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January, 2014

It was so fucking cold that Ingrid got the sudden urge to turn her husband's grave into a bonfire pit. Of course Jacob Jeremiah 'Jack' Astor II had chosen the coldest month on record to jump from a bridge into the Hudson River. In death, such as in life, he favoured superlatives and his ex-wife had seen to it that his funeral was no exception.

His actual widow, on the other hand, had long run out of fucks to give.

Ingrid sometimes imagined Jack landing headfirst onto a lump of ice, his neck breaking on impact and his body tilting sideways in slow-motion, like a cartoon character's. The coroner had disproved that notion, though. Jack, chock-full of cocaine, hadn't broken his neck, but it'd been hard to tell whether he'd drowned or frozen to death first.

One thing was for sure – his lungs had taken in enough Hudson water to prove that his corpse hadn't just been dumped there. The river had killed him, not something – or someone – else. Thankfully, the cops had come to the same conclusion in the end.

Ingrid sunk her fists into the deep pockets of her coat. A horde of black-clad mourners had gathered round the grave, taking up more space than she would have liked. She felt out of place in this sad, sympathetic congregation. Guilty that she, despite her best efforts, could muster up no sorrow. Not even for show.

Jack's ex-wife and her children, however, looked absolutely gutted. Ingrid caught the tearful eye of twenty-year-old Jacob Jr and quickly averted her gaze. The little bastard had had the nerve to try to get into her pants while his father's remains awaited to be released from the morgue's refrigerator. Excruciating grief, he'd cited, and as she'd pushed him off, it'd been all Ingrid could do not to slap him to shit.

After what seemed like freezing fucking forever, the crowd began to clear and Ingrid stood still on the edge of her husband's final resting place, until everyone had trickled away. The ex-wife spared her one last glare, before she walked off with her kids.

Ingrid removed her warm hands from her pockets. She exhaled clouds of steam as she breathed, lifting her left hand up to her face. Her fingers shivered, except not from the cold. A single teardrop escaped from the corner of her eye. Gulping, she worked the golden wedding band off her ring finger and tossed it on top of the casket. It clattered into the depths of the grave and when silence settled again, she turned on her heel and strode away.

In her wake, the gravediggers began to shovel dirt into the hole they'd dredged up.

September, 2017

The flight from London to New York was long, but The Brennan Company had splurged on premium tickets for all five passengers: CEO Ian E. Brennan, Brexit taskforce duo, Ingrid Astor and Priyanka Mallick, Ian's assistant, Yvonne, and the driver-slash-bodyguard, Murphy, who had ultimately decided to join the expedition. They landed at JFK in the afternoon, sore, sleepy and starving.

Amidst the crowd gathered at the arrivals gate, Ian quickly spotted his daughter's fiery hair and called out to her. "Caitlin! Over here!"

They pushed their luggage along and the girl ran towards them, launching herself into her father's arms. He lifted her off her feet and spun her around. Caitlin gave a quick shriek.

"Oh, daddy!"

"Hey, pumpkin. Goodness." Ian cupped his daughter's face and kissed her forehead. "I missed you so much."

He surveyed her from head to toe, tried to pinpoint the exact changes she'd undergone in the past year, and failed. Keeping her close to him in a half-hug, he turned around and introduced her to the gang.

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