Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Book Excerpt: The Millionaire's Wife by Cathy Scott

Today's post is an excerpt from the first chapter of Los Angeles Times bestselling author Cathy Scott’s latest true-crime book, The Millionaire’s Wife: The True Story of a Real Estate Tycoon, is Beautiful Young Mistress, and a Marriage that Ended in Murder. George Kogan, a wealthy businessman, was cut down in broad daylight on an Upper Manhattan sidewalk. It's a fascinating read with lots of twists and turns.

A Cool Manhattan Morning
by Cathy Scott

A light rain fell over Manhattan on a weekday morning like any other. But life can change on a dime, and that’s exactly what happened as middle-aged business tycoon George Kogan hurried back to his ultra-chic Upper East Side apartment with a bag of groceries on each arm in anticipation of break- fasting at home with his young lover. The late morning of Tuesday, October 23, 1990, turned out to be anything but a typical day in the city.

On the busy sidewalk, George, who’d recently celebrated his forty-ninth birthday, turned the corner onto East Sixty- ninth Street and headed toward his mid-block building, between Second and Third. As he hurried down the tree-lined street, he didn’t notice anything unusual other than the cool morning temperature. He continued walking toward the canopied entrance to the co-op where he’d lived for the last two years with Mary-Louise Hawkins, a twenty-eight-year-old rising star in the public relations world. Across the street, carpenters noisily worked on the new Trump Palace high-rise apartment building. A few blocks away, Central Park was alive with pedestrians, bicyclists, and joggers as they coursed through the park’s major arteries to their destinations in New York City, where the drone of urban traffic awaited them. George enjoyed walking the neighborhood. He’d lose himself in the bustling sights and sounds of the city. And this day was no different.

Walking from the neighborhood Food Emporium, he looked forward to spending the late morning with Mary- Louise. Quiet breakfasts were how their relationship had moved from platonic to romantic, and they especially appreciated those moments. Plus, George was anxious to prepare for an afternoon meeting with his son, William, who was acting as mediator to nail down an agreeable divorce settlement with George’s estranged wife, Barbara, and bring to a conclusion the marriage that in essence had ended two years earlier.

As George headed home that morning, William telephoned his father’s apartment to confirm their afternoon appointment. Mary-Louise told him she’d have George return the call when he arrived home from the store. George was optimistic about the settlement and finally getting the lengthy divorce behind him, so he and Mary-Louise could move on with their life together. Also uppermost in George’s mind was settling the divorce to help repair the damaged relation- ship he’d had with William, who had sided with his mother after his parents’ separation.

As George continued his walk home, the usual cast of characters were out and about—nannies pushing babies in strollers, residents leaving their high-rises to walk their dogs, business people hurrying to the subway entrance just steps away. George, distracted with the nagging thought of the afternoon meeting, quickened his pace when his limestone building came into view.

He lived in the heart of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, once called the Silk Stocking District, so named for the attire worn by the rich people who had once lived there. Long gone was the 19th-century farmland, as well as the market and garden districts that had peppered the area. Left were skyscrapers, rows of stylish townhouses, mansions, and the occasional walk-up apartment building.

For a millionaire antiques and art dealer who had once had interests in a casino and several properties in Puerto Rico and New York, George lived a surprisingly modest life on New York’s well-to-do Upper East Side—broadly defined as the area from Fifty-ninth to Ninety-sixth Streets, east of Central Park. His living quarters with Mary-Louise Hawkins were definitely nice, although small, with just one bedroom and a marbled-bath washroom. And while the apartment had a prestigious address with the coveted 10021 zip code in a luxurious high-rise complex, it was not quite up to the elite level of Fifth Avenue, which serves as the symbol of wealthy New York, where George once lived with his now-estranged wife Barbara. Still, he admired the high-end building that housed his current apartment.

The Upper East Side has a legacy of outstanding eclectic architecture, including George’s pre-war apartment. The facade of his co-op, a mix of limestone and beige brick, created a grand entrance with its surround and above-the-door stone molding, with tall arched relief details and shallow columns on either side and carved renaissance-style capitals. Above that was a heavy, stately ornamental stone molding.

The variety of styles added a touch of grace and grandeur from a bygone era. As a connoisseur of fine antiques, George appreciated the artistry that went into the face of the building and enjoyed walking through the double-glass doorway, framed in oak, with its etched Art Deco design. What George could not know was that he would never again walk through that entryway, and the anticipated meeting with his son and his soon-to-be ex-wife to finalize the divorce was not to be. What happened next, he never saw coming.

As he neared the entrance to his Sixty-ninth Street apartment, his face flushed from the damp morning air, what he heard next was startling. It sounded like an explosion, most probably coming from the construction site across the street.

“What the—?” George cried out a nanosecond later, when it dawned on him what the noise really was. It was the distinct sound of gunfire.

No, no, no! he said to himself, and then, Mary-Louise!

The force of the bullets entering George’s back thrust him into a forward dive and catapulted him into the air; he landed in a skid on the rain-soaked concrete. He was face down just yards from his apartment lobby. Seconds felt like minutes.

Coins, bills, and groceries—a carton of eggs, a slab of cheese, a bottle of milk, pieces of fresh fruit—tumbled to the ground, along with George.

Sprawled on the sidewalk next to the wall, with his arms stretched out in front of him amidst the scattered groceries and money, George lifted his head and cried out, “Help me!”

The book is available at bookstores and online at Amazon.com.

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