“Thank you,” Pen said.
“Give me your cell phone,” I told Sykora.
He handed it to me.
“Fifteen minutes,” Pen repeated.
Her eyes were red with tears that hadn’t fallen, yet her voice still seemed unaffected, and I wondered if somehow she would manage to get a song out of all this.
I sat and waited.
Pen said, “Your real name is McKenzie?”
“I liked Jake,” she said.
You didn’t know him the way I did, I thought.
A moment later, Pen rested her fingers on my wrist and I received the same unexpected jolt of electricity that I felt at the pool in Hilltop.
She said, “I forgive you, McKenzie.”
I didn’t realize how much I needed forgiveness until she gave it to me.
“Thank you,” I told her.
Fifteen minutes later, I punched 911 into the keypad of Sykora’s cell.
“Operator, give me the FBI.”
At last, Pen began to weep, her husband’s arms wrapped tightly around her.
Give him credit, Sykora didn’t try to explain or defend himself. He confessed to everything he had done and why he had done it. He even put in a good word for me. Lord knows I needed it. The fact that Pen sat next to him wrapped in the ratty old blanket seemed to make a difference to the hardened federal agents who filled the tiny cabin.
Still, neither the AIC of the Minneapolis field office nor a Justice Department attorney he had dragged to Whitefish Lake was pleased with me. The attorney spent a good deal of time pacing in front of my chair, listing all the federal and state crimes he could charge me with. I interrupted him after about a half dozen and reminded him of the recordings I had made of Sykora’s phone conversations. That only made him angrier.
Finally he said, “I’m letting you go, McKenzie, but not because of the lousy tapes.”
“Because if I charged you then we’d all be sonsuvbitches.”
After I was released I returned to the Hilltop Motel and cleared out Jake Greene’s clothes and surveillance equipment. I paid all of his bills with cash, including the rental on his car, and destroyed his credit cards, driver’s license, and other ID. With any luck, he’d never know how badly I used him.
I retrieved my Jeep Cherokee from an impound lot—for about 5 percent of its original sticker price—and drove along Mississippi River Boulevard in St. Paul. I stopped under the railroad bridge near the Shriners Hospital. There was a catwalk under the bridge. I climbed out on it as far as my acrophobia would allow and dumped the gun I had used to kill Danny. I watched it splash and disappear under the water. Then I dumped all the copies of the tapes I had made of Sykora’s and Frank’s conversations. I would have liked to keep a copy of the song Pen had written, but the deal I had made with Harry took precedence.
Afterward I drove home. But I stayed there only long enough to shower, shave, dress, and arm myself with the 9 mm Beretta I kept in my basement safe before driving off in my Jeep.
There was still Mr. Mosley’s killer to deal with.
The lawn around Mr. Mosley’s house was freshly cut, and the hedges had been trimmed. I wondered if some parishioners from King of Kings had come over and tidied up the place. I parked my SUV and approached the front door.
I knocked. There was no answer. I held the latch down and pushed against the door. It swung open.
I walked inside. The house was neater than I had ever seen it, neater even than when Agatha was keeping it. Someone had given the place a serious spring cleaning.
“Mr. Hernandez?” I called again.
I stood at the base of the staircase and shouted upstairs.
The kitchen was just as orderly as the rest of the house. Dishes washed and put away. Table and counter wiped. The floor where Mr. Mosley fell scrubbed clean of blood. Everything was in its place, including the ancient coffee percolator.
I went through the back door, the screen bouncing against the frame behind me. There was no one in the yard. I walked past the hives, ignoring—for the first time—the hundreds of bees that swarmed around me. I made my way to the bee barn where Mr. Mosley had kept the centrifuge that he used to extract honey from its comb, the pasteurizing machine that heats the raw honey to 155 degrees to kill bacteria, and his bottling operation. The huge door was open. Hernandez was inside. He was humming to himself as he polished the extractor’s massive 16-gauge stainless steel drum. It was bright enough to bounce my reflection back at me.
I glanced around the barn. Like Mr. Mosley’s house, it was immaculate. Even the cinder-block walls and concrete floor looked as if they had been scrubbed.
“You’ve been working hard,” I said.
My voice startled Hernandez. He dropped his rag and took two steps backward. He smiled slightly when he recognized me.
“McKenzie,” he said.