“I was tired and I was angry and I was scared and—”
“I will remember it always with great pleasure.”
“Wait until I tell Bobby,” I said. “Harry and Chopper and all the other guys, too.”
“They’ll think I’m a jerk.”
“No, honey, they think I’m a jerk. They adore you. My friends have always liked you more than they’ve liked me. It’s something I’ve learned to live with.”
“I’m really not. Come on, now. Get up. Take this off.”
“I need to tell you, McKenzie, if you’re thinking what I think you’re thinking…”
“I’m thinking we need to dry you off and wrap you in a blanket and sit in front of the fire and cuddle.”
“Cuddle? Oh my God, what’s happening?”
“Do you have any wine left?”
“Yes, but I dropped the bottle in the tub. It’s half bathwater.”
“That’s okay. I have plenty of root beer.”
“The perfect end to a perfect day.”
Connie Evingson was my favorite jazz diva after Ella, Sarah, Billie, Etta, and maybe Shirley, and she was singing “The Girl from Ipanema” from the CD player as the Lexus crossed into Minnesota. So many lesser talents have covered the song over the decades that it has been transformed into the blandest of elevator music clichés. Yet she somehow managed to infuse it with the same sensuality, melancholy, and longing that could be heard in the original 1964 recording by Ant?nio Carlos Jobim, Astrud Gilberto, and Stan Getz. Which is why I was miffed when my cell phone interrupted the song.
I answered it the way I always do. “McKenzie.”
“McKenzie,” Victoria said in reply.
Nina mouthed, “Who is it?” and I told her.
“Put it on speakerphone.”
I did, raising my voice so I could be easily heard over the traffic. “What’s going on, Vic?”
“I found him,” she said.
“Juan Carlos Navarre, who do you think?”
“What do you mean, you found him?”
Nina leaned forward as she listened to the conversation.
“Remember,” Victoria said, “you told me to see if I could find out who shot up the kidnappers that grabbed whoever it was that Felipe Navarre paid ransom for that one time?”
“Vaguely,” I said.
“They were killed in ambush by the Guardia Civil. It’s Spain’s military-style police force, okay?”
“While looking for that, though, I found something else. What do they call that? There’s a word…”
“Serendipity,” Nina said.
“Oh, hi, Nina.”
“Hi. How’s your parents?”
“Better, now that Mom’s cutting me some slack.”
“Victoria,” I said.
“Oh, yeah. Serendipitously, I found an article printed seven years ago in El Mundo, El Mundo del Siglo Veintiuno—The World of the Twenty-first Century. Anyway, these guys are like Sixty Minutes; they have a reputation for investigative reporting. One of their more frequent targets is the Guardia Civil. They busted the commander for embezzling, among other things.
“About nine years ago, El Mundo printed a story that accused members of the Guardia Civil of acting as mercenaries in the employ of Felipe Navarre, who, it claimed, had paid them a reward for hunting down and killing the ETA guys that supposedly kidnapped his son—Juan Carlos Navarre.”
“No, no, no—now listen. According to El Mundo, it was all one big giant hoax. The ETA had nothing to do with the kidnapping. Instead, the paper claimed that Juan Carlos had staged the kidnapping to rip off the old man, and the old man used the Guardia Civil to kill the co-conspirators.”
“You’re kidding,” I repeated.
“I’m really not.”
“What happened to Juan Carlos?”
Nina was listening so intently that she moved across the seat, straining against her shoulder harness.
“He disappeared,” Victoria said. “The paper said that Felipe disowned Juan Carlos when he learned the truth about the kidnapping. Cut him off, cut him out—never spoke about him after that; wouldn’t even acknowledge that he had a son. There was speculation—at least a columnist at El Mundo speculated—that Felipe might have had his son killed, too. I don’t believe it, though.”
“The ransom money was never recovered. I think Juan Carlos took the cash and ran like hell and Felipe let him. Just let him go.”
“How much was the ransom?”
“Ten million euros.”
“How much is that in real money?”
“I looked it up—just over thirteen million dollars. McKenzie, what if he came to America?”
“Victoria—please tell me that you have a photograph.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t.”
“You already owe me one hundred dollars.”
“Find a photograph and I’ll pay your college tuition.”
“Whoa, Harvard, here I come.”
Nina leaned back in her seat after Victoria hung up. She smiled brightly.
“There might be a happy ending after all,” she said.
“What are you talking about?”