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Chicago – Monday, December 1, 2008 - 17h30


JAYSON CRAWLED THROUGH RUSH hour traffic in the cold and dark, one hand on the wheel, massaging his jaw with the other. After Henry’s unsettling visit, he’d spent the remainder of the day in his office, researching past events, establishing a timeline he was certain held the key to the mysteries surrounding Cincinnati: her death, the disappearance of her yacht and its crew, missing investment funds. He’d heard nothing back from his early-morning caller about the strange activity on the frozen accounts belonging to four of his offshore clients—clients who’d gone missing on Grand Cayman Island over a three-month period the previous year—all single, good-looking Caucasian males.

     His mind was running in circles and his stomach felt like he’d eaten a brick for lunch, adding to the misery of winter driving. He slid to a stop at a busy intersection when a light flashed red. Though about debt.

     While he waited for the light to change he called his ex-wife and left a message saying he was back in town—sometimes he wondered if sharing a pet after the divorce was such a good idea—then he flipped the phone closed on the last syllable and tossed it on the passenger seat, exhausting enough CO2 to extinguish a small fire.

     Despite the limited heat in the cab of the old Land Cruiser, the warmth beneath his sheepskin coat and wool sweater produced droplets of sweat under his arms. He tugged the strangle out of his turtleneck, rolled the window down enough to keep the windshield from fogging over. He took another deep breath as the light turned green. Thought about money.

     Cincinnati’s investment portfolio at the Sentinel Investment Bank in George Town had more than doubled under his investment strategy: an outstanding achievement of risk and reward, but nowhere near enough to support the lifestyle she’d enjoyed. Not even close to supporting the political career she’d ardently pursued. He’d suspected large financial donations had poured in from Caribbean and South American countries, from opposition supporters and businesses, those who’d wanted their former Miss Universe to return and free los Venezolanos from what she’d considered a de facto government, to reestablish ties with the US. Her ambitious plan placed her in her rivals’ crosshairs, although most seemed not to take her seriously, referring to her at times as the Queen of America.

     There were others who thought Cincinnati was simply a narcissistic middle-aged ex-model with no political potential. They befriended her for the same reason Jayson had: intrigued by her glamor and guts. That is, until she sailed off with millions of greenbacks from an investment fund—a fund created by the owner of the Grand Royal Casino on Grand Cayman Island to develop a casino resort in Cuba—of which Jayson had invested $10M.

     The washer fluid in the Land Cruiser emptied as he exited the highway and rounded the last street corner. He cursed his luck, peering out through the streaked windshield, trying to navigate the dimly lit street by memory. He almost missed his driveway, skidding to a stop in front of his old wartime rental. When he glanced out through the passenger-side window, his heart ballooned.

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