It called itself a sporting goods store, yet it served only two sports—hunting and fishing. The store was small and old and located just off of I-35 north of Forest Lake, about thirty minutes from St. Paul. A sign near the cash register read GUNS DON’T KILL PEOPLE, ONLY PEOPLE INSTRUCTED IN THE PROPER USE OF FIREARMS KILL PEOPLE. JOIN OUR SEVEN-HOUR “CONCEAL AND CARRY” HANDGUN COURSE. BECOME QUALIFIED TODAY! The store seemed ideal for what I had in mind.
After a half hour of browsing, I selected two handguns, a Beretta double-action 9 mm with an eight-round magazine and a modest .25 Iver Johnson. I piled fifties on the glass counter next to the guns until I covered the nearly thousand-dollar cost plus tax. The store owner didn’t seem surprised that I was paying cash until I added three more fifties to the stack.
“What’s that for?”
“I’d like to buy a little convenience.”
“What’s that mean, convenience?”
“I want you to backdate the 4473 three days so I can take the guns with me.”
The owner looked at the ATF firearms transaction form as if he were seeing it for the first time.
“You do, huh?”
“I live in South Dakota, and I’m going home soon. If I have to come back to the store, I might as well buy the guns in South Dakota.”
The store owner looked at the stack of fifties and then at me.
“I can appreciate that,” he said.
“So how ’bout it?”
“Do you have identification?”
The Holiday Inn on I-494 insisted on a credit card. I gave Greene’s Visa to the desk clerk. It went through without any problem. After my experience with the car rental folks, I was certain that it would. Nor was I worried that Greene had reported his card stolen, because it hadn’t been stolen. Somehow—and there are many ways, including mail theft—Phu had acquired Greene’s name and account numbers and had essentially made a duplicate of his existing cards. The same with his driver’s license. They were as real as the cards he carried in his own wallet. In a month or so, Greene would start getting unexplained charges on his account statements; he’d start getting confusing bills from companies that he didn’t remember doing business with. If he was smart, he’d realize that he was a victim of identity theft and would take the necessary steps to protect himself. Until then, I could confidently pretend to be him.
Still, I didn’t want to cause any more grief for the man than was necessary. That’s why I was determined to pay for everything in cash when the bill came due—at the motel, at the car rental agency, and anywhere else. I would steal his name for a time, but I wouldn’t take his money.
When the desk clerk pushed the registration form in front of me, I signed Jacob Greene’s name carefully.
There were no lights burning inside the Dunston home. I had watched it carefully before making my way around to the back and across the brick patio Bobby and I had built over the Labor Day weekend. I gently rapped on the sliding glass door—Bobby and I had installed that, too. A moment later, I rapped again, this time louder. A light clicked on inside. Its beam stretched across the floor. Shelby followed the beam into the dining room. She stood at the far end of the table, staring at my image through the glass as she tied a thin robe about her.
She came forward, unlocked the door, and slid it open.
“McKenzie, what are you doing?”
She was whispering. I whispered back.
“Hi, Shel. Is Bobby here?”
“No, he’s at work. What’s going on?”
“Are the girls asleep?”
“Of course they’re asleep. Do you know what time it is?”
“Yeah, sorry about that. Look, if Bobby’s not here, I’m gonna have to ask you to take this.”
I handed her the shoe box. It contained everything except the cash.
“What’s this?” Shelby asked.
“Your what? What are you—” Shelby set the box on the floor and stepped onto the patio, closing the door quietly behind her.
“What are you talking about, McKenzie?”
Her feet were bare, and she wrapped her arms around herself.
“You’re cold,” I told her. “Go back inside.”
“Are you in trouble?”
“Did Bobby tell you …”
“He told me everything.”
“Then you know I’m in trouble.”
“This is crazy.”
“No doubt about it.”
“What’s in the box?”
“All my financial records and my will. The girls get everything.”
“There’s also a life insurance policy. Fifty thousand dollars. You’re the beneficiary. If anything happens to me, I expect you to buy an expensive sports car. A red one.”
“Don’t talk like that.”
“No one lives forever.”
“Don’t talk like that,” she repeated.
“I have to go.”
“I’m not telling you.”
“Why not? Do you think you’re protecting me?”
“Not a chance. I’ll see you.”