“Tell me—was it love at first sight when you met me?”
Nina’s downcast eyes told me she was disappointed in my answer.
“No, it was a few days later when I saw you at the Minnesota Club,” I added. “You were wearing a long, sleek, searing-red evening gown. Remember?”
“You pushed that thug down a flight of stairs.”
“That’s when I knew you were the woman for me.”
“You’re such a romantic. That’s why you’re going to help Riley, isn’t it? Because you’re a romantic.”
“That and to annoy Mr. Muehlenhaus.”
That fucking McKenzie, my inner voice said.
“You think that’s a good idea? Before when you messed up his plans it was kind of an accident. It wasn’t personal. They just got in the way of what you had set out to do. This time, though, it’s his family.”
“It’s something to think about.”
The glacier that carved out the 11,842 lakes located in Minnesota was particularly kind to Lake Minnetonka—or “big water” if you speak Dakota. Actually, it’s less a lake than it is a sprawling maze of interconnected bays, inlets, channels, peninsulas, and islands. The water surface covers about 23 square miles, yet its shoreline stretches for 125 to 150 miles depending on whom you talk to. It takes two hours to drive all the way around it by car—assuming you push the traffic laws—and when you do, you’ll be passing through some of the most affluent zip codes in Minnesota. Half a million bucks might buy you a shack with a view of the water. Not that I saw any for sale the next morning while I was searching for Navarre’s house.
Navarre lived on the northeastern shore of Crystal Bay. To reach it, I had to drive west a third of the way around the lake and then follow North Shore Drive east through the village of Saga Hill, down along West Arm Bay, and past a cobweb of narrow and poorly marked roads. I won’t bore you with the details. Suffice to say I got lost. Twice. The first time was my fault. I turned left when I should have gone right. The second time I was thrown off by the sign planted at the mouth of the cobblestone driveway—FOR SALE REHMANN LAKE PLACE REAL ESTATE. I drove past it, realized my mistake, and worked my way back. I parked illegally on the main road across from the driveway while I checked the GPS app on the instrument panel of my Audi S5 against the directions Riley had sent to my smartphone. Yep, this was the place.
A young man watched intently from a ten-year-old red Nissan Sentra that he had parked—quite legally—on the other side of the road. I couldn’t make out the details of his face. He seemed to be scowling, though. I gave him a smile. He took a long last pull on a cigarette and flicked the butt out the window toward me. You drive a $65,000 car, you get that sometimes.
I crossed the main road and followed the long driveway to a huge two-story house with white cedar shakes and blue wood shingles. It sat in the middle of an equally immense emerald lawn that sloped gently to the lake. I remained in the Audi for a few beats, just staring at the structure. I had seen high schools smaller than this. I went to the door and rang the bell. When that failed to rouse anyone, I knocked. There was no answer. I circled the house, moving clockwise around the attached three-car garage. A porch ran along the entire length of the rear of the house. I mounted the stairs and followed it from one end to the other, dodging white wicker chairs with brilliant blue cushions and white wicker tables with glass tops as I peered through the windows. Nothing moved inside the house or out.
A gazebo painted white with chairs and tables that matched those on the porch stood between the house and the shoreline, and I crossed the neatly trimmed lawn to reach it. Four speakers were mounted in the rafters, and for a moment I pictured myself and Nina sitting there with a bottle of wine, listening to some tunes, and watching the sun dip across the lake.
“Nice,” I said aloud.