There are about one hundred seventy-five houses in the City of Sunfish Lake, and all of them have big yards. City ordinances dictate that no house can be built on a lot smaller than two and a half acres—not counting lakes, ponds, and other wetlands—and most are constructed on parcels bigger than that. Except for four churches, the entire city is zoned for single-family dwellings; there is no commercial development of any kind, not even a Starbucks. There is land set aside for a city hall but no plans to use it because there are no city offices or city employees. All services including police protection are provided by outside contractors.
A couple of those contractors—they were driving a patrol car in the colors of the City of West St. Paul—stopped me when I crossed South Robert Trail heading for Windy Hill Court. (Don’t you love street names like that?) I didn’t even notice them until their lights flashed in my rearview. Their names were Tom and Chris, they wore crisp, well-pressed uniforms, and they said “sir” a lot while they politely inquired after my business in Sunfish Lake. I asked them how they got on me so quickly. Did I trip a sensor when I crossed the city limits? Were there cameras perched in trees that I didn’t see? It couldn’t have been the Audi—it was only two years old, and I had patched all the bullet holes last September. They didn’t say, and they didn’t let me pass until I explained I was an invited guest of Timothy Dahlin, and even then they followed me closely to make sure I turned onto the correct driveway. There was a red reflector on a post at the curb, which gave them permission to follow me up the driveway to the house, but they stayed back. It was a long, wooded drive, and at the end of it, surrounded by about a thousand trees, there was a hundred-and-forty-year-old house that looked like it had been built last week. There was a four-car garage in front and a pool in the back and cobblestones leading to the front door. I parked and carried a large manila envelope to the door while fighting off a tremendous urge to remove my shoes. I used the bell. A few moments later, it was opened by Allen, who looked no worse for his stay with the St. Anthony Police Department.
“This way,” he said.
Allen turned and walked deeper into the house, fully expecting me to tuck the envelope under my arm and follow him. When I didn’t he turned back. “What?”
“That’s all you have to say?”
“Were you expecting something more?”
“How ’bout ‘Thank you, Mr. McKenzie, for getting me out of jail, although we both know that’s where I deszerve to be’?”
He didn’t reply.
“You know, a jolt in the joint would have done you a world of good.” I pointed more or less past him. “Lead the way.”
He led me through a marble vestibule, across a room that looked like the lobby of a hotel you might find on the National Register of Historic Places, and past two French doors. To Allen’s annoyance, I slowed along the way to admire Dahlin’s furniture. I might have asked him where Dahlin bought it, but we weren’t speaking.
On the other side of the French doors we found Dahlin’s library. There were floor-to-ceiling shelves filled with books that seemed to be selected based on their covers. The last time I had seen that many matching volumes was in the Hamline Law Library. “It is kind of you to come,” Dahlin called to me when I entered the room. He was sitting behind a desk that was so big it looked like the house had been built around it. Heavenly was sitting in one wingback chair in front of the desk, and Whitlow was sitting in another. Allen remained standing near the doors.
“Looks like the gang’s all here,” I said.
Whitlow jumped to his feet, his fists clenched. He might have come for me except he was angry, not stupid.
“Did you see Heavenly’s face?” he asked.
I gave her a hard look. The left side seemed a little swollen, but not too badly. She had done a remarkable camouflage job with her makeup.
“Looks better than I thought it would,” I said.
“They hit her and you did nothing about it,” Whitlow said.
“I wouldn’t say ‘nothing.’ I bet Wally looks a lot worse than she does. Anyway, it must have worked out in the end, because I noticed Ted and Wally were still working for her this morning.” My gaze went from Whitlow to Heavenly. “How do you do it?” I said.
She shrugged like someone who’d decided not to complain about the bag boy at the supermarket who stacked canned goods on top of her eggs. Noblesse oblige.
“You’re an amazing creature.”
She shrugged some more.
Dahlin was twirling a long, narrow pen between his fingers. He used it to tap the blotter in front of him. “Mr. McKenzie,” he said. “You have information for us?”
Whitlow sat down as I opened the large manila envelope and pulled out a smaller blue envelope. I stepped between Whitlow’s and Heavenly’s chairs and spoke directly to Dahlin. “This is an original of one of the letters Kathryn sent from Paris to her sister Rose; the police haven’t seen it. It’s dated September 16, 1933.” I removed the pages from the envelope. I read only a small passage.
Yesterday I sent yet another missive to Brent. Again I begged him to grant me a divorce. This time, I told him if he refused, I would inform the authorities about the bars of gold he has hidden in the wall behind the desk in his office. I reminded him that President Roosevelt has made it an act of treason to hoard gold during these troubled times.
Afterward, I folded the pages and slid them back into the envelope.