FOR LOVE AND MONEY by Ray Flynt

 

Whenever Mr. Norquist wanted to compliment me, he’d say, “Brian, you could get away with murder.” This usually followed a valiant effort on my part, like arranging a catered lunch for eight on thirty minutes notice, or scoring center-court tickets to a sold-out Knicks’ game. All in a days’ work for me, Brian Thurman, gatekeeper for the past five years to Gregory Norquist, the self-proclaimed “Duke of Wall Street.” My official title was “Assistant to the Chairman and CEO,” but I preferred to think of myself as toady-in-chief.

     Norquist’s minions worked two blocks from the New York Stock Exchange, while the Chairman’s suite occupied prime real estate on Park Avenue. There, I sat at my desk on a Friday afternoon, engrossed in figuring out my next move on spider solitaire, when the phone interrupted. I waited a respectful three rings before answering, in the key of C, “Norquist Securities, Chairman’s office.”

     “Oh, hi Brian.” I recognized the voice of Norquist’s trophy wife #3. “Is Greg there?”         

     “No, I’m sorry Deirdre, he’s at a meeting downtown.” I lied. He’d asked me to reserve a suite at the Ritz Carlton for an “important merger discussion,” but I’d had access to his private e-mail account for the last two years and knew he wanted the hotel room for an under-the-sheets interview with prospective trophy wife #4.

     “Oooh,” she groaned. “I guess I’ll try later.”

     “Would you like me to-” I heard a click; she’d hung up.

     I felt sorry for Deirdre. Norquist met the attractive brunette with the megawatt smile four and a half years ago at the Midtown bar Celestial Excursion, where she worked as a cocktail waitress. He swept her off her feet with his charm and American Express card. I’d just begun working for him back then, and arranged weekend jaunts for them to Paris, Waikiki Beach, and Cancun. Deirdre wasn’t even her real name. “Brandy” wouldn’t do for the wife of #387 on Forbes’ list, so he made her change it. Her Pygmalion-like makeover also extended to styling and fashion. Only the best salons and fashion designers would do for the duchess of the Norquist Empire. Brandy, uh Deirdre, signed a pre-nup giving her a million dollars for each year they stayed together to a maximum of five million. Since trophy wife marriages #1 and #2 lasted only 3.5 and 3 years respectively, I’d say she should cash in her chips. Maybe I really felt sorry for myself. After all, we’d both gotten trapped in the gravitational pull of planet Norquist.

     A ding signaled the arrival of Norquist’s private elevator, which gave me a few seconds to organize the papers on my desk. He prized tidiness.

     Norquist strode off the elevator with his comb over neater than when he’d left, and a rosy glow on his face. His pants held their crease like they’d hung neatly over the back of a chair for the past several hours. I resisted a chant of I-know-where-you’ve-been. He breezed past my desk without so much as a nod in my direction, and through the double doors leading to his office. He could be such a shit.

     Seconds later my intercom sounded. “Yes, sir?” I promptly answered.

     “Brian, come in here.”

     I picked up my notebook and marched into the recently installed Royal French décor of Norquist’s office. Norquist grew up in East Stroudsburg, PA for heaven’s sake, and the only thing French he knew was French toast, but a prominent (i.e. obscenely expensive) designer convinced him that the gilded columns, ornate furniture, and gold brocades constituted the ultimate power office. In the adjacent executive washroom, 24 karat gold lion’s heads spouted water into the marble-surround tub like the fountains at Versailles. The entire makeover reportedly cost $1.2 million! As Granny used to say, “They saw him coming.” The furnishings may have nurtured his regal image, but it just made me want to stick a finger down my throat.

     “Mrs. Norquist called for you earlier,” I informed him.

     He slid paper from one pile to another as he sat behind the table he used as a desk on a throne that would have made Louis XVI envious. He sighed. “She wants to talk about the party.”

     “What party, sir?”

     “My fiftieth birthday party.”

Norquist was a Capricorn, and we were barely into Leo. “But your birthday is in January?”

     He kneaded his forehead. “Right. She envisions a New Year’s Day sailing on a private yacht to Martinique with thirty of our closest friends.” Thirty other disingenuous blood-suckers. “She won’t stop bugging me until I agree.” He sounded like a man in a mid-life crisis.

     Then I spotted the telltale sign of a hickey just above the collar on the left side of his neck and decided to have fun. I thrust a finger at him, and shrieked, “Sir, what’s that mark on your neck.”

     He retrieved a mirror from a drawer in the table and examined himself. “Damn,” he muttered, before glancing up at me, as if to gauge what I was thinking. I didn’t twitch a muscle. He cleared his throat and said, “I need a new electric shaver. That old one is giving me razor burn.” I pictured him repeating the same line for Deirdre that evening.

Norquist stared toward the windows, and I decided to get back down to business. “You asked to see me?”

     “Yes, Brian. I’d like you to come by the penthouse at seven o’clock this evening.” There goes another Friday night. “I’m having a little gathering from the office to welcome Reginald Croft, my new assistant.”

I thought I was your assistant.

     “We’re trying to acquire Ashford Securities, and Reginald has been assistant to their CEO. I’d like you to train him over the next two weeks, and we’ll give you an additional two weeks’ severance.”

     I felt like I’d just been stabbed in the chest. I’d never been fired before, and hadn’t seen this coming. My stomach felt queasy and my throat tightened, but I vowed not to give him the satisfaction of watching me buckle at the news. “Yes, I’ll be there at seven. Anything else?” Or should I just leap across your desk and choke you now?

     With an open wave of his hand he dismissed me. I returned to my office and glanced at the clock. Three-thirty. I couldn’t stand the thought of sitting outside Norquist’s office for the next three and one-half hours. I needed fresh air and time to think. I turned off my computer and headed for the elevator. If Norquist needed me¾although he’d apparently come to the conclusion that he no longer did¾he could call me on my iPhone.

     Outside on Park Avenue, I breathed deeply of air as fresh as humid July weather and the corner falafel vendor would permit. Time to “make lemonade” as my dad used to counsel whenever I experienced challenges in high school. Could my dismissal serve as a stroke of luck? The job was the only one I’d known since collecting my MBA. After five years, maybe it was time to escape the comfortable rut. I knew as much about Norquist’s securities business as its CEO, and figured I’d call a few buddies from my days at Columbia and wangle my way into their firms. Maybe I’d be able to get in line for those hefty year-end bonuses. Even as I looked forward, the feelings of resentment built inside me. I wanted to get even.

 

The doorman recognized me and waived me through security. At least my access privileges hadn’t been revoked¾yet. I caught the elevator to Norquist’s Fifth Avenue penthouse and waited in the lobby on the thirtieth floor until precisely seven before ringing the doorbell. After a minute, when no one answered, I rang the bell again, and this time made sure that I heard the distant chime. More time elapsed and still no answer. My watch read five after seven, and I began to wonder why others from the firm hadn’t joined me in the elevator lobby for the party to welcome Reginald Croft. I hate him, and we haven‘t even met. I preferred to think of the evening as my unemployment wake.

     I took a deep breath and rapped hard on the door with my college fraternity’s ring-Class of ‘04. Seconds later Gregory Norquist flung open the door and gawked at me. He wore a light blue turtle neck, and held a linen jacket on his left arm. Behind him I could see the expansive living room flooded with early evening sun, but there were no revelers or evidence that caterers had worked their magic. No sign of Reginald either. Maybe Norquist dispatched him to find turtle neck pajamas?

     “I’m, ah, here for the ‘gathering,’” I announced. I took a step forward, while my boss shuffled back a half step. I didn’t feel welcomed.

     Norquist slipped on his jacket, and looked perplexed. “He was supposed to call you.”

     He? Reginald? “I didn’t get a call.” Not exactly an auspicious beginning for the new guy.

     “Something came up,” Norquist explained. “The event is postponed.”

     Behind him I heard Deirdre plaintively calling, “Greg. I don’t understand.”

     Norquist gritted his teeth, aimed a thumb over his shoulder and said, “Take care of this.” He then ran out the door on his way to the elevator.

     Once again I was Mister-fixit, with no clue as to what needed fixing. I pulled the door closed, then turned and heard Deirdre say, “Brian. I didn’t expect to see you.” She wore a pink satin robe with wispy feathers around the collar. Her eyes looked puffy and moist, and I spotted a reddish mark on her left cheek.

     “Did he hit you?”

     “Yes,” she stuttered, then inhaled a gob of air and started to sob. Damn him.

     She threw her arms around me and buried her head in my chest. The scent of her perfume was intoxicating, and I pulled her tightly to me. I ran a comforting hand across her back, and could tell that she wore nothing beneath the sheer robe. Her crying lessened and her fingers caressed my hair. I started to get aroused. Are you crazy? What are you doing? My libido urged me on, but good sense prevailed. I gently pushed back, held her arms, and said, “We need to get ice on your face.”

     I guided her to a sofa in the living room and pulled the nearby drape closed to shield her from the direct sunlight. She held onto my wrist. “Just relax,” I said. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

     In the kitchen I found a plastic bag and filled it with crushed ice from the refrigerator, and wrapped a dish towel around it. Deidre smiled as I returned to the living room. I had to remind myself that she was only two years younger than me. Her shoulder-length brown hair glistened in the soft light, and she beckoned me to sit next to her.

     I remained standing and handed her the ice pack. “Hold that on your face. It should keep your cheek from swelling too badly. Do you have any Advil?”

     “In the bathroom,” she said, and started to get up. As she did, the bottom of her robe shifted to reveal a smooth calf and part of her thigh.

     “No. You stay here. I’ll get it.” I wondered if I had time for a cold shower.

     I found the bathroom next to their master bedroom complete with its king size four poster bed and twenty decorative pillows. The masculine décor of the bathroom surprised me, until it dawned on me that they had his and her bathrooms. I couldn’t resist a peek in his medicine cabinet. On the first shelf was Glucovance, to control his diabetes. I’d picked it up for him many times at the pharmacy when he’d run out. Also in the cabinet were Rolaids, dental floss, Tums, Prevacid, Band-Aids, Alka-Seltzer, Pepto-Bismol (the man has a serious stomach problem), and BenGay. Tucked away on the top shelf, I noticed a prescription bottle of OxyContin, still mostly full of 40 mg tablets. I recalled his episode a few months earlier with a wrenched back. The doctor had given him a prescription for the pain, but he said he’d only taken one because it upset his stomach. I replaced the pill bottle and went in search of Deirdre’s bathroom. Once there I quickly located Advil, shook one tablet from the bottle and filled a nearby paper cup with water.

     When I returned to the living room, I found Deidre lying on the sofa with her eyes closed and the makeshift ice bag resting on her cheek. I stood and gazed at her for a few seconds. “Brian,” she said, as she stirred.

     “Take this.” I handed her the Advil tablet and cup of water.

     After she downed the pill, I said, “Rest for a while. I’ll be back.”

     I marched down the hallway to Norquist’s study and turned on his laptop. When the computer came to life, I logged on to his private e-mail program. I knew he used “WSDuke” as a password for other applications in the office, and I’d experimented with a few permutations and found that WSDuke62-the year he was born-worked for his e-mail.

Scrolling through the most recent e-mails, I found one he sent at 6:17 p.m. to the same woman he’d met earlier in the day at the Ritz Carlton:

     Looks like I’m going to be free this evening. Meet you in our room at 7:30. Greg

     A reply sent three minutes later, simply said, “OK.”

     This gave me a pretty good idea where Norquist was spending the evening. I didn’t expect him back anytime soon, with the strong possibility that he’d spend the night at the hotel. I had to talk with Deirdre and find out what happened between the two of them.

     I was about to close the e-mail program when I spotted one from earlier in the afternoon titled “Stock Steal.” I opened and read:

     I’ve got a hot tip for you. We reached a settlement on our lawsuit that ensures our interest in the Argentinean lithium mine. This means significantly lower costs and soaring profit estimates. Shares of Vanco currently selling at $23. By Tuesday, I’m betting they’ll hover near $30. Place your buy order now!

     I recognized the sender as the CFO of Vanco Industries. Norquist replied: “Thanks, I’ll do that.” I turned on a nearby printer and made copies of both e-mails. If he turned a big profit with insider information, the SEC might be interested. I folded the copies and placed them in my wallet.

     By the time I returned to the living room, the sun had dropped behind the buildings on Central Park West, so I pulled back the curtain to admire the pink and gold sky and the spectacular view of the park. Deirdre sat upright on the sofa, but still held the ice to her cheek. I turned to her.

     “Let me have a look.”

     She lowered the ice bag, and fortunately there was no swelling. I sat next to her, with one leg propped on the sofa so that I faced her. “Deirdre, please tell me what happened tonight?”

     “Call me Brandy.” She sniffled. “I need to get used to it again.”

     As upbeat as I could sound, I said, “Brandy it is!”

     “I wanted to surprise Greg when he got home tonight,” she began, “and put him in a good mood. So I dressed like this.” She brought a hand to her bosom, which once again reminded me how stunning she looked. “I had his favorite cocktail, a gimlet, waiting. I hoped to get him to agree to a cruise for his fiftieth birthday.”

     “To Martinique,” I offered. “He told me about the cruise. I know he wasn’t crazy about the idea.”

     Her shoulders slumped, and she shook her head. “No. But I still hoped I could talk him into it.”

     You could talk me into a trip to Martinique any time!

     “He had other plans,” she continued. “When I brought the subject up, he said … he … wanted a divorce.” She began sniveling, and I offered her a clean handkerchief. I felt warm, and stood to take off my jacket and tie, and laid them on the back of a nearby chair. When I sat down again, she put a hand on my knee, and added, “I never saw it coming.”

     That was the exact same reaction I had when Norquist fired me.

     “When did he hit you?”

     “I was so shocked when he told me. I grabbed his arm and yelled ‘No,’ and then he backhanded me. He went to the phone. I thought he was calling you, something about canceling a party.”

     I put my hand on her shoulder. “That wasn’t me. He dumped me today, too. He’s hired a new guy, and I’ve only got two weeks.”

     She looked at me with wide-eyes. Like two storm-tossed souls who found themselves alone on a deserted island, we came together. Our lips touched, and we were soon enveloped in each other. Brandy and I made love on the sofa. Passionate love that reminded me of my first time in the back seat of the Pontiac after my Junior Prom. When Brandy and I came up for air an hour later, I knew that our lives would forever be intertwined.

 

Brandy spent the weekend at my apartment, but early Monday morning I escorted her to the Long Island Railroad for the short trip to her aunt’s house in Manhasset. Brandy decided to dump Greg, and I promised to call a lawyer friend of mine and get the ball rolling. We kissed goodbye at Penn Station, and agreed to limit our contacts until my employment with Gregory Norquist ended.

     I hadn’t slept much the previous night as I plotted a way to dispatch Norquist to that big investment firm in the sky. I’d watched enough episodes of CSI to know that physical evidence and a communications trail (cell phone and e-mail records) could trip up a murder suspect. Sharing my plans with another person could also land me in the slammer for the rest of my life. Brandy boarded the train convinced that we could share a happy life together with the $5 million from her pre-nup agreement. I had grander ideas, but best she didn’t know.

     I arrived at the office shortly after 7:30 a.m. to find that a desk matching mine had been set up on the opposite side of the double doors leading to Norquist’s office. Reginald was nowhere to be seen. I knew not to expect the boss before 8:30 a.m. He was a creature of exacting habits, a factor I counted on in my plans.

     Shortly before 8 a.m. a gangly man who looked to be in his mid-thirties tripped as he got off the elevator. As he regained his bearing, he said, “Morning, mate. I’m Reginald Croft.” He sounded like a talking TV gecko.

     “Welcome, Reginald. I’m Brian Thurman. It looks like you’re all set up over there.” I pointed to the desk opposite mine. “I’ll give you a few minutes to get organized and then we can go over the daily routine.” I’d decided to be helpful rather than antagonistic.

     Norquist bounded off the elevator right on schedule, and strutted directly to my desk. “Thanks for your help on Friday night.” He even smiled like he meant it.

     “No problem, sir.”

     “Ah, where is Mrs. Norquist? I didn’t see her this morning.” Apparently he’d spent the entire weekend at the Ritz Carlton.

     “She went to visit an aunt in Queens, at my suggestion. I figured you’d appreciate it.”

     “Oh, I do. I hope the situation wasn’t too awkward for you.”

     You have no idea. “All in a day’s work, sir.”

     He turned abruptly, and blustered at the new guy, “Reginald. In my office, now.” Norquist swept into his office, as Reginald leapt from his chair and stumbled after him.

     “You’ll get used to it,” I mouthed in his direction.

     The double doors closed behind them; Norquist’s signal that he didn’t want to be disturbed.

An hour later Reginald emerged ashen-faced, and Norquist motioned for me to cross the threshold to the palace. As I approached the royal throne, he said, “I know you’ll land on your feet.”

     “I understand,” I said. Actually, I was beyond caring. “Mrs. Norquist called while you were in your meeting,” I lied. “She needs a few personal items that she left at the penthouse and asked if I could get them for her.”

     “Of course,” he said, then dismissed me with a wave of his hand.

     I informed Reginald about my errand, and headed for Norquist’s condo, where I first pocketed the bottle of OxyContin from his medicine cabinet and then went to the study and turned on his laptop computer. Using a search engine I looked up “OxyContin overdose” and “suicide,” including several potential methods. I checked the value of Vanco Industries’ stock which had soared by three dollars a share with no ceiling in sight, and found a news item about the out-of-court settlement and the lithium mine. Damn! Norquist definitely had the inside dope.

     I needed to confirm if he’d actually bought stock, but hesitated logging on to his private e-mail account in case he tried to access it at the same time. I called the office. “Reginald, this is Brian, is Mr. Norquist available.”

     “No. He just went into a closed-door meeting with the chair of the finance committee.” The new guy learned fast.

I hung up and figured it was safe to log on to Norquist’s e-mail, where I quickly located the confirmation of the stock purchase. I wrote an anonymous note about the 25,000 shares of insider trading and mailed it to an investigative reporter at the Wall Street Journal.

     All I had to do was be patient and let my plan ferment for a few days.

 

Norquist had a bad week.

     On Thursday, the Wall Street Journal ran a story on Norquist’s “potential” insider trading. They connected all the dots from the information I’d sent them, independently confirming his stock purchase at $22.91 a share and reporting its present value of $30.26. They contacted the SEC (I knew they would), which promised a “rigorous investigation.”

     The following Monday, the New York Times, in a front page story, reported, “Deidre Norquist has filed for divorce from Wall Street financier Gregory Norquist. Mr. Norquist is currently the subject of an SEC investigation of insider trading involving information allegedly gained in advance of an out-of-court settlement on mining rights…” Not the kind of story one likes to read over their eggs Benedict.

     The transition with Reginald went smoothly. He confided that he found Norquist boorish, erratic and “in the full throws of a mid-life crisis.” I counted on him sharing those comments with the police after….

     I arrived at the office a few minutes earlier than usual on Wednesday morning, and nervous as hell. If everything went according to plan, Brandy had returned to the condominium the previous evening and her lawyer would be showing up there for a meeting any minute. Norquist would be asked to leave, which meant he’d soon arrive at the office. I counted on his usual schedule being thrown off. My stomach kept doing back flips.

     I retrieved a bottle of orange juice from the mini-bar in Norquist’s office. At my desk, I opened the bottle of OxyContin and spilled out ten tablets onto a paper towel. The directions specifically said not to break or crush the pills, since they were designed for time release. Crushing would “intensify its effects” the label warned, which was exactly what I wanted. I used a silver spoon with Norquist’s fingerprints on it that I’d retrieved two days earlier to pulverize the tablets.

     The ding signaled the arrival of his private elevator, and I only had a few seconds to stash the drugs in my desk drawer.

     “Good morning, sir.” I tried to sound cheery, and take the edge off of what I knew would be his foul mood. He looked slightly disheveled.

     “What the hell is good about it?” he barked. “What time is my first appointment?”

     “Not until 9 a.m., sir, with the chair of the executive committee.”

     He trembled, uttered the F-word and said, “God help us.” The tremor I attributed to his mild diabetes. He’d probably taken his medication, but hadn‘t eaten; I had orange juice at the ready. His profanity no doubt came from the realization that the Executive Committee wanted answers to the charges circulating in the press, and “God help us” might be his final prayer.

     I followed Norquist into his office. “I bet you haven’t even had breakfast. Let me get you some orange juice.” I addressed him with the solicitude of a long-time valet and personal confident. “I’ll send out for bagels. It doesn’t look like you’ve shaved. You need to take care of that.” I looked at my watch, even though I knew exactly what time it was. “It’s only seven-forty. I’ll start bathwater for you. You‘ve got a fresh suit hanging in the wardrobe.” His response would seal his fate and mine. I held my breath.

     He nodded.

I sprang to action, fetching a glass and then returning to my desk where I dumped the crushed drug into the glass and stirred in the orange juice. I carried the glass to his desk wrapped in a paper doily and using two hands, since I found myself shaking. “Here you go. Let me hang up your jacket for you.” I slipped off his coat and he reached for the juice. I draped the jacket over the back of his “throne” then dashed to the office bathroom. I looked back and watched him lift the glass to his lips.

     Once in the bathroom I used a washcloth to turn on the faucets. Can’t afford to leave my fingerprints behind. Water, pre-heated to a relaxing 104 degrees, spouted from three gilded Lions’ heads into the oversized Jacuzzi. I never saw a tub fill so slowly. Timing was crucial, since I wanted the drug to take its full effect after he climbed into the bath. The last thing I needed was for him to pass out on the floor leaving me the task of undressing him and hoisting his limp body into the water. As I fretted over potential scenarios, I realized that I hadn’t engaged the drain stopper; a detail I corrected in a hurry.

     I stole a peek into the office. Norquist had downed about two-thirds of the drugged juice, and once again reached for the glass. If the juice had a funny taste, he wasn’t complaining. “Your bath water should be ready in about two minutes,” I shouted.

     “Okay,” he replied, still sounding coherent.

     I stood in the doorway and said, “I’ll make sure we have bagels and cream cheese from the corner deli when you’re done.” I saw that the juice glass was empty.

     The tub finally filled. I turned on the motor for the Jacuzzi and the jets came to life churning the water to an inviting froth.

     “The tub is ready,” I announced. “You’ll have to undress yourself.” I managed a small laugh.

     “Thanks, Bri-” He reached for his mouth with a cupped hand and burped. He grimaced and looked at me. My heart stopped. “Do you have Tums in your office?” he asked.

     “I think so.”

     “Leave ‘em on my desk.” With that he heaved himself out of the chair and ambled his way toward the bathroom. My mind could be playing tricks, but I thought he moved slower than usual. He pulled the door closed behind him and I exhaled.

     I looked at my watch; less than five minutes before Reginald would arrive. I ran to my desk and brought the vial of pills, the spoon-using a tissue so as not to leave my fingerprints-and the paper towel on which I’d crushed the pills, and placed them on Norquist’s desk next to the empty glass. I pulled the double doors closed and sat at my desk with thirty seconds to spare before Reginald stepped off the elevator with a broad smile. “Morning, mate.”

     We’d become friends. I would miss him, regardless of the outcome of this day.

     I flashed him a thumbs up, afraid that my voice might betray how tense I felt. Inside my chest, my heart performed a tympani solo, and I gasped for every breath.

     “The boss already here?”

     I can’t pantomime my way through that answer. I cleared my throat. “He got here about five minutes after I did, and in a lousy mood. He never said a word, and slammed the doors shut.” I hoped I didn’t sound too rehearsed.

     The next few minutes seemed interminable. I passed the time by fanticizing what life would be like for Brandy and me. As his widow, she’d have controlling interest in Norquist Securities. With her help, I was determined to start my own securities firm. How hard could it be? After all, Norquist had taught me the first rule in profit making: selfishness. I vowed not to forget my humble roots.

     If my plan worked, by now Norquist had left a trail of clothes across the bathroom floor and climbed into the soothing warm water. As the medicine took hold he would first, fall into unconsciousness and then slip under the water and drown. Or, he could vomit, clear his head, realize what I’d done, and summon the police.

     I got up from my desk at ten after eight, and announced to Reginald, “I’ve got an exit interview with HR at the downtown office. I should be back in a couple, depending on traffic.”

     “No worries, mate. I’ll keep the bear in his cage till you get back.”

     I laughed, and chuckled all the way down the elevator and into the cab.

     The HR interview lasted 45 minutes. As I walked through the corridors of the headquarters office, I kept expecting to hear a scream from a secretary who’d just heard the unfortunate news about Greg Norquist. No such luck.

     I hailed a cab and climbed into it, dejected and prepared to face the music when I got back to the office. I pictured how I’d look in a gray jumpsuit at Ossining, NY. The cabbie had his radio tuned to a news channel. The weather gal announced showers were headed to New York for the weekend. An announcer said, "We have breaking news. According to police sources, Greg Norquist has been found dead in his Manhattan office of an apparent suicide.”

     I couldn’t believe I’d pulled it off. Brandy came to mind, and I started to call her, then thought better and pocketed the phone. She’ll find out soon enough.

     I faced surprisingly few questions when I got back to the office. The police asked about Norquist’s demeanor, and I knew I’d reinforce what Reginald had already told them. I was glad Brandy would handle any questions with a clear conscience. I watched through the open doorway as a photographer took pictures of the items on Norquist’s desk, and then a technician bagged them. The medical examiner’s office rolled his body onto the elevator by 11:15 a.m.

 

Ironically, I got to plan Norquist’s funeral. Three days later, after an elaborate service at the Cathedral of St. John the Devine, I escorted Brandy to the cemetery and stood sedately next to her as a cool breeze swept over the grassy hillside. As the Bishop said his final prayers, I thought back to Norquist’s oft said comment: “Brian, you could get away with murder.”

     I smiled. He was right.