The pickup truck listed hard to the left like a ship that was sinking.

I wasn’t afraid the noise would attract attention. Whoever heard the shots would listen for more. Only there would be no more, and after a few moments they’d stop listening. Meanwhile, I walked backward swiftly about fifteen paces, watching Lawrence and Michael watch me, until I hit the curb. I turned and ran across the street, hiding myself among the used cars until I was sure they weren’t chasing me.


Even criminals prefer easy commutes and safe neighborhoods. That’s why the twenty-two motels stretching along Interstate 35 from Lakeville to Burnsville and Eagan are so desirable. They’re peaceful, quiet, and safe, offer quick access to the southern Twin Cities freeway system, and are conveniently located a mere twenty or thirty minutes from the biggest drug market in the Upper Midwest: Minneapolis and St. Paul. Plus, it’s easy for drug runners coming up from Mexico and the southwestern states to hide among all those out-of-state license plates bound for the Mall of America.

The day was fading fast and rain threatened when I reached the motel identified on the key Michael had given me. The sign out front claimed that it had the lowest rates of any national chain in America, and from the look of the place, I believed it. The fort Victoria and Katie Dunston built out of cardboard boxes in their backyard had greater architectural integrity.

There were two levels to the motel. The doors of the rooms located on the bottom level opened to the gravel parking lot. The doors on the top opened to a landing that ran the length of the motel. There were two metal staircases, one on each side of the landing. The first was tucked next to the office; the second emptied into the parking lot. I parked at the bottom of the far staircase. The room I sought was in the center of the second-floor landing.

I climbed the metal stairs and slowly made my way to the room. The drapes were drawn over the only window. I rested my ear against the glass and listened. Nothing. My Beretta was in my hand, the safety off, as I edged to the door. This time I rested my ear against the cheap wood. Again, I heard nothing. I slipped the key into the lock and turned it cautiously. Satisfied that the door was unlocked, I turned the knob and swung it open. I entered the room in a crouch, the nine millimeter leading the way. A quick glance over and under the beds—there were two doubles—and a more careful examination of the bathroom proved the room was empty.

-- Advertisement --

I returned to the door and closed it. The room looked gloomy in the gathering dusk. The overhead light didn’t improve matters much, either. I locked the door and slipped the chain on. I nudged the drapes out of the way and glanced out of the window. There was no movement in the parking lot. It had begun to rain again—not hard, but steady.

The telephone was located on the table between the two double beds, but it had a long cord. I dragged the phone across the far bed, setting it on the floor between the bed and the wall. I turned off the light and sat on the floor in the corner next to the phone, the bed between me and the door. I activated the nine and set it within easy reach.

“Anytime now,” I said to the phone.

I had to wait only a half hour, but it seemed longer. When the phone began to ring, I picked up the Beretta and held it steady on the door. I gave it a few beats before answering the phone.

“Yes,” I said.

“Like the room?”

“I’ve been in better.”

“Uh-huh. You’re McKenzie, right?”

“Yeah. Is this Frank?”

“Fuck, are you kidding me?”

Nuts. The voice wasn’t the same as the one I heard over Pen’s phone. I was sure Michael and Lawrence had been working for Frank.

“Who are you?” I asked.

“Call me Ishmael.”

“I bet you have a whale of a tale to tell, too.”

“Hey, that’s funny.”

I took a chance. “Mr. Granata?” I asked.

After a slight pause, Ishmael said, “You think I’m Granata, huh?”

“The thought had crossed my mind, yeah.”

“Little Al’s too busy these days for wet work.”

“So he sends his flunky.”

“That’s what flunkies are for.” Ishmael chuckled. If he was insulted, I didn’t hear it in his voice. “Speaking of which, my boys are mighty put out with you. Do you know how much new truck tires cost these days?”

“Probably more than their truck is worth.”

“Probably you’re right.” Ishmael sighed dramatically. “You want to tell me, McKenzie, what the fuck you’re doing messing in our business?”

“Funny, I was going to ask you the exact same question.”

“I’ll bite—what’s your business?”


“Frank, huh?”

“Calls himself Frank Crosetti these days.”

“After the Yankee shortstop. Yeah, Frank always was a baseball fan. So what do you want him for?”

“He murdered a friend and raped another.”

“And you want payback for ’em.”

-- Advertisement --