New York. Friday, January 5, 2002.
The story had gone viral, striking a sentimental note in the hearts of millions of people. The media were all over the news of the, as yet unidentified anonymous benefactor to the estates of the Iacardi & Sons employees who lost their lives on September eleventh. Relentless investigative journalism had succeeded in confirming that the estates of all three hundred and thirty-eight of the deceased Iacardi employees were recipients of checks, each for more than one million, four hundred thousand dollars. Commentators and talking heads speculated as to who might be the generous individual. Whoever it was had to have the wherewithal, the motive, and quite likely, some connection with Iacardi. The failure to identify the philanthropist became progressively frustrating. Of the thousands of leads offered, each was dead ended. Kerri and her secretary were now being besieged with telephone calls from all forms of the media, each asking the same questions. Two candidates most frequently mentioned were Sally Ricci-Iacardi, Charles Iacardi’s wife, and Rose Iacardi, Mario Iacardi’s wife. Both had flatly, and truthfully denied the honor.
Only a small group of people legitimately knew who was responsible, but none had the motive or anything to gain by talking. A smaller group: Ken Layton, Jeffrey Wheeler, Peter Tavaris, and Walter Deaks illegitimately knew that Kerri was the Iacardi Santa Claus, but they had nothing to gain and much to lose by exposing her. They knew they would incriminate themselves by going public with that knowledge. Worse, to expose Kerri, directly or indirectly, would only serve only to elevate her public status, a development more repugnant than declaring a loss on a financial report. Reluctantly, they concluded that their best option was to remain silent and do nothing, a course of action which was repugnant to all four.
There was nowhere to hide. Wherever Kerri went she was tormented by journalists, stared at by pedestrians, and pestered by thrill seekers and paparazzi. First it was the worldwide notoriety of being the president of Iacardi & Sons, the company virtually decimated by the terrorist attacks on New York’s World Trade Center. Next it was the mystery of The Iacardi Santa Claus, sparking a media frenzy over the identity of the donor. Now the class action lawsuit, featuring a billion dollar clash between the Iacardi shareholders and Kerri King, had become public information. While some of the media cheered her for her unselfish reason for refusing to sign the Enerco Offer to Purchase Iacardi, others criticized her by speculating that her real reason was to keep her job.
The frequency and amplitude of her mood swings were increasing, vacillating between gritty resolve and abject despair. Often she thought of Steve Monteith, his inner strength and his contempt for greed, corruption and dishonesty. She silently applauded his ability to turn his back on all three and choose a different course. The fallout from the awful events of the past half year of her life were now giving her cause to envy his ability. She dreamed of a simpler less complicated life, one in which there was a measure of reward for caring for other people. That measure did not exist in Kerri’s world. Each time she had attempted to do the right thing, she had been thwarted by the human behavior for which Steve had such contempt.There were times she wished she could extract herself, but to do so at this time was impossible. She was well past the point of no return. Too many people depended on her to continue. Too many of her promises would be broken if she did not.