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Back in his car, Richard speed-dialed his lawyer and long-time friend Michael Thompson.
“Hello, this is Michael. I am away from the office. Please contact my assistant or leave a message.” A long beep followed.
“Mike, it’s Richard. I just got home from Hong Kong and my house has been sold! Without my knowledge or consent! Call me right away, man. I think Marilyn has screwed me. Big time. I’m desperate.”
In the days and weeks that followed, Richard found out just how badly he had been exploited.
He reported the theft of his house and paintings to the police, who were now working on the case. He also commissioned a report from a private investigator and now was the recipient of a huge dossier on the criminal history of his wife Marilyn — which was not her real name, but one of many she had used to entrap wealthy middle-aged men. She was young, beautiful, educated, and a pathological liar and manipulator. The house was gone. The money from the sale was in her hands and no doubt was being lavishly spent. The only thing that saved Richard from complete ruin was the fact that two of the Miró paintings she stole were fakes. He had had the most valuable ones appraised and copied. He still lost a fortune, but he was able to sell the genuine Miró pair and bring in some money to stay afloat and for example cover his hotel bill.
“Mike, thanks for coming out tonight,” Richard spoke earnestly. “You are a true friend. I couldn’t have got through this mess without your support.”
“Don’t worry,” said Mike. “It could have easily happened to me instead. Look, we were both lonely, divorced guys, just looking for a new start but you picked the wrong girl. I’m sure this kind of thing happens more than we know. It’s made me so afraid when I meet someone now and I think about your situation. How can you know anyone or trust them? I have a good life, a thriving practice, lots of stuff that would attract a gold-digger but believe me, no one is getting close to me until I do a complete investigation of that woman’s background.”
“Amen, brother! What freaks me out is that I never once suspected any ulterior motives. She was so natural and normal. She was the one who told me we shouldn’t rush into getting married. She was the one who appeared so level-headed. I was the love-crazy guy so afraid that if I didn’t put a ring on her, someone else would. She was the whole package, I couldn’t help myself. She knew exactly how to play me and I have no one to blame but myself.”
“Hey, all water under the moat!” said Mike jauntily, raising his glass in a toast. “Here’s to moving on!”
Richard clinked his glass of horribly expensive Bordeaux and made a vow out loud. “I can’t move on. I won’t rest until that woman is caught, crushed and incarcerated.”
It was solid investigative work that led Richard and private eye Russ Cancilla to the back of the ornate Russian Orthodox church where Marilyn, now going by the name of Alexis, was being crowned in the traditional venchanie wedding ceremony. The groom, a short, plump Russian-American, son of immensely wealthy industrialists, was beaming.
“So it’s a 100% positive I.D.?” whispered Cancilla.
“Yes, it’s her all right. Her hair is longer and it’s blonde now but there’s no mistaking that face. It still haunts me.”
“OK, let’s slip out. I have some police colleagues on stand-by. We’ll arrest her as soon as she steps outside. Let’s go.”
The following day, Richard visited Mike’s office. Mike was packing some files and envelopes into an overnight bag. He seemed agitated. “I just thought I’d take a trip,” he said.
“Where? Somewhere. Bali. I need a vacation.”
“Sit down, I have some news.”
Mike, seemingly with reluctance, sat down.
“It’s all over, thank God,” said Richard. “She’s in custody. The arraignment is next week.”
Mike twirled a pencil in his fingers. “So, done deal. You must be relieved.”
Richard gazed directly at Mike, his friend of over twenty years. “Yes, but there’s one loose end to tie up.”
The office door opened and Russ Cancilla stepped in, accompanied by a police sergeant. Richard got up and nodded to the policeman. “He’s all yours.”
“Mr. Michael Thompson, I am arresting you on the charge of aiding and abetting an alleged felon. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney.”
“I’m an attorney,” Mike insisted, but under his breath.
Richard asked him on the way out, “Why buddy? How could you do this to me?”
“Like you said before, she was the whole package. Couldn’t help myself.”