Detective Leo Magozzi was stretched out on a decrepit chaise on his front porch, Sunday paper in one hand, a mug of coffee in the other. He hadn't forgotten about last week's snowstorm and he was pragmatic enough to know that it wasn't too late for another, but there was no point in letting cynicism ruin a perfectly beautiful day. Besides, it was a rare thing when he could practice the sloth he'd always aspired to--homicide detectives' vacations were always contingent on murderers' vacations, and murderers seemed to be the hardest-working citizens in the country. But for some inexplicable reason, Minneapolis was enjoying the longest murder-free spell in years. As his partner, Gino Rolseth, had put it so eloquently: Homicide was dead. For the past few months they'd had nothing to do but work cold cases, and if they ever solved all of them, they'd be back on the beat, frisking transvestites and wishing they'd been dentists instead of cops.
Magozzi sipped his coffee and watched as the neighborhood masochists engaged in all manner of personal torture, huffing and puffing and sweating as they raced furiously against a climatic clock that would have them locked indoors again in a few months' time. They jogged, they Rollerbladed, they ran with their dogs, and celebrated every degree that rose on the thermometer by shedding another article of clothing.
It was one of the things Magozzi loved most about Minnesotans. Fat, thin, muscled, or flabby, there were no self-conscious people in this state when the weather got warm, and by the time you got a nice day like this one, most of them were half naked. Of course this was not always a good thing, certainly not in the case of Jim, his extremely hirsute next-door neighbor. You could never be really sure if Jim were wearing a shirt or not. He was out there now, possibly shirtless, possibly not, hard at work preparing the flower beds that would put him in pole position for next month's Beautiful Gardens of the Twin Cities Tour. If Jim was trying to shame Magozzi into being a better homeowner, it wasn't going to work.
He looked out at his own sorry excuse for a yard-a couple of mud puddles from last night's rain, some brave dandelions, and a few blue spruce in various stages of demise. Occasionally he had a fleeting memory of what the place had looked like before the divorce. Flowers everywhere, Kentucky bluegrass standing at attention, and Heather out there each day with sharp instruments and a stern expression, frightening plants into submission. She'd been good at frightening things into submission-it had certainly worked on him, and he'd been armed.
He was on his second cup of coffee and almost to the sports section when a Volvo station wagon pulled into the driveway. Gino Rolseth hopped out, lugging an enormous cooler and a bag of Kingsford. His belly tested the generous limits of a Tommy Bahama shirt, and beefy legs poked out from a terrible pair of plaid Bermuda shorts.
"Hey, Leo!" He lumbered up onto the porch and dropped the cooler. "I come bearing gifts of animal flesh and fermented grain."
Magozzi lifted a dark brow. "At eight o'clock in the morning? Tell me this means Angela finally kicked your sorry ass out, so I can call her and propose."
"You should be so lucky. This is charity. Angela's folks took her and the kids to some craft thing at Maplewood Mall, so I had a free Sunday, thought I'd liven up your so-called life."
Magozzi got up and looked into the cooler. "What's a craft thing?"
"You know, those places with all the booths where people knit houses out of old grocery bags and stuff like that."
Magozzi rummaged in the cooler and pulled out a package of sickly-looking, plump, gray-white sausages. "What are these things that look like your legs?"
"Those are uncooked brats, imported all the way from Milwaukee, you food pygmy. Where's your grill?"
Excerpted from Live Bait by P.J. Tracy Copyright © 2004 by Patricia Lambrecht and Traci Lambrecht. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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