A Killer's Charmed life

By Manuel Roig-Franzia
Sunday, May 31, 2009

The killer at middle age lives in a stately, terra-cotta-colored Georgian colonial on the same Baltimore block as a former U.S. senator.

He pads in his socks across finely woven Persian carpets -- "This one would be worth $100,000 if it were in better shape," he remarks offhandedly. He passes the buttery soft Le Corbusier leather sofas arranged by his interior designer and the burbling fountain positioned just so by his feng shui consultant in a living room where soothing classical music is almost always on the stereo. The tranquil ambiance offers no hint of the defining moment of Bill Bond's life: a sudden flash of teenage violence nearly three decades ago that he once tried to profit from and has never denied.

Rather than occupying a prison cell, Bond has spent most of his adult life among Baltimore's elite, playing tennis at the finest clubs, dining at French bistros, schmoozing at gourmet groceries. He walks his majestically coiffed champion showdog, Magic -- a powerful Briard, the breed once favored by Napoleon and Thomas Jefferson -- through the manicured gardens near his home in Guilford, a neighborhood famed for its sumptuous spring tulip bloom.

But a creeping anxiety has entered Bond's carefully constructed world, a sense that the ground is giving way beneath him.

He's lost his heiress wife, whose wealth, along with his own family inheritances, helped him indulge in the good life without a paying job before their separation. He's lost a long, wildly tentacled legal battle aimed at preserving control of the untold story of his dark history -- a complicated copyright dispute that he pursued, unsuccessfully, all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court this year. And now he's about to lose some of his finest wine.

Bond opens the basement door and starts down the stairs, followed by a wine broker, who claims his business is too hush-hush for his name to appear in print. They veer past a wall stacked high with legal filing boxes. One of them is labeled "Bond book." That's the one he refuses to show anyone.

The broker swings open a door in the back corner, revealing a climate-controlled room crammed floor to ceiling with hundreds of bottles.

"How about the Sassicaia?" the broker says, referring to an exquisite "Super Tuscan" that can go for hundreds of dollars a bottle.

Bond nods grudgingly -- even selling off a fraction of his collection is painful. "I'm not going to watch this," he says, turning his back and pacing.

The broker calls out, "You've got a '96 Lafite here!"

Bond throws up his hands. "Don't touch that!"

Even more off-limits is the box at the opposite end of the basement. Inside is a 600-page manuscript that has never been published but has become the pivot of Bonds's life. Once, it amounted to a halting attempt to explain himself and, just as importantly, make him as rich as the people around him.

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