Glen Cove. 5:00 P.M.
For the first time in over ten years, Kerri returned to the lovely old home to which Miles and Andrea Dennis had introduced her during her troubled marriage to Brian Piper. She struggled to put aside awful memories of the confrontations that marred the final weeks of what was once a happy and loving union. She closed her eyes and took a whiff of the aroma of lasagna, then smiled and hugged Andrea, reminded of her kindness during that difficult period of her life. Andrea placed Kerri’s overnight bag on the floor, hung her winter coat in the hall closet, then led her to the kitchen. She poured a glass of Amarone for Kerri and a scotch for herself. “I know who the Iacardi Santa Claus is,” she said, then winked.
Kerri nearly choked on her wine. “Who?” she asked.
“You still wear your heart on your sleeve, my dear. You’d be a terrible poker player.”
Even though it was apparent that her well kept secret was out of the bag, Kerri was reluctant to concede. “How do you know?” she asked.
“Miles’ ledger. It spoke volumes. It told me how much of your money he started with, and, more importantly, how much he ended with. I’m not a math wizard, but I figured this one out. It was actually pretty simple. I divided your money by the number of Iacardi estates, and the answer was almost identical to the amount of the check I got from that bank in Geneva. Then I asked myself who had the money, the motive, and a heart bigger than the Big Apple. No brainer. It was you.”
In spite of an almost overwhelming urge to lie and deny, it was impossible, not in Kerri’s DNA. She raised her hands as if in surrender. “Guilty as charged, your honor. So what are you going to do with the information?”
“Shout it out to the whole world, but I won’t unless you let me. It’s a story that should be told. Also, you deserve the recognition. You gave away a fortune to a lot of people, and a lot of them just kicked you in the teeth...I’m one of them. It makes me feel awful, like a real shit. I’d like the same thing to happen to the people who just voted you out of office.” Andrea squinted and contorted her facial expression to show the indignation so familiar to Kerri. “Jesus, Kerri, you even gave part of that fortune to the fat cows the brothers married! They’re about to make over two and a half billion on their Iacardi stock, and they voted to throw you out on your ass!”
Kerri shrugged her shoulders. “I’m comfortable with what I did. I don’t want or need the recognition, or to prove anything.”
“Miles was very good at keeping secrets. I had no idea that you had all that money. I don’t know how or where you got it, and I really don’t want to know. What I do want to know is if you have a tax problem with the money. If you do, I’ll shut my mouth and that’ll be the end of it.”
“It was a problem, but it’s been put to death. Somehow, Jeffrey Wheeler of Enerco knew I had that money. He knew how much and the name of the bank that held it. He even knew I was planning to give it to the Iacardi estates. He tried to blackmail me with that information and said he would go straight to the Feds if I didn’t sign the Enerco Offer by December thirty-first. I wasn’t going to sign and there was no way I could stop him, so I went to the I.R.S. and told them the whole story.”
Andrea prompted with her hands. “Don’t stop there, girl. What did the I.R.S. do to you?”
“The short answer is that I have to pay them ninety-eight million.”
“Where in hell are you going to get ninety-eight million?”
“I loaned a hundred million to Iacardi last October. The company was in deep trouble. It likely would have died without that money. The brothers left the company with next to zero cash...I had every intention of leaving that money in the company, until yesterday. So when I ceased to be president, I told Peter Tavaris that I was going to call the loan. I didn’t tell him why, and he didn’t ask.”
Andrea was so astounded by Kerri’s story that her mouth had opened and her eyes were as big as poker chips. “You’re incredible. You’re absolutely the most amazing woman I’ve ever known. The sons of bitches push you around like a baby carriage, so you just pull another hundred million off the shelf and get on with your life... I have two questions. The first one is about Jeffrey Wheeler. How in hell did he know so much about your money? The second one is about your piggy bank. Is it empty, or do you have some more millions lying around?”
“I think Wheeler had my phone tapped. It’s the only way he could have done it. What’s even worse is what happened next. My contact at Liechtensteinische Comco disappeared on the same day we met to discuss the distribution of the money. He hasn’t been seen since...Now, to answer your second question, my piggy bank is almost empty.”
“What about your Iacardi stock. Miles told me you own three percent of the company.”
“He was right. I do, but not for long. There’s still a lawsuit against me and you’re part of it. If the Judge rules for The Plaintiff, as I expect he will, I’ll have to declare personal bankruptcy. If, by some miracle, I survive bankruptcy, my interest in Iacardi will be converted into Enerco stock, which I’ll dump, the second I get it. I think you should too. I think the management is dishonest, and they’ve given me no reason to change my mind. Who knows what their paper is really worth?”
“So you’ve given away all your money, been sued by the shareholders, been thrown out of your job, and you’re about to get a pail full of questionable paper, if you aren’t forced into bankruptcy first. I don’t think that’s a fair trade. Do you? After everything you’ve done for the company and so many people, you could end up with nothing.”
Kerri shrugged. “I’ll still have my self respect.”
“Sure you will. That and a couple of bucks will get you a cup of coffee.”
“The money’s not the problem. I’m not sorry it’s gone. I didn’t earn it and I never, ever intended to spend one dime of it on myself. It’s all the time and effort your husband spent to grow it that breaks my heart. Ten years ago I gave him a fraction of what it is now. He did a phenomenal job with it. He was, without question, the best trader I’ve ever known...He did it without ever asking for a thank you.”
“Then you owe it to him to let the world know. Please don’t let that secret die with him. And don’t let the sons of bitches get away with what they’ve done to you. You’ll be untouchable if I tell the world what you’ve done. You’ll be in a position to give them what they deserve.”
Kerri sipped her wine, silently pondering Andrea’s plea. Everything she had set out to do with the money had been done. Just as her father had hoped, it had been used for a worthy cause. Even though she had failed to remain at the helm of Iacardi long enough to see it provide a continuing source of income for the families and loved ones of the deceased Iacardi employees, her anonymous donation had succeeded in giving them a huge measure of relief. Finally, taxation, one of the primary reasons for her need for anonymity, was no longer a concern.
“Come on, Kerri. Give me an answer. I don’t know where Miles is, but I know he’ll be pissed if you don’t tell the world what you did with the money he made.”
Kerri smiled at Andrea’s humor. “He’ll be pissed if I break our agreement to keep it a secret, but I’m sure he won’t mind if you do it... Go ahead and tell the world. Just wait until I pay off the I.R.S. I don’t want them having any second thoughts.”
Andrea reached for Kerri’s hand. “Thanks. You won’t be sorry...New subject. What’s next for you? Any plans?”
“This is the first day of the rest of my life. I’m leaving New York, maybe forever. I’m going to Toronto to spend some quality time with my father and his wife. I’m also going to spend some quality time with a very dear friend.”
“Male or female?”
“Male. He’s been in a coma for the past six weeks. He came out of it when I kissed him two weeks ago.”