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COBEN, Harlan

Tell No One

Chapter 7

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Champagne flutes tinkled in harmony with the Mozart sonata. A harp underscored the subdued pitch of the party chatter. Griffin Scope moved serpentine through the black tuxedos and shimmering gowns. People always used the same word to describe Griffin Scope: billionaire. After that, they might call him businessman or power broker or mention that he was tall or a husband or a grandfather or that he was seventy years old. They might comment on his personality or his family tree or his work ethic. But the first word - in the papers, on television, on people's lists - was always the B word. Billionaire. Billionaire Griffin Scope.

Griffin had been born rich. His grandfather was an early industrialist; his father improved the fortune; Griffin multiplied it several fold. Most family empires fall apart before the third generation. Not the Scopes'. A lot of that had to do with their upbringing. Griffin, for example, did not attend a prestigious prep school like Exeter or Lawrenceville, as so many of his peers did. His father insisted that Griffin not only attend public school but that he do so in the closest major city, Newark. His father had offices there, thus setting up a fake residence was no problem.

Newark's east side wasn't a bad neighborhood back then - not like now, when a sane person would barely want to drive through it. It was working class, blue collar - tough rather than dangerous.

Griffin loved it.

His best friends from those high school days were still his friends fifty years later. Loyalty was a rare quality; when Griffin found it, he made sure to reward it. Many of tonight's guests were from those Newark days. Some even worked for him, though he tried to make it a point to never be their day-to-day boss.

Tonight's gala celebrated the cause most dear to Griffin Scope's heart: the Brandon Scope Memorial Charity, named for Griffin's murdered son. Griffin had started the fund with a one-hundred million-dollar contribution. Friends quickly added to the till. Griffin was not stupid. He knew that many donated to curry his favor. But there was more to it than that. During his too-brief life, Brandon Scope touched people. A boy born with so much luck and talent, Brandon had an almost supernatural charisma. People were drawn to him.

His other son, Randall, was a good boy who had grown up to be a good man. But Brandon... Brandon had been magic.

The pain flooded in again. It was always there, of course. Through the shaking hands and slapping of the backs, the grief stayed by his side, tapping Griffin on the shoulder, whispering in his ear, reminding him that they were partners for life.

"Lovely party, Griff."

Griffin said thank you and moved on. The women were well coiffed and wore gowns that highlighted lovely bare shoulders; they fit in nicely with the many ice sculptures - a favorite of Griffin's wife Allison - that slowly melted atop imported linen tablecloths. The Mozart sonata changed over to one by Chopin. White-gloved servers made the rounds with silver trays of Malaysian shrimp and Omaha tenderloin and a potpourri of bizarre finger-food that always seemed to contain sun-dried tomatoes.

He reached Linda Beck, the young lady who headed up Brandon's charitable fund. Linda's father had been an old Newark classmate too, and she, so like so many others, had become entwined in the massive Scope holdings. She'd started working for various Scope enterprises while still in high school. Both she and her brother had paid for their education with Scope scholarship grants.

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