Last August, a month before he died, Dominick Dunne sat at his table at Patroon surveying the elegant lunch-time crowd, the glitterati he often wrote about in his column for Vanity Fair, and waited for me.
Our lunches had become regular affairs. We often met on Wednesdays, trading bits of gossip over lobster rolls and Diet Cokes.
"There's Jeremy Piven," he whispered, as the actor made his way to our table to pay his respects to Dominick, who had just returned from a trip to the Dominican Republic where he underwent treatment for bladder cancer. Despite the advancing disease and the muggy heat in Midtown, Dominick was always impeccably turned out in his trademark bespoke suits and colorful ties.
It was during espresso, when the table was cleared, that we'd begin talking about our works in progress. Dominick gave me a rundown of where he was at in Too Much Money, which was in its final edit. The novel was based on Manhattan's most glamorous socialites, a group which included Lily Safra - the woman whose life story is the subject of my book, Gilded Lily: Lily Safra, The Making of One of the World's Wealthiest Widows.
Dominick had written several articles about Lily following the death of her fourth husband, the legendary banker Edmond Safra, in a terrible fire at their Monaco apartment in 1999. Dominick found her endlessly fascinating. He had covered the sensational Monaco trial of Ted Maher, the American nurse who was convicted of starting the blaze, but he had never been able to interview Lily, who inherited $4 billion when Safra died. He knew almost nothing about her origins and quizzed me about the three years I spent in Rio de Janeiro chronicling her early life. He was intrigued with her second husband, Alfredo Monteverde, an appliance store magnate, who died in 1969. Monteverde was killed with two shots to the chest. The Rio police ruled it a suicide and closed the case after a short investigation.
Dominick raised an eyebrow. I passed him the manila envelope with the parts of my manuscript he had not yet read.
After lunch, I walked him the few blocks to his apartment on East Forty-Ninth Street. In the lobby, he stopped to catch his breath. And he suddenly looked very frail.
"We all have to keep going," I told him. "We all have to keep searching for the truth."
"You betcha," he said. "But it's up to you now."
And then he kissed me on both cheeks, and made for the elevator.
It was the last time I saw him.