Sidney Sheldon's Chasing Tomorrow(7)

By: Sidney Sheldon&Tilly Bagshawe

“It’s the first rule of real estate, Max,” Ari Steinberg had warned him. “Don’t buy a pig in a poke. You taught me that, remember?”

“The problem is, some stupid monsignor’s already poking my pig. He’s got this chick wrapped around his little finger, Ari. I need to make a move before he does.”

The lawyer was insistent. “You haven’t seen the land. You gotta see the land.”

“I’ve seen the deeds. I’ve seen the building permits. And I know where it is. Prime coast, Ari, the best. We’re talking a Brazilian Malibu.”

“But, Max . . .”

“If we were talking about a ten percent profit, or twenty, or even fifty, I’d agree with you. But I can get this for peanuts! A fraction of what it’s worth. Wire her the money.”

“I strongly urge you to reconsider.”

“And I strongly urge you to do what the hell I tell you, Ari.”

Maximilian Pierpont hung up.

Stepping out of his Bentley, he ducked under the orange construction tape that marked the entry to the Di Sorrenti property. Make that the Pierpont property, he thought gleefully. A team of surveyors were already on-site. Pierpont walked up to the chief surveyor, smiling broadly.

“Whaddaya think? Quite a view, huh?” He couldn’t help boasting.

The chief surveyor looked at him steadily. “You can’t build a house here.”

Maximilian Pierpont laughed. “What do you mean I can’t build a house here? I can do whatever I want. It’s my land.”

“That’s not the point.”

“Sure it’s the point.” Pierpont stopped laughing. This dweeb was starting to annoy him. “I got legal permits, set in stone.”

“I’m afraid that’s all that’s set in stone,” said the surveyor. “The ground you’re standing on?” He tapped at the grass beneath their feet with a stick. “This time next year it won’t be here.”

A chill ran down Maximilian Pierpont’s spine. “What?”

“This is some of the worst erosion I’ve seen. Ever. It’s an ecological tragedy. Anything you build here will be down there before the walls are dry.” The surveyor pointed at the beach below. Reached by a charming set of winding wooden steps, its soft white sand looked mockingly perfect.

“But this area, this stretch of the coast . . . prices are sky-high,” Pierpont spluttered.

“Halfway up the mountain, sure,” said the surveyor. “You got this knockout view. But here?” He shrugged. “Here you are the view. Didn’t anyone say anything to you when you applied for these permits?”

“I didn’t apply for them. The previous owner did.”

The surveyor frowned, confused. “Really? That’s odd. Because they’re only a week old.”

Behind Maximilian Pierpont, the leaves of the rain forest rustling softly in the breeze sounded uncannily like Ari Steinberg’s laughter.

THE APARTMENT IN LEBLON took up the entire top floor of a grand Victorian mansion. The door was opened by a British butler in full uniform.

“I want to see the Countess Di Sorrenti.” Maximilian Pierpont’s jowly face looked uglier than ever, like a bulldog chewing a wasp. That bitch is giving me my money back if I have to beat it out of her with a crowbar. Hopefully it wouldn’t come to that. Valentina was so stupid, she probably didn’t realize herself that the land was worthless. It should be a simple enough thing to convince her to go back to the monsignor.

“I’m sorry, sir. Who?”

Maximilian Pierpont glared at the butler.

“Now listen to me, Jeeves. I’ve had a bad day as it is. I don’t need any more aggravation. You go and tell Valentina that Maximilian Pierpont is here.”

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