Toronto. Friday, February 15, 2002.
With over two million inhabitants, Toronto was was a large city, but still not large enough to prevent all ultra deep pockets from knowing each other on a first name basis, and socializing, regularly. Jamie Stewart took personal pleasure in exploiting that reality. The late George Taylor, one of the city’s wealthiest residents, and father to Karen King, had been one of Jamie Stewart’s closest friends. It was through that social connection that Karen and her husband, Mike were always included in the guest list for Stewart’s lavish parties. His latest extravaganza was his annual Valentine’s Day party, held on Friday the fifteenth, a day late, to dovetail with the weekend. Because large and lavish parties bored him, Mike was initially inclined to pass on the invitation, but his curiosity dominated. He wanted to see the fallout from the disastrous New Years Eve wedding in Naples.
As always, Jamie had spared no expense in the party preparations and the decoration of his massive stone mansion on The Bridle Path, one of Toronto’s most coveted addresses. Numerous bars and food stations had been erected, staffed, and strategically placed, to ensure that absolutely no guest would be compelled to walk too far to eat or drink. Generously endowed young females, wearing tight red leotards and red cashmere sweaters, mingled with the guests offering trays filled with exotic finger foods. MaxAire, Toronto’s own and finest jazz quintet, provided the music.
Jamie, behaving as all of his friends had come to expect, as if nothing negative had ever happened in his life, stood near the massive glass and wrought iron twin doors to his mansion, anxious to greet his guests. Thrilled by her promotion from squeeze du jour to significant other, Vicky Anchutz stood by his side. To celebrate the occasion, Jamie wore a fire engine red suit with matching bow tie. He held his usual over-sized tumbler of scotch. Vicky wore a low cut, form fitting dress which appeared to have been cut from the same cloth. Jamie flashed his patented commercial smile as he hurried to hug Karen. “Great to see you again, Karen,” he said, then stepped back to examine every inch of her. “You’re still the most beautiful woman in Toronto.”
“You’re still the best liar in Toronto,” Karen responded, then smiled and blew a kiss to her host. She reached for Mike’s hand. “You remember my husband, Mike?”
Jamie’s smile disappeared, causing Mike to wonder if there was the slightest chance that Jamie had made the connection and had placed some of the blame on his daughter, Kerri for the horrendous demise of Christine’s marriage to Steve Monteith. He nodded and extended his hand to Mike. “Nice to see you again,” he said without expression, then quickly turned to greet another arriving couple.
Mike and Karen proceeded to the nearest bar and ordered drinks, shiraz for Karen and scotch for Mike. “Do you think Jamie knows what happened to Steve?” Karen asked.
“I have no idea, but I’m sure he’d be delighted to know.”
She gave Mike an admonishing frown. “That’s an absolutely cruel thing to say.”
Mike was about to respond to his wife’s dagger when he glanced over her shoulder and focused on Christine, holding hands with a tall, handsome dark haired man, either her date for the evening, her new boyfriend, or both. The two were surrounded by adoring guests. Christine was once again featuring her million dollar smile, and like her father, was behaving as if nothing negative had ever happened in her life. “I wonder if she knows what happened to Steve,” he said.
Karen turned to see Christine, looking stunning in her full-length red satin dress, a glass of champagne and a long cigarette in one hand, her boy friend’s hand in the other. She turned again to face Mike and grinned. “I’m sure she’d be delighted to know.”
Mike smirked. “You’re merciless,” he said, then pointed in Christine’s direction. “Let’s wish her well.”
Christine, showing no sign of sadness or remorse, hugged both, at least pretending to be delighted to see them. She pulled her male companion closer. “I’d like both of you to meet Todd White, a colleague of mine from Anderson, McPherson and White,” she said, then faced White. “Todd, please meet Mike and Karen King. Karen’s father was a very close friend of dad’s.”
The three shared handshakes, then Christine, never one to shy away from sensitive subjects, demonstrated humility. “The first thing I want to do is to apologize to both of you for the ordeal I put you through last month in Naples. I hope you’ll find it in your hearts to forgive me.”
Stunned by Christine’s comment, both Mike and Karen were temporarily speechless, struggling to compose an appropriate response... “Both of us were very sorry to see it turn out the way it did. As far as we’re concerned, there’s nothing to forgive,” Karen said. “I’m sure you and...”
“It’s over and I’m over it,” Christine interrupted. “Steve made his decision and I’ve learned to live with it...Have you seen him since the wedding?”
Christine’s question suggested that she was still unaware of Steve’s accident. “I thought someone would have told you,” Mike said.
“Told me what?” Christine asked, frowning, her veneer of strength showing a perceptible weakening.
“He was involved in a serious accident. He’s in St. Michael’s Hospital, still in a coma.”
“Oh my God! How did it happen?”
“I don’t have all the details, but his mother told me he was driving south from his construction project on Lake Joseph last month. His truck was hit by a tractor-trailer at the intersection of Highways Sixty-nine and One Sixty-nine. Steve survived, but the tractor driver was killed.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Christine said with no apparent emotion, then, as if a switch had been flicked, her expression turned cold, angry. “That construction project doesn’t belong to him any more. My father did a power of sale on it this month.” She turned to Todd. “I need another drink,” she said, then grasped his hand and dragged him to the nearest bar.