Within three days of Eva and Albert Bennett’s initial meeting, Albert Bennett’s law firm filed all required documentation for Eva’s $2,600,000 to be placed into a living trust of which she was appointed sole trustee with absolute control over all disbursements and investments. Albert’s own accountant, Lou Reiner, who advised him on potential investments, would do the same for Eva.
Lou was a chunky, jovial pixie of man with a fat face, bald head, and a hearing aide. “Do you know the difference between a regular person and an accountant?” he asked her.
“No,” Eva said.
“If you ask a regular person ‘what is two plus two’ they say ‘four.’ If you ask an accountant ‘what’s two plus two?’ he says ‘what do you want it to be’?”
Eva laughed, and he flashed his pixie smile at her.
Hoping that Melanie still lived above the diner and had kept the same phone number, Eva crossed her fingers and dialed the number. She delighted in making the phone call, and Melanie was so excited to finally hear something from Eva she dropped the receiver twice during the conversation.
“Who is this, really?” Melanie had said. “Where have you been? I thought you dropped off the face of the earth, honey. Are you okay? How the hell long has it been, anyway?”
“Nearly five years. I’m fine. Better than fine, best I’ve ever been! Are you still saving money to open your own beauty parlor?”
“Oh, sure, but by the time I have enough, I’ll probably need a walker to get around the place. That’s okay though. I’ll attach one of those kid’s bike horns to the damn thing, and scare the shit out of everybody.”
“How much more do you need?”
“How much?” Eva pressed.
“Oh, not much; hundred grand ought to do it. So, I only need about—what— ninety-eight more.” She laughed. “Easy as pouring a double Beam over shaved ice.”
The next day Eva arranged for a certified check in the amount of $150,000 to be personally delivered to Melanie through a courier employed by John Moody, Albert’s private detective. She included a note with the check:
You were always such a good friend to me, almost like a big sister, and now I want to do something for you. I met some rich “bastards” just like you said I might and so I want you to have this money to use to buy your beauty parlor, or whatever you want to do with it. Maybe you can come visit me sometime. It would be wonderful to see you again. Love, Eva
Delivering the check, the note, and the instructions to John Moody was the first time Eva met the man, and he was not what she had expected. John Moody was formal to the point of being imperious. His dark hair was a crew cut; his spotless white shirt was accented by a thin red tie held strictly in place by both tie pin and collar pin; matching cuff links completed the look of a highly disciplined, humorless man who would brook no nonsense or, for that matter, interference.
John Moody was fifty-six years old, the same age as Albert Bennett. Unlike Bennett, however, Moody was a chiseled specimen of physical fitness. He and Bennett had attended grade school and high school together, joined the army together during the Korean War, and served in the same unit. Moody had, literally, once saved Bennett’s life during the Korean conflict, but not on the battlefield. Drinking in a bar in Seoul, Bennett had argued with another American soldier over the services of one of the house prostitutes. When the other soldier attacked Bennett with a knife, Moody intervened and knocked the attacker unconscious. After the army, Bennett went to law school and Moody joined the Texas State Troopers, eventually rising to the rank of captain before retiring to open his own private detective agency.
“You said you had a second matter to discuss,” he said, after Eva handed him the envelope containing the note and check for Melanie.
“Actually two,” said Eva, sitting across the conference table from him in Albert Bennett’s study. “Two people I’d like you to find, if you can.”
“I’m listening,” he said, folding his hands firmly together on the table.
Revealing as little as necessary, Eva told Moody about Rafael Mena and his father, captives at the Blanco compound, and about her cousin, Tina, who should have been about eight-years-old by this time.
“Is that everything?” he asked her when she’d finished.
“Everything for now,” she said with a slight nod of her head.
“You realize,” he said, “neither of these are typical cases. They could get expensive.”
“That doesn’t matter,” Eva stated. “I just want them found if there’s any possible way to do it. I don’t care how much it costs.”
“Very well then,” he said, standing. “I’ll get some men on it and get back to you when I can.”
“Thank you.” She smiled. “I’m very grateful.”
He waved her sentiment away. “Don’t be grateful yet, Miss Lange. Wait until we get some results.”
Eva watched him march stiffly out the room. Gazing out the window at a picture-perfect autumn morning, she dwelled on the reflections churning in her head like waves in a choppy sea: Does Tina looks like her mother? I wonder how tall she is. Has she forgiven me for leaving her? Does she even remember me? Is Rafael still alive? Did his father survive? Does Rafael still love me or does he hate me for leaving? Will Moody be able to find them? How long will it take?