“I need a favor. My grandfather says that’s what you do. Ever since you quit the St. Paul Police Department to collect the reward on that embezzler you tracked down, you do favors for friends.”
“We’re not friends.”
“I know, but—”
“And your grandfather—the last time I saw him he was trying to frame me for murder.”
“He could have tried harder, McKenzie. He didn’t because he respects you. Still, you did cause him a great deal of embarrassment giving out the names of the politicians and businessmen involved in that online prostitution ring.”
“He wasn’t on the list, and he didn’t like the men who were any more than I did.”
“Grandpa’s strength comes from the perception that whatever it is, he can fix it, break it, build it, or make it go away. People came to him for help, and he was unable to provide it because of you, and those men remember; they remember that he was unable to help. It diminished him. Anyway, that’s why I’m here. I need someone who can stand up to my family.”
“You mean your grandfather,” I said.
“That’s not something I’d like to make a habit of.”
Riley nodded as if I had spoken a truth universally accepted and began glancing around the club again. I liked her face despite the freckles—or maybe because of them. Her eyes glistened with intelligence, and her mouth seemed capable of warm and generous smiles. Yet there was something sad about it, too, as if it were well acquainted with sorrow. I had the uncomfortable feeling she wanted to share the sorrow with me and didn’t know quite how to go about it.
“I met him, you know,” Riley said. “Mr. Teachwell. The embezzler you caught. He came to the Pointe when I was a little girl. Some party or something. That’s what we call the house on Lake Minnetonka. The Pointe.”
“Riley,” Nina said. She spoke in a voice I’ve heard her use only when speaking to her daughter. “Do you want a drink? Something to eat? We have a fine bar menu.”
“You can talk to us when you’re ready.”
“I need McKenzie…”
“Do you want me to leave?”
“I need you to find my boyfriend.” Riley was staring into Nina’s silver-blue eyes when she spoke. She spun on her stool to face me. “I need you to find Juan Carlos.”
I don’t know what Nina was expecting, but she said “your boyfriend” the way some people say “bubonic plague” and stepped back from the bar.
“How long has he been missing?” I asked.
“Three days,” Riley said.
“That doesn’t seem like a very long time.”
“You don’t understand.”
“Nina and I have often gone more than three days without seeing or speaking to each other.”
“Yes, but we always knew where the other person was,” Nina said.
She had me there.
“You don’t understand,” Riley repeated. “He’s not at his house. He doesn’t answer his cell. I can’t find him anywhere.”
“Maybe he doesn’t want you to find him,” I said.
Her brow knotted, and her lips formed a thin line that plunged downward at the ends. For a moment she looked ugly.
“I’m not a starry-eyed teenager, McKenzie. I know what it’s like to be dumped by a guy who doesn’t even have the courtesy to call. This is different. Something is terribly wrong.”
“Have you contacted the police?”
“You know who I am. You know I can’t call the police without provoking a scandal.”
“The cops out where you live aim to please. They’re trained to keep secrets of the rich and famous.”
“No,” she said.
“Why would there be a scandal?”
“Not scandal, exactly.”
“You make every question sound like an accusation.”
“I don’t think so.”
“Listen to yourself.”
I was starting to lose patience. I glanced up at Nina to see if she had an opinion. She shrugged her indifference.
“Ms. Brodin,” I said. “You’re a member of one of the wealthiest families in Minnesota, if not the nation. You have plenty of resources to draw on, and not just the police. Yet you come to a complete stranger for help. Stop hemming and hawing. Tell me what and tell me why or go away.”
She stood, although I don’t think she meant to. It was as if the tension in her body caused it to levitate off the stool.
“People don’t talk to me that way,” Riley said.
“Let me guess—you don’t like it.”
“No, I don’t.”
“Do you get a lot of that—people telling you what to do?”
“Yes. At least I did before my trust fund kicked in. Now my family only makes strong suggestions.”
“Strong suggestions involving your boyfriend?”