“I am not armed.” I removed the blue sports jacket I wore over my gray sweatshirt, held my arms away from my sides, and spun slowly.
“You’ll sit in the back,” Brehmer said. “You will not get out unless I tell you.”
“Don’t do anything that’ll make me regret this, McKenzie.”
Sergeant Brehmer locked his eyes on mine and held them there without blinking. He said, “This is Minnesota. People here usually kill only their friends and loved ones. They usually do it in their kitchens, rec rooms, and bedrooms, occasionally in bars. They use guns when they’re handy, otherwise knives, blunt objects, sometimes their hands. With gangs it’s drive-bys. Mostly they hit other gangsters on the street, in clubs, in the parking lots of fast-food joints, sometimes with automatic weapons, more or less trying to avoid collateral damage. But this. A double tap behind the ear with .22 hollow points. That’s professional. That’s organized crime shit, and we don’t do organized crime in Minnesota. Not since the early sixties. Not since they put Kid Cann away.”
“Is there something you’re not telling me?”
“No, sergeant. There isn’t.”
“There better not be.”
There was no opportunity to approach the house on the hill without being seen, which made me think that’s why Crosetti rented it. So it became a raid. Four cars and an SUV from the Carver County Sheriff’s Department—no sirens, no light bars, driving fast—took the gravel driveway past the ditch, then fanned out and charged up the hill, tearing up the lawn. The cars surrounded the house—three in front, two in back. Deputies spilled out. No one shouted, no one slammed a door. Cover was taken behind the vehicles. Shotguns and Glocks were leveled at every window and door from across car hoods and trunks.
I was in a fifth car, Sergeant Brehmer at the wheel. He stopped at the top of the driveway and approached the front door like he had been invited. The door was flanked by deputies, guns drawn. They were wearing helmets and Kevlar suits and carrying shields. Their backup was wearing Kevlar vests. Only I went without. It was decided that I didn’t need it. I was locked in the back of the cruiser behind wire mesh—I couldn’t break my word to the sergeant if I wanted to.
Brehmer pounded on the door.
“Sheriff’s Department. We have a warrant. Open up.”
He nodded to the deputy behind him. The deputy smashed the door open with a portable battering ram. Brehmer and his deputies dashed inside the house.
I heard no shots, only voices.
“Clear,” the voices shouted. “Clear. Clear.”
And waited some more.
It took only minutes, but it seemed much, much longer.
Finally Sergeant Brehmer emerged from the house. He walked directly to the cruiser and unlocked the back door. He held it open for me.
“It’s empty,” he said as I slid out.
“He might come back. You should position your men—”
“The house is empty, McKenzie. And don’t tell me what I should do.”
“I’m saying, if he’s not here now—”
“You don’t get it. The house is empty. No furniture. No clothes in the closets. No dishes in the cabinets. No food in the refrigerator. There are no paintings on the walls or toilet paper in the bathroom or trash under the sink. There’s no sign that anyone lives here. There’s no sign that anyone has ever lived here.”
“I don’t get it.”
“Exactly,” Brehmer said.
“He was here yesterday.”
“But not today.”
“I’m not making this up.”
The thought that Crosetti might escape, that he might get away with the murder of my friend, engulfed me. I felt a seething anger then—like mist clinging to my skin. A rage so primitive, so elemental, that it didn’t have a name. I slammed a clenched fist against the roof of the car. I did it several times. Sergeant Brehmer muttered something about destruction of county property, but I wasn’t paying attention.
You’re losing control, my inner voice chided.
I know. I hit the roof again.
Stop it. I leaned against the car.
You’re taking it too personally.
It is personal. I should have warned Mr. Mosley and Tillman.
You didn’t know.
I should have.
Maybe so, but it doesn’t matter now. Now you have to suck it up. Either start thinking like a cop or go home.
“What about the garage?” I asked.
A deputy approaching the car overheard the question.
“Clean,” he said. “Except”—he held up two stained fingers—“for fresh oil on the floor.”
“That’s something,” I said.
“It proves I’m not lying.”
Brehmer was checking the roof of his car for dings. “No one said you were. In any case—” He pointed at the fine-trimmed lawn. “This grass was cut just a few days ago.”
The deputy asked, “What do you want me to do, Sarge?”
“The messenger,” I said.
“What messenger?” Brehmer asked.
“The messenger from Billy Tillman’s law office. The man who delivered the letter.”