Normally I would have been offended, except after what Merodie Davies had called me, Baumbach’s epithet sounded like a compliment.

“Oh, yeah. I want a piece. Why don’t you get out of your car and give me some.”

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Baumbach came out of his car quickly. “Let’s settle this like men,” he said.

I took G. K. by the elbow and pulled her behind me. Baumbach moved close, well within striking distance, his hands stiff at his side.

“Let’s go,” he said.

I deliberately tucked my hands between my belt and the small of my back and leaned toward him.

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“Take your best shot, woman-beater.”

Baumbach brought his hands up, his face red with anger. But he hesitated. He wasn’t as dumb as he looked.

“Go ’head,” I told him. “The first one is free.”

He glanced from me to G. K. and back again.

“Why are you doing this?” he asked.

“You chicken? C’mon.”

Baumbach stepped backward until his butt was pressed against his car door. I brought my arms out and folded them across my chest again.

“What’s going on?” G. K. asked.

“Cameras,” I said.

“Cameras?”

I pointed at the boxes mounted high on the concrete walls at the top and bottom of the ramp.

“Security cameras. I provoke Boyd. He takes a shot. I bust his ass using the video as evidence, and he’s the one who does time in a holding cell.”

“I like it.”

“You sonuvabitch,” Baumbach called me.

“Ah, well. It was worth a try.”

“You’re trying to set me up,” Baumbach said. “You’re trying to set me up because—you ain’t a man. You have a problem, you should settle it like a man.”

“You’re a bad cop, Boyd, and it’s this childish notion of manhood you have that made you a bad cop. I’m going to take you off the board. It’s my civic duty.”

Baumbach clenched like a man about to throw a punch. “This ain’t over,” he said.

He flung a glance at G. K., pivoted, and climbed back into his Impala. The sound of his squealing tires echoed through the ramp.

G. K. grinned as she moved to the driver’s door of her own car.

“Well, that was fun,” she said.

3

To say Nina Truhler was smart and sexy was like saying the world was big and round—mere words simply didn’t do her justice. I would have told her so, too. If only she had been at Rickie’s when I arrived.

It took G. K. twenty-five minutes to drive from Anoka to Minneapolis even though, like me, she considered the posted speed limit to be more of a guideline than a law. She dropped me off at the Dunn Bros, coffeehouse after giving me her business card. On it she had written her personal cell and home numbers, as well as her home address. She told me to call her anytime. I pressed the card between the pages of my notebook and dropped it on the bucket seat on the passenger side of my Audi.

By then it was already late. Most of the people who weren’t hopelessly tangled in rush hour traffic were probably sitting down to dinner by the time I drove 1-94 from Minneapolis across the Mississippi River into St. Paul. Certainly, there were a great many people at Rickie’s doing just that. The upstairs dining room, which featured live jazz starting at 9:00 P.M., was nearly filled with diners by the time I arrived, and most of the sofas, stuffed chairs, and small tables in the downstairs lounge were occupied.

I searched for Nina. I wanted to see her before she left on her date. I wasn’t sure what I was going to tell her. “Please don’t go” came to mind. Only I couldn’t find her.

The bartender waved me over. “Hi, McKenzie,” she said. “Looking for the boss?”

“I am.”

“She left a few minutes ago.”

“Did she go home?” I glanced at my watch. Maybe I still had time to intercept her.

“No, she left. . . Just a minute.” She went to the beer taps and poured a Summit Ale, my usual. She set it in front of me.

“You’re going to bad-news me, aren’t you, Jenness?” I said, pronouncing the name Jenness, as she once instructed me.

“Nina left five minutes ago with the guy who took her to the charity ball.”

I drank some of the beer.

“Sorry,” she said.

“I already knew she had a date.”

“I know.”

“You know?”

“Nina’s been grumbling about you for two days now.”

“How bad has it been, her grumbling?”

“Pretty bad.”

“It wasn’t my fault.”

“You mean about getting arrested?”

“She told you that, too?”

“When things are going well, Nina keeps her life pretty much private. When they’re going bad, she kinda talks to herself out loud, if you know what I mean.”

“I know.”

I drank more beer.

“Did you meet this guy she’s dating?” I asked.

“Daniel. Not Dan or Danny. Daniel. He’s an architect. Has money if you go by his clothes and car.”

Snob, my inner voice said.

“What does he look like?” I asked.

“He’s about your size, your height and weight,” Jenness said. “I figure he must work out because he’s in good shape but, I don’t know, he seems soft to me. Like he’s never actually done any physical labor or played a contact sport.”

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