date. You could come to my office?"
"No, that's okay. Please, come inside."
Nora started toward the house. I followed. So far, so
good. I wondered if she was a good dancer. She certainly
was a goodwalker.
"Vanilla hazelnut?" I asked.
She looked back over her shoulder. "Excuse me?"
I motioned toward the ground coffee peeking out from
the grocery bag. "Though I recently came across some of
those newfangled crème brûlée beans, which smell
"No, it's vanilla hazelnut," she said. "I'm impressed."
"I would've preferred to have been blessed with a ninety-
mile-an-hour fastball. Instead, I got a heightened sense of
"Better than nothing."
"Ah, you're an optimist," I said.
"Not these days."
I smacked my forehead. "Damn. That was dumb of me
to say. I'm really sorry."
"It's okay," she said, and almost smiled.
We walked up the front steps and went inside the house.
The foyer was a lot bigger than my apartment. The chande-
lier over our head was at least a year's salary. The Oriental
rugs, the Chinese vases. Jeez, what a spread.
"The kitchen's this way," she said, leading me around a
corner. When we got there, it too was bigger than my apart-
ment. She pointed to the granite slab of counter next to the
refrigerator. "You can put the groceries there. Thanks."
I placed the bag down and started to empty it.
"You don't have to do that."
"It's the least I can do after that optimist comment."
"Really, it's okay." She walked over to me and picked up
the bag of vanilla hazelnut. "Can I offer you a cup?"
I made sure it was nothing but small talk while the pot
brewed. I didn't want to do too much too fast -- the risk
might ask too many questions. As it was, I fig-
ured a couple were already headed my way.
"You know what I don't understand?" she said a few
minutes later. We were sitting at the kitchen table, coffee
mugs in hand. "Connor had plenty of money and no ex-
wife or kids. Why would he bother with life insurance?"
question. I think the answer lies in how
this policy originated. You see, Mr. Brown didn't come to us.
We went to him. Or rather, his company."
"I'm not sure I follow."
"Something Centennial One is doing more and more of
is workers' compensation policies. As a way of enticing
companies to insure with us, we offer the top people free
term life insurance."
"That's a pretty nice perk."
"Yeah, it seems to seal the deal a lot for us."
"How much did you say Connor's policy was for?"
As if she'd forgotten.
"One point nine million," I said. "That's the maximum
for his size company."
Her brow furrowed. "He really listed me as the sole ben-
"Yes, he really did."
"When was this?"
"You mean, when was the policy administered?"
"Fairly recently, it turns out. Five months ago."
"I suppose that would explain it. Though we'd been to-
gether at that point for only a short time."
I smiled. "He obviously had a good feeling about you
from the start."
She tried to smile back, but the tears coming down her
cheeks wouldn't let her. She began wiping them away while
apologizing. I assured her that it was more than okay, that I
understood. Actually the scene was kind of touching.Or
she's very good.
"Connor had already given me so much, and nowthis.
She wiped away another tear. "And what I wouldn't give to
have him back."
Nora took a long sip of her coffee. I did the same.
"So, what's supposed to happen? I assume I've got to
sign some stuff before the payout is made, right?"
I leaned forward a bit on the table and gripped my mug
with both hands. "Well, you see, that's why I'm here, Ms.
Sinclair. There's a little bit of a problem."
HE KIND OFsounded
like an insurance man, but he didn't
like one to Nora.
For starters, she noticed that he wasn't that bad a dresser.
The tie matched the suit, and the suit had actually been in
style sometime during this decade.
Another thing was that he had a nice personality. The
few insurance guys she'd met before seemed to have about
as much charisma as a cardboard box. In fact, all things
considered, Craig Reynolds was an attractive man. Nicely
put together. He also drove a pretty good car. Then again,
thought Nora, this was Briarcliff Manor, not the East Bronx.
To manage the field office for a big insurance company in
this neck of the woods, you'd kind of have to look the part.
Still, she wasn't about to let her guard down.
She'd been watching Craig Reynolds carefully and making
mental notes -- from the moment he first showed up to
when he wrapped his hands around his coffee mug and an-
nounced that there was "a little bit of a problem" with Con-
"What sort of problem?" she asked.
"Ultimately, I don't think it will be much of one at all.
The thing is, because of Mr. Brown's relatively young age,
they've decided to investigate the claim."
"The home office back in Chicago. They basically call
"You don't have any say in the matter?"
"Not too much in this case. As I mentioned, Mr. Brown's
policy originated in our corporate division, which is run
from the home office. Who services it, however, is based on
proximity to the client. Meaning, if it wasn't for the pending
investigation, I'd be the one handling everything."
"So if you're not, who is?"
"I haven't been told yet, but if I had to guess, it's going to
be a man by the name of John O'Hara."
"Do you know him?"
"Only by reputation."
"When you said that, you frowned a little."
"No, it's no big deal. Supposedly, O'Hara's a hard-ass --
pardon my language -- but that's par for the course with an
insurance investigator. From what I can tell, this should be
a routine inquiry."
As Craig Reynolds reached for his coffee again, Nora
made another mental note: no wedding band.
"How do you like the vanilla hazelnut?" she asked.
"Tastes even better than it smells."
She sat back in her chair. Having already turned off her
tears, she gave Craig Reynolds a pleasant smile. He came
across as caring and thoughtful. Better yet, she noticed that
when he smiled back at her, his cheeks produced a cute pair
of dimples.Too bad he doesn't have any money.
Not that Nora was complaining. From where she was
sitting, Craig Reynolds the insurance man was worth $1.9
million. It was a windfall she wasn't about to turn down. The
only wrinkle was the investigation. Routine as it sounded, it
made her nervous.
But not overly so. She had a very good plan, and it was
made to hold up to scrutiny. By the police, by the coroner's
office, by the likes of anyone or anything that might stand
in her way. And that certainly included an insurance inves-
Just the same, after Craig Reynolds left the house that af-
ternoon, she decided it might be a good idea to make herself
scarce for the next few days. She was supposed to see Jeffrey
that weekend anyway. Maybe she'd go up a day early and
He was, after all, her husband.
THE NEXT MORNING, a Friday, Nora walked out of the
house in Westchester and popped open the trunk of her
Benz convertible parked in front. In went her suitcase. The
weatherman on TV had promised nothing but blue skies
and sun with the temperature reaching a high of eighty. A
"top-down day" if there ever was one.
Nora pressed the button on her keyless remote and
watched as the roof of the car began to recede quietly. That's
when another car caught her eye.What the hell?
Out on Central Drive, parked under towering maples
and oaks, was the same BMW as the day before. And sitting
in the front with his sunglasses on was the insurance man.
What's he doing back here?
One sure way to find out. Nora started to walk straight
for his car. She thought he'd been so friendly when they first
met. But now, this… watching her from his car. It was a
little creepy. Or worse, a little suspicious. Which was why
she cautioned herself not to overreact.
Craig saw her coming and promptly hopped out of his
Beemer. He began walking toward her in his tan summer-
weight suit. He gave her a friendly wave.
They met halfway.
Nora tilted her head and smiled. "If I didn't know any
better, I'd say you were spying."
"If that's the case, I probably should've chosen a better
hiding place, huh?" He smiled back. "My apologies -- it's
not what it looks like. Actually, you can blame the Mets for
"An entire baseball team?"
"Yes, including the general manager. I was about to pull
into your driveway when the Fan went to a commercial
break, saying the club was about to make a big trade with
Houston. So I pulled over to listen."
She gave him a blank look. "The Fan?"
"It's an all-sports radio station."
"I see. So you weren't spying?"
"Nope. I'm no James Bond. Just a long-suffering Mets
Nora nodded. She figured either Craig Reynolds was
telling the truth or he was a born liar. "What were you com-
ing to see me about?" she asked.
"Good news, actually. John O'Hara, that guy I told you
about from the home office, has definitely been placed in
charge of the investigation into Mr. Brown's death."
"I thought that wasn't supposed to be such good news."
part is. I talked to him early this morning
and he said he thought there wouldn't be any problems."
"That is good."
"Better yet, I got him to fast-track the thing. He gave me
his hard-line spiel about not giving special treatment, but I
asked him to do it since the Westchester office has been
such a rainmaker for the company. Anyway, I just thought
you'd want to know."
"I appreciate it, Mr. Reynolds. It's a nice surprise."
"Please, call me Craig."
"In that case, call me Nora."
"Nora it is." He glanced over her shoulder at the red con-
vertible in the driveway, the trunk still up. "Taking a trip?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact."
"That depends on your opinion of south Florida."
"As they say, it's a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want
to vote there."
She chuckled. "I'll have to use that one on my client in
Palm Beach. Or maybe not."