“He’s intelligent and handsome and charming and good and I know he loves me.” She chanted the words as if they were an incantation that would make him miraculously materialize out of a wisp of smoke. When that didn’t work, she spoke in a weak voice. “Will you help me?”
“Tell me something, Ms. Brodin. You said your grandfather likes to label people. Just out of curiosity, what does he call your boyfriend?”
“What does he call me?”
Riley hesitated. “He says…”
“When he uses your name, he always calls you ‘that fucking McKenzie.’”
“Okay,” I said. “I’ll help you.”
Riley looked at Nina and smiled. Nina smiled back. I gestured at the stool. Riley reseated herself, smoothing her skirt over her thighs. She took Nina up on her offer and ordered a Cape Codder—cranberry juice and vodka with a twist of lime. She made no effort to pay for the drink after it was served. She sipped the beverage and started talking. She became more animated as she spoke; her breath came out in gusts between her words. Nina wanted to listen, but the responsibilities of owning a high-class saloon started pulling at her. She’d leave to deal with a patron or an employee and then return to hear a bit more of Riley’s story before being drawn away again. She paid an assistant manager to take care of these problems for her, but Nina had given her the evening off. Foolish girl. ’Course, she knew I would tell her what she missed, later. I always told Nina everything. Well, not everything.
“His name is Juan Carlos Navarre,” Riley said.
That made me lean back and say, “Huh.”
“I know what you’re thinking,” Riley told me. “There’s a sleepy little village called Navarre on a spit of land between the upper and lower parts of Lake Minnetonka, pretty much at the center of the lake. Juan Carlos said he looked into it and couldn’t find a connection to his family or even the region called Navarre in northern Spain. It’s just a coincidence.”
Actually, that’s not what I was thinking. I was thinking that Navarre’s name was very similar to Juan Carlos Navarro, the captain of the Spanish Olympic basketball team that the USA beat for the gold medal in London, yet I nodded my head in agreement just the same.
“What does he do?” I asked.
“He’s an entrepreneur. Like his father.”
Felipe Navarre had owned several businesses in Spain, most of them headquartered in Madrid. Riley read the names carefully to me from a document that she had stored on her smartphone. She had compiled all the information she had on her boyfriend, which I found telling—although I didn’t tell her that.
According to Riley, Juan Carlos was the only child of Felipe and Susan Kowitz, an American who grew up in Prior Lake, Minnesota. Sadly—and Riley sounded sad when she told me this—Felipe and Susan were killed in an automobile accident seven years ago while Juan Carlos was away at college. The boy inherited everything, but he didn’t want to run his father’s businesses as much as he wanted to build his own, so when the debt crisis hit Spain, he sold off his holdings and decided to try his luck in the United States. He had dual citizenship because he was his mother’s son, so there wasn’t an issue with him immigrating to America.
“Juan Carlos speaks perfect English with the cutest accent,” Riley said. “He came to Minnesota because he wanted to be close to his roots, his mother’s roots. He settled on Lake Minnetonka because, well, because he fell in love with the place just like the Europeans who used it as a summer vacation home did back in the 1850s.”
They met—Riley and Navarre—at Club Versailles, also located on Lake Minnetonka. The club had a swimming pool, a diving pool, hot tubs, saunas, a private beach, and a pier with slips for dozens of boats both big and small. It had tennis courts, an executive golf course, a driving range, walking and bike trails, locker rooms, a fitness center, a ballroom, banquet facilities, a restaurant and bar with live music on the weekends, hotel rooms for rent and condos for sale, and a long waiting list. It was one of those places that sold shares instead of memberships, and if you had to ask how much it cost you couldn’t afford to join. I had heard about it but have never been inside the place.
“It was love at first sight,” Riley said. Nina had returned to our spot at the bar just as Riley spoke those words, and she smiled. “During the Fourth of July weekend. There was a dance at the club after the fireworks. I was standing on one side of the dance floor and Juan Carlos was at the other and our eyes met and I—I don’t even remember who I was with, who I was talking to. I just walked toward him and he walked toward me and we met in the center and—have you ever seen West Side Story, the part where Maria met Tony? It was like that. It was like—it was like we had known each other before and we were being reunited after many years. Have you ever had that feeling? I told Juan Carlos about the feeling, and he told me that we had met before. In our dreams.”
The way Riley smiled, I got the impression she liked the dream.