One afternoon in early September, I pulled up to the gates of a nine-acre estate in North Dallas. I waited for them to open, then drove down a long, curving lane to a 15,254-square-foot mansion that looked like a country home for England’s royal family. I rang the doorbell, and a voice over the intercom said, “Please, come in.” But when I opened the door, there was no one to greet me.
I stood for a few moments in the foyer, which featured marble floors, Asian vases the size of Gemini rockets, and a gilded chandelier, and then I ambled toward the living room, which contained thirteen chairs, two couches, two benches, and a grand piano. A couple of semi-priceless portraits hung on the walls: one of George Washington, painted by James Peale, and the other of Benjamin Franklin, painted by Joseph Duplessis. In the distance were the kinds of hushed sounds you tend to hear only in the homes of the very wealthy: a vacuum cleaner humming in a faraway room, a lawn mower purring over a back lawn, the solemn ticking of a clock. A gray cat that must have weighed twenty pounds walked across the room, paused to look at me, and padded away. “Hello?” I called out meekly.
Then there was a new sound: tennis shoes squeaking over the floor. And suddenly, whipping around a corner, came the mansion’s owner, 59-year-old Lisa Blue