LATER, THE PERIOD AFTER LENNY'S DISAPPEARANCE blurred in Grace's memory into one long, unbroken nightmare. Hours became days, days became weeks, but none of it seemed real. She was living in a trance, a hideous half-life from which only one person could awaken her. And that person was gone.
After three days, Sea Rescue called off its search. Around the globe the headlines screamed:
LEONARD BROOKSTEIN MISSING, PRESUMED DEAD
HEDGE FUND GENIUS LOST AT SEA
NEW YORK'S RICHEST MAN FEARED DROWNED
Grace had never read anything so awful in her life. Had anyone told her at the time that worse was to come, she would not have believed them. How could anything be worse than life without Lenny?
It was John Merrivale who brought her home to New York. Her sisters and the others had all gone back when the search was called off, but Grace couldn't bring herself to leave Nantucket.
"You can't stay entombed on this island forever, Gracie. All your friends are in the city. Your f-family. You need a support network."
"But I can't leave Lenny, John. It's like I'm abandoning him."
"Darling Grace. I know it's hard. T-t-terribly hard. But Lenny is gone. You have to accept that. No one could survive a day in those w-waters. It's been two weeks."
With her rational mind, Grace knew John was right. It was her heart she had trouble convincing. Lenny wasn't gone. He couldn't be gone. Until she saw his dead body with her own two eyes, she could not give up hope.
Miracles happen. They happen all the time. Perhaps he was rescued by another fishing boat? Maybe a foreign boat, simple people who don't know who he is? Maybe he's lost his memory? Or found his way to an island somewhere?
It was all nonsense, of course. Voices in her head. But in those early days, Grace clung to the voices for dear life. They were all she had left of Lenny and she wasn't prepared to give them up. Not yet.
When she got back to their Park Avenue apartment, Grace found hundreds of bouquets of flowers waiting for her. She could have piled the condolence cards up to the ceiling.
"See?" said John. "Everybody l-loves you, Grace. Everybody wants to help."
But the cards and flowers didn't help. They were unwanted, tangible reminders that as far as the world was concerned, Lenny was dead.
THREE MILES AWAY, IN THE FBI's New York offices at 26 Federal Plaza, three men sat around a table:
Peter Finch from the SEC was a short, amiable man, completely bald except for a thin tonsure of ginger hair that made him look like a monk. Normally, Finch was known for his good humor. Not today.
"What we're looking at here is the tip of the iceberg," he said grimly.
"Pretty big fucking iceberg." Harry Bain, the FBI's assistant director in New York, shook his head in disbelief. At forty-two, Bain was one of the bureau's highest fliers. Handsome, charming and Harvard-educated, with jet-black hair and piercing green eyes, Harry Bain had foiled two of the most significant domestic terror plots ever attempted on U.S. soil. Those had both been pretty huge cases. But if what Peter Finch was saying was true, this one could be even bigger.
"How much money are we talking about? Exactly?" Gavin Williams, another FBI agent who reported to Bain, spoke without looking up. A former SEC man himself, Williams had left the agency in disgust after the Bernie Madoff fiasco. A brilliant mathematician with higher degrees in modeling, statistics, data programming and analysis, as a young man he had dreamed of becoming an investment banker himself, joining the J. P. Morgan training program straight out of Wharton. But Gavin Williams had never quite made it. He lacked the killer commercial instincts necessary to take him to the top, as well as the political, people skills that had helped his far-less-intellectually-gifted classmates amass private fortunes in the tens of millions. Tall and wiry with close-cropped gray hair and a military bearing, Williams was a loner, as dour and emotionless as a statue. Brilliant, he might be. But in the clubby world of Wall Street, nobody wanted to do business with him.
Deeply embittered by this rejection, Gavin Williams made the decision to devote the rest of his life to the pursuit of those who had made it to the top, cataloging their misdemeanors with crazed zeal. In the early days, working at the SEC had given him a tremendous sense of purpose. But all that changed after Madoff. The agency's failings in that case were catastrophic. Gavin himself hadn't worked on the case, but he felt tainted by collective embarrassment. Blinded by a simple Ponzi scheme! The thought of it still gave Gavin Williams sleepless nights, even now in his new dream job as the FBI's top man on securities fraud.
Peter Finch said, "It's not yet clear. On the surface the accounts looked clean. But after Brookstein disappeared, all Quorum's investors wanted their money back at once. It's those redemptions that have revealed this black hole. And it's growing by the day."
"But there are billions of dollars missing here." Harry Bain scratched his head. "How can that kind of money just evaporate?"
"It can't. Maybe it got spent. Or lost, siphoned off into speculative, unprofitable private businesses controlled by Leonard Brookstein and his cronies. More likely Brookstein stashed it away somewhere. That's what we've got to find out."
"Okay." Harry Bain's quick mind was working. "How long before this gets into the press?"
Finch shrugged. "Not long. A few days, a week at most. Once investors start talking, it'll be out there. I don't need to tell you the implications this could have on the wider economy. Quorum was bigger than GM, almost as big as AIG. Every small business in New York had exposure. Pensioners, families."
Bain got the picture. "I'll handpick a task force of our best men to work on this today. The instant new information comes in, you pass it to Gavin. Gavin, you report directly to me. None of the information discussed today is to leave this room. Understood? I want to keep the media out for as long as possible. The NYPD, too. The last thing we need is those idiots running around, sabotaging our case."
Peter Finch nodded. Gavin Williams sat frozen, his face impassive, inscrutable. Harry Bain thought, I feel like Jim Kirk, working with Spock. He felt the familiar rush of adrenaline at the prospect of spearheading such a vital operation. If I track down that money, I'll be a hero. I might even get a shot at the directorship. Harry thought about his wife, Lisa, and how proud she'd be. Of course, if I fail...
But Harry Bain wouldn't fail.
He had never failed in his life.
"THERE'S A TRUSTEES MEETING NEXT MONTH, Grace, on the twenty-sixth. I think it's important that you be there. If you can b-b-bear it."
It had been two weeks since Grace's return to Manhattan, and John and Caroline Merrivale had invited her over for supper. When she declined the invitation, Caroline had driven over to her apartment and frog-marched her into a waiting cab.
Grace looked pained. "Can't you deal with it, John? I won't understand a word they say anyway. Lenny always handled all the legal things."
"You must go, Grace," said Caroline. "John will be there with you. But you're the sole beneficiary of Lenny's estate. There'll be things you need to approve."
"Am I? The sole beneficiary?"
Caroline gave a short, derisory laugh. "Of course you are, dear. You were his wife."
Grace thought, I'm still his wife. We don't know he's dead yet. Not for sure. But she didn't have the energy to fight about it. Grace couldn't help but notice that Caroline had gotten rather bossy since Lenny...since the accident. Whenever John spoke to Grace, he was firm, but deferential. I really feel so and so. If you can, you should try to do such and such. Caroline was much more autocratic. Do this. Say that.
Still, perhaps that's what I need right now? God knows I don't seem able to make any decisions for myself.
Grace agreed to meet the trustees.
IT WAS HARD TO PINPOINT EXACTLY when the change started. Like all these things, it began almost imperceptibly. First the flowers stopped coming. Then the calls. Invitations to lunch or dinner began to dry up. On the one day that Grace tried to make an effort and drag herself out of the apartment - she went to the tennis club for coffee - she noticed many of her old girlfriends avoiding her. Tammy Rees practically broke into a run when she bumped into Grace in the powder room, mumbling the quickest of "How are yous" before scuttling out the door.
Grace tried to talk to her sisters about it, but both Honor and Connie were distracted, distant almost. Neither had time to chat. Grace even called her mother, Holly, a sign of desperation if ever there was one.
It was a mistake.
"You're probably imagining it, darling. Why don't you go on a lovely cruise somewhere? Take your mind off things. I met Roberto on a cruise, you know. One never knows when Cupid might strike."
A cruise? I won't set foot on a boat again as long as I live.
The next day, Grace's platinum Amex card was declined at Bergdorf Goodman. Grace felt herself blushing scarlet as the women in line behind her stared.
"I think there must be some mistake," she said meekly. "I have unlimited credit."
The salesgirl was kind. "I'm sure it's just a mix-up, Mrs. Brookstein. But you'd best take it up with American Express. I'll be happy to keep the bag on hold for you if you'd like."
I don't want the stupid bag! I only came here to try to distract myself for five minutes. To forget about Lenny. As if I could ever do that!
"Thank you, that's okay. I'll, er...I'll go home and sort this out."
Grace called Amex. A drone told her that Lenny's account had been "terminated."
"What do you mean, 'terminated'? By whom? I didn't terminate it."
"I'm sorry, ma'am, but I can't help you. Your husband's account has been closed."
Worse was to come. Bills started arriving for unpaid services. An unpleasant man rang the apartment and informed Grace curtly that her mortgage payments were five months in arrears.
"I'm sorry, sir, but I think you must have me confused with someone else. We don't have a mortgage."
"Mrs. Brookstein. It is Mrs. Brookstein I'm speaking to."
"The outstanding balance on your mortgage is sixteen million seven hundred and sixty-two thousand dollars and fourteen cents. That's in your and your husband's joint names. Would you like me to resend you the statements?"
It wasn't until Conchita, Grace's loyal maid, quit over unpaid wages - "I'm sorry, Mrs. Brookstein. But my 'usband, he won't let me keep coming here. Not unless you pay me" - that Grace finally overcame her embarrassment and confessed her money worries to John Merrivale.
"It's insanity," she sobbed on the phone. "Lenny's worth billions, but suddenly I'm getting all these bills. No one will take my cards. I don't understand it."
There was a long silence on the other end of the line.
"John? Are you there?"
"I'm here, Gracie. I think perhaps you'd better come over."
JOHN MERRIVALE WAS NERVOUS. EVEN MORE nervous than usual. Grace noticed the way he kept scratching at his neck and his eyes rarely met hers. She sat opposite him on the couch in his study as he began to explain.
"There have been rumors for s-some time now, Grace. Rumors on Wall Street and among our investors. After Lenny...after what happened, the FBI became involved."
Grace's eyes widened. "The FBI? Why? What sort of rumors?"
"Lenny was a b-brilliant man. An uncannily shrewd investor. One of the reasons for Quorum's success is that he never d-divulged his strategy. Like most of the best hedge fund managers, his model was a c-closely guarded secret."
Grace nodded. "He told me it was like inheriting your grandmother's recipe for spaghetti sauce. Everyone who eats it tries to figure out the secret ingredient, but you can never tell."
"Exactly." John Merrivale smiled. She really is a child. "My job was to raise f-funds for Quorum. With Lenny's performance, that was easy. We were t-turning away money. It was Lenny's job to invest those funds. No one - n-not even me - knew exactly where he put the money. Until his disappearance, it had never really mattered."
"Despite its size and huge success, Quorum was still f-fundamentally a one-man show. When Lenny disappeared, people w-wanted to withdraw their capital. A lot of people. All at the s-s-same time."
"And that was a problem?"
John Merrivale sighed. "Yes. A lot of the money is...well, we don't know where it is exactly. It's unaccounted for. It's complicated."
"I see." Grace thought about this for a few moments. "So is that why the FBI is involved? To try to sort out the confusion?"
John's scratching intensified. "In a way, yes. But I'm afraid there are some unpleasant sides to this. Because the amount of money involved is so large - tens of billions of d-dollars, at a minimum - the police believe that Lenny m-may have deliberately st-stolen it."
"That's ridiculous! Lenny would never steal. Besides, why would he rob his own fund?"
"I d-don't believe he did, Grace. I want you to know that." John took her hand. "But other people - the FBI, investors, the n-newspapers, are jumping to conclusions. They say that once the SEC started investigating, Lenny knew Quorum would collapse and that he would be exposed. G-Grace, they're saying that Lenny might have c-committed suicide."
Grace felt sick.
Suicide? Lenny? No. Never. Even if he had stolen some money, he would never leave me. He would never take his own life.
She struggled to keep her voice steady.
"Whatever happened on that boat, John, it was an accident. Lenny was happy when he left me that morning. Why hasn't the FBI spoken to me? I would have told them that!"
"I'm sure they will want to talk to you eventually. Once a d-death certificate is issued, there'll likely be an inquest. Right now the p-primary focus is on locating the m-missing money. Until that happens, all Quorum's assets have been frozen, as well as your p-personal accounts."
Grace looked so small and lost, perched on the edge of the couch. Had John Merrivale been a more tactile man, he'd have gone over and hugged her. As it was, he said, "Try not to worry. I know it's hard. But you and I b-both know Lenny wasn't a thief. The truth will come out eventually. Everything will be okay."
No it won't. Not without Lenny. Nothing will ever be okay again.
IT WAS THE NEXT MORNING THAT the storm erupted. Angry investors marched on Quorum's offices, demanding their money back. CNN showed images of a near riot, with mounted police forcing back the mob. Within hours, the likely scale of what was now being called the Quorum Fraud was making headline news around the world.
Grace watched the television in shock. "Leonard Brookstein, once one of New York's best-loved philanthropists and an American icon, was today being exposed as perhaps the greatest thief in U.S. history. Furious investors in Brookstein's Quorum Hedge Fund burned effigies of the fifty-eight-year-old, presumed dead after a freak sailing accident last month, outside his former offices."
The phone rang. It was John. Grace broke down.
"Oh, John! Have you seen what they're saying about Lenny? The news...I can't watch."
"Grace, l-listen to me. You're not safe. I'm c-coming to pick you up."
"But that's crazy. Why would anyone want to hurt me?"
"People are angry, Grace. Lenny's n-not here. You're the next best thing."
"No b-buts. You must stay with us. Pack a bag. I'll be there in t-ten minutes."
Ten minutes later, Grace was in the back of an armored Town Car. As she left her building, a small group of hecklers was already gathered outside. They jeered at her.
"Where's the money, Grace?"
"Where'd Lenny hide it?"
"Is that seventy billion in your suitcase, baby, or are you just glad to see us?"
By the time John bundled her into the car, she was hyperventilating.
She never set foot in her apartment again.
"NO. I WON'T SELL IT. I CAN'T."
Grace was in the boardroom of the law firm Carter Hochstein. Around the table were six forbidding-looking men in dark suits. John Merrivale introduced them as Lenny's trustees, the men responsible for overseeing his estate.
"I'm afraid you have no choice. Put simply, Mrs. Brookstein, you do not have the money to continue paying the mortgage on the apartment. We're going to have to put all your assets on the market. Historically, your husband funded his lifestyle by borrowing large sums of money against the value of his stake in Quorum. Those loans have now been called in, and you have no immediate means of paying them."
Grace turned to John Merrivale in bewilderment.
"But how can that be? Can't I, I don't know, sell some shares or something?"
John looked pained. "The thing is, Grace, until this mess is sorted out at Quorum, you d-don't have any shares to sell."
"Mrs. Brookstein." Kenneth Greville, the most senior partner, spelled it out in black and white. "You must understand. Vast sums of money remain unaccounted for at Quorum. Hundreds of thousands of your husband's investors have been financially ruined. They've lost everything."
Grace thought, And I haven't?
"Until your husband is determined to be legally dead and the criminal investigation is completed, we can't draw any firm conclusions. But it does look increasingly likely that Mr. Brookstein was involved, to some degree at least, in fraudulent activity of a most serious nature. The amounts that were stolen - "
"No." Grace stood up. "I'm sorry, but I won't sit here and listen to this. My husband never stole anything. Lenny is not a thief! He's a good man and he built Quorum up from nothing. Tell them, John."
Kenneth Greville thought, She still refers to him in the present tense. The poor child's delusional.
"Your loyalty is admirable, Mrs. Brookstein. But it is my unpleasant duty to inform you of the facts with regard to your current, and probably future, financial circumstances. You will not be able to continue living at the Park Avenue apartment. I'm sorry."
Tears rolled down Grace's cheeks. She felt as if she were manacled to a runaway train. Her life was collapsing around her, and she had absolutely no power to stop it.
THAT EVENING AT DINNER, CAROLINE MERRIVALE watched Grace staring listlessly at the dining-room wall. She'd barely touched her soup and looked thin and drawn.
"Eat up, Grace. In this house we make it a rule never to let good food go to waste. Don't we, John?"
John saw the triumphant flash of cruelty in his wife's eyes. She's loving every second of this. Turning the tables on Grace at last. She's like a cat with a mouse, playing with it before the kill.
"Caroline's right, Grace. You must try to k-keep your strength up."
Grace brought a spoonful of soup to her lips. It was cold. She fought down the urge to gag. "I'm sorry. I really don't feel very well. If you don't mind, I think I'd like to go to bed."
The sooner today was over, the better. After the meeting with the lawyers, she'd felt lower than she had since the day the coast guard told her the awful news. The whole world was talking about this stupid money. As if I care about the money! All I want is for Lenny to walk back through the door.
A maid appeared in the doorway. "I'm sorry to interrupt, Mrs. Merrivale. But there's a policeman at the door. He says he has urgent business with Mrs. Brookstein."
Instinctively Grace panicked. "No! Tell him to go away. It's late. Tell him to come back in the morning."
Caroline laughed. "Don't be silly, Grace. It's the police, not a social call. You must go out and meet him."
"No, please, Caroline. I can't."
Caroline was unmoved. "Melissa, show the officer in. Tell him Mrs. Brookstein will be with him momentarily."
A few minutes later, Grace walked nervously into the entryway. She expected to find an aggressive FBI agent there to interrogate her. Instead, she was greeted by a shy young man in uniform. As soon as he saw Grace, he took off his cap politely. Grace felt the tension in her shoulders begin to ease.
"Good evening, Officer. You wanted to see me?"
"Yes, Mrs. Brookstein. I, er...I have some news for you. It's about your husband. Perhaps you'd like to sit down?"
Irrationally, Grace's heart soared.
He's alive! Lenny's alive! They've found him! Oh, thank God. Lenny will come back and everything will go back to the way it used to be. We'll have our homes again and our money, no one will hate us anymore...
"Oh, I'm fine, thank you. I've been sitting all day. You say you have some news for me?"
"Yes, ma'am." The young man looked at his shoes. "I'm sorry to have to tell you this. But this afternoon the Massachusetts coast guard recovered a body. We believe the remains to be those of your husband, Leonard Brookstein."