He didn’t look at me; I couldn’t testify that he was even aware that I was there. Instead, he dropped his gun on the carpet and ran to his partner’s side. He knelt next to Wally and gently raised his head.
“Oh, Wally,” he said and lowered Wally’s head into his lap. “He broke your nose again.”
“No, Teddy,” Wally said. “You’ll get blood on your pants.”
“Shhh, shhh,” Ted told him.
I lowered the Beretta and turned toward Heavenly.
“Hey,” I said.
She spoke loudly, but the tape over her mouth turned her words to mumbles. I carefully eased the torn fragment of her shirt back over her breast and shoulder. Heavenly mumbled some more.
“Give me a sec,” I said. I holstered the Beretta and gathered up Wally and Ted’s guns. I unloaded them and dropped them into the pockets of my sports jacket. Neither Ted nor Wally protested. They were both more interested in each other then they were in me.
I smiled at Heavenly. Impatience glittered in her eyes.
I peeled a corner of the tape off her mouth. Heavenly tensed, waiting for me to give the rest a swift yank. I didn’t. Instead, I knelt in front of her.
“Before we go any further, you should know”—I gestured with my head toward the window—“I heard everything. I know what the plan was. I know it was your plan. So let’s keep the lying to a minimum, okay?”
Heavenly stared at me.
“Okay?” I repeated.
She nodded curtly and grunted.
My first impulse was to tear the tape away and see how much of her face went with it, but something about the way Ted cradled Wally’s head in his lap made me feel charitable. I slowly, carefully peeled it off her cheek, lips, and chin. When I finished, Heavenly moved her jaw around as if she were making sure it still worked.
“Be still,” I told her. I moved my fingers gently along her jawline; she winced in pain at my touch. Nothing seemed broken; still, the side of her face where Ted first punched and then slapped her was beginning to swell.
“He hit you pretty hard,” I reminded her in case she had forgotten.
“I didn’t want them to hurt you,” Heavenly said. “I told them not to hurt you.”
“I know. That’s one reason why I didn’t leave you here. That and the fact that I’m a born hero.”
“I’m sorry, McKenzie.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“I know you’re surprised by my behavior. If you let me explain—”
“Oh, Heavenly. The I-35W bridge collapsing into the Mississippi River—that was a surprise. Learning that you’re a duplicitous bitch, not so much. I have a question for you, though. This morning—was that a scam or did two men really come to your house?”
“That was true.”
“Yeah, I figured,” I said. “It was a ploy to get me out of my house so Tim Dahlin could send Allen in to search it. It worked so well that you decided to try a variation on the theme to get me to come back. You could have just invited me to lunch, you know. I would have fallen for that.”
“I want those letters, McKenzie.” Heavenly glanced first at her “acquaintances” when she spoke and then back at me. “I want them. Give them to me.”
“Heavenly, there’s nothing in the letters that leads to the gold. How many times do I have to tell you? Besides”—I tapped the tape binding her wrist to the arm of the chair—“you’re in no position to demand anything.”
“McKenzie, the letters might not lead to Jelly’s gold, but there are other kinds of wealth to be found in them, I’m sure of it.”
I gave it a couple of beats, then shook my head. Suddenly, I felt very old.
“You want to blackmail Dahlin? Are you crazy?”
“I’m just saying there might be—”
“Stop it. Just stop it. Heavenly—listen. Ahh, what’s the point? You do what you think is best. Just remember, the next time you call, I’m not answering.”
I took a tiny Swiss Army knife from my pocket—the kind with a one-inch blade that nonetheless is too dangerous to carry on airplanes—and sliced through the duct tape, careful not to cut Heavenly’s wrists and ankles. This time when I tore the tape off her skin, I wasn’t gentle at all. While she rubbed away the soreness I went into the kitchen. There was an ice tray in the freezer. I dumped the contents into a dish towel, twisted it into an ice pack, and brought it to Heavenly.
“Here,” I said. I gently pressed the towel against Heavenly’s mouth. She winced some more. “Take it,” I said even as I grasped her hand and brought it up to support the towel.
“Why are you being so kind?” Heavenly asked.
I pulled the Beretta out of its holster and knelt next to Ted and Wally. I tapped Ted’s knee with the barrel, making him flinch.
“So you’re going to open a can of whoop-ass on me, huh?”
“You broke Wally’s nose again,” Ted said. “Maybe some teeth. He’s bleeding—” I tapped him on the point of his knee again and he recoiled. “If you didn’t have that gun—”
I tapped his knee yet again. “I do have the gun,” I said. “I have a lot of guns. Including yours.”