The thrilling new Virgil Flowers novel from the #1 New York Times-bestselling author.
The superstore chain PyeMart has its sights set on a Minnesota river town, but two very angry groups want to stop it: local merchants, fearing for their businesses, and environmentalists, predicting ecological disaster. The protests don't seem to be slowing the project, though, until someone decides to take matters into his own hands.
The first bomb goes off on the top floor of PyeMart's headquarters. The second one explodes at the construction site itself. The blasts are meant to inflict maximum damage-and they do. Who's behind the bombs, and how far will they go? It's Virgil Flowers's job to find out . . . before more people get killed.
FROM THE BOARDROOM WINDOWS, high atop the Pye Pinnacle, you could see almost nothing for a very long way. A white farmhouse, surrounded by a scattering of metal sheds, huddled in a fir-tree windbreak a half mile out and thirty degrees to the right. Another farmhouse, with a red barn, sat three-quarters of a mile away and thirty degrees to the left. Straight north it was corn, beans, and alfalfa, and after that, more corn, beans, and alfalfa.
Somebody once claimed to have spotted a cow, but that had never been confirmed. The top floor was so high that the board member rarely even saw birds, though every September, a couple of dozen turkey vultures, at the far northern limit of their range, would gather above Pye Plaza and circle through the thermals rising off the concrete and glass.
There were rumors that the vultures so pissed off Willard Pye that he would go up to the roof, hide in a blind disguised as an air conditioner vent, and try to blast them out of the sky with a twelve-gauge shotgun.
Angela “Jelly” Brown, Pye’s executive assistant, didn’t believe that rumor, though she admitted to her husband it sounded like something Pye would do. She knew he hated the buzzards and the saucer-sized buzzard droppings that spotted the emerald-green glass of the Pinnacle.
But that was in the autumn.
On a sunny Wednesday morning in the middle of May, Jelly Brown got to the boardroom early, pulled the drapes to let the light in, and opened four small vent windows for the fresh air. That done, she went around the board table and at each chair put out three yellow #2 pencils, all finely sharpened and equipped with unused rubber erasers; a yellow legal pad; and a water glass on a PyeMart coaster. She checked the circuit breakers at the end of the table to make sure that the laptop plug-ins were live.
As she did that, Sally Humboldt from food services brought in a tray covered with cookies, bagels, and jelly doughnuts; two tanks of hot coffee, one each of regular and decaf; and a pitcher of orange juice and one of cranberry juice.
THE FIRST BOARD MEMBERS began trickling in at eight forty-five. Instead of going to the boardroom, they stopped at the hospitality suite, where they could get something a little stronger than coffee and orange juice: V-8 Bloody Marys were a favorite, and screwdrivers—both excellent sources of vodka. The meeting itself would start around nine-thirty.
Jelly Brown had checked the consumables before the board members arrived. She’d put an extra bottle of Reyka in the hospitality suite, because the heavy drinkers from Texas and California were scheduled to show up.
A few minutes after nine o’clock, she went back to the boardroom to close the windows and turn on the air-conditioning. Sally Humboldt had come back with a tray of miniature pumpkin pies, each with a little pigtailed squirt of whipped cream and a birthday candle. They always had pie at a Pye board meeting, but these were special: Willard Pye would be seventy in three days, and the board members, who’d all grown either rich or richer because of Pye’s entrepreneurial magic, would sing a hearty “Happy Birthday.”
Jelly Brown had closed the last window when she noticed that somebody had switched chairs. Pye was a man of less than average height, dealing with men and even a couple of women on the tall side, so he liked his chair six inches higher than standard, even if his feet dangled a bit.
She said, “Oh, shit,” to herself. Almost a bad mistake. Pye would have been mightily pissed if he’d had to trade chairs with somebody—no graceful way to do that. She then made a much worse mistake: she pulled his chair out from the spot at the corner of the table and started dragging it around to the head of the table.
THE BOMB WAS in a cardboard box on the bottom shelf of a credenza on the side wall opposite the windows. When it detonated, Jelly Brown had just pulled the chair out away from the table, and that put her right next to the credenza. She never felt the explosion: never felt the blizzard of steel and wooden splinters that tore her body to pieces.
SALLY HUMBOLDT WAS bent over a serving table, at the far end of the room. Between her and the bomb were several heavy chairs, the four inch-thick tabletop, and the four-foot-wide leg at the end of the table. All those barriers protected her from the blast wave that killed Jelly Brown and blew out the windows.
The blast did flatten her, and broken glass rained on her stunned, upturned face. She didn’t actually hear the bomb go off —had no sense of that—and remembered Pye screaming orders, but she really wasn’t herself until she woke up in the hospital in Grand Rapids, and found her face and upper body wrapped in bandages.
The bandages covered her eyes, so she couldn’t see anything, and she couldn’t hear anything except the drone of words, and a persistent, loud, high-pitched ringing. For a moment she thought she might be dead and buried, except that she found she could move her hands, and when she did, she felt the bandages.
And she blurted, “God help me, where am I? Am I blind?”
There were some word-like noises, but she couldn’t make out the individual words, and then, after a confusing few seconds, somebody took a bandage pad off her left eye. She could see okay, with that eye, anyway, and found herself looking at a nurse, and then what she assumed was a doctor.
The doctor spoke to her, and she said, “I can’t hear,” and he nodded, and held up a finger, meaning, “One moment,” and then he came back with a yellow legal pad and a wide-tipped marker and wrote in oversized block letters: You were injured in an explosion. Do you understand?
She said, “Yes, I do.”
He held up a finger again and wrote: You have temporarily lost your hearing because of the blast. Another page: You have many little cuts from glass fragments. Turned the page: Your other eyelid is badly cut, but not the eye itself. Another page: Your vision should be fine. Another: You also
suffered a minor concussion and perhaps other impact injuries. Finally:
Your vital signs are excellent.
“What time is it?” she asked. The light in the room looked odd. 5 o’clock. You’ve been coming and going for almost 8 hours. That’s the concussion.
There was some more back-and-forth, and finally she asked, “Was it a gas leak?”
The doctor wrote: The police believe it was a bomb. They want to talk to you as soon as you are able.
“What about Jelly? She was in the room with me.”
The doctor, his expression grim, wrote: I’m sorry. She wasn’t as lucky as you.
MORE OR LESS the same thing happened all over again, three weeks later and four hundred and fifty miles to the west, in Butternut Falls, Minnesota. Gilbert Kingsley, the construction superintendent, and Mike Sullivan, a civil engineer, arrived early Monday morning at the construction trailer at a new PyeMart site just inside the Butternut Falls city limits.
Kingsley, unfortunately for him, had the key, and walked up the metal steps to the trailer door, while Sullivan yawned into the back of his hand three steps below. Kingsley turned and said, “If we can get the grade—”
He was rudely interrupted by the bomb. Parts of the top half of Kingsley’s body were blown right back over Sullivan’s head, while the lower half, and what was left of the top, plastered itself to Sullivan and knocked him flat.
Sullivan sat up, then rolled onto his hands and knees, and then pushed up to his knees and scraped blood and flesh from his eyes. He saw a man running toward him from the crew’s parking area, and off to his left, a round thing that he realized had Kingsley’s face on it, and he started retching, and turned and saw more people running. . . .
He couldn’t hear a thing, and never again could hear very well.
But like Sally Humboldt, he was alive to tell the tale.
THE ATF—ITS FULL NAME, seldom used, was the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives—instantly got involved. An ATF supervisor in Washington called the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and asked for a local liaison in Butternut Falls.
The request got booted around, and at an afternoon meeting at BCA headquarters in St. Paul, Lucas Davenport, a senior agent, said, “Let’s send that fuckin’ Flowers up there. He hasn’t done anything for us lately.”
“He’s off today,” somebody said.
Davenport said, “So what?”
VIRGIL FLOWERS WAS SITTING on a bale of hay on a jacked-up snowmobile trailer behind Bob’s Bad Boy Barbeque & Bar in North Mankato, Minnesota, watching four Minnesota farm girls duke it out in the semifinals of the 5B’s Third International Beach Volleyball Tournament.
The contestants were not the skinny, sun-blasted beach-blanket bingo chicks who played in places like Venice Beach, or down below the bluff s at Laguna and La Jolla. Not at all. These women were white as paper in January, six-three and six-four, and ran close to two hundred pounds each, in their plus-sized bikinis. They’d spent the early parts of their lives carrying heifers around barnyards, and jumping up and down from haylofts; they could get up in the air.
And when they spiked the ball, the ball didn’t just amble across the net like a balloon; the ball shrieked. And the guys watching, with their beers, didn’t call out sissy stuff like, Good one! or No way! They moaned: Whoa, dog y! and “Let that ball live. Have mercy!”
Of course, they were mostly dead drunk.
SITTING THERE IN THE MIXED ODORS of sawdust and wet sand, sweaty female flesh and beer, Virgil thought the world felt perfect. If it needed anything at all, nose-wise, it’d be a whiff of two-stroke oil-and-gas mixture from a twenty-five-horse outboard. That’d be heaven.
Johnson Johnson, sitting on the next bale over, leaned toward Virgil, his forehead damp with beer sweat, and said, “I’m going for it. She wants me.”
“She does want you,” Virgil agreed. They both looked at one of the bigger women on the sand; she’d been sneaking glances at Johnson. “But you’re gonna be helpless putty in her hands, man. Whatever she wants to do, you’re gonna have to do, or she’ll pull your arms off.”
“I’ll take the chance of that,” Johnson said. “I can handle it.” He was a dark-complected man, heavily muscled, like a guy who moved timber around—which he did. Johnson ran a custom sawmill in the hardwood hills of southeast Minnesota. He’d taken his T-shirt off so the girls could see his tattoos: a screaming eagle on one arm, its mouth open, carrying a ribbon that said not E Pluribus Unum, but Bite Me; and on the other arm, an outboard motor schematic, with the name “Johnson Johnson” proudly scrawled on its cowling.
“Personally, I’d say your chances of handling it are slim and none, and slim is outa town,” Virgil said. “She’s gonna eat you alive. But you got no choice. The honor of the Johnsons is at stake. The honor of the Johnsons.”
Virgil was thinner, taller, and fairer, with blond surfer-boy hair curling down over his ears and falling onto the back of his neck. He was wearing aviator sunglasses, a pink Freelance Whales T-shirt, faded jeans, and sandals.
They were just coming up to game point when his cell phone rang, playing the opening bars of Nouvelle Vague’s “Ever Fallen in Love.” He took the phone out of his pocket, looked at it, and carefully slipped it back in his pocket. It stopped after four bars, then started again a minute later.
“Work?” Johnson asked.
“Looks like,” Virgil said.
“But you’re off .”
“That’s true,” Virgil said. “Hang on here, while I go lock the thing in the truck.”
Johnson tipped the beer bottle toward him: “Good thinkin’,” he said. And “Man, that’s a lotta woman, right there.”
The woman hit the volleyball with a smack that sounded like a short-track race-car collision, and Virgil fl inched. “Be right back,” he said.
As he walked down the side road to his truck, carefully stepping around the patches of sandburs, he was tempted to call Davenport. That would have been the right thing to do, he thought. But the day was hot, and the women, too, and the beer was cold and the world smelled so damn good on a great summer day. . . . And he was off .
The fact was, the only reason that Davenport would call was that somebody had gotten his or her ass murdered somewhere. Virgil was already late getting there—he was always the last to know—so another few hours wouldn’t make any difference. The powers that be in St. Paul would want him to go anyway, because it’d look good.
He popped the door on the truck, dropped the phone on the front seat, locked the door, and went back to the 5B.
VIRGIL WAS BASED IN MANKATO, Minnesota, two hours southwest of St. Paul, depending on road conditions and the thickness of the highway patrol. He routinely covered the southern part of the state. On non-routine cases, he’d be picked up by Davenport’s team and moved to wherever Davenport thought he should go.
A couple of hours after Davenport first called, Virgil left Johnson at the 5B, romancing the volleyball player. Their attachment was such that Virgil would not be required to drive Johnson back to his truck, so he headed home, across the river into Mankato.
Once on the road, he picked up his phone and pushed the “call” button, and two seconds later, was talking to Davenport.
“We got a bomb early this morning,” Davenport said. “One killed, one injured, in Butternut Falls. We need you to get up there.”
“What’s the deal?”
Davenport told him about the explosion and the casualties, and said that the ATF would be on the scene now, or shortly.
“I’ll be on my way in an hour,” Virgil said. “Wasn’t there another PyeMart bomb, killed somebody in Michigan a couple weeks back?”
“Yeah. Killed one, injured one. If it’d gone off twenty minutes later, it would have taken out the board of directors along with Pye himself,” Davenport said. “This guy is serious, whoever he is.”
“But if he started in Michigan, he could be a traveler. Unless we’ve got fingerprints or DNA.”
“We’ve got two things on that,” Davenport said. “The first thing is, the explosives are tagged by the manufacturer. The ATF has already identified the tags in the Michigan bomb as Pelex, which is TNT mixed with some other stuff , and is mostly used in quarries. In April, somebody cracked a quarry shed up by Cold Spring—that’s about an hour northeast of Butternut Falls—and two boxes of Pelex were taken. Other than the theft in Cold Spring, the ATF doesn’t have any other reports of Pelex theft in the last couple of years. So, the bomber’s probably local.”
“Okay,” Virgil said. “What’s the other thing?”
“Butternut is having a civil war over the PyeMart. People are saying the mayor and city council were bought, and the Department of Natural Resources is being sued by a trout-fishing group that says some trout stream is going to be hurt by the runoff . Lot of angry stuff going on. Over-the-top stuff . Threats.”
“There’s runoff going into the Butternut? Man, that’s not just a crime, that’s a mortal sin,” Virgil said.
“Whatever,” Davenport said. “In any case, the DNR okayed their environmental impact statement. I guess they’re already building the store.”
“That’s all I got,” Davenport said. Interesting case though. I didn’t want to take you away from your sheriff . . . .”
“Ah, she’s out in LA, being a consultant,” Virgil said. Having dinner with producers. Guys with suits like yours.”
“Sounds like the bloom has gone off the rose,” Davenport said.
“Maybe,” Virgil conceded.
“I can hear your heart breaking from here,” Davenport said. “Have a good time in Butternut.”
VIRGIL LIVED IN A SMALL white house in Mankato, two bedrooms, one and a half baths, not far from the state university. He traveled a lot, and so was almost always ready to go. He told the old lady who lived next door that he’d be leaving again, asked her to keep an eye on the place, and gave her a six-pack of Leinie’s for her trouble. He packed a week’s clothes into his travel bag, mostly T-shirts and jeans, put a cased shotgun on the floor of his 4Runner, along with a couple boxes of 00 shells, and stuck his pistol in a custom gun safe under the passenger seat, along with two spare magazines and a box of 9- millimeter.
A quick Google check said that Butternut Falls would be two hours away. He printed out a map of the town, and while it was printing, turned the air-conditioning off, checked the doors to make sure they were locked, and turned on the alarm system. On the way out, he thought, with his last look, that the house looked lonely; too quiet, with dust motes floating in the sunlight over the kitchen sink. Nothing to disturb them. He needed . . . what? A wife? Kids? More insurance policies? Maybe a dog?
When the truck was loaded and the house secure, Virgil pulled out of the driveway into the street, reversed, and backed up in front of his boat, which had been parked on the other side of the driveway. His fishing gear was already aboard. But then, it was always aboard. After a quick look at the tires, he hitched up the trailer, folded up the trailer jack, and took off.
He got fifty feet, pulled over, jogged back to the garage, opened a locker, took out a pile of fly-fishing gear, including a vest, chest waders, rod case, and tackle box, and carried them back to the truck.
Better to have a fly rod and not need it, than to need a fly rod and not have it. He climbed back in the truck and took off again.
PACKING UP AND GETTING OUT of town took an hour, just as he had told Davenport it would. The sun was still high in the sky, and he’d be in Butternut well before sundown, he thought. The longest day of the year was just around the corner, and those days, in Minnesota, were long.
And he thought a little about the sheriff out in LA, Lee Coakley. She was still warm enough on the telephone, but she’d been infected by show business. She’d gone out as a consultant on a made-for-TV movie, based on one of her cases, and had been asked to consult on another. And then another. Women cops were hot in the movies and on TV, and there was work to be had. Her kids liked it out there, the whole surfer thing. Just yesterday, she’d had lunch in Malibu . . .
Once you’d seen Malibu, would you come back to Minnesota? To the Butternut Falls of the world? To Butternut cops?
“Ah, poop,” Virgil said out loud, his heart cracked, if not yet broken.
VIRGIL TOOK U.S. 14 out of town, back through North Mankato and past the 5B, resisting the temptation to stop and see if Johnson Johnson was still alive. He went through the town of New Ulm, which once was—and maybe still was—the most ethnically homogeneous town in the nation, being 99 percent German; then took State 15 north to U.S. 212, and 212 west past Buffalo Lake, Hector, Bird Island, and Olivia, then U.S. 71 north into Butternut Falls.
Butternut was built at the point where the Butternut River, formerly Butternut Creek, ran into a big depression and filled it up, to form the southernmost lake in a chain that stretched off to the north. Butternut’s lake was called Dance Lake, after a man named Frederick Dance, who ran the first railroad depot in town, back in the 1800s.
The railroad was still big in town, and included a switching yard. The tracks ran parallel to U.S. 12, which ran through the town east to west, crossing U.S. 71 right downtown. Butternut, with about eighteen thousand people, was the county seat of Kandiyohi County, which was pronounced Candy-Oh-Hi.
Virgil knew some of that—and would get the rest out of Google— because he had, at one time or another, been in and out of most of the county seats in the state, also because he’d played Legion ball against the Butternut Woodpeckers, more commonly referred to, outside Butternut, and sometimes inside, as the wooden peckers.
VIRGIL DROVE INTO BUTTERNUT at half past six o’clock in the evening, in full daylight, and checked into the Holiday Inn. He got directions out to the PyeMart site from a notably insouciant desk clerk, a blond kid, and drove west on U.S. 12 to the edge of town. He passed what looked like an industrial area on the south side of the highway, crossed the Butternut River—a small, cold stream no more than fifty feet wide where it ran into the lake on the north side of the highway—then past a transmission shop. After the transmission shop, there were fields, corn, beans, oats, and alfalfa.
Most people, he thought, didn’t know that alfalfa was a word of
Arabic derivation. . . .
He was beginning to think that he’d missed the PyeMart site when he rolled over a low hill and saw the plot of raw earth on the south side of the highway, along with some concrete pilings sticking out of the ground. When he got closer, he saw the pilings were on the edges and down the middle of two huge concrete pads.
Everything else, including the soon-to-be parking lot, was raw dirt. A couple of bulldozers were parked at one edge of the site, and to the left, as he went in, he saw the construction trailer. There was a ring of yellow crime-scene tape around it, tied to rebar poles stuck upright in the dirt, to make a fence. Two sheriff’s deputies, one of
each sex, sat on metal chairs just outside the tape, in the sun, and watched Virgil’s truck bouncing across the site.
Trailers on the plains are sometimes called “tornado bait,” and this one looked like it’d taken a direct hit. Virgil had seen a lot of tornado damage and several trailer fires; one thing he realized before he’d gotten out of the truck was that as hard as this trailer had been hit, there’d been no fire. In another minute, he was picking out the difference between a bomb blast and a tornado hit.
A tornado would shred a trailer, twisting it like an empty beer can in the hands of a redneck. This trailer looked like a full beer can that had been left outside in a blizzard to freeze: everything about it looked swollen. A door had been mostly blown off and was hanging from a twisted hinge.
He climbed out of the truck and walked up to the trailer, and as he did that, the female deputy, who wore sergeant’s stripes, asked, “Where do you think you’re going?”
“Well, right here,” Virgil said. He was still in the pink T-shirt and jeans, although he’d traded his sandals for cowboy boots. He had a sport coat in the car, but the day was too warm to put it on. “I’m Virgil Flowers, with the BCA, up here to arrest your bomber.”
Both deputies frowned, as though they suspected they were being put on. “You got an ID?” the woman asked. She was a redhead, with freckles, and a narrow, almost-cute diastema between her two front teeth. One eyelid twitched every few seconds, as though she were over-caffeinated.
“I do, in my truck, if you want to see it,” Virgil said. “Though to tell you the truth, I thought I was so famous I didn’t need it.”
“It was a Virgil Flowers killed those Vietnamese up north,” the male deputy said.
“I didn’t kill anybody, but I was there,” Virgil said. “The sheriff around? I thought this place would be crawling with feds.”
“There’re two crime-scene guys in the trailer,” the female deputy said, poking a thumb back over her shoulder. “The rest of them are at the courthouse—they should be back out here any minute. The chief left us out here to keep an eye on things. I should have been off three hours ago.”
“I was having a beer when they called me,” Virgil said. “Watching some young women playing beach volleyball.”
“That’s better’n what I was going to do,” the male said. “I was just gonna mow my yard.”
They still seemed a little standoffish, so Virgil said, “Let me get you that ID.”
He went back to the truck, got his ID case, came over, and flipped it open to show the woman, who seemed to be the senior cop. She nodded and said her name was something O’Hara, and that the other deputy was Tom Mack. Virgil stuck the case in his back pocket and asked, “So where’d this guy get killed? Right here?”
Mack nodded, and faced off to his left, pointed behind the yellow tape. “Right over there. You can still see a little blood. That’s where most of him was. His head was over there—popped right off, like they do. There were other pieces around. The guy who was wounded, he soaked up quite a bit of the body.”
He still in the hospital?” Virgil asked.
“Yeah, he was crazy hysterical, I guess,” O’Hara said. “He’s not right yet. They gave him a bunch of drugs, trying to straighten him out. Not hurt bad. Can’t hear anything, but there’re no holes in him.”
At that moment, a business jet flew overhead, low, and Mack said,
“That must be Pye. Willard T. Pye. They said he was coming in.”
“Good, that’ll help,” Virgil said.
O’Hara showed a hint of a smile and said, “Nothing like a multibillionaire looking over your shoulder, when you’re trying to work.”
“So, you said the guy’s head popped off, like they do,” Virgil said to Mack. “You know about bombs or something? I don’t know anything.”
Mack shrugged. “I did two tours in Iraq with the Guard. That’s what you always heard about suicide bombers—they’d pull the trigger, and their heads would go straight up, like basketballs. Think if there’s a big blast, and you’re close to it, well, your skull is a pretty solid unit, and it hangs together, but it comes loose of your neck.
So . . . that’s what I heard. But I don’t really know.” He looked at
O’Hara. “You hear that?”
“Yeah, I think everybody did. But maybe it was from some movie. I don’t know that it’s a fact.”
“You in the Guard, too?” Virgil asked.
She nodded. “Yeah, I did a tour with a Black Hawk unit. I was a crew chief and door gunner.”
“I did some time in the army, but I was a cop, and never had much to do with bombs,” Virgil said. They traded a few war stories, and then Mack nodded toward the road. “Here comes the VIP convoy. That’d be the sheriff in front, and that big black Tahoe is the ATF, and I don’t know who-all behind that. They’ve been having a meeting at the courthouse.”
“Good thing I’m late,” Virgil said. “I might’ve had to go to it. . . .You got media?”
“Yeah, and there they are,” O’Hara said. “Right behind the convoy. Tell you what, and don’t mention I said it, but you don’t want to be standing between the sheriff and a TV camera, unless you want cleat marks up your ass.”
Virgil saw a white truck, followed by another white truck, and then a third one. “Ah, man. I forgot to wash my hair this morning.”
“Forgot to bring your gun, too,” Mack said.
“Oh, I got a gun,” Virgil said. “I just forgot where it is.”
THE KANDIYOHI COUNTY SHERIFF was a tall beefy Swede named Earl Ahlquist, a known imperialist. Four years past, he’d pointed out to a money-desperate city council that there was a lot of police-work duplication in Kandiyohi County, and they could cut their policing costs in half by firing their own department and hiring him to do the city’s police work. There was some jumping up and down, but when the dust settled, the two departments had merged and Ahlquist was king.
Ahlquist climbed out of his car, nodded at Virgil, and said, “I hate that shirt.”
“It’s what I wear on my day off,” Virgil said. “How you doing, Earl?”
“Other than the fact that a guy got murdered this morning, and we got a mad bomber roaming around loose, and I missed both lunch and dinner, and I’m running on three Snickers bars and some Ding Dongs, I’m just fine.”
“I had some pretty good barbeque and a few beers this afternoon, before I was called on my day off,” Virgil said. “I was watching some good-looking women play beach volleyball.”
“Yeah, yeah, I got it. This is your day off. Tough titty,” Ahlquist said. He turned to the crowd coming up behind him. “You know Jack LeCourt? He’s our top man here in the city. Jack, this is Virgil Flowers from the BCA, and, Virgil, this is Jim Barlow, he’s with the ATF outa the Grand Rapids field office, he’s been working the first bomb up in Michigan. . . . This is Geraldine Gore, the mayor.”
The sheriff made all the introductions and they all shook hands and had something to say about Virgil’s pink shirt, and then O’Hara said, “We got a jet just landed at the airport, Chief. I think Pye’s here.”
“Aw, man,” Barlow said. He was a tall dark man, with hooded dark brown eyes, salt-and-pepper hair, and a neatly trimmed black mustache. He was wearing khaki slacks, a blue button-down shirt, and a dark blue blazer.
“He hasn’t been that much help?” Virgil asked.
“First thing he did was offer a one-million-dollar reward leading to the arrest and conviction,” Barlow said. “Then he gave his secretary’s family a two-million-dollar gift from the company, and gave the food-service lady, who was cut up, a quarter-million-dollar bonus. All the millions flying around meant he got wall-to-wall TV, and every time he went on, he bitched about progress. When we told him what we were doing, he leaked it. When I heard about this bomb, I thought, Now we’re getting somewhere. At least we know where the guy’s from. But you watch: it’ll be wall-to-wall TV here, too, in about fifteen minutes.”
“I can handle that. No need for you to get involved,” Ahlquist said, and from behind his back, O’Hara winked at Virgil. Virgil said, “So, as the humblest of the investigators here . . . can somebody tell me what happened?”
The mayor unself-consciously scratched her ass and said, “I’d like to know that myself.”
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