date. You could come to my office?"
"No, that's okay. Please, come inside."
Nora started toward the house. I followed. So far, so
good. I wondered if she was a good dancer. She certainly
was a good
"Vanilla hazelnut?" I asked.
She looked back over her shoulder. "Excuse me?"
I motioned toward the ground coffee peeking out from
the grocery bag. "Though I recently came across some of
those newfangled crème brûlée beans, which smell
"No, it's vanilla hazelnut," she said. "I'm impressed."
"I would've preferred to have been blessed with a ninety-
mile-an-hour fastball. Instead, I got a heightened sense of
"Better than nothing."
"Ah, you're an optimist," I said.
"Not these days."
I smacked my forehead. "Damn. That was dumb of me
to say. I'm really sorry."
"It's okay," she said, and almost smiled.
We walked up the front steps and went inside the house.
The foyer was a lot bigger than my apartment. The chande-
lier over our head was at least a year's salary. The Oriental
rugs, the Chinese vases. Jeez, what a spread.
"The kitchen's this way," she said, leading me around a
corner. When we got there, it too was bigger than my apart-
ment. She pointed to the granite slab of counter next to the
refrigerator. "You can put the groceries there. Thanks."
I placed the bag down and started to empty it.
"You don't have to do that."
"It's the least I can do after that optimist comment."
"Really, it's okay." She walked over to me and picked up
the bag of vanilla hazelnut. "Can I offer you a cup?"
I made sure it was nothing but small talk while the pot
brewed. I didn't want to do too much too fast -- the risk
being that
might ask too many questions. As it was, I fig-
ured a couple were already headed my way.
"You know what I don't understand?" she said a few
minutes later. We were sitting at the kitchen table, coffee
mugs in hand. "Connor had plenty of money and no ex-
wife or kids. Why would he bother with life insurance?"
"That's a
question. I think the answer lies in how
this policy originated. You see, Mr. Brown didn't come to us.
We went to him. Or rather, his company."
"I'm not sure I follow."
"Something Centennial One is doing more and more of
is workers' compensation policies. As a way of enticing
companies to insure with us, we offer the top people free
term life insurance."
"That's a pretty nice perk."
"Yeah, it seems to seal the deal a lot for us."
"How much did you say Connor's policy was for?"
As if she'd forgotten.
"One point nine million," I said. "That's the maximum
for his size company."
Her brow furrowed. "He really listed me as the sole ben-
"Yes, he really did."
"When was this?"
"You mean, when was the policy administered?"
She nodded.
"Fairly recently, it turns out. Five months ago."
"I suppose that would explain it. Though we'd been to-
gether at that point for only a short time."
I smiled. "He obviously had a good feeling about you
from the start."
She tried to smile back, but the tears coming down her
cheeks wouldn't let her. She began wiping them away while
apologizing. I assured her that it was more than okay, that I
understood. Actually the scene was kind of touching.
she's very good.
"Connor had already given me so much, and now
She wiped away another tear. "And what I wouldn't give to
have him back."
Nora took a long sip of her coffee. I did the same.
"So, what's supposed to happen? I assume I've got to
sign some stuff before the payout is made, right?"
I leaned forward a bit on the table and gripped my mug
with both hands. "Well, you see, that's why I'm here, Ms.
Sinclair. There's a little bit of a

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