I was surprised by how outraged it made me feel. That lousy sonuvabitch, my inner voice shouted. Fucking Berglund. I bet he was proud of himself, too, a man seducing a child. I was so angry that if Berglund had still been alive there was a good chance I might have killed him myself.
Genevieve lowered her head and turned it away. I attempted to rest a reassuring hand on her shoulder, but she stepped beyond my reach. She pulled at the hem of her white cardigan and continued walking. “He’s gone,” she said. “He’s gone.” I had to step lively to catch up. “Who killed him?” she asked. “Why?”
“I was hoping you could help us find out,” I said.
“He told you to call me.”
“Yes, but like I said—I don’t know why.”
“What did he say? Do you recall his exact words?”
“Josh told me to get a pencil and a piece of paper and write this down—this being your name and number. He said, ‘If anything happens to me, call McKenzie.’ He said to tell you, ‘Don’t let the bastards get it.’ I asked him what he was talking about, but he just laughed. Then he said he’d call me later, except he never did.”
“How long had you known Berglund?”
“Only a couple of weeks. No, less than that.” Genevieve stopped again and looked up and to her right, remembering. “Twelve days. It seemed—it seemed so much longer than that. It was as if—as if we were ancient spirits that had known each other for a millennium.”
“Berglund told you that,” I said.
And Heavenly and Ivy, too, my inner voice said. That bastard.
“Where did you meet?” I said aloud.
“I volunteer at a nursing home in Arden Hills. Helping the staff sometimes, but mostly just being there for the residents to talk to. Some of those people—it’s like their families abandoned them, put them in the home and forgot that they’re alive. I talk to them and play cards with them, board games. Most of them are pretty old; some have Alzheimer’s. I’ve learned if we live long enough, and we’re all living longer and longer these days, half of us will get Alzheimer’s disease.”
“Frightening,” I said.
“It sure is,” she said.
Genevieve drifted away then, thinking, I was sure, terrible thoughts about dementia and the loss of memory and language. We took a few more steps before I prompted her again.
“You met Berglund at the nursing home.”
“Yes, yes I did. He was writing a book. He said it was going to be about the gangsters who ran things in St. Paul in the thirties. He said it wasn’t going to be salacious, that he wasn’t going to make heroes out of those men. He said he wanted to write a book that reminded people we all need to be vigilant in order to protect society, to keep such men from rising to power again.”
Sure he did, my inner voice said.
“He came to the nursing home because he learned that Uncle Mike lived there, and that’s when we met.”
“Tell me about Uncle Mike.”
“He isn’t really my uncle. He’s just this great old guy—he’s confined to a wheelchair, but he’s so lively. He’s ninety-five years old, yet you wouldn’t know it to talk to him.”
“He’s in good health, then.”
“Yes, no—Uncle Mike … his health is uncertain. Sometimes he seems fine, and sometimes … he has to take so many pills, and he gets tired easily, and he forgets things. He remembers years and years ago but has trouble with yesterday. Although”—Genevieve looked up and to her right again—“he always seems to remember me, so, I don’t know, maybe he remembers only the things he wants to remember.”
“What did Berglund want to talk to him about?”
“About the gangsters. Uncle Mike knew them all, I guess. He told Josh stories about them. What were their names? Harvey Bailey, Jimmy Keating, Tommy Holden, Carl Janaway—I guess there was like a fraternity of bank robbers.”
“How did Mike know all these people?”
“He was one of them. A bank robber. Mike used to rob banks. He robbed something like thirty banks before he was caught. They sent him to Stillwater Prison for twenty-five years. I guess I shouldn’t say that with such pride, but I really like Uncle Mike and that’s part of who he is. I asked him once, if he could live his life over again, would he do the same thing, and he laughed and said, ‘Sugar’—he calls me Sugar—‘I probably would, only I’d be more careful.’ Either that, he said, or get smarter about breaking out of prisons, like Frank Nash.”
That stopped me.
“Your uncle Mike knew Frank Nash?” I said.
We had reached the end of the sidewalk and were coming up on a rose brick chapel with huge bells extending from the wall.
“He was friends with Frank Nash,” Genevieve said. “Mike said he and Nash once stole some gold from a bank in South Dakota. Josh was very interested in that.”
I’ll bet, my inner voice shouted.
“I want to meet your uncle Mike,” I said.
“Oh, he’d like that very much. He doesn’t get a lot of visitors. Just about everyone he knew has been dead for many years. When would you like to see him?”