If he recognizes the name, he doesn’t show it. “You’ll leave everything with security. Phones, tablets, computers, notes, paper, clothing. We’ll give you something temporary to wear. If you don’t agree with those conditions, don’t show up, Ms. Proctor. If you do, I’ll see you promptly at one thirty.”
That doesn’t leave us much time. We’ve left Lustig, or rather, he’s gone off to do what he needs to do. He didn’t ask what we intended to get up to the rest of the day. That might have been a mistake on his part.
I say goodbye and hang up, then put the phone on the table between us.
“You got us an invitation to the Ivory Tower,” Sam says. “My God.”
“That’s what they call the Luxe building,” he tells me. “Rivard’s been living at the top of it for twenty years now. Hasn’t left it in a while, especially after his son’s death.”
“How did his son die?”
“Suicide,” Sam says. “Broke Rivard’s heart, according to the tabloids.”
“Oh, and you read the tabloids?”
“I’m as weak as the next guy when it comes to celebrity gossip.”
“I’m not judging,” I say, and for the first time, I feel a real smile forming. “So you’re the Rivard expert of the two of us. What do you think will impress the man?”
Sam sips coffee. “Honesty,” he says. “And I think you’ve already got that part down.”
“Glad you think so. They’re going to strip-search us,” I say. He chokes on his coffee. “Just being honest.”
It’s not quite a prison search—I’ve had plenty of experience—but Rivard’s people are clearly serious about their work. Our phones are taken. Backpacks, including my laptop and our phones. We’re asked to strip to our underwear, searched, and then allowed to put on some dark-blue velour tracksuits in just the right sizes with RIVARD LUXE embroidered in gold thread over a crest on the front. Not quite business casual, but I’m willing to bet that they’re exorbitantly expensive. Matching slippers, and they’re so comfortable it’s like walking on clouds.
We go up in a private elevator that looks salvaged from the height of the Gilded Age, a work of art in itself. A security man rides up with us and hands us badges on black cords. “You’ll need to wear these at all times,” he says. “Stay inside the designated areas. If you go beyond those, the badges will sound an alarm.”
“And how will we know where the designated areas are . . . ?”
“Assume you should ask before you go anywhere at all,” he says. He looks like a former military man, one with a fairly high rank, too, and he’s used to being in charge. I glance over and see that Sam is fidgeting with the zipper on the front of his tracksuit. This is not his kind of outfit. He sees me looking and shrugs.
“I feel like a Russian mobster,” he says.
“Wrong shoes,” Mr. Security says, and I have to laugh. Then I have to consider how many of that type he’s ushered up here.
We arrive at a large, round entry hall. One end of it is crusted in a multicolored glass window, a mix of modern and deco, which shows a man reaching up toward the sun. It’s a mesmerizing piece of art, and it’s enormous. Worth, I presume, several million dollars. Or ten or twenty thousand of these tracksuits we’re wearing. I’m not sure just how Rivard counts money.
Our security guard leads us forward through a grand double-doored entrance, into another room that I suspect only exists for circumstances like this: meetings with strangers. It’s built to impress. There’s no desk, but there’s a vast view of the city, obscured today by low, wispy clouds. Three grand sofas are set in a triangle, with a table in the middle. The security man takes up a post near the wall and crosses his hands in front, looking like he can stand there for the next ten thousand years, and Sam and I wait, not sure where, or if, we should sit.
Ballantine Rivard rolls in exactly on time. His wheelchair is a marvel of aesthetic design, and it moves almost silently, except for the slight hiss of tires on the thick carpeting. In person, he looks younger than his pictures, and he’s changed out the black-rimmed glasses for a pair with a slightly blue tint to the lenses. Frameless. They make him look like he’s about to go Formula One racing.
Ironically—or not—he’s wearing the exact same tracksuit we are.
“Sit, sit,” he says, giving us an impartial smile. “Gwen Proctor. Samuel Cade. Don’t stand on ceremony.” His honeyed tones don’t fool me. This man didn’t get to the top of this tower by being charming.
Sam and I sink down on the sofa, which feels brand-new. Not many people get to sit here, I think. We’re rare exceptions, coming here at all.
“Can I offer you a drink?” He doesn’t look behind him, but as if on cue, an impeccably dressed man in a tailored blue business suit walks in, carrying a silver tray loaded down with drink choices. Every one of them is alcoholic, and above my wildest dream budget.
“Scotch would be fine,” Sam says, and I nod. Rivard wants to be hospitable, and we’ll sip for courtesy.
The Scotch, of course, is heaven in a glass. I try to keep the sips shallow.
“Now,” Rivard says, as he’s given his own glass, which the man in the suit has mixed with expert ease from three different liquors. “You have news of this investigator.”
“I’ll tell you what we know, but it needs to be private.”
Rivard’s eyes lock on me through the blue-tinted glasses. “Mr. Chivari. Mr. Dougherty. Please leave us.”
The man in the blue suit does it without hesitation or question, but the security man says, “Sir, wouldn’t you rather I stay—”
“Out, Mr. Dougherty. You may wait just beyond the door. I will be fine.” There’s a set to Rivard’s jaw now, and a faint flush working up through the pallid skin of his neck, though his voice remains calm and slow. Dougherty gives us both a last, unhappy look, and then closes up the door after himself. “All right. We’re alone now. And I can answer you without filters. Now. Tell me how you happened to find this man.”
“You mean, Mr. Sauer?”
His eyes flicker just a little, but what it means, I don’t know. “Yes. Where did you find him?”
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