“I’ve never been a diamond girl, McKenzie. I never saw the attraction. You have to admit, though, this is impressive.”
“When we reached the compound, before we even unpacked, Juan Carlos got down on one knee, gave me the ring, and asked me to marry him.”
Riley paused as if she were reliving the moment. Finally she said, “My grandfather, when I was younger, told me that if I was having trouble making a difficult decision, I should flip a coin. He said that before the coin hit the ground, I would know what the decision should be. This ring—it was like a coin toss for me. The moment I saw it—I mean after I got over the shock of it—I knew exactly where I should be and with whom and it wasn’t Juan Carlos. I told him so.
“What surprised me—well, the whole thing surprised me, but one of the things that surprised me was that Juan Carlos didn’t argue. He didn’t beg; he didn’t try to talk me into it. I didn’t actually want him to debate the issue, yet at the same time I was disappointed that he quit so easily. He simply said it was okay. ‘I understand,’ he said. I told him it was me, not him. I told him he was a great guy and any woman would be lucky to have him. He wasn’t listening. He asked to borrow my car and that was the last I saw of him.”
“You have to understand something, sweetie,” I said. “A girl turns down a ring like this, the guy has to know she’s serious.”
“Did he ever tell you his real name?”
“What do you mean? Juan Carlos isn’t his real name?”
I explained. When I finished, Riley shook her head sadly.
“That is so messed up,” she said. “And you say I met him at Macalester? I don’t remember. I honestly don’t remember him.”
She held up the ring box.
“That’s even more reason why I should give this back. I don’t know where he is, though. Probably somewhere in Canada. That’s where we were going—to escape ETA, he said, that you tell me doesn’t actually exists anymore. Geez.”
“I don’t think Navarre’s in Canada. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure I know where to look.”
“Will you find him for me?” Riley asked. “Will you give back the ring?”
I closed the box and stuffed it into my pocket.
She lifted my hand and pressed the back of it against her cheek. “Thank you for the loan of this,” she said.
She released my hand.
By then Muehlenhaus had arrived, accompanied by Greg Schroeder and a small army of people I didn’t recognize—probably lawyers—and I wondered if the old man always traveled with an entourage. He crossed the room in a hurry, stopped in front of us, and pressed his fists against his hips. He didn’t ask his granddaughter if she was okay or how she was feeling; he didn’t address her at all. The first words out of his mouth were “Damn you, McKenzie. You’ve involved yourself with my family for the last time.”
Riley replied in a hard monotone. “Don’t speak foolishly, Grandfather,” she said. “I don’t like it. For future reference, McKenzie is my friend, and not just because he saved my life. When you disrespect him, you disrespect me. You do not want to do that. I have a bad attitude. Ask anyone.”
Muehlenhaus was stunned into silence. I was a little dazed myself, yet I managed to ask the woman, “Who are you?”
Riley smiled and leaned in close so only I could hear what she whispered.
“Didn’t my mother tell you? I’m the Muehlenhaus Girl.”
I found Navarre exactly where I thought he would be—sitting on the front steps of his mother’s house in West St. Paul. It was late afternoon by the time I arrived. The streets were deserted, yet I felt the weight of a dozen eyes on me as I parked the Jeep Cherokee in front of the house and walked up the battered sidewalk.
Navarre was dressed impeccably—expensive shoes and socks, slacks with a crease that could spread butter, a shirt that looked like it was being worn for the first time, a gold watch that reflected the sunlight. He didn’t move as I approached; he didn’t seem to register my presence at all. It was as if he were one of those living mannequins you sometimes see at the more fashionable department stores.
I stopped in front of him. His eyes focused on me. I reached into my pocket, found the small square box Riley had given me, and tossed it toward him. He snatched it out of the air with a quick hand and set it on the concrete step next to himself without even bothering to give it a look.
“Riley said she’s sorry,” I told him. “She’s going to be all right, by the way.”
“Of course she is,” Navarre said.
“Collin Baird is dead.”
“Did you kill him?”
“You’re McKenzie, right?”