Excerpts for Kill Fee
The billionaire picked a heck of a day to die.
It was a sunny Saturday in early April, a beautiful afternoon in
downtown Saint Paul, the kind of day that seemed to chase away any
memory of the long Minnesota winter just passed. It was not the kind of
afternoon for a murder.
An hour before the billionaire met his end, a plain-looking man and a
beautiful woman met for a greasy lunch at the old dining car on West 7th
Street, and when they'd finished, dawdled slowly along St. Peter toward
the Mississippi River.
They made an odd couple. He was paunchy and balding, pale and
comfortably middle-aged. She was brown-skinned, statuesque, and maybe
even a little severe, more than a decade his junior. And though they
walked close beside each other, talked easily, and laughed quickly, there
was a slight hesitation in their manner, an unresolved tension. They were
something more than simply passing friends.
They reached 5th Street and turned west, walked past the stately old
Saint Paul Hotel and into Rice Park, an oasis of calm amid the rush of the
city. The day was sunny but still crisp, and the park was filled with fami-
lies and other couples, native Minnesotans and tourists alike. The man
and the woman walked aimlessly, took a leisurely tack past the Landmark
Center, with its pink granite towers and turrets, and then crossed through
the park toward the vast Central Library. They bought coffees inside the
Saint Paul Hotel, and then wandered back out and found a bench in Rice
Park. It was a Saturday afternoon, and neither Kirk Stevens nor Carla
Windermere had anywhere else to be.
In truth, they looked forward to these meetings, Stevens and Win-
dermere both. They weren't always so languidwork, the Minnesota
weather, and the demands of Stevens's family made routines a fantasy
but they happened, a couple times a month, maybe, and that was almost
Windermere sipped her coffee and tilted her head skyward, basking in
the sun's warmth. This is what I'm talking about, Stevens," she said.
This is what I've been waiting for. Sunlight. Warmth. Vitamin D."
Stevens grinned at her. Summer's coming," he said. You survived
another winter. You're practically a Minnesotan now."
Like hell." Windermere glanced at him sideways. I'm a warm-
weather girl, always will be. No matter how many snowstorms I live
You like it up here, though," he said. Kind of. Admit it."
Maybe. It ain't the weather, though."
He cocked his head. Then what is it?"
Windermere shook her head, the hint of a smile on her lips. She took
another sip of coffee and set the cup down on the bench between them.
Then she looked around the park.
People milled about, enjoying the sunshine, taking pictures of the
fountain, the Landmark Center, the hotel, the statues of the characters
from the comic strip Peanutshomage to its creator, Charles Schulz, a
Twin Cities native. Windermere watched a family crowd around Charlie
Brown, all of them smiling wide, posing for the camera, laughing and
jostling one another. She waited until the picture had been taken and the
family had wandered off before she turned back to Stevens.
It ain't you, either," she said. So don't get any ideas. It's not the food,
or the scenery, or the nightlife. Miami's got Minnesota beat every time."
Then it must be the work," Stevens said. Is that it?"
The work." Windermere pursed her lips. Yeah, I guess so, Stevens. It
must be the work."
Two and a half years earlier, Kirk Stevens had driven from Saint Paul
to the FBI's regional headquarters in downtown Minneapolis, where he'd
met a woman with bewitching eyes and a slight southern accent who'd sat
him down in her cubicle in the Criminal Investigative Division and lis-
tened as he outlined a sensational theory about a group of nomadic young
kidnappers. The woman was Windermere, and Stevens, a Special Agent
with the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, needed her help
tracking the kidnappers out of state.
He'd intended to drop the case in Windermere's lap and forget about
ithe was, after all, just a state policemanbut Windermere had in-
sisted he join her, put in a special request, and Stevens had found himself
on a plane to Chicago less than a day later. It was the start of the roller-
coaster ride of Stevens's career.
A year or so later, it happened again. Carter Tomlin, a wealthy Saint
Paul accountant-turned-bank-robber, an acquaintance of Stevens's. Win-
dermere sniffed him out. Stevens hadn't believed her. Neither had her FBI
partner, or her superiors, not until Tomlin had started to kill. Not until
he'd dragged Stevens and his family into the middle of his murderous
They'd drifted apart after that first kidnapping case. The second
time, after Tomlin, they stayed close. Even amid the awful terror and
the adrenaline rush, the sickening race against time and Tomlin's dwin-
dling sanity, Stevens had missed Agent Windermere. And though the
FBI agent was about as prickly as a sea urchin, Stevens knew she felt
So now here they were, a year after Carter Tomlin, sharing a park
bench in downtown Saint Paul, drinking coffee and enjoying the sun,
talking and laughing like lifelong friends. It was, Stevens thought as he
looked around at the park, an almost perfect day.
Across the street, a silver Bentley sedan turned in to the driveway in
front of the Saint Paul Hotel. Stevens watched it glide to a stop outside the
building's ivy-covered façade. Windermere nudged him. Check it out,"
she said. Maybe it's Prince."
I get it." Stevens shook his head. Because this is Minnesota, right?
Everybody in a nice car has to be Prince."
Or F. Scott Fitzgerald. But I don't think he rolls in a Bentley."
I don't think he rolls, period," said Stevens. I figure at this point he's
pretty much stationary."
They watched as the driver climbed out of the Bentley and circled
around to open the rear passenger door. A short, white-haired man in an
expensive suit stepped out to the pavement.
Fitzgerald," said Windermere. What did I tell you?"
Stevens squinted across the driveway. He looks old enough, anyway."
The white-haired man leaned on a cane as he stepped away from the big
sedan and started slowly toward the hotel's front doors. Windermere cast
an eye at her companion. Barely looks older than you, Stevens."
Stevens arched an eyebrow. Started to reply, but never got the words
out. A shot cracked out from somewhere, cutting him off. Someone
screamed. A split second later, the white-haired man collapsed to the
Windermere was on her feet before the white-haired man hit the
ground. She ran across the cobblestone street and up the hotel
driveway, dodging angry taxicabs as horns blared. Someone was still
screaming. Bystanders ducked for cover.
The man was dead; Windermere knew it instantly. He'd taken the
shot to the back of his head, just behind his right ear, and the results were
not pretty. There was blood, lots of it. Bone, too. Gore spattered the
driveway. Windermere dashed toward the hotel doors and ducked behind
the big Bentley, wishing she'd brought her service Glock. Everybody stay
down," she said. And someone call 9-1-1."
Stevens crashed in beside her, breathing hard. Looked across at the
white-haired man. Shit," he said. Where's the shooter?"
Windermere crouched low and played the scene back in her head.
Heard the shot again; watched the white-haired man fall. Pictured the
entry wound and tried to map the bullet's trajectory. Sniper," she said.
Stevens got it immediately. He twisted around and peered across the
back of the big sedan. Behind them, the Landmark Center loomed, its
myriad turrets and towers excellent vantage points for any would-be killer
with a rifle and a scope. Stevens nudged her. Up there."
Lind dropped the rifle as soon as the target fell. He pulled the window
closed and walked out of the room and onto the balcony surrounding
the inner courtyard.
Already there were sirens outside. Word was spreading. People stood
on the balcony, their office doors open, cell phones and paperwork still
clutched in their hands. They shot quizzical looks in Lind's direction. He
ignored them and walked along the balcony to the stairs.
The sirens grew louder as he descended to ground level. The stairwell
was crowded. Clerks. Secretaries. Librarians and curators from the muse-
ums housed inside the center. Lind walked past a tour group and de-
scended quickly to the main level, then crossed the courtyard to the
building's front doors. He slipped around another group of confused
workers and hurried out into daylight, passing a man and a woman on the
front stairs, a black woman and an older white man, their jaws set, both
of them moving quickly. Lind didn't slow down. He turned right on 5th
Street, away from the swarm of police cars outside the hotel, and kept
Stevens and Windermere hurried into the Landmark Center, dodging
scared civilians every step of the way. It was chaos inside, people every-
where. Stevens pushed through to the inner courtyard, Windermere right
behind him. The towers," Stevens said. How do we get up there?"
Windermere searched the courtyard. Spotted a set of stairs. Come on."
A woman flew out of the stairwell just as they approached. Nearly
collided with Stevens, her eyes wide and wild. Windermere caught her.
Whoa," she said. Slow down. What's the rush?"
The woman squirmed. Fought Windermere's grasp. Let me go," she
said. I have to find the police."
We're police," Stevens told her. BCA. FBI. What's the story?"
The woman looked at Windermere. Then at Stevens's badge. Thank
God," she said, pointing across the courtyard. He went that way."
Who?" said Windermere.
The shooter. He went that way. I followed him down."
Windermere swapped glances with Stevens. Describe him," she said.
A smaller guy. Brown hair in a buzz cut. Young. Mid-twenties,
maybe." She looked at them, her expression urgent. He's getting away."
We passed him," said Stevens. On the steps. We walked right
Windermere was already halfway across the courtyard. You coming
or what, Stevens?"
They left the woman in the Landmark Center and burst out onto 5th
Street, Windermere in the lead, moving fast. She turned right and
kept running. Stevens struggled to follow. He kept himself in decent
shape, mostly, but Windermere was a heck of a lot younger. Plus she'd
been some kind of track star back home in Mississippi.
Windermere reached the end of the block and slowed to look up and
down Washington. Then, just as Stevens caught up, she took off again.
Stevens paused, caught his breath. Then he hurried after her.
Lind walked wesT down 5th Street, skirting the high, windowless brick
walls of the stadium where the pro hockey team played. He walked
quicker now on the empty sidewalks, the sirens and the chaos retreating
into the background. He walked quicker, but he didn't run. Running
would attract undue attention.
He circled the arena until he reached 7th Street, and then cut across
the busy intersection, toward the bus station. Downtown was behind him
now; the land here was vacantevent parking for the hockey arena,
mostly. In the distance, he could see the spire of the Cathedral of Saint
Lind cut through a thin copse of trees lining 7th and came out into a
half-empty parking lot. He walked across the dusty gravel until he reached
his car, and was about to climb in when someone called out behind him.
Lind turned and saw the black woman from outside the Landmark
Center hurrying toward him. Her companion followed, about thirty feet
back, both of them running hard, their faces determined. Lind watched
Stop!" Windermere called across the parking lot. The kid did as he was
told. He straightened. Turned from his little hatchback and looked at her.
Windermere met his gaze and felt a chill run through her.
He was a normal-looking guy, just as the woman at the Landmark
Center had described. Probably five seven or five eight, he had close-cut
brown hair and was dressed like your everyday rube. He looked normal.
Except that he didn't. He didn't look normal at all.
It was his face. His eyes. It was his slack expression, the way he studied
her with no hint of malice, no fear, barely any comprehension at all.
Windermere slowed, involuntarily, wishing again that she'd remembered
The kid looked at her for a couple seconds. Then he turned around
calm, deliberate. Slid into the car and turned the engine over and drove
out of the lot.
Stevens caught up to Windermere. Why'd you slow down?" he said.
You had him."
Ahead of them, the car reached the end of the parking lot and pulled
out onto 7th Street. It drove fast, but not wild. Not out of control.
Chevy, right?" Stevens said, pulling out his cell phone. An Aveo, I
think. You get the plates?"
Yeah," Windermere said. I got them."
Stevens had his phone to his ear. Crowson," he said. Get a pen. The
shooting downtown, the Saint Paul Hotel. We make the shooter's ride."
He handed Windermere the phone. Windermere recited the plate
number and handed the phone back to Stevens.
Get that to Saint Paul PD," Stevens told Crowson. It's a little Chevy
hatchback, gray, an Aveo, most likely. Get them looking." Stevens ended
the call and turned back to Windermere. So what the hell happened?"
Windermere looked out to where the gray car had disappeared into
traffic. Didn't answer a moment. I just lost it, Stevens," she said finally.
The kid looked at me and I spooked."
Spooked. What the heck do you mean?"
I just lost it." She shrugged. It's like I was a potted plant, the way he
looked at me. A cloud or something, insignificant. Like I wasn't a cop and
he wasn't a killer."
You didn't show him your badge," said Stevens, or your gun. Maybe
he didn't make you for a cop."
Windermere shook her head. It was more than that," she said. He
just murdered somebody. He was making his escape. And he looked at me
like he was waiting for a bus."
She frowned, staring across the parking lot toward 7th Street, where
the traffic slipped past, normal, like nothing had happened at all.
They walked back along 5th Street toward Rice Park and the Land-
mark Center and the Saint Paul Hotel. There were police everywhere
now, and ambulances and the rest. TV news trucks. Bystanders. Like a
Here we go again. Stevens flashed back to the kidnappers, Arthur
Pender and his gang. Carter Tomlin and his team of bank robbers. He felt
a brief twinge of excitement, and nursed it as long as he dared. Then he
chased it from his mind.
Not your case, he thought. Not Windermere's, either. This is Saint Paul
PD all the way.
They waded back into the mix. Showed their badges to the uni-
form holding the line outside the hotel's driveway. Then they walked up
to the entrance, where the white-haired man's body still lay on the
Uniforms lurked at the margins. Forensic techs combed the body. A
couple dour-faced men in rumpled suits stood by the Bentley, sipping
coffee, watching the techs. Every now and then one of them would crack
a joke and the other would laugh a little, grim. Homicide cops.
Windermere flashed her badge at them. Windermere, FBI," she said.
Who's working point?"
The men glanced at each other. Then the older guy stepped forward.
Parent," he said. Remember me?"
The Tomlin case," Windermere said, nodding. You worked that
poker game, right? This one yours, too?"
At least until the FBI takes it off my hands."
No such luck. We're just witnesses, Detective. This one's yours." She
Parent looked at them both. Witnesses, huh? The two of you to-
Interdepartmental bonding," said Stevens. We saw the shooting
from that bench over there. Got a look at your suspect and the plates off
No shit." Parent glanced back at the body. Then he pulled out a note-
pad. Well, all right, witnesses," he said. Tell me what you know."
lind drove the speed limit southwest down 7th Street, trying to blend
in with traffic. Trying to ignore the little pinprick of panic that had
started to itch in his mind.
The black woman would have memorized his plates. She would have
called them in to the police. Right now, the police would be looking for
Remove yourself from the scene without being detected. Don't attract un-due attention. Secondary objective.
Lind checked the road for police cars. Checked his rearview mirror,
oncoming traffic, the parking lots that lined the road. He saw a couple
cruisers. They didn't follow him. He kept driving.
He followed 7th Street until it merged with the highway and turned
south to cross the Mississippi River, and he drove past the lakes and the
grassland and forest until he reached the airport turnoff. He parked in the
rental car lot and waited as a man scanned something off the windshield.
The man grinned at Lind. Enjoy your visit?"
Lind didn't answer. The man frowned and handed Lind a receipt,
glanced back at him once before hurrying away. Lind was already walking
to the terminal. He found a garbage can and tore up the receipt, just like
he'd been taught. Then he rode the concourse tram to the main terminal
building and found the Delta line.
The woman at the counter frowned when she read his alias off the
computer. Lind felt the little niggle of panic return. You're a frequent
flier, you know," the woman said finally. You could have skipped this
Lind relaxed. Next time," he said. He took his ticket and walked to
the security lineup. The guard waved him through. The metal detector
He boarded the plane with the frequent fliers and the first-class pas-
sengers in the priority lane. Sat in his window seat as the plane slowly
filled, as it taxied from the gate, as it careened down the runway and
reached a safe cruising altitude. He didn't look out the window. He didn't
read the in-flight magazine. He sat in his seat and wondered if the black
woman and her companion constituted undue attention.
Two and a half hours later, the plane landed in Philadelphia. It was
dark outside, and raining. Lind walked off the plane and out through the
terminal to the parking garage, where he retrieved his car and drove away
from the airport.
He drove along Interstate 95 over the Schuylkill River and into down-
town Philadelphia, navigated the busy, rainy streets, and parked in an
underground garage and rode the elevator to the apartments above.
He stepped off the elevator to his apartment on the building's top
floor. Kicked off his shoes and then moved from room to room, turning
on every light he could find. When the whole place was daytime bright,
he went into the living area and turned on the television and turned up
the volume. Took a TV dinner from the kitchen freezer and heated it
in the microwave, brewed a strong pot of coffee, and brought the dinner
and the coffee into the living area.
It was dark out, and rainy. The city's sounds were muted far below.
Lind ate his dinner and drank from his coffee mug, sat on his couch in
the middle of his bright living room, watching the television play an end-
less loop of movie previews. He sat on his couch all night, drinking coffee
and watching the TV, praying his phone would ring again soon.
The dead man's name was Spenser Pyatt, and he was very rich.
Media conglomerations," Detective Parent told Stevens and
Windermere. Satellite TV. Built an empire from a radio station out in
I've heard of him," Stevens said. Fergus Falls. That's where he
started." Windermere looked at him funny, and he shrugged. Kind of a
state treasure, I guess. Made a billion dollars with his own two hands."
I get it," said Windermere. This guy here's the state hero."
Hero's a bit strong," said Parent. He's just a good story."
Windermere looked across the driveway to where the Ramsey County
medical examiner was loading Pyatt's body into the back of the van. Not
so much with the happy ending, though."
Stevens and Parent followed her gaze. Then Stevens cleared his throat.
You need anything else?" he asked Parent.
Not unless the BCA wants to take this thing off my hands."