The Last Kind Word (Mac McKenzie #10)
The handcuffs weren’t particularly tight, yet they pinned my arms behind my back, making it impossible to get comfortable. Eventually I was able to maneuver until one shoulder was leaning against the rear door of the deputy’s patrol car, the other rested against the back of the seat, and my hands hung in the cramped space between them. I wiggled my butt, but it didn’t help. The seat was made of hard vinyl so that it could be easily cleaned—it wasn’t meant to be cushy. My fellow prisoner, his hands also cuffed behind his back, balanced on the edge of the seat and stared straight ahead with glassy and unseeing eyes. He looked walking-dead drunk. However, since he had spent the past few days in the Ramsey County jail being interrogated by FBI and ATF agents, I was betting on mild shock.
I turned my head to look out the window and watched a chunk of real estate whiz past, mostly forest. We weren’t in the North Woods of Minnesota quite yet, although we were headed that way.
“Deputy,” I said. He glanced at me through his rearview mirror. “What time is it?”
His smile made me think he used one of those teeth whiteners advertised on TV.
“What do you care, Dyson?” he asked. “Got somewhere you need to be?”
“Humor me,” I said.
I continued staring out the window.
She’s late, my inner voice told me.
I have a thing about punctuality, which means I spend a lot of time being annoyed. Waiting makes me grumpy if not downright angry, depending on whom I’m waiting for and how long. Nina says if I were less prompt myself I’d be a more agreeable companion. I suppose there’s something to that. On the other hand, if you say you’re going to be in a specific place at a specific time, then you should damn well be there. If I were wearing a watch, I’d be tapping the face with my finger by now. Only I had no personal possessions on me at all—just the orange short-sleeve jail scrubs and a pair of ill-fitting canvas tennis shoes furnished by the Ramsey County Detention Center.
I glanced at my fellow prisoner while pretending not to. He leaned forward until his head was pressed against the steel mesh curtain that separated the backseat from the front. He was muttering to himself. “Going to prison … never let us out…”
“You say something?” the deputy asked.
“No,” Skarda said—that was his name, David Skarda. We had never met; still, I knew everything about him. For one thing, I knew he wasn’t actually headed for prison, at least not yet. He was merely being transferred from one pretrial lockup to another—he was going to be tried in Grand Rapids, about 180 miles north of the Twin Cities, since he committed his armed robbery in Itasca County. He had originally been conveyed to the Ramsey County jail in St. Paul after he was apprehended as a convenience to the ATF and the FBI, which wanted to question him about the gun he was carrying at the time of his arrest. If he had been smart, he would have told them everything he knew. But he wasn’t and he didn’t.
Deputy Ken Olson—I wasn’t supposed to know his name, either, yet I did—drove effortlessly, like a man who had spent many hours behind the wheel. We followed U.S. Highway 169 as it hugged Lake Mille Lacs going north. There were far better, faster routes that led from the Cities to Grand Rapids, yet none of them was as scenic. And none of them narrowed to a single lane in just the right spot.
“What time is it?” I asked again.
“Why?” Olson said.
“Lunch. I hear they serve a nice buffet in the Itasca County jail.”
The deputy thought that was funny. “Relax,” he said.
“Relax, relax,” Skarda muttered.
“What’s this?” The deputy spoke while watching the action unfold through his rearview. A red Honda Accord came up fast until it was hard on his bumper, swung wide despite the double yellow line, and passed him on the left. He laughed as it pulled ahead.
“A blonde,” he said. “Some blond bimbo driving. Who else would be dumb enough to pass a police car illegally, and look at this—she’s going fifteen miles over the speed limit. If it weren’t for you two, I’d have me some fun.”
“Don’t mind us,” I said.
A moment later I could feel the car surge forward. Itasca County was in the process of retiring its fleet of Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptors in favor of the more economical Dodge Charger the deputy was driving—if he had put the pedal to the metal, as the cowboys say, there would have been no contest. I saw Olson’s eyes flicker down and to his right, and for a moment I thought he might be running the blonde’s license plate on his onboard laptop. But then he sighed deeply, the Charger slowed, and he brought his full attention back to the road.