Kate Raab's life seems almost perfect: her boyfriend, her job, her family . . . until her father runs into trouble with the law. His only recourse is to testify against his former accomplices in exchange for his family's placement in the Witness Protection Program. But one of them gets cold feet. In a flash, everything Kate can count on is gone.
Now, a year later, her worst fears have happened: Her father has disappeared—into what the WITSEC agency calls "the blue zone"—and someone close to him is found brutally murdered. With her family under surveillance, the FBI untrustworthy, and her father's menacing "friends" circling with increasing intensity, Kate sets off to find her father—and uncover the secrets someone will kill to keep buried.
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Blue Zone, The
Gold was up 2 percent the morning Benjamin Raab's life began to fall apart.
He was leaning back at his desk, looking down on Forty-seventh Street, in the lavish comfort of his office high above the Avenue of the Americas, the phone crooked in his neck.
"I'm waiting, Raj. . . ."
Raab had a spot gold contract he was holding for two thousand pounds. Over a million dollars. The Indians were his biggest customers, one of the largest exporters of jewelry in the world. Two percent. Raab checked the Quotron screen. That was thirty thousand dollars. Before lunch.
"Raj, c'mon," Raab prodded. "My daughter's getting married this afternoon. I'd like to make it if I can. . . ."
"Katie's getting married?" The Indian seemed to be hurt. "Ben, you never said..."
"It's just an expression, Raj. If Kate was getting married, you'd be there. But, Raj, c'mon . . . we're talking gold here...not pastrami. It doesn't go bad."
This was what Raab did. He moved gold. He'd owned his own trading company near New York's diamond district for twenty years. Years ago he had started out buying inventory from the mom-and-pop jewelers who were going out of business. Now he supplied gold to half the dealers on the Street. As well as to some of the largest exporters of jewelry across the globe.
Everyone in the trade knew him. He could hardly grab a turkey club at the Gotham Deli down the street without one of the pushy, heavyset Hasids squeezing next to him in the booth with the news of some dazzling new stone they were peddling. (Though they always chided that as a Sephardi he wasn't even one of their own.) Or one of the young Puerto Rican runners who delivered the contracts, thanking him for the flowers he'd sent to their wedding. Or the Chinese, looking to hedge some dollars against a currency play. Or the Australians, tantalizing him with uncut blocks of industrial-quality stones.
I've been lucky, Raab always said. He had a wife who adored him, three beautiful children who made him proud. His house in Larchmont (a whole lot more than just a house) that overlooked the Long Island Sound, and the Ferrari 585, which Raab once raced at Lime Rock and had its own special place in the five-car garage. Not to mention the box at Yankee Stadium and the Knicks tickets, on the floor of the Garden, just behind the bench.
Betsy, his assistant for over twenty years, stepped in carrying a chef's salad on a plate along with a cloth napkin, Raab's best defense against his proclivity for leaving grease stains on his Hermès ties. She rolled her eyes. "Raji, still . . . ?"
Benjamin shrugged, drawing her eye to his notepad where he had already written down the outcome: $648.50. He knew that his buyer was going to take it. Raj always did. They'd been doing this little dance for years. But did he always have to play out the drama so long?
"Okay, my friend." The Indian buyer sighed at last in surrender. "We consider it a deal."
"Whew, Raj." Raab exhaled in mock relief. "The Financial Times is outside waiting on the exclusive."
The Indian laughed, too, and they closed out the deal: $648.50, just as he'd written down.
Betsy smiled..."He says that every time, doesn't he?"...trading the handwritten contract for two glossy travel brochures that she placed next to his plate.
Raab tucked the napkin into the collar of his Thomas Pink striped shirt. "Fifteen years."
All one had to do was step into Raab's crowded office and it was impossible not to notice the walls and credenzas crammed with pictures of Sharon, his wife, and his children...Kate, the oldest, who had graduated from Brown; Emily, who was sixteen, and nationally ranked at squash; and Justin, two years younger...and all the fabulous family trips they'd taken over the years.
The villa in Tuscany. Kenya on safari. Skiing at Courchevel in the French Alps. Ben in his driver's suit with Richard Petty at the Porsche rally school.
And that's what he was doing over lunch, mapping out their next big trip...the best one yet. Machu Picchu. The Andes. Then on a fantastic walking tour of Patagonia. Their twenty-fifth anniversary was coming up. Patagonia had always been one of Sharon's dreams.
"My next life"...Betsy grinned as she shut the office door..."I'm making sure I come back as one of your kids."
"Next life," Raab called after her, "I am, too."
Suddenly a loud crash came from the outer office. At first Raab thought it was an explosion or a break-in. He thought about triggering the alarm. Sharp, unfamiliar voices were barking commands.
Betsy rushed back in, a look of panic on her face. A step behind, two men in suits and navy windbreakers pushed through the door.
"Yes . . ." He stood up and faced the tall, balding man who had addressed him, who seemed to be in charge. "You can't just barge in here like this. What the hell's going on . . . ?"
"What's going on, Mr. Raab"...the man tossed a folded document onto the desk..."is that we have a warrant from a federal judge for your arrest."
"Arrest . . . ?" Suddenly people in FBI jackets were everywhere. His staff was being rounded up and told to vacate. "What the hell for?"
"For money laundering, aiding and abetting a criminal enterprise, conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government," the agent read off. "How's that, Mr. Raab? The contents of this office are being impounded as material evidence in this case."
Before he could utter another word, the second agent, a young Hispanic, spun Raab around, forcing his arms roughly behind him, and slapped a set of handcuffs on his wrists, his whole office looking on.
"This is crazy!" Raab twisted, trying to look the agent in the face.
"Sure it is," the Hispanic agent chortled. He lifted the travel brochures out of Raab's hands. "Too bad." He winked, tossing them back onto the desk. "Seemed like one helluva trip."Blue Zone, The. Copyright © by Andrew Gross. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.