“People like to hang with people who are like them,” I said.
“You’re saying that money attracts money? I suppose there’s some truth to the theory. Beyond that, though, I’m not sure what the members have in common with each other. You have the children and grandchildren of bankers and railroad tycoons who have never labored a day in their lives rubbing shoulders with the offspring of teachers and plumbers who earned their way here with the sweat of their own brows. You have people who create and build eating dinner across from those who only buy and sell. In this environment, almost anything can happen. Almost everything has. Money has a way of making people careless, of making them think they can live their lives without consequences. McKenzie—there are always consequences.”
“I believe you.”
“In that context, Juan Carlos is not all that unusual. Compared to some of our members, he’s quite mundane.”
“How did Navarre come to live in your house?”
“It seemed like a good idea to have someone stay there; keep an eye on the place while it’s on the market.”
“Why not? He pays rent. Seventy-eight hundred a month. Covers the property taxes, utilities, maintenance…”
“Reney,” I said. “Why Navarre?”
She stared at me for a couple of beats while her face went through the motions of remembering. “I…” She stopped and took a sip of her drink. “If I’m not mistaken, it was Anne Rehmann’s idea. McKenzie, you don’t think I’d let just anybody sleep in my house, do you? I met Juan Carlos here at the club. Actually, at my condominium. He came specifically to meet me. Told me who he was; told me that he was thinking of settling in Minnesota. He had a letter of introduction, which was an old-fashioned touch that I liked very much. Turned out we have friends in common.”
“Here in Minnesota?”
“No. In Chevy Chase, Maryland. I used to live there with my husband back in the day. We were neighbors with a man who later became the counselor for economic affairs at our embassy in Madrid. He and his wife knew his family—Juan Carlos’s family back in Spain. When he decided to come to Minnesota, they told him to look me up.”
“Did you speak to your friends about Navarre?”
“Do I look like someone who spends time on Facebook?”
“You didn’t check his references, did you, Reney?”
“Dammit, McKenzie. No, I didn’t.” Reney drained the rest of her martini and cast a coveting eye at mine. “Are you going to finish that?” I gestured for her to take the glass, and she did, drinking half of its contents before she spoke again. “Juan Carlos talked freely about my friends as if he had known them for years. Everything he said, too, it all rang true. Do you think he’s an impostor?”
“I have no idea. I’ve never even met the man. All I know is that he’s missing.”
“I hope he’s all right. I like him, McKenzie. I really do. He’s a rogue, and I have a soft spot for rogues. My husband was one. I think you might be one, too.”
“Will you ask your friends about him? Tell me what they say?”
We exchanged phone numbers.
“Just the other day I saw them together,” Reney said. “Juan Carlos and Riley. They were holding hands, and I said to myself if I were Riley’s age I could have plucked him out of her grasp just like that.”
“I have a feeling you could still change a man’s life.”
“For better or worse, I wonder.”
I kissed the back of Reney’s hand.
“That which does not kill us only makes us stronger,” I told her.
“McKenzie, that just might be the best compliment I’ve ever received.”
Before returning to my Audi, I stopped off at the front desk, where I scanned a wine list that I stole while passing through the bar. Sarah watched me expectantly.
“Here,” I said when I found something I liked—a French Bordeaux from Chateau Pontet-Canet. “Could you do me a favor?”
She shrugged noncommittally.
“Does Irene Rogers take her meals at the club?” I asked.
I reached into my pocket and pulled out a wad of folded bills. I had enough to cover the two-hundred-dollar tab plus a few dollars more. I gave two hundred to Sarah.
“Could you send a bottle of this wine to Mrs. Rogers’s table tonight along with this note?”
I scribbled a message on Club Versailles stationery—Happy Birthday to an old broad from McKenzie.
Sarah read the note.
“You know, it’s not really her birthday,” she told me.
“I never thought that it was.”
Sarah decided it was a good joke and agreed to help me out.
“Also, is Juan Carlos Navarre a member of the club?” I asked the woman.
“No. I understand that he’s applied for membership. The board of directors hasn’t voted on it yet. Why?”