Preuss pulled the Explorer onto the apron of Vern’s Minimart on Mack Avenue and Cadillac Boulevard on the east side of Detroit. Vern’s was a tiny Shell station, convenience store, and snack bar. He didn’t know why McShane picked this for their rendezvous, and McShane wouldn’t have told him if Preuss asked.
Preuss spotted him standing inside the entrance to the store, looking out behind a neon Labatt Blue Light sign. Shortly after midnight, Franklin McShane might have been the only white man within miles (except for Preuss), but the neighborhood bad guys must have sensed how messing with him would be a very bad idea because no one was bothering him as they entered the store. Preuss watched as all the customers gave McShane the hairy eyeball as soon as they walked in the door, but then allowed him a wide berth after picking up his vibes.
McShane was in his seventies and lean as a nail with long grey hair tied in a pony tail under a Tigers cap. He wore his standard uniform, a beige windbreaker over green Wayne State University sweatshirt, soiled khakis, and filthy Keds.
When he saw Preuss, McShane bent down to pick something up and came out of the store quickly. He looked around before trotting over to the SUV.
He threw a tote bag into the rear seat and jumped in after it. The bag made a heavy metallic clunk. “Let’s go,” McShane said. He ducked down behind the front seat. “Quick.”
Preuss pulled onto Mack and headed west, back toward downtown.
“Anybody see you?” McShane asked.
“Nobody I know.”
“Would you bet your life on that? More to the point, would you bet mine?”
“Huff all you want,” McShane said. “You don’t think there aren’t CCTV cameras around with facial recognition that can ID you before you can pull your license out of your wallet? Anybody wants to, they can track your movements to the second. Don’t kid yourself, Preuss. We’re always being watched.”
McShane was a pain in the ass, but the ex-FBI agent’s virtues—his continued contacts throughout the agency that rivaled Rhonda’s for their reach, his disdain for anything having to do with the government or any organized entity, his fearlessness—outweighed the paranoia that surrounded him like the smell of tobacco lingers on a smoker. Since Manny Greene had put Preuss in touch with McShane on a previous case, Preuss couldn’t count the number of times McShane had warned him that if Preuss knew what he (McShane) knew, he would be equally as paranoid.
“What’s in the bag?” Preuss asked.
“What do you think?”
“Enough hardware to win a small war.”
“I can’t trust you to bring any weapons, can I? You and Gandhi, no guns.” McShane scoffed.
“True enough,” Preuss said.
“No wonder they couldn’t stand you when you were on the job. Whoever heard of a policeman won’t carry a firearm in this day and age?”
When he had been in the Ferndale PD Detective Bureau, Preuss refused to carry a gun—one of the many thorny issues the department had with him. He wasn’t a pacifist, nor did he believe non-violence was the answer; he thought the presence of a gun, far from being a deterrent to trouble, more often accelerated it.
“We go about this the right way,” Preuss said, “we won’t have any need for firepower.”
“Right. And if the pope got married, he’d have kids.”
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