Roger Stelljes. Smashwords Edition

НазваниеRoger Stelljes. Smashwords Edition
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You’re a drop dead gorgeous woman, with a fantastic body, a great mind, and impeccable timing.”

10:45 PM

Mac pulled in behind the bar and noted that it was a slow night for the other family business: McRyan’s Pub, a true St. Paul institution. The pub sat on West Seventh Street, just on the outskirts of downtown and one block from the Xcel Energy Center, home of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild. It was the favored watering hole of hockey fans and the St. Paul Police alike, not to mention the single largest employer of ex-cops in the city.

As the window over the front door indicated, the Pub was established in 1907. Opened by Mac’s great-grandpa Patrick, the pub had a colorful history of serving drinks before, during, and after Prohibition. During Prohibition, they had been served in the now-infamous Patrick’s Room. Located in the basement, Patrick’s Room lay behind a hidden door disguised as a built-in wooden buffet, the type you would find in any older St. Paul Home. A latch inside the middle drawer of the buffet pushed the door into a large party room. During Prohibition, the police, politicians, citizens, and even notorious criminals like John Dillinger sat together, knocking back illegal drinks and having a good time.

Today, the inside of Patrick’s Room was adorned with black and white photos of that bygone era, while a plaque outside described the room’s infamous history. These days, the hidden room was used for private parties, meetings, and the occasional cop poker game.

Mac walked in the back door and stepped left into the main level of the Pub. A classic old-fashioned bar – massive stretch of mahogany with a brass rail – ate up half of the length and breadth of the room. Behind the bar were the typical bottles and taps and a long mirror with “McRyan’s Pub” stenciled across it, along with the Minnesota Wild Logo, a badge, and a shamrock. On most nights, this part of the bar was full of cops having a bump after a shift, happy to have made it through another tour, swapping war stories and telling lies. Tonight there were a few hanging around, but things were eerily quiet, voices in a hushed murmur. Nobody was in a happy, celebratory, or terribly talkative mood.

Mac made conversation for a few minutes with the bartender, a retired patrol cop, until Uncle Shamus walked in. Shamus, a retired St. Paul Detective, was the Pub’s current proprietor.

Michael,” Shamus said, coming over to give his nephew a big bear hug. “Boyo, let’s get you something to drink and go down to Patrick’s. I’ve got food on the way, whatever you and the boys need.”

Thanks, Shamus,” Mac replied, looking longingly at the beer taps. He was dying to have one – a Grain Belt Premium or a Schells, his current favorites. Instead he had the bartender mix him a tall Arnie Palmer, which, while not a beer, would be cold and refreshing nonetheless.

Shamus led Mac down the stairs and past a small game room, which was currently occupied by two regulars playing pool. Turning right, Shamus opened the middle drawer of the buffet and popped the latch to Patrick’s Room. Inside, Mac found a table set up with chips and salsa and a gray tub that was full of Diet Cokes, Sprites, and bottled waters.

I’ll have some warm food brought in,” Shamus said, grabbing a phone to call the kitchen. “When will everyone else be coming?”

Within the hour,” Mac replied as he opened two dark wood-paneled doors, revealing a whiteboard. “I could eat right now, though.”

BLTs?” Shamus asked, familiar with his nephew’s favorites. Mac nodded. Shamus dialed up to the kitchen and placed the order. “They’re on their way,” he said as he hung up. “So tell me, boyo. Where you at?”

Mac gave Shamus the rundown on the last two days, leaving out his suspicions about someone working the case from the inside.

You ain’t got shit, do ya, boyo?” Shamus asked.

Mac shook his head with disgust.

Shamus patted him on the back. “Well, it ain’t over yet,” he said. “You never know what’s gonna break a case, my boy. But let me tell ya, I’ve had the old hands in here by the dozens today. You need any help, you let me know. We’ll call in the brigade.” Shamus headed upstairs to check on the food.

One of the reasons Mac wanted to come to Patrick’s Room was the chance to be away from Burton, Duffy, the mayor, and everyone else and think and talk things out. Patrick’s Room was used for bar training and business meetings. Consequently, Shamus had outfitted it with all one needed for such things, including an overhead projector, drop-down movie screen, whiteboard, along with tables and chairs.

A psychologist friend said Mac was a visual learner, which meant he needed to see it, feel it, touch it, and write it down. While Mac was inclined to think it was a bunch of quack psychoanalysis, he had to admit that there was a bit of truth in it. He needed to see things laid out to understand the patterns and connections, to comprehend the whole picture. He loved puzzles, laying out the pieces and trying to make them all fit. It was time to mind-map – to lay out the pieces of this case and see what larger picture they formed. He took out his notebook and grabbed a black marker and started jotting down notes on the whiteboard. Along the top of the board he wrote:

Complicated – Prepared – Motivated.

For the next half hour he jotted down what the investigation had thus far.

Kidnappers: Probably three men? Big, over 6 feet. Hats, sunglasses, gloves. Vans, no consistent makes or models and always stolen. The one running the show has thought of everything. Seems to know what we’ll do.

Woman: Black hair, forties, smallish, purchased laptop, was the eyes inside at Cel’s and at St. Thomas University. Rented the safe house? Landlord said she was attractive, but with blonde hair. Wig? Same woman? Were there two women?

Vans: Last five days, panel-type, different makes. Gloves on drivers’ hands.

Hisle and Flanagan cases: No connections (at least yet) on criminal cases between Flanagan and Hisle.

Mac thought about that lack of a good connection. Wiskowski was a setup. The rest they’d looked into were weak at best. That still bothered him, which brought him back to something he’d said earlier.

Investigative Focus: Pick a good candidate even if not obviously connected to both men.

He scratched his head at the last note. That sounded good in theory, but it would take time to work through all of the names again and they had less than twenty hours. He left that for the time being and moved on to today’s clues: the laptop and safe house.

Laptop: Purchased by woman? Was it the same woman as at Cel’s? Store video was inconclusive. No match from facial recognition software. Woman had dark hair, wore a baseball cap and sunglasses. Computer purchased with cash, no credit card trail.

Safe house: House now abandoned? Clean. No evidence other than paint scratches on bed in basement. No forensic evidence feels right.

The door opened and his cousin Kelly walked in with a BLT and another Arnie Palmer. She gave Mac a little hug and a few words of encouragement before heading back out. Mac took a bite out of the sandwich and moved back to the whiteboard.

Ransom: $5 million. It should be more. What’s that mean? Is it important? The chief and Hisle could easily come up with more.

Video: Jupiter working it. FBI found nothing. Video shows isolated area-abandoned farm? Land the kidnappers own or owned?

Mac called Jupe, who had nothing to report yet. He said he would call as soon as something popped up. Figuring Jupe needed a second set of eyes, Mac called his cousin Shawn out of bed to go over and help. After the call, he went back to the whiteboard to deal with their newest concern.

Inside Job: Phone call and kidnappers “rip out” within five minutes. Did someone tip them off? Timing suggests it, but who? Inside department? FBI? Hisle’s law firm? Most likely in the department.

Mac pinched the bridge of his nose. They needed to figure out who knew about the call. Paddy and Double Frank were there at the time. In fact, Paddy told the room about it. He jotted down a note to call Paddy and Double Frank and have them make a list.

Then he turned his attention to the girls. He drew a map of the state of Minnesota and Wisconsin, marking River Falls, Clearwater, Lake Street in Minneapolis, Ellsworth, Duluth, and the safe house in St. Paul. He thought that the girls were within an hour of the Twin Cities at most. If that were the case, Duluth didn’t fit; it was at least two hours away. Was Duluth used to throw them off? Make them search a wider area? That was possible.

Where are the girls? Phone calls from Clearwater, Ellsworth, and Duluth. Buried underground. Must be rural, private, wooded area that public doesn’t use. Within an hour of the Cities.

Phone calls: Clearwater, Ellsworth, Duluth. Voice disguised. Speaker was blasé, clipped, except one thing “Hisle was the appetizer and your daughter is the main course.” Is one of the girls more important than the other? Is the chief or Hisle more important?

Mac looked over as the door opened and Sally strolled in. She was carrying a duffel bag. Mac realized that he was beyond scruffy, his hair messed and his clothes dirty, sweaty, and smelly. His girlfriend looked like a million bucks, khaki shorts revealing her shapely, tanned legs, a white, v-neck sleeveless shirt tight to her wonderful breasts, and fiery red hair up in a bouncy ponytail. She greeted him with a big hug and a long, warm kiss.

I’ve missed you,” she said, looking into his eyes.

Likewise,” he answered, giving Sally another kiss and holding her for a few minutes. He instantly felt better. “What’s in the bag?”

Sally opened it and handed him a change of clothes, a truly welcome sight. As he went behind the wet bar to clean up, Sally took a look at the whiteboard.

Inside job?” Sally asked, astonished. Mac explained as he turned on the tap water and waited for it to warm. “Damn, you’re probably right,” she said, shaking her head as Mac splashed water over his face. “What will you do to the person if you find them?”

Baby, you don’t want to know,” Mac answered as he toweled off his face. “So tell me about your day for a minute, get my mind off mine.”

Mine was uneventful, but for a friend of mine, holy frickin’ cow,” Sally said, a big smile crossing her face. “Do you remember Homer Snodgrass from law school?”

He was a gunner,” Mac answered. “He asked way too many questions in class and always thought he had all the answers. Hell, all he was ever doing was quoting from the Emanuels study guides.”

That might be true.”

Homer Snodgrass,” Mac chuckled. “I could never understand how parents with the last name of Snodgrass would name their kid Homer.”

Someone named Lich gave their son the name of Richard.”

Good point,” Mac answered, zipping up his pants.

Anyway, Homer’s making millions as a class-action lawyer these days.”


Now his day was eventful.”

Why’s that?”

Do you remember hearing about that portable heater class action a couple of weeks ago?”

Vaguely. Wasn’t it something about a flaw in the design causing fires, something like that? Jury awarded something like $20 million?”

Exactly,” Sally said. “That was Homer. Anyway, it was a bet-the-company case. The company lost, and the owner paid – or tried to pay – Homer a visit over in Minneapolis.

That couldn’t be good,” Mac said, pulling a fresh white-and-blue striped Adidas golf shirt over his head.

No, it wasn’t,” Sally replied. “This guy shows up in a trench coat, which on a day like today with the heat, should have been a sign of trouble in and of itself. In any event, he barged past the front desk at the firm. He’s stalking the halls, looking for Homer, and when he sees him,” her eyes lit up, “he starts chasing Homer with an axe – not a hatchet, but a big red fireman’s axe. Can you believe it, with an axe?”

No way,” Mac said, laughing out loud, a disbelieving smile on his face. “What the hell happened then?”

Oh shit,” she replied smiling, enjoying the chance to tell the story. “I guess Homer starts running, although where do you go on the forty-fourth floor of the American Financial Tower? But he starts running, goes down a flight of steps, trying to get away from this guy, who’s running after him like a crazed lunatic, waving this axe, yelling ‘I’m gonna kill you. I’m gonna kill you.’ People ducking for cover everywhere – it was a zoo.”

So did the police get there?”

No, it was the security guards. American Financial has pretty serious security in the building, since they occupy most of the floors. They finally caught up and subdued the guy.”

Just then, Riles, Rock, Lich, and Peters burst in, all of them freshly washed and changed. Lich asked what was so funny. Sally told the Homer Snodgrass story again as Mac turned his attention back to the whiteboard, twisting the black dry erase marker through his fingers like a baton.

The rental cops from downstairs earned their keep today,” Sally finished.

Went nuts over his company, huh?” Riles said, grabbing a sandwich off the table.

Yeah. He’s in a rubber room now, I’d suspect,” Sally said, popping open the top of a Diet Coke and pouring the contents into a red plastic cup filled with ice. “Homer says these people in class-action suits get pretty pissed off at him. This isn’t the first time he’s had death threats, for cripes’ sake.” Mac stared at the notation on the board:

Hisle and Flanagan cases: No connections (at least yet) on criminal cases between Flanagan and Hisle.

He dramatically underlined “criminal” and suddenly the pieces fell together into a new picture. “It’s the civil cases. I bet it’s the damned civil cases,” Mac exclaimed loudly.

What?” Sally asked.

You know what, Kennedy? You’re a drop-dead gorgeous woman with a fantastic body, a great mind, and impeccable timing,” Mac said, giving her a big wet kiss on the lips.

Sally looked at him, stunned.

What the hell’s got into you?” Peters asked as the others started.

A guy went after a lawyer with an axe because he lost his company in a class-action suit, right?”

Yeah, so?”

She also said this guy has received death threats – more than once.”

Again, so?”

Lyman Hisle is one of the most successful class-action and discrimination lawyers around. We all think of the criminal stuff because that’s where we deal with him. But he’s made millions upon millions on those class-action and discrimination cases and we haven’t been looking at those cases.”

Why not?” Rock asked.

Because Burton and the chief thought the criminal cases were the most likely connection when we had just the Hisle kidnapping. Then, when they took Carrie Flanagan, everyone naturally assumed that it had to be the criminal cases again, because it involved a criminal lawyer and a cop. But what if Lyman’s civil world crossed with the chief somehow? Somebody who lost a ton of money to Lyman, and where there’s a connection to the chief.”

Or with multiple kidnappers? Maybe one hand is washing the other,” Lich added. “Someone pissed at Lyman joins up with someone pissed at the chief, or visa versa.”

How would that happen?” Peters asked. “Who knows?” Mac said. “But maybe it has. We haven’t found the connection on the criminal cases. So we have to take a look at it from the civil side.”

How many cases or people we talking here?” Riles asked, aware of the ticking clock.

Hundreds, maybe thousands, given how prolific Lyman is,” Sally said. “It could be a defendant in a case he won, could be a plaintiff in a case he lost.”

Probably a defendant,” Mac said. “And it fits with these guys.” He smiled, looking at his three words. “They’ve been prepared. It’s complicated, and this is why. Because it’s a connection between a case the chief worked and some civil matter of Lyman’s.” He paused, and then added with a little admiration in his voice, “Man, that’s a nice little twist on their part when you think about it.”

Which fits with two of your words up there,” Riles said. “Now all we need is the ‘motivated.’ We need to figure out what’s motivating these guys.”

I wonder if they tipped their hand on that,” Mac said.

How so?” Lich asked.

Mac underlined the quote. “It’s what the kidnapper said when he called the chief. He said: ‘Hisle was the appetizer and your daughter was the main course.’”

And you think?” Peters asked.

That the guy running the show is after the chief. The man running the show is someone the chief busted, or a family member of someone he busted, something along those lines.”

And Hisle?” Sally asked.

The price this guy is paying for the help.”

But does that really get us any closer?” Lich said.

Not yet,” Mac conceded. “But if we figure out the who, then we’ll probably be able to determine what is motivating them. So we still have to run the chief’s entire list against Lyman’s civil cases, but it gives us another piece, another way of looking at this. But I’m betting the brains of this little operation are the chief’s side of the ledger. The help is from Lyman. But we’ve gotta dig into all of that and we’ve got to do it now.”

I’ll call Burton,” Peters said.

NO!” everyone cried in unison.

Why the hell not?”

Someone’s workin’ the inside on this,” Mac answered quietly and without emotion.

Peters stared at him as the rest of the room fell silent, a disbelieving look overtaking his face. “You better tell me what you got,” their captain said quietly.

Mac and Riley told him about the timeline, the call from Hall and the vans’ sudden departure. It was thin, they all knew that, but it seemed right. Peters sighed.

So we can’t trust anyone?”

Beyond the people in this room and a few others, Paddy or Double Frank at least, no,” Riles said.

We need to do this ourselves,” Mac added.

That won’t make the mayor happy,” Rock warned.

Screw the mayor,” Mac said. “Besides, he is one of the people we can’t trust.”

And Burton?” Rock asked.

He’s a good man, from what we’ve seen. If we start getting somewhere we can bring him in. But for now, we need to keep this close.”

So what do you propose we do?” Peters asked.

We need to set up shop over at Lyman’s offices and away from everyone else. We need to be able to hook into that database we’ve been building at the Department of Public Safety, and we’re going to need someone technical to make that all happen.”

Hisle have anyone like that” Lich asked.

I doubt it,” Sally answered. “Law office the size of Lyman’s will have someone who runs their document management systems, but I doubt it’s someone who has higher-end computer skills. And it sounds like you need something slightly illegal here.”

How about your buddy Jupiter?” Peters asked.

I’ve already got him doing something else,” Mac answered. He explained what Jupiter was looking for in the video.

How about someone from the department?” Rock said.

There’s one person who is pretty good,” Mac said. “That IT guy, Scheifelbein. I think we can trust him. But we’re going to need him to tap into that database and cover our tracks on that end, so he needs to stay put. We need to get someone from the outside.”

Then who the fuck do we get?” Rock asked harshly. “You don’t just pick up someone like that off the street.” He looked at his watch, “At eleven twenty-four at night I might add.”

Mac smiled. He loved it when his mind got going. He could be a devious mother fucker when he did. “How about a convict?”

Riles snorted, shook his head, and smiled. “Hagen? You want to get Hagen don’t you?”

Mac simply nodded.

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