Breeden took a sip of water. "For the family it was fortune followed by tragedy. Less than two months before Elizabeth's death, Burbank's drilling venture off the coast of West Africa struck oil and the stock in his company went through the ceiling. He became an overnight multimillionaire and since then, through careful investment of capital, has become a billionaire several times over."
She paused, and Munroe motioned for her to continue.
"Prior to this the family wasn't hurting by any means. Richard Burbank had done well in life through high-risk enterprises that paid off, and he also married well both times. Elizabeth came from old money, ran with the Houston elite, so it's safe to say that they were already well-off before the oil windfall. Elizabeth was Richard's second marriage - Emily, the girl who's missing, is Elizabeth's daughter from a previous marriage. Richard legally adopted her when she was seventeen. It was right around their ten-year anniversary. He and Elizabeth held a recommitment ceremony, and he let Emily choose a charity for a big donation in their honor."
The waiter approached with the meal, and Breeden stopped. Munroe flicked the napkin over her lap and inhaled the aroma coming off her plate. "So," she said, "he's a philanthropist. What else? What's he like as a person?"
"It's hard to say," Breeden replied. "My impression while on the phone is that he's no-nonsense, he gets what he wants. There isn't a lot of press coverage on him prior to the oil discovery. His company, Titan Exploration, has been publicly traded for almost seven years, but there's little mention of Burbank other than to point out that he's the founder and a major stockholder. He seems to be somewhat camera shy."
Munroe nodded and chewed. She cleared her throat. "For a hundred grand, I'll listen to what he has to say. But make sure he knows that I'm coming for the money and out of pure curiosity."
"I believe he'll want to see you as soon as possible."
"Try to arrange it a few days from now - give me some time to catch my breath."
"How are things this time around?" Breeden asked.
"Hasn't changed much. I deal." Munroe put down the knife and fork. Discussing the insanity inside her head was out of the question; it was a private hell best lived alone. "I'm fine," she said.
Breeden pulled out a cell phone. "Before I forget." She handed it to Munroe. "So I don't have to hunt you down. Number's on the back, charger's in the briefcase. I'll call you as soon as I've got the appointment sorted out."
The meal over, Munroe returned to her room, disassembled the file, glanced through the pages, and at some point in the middle became intrigued. When she found herself losing track of time, she set the alarm clock and went back to the beginning, starting with the summary from the official files.
Whoever had written this document described the Africa that she knew well and had long given up trying to forget. Munroe became lost in the pages until the alarm buzzed a reminder that something needed attention. Noah Johnson.
He would be the distraction du jour, the assignment of the night. She shuffled the papers into a semblance of order and tossed them on the desk. She leaned her head back, closed her eyes, and pulled in a deep breath, followed it with several more - a shift from one work mode into the next.
She found him at the bar, staring into his drink. Even from a distance, he was beautiful, and if he hadn't been so immersed in his own thoughts, he might have noticed the glances from several women nearby. Munroe sat at the opposite end of the bar, ordered a drink, and requested that a second of what he was having be taken to him. When the glass arrived, he looked up and then in her direction as the bartender pointed her way. She leaned beyond the couple blocking his view and gave a slight wave. He smiled, picked up the glass, and walked toward her. "Bonsoir," he said, and seated himself on the adjacent stool, then raised his glass in thanks.
Excerpted from The Informationist by Taylor Stevens. Copyright © 2011 by Taylor Stevens. Excerpted by permission of Crown. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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