“Are you kids old enough to drink?” I asked. They seemed insulted by the question. “Do you know where Rickie’s is?”
“The jazz joint on Summit Hill?” Berglund said.
“That’s the place, only don’t call it a joint; the owner doesn’t like it. I want you to give me a good five minutes, then go to your car and drive south on Cleveland until you reach Como Avenue. After that, I don’t care how you get to Rickie’s, just go.”
“What are you going to do?” Ivy said.
“Make sure that the guys in the Trailblazer really are following you, then find out who they are.”
“How?” Berglund asked.
“There are ways.”
“Then what?” Berglund said.
“Are you going to shoot them?” Ivy said.
“What a bloodthirsty young lady you’ve become since I saw you last. No, I’m not going to shoot them. I’m not going to shoot anyone. Let’s be clear about that, kids. No guns, all right?”
“I mean it.”
They nodded some more. Still, I don’t think they believed me.
“Okay,” I said. I stood and splayed the fingers of my hand. “Five minutes. Then go to Rickie’s. I’ll meet you there.”
Berglund stood, took keys from his pocket that were on a chain with a USA Olympic emblem. Ivy remained seated. Her eyes sparkled as she looked up at me.
“Seems like old times, doesn’t it?” I said.
Her smile matched her eyes, and she nodded in agreement.
The guys in the Trailblazer didn’t pay any attention to me when I left the coffeehouse; probably they couldn’t see past the reflections on Lori’s windows and didn’t know I had been speaking to Ivy and Berglund. I left my parking space, circled the block, and found a new parking space on Cleveland heading south. I sat in the Audi, my engine idling, and waited. I couldn’t see Ivy and Berglund leave the coffeehouse or the vehicle that they drove, but by adjusting my sideview mirror I had a clear line of sight to the Trailblazer. It soon pulled away from the curb and began following a blue Honda Civic. I waited until they passed me, made sure Ivy and Berglund were in the Civic, then jumped on the Chevy’s rear bumper.
After eleven and a half years on the job, I had made a lot of friends at the St. Paul Police Department who were willing to accommodate me, especially Bobby Dunston, the commander of the homicide unit. Only there was a risk to the favors they did—it was against SPPD policy to use department resources for personal pursuits; they could get into a lot of trouble. So, instead of imposing on them, I’ve been tapping the same contacts as a Minneapolis private investigator of my acquaintance named Greg Schroeder. He paid his police contacts under the table for information as he needed it, and lately I’ve been doing the same thing. That way, I figured if the informants were caught and punished for helping me out, my conscience would be clear. I called one of them now, a sergeant working with the Minneapolis Police Department’s gang unit.
“Afternoon, Sarge,” I said.
“What do you want?”
“Do I have to want something? Can’t I call just to say hello?”
“Have you ever in the past?”
He had me there.
“I’m following a blue Chevy Trailblazer,” I said and recited the license plate number.
“What do you need?”
“Whatever you can tell me.”
“You on your cell?”
“I’ll get back to you.”
Ivy and Berglund followed Cleveland to Como as I instructed, turned left, and drove along the Minnesota State Fairgrounds to the Snelling Avenue intersection. They were driving south on Snelling past Midway Stadium where the St. Paul Saints played minor league baseball when the sarge called back. He gave me a name and a description of the driver—a young man, only twenty-two. There were no wants or warrants on him, but “Give him time,” the sarge said. “The asshole has a license to carry, and these young guys, most of ’em are just itchin’ to use, if you know what I mean.”
I did know what he meant. In Minnesota, any moron above the age of twenty-one can carry a concealed weapon as long as he completes a cursory firearms safety course, and believe me, a lot of morons do.
“Watch yourself,” the sarge said.
I thanked him and said the check was in the mail.
“Cash,” I said. “I meant cash.”
I continued to follow the Trailblazer, which was still following the Civic, but I thought we were beginning to look like a parade, so I dropped out when we reached University Avenue and headed for Rickie’s on my own.