Mr. Namorato slid a single sheet of paper across the polished table. It broke down what was owed. The debt to the feds came to almost $2.5 million, and the meter on interest and penalties was running. The total was a breath shy of $3 million, an amount incomprehensible to me. Amounts owed to the District of Columbia and Maryland hadn’t yet been calculated. I stared at the numbers as the lawyers and accountant talked about my options. My inner voice begged: Don’t cry, don’t cry, not here, please don’t cry, not here, don’t cry, don’t cry.
“Well, she still has the issue of the promissory note.”
“We’re going to have to comb through that, but I don’t think it will fly.”
“The withholding is the big issue, and that’s where most of the debt is.”
“But we can try to flip that one issue with another.”
“No, it won’t work.”
“I think we go back to Deborah and ask for some backup on a few of these numbers.”
“At least Carol has her job at CNN. That looks good.”
“You can’t take this into a courtroom. It’s a slam-dunk against her.”
They debated while I sat there, invisible. No one asked my opinion. As the shock of the numbers wore off and I began to tune in to the lawyers’ words, something inside me clicked.
“Wait!” I said. “Stop! Listen to me.” All eyes shifted. “I don’t understand any of this.” I gestured at the documents on the table, the pages of evidence, the numbers that totaled up the debt. “And I don’t understand half of what you’re saying.”
I looked from one lawyer to the next. “Doesn’t anybody understand that I didn’t do this?” I said. “They’ve got the wrong person. The person who did this is dead! This is all news to me. I found out only two weeks ago that we even have mortgages. There wasn’t anything about our lives that struck me as inappropriate. Yes, we lived well, but it wasn’t outrageous, it wasn’t ridiculous, it wasn’t gross and over the top. My husband had a successful business. He had an inheritance. It all made sense to me.”
I continued to fight back the tears. The last thing I wanted was to let these people see me crumble.
“I don’t know what Howard did,” I said. “I hope that whatever it was, he didn’t do it on purpose, that it was a mistake. But I can’t ask him. He’s not here. I do know this: I didn’t do it, and my son didn’t do it. I’m innocent.”
Next: Grief will have to wait.