Harold Ganz was a cold-blooded swindler. If asked, he would have justified his actions: he’d provided Franyo, poor, lonely, neglected widow, with company, support, kindness and advice. And he would have added, probably rather smugly, that he had brokered the most advantageous deal for her – she got half the cash up front and was able to go on living with her collection for a few years after the sale. In reality, he robbed her of happiness and broke her heart.
Given the way Vivi and I had distanced ourselves, Franyo was ripe for the pickin’. And she had more to sell: a nice little collection of Ancient Greek and Cycladic art that my father had put together over the years. No question Harold was already salivating over the $$$ he could make off those fine pieces. Cleverly, with all his stories that Franyo needed someone level-headed and neutral as executor – not arguing sisters – he had gotten himself written into her will. For this he used the same shady lawyer who’d drawn up the paperwork for art sale #1. And that was my first clue that something truly sinister was going on. When I looked up the lawyer, I discovered that he had no office, did not operate out of a firm, but rather out of his apartment which was in the same building Harold lived in. With that piece of information, Vivi and I wasted no time hiring detectives.
One of the first things we learned was that an unscrupulous executor could walk off with half the estate – or more – and get away with it since the accounting was not until the end. This was scary news since Franyo, now eighty-three and nowhere near as sharp or strong as she used to be, was on a trip to Paris with Harold. (The wife, Sharon, had stayed behind.) Her balance was poor; she walked with an elderly shuffle she couldn’t disguise, even sometimes, despite her vanity, resorting to a cane. With one little push, she could be knocked over, bang her head on the pavement or a piece of furniture. Harold, who she thought was so sweet and kind, would benefit greatly from her death.
Vivi and I were frantic. We had both been on trips to Paris with Franyo and knew how the day went: long, idling meals that could become torture with the same conversations repeated over and over, daily trips to the milliner (Franyo was renowned for her hats, all custom made in Paris), visits to a few choice galleries where she was kissed and fawned over like visiting royalty. Every activity took hours. She was painfully slow getting dressed, negotiating her way out of the hotel, or down the street into a bookstore or shop. Since she could be rude, tactless and bossy, whoever accompanied her needed the patience of a saint. It didn’t matter if you were a family member or friend: Franyo treated all traveling companions equally – with a mix of irritation, condescension, bursts of enthusiastic good humor, undertones of scorn. No wonder we were worried about her trip to Paris with master swindler, Harold Ganz.
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