What did she expect? my inner voice asked. That you’d fall apart in the seven months since she last saw you?
We didn’t speak about Arnaldo. What information I had suggested that Juan Carlos Navarre disappeared immediately after I left him on his mother’s stoop. Whether Arnaldo killed him and hid the body or accepted the bribe I told Navarre to offer in exchange for his life remains unclear. I do know that Navarre spoke the truth—FinCEN traced his money to a bank account in Basel, Switzerland, and after some high-level finagling, the Department of Justice was able to recover it. So wherever Navarre was, alive or dead, he was broke.
Maria led me to a table near the railing of the patio with a splendid view of Gideon Bay. Riley was already waiting for me. I didn’t recognize her at first. Her hair was still short, but she had allowed it to return to its natural auburn color. And she was wearing a pristine black business suit over a white silk blouse.
“Look at you, all grown up,” I said.
Riley came out of her chair to hug me.
“You look great,” she said.
“People keep saying that. Is it that much of a shock?”
“Given what you do for fun and games…”
Riley reclaimed her chair, and I sat across from her. Her eyes sparkled in the bright sunlight.
“So, what brings me here?” I asked.
Riley glanced behind her for a moment, saw no one, and turned back.
“I’ll tell you in a minute,” she said. “How’s the lovely Ms. Truhler?”
“As lovely as ever. How’s your family?”
She laughed at the question. When she finished, she said, “McKenzie, have you ever read King Lear?”
“Yes. I’ve seen it performed, too.”
“What was Lear’s big mistake?”
“He divided his property among his children while he was still alive.”
“My grandfather put the Pointe in my name as a Christmas gift. Actually, he was trying to avoid the death tax, but still.”
She laughed some more.
“Why is that funny?” I asked.
“By New Year’s I had moved my parents in—both of them.”
Now I was laughing, too. “How did Mr. Muehlenhaus take it?”
“How do you think?”
“You are such an evil little girl.”
“Since then, my father has lost nearly sixty pounds. I helped him secure additional financing for his building—he’s happy as a clam. My mother—the last time I saw her was at Club Versailles. She was drinking raspberry ice tea and dancing with my father. On the other hand, both my grandparents seem to be drinking more these days. Oh well.”
“Do they talk? What do they say when they pass each other on the way to the bathroom?”
“How should I know? I don’t live there.”
Riley laughed some more. While she was laughing, Mary Pat appeared with a tray of margaritas. She set a drink in front of me, gave me a hug, and kissed my cheek. She must have left a smudge of lipstick, because she brushed at the spot with her fingertips.
“A toast,” Riley said.
She lifted her glass with her left hand. That’s when I saw it—the green eyelike gleam of an emerald set in a white gold band. I glanced at Mary Pat’s left hand, third finger. She was wearing an identical ring.
“I’ll be damned,” I said.
“That’s not the toast I was going to give,” Riley said. “But it’ll do.”
Both she and Mary Pat sipped their drinks. I quickly joined them “Congratulations,” I said. “When’s the big day?”
“I want you to mark your calendar, McKenzie,” Riley said. “That’s why I called you.”
“You’re not going to blow us off this time like you did my grand reopening,” Mary Pat said.
“The wedding’s going to take place the first Saturday after I get the state legislature to allow gay couples to marry,” Riley added.
When you get the legislature to allow…? my inner voice said.
At the same time I flashed on a headline I saw that morning in the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper—“Minnesota’s same-sex marriage battle goes behind the scenes.”
“I guess that means you’re taking over the family business,” I said.
“I think of it more as a hobby,” Riley said. “Besides, I’m really busy these days. Grandfather was involved in so many different enterprises—there doesn’t appear to be any synergy, any cohesion at all. It’s like he invested in one thing, got bored, and invested in something else almost on a whim. Now I’m the one who’s supposed to make sense of it all. The teachers at the Carlson School of Management did not prepare me for this kind of chaos.”
“Nobody said it would be easy being the Muehlenhaus Girl.”
“No, they didn’t.”
“As long as you come home at night,” Mary Pat said. “That’s the main thing.”