“Assuming he did steal the gold—and that’s a big assumption—what do you think he did, bury it in his backyard?”
“Why not? Many people at the time—legitimate citizens—refused to give up their gold, choosing to hoard it instead until the price controls were lifted and they could sell it for considerably more than what the government was paying. Some of them did indeed bury it in their backyards.”
“What do you want from me?”
“We want you to help us find the backyard. Ivy says you’re an investigator.”
“In a manner of speaking.”
“She says you know how to find things.”
“If it’s worth it to me.”
“We’ll give you a fair share of the gold.”
It wasn’t hard to do the arithmetic. A third of $8,766,888 amounts to $2.9 million and change. Yeah, that sounded fair. On the other hand, a third of nothing is nothing.
“Why me?” I asked. “Based on the research you’ve already done, you certainly seem to know what you’re doing. Why come to me for help?”
“Assuming you agree to accept our offer, what would you do first?”
“If this were 1933, we’d try to reconstruct Frank’s movements during those days he was here—interview all of his known associates, visit all of his haunts, and like that. Unfortunately, this isn’t 1933. This is the coldest of cold cases. Most people who witnessed the actual events are likely long dead. Those who aren’t were probably too young at the time to be of much help to us. That limits us to police records, newspaper reports, historical references—”
“I wouldn’t have thought of that.”
“Yes, you would. You already have. You’re a smart guy.” I glanced at Ivy when I said that, but I didn’t mean anything by it. I still thought she could do better.
“You overestimate me,” Berglund said.
“Probably,” I said, but I didn’t believe it. There was something else that Berglund wanted, and I thought I knew what it was.
“McKenzie, will you help us?” Ivy asked.
“Well, I’ll tell you, kid. I’m inclined to say no. I’m inclined to tell you that this is the wildest of wild goose chases, and if the gold had been hidden in St. Paul—if Frank had even stolen it in the first place—somehow someone would have found it in the past seventy-five years. I’m impressed that you believe that it exists, though. I’m even more impressed by the two guys sitting in the blue Trailblazer across the street watching us who also apparently believe that it exists.”
They both turned to look out the window.
“Don’t act surprised,” I said. “They’re the real reason you called me. Isn’t that right?”
“I didn’t know they were here,” Berglund said.
“You said we lost them,” Ivy said.
“I thought we had.”
“Who are they?” I asked.
“I don’t know.”
“That’s no way to start a partnership, telling fibs.”
“I swear, Mr. McKenzie, I have no idea who they are.” Berglund turned to Ivy, looking for support. “No idea at all.”
“It’s true, McKenzie,” Ivy said. The anxiety in her voice was almost heartbreaking. “They just, they just appeared.”
“About a week ago. They’ve been following us—everywhere.”
“When I try to talk to them, they just drive away,” Berglund said.
“Yet when I look around again, there they are.”
“They’re waiting for you to lead them to the gold,” I said. “Who else did you tell about it?”
“No one,” Berglund said.
“You told someone.”
I glanced at Ivy. She shook her head.
“A friend?” I said.
“No,” Berglund said.
“Someone you’ve been in contact with while doing your research?”
“No one. We’ve been very discreet.”
“Yet there they sit.”
Berglund opened his mouth to defend himself, but I flung a thumb in the general direction of the front window and he thought better of it.
“So what you really want is for me to watch your back while you search for Jelly’s gold,” I said.
“No, I …” Berglund turned to Ivy, looking for more assistance.
Ivy reached across the table and set her hand on top of mine. “More than that, I hope,” she said.
I might have read a lot of extra meaning into the gesture if it came from someone else, but I knew her and she knew me. I was the uncle she counted on when she couldn’t turn to Mom and Dad. The realization made me sad. When did I stop being attractive to young women, I wondered.
When were you ever attractive to young women? my inner voice replied.
“Please help us,” Ivy said.
Her pleading eyes, the expectant expression on her face—I closed my own eyes. When I opened them again she was still staring at me. All I can say is, I’m lucky she wasn’t selling time-share condos in Florida.
“Sure,” I said.
They both seemed relieved, and for a moment I wondered just how much trouble they were really in that they hadn’t told me about yet.