Dead Boyfriends (Mac McKenzie #4)
The dream came back to haunt me the night they threw me in jail. No, not a dream. More like a Technicolor reenactment. There was nothing surreal or false about it; the facts were always the same, always accurate. It’s night. I’m moving up on the scene. The armed suspect steps out of the convenience store. I see him. He sees me. I say, “Police. Drop the gun. Put your hands in the air.” He raises his gun to shoot me. I fire first. The force of the 12-gauge hurls him back against the glass doors. Over and over and over again. I dreamed the dream quite often after the shooting, sometimes twice a night. Later, it became a couple of times a week, then a couple of times a month. I couldn’t remember the last time I had the dream. Not for a few years anyway. Then they put me in jail.
What happened was I got lost. I was trying to navigate the residential streets of Coon Rapids, a third ring suburb north of Minneapolis. Meyer wanted to sell his seventy-five-year-old eight-chair, hand-carved dining room set with matching buffet, and I wanted to buy. I needed a dining room set. I liked throwing elaborate dinner parties for my friends, but I always had to squeeze them around a small kitchen table, and I wasn’t so good a cook I could keep getting away with it. Only the directions Meyer gave me were confused. Either that or I was confused. It was hard to tell which.
I was cruising slowly, trying to find a street sign that would match the words written on the crumpled piece of paper in my hand, when a woman appeared in the street, waving her arms frantically. I stopped. Of course I stopped. I’m from Minnesota, and like most Minnesotans, I’m a helluva nice guy.
The woman staggered to my open window. She stood with both hands pressed against the side of my silver Audi. I powered the window down.
“Help me,” she said.
“Help me, please.”
“Help you what?”
The woman was small and thin, in her forties, with dull brown eyes and long stringy hair that might have been brown. She looked like she hadn’t bathed in weeks. Smelled like it, too.
“It’s my boyfriend,” she said.
“What about him?”
“Really?” I couldn’t believe she had said that. “Are you sure?”
“I don’t know. I think so. Could you look for me?”
Hell, no! That’s what my inner voice screamed. Usually I listen to it. This time I didn’t. You know why? Besides being a helluva nice guy, sometimes I’m quite dim.
“Listen,” I told the woman. “Just stay there, okay? Don’t move. Just stay there.”
I parked the Audi on the wrong side of the street in front of the house the woman pointed at.
“He was so good-looking,” she said. “And charming. Very nice manners.”
It was seventy-four degrees inside my car and ninety-seven degrees and humid outside. The difference snapped my head back.
“We were going to be married,” the woman added. “I guess the wedding’s off now.”
“Where is your boyfriend?”
She sat down on the grass boulevard facing my vehicle and pulled her knees to her chest. “I thought he was the one.”
She began rocking from side to side while she stared at her distorted reflection in the door. She was wearing white pants and a white shirt. Both were stained with feces, urine, and, I was guessing, dried blood. There appeared to be feces and blood on her bare feet as well.
She flung a hand over her shoulder toward the house. It was one of those $120,000 starter homes that people stay in for thirty years, a rambler with attached garage. I left her sitting by the Audi and followed the narrow, S-shaped concrete path to the front door. The door was open. A heavy odor of decaying garbage greeted me six paces before I reached it. I looked inside through the screen. A body dressed in blue jeans and a red T-shirt was sprawled in the center of the room in plain sight. No, it wasn’t red. It was a white shirt soaked in dried blood. I had an unobstructed view of the man’s bearded face. It seemed to be moving. I squinted. Maggots. And flies. Flies everywhere.
My gag reflex kicked in hard. I put my hand over my mouth and turned away.
The police cruiser came to a sudden halt behind my vehicle, the officer stomping on his brakes as if he were making a pit stop at Talladega. He was out of the car before his siren died away. The only thing that slowed him down was the immense wall of heat that smacked him upside the head the moment he opened the door. It had been only four minutes since I used my cell phone to call it in and already the back of my polo shirt was saturated with sweat.
“Baumbach, APD,” he barked.
APD? my inner voice asked.
“I called the Coon Rapids Police Department,” I said.
“This is Anoka, son.”
No wonder I couldn’t find Meyer’s house. I was in the wrong city.