“Navarre went poof for a reason. Finding him might not be to his advantage. More to the point, it might not be to your advantage.”
Riley came out of the chair and moved to her window. From the window the city below looked like an intricate maze put together by an imaginative child, streets and lights and buildings and bridges all thrown together to create something both wonderful and bizarre. She stood there for what seemed like a long time yet was only a few moments. She turned abruptly, her back to the view as if it meant nothing to her.
“Find him for me,” she said. “I can pay. I have plenty of money.”
“I bet you do.”
“You don’t need money, do you, McKenzie?”
“You’re probably the only person I know who can make that claim.”
She chuckled at the suggestion. “He needs it most of all,” she said. “He needs it like the rest of us need oxygen. It’s what keeps him alive, the source of all his power. Please, McKenzie, what can I do to convince you?”
It was against my better judgment, but I answered her just the same. “All you need to do is ask.”
“Will you find Juan Carlos for me?”
“I can try.”
“Don’t thank me yet, Riles. I’m not promising you a happy ending.”
“Tell me about his friends. Someone who might have helped him.”
“I don’t know … he doesn’t have—Juan Carlos is new to America. He’s only been here … he hasn’t had time to make any real friends except for … well, there’s Mrs. R.”
“If he’s in trouble, why doesn’t he call?”
“Maybe to keep you out of trouble.”
“Do you think?”
It seemed like a good time to change the subject, so I told Riley about coming across the yearbook from Macalester College at Navarre’s house and suggested that he kept it because it contained a photograph of her.
“Really? Why would he…?” She paused while she pondered the question and then shook her head as if she didn’t like the answer. “I went to Macalester to please my mother. After my freshman year I transferred to the University of Minnesota and entered the Carlson School of Management to please my grandfather. No one wanted me to go to Harvard or Yale. It was like they didn’t want me out of their sight.”
“It must have been hard, must still be hard growing up Muehlenhaus.”
“You have no idea. Although…”
“Juan Carlos seems to understand.”
I decided that Riley was looking for a prince to rescue her and at that point in her life any prince would do, even an enigma like Juan Carlos Navarre. I also decided there was nothing to gain by discussing it.
“For what it’s worth, Irene Rogers is on your side,” I said.
That made the young woman smile for the first time since I entered her condominium. She was still smiling when I left.
Greg Schroeder was smiling, too. I found him sitting on the hood of the Audi when I exited Riley’s building. His arms were folded across his chest. He unfolded them when I approached to let me see that his hands were empty, a show of professional courtesy I appreciated very much.
“That’s a sixty-five-thousand-dollar, high-precision driving machine you’re using for a park bench there, pal,” I said.
“This piece of shit? I heard that the driver might be wanted for questioning concerning a pile-up on Highway 7.”
“What are you talking about?”
Schroeder continued to smile as he explained it to me. “That kid you were racing, he clipped the back bumper of a car while trying to keep up with you. Spun it out. Caused a five-car melee. I nearly got caught in it myself.”
“Was anyone hurt?”
“Couldn’t say, although an ambulance was summoned to the scene.”
“If I were the county cops, I’d be tempted to take a look at the footage from the state’s highway cameras, see if I could find someone to blame.” He slid off the Audi and patted the quarter panel. “What comes from fast cars and loose women. Speaking of which—how’s Nina these days?”
I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. Schroeder meant no disrespect to Nina. He was just trying to give me the business. I had known him for nearly four years. He was a trench-coat detective, one of those guys who wore white shirts and shoulder holsters under rumpled suit coats, a cigarette dangling from his lips while he asked for just the facts, ma’am. He drank his coffee black and his whisky neat and for all I knew he carried a photograph of Humphrey Bogart playing Sam Spade in his wallet. He had saved my life twice. The second time it cost me $10,000—in cash. The first time he had been working for Mr. Muehlenhaus.
I opened my eyes.
“Let me guess,” I said. “You just happened to be in the neighborhood…”
“I was following the kid who was following you,” Schroeder said.
Schroeder shrugged and smiled some more. You had to give it to him—few people enjoyed their work as much as he enjoyed his.