I looked closer. He had finished off my leftover beef stroganoff. Yet beyond that, he had done no damage whatsoever. I was convinced the intruder was the same man who killed Mrs. R and who attacked Anne Rehmann. Anne had used my name in her office. Learning more about me, including where I lived, probably hadn’t been all that difficult for him. Which increased my anxiety. I imagined him sitting in the dark, eating my food, drinking my booze, waiting for someone to hurt. If Nina and I had been living together, it might have been her …
I tossed the SIG onto the tabletop. It bounced against a bottle and came to a rest. While I stared at it, the old questions returned—what was I doing with my life, where was I going—plus a new one. Nina’s life had been endangered once before because of me; would I dare put it at risk again?
I lifted my eyes to the window. I could see the pond with the fountain at the center that my father had built in my backyard just before he died. At one time there were a dozen ducks nesting on its banks, plus a flock of wild turkeys that had taken up residence. I had actually tried to name them all. The turkeys were gone now, and the ducks—a few still paused on their flight south, attracted by the open water, yet not nearly as many as before, and none nested there.
You could move to someplace safer, my inner voice said.
Sure we could, I told myself. Sure we could.
I turned my back to the pond and the gun and the questions and went to the wall phone. I didn’t know why I still maintained a landline. Just too lazy to cancel it, I guess. I called my security firm. I told the woman who answered that my home had been invaded yet the alarm had not sounded. At first she didn’t believe me. Something in my voice convinced her not to argue the point, though. I told her I wanted the system repaired. She said she would send someone right out. I hung up. A moment later, my cell phone rang.
“What?” I said.
“Don’t yell at me,” Victoria Dunston said. “People keep yelling at me.”
“I’m sorry, Vic. It’s been a long morning so far.”
“Tell me about it. We’re not supposed to use our cells or iPods or anything else in class or the teachers will confiscate them. If the bell hadn’t rung just as you texted me I’d be screwed.”
“I didn’t know that. I’m sorry.”
“I’m just saying.”
“Where are you now?”
“I’m hiding out in the band room, so it’s okay. I have my laptop up. You want me to tell you what I know?”
“Please, except if it’ll be safer for you to talk after school…”
“No, no, I got this. Umm, okay. Felipe Navarre. He was an interesting man. Made a lot of money, ’specially in the tech industry. He didn’t invent anything, but he had this thing for being able to see stuff coming years before it arrived, you know? He was also politically active. About ten years ago, there was a group calling itself Euskadi Ta Askatasuna—which is Spanish for ‘Basque Homeland and Freedom’—that the EU labeled as terrorists—”
“Wait,” I said. “Is this ETA?”
“You heard of them?”
“Not till yesterday.”
“Same here. ETA, they wanted independence for what they called the ‘Greater Basque Country,’ which consisted of pretty much all of northern Spain. There’s an article that was printed in Diario de Navarra, a newspaper in the city of Pamplona in the region of Navarre, which is a part of northern Spain. This is where Felipe’s family is from, by the way. Apparently they emigrated generations ago. Anyway, according to the article, ETA kidnapped someone close to Felipe and forced him to pay a ransom for the person’s safe return, which he did. A couple weeks later, El País, a newspaper in Madrid, reported that the kidnappers were caught and executed, although the ransom money was never recovered. But here’s the thing—the papers never identified who the victim was, male or female. I guess Felipe was notoriously protective of Susan, his wife, and the rest of his family. By the way, Susan Kowitz met Felipe when she went to Spain as part of the University of Minnesota’s Learning Abroad Program. It must have been love at first sight, because she never came home.”
“What about Juan Carlos?”
“Zippo. I mean, I looked everywhere for him. There were about a dozen obituaries printed when Felipe and Susan were killed, and not one mentioned a son. But here’s the thing—I keep saying that, don’t I? Here’s the thing—the papers didn’t mention anyone else in his family, either. I guess that means he didn’t have a family or everyone in his family was keeping a low profile. Because of the kidnapping, maybe.”
“What about the car accident?”
“Seems to be a straight-up accident. Felipe and Susan were at a party; he drank too much, rolled his car off a mountain. His blood-alcohol level was one-point-three something. That surprised me, by the way, that the police reported that. I didn’t know foreign countries cared about drunk driving as much as we do.”
“There was no suggestion that ETA was involved?”
“Nope, none. I looked into it because I knew it was the kind of thing you’d want me to look into. It’s kinda moot, anyway.”