Broken Prey
Author:John Sandford

 

LUCAS WAS A TALL MAN, restless, dark hair flecked with gray, with cool blue eyes. His face was touched with scars, including one that ran down through an eyebrow, and up into his hairline; and another that looked like a large upside-down apostrophe, where a little girl had shot him in the throat and a doctor had slashed his throat open so he could breathe. He had a chipped tooth and what he secretly thought was a pleasant, even pleasing smile—but a couple of women had told him that his smile frightened them a little.

 

He was wearing a gray summer-weight wool-and-silk suit from Prada, over black shoes and with a pale blue silk golf shirt, open at the neck; a rich-jock look. He’d once been a college jock, a first-line defenseman with the University of Minnesota’s hockey team. Lucas was tough enough, but he’d picked up six pounds over the winter. They’d lingered all through the spring and into the summer, and he’d finally put himself on the South Beach Diet. An insane diet, he thought, but one that his wife had recommended, just before she left town.

 

He leaned back, chewing the last bite of cheeseburger, yearning for the buns. He hadn’t had a carbohydrate in a week. Now he held his hands a foot apart, and after he’d swallowed, said, earnestly, rationally: “Listen, guys. Rock and its associated music divides into two great streams. In one, you’ve got Pat Boone, Doris Day, the Beatles, Donny and Marie Osmond, the Carpenters, Sonny and Cher, Elton John, and Tiffany, or whatever her name is—the chick with no stomach. Anybody that you might snap your fingers to. In the other stream, you’ve got Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones, Tina Turner, Aerosmith, Tom Petty. Like that.” He touched himself on the chest. “That’s the one I prefer. I guess you guys are . . . finger snappers.”

 

“Snappers?” Hyde shouted. A couple of guys at the bar turned to look at him, the bored, heavy-lidded howya-doin’ look. In the back, the manager screamed, “I don’t give a fuck what’s happening on Grand Avenue, I want a fuckin’ truck outside this place in three minutes . . .”

 

“If you’re so much against snappers, how come you got the fuckin’ Eagles on your list?” Shapira demanded. “I mean, the Eagles?”

 

“Only ‘Lyin’ Eyes,’ ” Lucas said, looking away. “I feel guilty about it, but how can you avoid that one?”

 

Hyde sighed, nodded, took a hit on his drink: “Yeah, you’re right about that. When you’re right, you’re right.”

 

“A piece of country trash, if you ask me,” Shapira said.

 

“About the best song of the last fifty years,” Lucas said. “Rolling Stone had a survey of the best five hundred rock songs. They had ‘Hotel California’ and ‘Desperado’ on the list, and not ‘Lyin’ Eyes.’ What kind of shit is that? Those guys have got their heads so far up their asses they can see their own duodenums.”

 

“Duodeni,” said Shapira.

 

“You ever hear ‘Hotel California’ by the Gipsy Kings?” Hyde asked. “Now there’s a tune . . .”

 

“Goddamnit,” Lucas said. He took a black hand-sized Moleskine notebook out of his pocket. “I forgot about that one. I got too goddamn many songs already.”

 

 

 

LUCAS WAS LOOKING for the barmaid, for another Diet Coke, when his cell phone rang. He fished it out of his pocket, and Hyde said, “They ought to ban those things in bars. They distract you from your drinking.” Lucas put the phone to his ear and stuck a finger in his opposite ear, so he could hear.

 

His secretary said, “I’ve got Gene Nordwall on the line, and he wants to speak to you. He says it’s urgent. I didn’t know what to tell him: You want me to put him through?”

 

“Put him on,” Lucas said. He sat through a couple of clicks, and then a man said, “Hello?” and Lucas said, “Gene? This is Lucas. How’s it going?”

 

“Not going worth a good goddamn,” Nordwall said. He sounded angry and short of breath, as if he’d just been chased somewhere. Lucas could see him in his mind’s eye, a tall, overweight chunk of Norwegian authority, a man who’d look most natural in Oshkosh bib overalls. Nordwall was sheriff of Blue Earth County, fifty or sixty miles southwest of the Twin Cities. “Can you come down here?”

 

“Mankato?”

 

“Six miles south, out in the country,” Nordwall said. “We got a killing down here like to made me puke. We called in your crime scene crew—but we need you.”

 

“Whattaya got?”

 

“Somebody killed a kid and tortured his dad to death,” Nordwall said. “Tortured him and raped him, we think, and maybe cut his throat with a razor. I ain’t seen anything like it in fifty years.”

 

Sloan’s case popped into Lucas’s head: “You say it’s a guy?”

 

“Yeah, local guy. Adam Rice.”

 

“It’s not a gay thing? Or did he screw around with bikers or . . .”

 

“He was absolutely straight,” Nordwall said. “I’ve known him since he was a kid.”

 

“And he was raped?”

 

“Jesus Christ, you want a photograph?” Nordwall said, the anger flashing again. “He was fuckin’ raped, pardon my French.”

 

Lucas waited for a second, until Nordwall got himself back together. “Are you right there, Gene?”

 

“I’m out in the side yard, Lucas. Came runnin’ out of there, like to strangled myself to death on this old clothesline.”

 

“Was the guy’s body, you know, arranged? Or was he just left however he died?”

 

A pause, and then Nordwall asked, “How’d you know that? What they did with him?”

 

“I’ll be down there in an hour,” Lucas said. “Don’t let anybody touch anything. Get out of the house. We’re gonna work this inch by inch.”

 

“We’ll be standing in the yard, waitin’,” Nordwall said.

 

“Gimme your cell-phone number, and tell me how I get to this place . . .”