“Whatever satisfaction you hope to gain, it won’t be worth it if something bad happens to you.”
I didn’t understand her logic until she kissed me. And then I pretended not to.
The next day was Sunday. Here’s what happened. I was alone. The phone rang, but I didn’t answer it. Messages were left, but I didn’t listen to them. Music spilled from nineteen speakers scattered through eight rooms and my basement, but I didn’t really hear it. The TV was on—the Timberwolves were in the NBA playoffs and the Twins were playing the White Sox—but I wasn’t paying attention. Food was cooked; most of it was left untouched. The sun rose. The sun arched across the sky. The sun set. That’s what happened on Sunday.
Except late in the evening the phone rang. The caller ID said Brehmer. I answered it. I said, “Sarge?”
“I checked you out. They told me you were solid. A good cop. I wouldn’t call you otherwise.”
“The reason I called, I wanted to give you a heads-up. I’ve been taken off the case. They gave it to a bureaucrat, Lieutenant Brian Dyke. He’s head of the county’s Criminal Investigation Division, but he doesn’t belong there. He’s not smart enough to find Mr. Mosley’s killer.”
“Do you hear what I’m telling you? He’s not smart enough to find Mr. Mosley’s killer.”
“Frank Crosetti doesn’t exist. At least not according to any records I could find.”
“What do you mean, he doesn’t exist?”
“There’s no record of him—the Frank Crosetti you’re looking for, anyway. No Social Security number. No driver’s license. No birth certificate or passport. No credit cards. No health care. No subscription to Sports Illustrated.”
“Lundgren-Kerber was renting to him.”
“Lundgren-Kerber never heard of Crosetti, claim the property has been vacant for months.”
“He was there.”
“I believe you. But he’s been erased.”
“That’s not possible.”
“Of course it’s possible.”
“You can’t erase a person’s existence. There’s always something left behind. A cable bill, a name on a lottery ticket, an order for Girl Scout cookies …”
“You could do it if the person never existed in the first place.”
“Identity theft? Crosetti stole someone’s identity?”
“A entirely new identity. Crosetti created a new identity for himself. Fine. It’s been done before. But he must have left a trail.”
“Not this time.”
“Listen, Sarge. I worked a couple of missing person cases like this, okay? If it’s worth your time, effort, and expense, you can find anyone. People don’t just disappear. They always, always, always leave behind a trace of themselves.”
“He could pull it off if he had help.”
“From who? Who has the resources for a gag like that?”
“Who do you think?”
The answer came to me quickly, but I didn’t want to say it.
“Hey, McKenzie,” Sergeant Brehmer said after a brief pause.
“We didn’t have this conversation.”
I was surprised by how calmly the news reader at MPR said, “Authorities are still seeking suspects in the apparent gangland slaying of an elderly Carver County beekeeper Saturday morning.” But then Minnesota Public Radio always gave the news without hype or suspense or fury, and while you could detect a certain liberal sensibility, it sure beat hell out of the “nuke ’em ’til they glow” self-righteous fervor found on the so-called conservative radio stations.
Still, I had had enough bad news. I switched on the Jeep Cherokee’s CD player and found the Badlees. They carried me west along I-394 and then north on Highway 100 into Golden Valley.
There were few African Americans living in Carver County and no church that spoke to him, so Mr. Mosley drove all the way to King of Kings Baptist Church for services. It occurred to me that it took Mr. Mosley as much time to go to church as it took me to drive to his house, yet he had managed to visit the first-ring suburb of Minneapolis at least once a week while I couldn’t visit him a half dozen times a year.
“I’m sorry, sir,” I heard myself mutter. “I should have …”
Don’t go there. Don’t think about the many things you should have done for that good old man.