Manhattan. Friday, December 21. Noon.
The sky was overcast. Brisk north winds howled through the canyons of Manhattan, making the air feel much colder than the temperature indicated. Kerri had walked all the way from her Tribeca apartment to the corner of Church and Fulton. While she shivered and waited, she looked to her left and saw a bearded male beggar, dressed in camouflage pants and a heavy woolen coat, sitting against a plywood barrier. His hat, a beret, was overturned and between his feet. It contained only a few coins. His right arm was missing. She saw a purple heart pinned to his chest. She reached into her purse, removed a hundred dollar bill, and placed it in the beggar’s hat.
The man smiled and nodded. “God bless you,” he said.
As previously agreed, Kerri met Andrea Dennis, Miles Dennis’s widow, at the same corner. They chose to meet there to be close to the place where so many people died on September eleventh, to pay some form of final respect, or perhaps to come to terms with the enormity and finality of it all. Both, dressed in winter overcoats, gloves and hats, were denied a glimpse of Ground Zero. A sign hung on the construction barriers stated that the observation platform would not be completed until the end of December.
They recognized each other immediately, as if time had stood still since their last meeting over ten years earlier. Neither spoke as they hugged and held on for an extended time, each drawing a measure of strength from the embrace.
“You okay?” Kerri asked.
“Surviving,” Andrea said. “You?”
“The same.” Kerri released Andrea and took a step backward. “You look great,” she said, even though it was painfully obvious to her that Andrea had aged considerably, most likely as a result of her recent trauma. Her short auburn hair had turned grey and her once cherubic freckled face was drawn and wrinkled. Her hazel eyes showed deep sadness.
Andrea managed a half smile. “Miles was right about you. You’re a terrible liar...Let’s get something to eat. It’s cold out here.”
They walked in silence until they found a small Greek restaurant, specializing in souvlaki. There was no table space available, so they stood at the end of the bar and ordered the house specialty, with hot coffee for starters.
I wanted to see you because I miss you,” Andrea said. “And because I owe you an apology.”
“Two reasons...Because I knew it would upset you, I wanted to tell you in person that I accepted the Enerco offer. It was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve made in my life. I know you’re putting your heart and soul into reviving the company, but for me, everything considered, I had to do it. Miles didn’t have a life insurance policy. He thought his shares of Iacardi would always be enough. He had some savings, but not nearly enough...I’m running out of money, Kerri. I can’t wait until Iacardi starts writing checks again. I know you’re going to make it, but I’m out of time... For that I’m truly sorry.”
Kerri reached for Andrea’s hand and squeezed it. “You have absolutely no reason to apologize, and I have no right to be upset. You did the right thing...You said there are two reasons. What’s the other one?”
Andrea gave Kerri a tearful stare. “They’re going to sue you,” she said.
Kerri nodded. “I’m not surprised. Peter Tavaris wants the sale to go through so badly he can taste it. He told me to expect a lawsuit. So why would you apologize for that?”
“I signed on...My lawyer said I would be making a big mistake if I didn’t. He was practically shouting at me, Kerri. He kept telling me it was a business decision, and that sentimentalists end up in the poor house. I want you to know that because of you and what I know you’re doing, I feel terrible.”
Again Kerri squeezed Andrea’s hand. “I tried very hard to put myself in the position of people who lost a family member on September eleventh, but I couldn’t do it. I’m not qualified. I didn’t lose a family member and I didn’t lose my income. You lost both. So how could I possibly judge you? You have my blessings and you will always be my friend.”
Andrea stood and wrapped her arms around Kerri. “You’re a wonderful person, Kerri King’” she said with tears in her eyes. “I’m not worthy of your friendship.”
Kerri handed Andrea a check, written on her personal account, for twenty-five thousand dollars. It was payable to the estate of Miles Dennis and it included a notation: FOR RENTAL AND PROFESSIONAL SERVICES. “You’re more than worthy, Andrea. Please accept this with my thanks. I know it doesn’t come close to what I owe you and Miles for everything you’ve done for me.” She wanted to tell Andrea about her husband’s enormous contribution to her success, particularly about the trading account he established for her in Switzerland and her plan to distribute it, but knew she couldn’t. That information had to remain a secret, forever.