“How did you know?”
“For what it’s worth, Mary Pat, I don’t think they’re interested in you or your restaurant. I think they’re waiting for Navarre.”
“The PI. Did he tell you why he was looking for him?”
“Did you get his name?”
“No. That’s one reason why I threw him out. He was acting all big and emphatic, but he wouldn’t tell me who he was or whom he was working for.”
“You’re only guessing that Mr. Muehlenhaus sent him.”
“Do you think I’m wrong?”
“No, I think it’s a pretty good guess. Although … I’ve had dealings with Mr. Muehlenhaus in the past. He’s usually more subtle than this.”
“If you say so.”
“What is your relationship with Navarre?”
“Juan Carlos is an investor. He lent the restaurant a sizable amount of money, for which he now receives a percentage of the profits until principal and interest are paid.”
“I don’t understand.”
“It’s simple. I was undercapitalized. The business was failing. The infusion of money allowed me to enlarge the patio, expand the pier, improve my menu, and provide my clientele with the kind of service it demanded. Truth be told, I was fortunate that Juan Carlos came along when he did. It’s like I said, though—he is not an owner. Nor is he involved in the day-to-day operation of the restaurant.”
“What I meant was, why did he invest in Casa del Lago? Did you advertise for investors?”
Mary Pat spoke carefully, weighing each word on her tongue like a politician—or someone else with plenty of secrets.
“What I was told,” she said, “Juan Carlos began looking for business opportunities immediately after he settled on Lake Minnetonka. A banker suggested that I might be interested in a silent partner. Juan Carlos turned out to be less silent than I would have preferred. Other than that, I have no complaints.”
“When was the last time you saw him?”
“Last Thursday during the dinner rush. Dinner and lunch is when he usually comes by. Juan Carlos will walk through the restaurant, hang out on the patio, meet and greet customers. He’s very good at making friends. Sometimes he’ll pick up a tab. It’s never on the house, though. He always pays it out of his own pocket. He likes to be seen here. He likes to play the patrón. I don’t mind too much because the customers seem to love the guy. Seatings are higher than ever. So are check averages. I was surprised when he didn’t show up Friday and Saturday.”
That started me thinking devious thoughts about the criminal behavior of unscrupulous characters. I zoned out for a few moments, forgetting completely that Mary Pat was sitting in the booth with me. She called me back.
“Hey,” she said.
“Sorry. I was just … How much did Navarre invest in your restaurant?”
“I don’t see how that’s any of your business, McKenzie.”
“You’re right, you’re right … I was just wondering, did he give you cash?”
“Of course not. Who makes loans like that in cash? Drug dealers, maybe. Gangsters. Do you think I’d be involved with someone like that?”
“No, no, I was just—”
“The transaction was handled through my bank. Lake Minnetonka Community.”
“I was just wondering—”
“The paperwork was all properly signed, notarized and filed.”
“Did anything seem out of whack to you?”
The question slowed her down. Mary Pat’s mouth twisted into a kind of confused smile when she answered. “The interest rate on the loan. Juan Carlos could have done better with a government-backed CD.”
I flashed on something Sarah Neamy told me earlier.
“Except then he wouldn’t be able to walk around like he owned the place,” I said.
“I suppose. Look, McKenzie. Whatever Juan Carlos is into has nothing to do with me. All I want is to be left alone. I have a good month or so left before the weather starts to turn nasty and I lose my lake traffic. When you find him, you might want to tell him that. This is a business.”
I thanked Mary Pat for her time. I hadn’t paid for the Summit Ale, but when I reached into my pocket, she told me it was on the house. I thanked her again and said I would be in touch. She didn’t seem to care one way or the other.
I left the restaurant and walked toward the Audi, decided what the hell, it’s such a pleasant autumn day in Minnesota, seventy-three degrees and sunny with the wind not blowing, why not risk my life frivolously? I passed the Audi and kept going until I reached the back row of the parking lot. I stopped in front of the Impala, took the smartphone from my pocket, and made a big production of taking a photo of the car’s license plate.
A young man—he couldn’t have been more than eighteen—poked his head out the window.
“What the fuck you doing?” he asked. “You don’t fuckin’ take no pictures.”
I ignored him and took a few more.