to have my dress dry-cleaned.”
“Make it fifteen hundred,” I told her, feeling generous.
“Twelve-fifty is fine. And I want cash. I don’t accept checks. I ain’t no bank.”
Merci sat back, pressed the palms of her hands against her eyes. She continued to tremble.
“Are you okay?”
“I wish you would stop asking that,” she told me.
“I feel responsible.”
“You are responsible.”
“I know. I’m responsible for a lot of things. For example, there’s still the matter of why Richard and Molly Carlson came to me in the first place.”
“To find Jamie,” Merci reminded me.
“No. To find a compatible bone marrow donor for Stacy. Remember Stacy? Little girl who’s dying of leukemia?”
“Little Stacy.” Merci tugged the jacket tighter around her.
“Don’t you think it’s about time you hustled your ass up to Grand Rapids and took the test to see if you’re compatible?”