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"No, really, I heard he was coming tonight."
The young investment banker looked at his buddy, Freddie Wilcox. "O'Banyon? Are you crazy? He's in the middle of the Condi-Foods merger."
"I asked his assistant." Freddie tweaked his Hermastie. "It's on his calendar."
"He must never sleep."
"Gods don't have to, Andrew."
"Well, then, where is he?"
From their vantage point in a corner of the Waldorf Astoria's ballroom, they sifted through the crowd of Manhattan highfliers, looking for the man they called The Idol.
Sean O'Banyon was their boss's boss and, at thirty six, one of Wall Street's big dogs. He ran the mergers and-acquisitions arm of Sterling Rochester, and was capable of leveraging billions of dollars at the drop of a hat or killing a mega deal because he didn't like the numbers. Since arriving on the Street, he'd engineered one perfectly executed corporate acquisition after another. No one had his track record or his instincts.
Or his reputation for eating hard-core financiers for lunch.
Man, folks would have called him SOB even if those hadn't been his initials.
He was indeed a god, but he was also a thorn in the side of the I-banking world's old-school types. O'Banyon was from South Boston, not Greenwich. Drove a Maserati not a Mercedes. Didn't care about people's Mayflower roots or European pedigrees. With no family money to speak of, he'd gone to Harvard undergrad on scholarship, got his start at JP Morganthen put himself through Harvard Business School while doing deals as a consultant.
Word had it that when he lost his temper, his Southie accent came back.
So, yes, the white-shoe, country-club set couldn't stand him
at least not until they needed him to find financing for their corporations' expansion plans or share buy-backs. O'Banyon was the master at drumming up money. In addition to all the bank funds at his disposal, he had ins with some serious private sources like the great Nick Farrell or the now-governor of Massachusetts, Jack Walker.
O'Banyon was who everyone wanted to be. A rebel with immense power. An iconoclast with guts and glory. The Idol.
my God, it's him."
Andrew whipped his head around.
Sean O'Banyon walked into the ballroom as if he owned the place. And not just the Waldorf, all of New York City. Dressed in a spectacular pin-striped blacksuit and wearing a screaming red tie, he was sporting a cynical half grin. As per usual.
"He's wearing all Gucci. Must have cost him five grand before tailoring."
"Couch change. I heard he spent a quarter million dollars on a watch last year."
"It was a half million. I checked at Tourneau." O'Banyon's hair was as dark as his suit and his face was nothing but hard-ass angles and arched eyebrows. And his build matched his attitude. He topped out at six four and it wasn't padding that filled out his shoulders. Rumor had it he did triathlons for kicks and giggles.
As the crowd caught sight of him, a swarm condensed and closed in, people pumping his hand, clapping him on the shoulder, smiling. He kept walking,the powerbrokers and A-listers forming his wake.
"He's coming over here," Andrew hissed.
"Oh God, is my tie okay?"
"Yeah. Is mine"
"I think I'm going to crap in my pants."
Lizzie Bond stared at the stripped hospital bed and thought of the man who'd lain in it these last six days.
The heart monitor he'd been on and the IV that he'd needed and the oxygen feed were all gone. So too thec ardiac crash cart that had failed to revive him forty two minutes ago.
Eddie O'Banyon was dead at the age of sixty-four. And he had died alone.
She shifted her eyes to a window that overlooked Boston's Charles River.
As a nurse, she was accustomed to being in patient rooms, used to the tangy smell of disinfectant and the bland walls and the air of quiet desperation. But she had come to this room as a friend, not as a health-care professional, so she was seeing things through different eyes.
Like how empty and quiet it was.
She glanced back to the bed. She hated that Mr.O'Banyon had died alone.
She'd wanted to be at his side, had promised him she would be, but when the final myocardial infarction had occurred, she'd been working at the health clinic in Roxbury all the way across town. So she had misseds aying goodbye. And he had dealt with whatever pain that had come to claim him by himself.
When the call that he had passed came through to her, she'd left her day job immediately and screamed through traffic to get here. Even though the dead had no schedules to keep and he would never know if she'd hadn't rushed, it had seemed right to hurry.
Lizzie turned around. The nurse standing in the doorway was someone she knew and liked. "Hi, Teresa."
"I have his things from when he came in. They were still in the ED."
"Thanks for bringing them up."
Lizzie accepted her friend's personal effects with a sad smile. The plastic bag was transparent, so she could see the well-worn robe and the plaid pajamas Mr.O'Banyon had had on when he'd been admitted around 1:00 a.m. last Sunday.
What a horrible night that had been, the beginning of the end. He'd called her around twelve with chest pains and she'd run up the duplex's stairs to his apartment. Though he'd been her landlord for two years, he was also a friend and she'd had to call on all her professional training to keep sharp and make the right decision about what to do for him. In the end, she'd called 911 over his objections and not let herself be swayed. The paramedics had come quickly and she'd insisted on riding in the ambulance with Mr. O'Banyon even though he'd tried to tell her he didn't need the help.
Which had been so like him. Always irascible, always a loner. But he had needed her. His eyes had watered from fear the whole trip from South Boston to Mass General in Beacon Hill and he'd held on to her hand until her fingers had gone numb. It was as if he'd known he wouldn't be going back out into the world again.
"I know you were the emergency contact," Teresa said, "but does he have any next of kin?"
"A son. He wouldn't let me call him though. Said only if something happened." And something certainly had.
"You'll get in touch with the son, then? Because."
"I'll make the call."
Teresa came over and squeezed Lizzie's shoulder.
"Are you okay?"
"I should have been here."
"You were. In spirit." When she started to shake her head, Teresa cut in, "There was no way you could have known."
He was alone. I didn't want him to be alone."
"Lizzie, you always take such good care of every three weeks before graduation? I never would have made it without you."
Lizzie smiled a little. "You would have been fine."
"Don't underestimate how much you helped me. "Teresa went back to the door. "Listen, let me or one of the other girls know if you or that son of his need anything, okay?"
"Will do. Thanks, Teresa."
After the other nurse left, Lizzie put the plastic bag on the bare mattress and rifled around until she found a battered wallet. As she opened the leather billfold, she told herself that she wasn't invading Mr. O'Banyon's privacy. But it still didn't feel right.
The piece of paper she eventually took out was folded four times and as flat as a pressed leaf, as if it had been in there for quite a while. There was one name on it and a number with a 212 area code.
Guess his son lived in Manhattan.
Lizzie sat down on the bed and took her cell phone out of her purse.
Except she couldn't call just yet. She had to stitch herself back together a little. At the moment, she felt like a stuffed animal whose side had been torn open and whose padding was leaking.
She glanced back at the bag and was overcome with grief.
Over the past two years, Mr. O'Banyon had become a kind of surrogate father to her. Gruff, prickly and standoffish in the beginning, he'd stayed that way
but only on the surface. As time had passed and his health had declined, he'd gotten as attached to her as she was to him, always asking her when she was coming back to see him, always worried about her driving after dark, always keeping up with how her day went or what she was thinking about. As his heart had grown weaker and weaker, their ties had grown stronger and stronger. Gradually, she'd done more things for him, buying groceries, doing errands, cleaning up, helping him keep all his doctor's appointments straight.
She'd liked being responsible for him. With no husband or children of her own, and a mother who was too fey to really connect with, Lizzie's caretaking naturehad needed an outlet beyond her job. Mr. O'Banyon had been it.
Clear as day, she pictured him sitting in his Barcalounger in front of his TV, a crossword puzzle balanced on the arm of the chair, his reading glasses down on his nose. He had been so sad and lonely, not that he'd ever shown that outright. It was just
well, Lizzie was a little sad and lonely, too, so she'd recognized the shadows in his eyes as exactly what she saw in her own mirror.
And now he was gone.
She stared down at her cell phone and the piece of paper she'd taken out of his wallet. His son's name was Sean, evidently.
She started to dial, but then stopped, picked up the bag of Mr. O'Banyon's things and headed out.
When she talked to the man's son, she was going to need some fresh air.