“McKenzie, he could press charges,” she said. “He could sue.”

“Nah. He might try to kill me later, but he won’t sue. It’s against the rules.”


“Thugs have rules?”

“Sure. Rule number one—no police intervention.”

Jenness moved her mouth as if she wanted to say something. When words failed her, she spun toward the far end of the bar and started marching purposefully toward Nina’s office. The snitch.

A moment later, I joined Ivy and Berglund at their table. She was smiling brightly. He had a dour look on his mug.

“Was that necessary?” Berglund asked.

“Just trying to earn my keep,” I said.

“That was, that was …” said Ivy. “The way you hit him like that. That was so cool.”

“No, it wasn’t, Ivy,” I said. “That was a smart-ass trying to prove how tough he was. The kid called my bluff and I hit him for it. Nothing cool about it.”

She looked at me as if I had disappointed her. I was sorry for that. Yet the expression on Berglund’s face made me think that somehow, some way, I had just earned his respect.

-- Advertisement --

“What happens next?” he asked.

“Right now Ted and Wally are most likely reporting to their boss,” I said. “They’re not working on their own. They were sent to spy on you, told to learn where you go and whom you speak with, by someone who either wants to find Jelly’s gold first or take it away when you find it.”

“Who are they working for?”

“You tell me.”

Berglund shook his head. I didn’t believe him, but I didn’t push it.

“Anyway, I doubt these guys will go away,” I said. “They’ll keep following you, only now they’ll do it at a more discreet distance; they’ll try harder to keep out of sight. Either that or their boss, whoever that is, will try to make a deal.”

“You won’t, will you, McKenzie?” Ivy asked. “Make a deal.”

“I already have a deal, Ivy—with you.” I gave Berglund a hard look. “I’m going to hold you to your contract. If Jelly’s gold does exist, we’re going to find it, and I’m going to take my third. I’ve already made a substantial investment in it. Not because of what happened with those kids, but because I angered my girlfriend, and I want the money so I can buy her something special that will make up for it.”

I turned in my seat to look up at Nina Truhler. She was standing several feet from the table, her arms folded across her chest, her silver-blue eyes flaring at me as if she were Supergirl burning holes into my heart with her X-ray vision.

“Won’t that be nice, honey?” I said.

She didn’t say.

“Would you care to join us?”

She didn’t move.

I held up a single index finger for her to see. “One minute.” I turned back to the kids.

“What should we do?” Ivy said. She was talking to me but looking up at Nina.

“If you see our friends again, call me. In the meantime, we’ll do what I suggested earlier. We’ll find out who Frank’s friends were, who he was spending time with during the days immediately before and after the heist, who his partners were—he didn’t remove thirty-two bars of gold from a bank all alone, not in nine minutes—and so on and so on.”

“Do you know where to look for that information?” Berglund asked.

“We’ll start with the police files.”

“I tried that. The police department wouldn’t cooperate.”

“I know people.”

“McKenzie knows everyone,” Ivy said.

“Phtttt,” Nina said.

“We should be leaving,” Berglund said.

“Yes,” Ivy agreed.

The three of us stood. Ivy moved as if she were going to give me a hug but thought better of it. Instead, she shook my hand and said, “We’ll talk soon,” all the while watching Nina.

Once we were alone, I smiled at her. Nina didn’t smile back.

“Gosh, honey, but you look lovely today,” I said.

“I hear you’re beating up my customers,” she said.

“Only those that are armed.”

“We had an understanding. You were not going to bring your little adventures into my place.”

“Honey, I can explain.”

“You broke a man’s nose.”

“No, not broke—bent, maybe, a little bit, but break—”

“Dammit, McKenzie. You’re putting me at risk.”

“Nina, I’m sorry. I—”

“What are you up to now?”

“You have a suspicious nature, you know that?”

“I wonder why.”

“Nina, if you just sit for a second, I’ll explain everything.”

Nina sat, but she didn’t unfold her arms. “You’re into another one of your crusades, aren’t you?”

“Hardly a crusade.”

“You’re helping those kids. The redhead, she’s very pretty, isn’t she?”

“Give her another decade and she might be almost half as pretty as you.”

“Good answer,” Nina said. For a moment it looked like she might actually smile, but only for a moment.

-- Advertisement --