KERRI'S WAR (Volume 3 of The King Trilogy)

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Chapter 5

After a brief stop at Toronto’s Pearson Airport for customs clearance, the Iacardi Learjet 60 touched down at Bracebridge, Ontario airport at 3:10 P.M. on Friday afternoon. There were no clouds. The temperature was sixty-five, Fahrenheit. Kerri emerged, wearing faded jeans, white sneakers, a heavy gray sweat-shirt, a brown leather jacket and a Yankees baseball hat. She carried a black leather overnight bag and her briefcase. Her eyes showed the effects of days of stress and anxiety, but she managed a smile when she hugged her father. “I missed you,” she cried.

He kissed her forehead, “Not as much as I missed you. Any problems?”

“Lots, but the trip was uneventful.”

“I feel your pain,” he said, continuing the hug and moving Kerri to tears. “What about your pilot? What’s he going to do?”

“He brought his girl friend. They’re going up to Deerhurst for a quiet weekend. It’s a celebration.” She pointed at the Lear. “They, and a syndicate of deep pockets bought that beautiful thing today, and relieved Iacardi of an expense it can do without. Part of the deal was that I get a return trip to Muskoka.”

The two climbed into Mike’s Mercedes and he drove the short distance to Milford Bay where they boarded his Donzi. Neither spoke until the boat rounded Pudding Rock. “I love this place,” Kerri said. “It’s like being on a different planet.”

Mike nodded and smiled. “Welcome back to my favorite place on earth. It’s great to have you here.”

When the Donzi reached the dock on Azimuth Island, Karen was there to welcome Kerri like royalty. Generous hugs were followed by hot coffee on the verandah where all three sat on well cushioned wicker chairs.

By mutual agreement, Mike and Karen had decided not to discuss any aspect of the catastrophe in New York unless Kerri asked to do so. Mike could wait no longer. “You feel like talking about it?” he asked.

Kerri nodded, lips tightened. “This is awful. I’ve taken a lot of hits before in my life, but all of them added together couldn’t even come close to this...I feel so guilty... All of those people are dead, and there isn’t a thing I can do to bring them back. I have no right to be alive.”

“Kerri, both Mike and I don’t think you’re guilty of anything. Everything that happened was as a result of the actions of other people. You were sick that day, and that’s something over which you had no control. There isn’t a person on this earth who could blame you for not going to work that day”

Kerri’s frown persisted. “Thanks for saying that, Karen. It helps, but it still hurts.”

“Maybe you’d rather not talk about it,” Karen said, sensing Kerri’s discomfort.

“I really do. It’s therapeutic... I came here because I missed you and dad and because I absolutely had to get out of New York...There’s another reason.” She paused and locked her blue eyes on her father’s. “Do you remember our meeting in The Loyalist restaurant in January, nineteen ninety-one?” she asked, referring to January 31, 1991, the cold and snowy day Mike was cleared of all charges against him and released from Milhaven minimum security prison.

Mike’s face blanched. He hated to be reminded of that horrible aspect of his past. He had been imprisoned, accused by the Feds of hiding the millions, the illicit fruits of Jim Servito’s crimes. “How could I forget it? It was the end of a nightmare, one of the most significant events of my life. What about that meeting?”

“That was when I told you that Miles had a hundred and eighty-six million left over after the Feds were paid.”

Mike winced. “And I told you that I didn’t want to have anything to do with that money again. I still don’t.”

“Well I want you to hear about it. It’s very important to me. Will you listen?”

Even though he hated any discussion of that terrible time in his past, Mike nodded, only as a consideration to his daughter.

“You also told me to keep it. I didn’t know what to do with it, so I asked Miles. I told him you didn’t want anything to do with it and that I didn’t either. I didn’t know if the money was still hot, or not, and I didn’t care. So he used it to set up a numbered trading account in Switzerland. Until Tuesday, he’s been actively trading it.” Tears flooded Kerri’s eyes. “Now he’s gone.”

“Does anyone else know what you did with that money?” Mike asked.

Kerri shook her head. “It was our dirty little secret. Now that Miles is gone, only three people know about it, and we’re all sitting here,” Kerri said, glancing back and forth between her father and Karen. “Fortunately, he kept me informed. I have access to all of the records, the documentation, and the access codes.”

“So why is this important to you?” Mike asked.

Kerri showed a hint of a smile. “Miles was a very good trader...Over the past ten years he managed to increase the value of that trading account to almost a half a billion dollars. That’s a hell of a lot of money... I wanted to tell both of you this, in person, because that money almost cost you your lives, and because I want to use it to help the families of the Iacardi employees who died on Tuesday.”

Both Mike and Karen shared a glance, then Mike spoke. “That’s incredible! I’m speechless!”

“Please say something,” Kerri pleaded.

“First of all, your plan for the money reminded me of how proud I am to have you as my daughter. Secondly, I’m honored that you chose to share this information with Karen and me. Finally, I’m confused. What, if anything, would you like us to do with this information?”

“I want you to help me. I need advice. I still have no idea if that money is hot. If it is, then anything I do with it is an exposure risk, one I’m prepared to take, if and only if there’s a way I can use it to help those families. I’m obsessed with the idea. Those people are going to need help and I’m in a position to give it to them.”

“Karen and I have been cleared, in writing, and the Feds have signed off, but I think there will be a problem, however. I’m sure if you suddenly show up with a half a billion dollars, they’ll want to know where you got it, and I don’t think you’ll want to answer that question,” Mike said.

Karen formed a T with her hands. “Time out,” she said. “Do it anonymously. Get Dan Turner to help you. He did it for us, and I don’t see why he wouldn’t do it for you. Those families need help and I doubt it’ll matter to them where it came from.”

Both Mike and Kerri stared at Karen with huge smiles. “You’re a genius,” Mike said. “Why didn’t I think of that?” He turned to Kerri. “What do you think?”

“It’s a wonderful idea. Do you think Dan will help me?”

“I’m not sure, but if he won’t, we’ll find someone who can,” Mike replied. “Finally, after all these years, Servito’s money is going to do some good in this world. I can’t imagine a better place to put it. If you want, I’ll call Dan on Monday and set up an appointment for you.”

For the first time since Kerri clicked her remote to turn on her television set on Tuesday morning, she experienced a lift, a welcome relief from the unrelenting torment of bad news. At last she had something she could do to stop the tsunami of grief that had threatened to engulf her. She stood and hugged Karen, then her father. “I would be grateful,” she said.

Dinner on Azimuth Island that evening was, in spite of the circumstances, reasonably pleasant. It consisted of barbecued steaks, fresh corn on the cob, baked potatoes, and generous quantities of wine. Conversation, non-stop, consisting primarily of the events of the incredible week they had just experienced, also included discussions of the past, present and future. Sleep came early. Mike and Karen slept in the main cottage while Kerri chose the dorm above the boathouse.

Kerri awoke early, minutes after sunrise. Dressed in her gray track suit, Nike runners and her beloved Yankees hat, she left the boat house. Views of a huge plume of flame engulfing the South Tower tormented her as she started her run on the dirt track surrounding Azimuth Island. Sucking lungfulls of the clear cold Muskoka air gave her a measure of relief from her pain, but not enough. The morning sun warmed her face and began to burn off the heavy layer of mist above the lake’s surface. The haunting cry of a single loon disturbed the tranquility as she rounded the island’s south shore. Then came the collapse of the towers, exploding over and over in her brain. There was nowhere to hide.

A brief swim was within her contemplation as she finished her run, but the plan ended when she trotted to the end of the dock, removed her right shoe and sock, then dipped her toe in the ice cold lake. She showered instead.

Orange juice, cantaloupe, scrambled eggs, bacon, tomato slices, toast, and hot coffee greeted her arrival at the cottage. Mike and Karen, still in their pajamas and dressing gowns, were drinking coffee on the screened porch off the kitchen. “Morning, Kerri. You have a good sleep?” Karen asked.

“The best I’ve had in years,” she replied, then hugged her host and hostess. “I’ve forgotten how quiet and dark the the nights up here are. I wish I could take them to New York.”

“Forget New York. Just stay here,” Mike suggested.

Kerri glared at her father with a scolding frown. “You know I can’t do that. I have a few responsibilities in New York, not to mention that my cell phone is starting to melt.”

“What’s your schedule for today?” he asked.

“I’ll be on the phone for the next two or three hours. After that, no schedule.”

“Karen and I are going for a boat ride this afternoon. Will you join us?”

“Sure. Where to?”

“The Health Club.”

“What’s that?”

“A big lodge about two clicks south of here. It’s on the mainland, across from Tondurn Island. Ten of my fraternity brothers bought the place twenty-five years ago. They’re having a little anniversary party, and we’re invited. I wasn’t one of the ten because I couldn’t afford it and I was too busy trying to survive in this cold cruel world.”

The last thing Kerri wanted to do was party. Her mood and circumstances shrieked, ‘No!’

Both the living and the dead would be offended. “I really shouldn’t, dad. Partying isn’t very high on my priority list.”

Mike pouted to show his disappointment. “Please come. I want to show you off to my grumpy old friends. Just have a cup of coffee or tea and look happy. We won’t stay long.”

In spite of her lack of enthusiasm, Kerri hated to disappoint her father and wanted to be with him as much and often as she could. She smiled and nodded. “I’ll go, but please don’t make me look happy.”

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