Blood and Money
Elizabeth La Cause, one of Nancy's close friends, says that at that point, the marriage looked like it was made in heaven. "Yeah, it was. It looked perfect," Nancy's husband John agrees.
By the time their first child was born, Robert was on the fast track in the high stakes world of investment banking. "Rob was a guy, if you look at, and you took to for five minutes, you would go, obviously, this guy is gonna make it," John La Cause explains.
It didn't take long for Robert to become a star in financial circles, although he had to go half way around the world to do it. In 1997, Robert and Nancy moved their family to Hong Kong. It seemed the perfect place for Robert but in this prosperous city so far from home, his seemingly charmed life was about to take an unexpected turn.
When Robert was transferred to Hong Kong, southeast Asia was in financial turmoil, allowing the ambitious investment banker to buy up assets for a fraction of their value, earning him millions.
Robert, his wife Nancy, and their three children joined Hong Kong's privileged community of expatriates, known as "expats."
Like the Kissels, Kazuko Oshi and her husband, business journalist Andrew Tanzer, lived in Parkview, a luxury complex overlooking the city. "If you are in Parkview, don't really have to go out. There is a kindergarten there. There's a big supermarket there," Oshi explains. "Two or three pools and tennis courts."
Living in Parkview was like living in a nice resort, a very expensive resort. The Kissels were paying $20,000 a month for their sprawling home. Nancy and Robert drove fancy cars and sent their kids to private school.
By 2003, Robert was one of Merrill Lynch's top guys in southeast Asia; Nancy's life was centered around her children. "Nancy seemed very happy. She always tried to please Rob. She was always very proud of what he achieved," remembers neighbor Trudy Samra, who became a close friend. "On the outside world it appeared she had the perfect life."
But the reality, says Trudy, can be much different. "I mean in the beginning it's all very overwhelming and it's fantastic and it's a great city. And you have a beautiful apartment. And then the husband ends up being away much more than he promised and you spend many nights alone," she says.
The isolation and stress of living in Hong Kong can be too much for some marriages. But if Nancy and Robert were struggling, they hid it from friends.
Andrew Tanzer first met the Kissels on the day he brought his daughter to their apartment for a playdate. "And the girls did sort of disappear into the other end of the apartment. And I started chatting with Robert. He was very relaxed and, you know, confident," Tanzer remembers.
As Tanzer was about to go home, Nancy insisted the girls serve a milkshake she had made. Tanzer, feeling obligated to drink it, downed his shake. "I did sort of because I was a guest. So, yes. It had some strange taste which I could not recognize, he remembers.
Sometime after Tanzer left the Kissel home that Sunday afternoon, Robert disappeared. When he didn't make a conference call the following day, a colleague reported him missing.
Nancy kept it secret from the children, but told others that she and Robert had a terrible fight and he had left.
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