“Ah, but that’s the thing,” said Matt, warming to his theme. “He wasn’t unknown. He was an art dealer in Beverly Hills. Famous, at least in L.A. And seriously rich.”
Now he had Raquel’s attention. “You never mentioned this to me before. How rich?”
“Filthy rich,” said Matt. “We’re talking hundreds of millions of dollars.”
“Hundreds of millions? My God, Matt,” Raquel gasped, swerving dangerously across lanes of traffic. “What happened to all the money?”
“It went to his widow,” said Matt, matter-of-factly.
“What, all of it? What about you and Claire?”
“Me and Claire? Oh, come on, honey. We hadn’t had any contact with him for over thirty years.”
“So?” Raquel’s pupils dilated excitedly. “You’re his children, his blood relatives. Maybe you could contest the will?”
Matt laughed. “On what grounds? It was his money to leave as he chose. But anyway, you’re missing the point. The story gets juicier.”
Raquel struggled to imagine anything juicier than a payout of hundreds of millions, but she forced herself to listen.
“The widow, who was only in her early twenties at the time, and who was violently raped by whoever killed my old man, gave all the cash away to children’s charities. Every last penny. It was the biggest single charitable gift in L.A. history. But barely anybody knows about it because instead of sticking around to bask in the glory, this chick hops on a plane just weeks after the murder and disappears. Literally vanishes off the face of the earth and is never heard of again. It’s wild, isn’t it? Don’t you think it’s a great story?”
Raquel didn’t give a damn about Matt’s stupid story. What sort of man didn’t lift a finger to stake his claim to a multimillion-dollar fortune? She’d married a cretin.
“How come you never brought this up before?”
The anger in her voice was unmistakable. Matt’s spirits sank. Why do I always seem to make her angry?
“To be honest, I sort of forgot about it. I heard about it a few months ago, but I thought it might upset Dad if I showed too much of an interest, so I let it go. But now that Harry’s gone, I figure it couldn’t hurt to explore it. Networks are really into ‘personal history’ right now. And murder and money always sell.”
The rest of the car ride passed in silence. By the time the Daleys reached home, two obsessions had been born.
Raquel’s was with a four-hundred-million-dollar fortune.
And Matt Daley’s was with the unsolved murder of his biological father: Andrew Jakes.
OVER THE NEXT FEW MONTHS, WHILE his wife spent fruitless hours consulting lawyer after lawyer, hunting for the loophole that would restore “their” fortune, as she now thought of the Jakes estate, what started as a research project for a documentary became the all-consuming focus of Matt Daley’s life. By day he would trawl the L.A. libraries and galleries, greedily digging up every scrap of information about Andrew Jakes he could find: his businesses, his modern art collection, his real estate portfolio, his friends, enemies, acquaintances, lovers, interests, pets, health problems and religious beliefs. At night, holed up in his study like a hermit, Matt did more research online. Soon he was barely sleeping. Like a cuckoo chick demanding attention, the file marked Andrew Jakes grew bigger and fatter each day, while what little was left of Matt and Raquel Daley’s marriage slowly starved to death.
After a while even Claire Michaels became concerned that her brother was overdoing it. “What are you hoping to achieve with all this?” she finally asked one day.
Standing in the kitchen of her bustling house in Westwood, with a baby on one hip and a pot of tomato sauce in her hand, surrounded by the noise and mess of a cheerful family life, Claire made Matt feel happy and sad at the same time. Happy for her, sad for himself. Would things have been different if Raquel and I had had children?
“I told you,” he said. “It’s for a documentary.”
Claire looked skeptical. “How’s the script coming along?”
Matt grimaced. “I’m not at the scriptwriting stage yet.”
“Well, what stage are you at?”
“Who have you pitched the idea to?”
Matt laughed. “What are you, my agent?”
He tried to make a joke of it, but inside he knew his sister was right. All his friends had said the same thing. The mystery surrounding his biological father’s murder was becoming an addiction, a dangerous, time-consuming habit that was distracting him from his marriage, his work, his “real” life. Yet how was Matt supposed to let it go when the LAPD investigation had left so many holes, so many glaring, unanswered questions?
According to the official file, Andrew Jakes had been killed by an unknown intruder, a professional thief who’d turned violent. No one was ever arrested for the crime. No specific suspects were even named. Meanwhile, his widow, Angela, seemed to have disappeared off the face of the earth, as had the jewelry and miniature portraits taken from the couple’s house that night. Her attorney, Lyle Renalto, had driven her to the airport but claimed to have no idea where she was headed and had apparently not heard from her since. Police had questioned him repeatedly, but he never changed his story. There was some talk of Mrs. Jakes’s being sighted in Greece, but nothing had ever been proven. Danny McGuire, the detective in charge of the case, quit the force not long afterward and left L.A., taking whatever insights he may have had with him. Meanwhile, the semen from Angela Jakes’s postrape forensic examination had never been matched to any other crime, before or since. Neither were the few smudged fingerprints found at the crime scene at 420 Loma Vista.
Matt said to Claire, “It’s like one day this couple was living their lives in their beautiful mansion, planning for the future. And the next day, poof, it’s all gone. The house, the money, the paintings. The couple themselves. And after the murder, his widow just hops on a plane one morning and is never heard of again.”
“Yes, Matt, I know the story,” said Claire patiently.
“But doesn’t it scare you? The idea that all this”—Matt waved around the kitchen at his nephews, their schoolbooks, all the detritus of Claire’s full, busy life—“could be gone tomorrow? Gone.” He clapped his hands for emphasis. “Like it never was.”
Claire was quiet for a long time. Finally she said, “I’m worried about you, Matt. I think you need to talk to someone.”
Matt agreed. He needed to talk to someone all right.
The problem was that the someone he needed to talk to lived in Lyon, France.
HE GLANCED AT THE FLASHING BLUE lights in his rearview mirror and checked his speed. Sixty-five. A mere five over the limit, on a virtually empty stretch of road on the outskirts of the city.
Petty. It was little stunts like this that gave the Lyonnais police a bad name. Rolling down the window to give the overzealous gendarme a piece of his mind, his frown changed to a smile.
The officer in question was a woman. An extremely attractive woman. She had red hair—he had a thing for redheads—blue eyes and full breasts that not even her unflattering police uniform could fully conceal.
“What’s your hurry, sir?”
Oh, and the voice! Low and husky, the way that only Frenchwomen could do it. Perfect. The voice clinched it.
He smiled flirtatiously. “Actually, Officer, I have a date.”
“A date? You don’t say.” The gorgeous russet eyebrows went up. “Well, is she going to spoil if you don’t get there right this second?”
“She’s already spoiled.”
Leaning out through the driver’s-side window, he kissed her passionately on the lips.
“What time will you be home for dinner tonight, honey?” his wife asked him, when they finally came up for air.
Danny McGuire grinned. “As soon as I can, baby. As soon as I can.”
FIFTEEN MINUTES LATER, STRIDING INTO INTERPOL HQ late for his meeting, Danny hoped he wouldn’t have to stay too late. Céline looked so sexy in her tight blue Officier de la Paix uniform, it was painful having to drive away from her. She’d been in uniform the day they met and it was still the way Danny liked her best.
Back in L.A. he’d never have dated someone else on the force. But here in France, everything was different. He’d moved here a decade ago, chasing a shadow. The shadow of Angela Jakes. He never found her. Instead Danny found Céline, love, French culture and cuisine, a rewarding career and a whole new life. Lyon was Danny McGuire’s home now and he loved it, more than he would once have believed possible.
It had all been so different when he first arrived.
Danny McGuire hated France. He hated it because he associated it with failure. His failure. The 1997 Jakes murder had been a remarkable case in many ways, not the least of which was that it was the first and only complete failure of Danny McGuire’s career. He’d never found the man who murdered Andrew Jakes in such a frenzied, sadistic fashion and who raped his stunning wife.