“So, McKenzie,” she said. “If you came here to dicker, don’t bother. My price is firm. Five-point-four million. I’m not what you would call a motivated seller, so don’t try to wait me out, either.”
“I’m not interested in buying your home, although I have to admit it’s ungodly beautiful.”
“I’m looking for your tenant.”
“Juan Carlos? I didn’t know he was lost.”
“Disappeared Saturday morning.”
“You’re a detective, then.”
“In a manner of speaking.”
“I can see why Riley would hire one. She’d be anxious if Juan Carlos up and left her.”
“Did he up and leave her?”
“How should I know?”
“Mrs. Rogers, when was the last time—”
“If we’re going to continue this conversation, McKenzie, two things need to happen. First, you have to call me Irene. Better yet. My close friends call me Reney. Call me Reney.”
“Reney,” I said.
“Second…” Reney held the empty martini glass straight above her head, not unlike the way Lady Liberty held her torch. A passing waitress took it from her and a few minutes later returned with two fresh drinks. I hadn’t finished my first martini yet, and Reney watched with intense curiosity until I downed it. Damn thing nearly killed me, and I told her so.
“Lightweight,” she said. “Where were we? Riley Brodin. I’ve been a member of this club since before Riley was born, and gossip is such that I pretty much know everything about her. She’s spoiled.”
“I hadn’t noticed.”
“Spoiled children aren’t always malicious. Sometimes they can be very sweet. But she wants what she wants when she wants it. At the same time she’s—what shall I say? When it comes to dealing with people of the opposite sex, she’s an innocent. I think Riley’s had a grand total of three boyfriends in her entire life, and her grandparents arranged all of them. Partly it’s the fault of her screwed-up family.”
“Her family is screwed up?” I said.
An expression crossed Reney’s face suggesting that the number of fools she’d met in her lifetime had just increased by one.
“Are you really that uninformed?” she asked.
Yes, my inner voice said.
“I like to get a different perspective,” I spoke aloud.
“You have Walter, who’s the Prince of frickin’ Darkness. That would be Walter Muehlenhaus.”
“Yes, I know him.”
“Although his wife, Maggie, is a sweetheart. She’s an old broad, like me.”
“Heady praise, indeed.”
“You have her mother, who’s the Whore of Babylon, and then you have Riley’s father, who is, to be generous, a dumb ass. A girl like Riley, she must feel isolated both because of her family and because of her looks. Don’t get me wrong, McKenzie. I think she’s adorable. She reminds me of a tabby cat. Other people—the people on Lake Minnetonka, they all try so hard to fit in with everyone else, so naturally they reject those that don’t fit in with them.”
“That’s probably true of most people no matter where they live,” I said.
“Then along comes Juan Carlos, who can play Prince Charming with the best of them. He batted those baby browns at her … McKenzie, the girl didn’t stand a chance.”
“Are you sure that’s what happened? Could be she chased him with the idea of breaking away from her screwed-up family and making a life of her own. I only say that because I met the girl and she doesn’t strike me as a pushover.”
Reney wagged her finger at me.
“You might be onto something there,” she said.
“What can you tell me about Navarre?” I asked.
“I like him. Most people do. I invited him to the club; kinda gave him the run of the place as my guest, and he’s settled in quite nicely. There’s no question that’s he’s a cultivated young man of independent means. The question, of course, is how cultivated and how independent.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“He dances superbly.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I’m always suspicious of men who dance well. It requires a great deal of practice. Tell me, McKenzie—why would a man practice his dancing?”
“To impress his partner.”
“Exactly. He wants so much to impress—with his manners, with his wealth. Of course, that’s true of just about every member of the club.”
“Do you think Navarre is after Riley’s money?”
“I wouldn’t say that. God knows the girl has more to offer than a healthy bank account. On the other hand, you know what they said about Lord Tennyson, the poet.”
“He married where money was. ’Course, along with money, there’s status. This club is filled with social climbers. Why else would you join except to say that you’re a member?”