A transparently phony case sends Dek Elstrom chasing phantoms down a long road just when he’s most needed in the Windy City.
Rosamund Reynolds, as she calls herself, offers Dek $4,000—half now, half later—if he’ll check personally on the circumstances of three men: Gary Halvorson of Tucson, David Arlin of Laguna Beach, and Dainsto Runney, the preacher at Oregon’s Church of the Reawakened Spirit. Everything about the job stinks to high heaven, but money is money, so Dek books the appropriate flights and quickly satisfies himself that Arlin is dead, blown up inside his house, and the other two subjects, both of them virtually invisible online, have vanished. Unfortunately, he identifies himself along the way to a Laguna Beach cop who phones him back in Chicago because he looks just as suspicious as his client, who’s now vanished in turn. As if that weren’t bad enough, someone’s taken advantage of Dek’s absence to frame him for murder back home. Working overtime and barely keeping the cops at bay, Dek identifies all three of his targets as members of the Four Musketeers, political workers who resigned from Delman Bean’s congressional campaign the week before Election Day 1994 and left Chicago for jobs out West. The Fourth Musketeer, Timothy Wade, now a rising star running for the Senate, has just been well and truly spooked by a plastic skeleton armed with a toy ax that’s been caught by TV news cameras falling out of a silo Wade was ceremonially attacking, sending the candidate scurrying from the scene. Just what are Wade and his invalid sister, Theresa, afraid of, and how is their fear connected to the fates of those other musketeers?
The criminals are clever and the detective, after his initial benightedness, even more clever, making Fredrickson’s sixth case one of his best.