Phantom Prey

Phantom Prey by John Sandford Read Free Book Online

Book: Phantom Prey by John Sandford Read Free Book Online
Authors: John Sandford
Tags: Fiction, Thrillers
too far, I need to tell you one more thing,” Austin said. “Frances and I . . . Wait, to start at the beginning—Hunter and I had problems. Marital problems. Whether we would have worked them out, I don’t know.”
    Lucas uncrossed his legs and leaned toward her. “When you say problems—you mean infidelity problems, political disagreements, what?”
    “Oh . . . who knows, really?” She smiled briefly, a quick flash and gone. “He was eight years older than I am. I don’t know exactly what it was, male menopause, or maybe he just got tired of my act. As he got older—he was fifty-one when he died—he got more and more macho. Hanging out at the airport, working on his plane. Bought a Harley and an Indian and something else. An old Vincent Black, something like that? Didn’t pay much attention to me anymore. Hung out with the guys all the time. I thought of it as . . . boy problems.”
    “Boy problems.”
    “You know, is this all there is? He might have been boinking his assistant, but . . . boys will be boys. Anyway, Frances picked up on the tension, didn’t understand what was going on, and took her father’s side. When he was killed, she was really torn up. I was, too, actually. We’d been married for twenty-three years; that wasn’t nothing. So, after the memorial service, Frances and I began to have disagreements. She’d pick fights with me; go out of her way to do it. We were the coexecutors of Hunter’s will, and she hired her own outside attorney and accountant because she thought I might try to do something funny about the money . . . cut her out.”
    “You didn’t do that?” Lucas asked.
    “Of course not,” Austin said. “There was way more money than either of us needed, for the rest of our lives.” She lifted her hands toward the ceiling, to indicate the richness of the house. “Way more than enough.”
    Way more than enough. Still, she admitted, she’d be the one who’d inherit from Frances, after the estate tax was paid to the state of Minnesota.
    “Estate tax makes me laugh,” she said. “When Hunter died, Frances had to pay sixty-six thousand dollars in estate tax to Minnesota to get her inheritance. Then she died, if she did die, and I’m going to have to pay another sixty thousand, out of the same money, to inherit from her.”
    Lucas, watching as she talked, realized—he’d noticed, but hadn’t realized —how dressed up she was. The pants and jersey together cost two thousand dollars, he’d bet; and her hairdo, done in what Lucas thought of as an ice-skater cut, probably cost five hundred. She’d dressed up for him, something he doubted that she often did, in the daytime, in the winter. She was being formal; she was pleading.
    He said, “When women kill, they often do it with a knife. Not because they plan to, but because they do it close to the kitchen, and there are knives handy, and they’re familiar with them. They do it in a moment of passion, the heat of an argument. You had a daughter, with whom you’d been having disagreements, a large amount of money was involved, there was a substantial blood trail but no signs of a shot or impact trauma, so if she was killed . . . it’s very likely it could have been done with a knife. And you told the police that you think a knife might be missing.”
    She nodded again: “To summarize the Benson position.”
    “And you didn’t do it.”
    “No. Not only did I not do it, I can’t get the investigation I want, either,” Austin said.
    She wanted the cops to push the investigation as hard as possible, to include investigating her , if they thought it necessary. They’d be wasting their time on her, she said, but go ahead—as long as they looked in other directions, as well. “If Frances was killed, she came here with someone she knew—the alarm system had been turned off. So that’s the critical thing: Who would she come here with? Somebody must know. Somebody must know .”
    “Why aren’t you absolutely sure

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