“Let me guess—the Sharks and Jets are against it,” I said.
“My family hates him, if that’s what you mean. My father especially hates him. He claims Juan Carlos is nothing but a con man who’s only after my money. Why else would he be interested in me, my father says. I’m not pretty, he says, so why else would a man care about me except for my money. I’m smart, though. McKenzie, I might not be pretty, but I know things.”
Not pretty? my inner voice asked. I raised my hand like a cop trying to stop traffic. “Wait,” I said. Nina caught my eye. She shook her head in a way that Riley couldn’t see. “Never mind. What about the rest of your family?”
“My grandmother, grandfather, they keep asking what do I know about the boy, the imm-i-grant. My mother—I don’t want to talk about my mother.”
“When was the last time you saw him?”
“Saturday. No, I saw him Friday night. But I spoke to him on Saturday at eleven thirty. Eleven thirty A.M. We were supposed to meet for lunch.”
“At Club Versailles?”
“No, at Casa del Lago. It’s a Mexican restaurant in Excelsior. Which is another thing. Juan Carlos owns the place. He bought it after he first came to Minnesota, after he moved to his house on Lake Minnetonka. It was run-down and I heard it was going bankrupt and he took it over and turned it into a real hot spot in just a few months. Would a con man do that?”
“Tell me about the lunch.”
“He didn’t show,” Riley said. “He called and said something came up and he couldn’t make it. He was very apologetic. He said he would call me and we would do something later. He said something else. He said, ‘I’ll never give you up.’ He didn’t say it in a creepy way, though. He said it…”
“Like someone was trying to keep him from seeing you,” Nina said. “And he wasn’t going to let them.”
“You said Navarre has a house on Lake Minnetonka,” I reminded her.
“He does.” Riley dove into her bag, produced a key, and slid it across the bar. I did the math quickly in my head and thought, They’ve known each other for just a breath over three months, yet she has Navarre’s key.
When did you give Nina your key? my inner voice asked, but I didn’t answer.
“Have you been there?” I asked. “To his house?”
“I went this morning,” Riley answered. “I knocked, rang the doorbell. There was no answer. I didn’t go inside.”
For a moment her eyes lost their color.
“I understand,” I said.
I took the key and slipped it into my pocket.
“Thank you,” Riley said.
I hesitated for a moment before I had her send all the information she’d gathered on Navarre to my smartphone. In the beginning I had zealously guarded my cell number from all but a few close friends, yet slowly it escaped my grasp. Now it seemed as if everyone knew how to reach me, including a few nonprofits and political organizations seeking financial support.
I also had her send me a photo of Navarre.
“This is the best one I have,” Riley told me. “He gets upset when people take his photo. I don’t know why.”
Some people might have found that suspicious. Not me. I don’t like to have my photo taken, either. I have pretty much bought into the belief held by some primitive civilizations that a camera has the ability to steal your soul.
The photo Riley sent displayed a handsome young man wearing a pink polo shirt and standing in front of a cabin cruiser emblazoned with the name So?adora. His dark hair was tousled by the wind, his dark eyes half closed against the bright sun, and he was grinning sheepishly as if he were caught doing something that embarrassed him. He didn’t look like an immigrant, Hispanic or otherwise. He looked like a kid who worked for Goldman Sachs. Maybe that’s why he was embarrassed.
“If I find Navarre, what do you want me to tell him?” I asked.
“That I love him,” Riley said. “That I want to see him. That he should call me.”
“What if he says no?”
“Then I’ll be wrong about him. And my family will be right.”
The way she said it, I got the impression that she was more fearful of the latter than the former.
A few moments later she left Rickie’s. Nina and I watched as she crossed the floor and passed through the doorway. Riley was an accident of family and wealth, and I wondered briefly if she would be able to survive it.
“Do you think she’s pretty?” I asked.
“She’s an interesting-looking girl,” Nina said.
“Is she pretty, though? She doesn’t seem to think so.”
“If you’re told something long enough, you start to believe it. I’ve been told, for example, that I’m the lovely Ms. Truhler.”
“That’s what I heard, too.”
“Do you think Riley was telling the truth?”
“About you being lovely?”
“About Juan Carlos. About her family.”
“No. Not all of it, anyway. But then people seldom tell you all the truth.”
“She loves him. I think that’s true.”