Pen turned her head away, her hand clamped over her mouth.

I was lying on my side on the floor. Sykora was on his stomach. We both angled our heads toward the door.


Nick Horvath stood there with an Israeli-made 9 mm Uzi submachine gun in his hands.

He said, “I don’t want any trouble with you two. Drop your guns, slide them away.”

From the look of the magazine, I figured Horvath had about thirty-four shots left. I set the Iver Johnson on the floor and slid it across to him. A moment later, Sykora followed suit with his Glock.

Horvath smiled. He nodded at Pen and said, “How you doin’, sweetie?”

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“I’ve been better,” said Pen evenly. The pain in her eyes hadn’t reached her voice yet.

Horvath glared at Frank. “Did fat boy here hurt you?”

“A little bit. Not a lot.”

“I’m terribly sorry about all this.”

“It’s not your fault.”

“In a way it is. I could’ve stopped Frank in New York, but he slipped away from me.”


Horvath smiled at Pen like he was proud of her. Truth be told, so was I. She was handling herself extremely well. A brave front.

Sykora asked Pen, “Do you know this man?”

Pen said, “He’s our neighbor. Nick Horvath.”

The one who couldn’t hit the broad side of a Ford truck with a baseball bat, I remembered.

“Ishmael,” I said.

“I’ve been called worse.”

“I understand now,” I told Horvath. “The so-called kidnapping attempt outside Pen’s trailer. You arranged that to gain Pen’s trust.”

“Yeah. Looks like it worked out better for you, though, huh?”

“You’re the one who bugged her trailer.”


“And you’re the one who warned Granata that the FBI was going to hit his cigarettes.”


“I thought it was the gay guys down the road.”

“I heard they broke up,” Horvath said.

“Tell me something. If you knew the FBI had the quarry staked out, why send a truck at all? Even an empty one?”

Sykora answered the question for him.

“Granata wanted to send a message. He didn’t want us to think the shipment was jacked or diverted. He wanted us to know that he knew that we knew all about it.”

“It was a chance to say, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah,” Horvath said, and I flashed on what Sykora had told me earlier—it was a game, cops and robbers.

“You’ll never get away with it,” Sykora said.

“Oh, shut up. Never get away … You know what?” Nick pointed the Uzi at Sykora. “I’m not talking to you. In fact, I’m not talking to either of you. Puttin’ Pen in danger. What a couple of schmucks.”

“You followed us,” I told him. “You heard our plans on the bug in the trailer and you followed us.”

“Yes, I did. Shut up, McKenzie.”

Horvath pointed the Uzi at Frank.

“Get up, fat boy.”

Frank looked to be in shock, his face and clothes splattered with pieces of Brucie.

“C‘mon, Russo. You want to die in fuckin’ Minnesota?”

Frank slowly struggled to his feet and shuffled toward Horvath like an old man.

“Maybe we can work something out,” he said.

“You keep thinkin’ that, Frank,” Horvath told him.

Nick spun the fat man around, then pushed him toward the door. Before Frank stepped through it, Horvath yanked his arm, halting him. He turned back toward us.

“Enough is enough, huh, guys,” he said. “Enough bullshit over this fat fuck.” He settled the muzzle of the Uzi on me. “When Little Al takes care of Frank, he’ll take care of ‘im for your people, too. And you.” Nick swung the Uzi on Sykora. “You’re just gonna have to find another way to become a fuckin’ hero. Personally, I suggest you try doin’ your job.”

Horvath sighed like he was suddenly tired.

“I want fifteen minutes. Fifteen-minute head start. That’s it. Whaddaya say?”

“Yes,” said Pen. Her calm voice filled the room as completely as soft sunlight. “A fifteen-minute head start. I promise.”

“Thank you, sweetie.”

“Thank you, Nick.”

“You take care.”

“And you.”

Horvath nodded. He pointed the gun at Sykora. “She’s way too good for you. You don’t deserve her.”

He swung the Uzi on me.

“Neither do you.”

Or you, I almost said but didn’t.

A moment later, he was gone. I listened as Frank huffed and puffed into the darkness. When I couldn’t hear him anymore, I came off my knees. I found my Beretta in Brucie’s pocket and the Iver Johnson against the wall. I looked toward the door.

Pen said, “I promised him fifteen minutes.”

So she did.

I moved through the cabin, trying as best I could to avoid Brucie’s corpse, and found a bedroom. I pulled a blanket off the bed and went back into the living room. Sykora was removing the last of the duct tape from Pen’s wrists and ankles.

“I’ll make this up to you,” he said. “I’ll take care of this.”

I remember saying pretty much the same thing to Sweet Swinging Billy Tillman. What a load of b.s.

I draped the blanket around Pen’s naked shoulders.

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