On the other hand, I knew that Nash got wind of the gold shipment only a few days before he hit the bank in Huron, South Dakota—that’s when he ordered his specially modified car. Maybe he didn’t have time to arrange for a fence that could handle such a big job. Maybe he did hide it in his backyard, like Berglund suggested. Question was, where was his backyard?
It was while I was attempting to answer that question that the Nordic princess I noticed earlier abruptly pulled out the chair on the opposite side of the table from me and sat down. Up close she looked like a romance novel cliché—perfect teeth in a perfect mouth formed into a perfect smile, eyes sparkling like liquid azurite, hair as lustrous as spun gold. She was wearing a black pencil skirt with a pleated hem and a long-sleeve scoop-neck T-shirt made from some stretch fabric that clung to her athletic body like damp cloth. I would have dropped a pencil so I’d have an excuse to duck under the table and examine her legs except that it was too juvenile even for me.
She extended her hand. “Good morning, Mr. McKenzie. I’m Heavenly.”
“Of course you are,” I said.
I shook her hand. There was strength in it.
“Your parents named you Heavenly?” I said.
“Some might argue it’s a couple of steps above Rushmore.”
“You know my name. Should I be impressed?”
“Considering how quickly you learned the names of my friends yesterday, I wouldn’t think so.”
“Ted and Wally are your friends?”
Heavenly held her right hand out for me to see and gave it a waggle.
“More like acquaintances,” she said.
I had to admit to myself, beautiful young women didn’t often accost me in libraries. In fact, the last time it happened was never. So I had to ask, “What do you want from me, Heavenly?”
“My friends call me Hep.”
“My initials—Heavenly Elizabeth Petryk.”
“If we get to be friends, I’ll call you that, too.”
“Oh, I know we’ll be friends. In the meantime, I would like you to stop researching Jelly Nash. That’s what you’re doing, isn’t it? I recognize some of the boxes.” I don’t know why, but I closed the file in front of me. “Stop your research, return the materials to the desk, and meet me in the café downstairs for a coffee.”
“Why would I do that?”
Heavenly spoke loudly—“Because it’ll be more comfortable”—causing heads to turn and someone to go “Shhhhhh.” She smiled.
“That explains why we should speak elsewhere,” I said. “Not why we should speak.”
She batted her eyelashes. “Most men don’t need a reason.”
Yeah, I told myself, and there was a time not long ago when I would have lined up like those men. Yet despite evidence to the contrary, I was older now and more mature. At least that’s what I told myself—remember, I didn’t drop the pencil.
“I need a greater incentive than that,” I said.
“I’ll meet you in five minutes.”
Café Minnesota, located on the ground floor of the Minnesota History Center, seemed out of place. While all the other rooms and exhibits in the building had a kind of sylvan appeal—plenty of wood, plenty of natural fibers—the café was decidedly new age, all black and silver and shiny surfaces. I sat in a chair that might have been borrowed from the ultramodern Walker Art Center and waited while Heavenly retrieved my black coffee. I tried not to stare at her legs when she returned and set a plastic tray on top of the metal table. Along with my coffee, it held an ice cream coffee drink topped with whipped cream, and a brownie with about an inch of chocolate frosting sprinkled with chopped walnuts.
“You don’t look like a girl who eats a lot of desserts,” I told her.
“No,” she said, speaking around a bite of brownie. “I look like a girl who exercises every day because she eats a lot of desserts.”
“You’re working for that asshole Josh Berglund, aren’t you?” Heavenly said.
“With,” I said. “Not for.”
“Him and that bitch Ivy Flynn.”
“Miss Flynn happens to be a friend of mine, so kindly keep your insults to yourself.”
“Hmm,” Heavenly hummed as she finished off another bite of brownie. “You object when I diss Ivy, but not Josh.”
“You might want to keep that in mind in the future.”
“I have nothing against Ivy except that she’s seeing Josh.”
“Why should you care?”
Heavenly dropped the remainder of the brownie on the plate and pushed it away as if she suddenly had no taste for it.
She hesitated, said, “Josh and I,” paused again as if she were searching for the right words, said, “We had been seeing each other. We met at the U and stayed … friends, even after I took my master’s and left and got a job working as a writer and researcher while he went for his Ph.D.”