New York. Tuesday, March 5.
It was a media frenzy, far more powerful and viral than Andrea Dennis had imagined. Headlines in all of the newspapers proclaimed the identity of The Iacardi Santa Claus: Kerri King, the woman who gave away almost a half a billion dollars to assist the families and loved ones of the hundreds of Iacardi employees who lost their lives in collapse of South Tower of The World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Television and radio reporters were all over the story, interrupting regularly scheduled programs and calling it breaking news. Questions abounded and multiplied with each passing hour. Where did Kerri King get such a vast fortune?Why did she give it away? Why did the Iacardi shareholders oust her as president? Where is Kerri King?
Frantic efforts to find or contact her had failed.
Only her father, his wife, Karen, and Andrea Dennis knew that she had listed her Tribeca apartment with a local realtor, packed her belongings, turned off her cell phone, and left New York. Her concern over the fallout from Andrea’s proposed announcement had induced her to avoid leaving a forwarding address. Her final departure from the city had filled her with waves of memories, both happy and and sad. She thought of the enormous thrill of her arrival in the spring of 1988 with Brian Pyper, her husband and newly drafted quarterback with the New York Jets. The happy thought was quickly replaced by the memory of the disintegration and disastrous breakup the marriage. She banished the negativity from her mind and thought of her first job with Iacardi & Sons, her happy time living with Miles and Andrea Dennis, the initial euphoria of her affair with Louis Visconti, the Crown Prince of Wall Street, the catastrophic ending of the affair in Monaco, the satisfaction she experienced when Charles Iacardi promoted her to president and C.E.O. of the company.
Seconds after she emerged from the New Jersey end of the Holland tunnel, she averted her eyes from the road momentarily to gaze to the south. As had happened so often since September 11, 2001, visions of airplanes colliding with the twin towers of The World Trade Center flashed through her mind. A giant orange and yellow fireball, in the area of Iacardi’s New York headquarters, caused her to wince. It was that horrific event that started a chain of events eventually leading her to be exactly where she was at that moment. It saddened her to think that in spite of all of her dedication and effort, she was leaving New York, alone, no job, no husband, and an uncertain future. Even worse, if the lawsuit against her turned out as Judge McCarthy had predicted, she was on a collision course with personal bankruptcy.
Strangely, she experienced a surge of relief. She was now free of her responsibilities, no longer constrained by the relentless requirement to be politically correct, or perfect, no longer at war with corrupt and ambitious people. She smiled at the irony of her new circumstances, almost identical to those of her friend, Steve Monteith. Like him, she had turned her back on everything that for so long had been critically important to her. Her dedication to propriety and principled approach to her circumstances had led her into a battle she could not win. Now she was leaving it all with little more than memories.
Four hours later, she crossed The Rainbow Bridge at Niagara Falls. She stopped her car beside one of numerous Canada Customs interrogation booths, then rolled her window down and handed the twenty-seven year old male agent two passports, one Canadian and one American. The agent opened each passport, scanned her photos, then stared at Kerri. “You have dual citizenship?” he asked.
“Where is your home in the United States?”
“New York City,” she replied, not wanting to be any more specific.
“Do you own a home in Canada?”
“Where are you going?”
“How long...” he paused and smiled. “Wow! You’re Kerri King, the Iacardi Santa Claus. Do you have any idea how many people are looking for you.”
Kerri was shocked and disappointed that Andrea Dennis had exposed her secret to the media. The two had agreed that she would wait until Kerri had confirmation, in writing, from the I.R.S. that she would be cleared of any further charges. She smiled and nodded. “I would appreciate if you would keep that information to yourself and treat me like any other citizen. I’m taking a trip into obscurity, and I want to keep it that way.”
The agent winked and returned Kerri’s passports. “Let me tell you that I think what you’ve done is pretty cool. Your secret is safe with me. I can’t even remember your name. Welcome to Canada.”