The guests ranged from hard-core Wall Street types like Carl himself all the way down to Brianna's hair colorist and two semi-employed Broadway actors. There were bankers with their aging though nicely sculpted wives, and moguls with their superbly starved trophies.
There were Trudeau Group executives who would rather have been anywhere else, and struggling painters from the MuAb crowd who were thrilled at the rare chance to mingle with the jet set. There were a few models, number 388 on the Forbes 400 list, a running back who played for the Jets, a reporter from the Times along with a photographer to record it all, and a reporter from the Journal who would report none of it but didn't want to miss the party. About a hundred guests, all in all a very rich crowd, but no one at the party had ever seen a yacht like the Brianna.
It was docked on the Hudson at the Chelsea Piers, and the only vessel larger at that moment was a mothballed aircraft carrier a quarter of a mile to the north. In the rarefied world of obscenely expensive boating, the Brianna was classified as a mega-yacht, which was larger than a super-yacht but not in the same league as a giga-yacht. The latter, so far, had been the exclusive domain of a handful of software zillionaires, Saudi princes, and Russian oil thugs.
The invitation read: "Please join Mr. and Mrs. Carl Trudeau on the maiden voyage of their mega-yacht, Brianna, on Wednesday, May 26, at 6 p.m., at Pier 60."
It was 192 feet long, which ranked it number twenty-one on the list of the largest yachts registered in America. Carl paid $60 million for it two weeks after Ron Fisk was elected, then spent another $15 million on renovations, upgrades, and toys.
Now it was time to show it off, and to display one of the more dramatic comebacks in recent corporate history. The crew of eighteen gave tours as the guests arrived and took their glasses of champagne. With four decks above water, the ship could comfortably accommodate thirty pampered friends for a month at sea, not that Carl ever intended to have that many people living so close to him. Those lucky enough to be chosen for an extended cruise would have access to a gym with a trainer, a spa with a masseuse, six Jacuzzis, and a chef on call around the clock. They would dine at one of four tables scattered throughout the boat, the smallest with ten seats and the largest with forty. When they felt like playing, there was scuba gear, clear-bottom kayaks, a thirty-foot catamaran, Jet Skis, and fishing gear, and, of course, no mega-yacht is complete without a helicopter. Other luxuries included a movie theater, four fireplaces, a sky lounge, heated tile floors in the bathrooms, a private pool for nude sunbathing, and miles of mahogany and brass and Italian marble.
The Trudeaus' stateroom was larger than their bedroom back on land. And, in the formal dining room on the third level, Carl had finally found the permanent place for Abused Imelda. Never again would she greet him in the foyer of his penthouse after a hard day at the office.
As a string quartet played on the main deck, the Brianna shoved off and turned south on the Hudson. It was dusk, a beautiful sunset, and the view of lower Manhattan from the river was breathtaking. The city shook with its frenetic energy, which was fascinating to watch from the deck of such a fine boat. The champagne and caviar also helped the view. Those on ferries and smaller vessels couldn't help but gawk as Brianna moved by, her twin 2,000-horsepower Caterpillar diesels churning a quiet wake.
A small army of black-tied waiters moved deftly about the decks, hauling drinks on silver trays and finger food too pretty to eat. Carl ignored most of his guests and spent his time with those he controlled, one way or another. Brianna was the perfect hostess, gliding from group to group, kissing all the men and all the women, making sure everyone got the chance to see her.
The captain circled wide so the guests could have a nice view of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty, then turned north in the direction of the Battery, at the southern tip of Manhattan. It was dark now, and the rows of skyscrapers lit up the financial district. Under the Brooklyn Bridge, under the Manhattan Bridge, under the Williamsburg Bridge, the Brianna sailed up the East River in all its majesty. The string quartet retired, and the best of Billy Joel boomed through the ship's elaborate sound system. Dancing erupted on the second-level deck. Someone got shoved into a pool. Others followed, and clothing soon became optional. It was the younger crowd.
As per Carl's instructions, the captain turned around at the United Nations building and increased speed, though it was not noticed. Carl, at that moment, was giving an interview in his sweeping office on the third deck.
At precisely 10:30, on schedule, the Brianna docked at Pier 60, and the guests began their slow departures. Mr. and Mrs. Trudeau saw them off, hugging, kissing, waving, wishing they would all hurry along now. A midnight dinner was waiting. Fourteen remained behind, seven lucky couples who would cruise south to Palm Beach for a few days. They changed into more casual clothing and met in the formal dining room for yet another drink while the chef finalized the first course.
Carl whispered to the first mate that it was now time to leave, and fifteen minutes later the Brianna pushed off again from Pier 60. While the guests were being charmed by his wife, he excused himself for a few minutes. He climbed the steps to the fourth level, and on a small elevated deck found his favorite spot on this fabulous new toy of his. It was an observation post, the ship's highest point above the water.
As the cool wind blew his hair, he gripped the brass railing and stared at the mammoth towers in the financial district. He caught a glimpse of his building, and his office, forty-five floors up.
Everything was up. Krane common stock was just under $50 a share. Its earnings were through the roof. His net worth was over $3 billion and rising steadily.
Some of those idiots out there had been laughing eighteen months earlier. Krane is finished. Trudeau is a fool. How can a man lose a billion dollars in one day? they howled.
Where was their laughter now?
Where were all those experts now?
The great Carl Trudeau had outfoxed them again. He'd cleaned up the Bowmore mess and saved his company. He'd driven its stock into the ground, bought it cheap at a fire sale, and now owned virtually all of it. It was making him even richer.
He was destined to move up the Forbes 400 list, and as Carl sailed along the Hudson at the very top of his extraordinary ship, and gazed with smug satisfaction at the gleaming towers packed around Wall Street, he admitted to himself that nothing else mattered.
Now that he had three billion, he really wanted six.