John Sandford's Signature

Author     Lucas     Virgil     Other Books     Journalism

Lucas Davenport

Rules of Prey
Shadow Prey
Eyes of Prey
Silent Prey
Winter Prey
Night Prey
Mind Prey
Sudden Prey
Secret Prey
Certain Prey
Easy Prey
Chosen Prey
Mortal Prey
Naked Prey
Hidden Prey
Broken Prey
Invisible Prey
Phantom Prey
Wicked Prey
Storm Prey
Buried Prey
Stolen Prey
Silken Prey
Field of Prey
Gathering Prey
Extreme Prey
Golden Prey
Twisted Prey
Neon Prey
Masked Prey
Ocean Prey
Righteous Prey
Judgment Prey
Toxic Prey

Judgment Prey · Preview Chapters

Chapter One

A sullen wedge of gunmetal-colored clouds rolled in from the west, autumn's jackboot crunching down on the Twin Cities. A cold breeze sent fallen leaves skittering along the darkened October streets as a flash of blackbirds passed above the treetops, heading south.
Alex Sand was in the side yard with his boys, Blaine and Arthur, shooting baskets under a yard light. The storm was coming fast. They could smell it, taste it, they could hear the trees bending at the wind front; the falling temperature prickled their skin.
Arthur, the younger son, rolled behind his father who was throwing a pick at Blaine, but Blaine, instead of challenging the pick, rolled the other way and met Arthur coming around, stole the ball, dribbled it once and laid it into the basket.
He rebounded his own shot, made a face at Art and called, "Hey, piggy, piggy, piggy..."
Arthur, who still carried what the family called 'baby fat,' shouted, "Shut up, you fuck," and both boys took boxing stances, feigning an intention to duke it out right there, with bare fists.
Alex: "Hey, hey, hey... knock it off, both of you. If I hear that word again, Art, I will... tell your mother."
They all laughed at the toothless threat. Alex took the ball from his son, looked up at the darkening sky, and said, "We should get in. It's coming."
They hurried around to the front of the house, shoulders hunched against the first fat drops of cold rain, up the steps across the porch and inside.
They were trailed by the killer, who moved unseen from behind a privet hedge. The killer wore a dark hooded rain suit, glasses, a black covid mask and thin vinyl gloves. Alex and the kids were only a dozen steps ahead as they went through the door.
The doorbell was right there, but... the door wasn't fully shut. The killer pushed it with a knuckle and as the door swung open, stepped inside. The gun was out and ready. With his off-hand, he pushed the door closed behind him.
In the living room, Alex's back was to the killer. Arthur saw the intruder, eyes widened in what might have been recognition, as the killer lifted the gun and fired two shots into Alex's back. Alex staggered and went down.
The boys tried to run, twisting, screaming stumbling but the gun was right there, only six feet away. The killer shot Arthur first, in the hip, and the boy fell, crying out; Blaine was a step further away, running toward the kitchen, and the killer shot him in the neck.
Alex had been hit low, and lay face-down on the Persian carpet, one hand blindly groping toward the ebony leg of the grand piano. The killer moved close, and shot him twice more in the back, through the heart. The boys were next, one shot each, the gun dangling from the killer's hand, only eight or ten inches from the boys' heads.
In the deafening silence after the murders, the killer heard the baby begin to cry in a side room used as a day nursery. He went that way. The baby looked up from her bassinette, little blue eyes hazy, lips stretched open and wide, the better to scream, as the killer hovered over her...
A nightmare.

Like another one, on the very same day, full of the thunder of guns and the scent of blood on the ground.
Lucas Davenport crashed through a hedge and fired two off-balance shots at a fleeing killer who was too far away for his shotgun. The killer stopped, turned and fired a long fully automatic burst back at him and Lucas was not too far away for an AR-15.
A bullet hit Lucas's right arm like a blow from a baseball bat and he windmilled the arm backwards as he went down. He screamed, "I'm down, I'm hit." He struggled to get back up, but his right arm hung uselessly. Pushing up with his left, he put the butt of the shotgun on the snow and used his good hand to jack a shell into the chamber.
Virgil Flowers ran up and shouted, "How bad?" and Lucas shouted back, "Go get him..." Again on his feet, his right arm flopping at his side, Lucas went after the killer, following Virgil, heard Virgil's shotgun booming in the night, and he kept going, shouted, "Virgil! Coming up behind!"
Virgil shouted something at him and Lucas saw Virgil was bleeding from a head wound, but they both went on, encountered an FBI agent hovering over a wounded agent, kept going.
Virgil was dragging one leg. Lucas realized that he'd been hit, too, and they went on and then the killer turned again and unloaded another full magazine at them and Lucas got hit in the chest and leg and went down again, and this time, he didn't try to get back up.
He heard more shooting, Virgil's shotgun, once, twice, and he thought, "Got him," and then blacked out for a moment, came back, looking up at the bare branches of an overhanging maple tree, and the pain came.
The pain came like an ocean wave and dimmed his sight. He groaned, once, and sputtered, and it occurred to him that he might be dying. There was a scuffling nearby, and he turned his head, and saw Virgil crawling across the thin hard-crusted snow.
He said, he thought, "Help me," as Virgil's face loomed, close, inches above his eyes, and he saw that Virgil was bleeding heavily from the head wound, the blood rolling down his face and into his eyes.
Virgil's face hovered and he asked again, "How bad?"
"I dunno..." And... blackout.

An actual nightmare.
When Lucas opened his eyes, he was almost pain-free, though there was an ache in his right shoulder. He was lying on his own bed, in St. Paul. He was warm, safe.
Sweating. He could feel the sweat on his forehead and cheekbones without touching it. He groaned, "Jesus Christ."
He'd never quite pooh-poohed the idea of post-traumatic stress disorder and the flashbacks that came with it, but somewhere in the back of his hockey defenseman brain, he really thought PTSD mostly applied to guys who weren't quite tough enough.
He no longer thought that.

He lay in bed for a while, angry at himself for the flashback. He should, he believed, be able to get past them, if only he had the willpower. He also knew he was wrong about that but couldn't help believing it anyway.
His wife, Weather Karkinnen, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon, had gone to work before dawn, as she usually did, leaving behind a stack of pillows that smelled lightly of her overnight lotion, a floral scent, maybe wild roses.
He sighed, rolled over, winced as his weight pressed on his injured shoulder, patted Weather's pillow for reassurance that everything was okay. With his feet on the floor, he sat checking for chest pain — almost gone, unless he put pressure on his rib cage — and leg pain. A series of X-rays the previous month confirmed that the leg bone had healed, with a slight deformity that the docs said wasn't important. Lucas wasn't sure he agreed: it still hurt when he jogged.
In the bathroom, he showered, shaved, and inspected himself in the mirror. He was a tall, square-shouldered man, two inches over six feet, with crystalline blue eyes and dark hair now threaded with gray. The gray was gaining but was not yet dominant.
He could see a fresh puckered scar from a bullet wound outside his right nipple, and another bullet scar in the muscle of his right arm, and a pink, six-inch long surgical scar up the ball of his right shoulder. He had exit wounds on the back of his arm and on his right shoulder blade, another two bullet scars and a surgical scar on his lower right leg, but couldn't see those, only feel them.
He looked too thin. Lucas had two basic body styles: the square, two-hundred-pound light-heavyweight boxer style, and the thinner, hundred-and-ninety-pound iron-man style. Usually, when he looked thin, he also looked tough, leathery, because he was training hard. Nothing like a fast, hard five miles before breakfast, his thinner self believed.
Now, at one-eight-five, he looked too thin, and yet, puffy. Too much time on a couch, watching CNN, or clicking through the streaming videos, eating wheat thins. He enjoyed working out, running hard, sweating hard, and had, all of his life. He hadn't been able to do either for almost nine months. In late July, with approval from the docs, he'd joined a local gym, started doing some lifting and treadmill work.
It helped, and it hurt.

This morning, after he'd cleaned up, he dressed in jeans, a University of Minnesota sweatshirt and cross-training shoes. He ate a bowl of microwave oatmeal with a shot of whey protein, spent an hour reading five online newspapers and checking his stock portfolio on Morningstar. When he finished the last of the papers, he went for a walk to a Target store, as much for human contact as the shopping. He carried an old-fashioned wooden-crook cane that he'd bought at a drugstore, just in case.

A deputy U.S. Marshal, Lucas had been shot the previous winter, during a chase through a fashionable suburb on Long Island. He couldn't believe his luck — both the good and the bad.
The shooter had been using solid core military ammunition, probably because his target would be standing behind triple-pane glass, and he'd worried that the instant expansion of hunting or defensive ammunition might deflect after the initial impact on the windows. Whether he was right or wrong about that, he'd efficiently killed the man standing behind the glass.
In the subsequent chase, he'd shot Lucas three times, using an AR-15 equipped with a bump-stock, which effectively made it into a fully automatic weapon — a machine gun.
The first shot hit Lucas's right arm and had gone cleanly through, knocking him down in the process. The docs at the Long Island hospital told him that when he was hit, he'd probably windmilled his arm backward to break the fall and protect his head, and the impact with the frozen ground, not the bullet itself, caused the bone to snap below his shoulder. That break was fixed in an operation that fitted a titanium collar around the bone, the collar held in place with eleven titanium screws.
So, three bullet wounds and a broken arm. Bad luck that he'd been shot at all; good luck that the slugs were solid, and the wounds hadn't been more serious. If he'd been hit with expanding hunting or defensive rounds, he most likely would have been killed or crippled.
Bad luck again that all three wounds were on the same side of his body. He hadn't been able to comfortably use crutches on that side, where he most needed the support, and he spent three weeks in a wheelchair.
The shooter himself was dead, having been shot by both Lucas and by Lucas's partner, Virgil Flowers. Virgil had been shot as well, hit in the thigh, but hadn't been hurt as badly as Lucas.
Good luck again, for them, anyway.
The shooter had killed a right-wing radio talk-show host, and two FBI agents. He'd wounded a third agent, a woman who'd been hit in the stomach, and who'd retired with a permanent disability. That's what a machine gun will do, when you don't know it's coming, and you get too close. Lucas and Virgil had gotten off easy, compared to the others.
Now, in early October, Lucas still hurt, especially at night. He'd had three months of physical therapy following the shooting but didn't yet have full range of motion in his right arm, and he'd lost muscle from lack of exercise. The broken arm bone itself was largely healed, though he had continuous, nagging shoulder pain where the surgeons had cut through muscle to fix the bone. He'd played senior hockey for years, but now he couldn't skate, he had no slapshot.
He had additional significant pain in his upper right rib cage, especially when he lay down and his rib cage flexed. In the days after the gun fight, it had hurt to simply breathe; his breathing was now mostly pain-free, but sleeping wasn't, nor was anything but the most careful sex.
His lower leg was healed, but still complained when he tried to jog more than a few blocks. He was pushing that, both on the gym's treadmills and on the street.
Because he couldn't help himself.

Almost as troubling as the pain was the depression that came with the long recovery and confinement. At night, slipping in and out of a restless sleep, he would dream — or sometimes, he thought, simply remember — Virgil looking down at him as he lay on the ground, not knowing if he was dying.
Virgil's head wound, and blood-covered face, was the result of a slug that hit a tree branch a half-inch above his head, blowing splinters into his scalp. The wound bled like crazy but turned out to be not serious, though, Virgil told him, it had itched ferociously for two months. Lucas didn't know at the time that the wound wasn't serious, and he didn't know it in his flashbacks or dreams, either, and re-experienced the fear that Virgil had been shot in the head.

At the Target store, he browsed grooming supplies, lotions and disposable razors. When he returned home, he popped a Vicodin and hobbled back to the TV room, where he dropped onto the couch, put his legs up on an ottoman — Weather refused to allow a La-Z-Boy in the house — and called up the streaming series called Justified. The main character was a deputy U.S. Marshal named Raylan Givens, who was apparently in the process of shooting everybody.
More interesting, for Lucas, was that he was close to a deputy U.S. Marshal named Rae Givens, though she'd never be mistaken for Raylan, as she was taller, black and female. Lucas shared his interest in the streaming series with his adoptive daughter, Letty, who worked with the Department of Homeland Security as an investigator. They were texting daily, both appreciations and criticisms. He was still on the couch, watching a third consecutive episode, when Weather called.
"I've got a problem," she said.

Like this:
As Lucas was sinking into the couch, a six-year-old first-grader at St. Paul's Friedrich Nietzsche Elementary School fibbed about his urgent need to visit the boy's room. Although his newly minted teacher suspected that he was plotting to get out of the phonics lesson, she was so harried that she let him go with a stern warning to return as soon as he'd completed his mission.
He took his time getting down the hall, took his time using the low-hung urinal, carefully zipped up afterwards — he'd already experienced the male affliction of an overly-hasty zip-up — and on the way back to his classroom, poked his head into the open door of the teacher's prep room. There was a lot of interesting stuff in the prep room, including, unfortunately, a fascinating guillotine-style paper cutter.
That morning, Weather had done a rhinoplasty, which she would not allow Lucas to call a "nose job." From her office window at the University of Minnesota hospitals she'd seen the hints of the incoming storm, not dangerous billowing orange clouds, like a summer thunderstorm, that might be hiding a tornado, but dark and murky, the arrival of Autumn, several weeks late.
After lunch she'd harvested skin from a man's thigh and moved it to his forearm, to cover up the excision of cancer tissue that had been taken out earlier.
The skin graft was the last op on her schedule. That done, she changed out of her scrubs, into street dress, and returned to her office. Her assistant, Alice, was in her cubicle, on the phone to a prospective patient, while Weather met with a friend, an associate professor of history, about the pros and cons of breast-reduction surgery.
They'd gotten to the question of whether the professor's husband's desires were relevant, when a plastic surgery resident knocked twice, hard, on the office door then burst in without waiting to be invited.
"We got a good one," he crowed, excited, his voice like a truck horn, urgent, hoarse, too loud. "Elementary school kid chopped off three fingers of his dominant hand with a paper cutter. A teacher's aide picked up the fingers and iced them. Happened a half-hour ago. They're on the way. Bulthorpe told me to get you. He's putting together a team, whoever he can find. I'm on it."
Weather said, "Oh, shit," and to the associate professor, "We'll continue this later, Marie, but my bottom line is, you wouldn't regret it."
The prof said, "Go! Go!"
Weather went. Not to her first rodeo. On the way to the OR, she called Lucas, to tell him that she wouldn't be home for dinner, and probably not until after midnight.
As she talked, she could hear the television in the background: More Justified. She told him what she knew about the incoming emergency, as briefly as she could. She added: "How bad are you?"
"Not bad," Lucas said.
"On a one-to-ten scale?"
"Nagging. Maybe a two. I'm going to push it a little," he said.
"Not too much. Don't hurt yourself," Weather warned.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah. Go take care of the kid."
"You know where the Vicodin is." And she was gone, dropping down a stairwell to the women's locker room.
The kid arrived on a gurney, conscious and hurting, his father racing into the hospital a few minutes behind him, his mother five minutes behind her husband. Nurses and orderlies moved the kid into the OR as the suits took care of the paperwork, and Weather, another plastic surgeon named Senat Morat, and two residents scrubbed up. Morat was very good, but Weather was the queen of the OR.
Over the next nine hours, the two surgeons, with assistance from the residents, an anesthesiologist and an anesthetist, two surgical techs and three nurses, put the fingers back on. They first removed smashed tissue that couldn't be saved, trimmed the bones as little as possible, located and spliced tiny arteries and veins to get blood in and out, and rejoined nerves to make the fingers work.
The kid had been given a general anesthetic, knew nothing after he'd been wheeled into the OR, in pain, in shock, scared with pleading eyes. The gas-passers were in and out during the entire procedure, watching the kid's heart and lung function.
Not exactly routine, but it wouldn't make the evening news, either.

For Lucas, the afternoon after Weather's call went like most days since the Long Island fire-fight: alone, bored, reading, watching television, suppressing the impulse to whine. He had friends, but they worked, and he wasn't feeling social.
He'd talked to Virgil every few days since the shootings, but Virgil had recovered, lived a hundred miles away, had a girlfriend, two toddlers, a dog and horses, all of whom needed tending, and was chasing small-town criminals while writing a second novel and nervously awaiting the publication of his first.
Too busy to talk much.
Weather was usually home by three o'clock, so they could eat dinner with the kids, or go out, but this day she wouldn't be back until late. He needed her to break up the feeling of loneliness, and to bend his mind away from the depression that had come sniffing around.
A run would be the thing, he thought, bored with the TV. He'd push it. Challenge the pain.
He put on a sweat suit, locked the house, and jogged north on the bike path across the street. He'd made most of a mile before he got back, happier, sweating, but his bad leg was on fire.
He popped another Vicodin, showered, and was back in the TV room when the kids got home from school, with Ellen, their live-in housekeeper, who'd gone to fetch them.
Gabrielle, the youngest, came to say hello. She had a cello lesson in two hours and hadn't practiced, so she was going to do that. Sam followed her in, chewing on a peanut butter sandwich, and said he was hooking up with his friend Jedediah to shoot baskets.
Lucas: "Shoot baskets down his basement on NBA 2K?"
"We're talking a lot about plays and strategy," Sam said, tapdancing around the question. "Mrs. Clark asked if I wanted to stay for dinner and I said I'd ask you."
Right. He was talking about playing NBA 2K down the Clarks' basement. Lucas said Mrs. Clark was okay to feed him, and off he went. Gabrielle was sawing away on her cello in the family room, and Ellen would take her to practice and bring her back.
At five o'clock that afternoon, a bank of gunmetal clouds drifted in from the southwest, and his weather app said it would rain later in the day. Despite the pain in his leg, he decided to go for another walk, and did that, shambling along, stopping to chat with a neighbor and the neighbor's German Shepherd. He could smell the rain coming, but it hadn't yet arrived.
He made himself a microwave dinner and went back to the couch, switching between a John Connolly novel and West Coast baseball. Gabrielle got home from her cello lesson and talked on her cellphone to an endless list of girlfriends while she allegedly did homework.
Sam got home and hit the refrigerator, saying that Mrs. Clark had served her famous Zucchini fettucini — he stuck his index finger down his throat to illustrate his opinion of the food — and went to work on his math before he headed to bed.
As Sam went up to his room, the Sands were being murdered five miles away.

Lucas was watching CNN at ten o'clock when his phone rang: Edie Lamb, U.S. Marshal for the Minnesota District. Lucas looked at the phone screen and said, "Huh."
Lamb only called in off-hours when she wanted something. She wouldn't be calling to console him at ten o'clock at night, unless she was drunk. She did drink a bit, and sometimes, when sufficiently hammered, wanted to share her philosophical ideas about a life well-spent.
He clicked on his phone and said, "Hey, Edie. What's up?"
Lamb: "How are you feeling?"
Lucas, wary about whatever was coming: "I hurt a little all of the time. I hurt a lot some of the time."
"Gotta be tough," Lamb said, in the tone she used for insincerity. Lucas and Lamb liked each other; she'd replaced a marshal who didn't like Lucas at all. "Could you work?"
"Not if it involves fighting someone," Lucas said. So she wasn't calling about a life well-spent. "Or long-distance running."
"How about brain work?"
"Nothing wrong with my brain, except that I'm still a cop," Lucas said. "I'd rather not travel... What happened?"
"A federal judge and two of his three children were murdered a couple of hours ago in St. Paul. Close enough that you might have heard the sirens. They live up on Crocus Circle." Still using the present tense, for the newly dead. Everybody did it.
"Not that close," Lucas said. Crocus Circle was a wealthy twig off the slightly less wealthy Crocus Hill. He'd muted the television; now he picked up the remote and killed the TV. "Which judge?"
"Alex Sand..."
"Ho... man. Good guy, as far as I know," Lucas said. "Since you're calling, I'd guess the killer's on the loose?"
"Yes. There's a lot of verbiage being thrown around, but reading between the lies and bullshit, I'd say they haven't got a clue who did it."
"Who's they?"
"St. Paul cops, BCA, FBI. The usual. The locals will do the investigating as part of a task force, but the FBI will keep the hammer. We'll be observing. Not investigating. Yet. I'd like you to take a look. I'm all the way over in Minnetonka, with friends, finishing up a late dinner. I might have had a few. I'd appreciate it if you could get over there, show the flag. You still in a wheelchair?"
"No. Not for months. You sound a little pissed. I mean, pissed off, not drunk."
"I'm a little pissed both ways. Alex was a friend of mine," Lamb said. "He's got, had, nice kids. I talked to the FBI agent in charge, and he wouldn't tell me anything, because, I suspect, he didn't know anything. I called the St. Paul chief and he confirmed my suspicion. I have a some bare facts: The three of them were shot. Eight shots, four for Alex, two each for the boys."
"Since he was a friend of yours, I assume he was rich?"
"That's an insulting suggestion, Davenport, imputing to me a selection process for choosing friends that is not at all valid," Lamb said, slurring the longer words. "I know poor people, and you're a friend of mine, so... oh, wait, you're rich. I'd forgotten."
"From the way you're avoiding the question, I assume that I guessed correctly: he's rich," Lucas said.
"Yes. Alex is quite well-off. Was. Why does that matter?"
"Because it suggests a motive. Somebody might have killed him because of his money. Because of his money one way or another. So, what do you think? What was he into? Cocaine, hookers, gambling...?"
"None of those. He might have smoked a little weed back in law school, but who didn't? I don't think anything more than that, and not anymore," Lamb said. "From what I could tell, his marriage is solid. No fooling around."
"No hidden boyfriends?"
"I doubt it. He has always been... almost intolerably straight. Like me."
Right. Lucas knew — and she knew he knew — that she'd once been caught by her then-husband getting her bourbon-fueled brains banged loose by Elmer Henderson, a former governor and now the junior U.S. Senator from Minnesota.
At the time, she'd been the number-three bureaucrat in the Minnesota Department of Public Safety. Henderson's influence had later gotten her the appointment as U.S. Marshal for the District of Minnesota.
Lucas assumed that she continued to be one of Henderson's intimate diversions. Lucas didn't care about that. And Lucas wouldn't admit it to Lamb, for reasons of bureaucratic self-protection, but he was immediately interested in the Sand murders. "I'm still in quite a bit of pain," he said, piously.
"Ah, for Christ's sakes, suck it up, Lucas. Getting shot is not optimal, and getting shot a whole bunch of times is worse, but you gotta get off your ass. It's time."
That was true, but Lucas let the silence stretch out. Lamb knew the game and said nothing. Lucas caved first: "I'll take a look," he said. "You might help clear the way. The FBI doesn't like me much."
"As I understand it, you haven't made yourself likeable. Besides, I've already cleared the way, since I knew you're a sucker for the big-media cases, which this will be," Lamb said. "Can you drive?"
"Not very well. Got hit in the fibula and if I have to hit the brakes hard, it's like getting shot again."
"A fibula is like an appendix?"
"It's a bone in my lower leg."
"I knew that. I even saw an x-ray of it and it's not the big bone, it's an appendix, in the broader definition of the word," Lamb said. She'd definitely had a few too many. "Your basic answer is yes, you can drive?"
"Yes. Again, with some pain."
"Since you're still getting a federal paycheck, show some guts and do a little work," Lamb said. "Let me give you Sand's address. You got a pen?"
He did.

After saying good-bye to Lamb, Lucas climbed the stairs to what Weather called a dressing room and Lucas called a closet, and changed into soft cotton blue jeans, a black flannel shirt, black running shoes, a blue rain jacket and a Dog Star Ranch ballcap he'd gotten from a friend.
He went back down, climbed another set of stairs to the housekeeper's apartment, told her he was going out, collected an umbrella from a closet at the back entry, went into the garage, unplugged his Porsche Cayenne hybrid, and climbed inside.
A rap channel on Sirius-XM was playing Everlast's "What It's Like." He was halfway to Crocus Circle when Weather called.
"I got a five-minute break," she said. "You okay?"
"Yeah. You remember a judge named Alex Sand?
"I remember the name..."
Lucas filled her in on what he knew about the murders. "He's a friend, was a friend, of Edie's. She asked me to go over there and take a look."
"Good. That's really good, going back to work," Weather said. "Take it easy when you're walking around. I understand it's raining, you don't want to fall on your bad side."
"You mean my ass?"
"No, I don't mean your ass. I mean your shoulder and your ribcage."
She didn't say she was sorry about Sand because she didn't know him, and Lucas had been working murder cases since the day they'd met; too many unknown dead people over the years to be genuinely sorry about.
She did say they'd found and connected the arteries in the kid's fingers and were in the process of connecting veins. "I should be home in two or three hours."
"See you then," Lucas said. "I'm not officially on the case, and maybe I'll never be, so I shouldn't be out too late."

Chapter Two

St. Paul is an old town, and weathered. Two or three affluent avenues were left over from the 19th Century, where the then-rich had built their mansions — the railroad executives, the 3M people, the brewery owners.
There were smaller enclaves of newer affluent streets.
Most of the city, though, had been built of pine studs and Sheetrock, for workingmen, from the nineteenth century through the period immediately after World War II. In general, the houses were small and closely spaced, now dilapidated with worn and awkward additions which did not add to their beauty.
The city once had a geographically coherent black community, but that, of course, was where I-94 had been built, and the community had been atomized.
Lucas lived on one of the newer affluent streets, as far to the west as the city got.
Mississippi River Boulevard ran along the east side of the river. He couldn't see the river from his house because it was at the bottom of a steep-cut, heavily wooded valley; backing out of his garage, the mist-veiled houses of Minneapolis were visible across the gorge, glowing like miniature colored lanterns perched on a shelf.
Lamb had wondered if he could hear the sirens responding to the Sand murders, but his home was five miles from Crocus Circle, one of the old rich streets, so he hadn't. He took the river boulevard north and then turned east, windshield wipers squeaking away the rain, as the battery-powered car hissed silently along the dark streets.
He managed to hit almost every red traffic light between his house and Sand's home and got stuck behind a group of plastic-wrapped night-riding cyclists hogging a lane, and so took fifteen minutes to get to the murder scene.
There, he parked behind a collection of cop cars, both marked and unmarked. A forensic van sat directly in front of the house, on the wrong side of the street. A loose crowd of neighbors stood under umbrellas, watching the action.
As he fished his own umbrella out of the passenger-side footwell, he squinted through the rain trickling down the windshield. The Sands definitely had been rich, he thought, or at least well-financed. In a city where housing prices were low, by American standards, the house where they lived would sell for at least a million, and probably more.
Two kids dead. Not a pleasant prospect. He'd seen a lot of ugly in his life, which might have contributed to his depressive episodes. He wouldn't quit what he was doing because what he was doing was interesting. He could be angered by the ugliness, but not undone. Lucas stepped out of the Cayenne, put the umbrella up, and walked across the street toward the house. A uniformed St. Paul cop moved to intercept him, stopped when he recognized Lucas, and said, "Hey, man."
"Hey, Steve. How bad is it?" Lucas asked.
"Bad enough," Steve said. A bulky man, he was wearing a knee-length raincoat and had a plastic wrapper on his uniform hat. His face was wet from the mist, and water droplets glittered from his eyebrows and glasses. "I haven't seen them."
Lucas: "Understand they were shot."
"Yup. All three of them. The wife found them," Steve said. "I'm told the judge got it four times, the kids twice each. The shooter made a real mess."
"Wife inside?" Lucas asked.
"Don't know. Haven't seen her and I haven't been inside. They put me out directing raindrops, soon as I got here. Forensics is already working it."
Lucas nodded: "Saw their van," and, "Take it easy, man."
"Yup. You, too. Hey: get well."
"I'm working on it," Lucas said.
He left Steve and shuffled up the red brick sidewalk to the house, climbed three stone steps to the front porch, crossed it to the impressive two-panel front door. The door was covered with plastic sheeting, meaning the cops thought the killer might have touched it. A young cop inside the door said, in her best officious tone, "Stay inside the tape."
Lucas stepped into the house, found himself in an entrance foyer with twelve-foot ceilings, a wood-strip floor of some light-colored wood, and an intricate, circular red-and-blue Persian carpet under a modern cut-crystal chandelier.
Three small, framed watercolors of English country scenes hung on pale-yellow plaster walls, above a darker-wood wainscoting. A three-foot-wide, blue-taped walkway led across the carpet deeper into the house.
He followed the walkway to the living room where a polished ebony grand piano sat in one corner — a basketball lay beneath the keyboard. A couch and six easy chairs, in two groups, were wrapped around coffee tables on another Persian carpet, this one at least twelve-by-eighteen feet, and threaded with gold.
Three bodies, one male adult and two male children, lay on the carpet, the adult seeming to grasp at a piano leg.
The room smelled of bloody flesh, not unlike the odor of a custom butcher shop, and beneath that, the incongruous scent of buttered popcorn and something else. A martini? A crime scene tech was using a video camera and a LED light panel to record the scene. A half-dozen people were standing inside the tape, looking at the bodies, or trying not to.
An FBI agent who Lucas didn't know, with an ID on a lanyard around his neck, glanced at him, nodded, then looked back at the bodies and the techs working around them. The St. Paul's deputy chief for major crimes raised an eyebrow to Lucas, and a BCA investigator named Gary Durey stepped behind the chief and said, "Didn't know you were working this."
"I'm not. I got yanked off the couch to look at it," Lucas said. Lucas had been a BCA agent before he joined the Marshals Service and had known Durey for years. "You got anything other than the obvious?"
"Not much. I haven't talked to the wife yet; St. Paul has," Durey said. "She's not here. A friend took her in, with the baby."
"There's a baby?"
"Yeah. She was here — the baby was — during the shootings. The wife apparently found her screaming her head off when she came in the house."
"So the wife found the bodies?"
"Yes. Called 9-1-1. I heard the recording and I would swear on my sainted mother's grave, if she were dead, that there was nothing fake or calculated about it. She was freaked," Durey said.
The deputy chief said to Lucas, "Hey, guy. My wife saw you and Weather coming out of the bagel place on Grand. Said you still looked banged up."
"I've been told this will be good for me, a job," Lucas said.
"That sorta sounds like horseshit," the deputy chief said. "This ain't gonna be good for no one."
"We'll see. So what..." Lucas nodded at the bodies.
The deputy chief called, "Jimmy? C'mere a minute..."
A St. Paul detective had been talking with a forensics investigator. He broke away and stepped carefully out of the scene and onto the blue taped walkway, said, "Lucas. What's up?"
"I'm... observing, don't know exactly why," Lucas said.
The chief tipped his head at Lucas and said to the investigator, "Tell him."
Jimmy Russo, a short man with a bristly gray mustache and dark eyes, turned to look at the bodies, then back to Lucas. "The house has security cameras, and one of them looks at the front door. The cameras have microphones and speakers so if somebody's on the front step, you can speak to them from inside without opening the door. That means we've got sound, we got pictures, and we got the times, right down to the minute.
"At 7:41, Sand and his two sons, Arthur and Blaine, came around from the side of the house. Blaine was the older boy, twelve, Arthur was ten. Blaine was carrying a basketball," Russo said. He turned his head and nodded at the ball by the piano. "There was still enough light to shoot baskets and there's a net in the side yard behind a hedge. That's apparently what they were doing. It's just starting to sprinkle rain, in the video, you can see raindrops hitting on the porch steps. They go inside the house, half-ass shut the door — we can't hear the latch click on the video — and turn on some lights.
"One minute later, at 7:42, a man, close to six feet, maybe an inch more or less, looks like average build, not fat, walks up from somewhere, we don't know where, wearing a rain suit with a hood. I believe it's a maroon University of Minnesota hoodie like people wear to football games when it's wet. It's hard to see in the bad light on the porch, but it looks to me like it has a gold M on the sleeve. His hands were dead white, like he was wearing plastic gloves.
"Can't see anything of his face. He was wearing a black covid mask and glasses," Russo continued. "He didn't ring the doorbell but it looks like he tried the door handle and the door opened. Sand apparently hadn't locked it when he and the boys went inside. The killer went in, closed the door and in twelve seconds, shot Sand four times, and the two kids, who tried to run away, toward the kitchen, twice each.
"Probably not a pro, because he wasn't a great shot, even up close. He shot Sand twice in the back, hitting him low both times. He shot the older kid in the neck and knocked him down, maybe killed him, we have to wait to see on that; the younger one he shot in the hip. He shot Sand twice more and then he stepped over to them and shot both kids in the head, once each, from six or eight inches — like he just let the muzzle hang down past his knee and shot them."
"How do you know the sequence?" Lucas asked.
"We don't, for sure, but we can hear the shots on the recording and that's what it sounds like," Russo said. "Bang-bang, that's Sand, two quick shots together, knocking him down. Then bang, bang, a little pause between shots, that's the kids; then bang-bang, that Sand's, higher up his back, through the heart, and bang, bang, the kids in their heads. The last four shots were more spaced, more... considered."
"He used a nine-millimeter automatic and left the +P shells on the floor where they landed. Commercial, not reloads. Not suppressed. Six minutes later he walked back out the door, turning off all the house lights as he went. He was carrying one of those plastic shopping bags when he left, the kind you buy at Whole Foods or Trader Joe's, we think he got it from the kitchen. He turned left at the end of the sidewalk and strolled off into the rain.
"Sometime during the six minutes he was inside, he stepped in blood from the younger kid, and tracked it into the kitchen. We can see some tread, and the forensics guys say it looks like size eleven shoes, which is one of the most common men's sizes, I'm told. We should be able to identify the tread, but we're not there yet.
"We don't know where he went after he left, or if he walked or had a car. We're trying to figure that out now. We think he might have either been following the family or waiting for them from some spot outside the house, because they arrived so close together," Russo said.
He turned to look at the scene, thinking, made a rapid clicking sound with his tongue, turned back to Lucas.
"At 8:17, thirty-four minutes after the killings, Margaret Cooper, Sand's wife, drove past the front of the house and then past a security camera at the garage, around back. She parked inside the garage, walked into the house, saw the bodies, dropped a big bottle of olives on the kitchen floor where it shattered."
"I thought I smelled a martini," Lucas said. "A jar of olives?"
"Yeah. Big one. She started screaming. She called 9-1-1 still screaming, and we got here, on the security cameras, at 8:22 and found her standing on the lawn, in the rain, holding her baby. The baby was not injured, although, by the time we got here, might have been hypothermic. She's okay, though, the baby."
Lucas frowned: "Any idea of what the guy was doing inside the house for six minutes after the shooting? Anything missing or...?"
"Let me ask you this — you've seen as many murders as anyone in the business. Does this look like a robbery to you?"
Lucas looked over at the bodies. "No."
Russo nodded, turned to the bodies. "Doesn't look like it to me, either. Too much well-planned violence for too little reward, as far as we know. The killer apparently took Sand's watch and his wallet. He went up to their bedroom and tore a closet apart, and two chests of drawers. Also the kitchen, dumped out a bunch of canisters. Dumped the refrigerator. Like..." Russo shrugged. "Like he was looking for dope or a stash of cash. I don't know — it's weird. The closet has two lines of built-in drawers, and Ms. Cooper had left a diamond ring, in a platinum setting, in a silver tray on top of one set of drawers. He yanked the drawers out, the ring must have been right in front of his nose, but he left it."
"Maybe too identifiable?"
"Pop the diamond out, sell it in L.A. It's a big one," Russo said.
"Then why take the watch and wallet?" Lucas asked.
Russo spread his hands: "You tell me... It's like he was faking a robbery to cover the motive for the killing."
"Okay. Now what?"
"After we get the bodies out of here, we'll bring Ms. Cooper back inside to check things out. Ms. Cooper told us that the baby was crying when she walked into the house and she wondered why nobody had gone to pick her up. I'm thinking that the kid started to cry when she heard the gunshots and the killer went in and looked at her, decided to leave her, but maybe had to think about it, soaking up a little time there."
Lucas: "What kind of shape is Cooper in? Can she talk?"
"She's really messed up. We put her and the baby in Regions, had the docs and a shrink spend some time with them. She didn't want a minister. She kept wanting to get back here, but we kept her away. She checked out of Regions about half an hour ago. I'm told a girlfriend picked her up and took her to the girlfriend's home over in Edina. Katie McCarthy is over there with them, talking, but so far Cooper doesn't seem to know anything. This came out of the blue. She says."
Lucas: "Anything going on between her and her husband?"
"Not that we've been able to pick out," Russo said. "Tell you the truth, I spoke to Cooper for a total of five minutes. You know what? I agree with Gary about that. She didn't know anything about it. She has no idea who did this. Or why. I believe that."
Gary Durey, the BCA agent, had been listening, and said, "She really doesn't know what happened, Lucas. She just doesn't."
Lucas nodded at them: "Good. Thanks. Why do I smell popcorn? On top of the olives?"
"It looks like Sand and the kids made some microwave popcorn before they went outside to shoot baskets. There's still some left, and there's a microwave bag on the counter. They burned some of it."
Lucas spent another five minutes looking at the scene. The crumbled bodies of the dead children were disturbing, but nothing he hadn't seen before. Still, he felt anger rising, which was also typical.
Russo wasted a moment talking with the chief and Durey, then stepped out of the blue pathway, going back to the bodies; Lucas said to his back, as he went, "I'll call you."
"Give me a little time," Russo said.
There was nothing more to do inside, so Lucas nodded at Durey, said, "Catch you later," and headed for the door. He wasn't quite there when the chief called, "Lucas," and he turned and saw the chief coming after him, trailed by the FBI agent.
The chief nodded toward the porch and said, "Let's step outside."
On the covered porch, looking down at Steve, in the rain, the chief said, "There are going to be some complications with... all these people working the same case."
"The Marshals Service doesn't really do this kind of thing," Lucas began.
"Look. We've known each other for a long time. I'd appreciate your expertise on this, your experience, but I don't want my people to get run over. You know, in the press. On that social media bullshit."
"I don't need the credit," Lucas said. "If I get involved at all, I'll step back when the time comes."
The chief bumped him with an elbow. "Thank you. Maybe this killer screwed up and we'll catch him tomorrow. If it goes on, especially if it goes on for more than a week, I mean, if you can find it in your heart to take a look, I'd facilitate that."
"I'll keep it in mind, chief."
"Do. There's gonna be pressure, and here comes some of it now."
Lucas looked up the street where an older Mercedes S-Class sedan had just pulled to the curb. Steve the cop looked in the passenger side window, then helped open the door.
Lucas recognized the mayor, Joe Hartcome, climbing out the passenger side; the driver he didn't recognize.
"Who's the guy in the hat?" he asked.
"That's one of our richie-riches, Noah Heath. He runs that Heart/Twin Cities charity."
"I think my wife gives money to them," Lucas said.
"As she should. Mayor's here because he knows the family and half his political donations come out of the Crocus Hill neighborhood," the chief said. "I don't know about Heath."
The two men scurried through the rain toward them, the mayor nodding to Lucas and the chief, calling them both by name, saying, "Noah and I were at dinner when we heard. I guess it's bad?"
"It's bad," the chief said. "I don't know if you'll want to go inside."
"Where's Maggie?" Heath asked.
"They took her to Regions, then a friend picked her up. She's with the friend."
The mayor carried the professionally sad look that mayors were expected to carry, after an unexpected death. Heath looked genuinely distraught, wringing his hands, and he said, "A tragedy. A tragedy, my god, what is the world coming to, people cut down by madmen?"
The chief shook his head: "I don't know. This didn't happen back in the day..."
Lucas wanted to say, "Of course it did, all the time," but he didn't. Instead, he clapped the chief on the back, said, "Do good, man," nodded at the mayor and said, "Mayor, Mr. Heath, I gotta go," and limped down the stairs to the walk. The FBI agent followed, and called, "Davenport. Wait up."
Lucas turned and stuck out a hand and they shook, and the agent said, "John Howahkan. You're Lucas Davenport. I missed the investigation that got you shot up. I was out in the Dakotas, working a killing at Standing Rock."
"You missed an intense situation, then," Lucas said. "Though I'm told Standing Rock is an interesting place. Never been."
"You're a little too white to be poking around out there," Howahkan said. "Listen. I know about you, mostly good, from talk around the office. You're familiar with the local and state people working this. I'd just as soon you didn't tell them I was asking, but... Who in there is incompetent?"
Lucas turned to look at the men still on the porch. "Maybe the chief. He's an old-line copper, but he's mostly on a desk. He does outreach and political stuff, so no damage there," Lucas said. "Russo's very good. Gary Durey is better than competent. St. Paul forensics had some problems, but they've got that cleared up now, so they should be okay. On the whole, that's a good team. They won't miss much."
"Great. The SAC told me that we'd keep notional responsibility, but we're going to set it up as a task force and let the local people handle most of it. I guess I'm over here to make that point." He shrugged.
"I'm in the same position," Lucas said. "My boss said she wanted to show the flag."
Howahkan turned and looked back at the murder room and said, "Gonna be a lot of heat on this, lot of pressure. A federal judge, his kids."
"Yes," Lucas said. "But right now, we'd be in the way."
"Then we should go home," Howahkan said.

The crime scene belonged to St. Paul, and the mayor was the mayor, so they let him in to view the bodies. He would later relay the horror of the scene in a number of speeches, talks and conferences, to let the voters know that he was on the job.
Left behind on the porch, Noah Heath stood still wringing his hands, only half-listening as the chief, inside the door, detailed the killings to the mayor. Heath didn't care about the chief, the mayor, or the dead children, or the dead Alex Sand. He did care about Alex Sand's money. Sand had been about to cough up a hundred thousand or possibly a hundred and fifty thousand dollars to his latest Heart/Twin Cities project, called Home Streets, but hadn't yet signed the check.
Heath's mind was churning: Would Sand's wife, Margaret Cooper, honor that commitment? Would she go for the one-fifty? Might she go for more, as a way to honor her husband? God knows the family had enough money; she could drop a solid mil without noticing it. Unfortunately, Sand had mentioned that her interests tended to run toward the arts, rather than the poor.
But fuck Sand. Sand was dead. Fuck the children. The children were dead. They couldn't do anything for him at all. He had to find a way to get to Margaret Cooper.
He had his back against the wall of the house, and he slowly sank down it, until he was sitting on the porch floor, where he began to weep. Nothing faked about it, the tears were running freely down his face.
My money! My money! How can this happen to me?
The mayor came out of the house and saw Heath on the floor, was touched. He bent and patted Heath on the shoulder and said, "C'mon, Noah. C'mon. There's nothing more to do here."
Heath wailed, "Not Alex. Not Alex, Oh, those poor, poor kids..."

Chapter Three

Two weeks passed.
Sand's wife, Margaret Cooper, had been taken back to the house the day after the shootings to see what, if anything, was missing. There were a few things missing that the cops didn't know about. Three laptops, one belonging to Alex Sand, the other two belonging to the kids, were gone. So were three iPhones.
She couldn't see anything else of significance and the sight of the blood puddles on the floor drove her nearly to collapse. She staggered, wailing, clinging to her girlfriend's shoulder. The cops got her out of the place.
A crime clean-up specialty company was brought in to clean the Persian carpet and the floor where the bloodstains had soaked in, and to patch eight bullet holes. That required the wood floors to be refinished, and the walls to be repainted. The technology was good enough that no sign of the crimes remained.
At the end of the two weeks, Cooper returned to the house, along with a friend, Ann Melton, at whose house she'd been staying with the baby. They did a quick walk-through, then went back out to the car and brought in some collapsed moving boxes, with packaging tape, and two suitcases.
Melton was charged with cleaning out the kitchen cupboards and the refrigerator. Most of the contents would go in the garbage, with the rest of it being moved to Melton's, where Cooper would stay for as long as she wished: she could not, at that point, stay overnight in her own house, Cooper thought.
Cooper dragged the two empty suitcases up the stairs, and down to the master bedroom, where she'd begin packing her own clothing. Alex Sand's clothing was all still hanging in their closet, and when she stepped inside, she could smell him.
She turned her head away, waited for a beat, then began pulling her own clothing out, laying it on the bed. She opened the closet safe, took out several pieces of jewelry, and closed it again. Got cosmetics, toothpaste, deodorant, facial creams and miscellaneous medications from the bathroom.
When the first suitcase was full, she began towing it down the hall to the staircase. The door was open on Arthur's bedroom and as she passed it, she glanced inside and saw Arthur sitting at his desk looking at a computer screen. Her son turned and looked at her...
The vision hit her like a thunderclap and she staggered back from the door; Arthur vanished.
She'd been warned about the hallucinations. Many people had them: maybe most, after the death of a loved one, or even of a close but unloved one. They were called bereavement hallucinations and were the result of a well-known brain process. They were probably the origin of the belief in ghosts.
They were powerful and Cooper sank to the floor and began sobbing, her husband and children running through her memories. She was aware of Melton running up the stairs but couldn't stop crying, and when Melton asked, "What happened?" she said, "I saw Art. Oh, my God, I saw Art sitting there. He looked at me."

Another week passed. The days got shorter and colder, and there were snow flurries on a couple of cold nights, but the snow hadn't stuck. Not yet.
Lucas found stories about the Sand murders in the papers every day during the first week, three times during the second, and once during the third, because there was nothing new to report. Like all dead people, the Sands were receding into the past.
He talked to Russo twice a week, and got the same response every time: nothing new, except a growing feeling of desperation. Politicians did not like the idea that one of their class could be murdered, with no one caught, and the pressure was cranking up.
Then one morning Lucas woke late, yawned, rolled over and looked at the clock: 10:15. He lay in bed, half asleep, checking for any untoward body signals, found nothing alarming, got up, glanced out the window — cloudy, wet, but not actually raining.
He felt a touch of non-specific foreboding, but then, he often did, and when recalled later, it turned out to be the precognition of a broken toaster or stubbed toe. Weather had gone to work at 6 a.m., her usual time, and the kids to school an hour and a half later. He could hear Ellen in the kitchen, cleaning up breakfast dishes.
Instead of taking two showers, one right away, another after he got back from his run, he scratched his gut, yawned again, went into the dressing room, fished out an old gray sweat suit, pulled on his running shoes, got his cane, just in case, and headed out to the street. He'd tied a string to the cane so he could loop it over his back, out of the way, like a rifle.
His leg was improving. An inch at a time, but when you get enough inches...
He jogged north on the bike path along Mississippi River Boulevard, walked a bit, started jogging again, taking it easy. Weather had gotten him Hoka trail-runners with soles like marshmallows, to absorb impact. While he was still weeks away from his usual workout, at least he was out there. Maybe by Christmas...
He'd gotten to the northern end of his loop, a mile and a half out, when Virgil Flowers called. "Where are you?"
""Out for a run," Lucas said. "What's up?"
"You can run now?"
"Not well," Lucas said.
"Better than not at all... Listen, I got an early call. Henderson has been nagging the governor, the governor has been nagging Rose Marie, and Rose Marie has been nagging Cartwright." Henderson was a U.S. Senator, Rose Marie was the state Commissioner of Public Safety, Cartwright was director of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. As they say in the military, shit rolls downhill. "They want me to review the Sand murder. I just left the BCA, heading your way. I had them make two copies of the murder file. I thought you might enjoy some light fiction."
"I'm about ten minutes from that Starbucks at Marshall and Snelling and it's starting to drizzle. I need to get off the street and I'd like a look at the file; I haven't heard much."
"That's because there's not much to hear," Virgil said. "I'm on I-94, I'll probably get there about the same time as you."
"I'll limp fast. See you there."

Virgil's Tahoe was sitting in the Starbuck's parking lot when Lucas arrived, and he could see Virgil at a window table looking at a bound file. The rain was coming down harder, with an occasional slice of sleet. He'd been using the cane the last couple of blocks, humping along, trying to take some impact off his leg. He hustled inside, pushed his wet hair back with one hand, nodded at Virgil and went to the counter.
The young woman behind the register gave him a kind smile and he said, "Gimme a Grande... Pike Place, and two vanilla scones."
He fished crumbled five dollar bills out of a pocket and passed them across the counter. The young woman said, cheerily, "Oh, boy — I bet it's tough out there today, isn't it? Cold rain and all. Tell you what, I'll give you the two scones but I'll only charge you for one."
That hadn't happened before. Lucas scratched one unshaven cheek, trying to figure out the con, decided there wasn't one, and said, "Okay. Thanks."
He got the coffee and scones, dropped the change into a tip jar and when he turned to Virgil, found Virgil trying to stuff the knuckles of his right hand into his mouth.
Lucas sat down. "What's funny?"
"A free scone?"
"Yeah." Lucas glanced back at the counter woman, who now was looking at them, and seemed puzzled. "What was that all about?"
"She thought you were a street guy. Spending money you collected at the corner. Wet sweatshirt and baggy-ass pants, the drugstore cane on a string, your hair is sticking up like the antennas on a '56 Buick, you're not shaved... She's wondering how you know the well-dressed blond dude. That would be me."
Virgil was as tall as Lucas, but lean, lanky, and blond, hair too long for a cop. He lived on a farm near the town of Mankato, a hundred miles south of St. Paul, as a regional agent for the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension. He had the best clearance rate in the agency and was sometimes pulled out of his territory to look at difficult cases.
"Ah, jeez," Lucas said. He glanced over at the woman, who was now ignoring them. "Maybe I oughta pay for the extra scone."
"Forget it. We've got to read this stuff, talk it over, get back to your place so you can change into something decent and get over to Minneapolis by two o'clock."
"What's in Minneapolis?"
"Margaret Cooper. Also known as Maggie," Virgil said, tapping the file. "She's still at her girlfriend's house with the baby. We need to talk to her."
"I'm not even sure I'm doing this," Lucas said.
"Oh, bullshit, you're doing it," Virgil said. "Stop wasting time and start reading the file. Is one of those scones for me?"

Virgil and Lucas spent an hour and a half at Starbucks, reading through the files, muttering at each other from time to time, looking out the window at passing cars and walkers-in-the-rain, like the cars or walkers might connect their thoughts. Because Lucas had grudgingly given Virgil one of his scones, Virgil bought two more, and told the counter woman to charge him for three.
He said, in a stage whisper, "I know he looks weird, but that guy is a really, really rich businessman. He's a little eccentric. He's got a sword inside that cane."
"Do not," Lucas called.
The woman puffed up her cheeks, exhaled in Gen-Z exasperation, and charged Virgil for three scones.

Lucas had begun reading about Cooper, Sand's wife. She'd been interviewed a half-dozen times by agents from three agencies, and somebody had put together a biography, with a selection of photographs, old and new.
Cooper was a tall, dark haired woman approaching middle age, showing bones in her shoulders and elbows and knees, ungainly at first glance, but, according to her FBI biographer, a killer with a tennis racket in her hands.
A professor of Theater Arts at the University of Minnesota, she'd once, briefly, been an actress in Hollywood. From 2005 to 2009 she'd been a regular on a televised ensemble series modeled after Friends, but not as good as Friends.
With deep brown eyes and a high-ridged nose, she might have played an ancient Roman or Greek, though her ancestry was resolutely Anglo-Saxon. On the show, she'd played an uptight accountant of uncertain sexuality. Lucas had seen a couple episodes on a streaming service but had quit watching because they weren't very good. Even if they had been, they wouldn't have been to his taste.
She had been born and raised in Minnesota, the daughter of two doctors. She was a graduate of the Blake School and held three degrees in performance arts, two from NYU and a third, a Ph.D, from UCLA. She told interviewers that her talent for teaching was stronger than her drive to act, and when offered a job at the University of Minnesota, had happily returned home.
And there she'd met a youngish lawyer, also a graduate of the Blake School; Alex Sand had been two years ahead of her, and she hadn't known him well. After her return to the Twin Cities, they'd bumped into each other at a wine-and-cheese political event. The bump matured into courtship, marriage, and three children, two early in the marriage, followed by a trailer, a four-month-old daughter.
They were no longer quite so youngish. Cooper had become an associate professor, climbing the ranks, and Sand had been appointed as a federal judge by Barak Obama. Their marriage was solid, she said. They both loved each other and liked each other and loved their children. Though both were atheists, the family went to church on Christmas and Easter so the kids could have the experience of organized religion.
Cooper & Sand, as they thought of themselves, bought a family home, a much-remodeled house built in 1918, that didn't fit into a specific architectural style, but showed bits and pieces of several styles: stone and brick and creamy stucco with a slate roof and black shutters on the narrow windows. They were comfortable there, comfortable in the neighborhood. Any antagonisms between neighbors, and there were some, didn't include them.
Their house, Cooper told investigators, was too rich for a college professor and a judge, but Sand had chosen his great-great-grandfather wisely. His great-great-grandfather had owned Old River Mills, which eventually became a major component of General Mills — Cheerios, Wheat Chex, Betty Crocker, etc. A large chunk of money had taken up residence in the Sand family and had remained there for a hundred and fifty years. Alex Sand had been a millionaire as a toddler.
They had the usual disagreements of a husband and wife: the judge thought some of her closest friends were too arty-fartsy, she thought some of his had sticks way too far up their Anglo-Saxon rectums. They recognized these things about each other and about their friends, and even laughed about them.
They were as happy as successful people could be, right up until the bloodbath.
Into the file, Lucas said across the table, "They pushed on Cooper pretty hard."
"She inherits," Virgil said. "No pre-nup. She's five-ten and slender, which means she fits the physical profile of the shooter. What doesn't fit is her time profile. Or her foot size, for that matter. Her car's on cameras leaving the university, and arriving and leaving Whole Foods, although you never see her face and you can't really nail down the driver's actual height. If she could have gotten somebody tallish to drive for her..."
"Then how would she have caught up with the car to drive it home?"
"Don't know," Virgil said. "There are obvious possibilities. Traded cars with the driver of her car, then traded back after the killings."
"Which means an accomplice."
"Yup. That seems... unlikely, to me," Virgil said. "If she did it, she did it herself without any help. Too smart to bring a second person into it."
"A lover?" Lucas suggested.
"No evidence of that."
"You'd have to be one goddamn crazy cookie to kill your husband and include your two little kids in the deal. Or to hire somebody to do it," Lucas said.
"Maybe that was why she was so distraught," Virgil said. "She didn't want the kids in on the deal, but the guy had to kill them because they were witnesses. They were twelve and ten, old enough to identify him."
"If he came through the door right behind them, he probably saw the kids before he was inside."
"Maybe she's distraught because she loved her husband and kids?" Lucas suggested.
"I think that's most likely," Virgil said.
"So you were playing devil's advocate, there."
"You know they had to poke her, Durey and Russo," Virgil said.
A while later, Lucas said, "Whoa. Cooper says the killer did take something out of the house — laptops. And cell phones. Both the judge and the boys had their own laptops and cell phones and they're all missing."
"You didn't know that?" Virgil asked.
"No. When I talked to Russo at the house, he said they didn't know what was missing, if anything."
"Yeah. Sand had a work laptop, which he kept at his office. His home laptop was all personal stuff, including financial data and personal emails. All three laptops were Apple MacBook Pros. That's the expensive version," Virgil said. "If they were what the killer was after, he wouldn't have known which one belonged to who, so he apparently took all of them. Same with the phones. Cooper says the boys weren't allowed to be on their phones after seven o'clock. They had to put them in a basket on the breakfast bar and Alex Sand did the same thing. You know, to make a point with the kids."
"So the reason for the killing is probably in the computers or phones?"
"Possibly in the computers," Virgil said. "Most likely, one computer — Sand's. For which there was no backup. The boys' phones and computers were backed up to the iCloud. You know what the iCloud is?"
"Of course, I'm not a complete fuck-wit," Lucas said.
Virgil: "Fuck-wit. I think that's basically a British expression."
"Thank you, novel-boy."
"Anyway, the FBI got the backup data from the boys' phone and computers from Apple, and found nothing interesting," Virgil said. "From the phones, they got call logs, not the content, and the logs both showed identifiable phone calls to their friends and the older boy had calls to the Apple store and his friends, all routine stuff. He made appointments with the Apple expert bar, or whatever they call it."
"Why wasn't Sand backed up?" Lucas asked.
"Security. Cooper said Sand was security conscious, enough that he didn't want anything in the iCloud. Apple apparently allows us, 'us' meaning law enforcement, to look at backups, like the FBI did with the kids' stuff. Sometimes, apparently, the definition of law enforcement gets stretched. He kept private stuff in his computer, backed up to a thumb drive, and some of it printed on paper. Cooper says he kept the thumb drive plugged into his home computer most of the time — a slip up — and that's gone with the computer."
"Maybe the feds will come up with something."
Virgil: "Mmmm."
Lucas: "Yeah."
A moment later, Lucas said, "Wait — if the computer is password protected, the killer can't get at it, whatever it was. Cooper would probably..."
"You're so naíve," Virgil interrupted. "One of your kids could bypass the password in about four minutes; and maybe, the killer needed to destroy whatever it was, not get at it."
Lucas: "Why would you think that?"
"Because if he was desperate to destroy it, he already knew what it was," Virgil said. "He just didn't want anyone else to have the information."
"Good point. Got to be critical, whatever it is," Lucas said.
"Maybe. But maybe he took the laptops because he could get five hundred bucks each, on the street."

The discussion was occasionally cryptic, if overheard by an outsider:
Lucas: "Suppressor?"
"Probably not necessary. Raining, thick doors. It was cool, almost cold, so the neighbors would be shut up, too."
"He was familiar with the house?"
Virgil: "He was familiar with rich peoples' doors."
"Still loud..."
"Old couple who were out for a walk with their dog thought they might have heard the shots. They thought it was somebody remodeling with a nail gun."
Lucas: "Why does that sound like bullshit?"
"Actually, it sounds so much like bullshit, it probably isn't bullshit."

"Hmm. Athletic shoes," Lucas said. "Maybe an athlete?"
"Everybody wears them. Probably men's ten and a half or eleven, according to crime scene. So not a woman. Unless she was disguising herself with shoes. That goes back to Cooper again."

"This Carson guy," Virgil said. "You get there yet?"
"Just getting into it."
"Got out of FPC Duluth two months ago," Virgil said, flipping through pages. "Claims he was framed for the car thefts and the prosecutor knew it. Sand gave him five years."
"Released 216 days early for good behavior, so he did a little more than four... no history of violence," Lucas said.
"But if you look in the FBI investigation report on the car thefts... Carson's a shooter. An enthusiast. Had a big pile of guns at his home and had bought at least three suppressors. So..."
"I have a big pile of guns at my home," Lucas said. "If you have one gun, it's not totally unusual to have a pile of them."
"You also have a long history of extreme and unnecessary violence, and nobody does a fucking thing about it," Virgil said.
"It hurts me when you say things like that," Lucas said, with a yawn.
"Anyway, If you look at Carson's gun inventory, he liked concealed-carry guns, which means he wasn't a target shooter."
"He was thinking that he might have to kill somebody. Maybe hoping," Virgil added.
"I'll buy that," Lucas said. He leaned back in his chair and gazed at the barista who'd given him the free scone. She was pretty, and ignored him. "Being a gun freak would explain why he didn't bother to pick up his brass. The lab report says there's no hint of a print or DNA on any of it. The killer cleaned it up before he loaded. He didn't want to have to crawl around picking up his brass."
"I saw that."
"Carson stole twelve brand new Porsches and Audis over two years, before they caught up with him. Took them right out of the dealership," Lucas said, reading down the file. "They seemed to vanish. Took them on Saturday nights, the dealership was closed on Sundays, they'd be down in Mexico before the dealership knew they were gone... and if the pre-sentencing investigation is right, the cars were probably sold to cartel members. He either knew some seriously bad people or could get in touch with them. That might explain what could be a professional hit."
"Bzzzt." Virgil made a buzzer noise. "He's absolutely broke. Where would he get the money to hire a pro? Where would he even find one?"
"His alibi is, he was home practicing the piano when the killings took place. His wife was in Iowa visiting relatives, so there are no witnesses to the piano-playing," Lucas said. "He called his wife at 8:10 from his house and they talked for a half-hour."
Virgil: "Hard alibi to crack, if he sticks with it."
"He lives in Stillwater. He would have had time to get home and make the call after he did the shooting. If he did it. Would have been a little tight on time..."
They both went "Mmmm" at the same time.
And after a bit, Lucas said, "Russo doesn't think Carson was involved."
"I'm getting that," Virgil said.
"We'll have to talk to him anyway."
"He's threatening to sue for harassment," Virgil said.
"Good luck with that. We could ship his ass back to Duluth for stealing a cheeseburger."
"He still could sue..."
"If he wanted to take his case before a judge," Lucas said. "On an investigation in which another judge and his kids were murdered."
"True dat.

Russo, St. Paul's lead investigator, and the investigators from the BCA had determined that there were six more-or-less recently released convicts who'd been sentenced by Sand.
None were criminal geniuses. Only two had been convicted of gun crimes. One of those had an air-tight alibi, having died of lung cancer shortly after his release. The second gunman had been attending a real estate license training course in Tempe, Arizona, on the night of the murders and had a dozen people to say so.
"Why didn't the shooter kill the baby?" Lucas asked.
"Because he didn't think it was necessary, and maybe he didn't want to make any more noise," Virgil answered. "He killed the two boys because they were old enough to be witnesses. The baby isn't."
"Did he know Cooper wouldn't be there? Maybe he was looking for her."
"Something to ask her," Virgil agreed.

"Here's a question," Lucas said. "When Sand and the two kids came back in the house, none of them were carrying a baby. So they left the baby at home, alone?"
"We talked about that this morning, when I picked up the files," Virgil said. "Cooper said Sand would never leave the baby alone, unless it was for one minute or something, to run out to the car or pick up a newspaper. Or maybe, to go out with the boys for two minutes and shoot some baskets, if the baby was sleeping."
Lucas thumbed through the pack of security photos. "None of them were wearing raincoats."
"Nope. They probably went out before the rain started."
"Did the camera see them going out?"
"No. They almost certainly went out through the garage. There's a back door in the garage," Virgil said. "The camera doesn't see it, because it's mounted above the door and is focused on cars and people coming up the driveway. If you go out that door and turn right, there's a flagstone walkway through a little secluded flower garden that opens out onto the side lawn. They walked out the door, turned right, shot some hoops, then ran around the house and went in the front door. Cooper said she saw the basketball in the garage before she went to work, so maybe that's why they did that."
"Sand didn't have a gun on him?" Lucas asked.
"Man, they were shooting hoops... No, he didn't have a gun with him."
"Does he even have a gun?"
"Yes. If you look further into the interview with Cooper, you'll see that she says they once had two guns. They'd even taken some lessons with one of them, someplace over in Wisconsin, the name is in there... But they never got carry permits or anything," Virgil said. "The main gun, that they took lessons with, was kept locked in a steel gun box hidden in their library. Ruger .357, hadn't been shot recently. The killer used a Nine, and... the second gun was a Nine, but she said Sand sold it in the parking lot of a gun show in Hudson, Wisconsin."
"That's convenient."
"Cooper said that it's embarrassing, that he would do that. She didn't know the brand. She says it originally belonged to Sand's father. Sand inherited it but didn't want it."
"Okay." Lucas scratched his head, reading about the guns.
"If you read down a bit, you'll see that Cooper said they didn't like shooting, and didn't much — a time or two after the lessons. The .357 wasn't fun to shoot, but, it'd do the job, they thought," Virgil said.
"That's true enough. If the .357 was locked up in the library, that would suggest that Sand didn't feel threatened," Lucas said.
Virgil: "Well, Cooper said even if they did feel threatened, they probably wouldn't have gone for the gun. She said they're not gun people. Even if they'd seen somebody snooping around in the yard, they probably wouldn't have thought of getting the gun. They would have gone out to ask the guy what he was doing."

Lucas closed his copy of the file, rubbed his chin, squinted out at the street.
Virgil: "What?"
Lucas: "Revenge. Money. Sex."
Virgil: "Self-defense. Insanity."
"Does self-defense apply here?"
It does if the killer thought Sand was about to do something to him," Virgil said. "Either as a judge or a rich guy with influence. Business and political influence. Social influence, maybe."
"Maybe we look at the cases he's been assigned but haven't come to trial yet," Lucas said. "The most extreme example of judge-shopping."
Virgil: "The FBI and us guys both looked at that. Came up dry."
"When you said 'social influence,' what are you talking about? You think he tried to keep somebody out of the Town and Country Club? Blackballed them?"
"He was at Somerset," Virgil said. "No known serious antagonisms over there. Russo checked with the members."
"All the members?"
"Yes. Russo actually got a list of all their male friends... and enemies, though there aren't many of those, and they're mostly people they simply didn't like, or who Cooper believed didn't like them. No real animus."
Lucas thumbed through to the list: "Twenty-two of them. He checked them all."
"They're doing everything," Virgil said. "The thing is, Sand was appointed by Obama. Some guys are thinking a right-wing nutcase..."
"A right-wing nutcase who killed Sand so a new judge could be appointed by Joe Biden?"
"Right-wing nutcases are not necessarily that good at critical analyses, as was demonstrated by the pizza shop basement fiasco." Virgil looked at his watch, and said, "We better get over to your place so you can change. Tell me one thing to think about."
Lucas considered, then said, "The killer sorta knew what he was doing. Two shots in the back to knock down Sand, one shot each to knock down the kids, then heart or head shots for all of them, to finish them for sure. He couldn't leave survivors. He figured that out before he went in. Rehearsed it."
"Now you tell me something," Lucas said.
Virgil thought for a moment, and said, "Like I said, self-defense. Or sex, somehow, but I can't see how, judging from what Russo got so far. Not money, because they had more than they needed and none of it is going out of the house because of the shooting. Not raving, delusional insanity — too carefully planned and he didn't kill the baby. I kinda don't think revenge, but it's a possibility. Psychopath or sociopath, for sure."
"Self-defense or sex. Interesting," Lucas said. "Let's go talk to the lovely Ms. Cooper."
"She's lovely?"
"She is — or was, anyway, to my eyes, judging from those photos," Lucas said. "After what happened, we'll see. If my kids were murdered, three weeks later I'd look like a fuckin' hobgoblin."

On the way out the door, the counter girl said, "I overheard some of that... I wasn't eavesdropping, I just... heard. You're cops, then?"
"We are," Virgil said.
"I thought about applying for the St. Paul cops," she said. She half turned-away, with her eyes cutting back, as if she expected sarcasm.
"Well, they're hiring," Lucas said. "So is Minneapolis. So is everybody else."
"The problem is, I don't like cops very much," she said.
"Bad experience?" Lucas asked.
"I've had a lot of jobs like this, and they kinda... hit on me. A lot."
"Yeah, that's cops. Gonna be some built-in aggression. They're always pushing, especially new ones. Old ones mostly just want to get through the day," Virgil told her.
She laughed and said, "Well. Get through the day yourselves... have a nice one." Then she looked inside herself and added, "I say that all the time. The nice day thing. Cops don't have to do that, do they?"
Lucas: "We don't really deal with nice days. Not that often, anyway."