“Rushmore, these are amazing.”
Shelby’s the only one who gets to call me by my first name. I was christened after the national monument in whose shadow I was conceived while my parents were on a motor vacation through the Badlands. I liked to joke, “It could have been worse, it could have been Deadwood.” But that line was getting as old as I was.
“I’m still trying to get the sugar and cinnamon mixture right,” I told Shelby.
“No, no, this is good. This is perfect just the way it is.”
She had another donut, and I told her about my visit with Mr. Mosley and his bees. I deliberately edited out his “your girl” remarks.
“When will you know?”
“I have no idea. Ivy—Ivy Flynn, she’s the grad student doing the Meldwork—she just started gathering samples this morning.”
“You enjoy it, don’t you?”
“Helping Mr. Mosley. Helping any of your friends, for that matter.”
“I like to be useful. I think everyone has that desire. I think we want that more than cash.”
“Maybe that, too. Besides, it gives me something to do when I get up in the morning besides count my money.”
“There are a lot of things you could do besides what you do.”
“Go fishing? Play golf?”
“I do go fishing, I do play golf. It’s just … People retire. They scrape enough money together so they don’t have to work and they say, ‘I’ll go fishing, I’ll play golf.’ It’s what they squeezed in during those brief periods when they weren’t working, and they enjoyed it. But take away the work and suddenly the fishing and golf become their whole lives. And it’s not enough. They go nuts. Some manage it, of course. My dad enjoyed retirement. But he had a hobby. Doing stuff for other people was his hobby. Shingling roofs and building decks and plumbing. He was even a volunteer firefighter for a while. ‘Live well, be useful,’ he used to say. Words to live by.”
“Words you live by.”
“They’re good words.”
“Except you’re not particularly handy with a hammer or a wrench. So instead you perform other—what do you call them, chores?”
“And the more difficult and dangerous the favor …”
“The more fun,” I concluded.
“And if someone tries to kill you like they did last fall?” There was anxiety in Shelby’s voice, but I pretended not to hear.
“People tried to kill me when I was a cop, too.”
“You and Bobby.” Shelby turned and looked out her back window. There was a swing set that the girls were starting to outgrow and two bikes lying on the grass. Moments passed before she spoke again.
“I thought you were going back to the cops. I thought you were going to take a position with the St. Anthony Village Police Department. Chief of detectives, wasn’t it?”
“They offered me the job, but … The thing is, being a cop, you have to follow an awful lot of rules.”
“You didn’t mind when you were with St. Paul.”
“That was before I spent two and a half years obeying my own rules, coming and going as I please. It’s hard to go back to the everyday grind after that.”
A few moments later, the front door opened and closed. A male voice announced, “I’m home,” without much enthusiasm.
“In the kitchen,” Shelby replied.
Bobby Dunston entered. He was the same size as I was, as well as the same age. I can’t remember a time when we weren’t friends.
“Hi,” he said. He wasn’t surprised to see me. I had spent a lot of time in his kitchen when I was a kid, too.
“How’s it going?” I asked.
“Murder and mayhem abound.”
“So business is good.”
He went to Shelby, wrapped his arms around her, and held on tight. She returned the embrace. It seemed to last longer than a welcomehome hug should, or maybe it was just me being embarrassed by their obvious affection for each other. After a few moments, Shelby gently nudged him away.
“You’re not going to believe this,” she said. “McKenzie bought a mini-donut machine.”
“I’m going to take a shower,” Bobby said. “I’ll be right back.”
There was a look of concern in Shelby’s eyes as she watched him exit the kitchen.
“He does that a lot lately,” she told me.
“Take a shower? I should hope so.”
“As soon as he gets home from work, before he talks to me or the kids. It’s like he feels he needs to wash off the day first.”
I understood completely. I had been a cop for eleven and a half years before I quit in order to collect a three-million-dollar bounty on an embezzler I had tracked down in my spare time—St. Paul cops aren’t allowed to accept rewards and finder’s fees. Back in those days, I had taken a lot of showers, too.