Home > Curious Minds (Knight and Moon #1)(11)

Curious Minds (Knight and Moon #1)(11)
Janet Evanovich, Phoef Sutton

“Are you planting the mums yourself?” Riley asked Irene.

“No. I’m filling the hole and selling the house,” Irene said. “This is like some kind of weird burial ground. The place is lousy with these stupid saints. God knows how long they’ve been here or why they’re here. We didn’t plant them. We aren’t even Catholic.”

“How long have you lived in this house?”

“Five years.”

“Saint Nicholas is in extraordinarily good shape for having been in the ground for at least five years.”

“He’s a saint,” Irene said. “They probably hold up better than the rest of us.” She turned her attention to Riley. “I believe we met once before. It’s Riley, correct?”

“Yes. I was an intern at Blane-Grunwald this past summer.”

“My husband took a special interest in you. He thought you had potential.”

“He was a wonderful mentor. And I’m sure he was instrumental in hiring me.”

Emerson swung his attention to the boat at the end of the dock. “Nice sailboat.”

“I suppose,” Irene said. “Günter loved it. He said it was his escape.”

“What was he escaping from?”

“Me,” Irene said. “He used the boat like a ‘men’s only’ back porch.”

“It wasn’t your back porch as well?”

“I get seasick looking at it. In all the time we’ve owned it I think I’ve set foot on it twice.”

“Pity,” Emerson said.

“Mr. Knight has a few questions,” Riley said to Irene. “He’s been engaged to look into Günter’s disappearance.”

Irene looked shocked. “Who engaged him?”

“Werner,” Emerson said.

“So thoughtful of Werner,” Irene said. “Of course I want to help in any way. What would you like to ask me?”

“Did you kill your husband?” Emerson asked.

Irene’s mouth dropped open, and she blinked three times.

“He didn’t mean ‘kill your husband,’ ” Riley said.

“I did,” Emerson said. “I very distinctly heard myself ask her if she killed her husband.”

“I did not kill my husband,” Irene said.

“Good to know,” Riley said. She gave Emerson a stern look. “Anything else?”

“I understand you filed papers to gain power of attorney for your joint property,” Emerson said to Irene.

“My lawyer thought it was prudent.”

Emerson rocked back on his heels, hands in his pockets. “But you didn’t file a missing persons report with the police.”

“I suppose I should do that,” Irene said. “Originally I didn’t see any reason. We didn’t have the perfect marriage, and I thought he was just walking out on me.”

“And now?” Emerson asked.

“That’s what I still think.”

Emerson looked into the hole again. “What will you do with Saint Nicholas?”

“Throw him away. Just like all the others.”

“Were they all Saint Nicholas statues?”

“I’m not really up on my saints, but they all looked similar.”

“I’ve always been fond of Saint Nicholas,” Emerson said. “Do you mind if I take him?”

“Not at all,” Irene said. “Help yourself.”

Emerson retrieved the plaster statue, dusted it off, and tucked it under his arm. “Now I would like to see Günter’s study,” he said to Irene.

For a split second Irene looked like she wanted to get in her car and not stop driving until she reached California and was far away from Emerson.

“I suppose that would be all right,” she said, “but I’m not sure if you’ll find anything helpful. Günter didn’t spend much time there.”

Irene led the way into the house, taking them through a spacious kitchen. The counters were granite, the appliances were stainless and looked professional, the floor was wide-plank hand-hewn oak. The cupboards were faux antique, the breakfast nook was charming, and an empty vodka bottle and the remains of a Lean Cuisine frozen dinner had been stashed in the large sink.

“This is a great kitchen,” Riley said.

“Thank you,” Irene said. “I don’t do much cooking in it, but it’s pleasant in the morning when I eat my yogurt.” She set her gloves and hat on a sideboard and led Riley and Emerson down a short hall and up a flight of stairs. “The previous owner chose to create a home office over the garage. It’s very nicely done, but Günter rarely used it. From time to time I believe he would put documents in the safe.”

“Have you checked the safe since he disappeared?” Emerson asked her.

“No. I’m sure there’s nothing in it of interest to me. I keep my jewelry in the bedroom. Truth is, I don’t even know the combination. I believe our lawyer has the ability to open it should something happen to Günter.”

“It sounds as if you expect Günter to return,” Emerson said. “Have you heard from him?”

“No, I haven’t heard from him. One morning he left for work with his to-go cup of coffee and his briefcase, and he simply never returned.”

“You don’t seem especially worried,” Emerson said.

“I drink a lot,” Irene said. “And I smoke dope. It keeps me more or less happy.”

Irene opened the door at the top of the stairs, and everyone stepped into Günter’s home office. It was a room much like Günter’s office at Blane-Grunwald, all rich mahogany and plush upholstery. A few flies buzzed around in the semidarkness. A shaft of sunlight fell on the ornate partners desk through the gap in the heavy draperies. The walls were paneled and lined with bookshelves. The books were for the most part academic.

Irene opened the drapes. “I really should air this room. I can’t imagine how these flies got in here.”

A door chimed downstairs, and Irene looked at her watch. “That’s my housekeeper. I need to talk to her. And I’m meeting a friend for coffee in a few minutes. Will you be much longer?”

“Yes,” Emerson said. “Considerably longer.”

Riley thought Irene looked like she wanted to stick a fork in Emerson’s heart. And she didn’t blame her.

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