Broken Prey
Author:John Sandford

“WHAT’S GOING ON?” Hyde asked when Lucas punched off.

 

“Got a bad killing down by Mankato,” Lucas said. He finished his Diet Coke in a single gulp, dropped a twenty on the table. “Pay this for me, will you, guys? I gotta get my ass down there.”

 

“Too bad,” Hyde said. “I’ve got a closing on a shopping center at two o’clock. I thought you might want to see it.”

 

 

 

LUCAS GOT SLOAN on his cell phone as he went out the door: “Where you at?”

 

“Sitting at my desk reading a British Esquire,” Sloan said. “They got nudity now.”

 

“You might want to spend some time looking at the clothes . . . Listen, get a squad, lights, and sirens, get down to the top of the Twenty-fourth Avenue off-ramp to the Mall of America. I’ll be down there fast as I can make it: twelve minutes. You gotta run.”

 

“Where’re we going?”

 

“Mankato. It’s weird, but we might have something on your nut case.”

 

 

 

OFF THE PHONE, Lucas jogged down the street to the Marshall Field parking ramp. He’d taken the Porsche to work that morning, which was good. He had a new truck, but the truck was awkward at speed and he was in a hurry. He wanted to see the scene in the brightest possible daylight, and he wanted to see neighbors, rubberneckers, and visitors as they came by the murder scene.

 

Rubberneckers.

 

“Goddamnit,” he muttered to himself. He slapped his pockets as he jogged, found the slip of paper with Nordwall’s number on it, and called him back.

 

“Gene, this is Lucas again. I’m heading for my car. Listen, put a guy down by the road . . . How far is this house from the road?”

 

“Couple hundred feet, maybe. Old farmhouse.”

 

“Put a guy down by the road and have him take down the license number of every car that comes along. Don’t stop them from coming. Let them go by, let’em rubberneck, but I want all the numbers. Put your guy where he can’t be seen.”

 

“How about a photographer?”

 

“That’d be good, but don’t put somebody out there who’ll screw it up, so we get a bunch of out-of-focus pictures we can’t read. Better to write the numbers down.”

 

“We’ll do both,” Nordwall said.

 

 

 

THEN LUCAS WAS INTO THE RAMP, into the car, out on the street, slicing through traffic in the C4, to the I-35E ramp, down the ramp and south, running fifty miles an hour above the speed limit, across the Mississippi to I-494, west on 494 across the Minnesota River, and up the Twenty-fourth Avenue ramp.

 

The Minneapolis squad was sitting at the top of the ramp, lights flashing into the sunshine. Sloan got out of the squad, jogged around the back end of the truck, and said, “The all-time speed record from the airport to Mankato is an hour and one minute.”

 

“Must have been an old lady in a Packard,” Lucas said.

 

“Actually, it was myself in a fifteen-year-old bottle green Pontiac LeMans my old man gave me,” Sloan said as he strapped in.

 

“Do tell.”

 

Lucas blew through the red light and down the ramp and they were gone west and south into the green ocean of corn and soybeans of rural southern Minnesota.

 

 

 

 

 

3

 

 

THEY WERE SLOWED BY ROADWORK north of the city of Mankato, where one side of the divided highway had buckled, and traffic was switched to the east lane.

 

“Wonder if they bother to put concrete in the fuckin’ roads anymore,” Sloan grumbled. “Everything falls apart. The bridge over to Hudson was up for what, six or seven years, and they’re tearing the whole thing apart again?”

 

“Thinking about it will drive you crazy,” Lucas said. When he had a chance, he pulled the Porsche onto the shoulder of the road, hopped out, stuck a flasher on the roof, and used it to jump the waiting lines of traffic.

 

On the way down, Lucas told Sloan what Nordwall had said about the killing, and Sloan had grown morose: “If I’d just gotten a break. One fuckin’ thing. I couldn’t get my fingernails under anything, you know?”

 

“Maybe it’s not your guy, or it’s a coincidence. The victim this time is male,” Lucas said.

 

“Seen it before, nut cases who go both ways.”

 

They talked about serial killers. All major metro areas had them, sometimes two and three at a time. The public had the impression that they were rare. They weren’t.

 

“I remember once, I was in LA on a pickup. The L.A. Times had a story that said that the cops thought there might be a serial killer working in such-and-such a neighborhood,” Sloan said. “The story just mentioned it in passing, like it was going to rain on Wednesday.”

 

 

 

THEY CAME UP BEHIND a pickup struggling through the traffic, and flicked past it. A woman’s hand came out of the passenger-side window and gave them the finger. Lucas caught it in the rearview mirror and grinned. Generally, he felt some sympathy for women who’d give the finger to cops, especially if they were good-looking. The women, not the cops.

 

 

 

“ONE THING ABOUT THIS GUY—he’s leaving the bodies right in our faces. He took Larson somewhere to torture her, killed her somewhere else, and then brought her back and posed her almost in her own neighborhood . . . the neighborhood where we’re most likely to take a lot of shit, where it’d get the most attention,” Lucas said. “This guy, this Rice guy, he tortures and leaves in his own house . . .”

 

“He’s probably scouting locations, putting them where they attract attention, but he feels safe doing it.”

 

“For sure,” Lucas said. “None of this feels spontaneous.”