London, present day
Charlotte Hansen peered closely into the magnifying mirror on her vanity. “Why do I keep having these fog-like moments?” she whispered to her reflection.
Looking down at the array of prescription bottles, she could not remember which pills she was supposed to take next. These are supposed to help me, but I feel like I’m getting worse. She had numbered the white caps of the green bottles to make it easier but had forgotten to replace the caps when she took the first three pills. She wrung her hands in dismay. I simply cannot tell Maryann that I’ve messed up my routine again. For sure, she’ll have me put under observation. And what would they observe? A sixtysomething woman losing her memory? Nothing too odd about that. She heaved a big sigh and decided to skip the rest of her morning routine of taking twelve different pills. What difference will one dose make?
Unless her daughter, Maryann, was counting the pills. With that thought, Charlotte flushed what was left of her morning dose down the toilet. She splashed water on her face, took another deep look in the mirror, and decided she could fake it for the day if necessary.
Charlotte had thought a visit to London to see Maryann and her grandson Liam would raise her spirits, but instead, she seemed to be in a downward spiral. She would discuss the matter with Dr. Marcus at her next appointment. Checking her desk diary, she noted she was due to see him the next day. Charlotte didn’t care for him very much, even though he was effusive and turned on the charm. But he had been recommended by her new personal physician in Aspen—who had insisted she have a doctor on hand, particularly in a foreign country. Apparently, Dr. Marcus and her new doctor, Dr. Harold Steinwood, who had taken over the practice of her longtime physician, Dr. Robert Leeland, had studied together in Switzerland; and when Charlotte had told Dr. Steinwood that she would be traveling to London, he had insisted that she get in touch with his classmate, Dr. Marcus. In time, she would reevaluate this “miracle doctor” and his “cure” for mental acuity and longevity, but for now she was content to get dressed and prepare for the rest of her day.
Dr. Raymond Corbett strolled around his two-hundred-square-foot walk-in closet, deciding which cashmere blazer he would wear to the party. It was finally going to be his big night in the Hamptons. After years of being overlooked by almost every yacht club and country club on the South Fork of Long Island, he had persuaded the Longboat Yacht Club to allow him to become a member. The membership came with a very high price tag. Apparently, one could buy one’s way into the stodgy organization, which catered to old money and the nouveaux riches. One either had to own a yacht over eighty-three feet, be a power broker, or be some sort of celebrity. He was none of those. He was merely a physician who specialized in longevity wellness. Yes, he had been treating patients for almost a decade now, prescribing placebos and mind-altering drugs to women of a certain age—mostly rich widows, to be precise.
He took one of his Tom Ford designer blazers from the rack and frowned at the brass buttons. They needed to be polished. Now. He pressed his finger down on the house intercom. “Henry!” he bellowed. “Meet me in my dressing room. Now!”
A soft voice replied, “I will be there right away, sir.”
Corbett tossed the Tom Ford blazer on the bed and then chose an Armani blazer to wear. He thumbed through his new collection of striped button-down shirts and picked a shirt from one of his favorite designers, Brioni. Recalling the $820 price tag, he snickered. Yes, he would almost look like a million bucks. Almost. The jacket, shirt, Gucci shoes, and Audemars Piguet Royal Oak Concept 44MM titanium watch totaled almost $160,000. He’d leave the pinkie ring home. No sense being ostentatious. He snickered to himself again. Tonight was the night he would reveal to the members of the yacht club that he would be displaying a painting at a private exhibit: one by Marc Chagall that was once thought to have been stolen and burned by the Nazis. He had made arrangements to acquire it at a private sale brokered by Christie’s. Tonight he was having a party, basically in honor of himself, at the yacht club. Once he had possession of the Chagall, he would hire a private security company, which would cost a small fortune, to deliver the artwork and keep guard over it during the gala he would hold at the club, then take it to a special locker at the Museum of Modern Art. He had made arrangements for the museum to borrow the painting in the fall. He wanted to spend his summer being known in the Hamptons as a great art connoisseur.
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