Read The 37th Hour Online

Authors: Jodi Compton

Tags: #Mystery, #Detective, #Mystery & Detective - Women Sleuths, #Minneapolis (Minn.), #Police, #Mystery & Detective, #Fiction - Mystery, #Mystery & Detective - General, #General, #Suspense, #Women Sleuths, #Thrillers, #Missing persons, #Fiction

The 37th Hour (35 page)

“I was fifteen when she came home. She was like a stranger to me. But we understood each other. I could talk to her. Not just because I knew sign language. I could
talk
to her.” He was looking down at the floor, not at me. “We got really close, too fast. One night we were on the roof, during the Leonid meteor shower. I asked her if I could hold her hand and she let me. We didn’t realize we were opening a door that we were never going to be able to close.”

He fell silent. It wasn’t the end of the story, but it was all of it, essentially.

In my mind’s eye I saw her again, Shiloh’s sister, perhaps the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen. I couldn’t bring myself to hate her. She’d had that same inner light that had drawn me to Shiloh from the first moment I’d seen him. He was right. They were the same kind of people.

What was it I had said to Sinclair?
I was scared there was a part of him I was never going to have.
I’d been talking about the early days of our relationship, but it had never stopped being true. And I’d been right to be scared.

“All this time, I never realized,” I said softly. “I could never have measured up.”

“That’s not true,” Shiloh said vehemently.

Suddenly the room seemed too small. “I’m sorry,” I said. “I shouldn’t have come.” I jumped to my feet.

But Shiloh had always been as quick as I was and he was up, too, holding me hard by the upper arms, near the shoulders. “No, Sarah, wait,” he said.

“Hey, hey, that’s enough! Take your hands off her!” Two uniformed guards were pulling him off me.

“Are you okay, ma’am?” one of them asked. I realized that Shiloh’s chair was tipped over on the floor, so fast had he gotten up. It must have made an alarming picture.

“I’m all right,” I told them.

“Time to go, buddy,” the other one said, guiding Shiloh to the door of the interview room. In the doorway he turned to look at me again, and then he was gone.

 

I’d just crossed over the Minnesota state line again when my cell phone shrilled. Keeping my eyes on the road, I picked it up with my free hand, not thinking about the times I’d lectured drivers about pulling over to answer the phone.

“Pribek?” It was a smooth, familiar voice. “This is Chris Kilander. I’ve been meaning to talk to you,” he went on. “Where are you?”

“I’m, uh, a little ways out of town. Like twenty-five minutes. I wasn’t planning on coming in today,” I said. It was late afternoon; the sun had already set.

“That’s fine,” he said. “Actually, I could meet you outside. At the fountain. Say, in thirty minutes?” He meant on the plaza outside the Government Center. “This won’t take long.”

I parked at a metered spot near City Hall and walked mostly against the crowd, up toward the courthouse. Across the street, at the plaza’s edge, people waited for the city buses, wrapped in their gloves and scarves. At the end of the day, the bus-stop lines grew surprisingly long, like a crowd of people waiting for concert tickets.

Up by the fountain, Kilander stood, not pacing. He wore a long dark coat, looking every inch the lawyer. I loped across the street in a break in traffic and went to his side.

“How are you, Sarah?” he asked.

“I’m all right.”

“Glad to hear it,” he said. “Where were you coming back from?”

“Wisconsin.”

“The prison?”

I nodded.

Kilander did not ask after Shiloh. Instead he sat on the fountain’s edge and gestured to the space next to him. The dark, speckled surface was not only devoid of snow, it appeared dry. I accepted his invitation to sit, waited for him to speak.

Kilander’s eyes went to the crowd of office workers at the bus stop, then he looked back at me. “No one in the department has suggested to you that you shouldn’t be back on the job, have they?”

“No,” I said.

Kilander nodded thoughtfully, one of his courtroom temporizing gestures. “Shiloh’s confession of attempted murder raised a lot of interest in how Royce Stewart actually did die.”

“Really? How did he die?” I said, trying for his brand of archness.

“They’re still figuring that out,” Kilander said. “Arson investigators sifted through that jumped-up kennel he lived in. They’re saying now the fire doesn’t look like natural origins.”

“Yeah?”

“And there were apparently a lot of tire tracks around that place, the main house and the outbuilding, considering that the homeowners were away and Shorty had one car that didn’t run. They’re looking closely at those tire prints.”

My tracks. And Genevieve’s. Genevieve was leaving in two days for Paris. She was wasting no time in pulling up her roots here, and now I was happy about that.

“And Stewart’s friends say that the night he died, a woman cop came to the bar in Blue Earth to talk to him. A very tall woman cop in a Kalispell Search and Rescue T-shirt. She doesn’t fit the description of anyone in that jurisdiction.”

I had not done a good job of covering my tracks, and neither had Genevieve. We would have been more careful, had we known we were going to kill Royce Stewart. But we hadn’t gone to Blue Earth with the intent to kill. Royce Stewart’s death was unplanned, very nearly an accident. I had to think of it that way; I couldn’t stand to think of my partner as a murderer.

And that wasn’t the way the world would likely view her, either, I realized. The evidence did not point to Genevieve as Shorty’s killer. Nobody had seen Genevieve in Blue Earth. They had seen me.

And further, Genevieve was a very well-liked veteran who’d left the job and gone somewhere that would require extradition, which in turn called for paperwork, negotiation, international cooperation.

Of course, these things shouldn’t matter, but I knew the reality. They would matter. I, meanwhile, wasn’t as well-known as Genevieve. While I had no enemies that I knew of in the department, mostly I counted as friends patrol officers and working detectives. To those in higher places, the administrative jurymen, I was just a name, a young detective tainted by my marriage to a man who’d proven himself a rogue cop.

And I wouldn’t be in Paris. I would be in Minneapolis, not within arm’s reach of the system but in its very heart, working right under the watchful and suspicious eyes of my superiors as the investigation went forward.

“I see,” I said quietly.

He laid a gentle hand on my arm. I did not object. In the past I’d seen Kilander as a pleasant lothario, to be enjoyed at arm’s length but not trusted. It surprised me now to realize that I thought of him as a friend.

“Have you ever heard the saying ‘The mills of the gods grind exceedingly slow, but they grind exceedingly fine’?” Kilander asked.

“Yeah,” I said. I hadn’t, but I knew what he meant.

He stood, and I followed his example. As close as we were standing, I keenly felt every one of the six inches he had on me. He laid one hand on my shoulder, and with his other hand, Kilander tipped my face up toward his and gently kissed me on the mouth. A chain of streetlights flickered on, like lightning in the periphery of my vision.

Kilander released me and stepped back. “The mills of the gods are grinding, Sarah,” he said. There was no irony in the words, just like there had been no sex in the kiss.

Two buses had come along and vacuumed up the waiting people at the curb, so the crowd was gone. There were a few people still on the plaza, coming and going, ghosts and abstractions in the gathering dark. I stood and watched Kilander as he walked back to the Government Center, the hem of his long coat swirling slightly in a gust of wind that made the jets of the fountain flinch. He did not look back, and I watched until he disappeared into the lighted atrium of the Hennepin County Government Center, the tower of light and order where he worked.

 

THE 37
th
HOUR

A Delacorte Book / January 2004

 

Published by Bantam Dell

A Division of Random House, Inc.

New York, New York

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either
are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any
resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is
entirely coincidental.

 

All rights reserved

Copyright © 2004 by Jodi Compton

Visit our website at
www.bantamdell.com

 

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or
by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without the written
permission of the publisher, except where permitted by law.

 

Delacorte Press is a registered trademark of Random House, Inc., and the colophon is a trademark of Random House, Inc.

 

Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data

Compton, Jodi.

The 37th hour / Jodi Compton.

p. cm.

e-ISBN 0-440-33474-8

1. Police—Minnesota—Minneapolis—Fiction. 2. Minneapolis (Minn.)—Fiction. 3. Missing persons—Fiction. I. Title: Thirty-seventh hour.
II. Title.

 

PS3603.O595T47 2004

813’.6—dc22

2003055270

 

v1.0

eBook Info

 

Title:
The 37th Hour

 

Creator:
Jodi Compton

 

Format:
OEB

 

Identifier:
Comp_0440334748

 

Language:
en

 

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