Inside, the galleria was mostly dark, lit eerily with red security lights dotting the exits. We followed Elena through the grand hall. Maggie swiveled her head as we walked, squinting at the artwork, at the gold, at the frescoed ceiling three stories up, murmuring, “Jesus, this is unbelievable.”
Elena said nothing. She was wearing the same outfit she’d had on this afternoon on the train-taupe linen slacks and a matching jacket. But the linen was sagging and creased. She kept clenching her hands into tight fists.
When we got to Princess Isabelle’s apartments, Maggie made more murmurs of appreciation. The door to Elena’s office was already open, sending a block of light into the apartment. She stopped and gestured for Maggie and me to step inside. Once there, she slid the door closed and waved her hand at the light blue chairs under the windows. Silently, Maggie and I sat there, while Elena took a seat behind her marble table-desk.
Maggie looked at me as if to say, You want me to try and talk to her or do you have it?
I shook my head and looked at Elena. She had clearly been crying. She pursed her mouth together now, as if stopping more cries from erupting.
“What happened to him?” I said gently.
“He was killed. Apparently. I cannot believe it.”
Elena swallowed hard. Her eyes looked too wide. The whites surrounding her irises were too thick, frozen in shock.
“Elena, are you okay?” I asked.
“Of course.” Her voice was automated, her eyes alarmed yet vacant.
I was on the edge, near crying for the dad I’d almost had. But seeing Elena, I was reminded that she was the one who’d grown up with him. She was the one who’d known him so long, for her whole life, even when the rest of us didn’t know he had a life. For her this had to be so, so, so much worse. I couldn’t fathom it.
My phone rang as we sat there but I just stared at Elena, not knowing what to say or do. I’d thought, somehow, that once I found her, she would be the one to fill in the blanks, the one to make the next action happen.
But nothing was happening except the faint sounds of horns and occasional sirens from outside.
My phone rang again. Then again. I opened my purse and glanced at it.
The call log read Mom three times.
My mother was not a call-three-times-in-a-row kind of girl, especially when I’d just spoken to her. I narrowed my eyes and looked at the screen. And then she called again.
“Izzy,” she said when I answered. Her voice was breathless. “It’s Charlie. He’s disappeared. He’s…he’s been kidnapped.”