I shook my head at the wonder of it. Apparently, the CALEA didn’t know these guys like I did.

I found the Records Unit. The female police technician who waited on me was six feet tall and blond, with pale skin, severe blue eyes, and a no-nonsense face—a Norse warrior in a pencil-thin skirt that reached to her ankles. The narrow plastic tag above her left breast read BARBARA ANDERSON.

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I asked if it was possible to buy a copy of the police report on a death that occurred twelve years ago.

“Those records aren’t on the computer,” she told me.

“Can I get a copy just the same?”

“As long as the file you request doesn’t begin with the letter C, you can.”

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“Why can’t I get a C?”

“We lost them.”

“Lost them?”

“The C files. We had an accident when we were switching to the computerized system and lost them all.”

“All the C’s.”

“Yes.”

“What happened?”

“Does the name on the file you want begin with a C?”

“No.”

“Then it doesn’t really matter what happened, does it?”

She had me there.

“The name is Becker, first name Brian,” I said.

Anderson wrote it on the top sheet of a notepad, then tore it off. “This will take some time,” she said. “All of our paper files are stored in boxes down in the dungeon.”

“The dungeon?”

“We have a couple of rooms set aside in the parking garage downstairs. We call it the dungeon.”

“Colorful.”

“I’ll be back as soon as I can,” she promised.

“I’ll wait,” I said, and watched as she disappeared into the labyrinth of halls and offices beyond. I wrote her name in my notebook for no other reason than I liked her.

She returned nearly a half hour later. There was a smudge of dust above her right eyebrow that I would have brushed away if I could have reached her over the counter.

“Ten dollars,” she said.

I slid a Hamilton across the counter, and she slid back a stack of photocopies.

“Another file, if possible,” I said. “This one I’m sure is on your computer. Nye, first name Richard. He’s doing time for drugs.”

Anderson worked a computer terminal while I watched.

“Nye, Richard Scott,” she said.

“That’s probably it.”

“Hmmm.”

“Hmmm, what?”

“The files are in the custody of the county attorney’s office. They’re not available for review.”

“What does that mean?”

“That means if you want to see Richard Nye’s records you need to get permission from Mr. Tuseman.”

“Hmmm,” I said.

I sat behind the wheel of the Cherokee with the big door open, my legs hanging over the rocker panels. The county coroner’s Final Summary was attached to the police report.

DECEDENT: Brian James Becker

AGE: 27

SEX: Male

RESIDENCE: 1117 Deion Avenue, Anoka, MN

PLACE OF DEATH: Residence

DATE AND TIME OF DEATH: June 24 (Found) 0900 Hours

CLASSIFICATION OF DEATH: Homicide-Accident-Undetermined

PRIMARY CAUSE OF DEATH: Respiratory failure

DUE TO: Carbon monoxide poisoning

OTHER SIGNIFICANT CONDITIONS: Acute alcohol intoxication

With no indication of foul play, the authorities reached the same conclusion as Vonnie Lou Lowman—Becker died because he was too damn stupid to live—although they couched their verdict in much more diplomatic terms. The only one who seemed to disagree was Detective Walter Sochacki. His Supplementary Investigation Report ran twenty-seven pages, single spaced.

I returned to the Public Safety Center and located Barbara Anderson.

“Something more?” she asked.

“I’d like to speak with Detective Sochacki. Do you know if he’s on duty?”

“Walter? No. He retired a couple of years ago. Back when we were still located down on the river.”

“Do you know how I can find him?”

“Have you tried the phone book?”

The white pages told me that there was a Sochacki, Walter T., living on Grant Street. I found the address near Sunny Acres Pond. A woman pushing sixty answered the door as if it were a great imposition.

“You here for the car?” she asked.

“Car?”

“The car in the paper.”

“No, ma’am. I’m here to speak with Walter Sochacki, if I can.”

She pointed with her thumb more or less toward the back of the house.

“He’s in the garage,” she said. “You look like a pleasant, upstanding young man. Maybe he’ll sell it to you.”

“Sell what to me?”

“The car. He’s seen at least a dozen potential buyers, but none of them has been worthy.”

“Worthy of what?”

The way she shrugged her shoulders I guessed she didn’t have a clue.

A few moments later I was standing in the open doorway of Sochacki’s garage.

“Oh, my God,” I said. “A 1965 Ford Mustang. And it’s the same color.”

The light blue sports car stood between Sochacki and me. I ran my fingers over the hood. He rounded the car and came toward me.

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