Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Mystery of the Mysterious Boat, Chapter One, Part One

Begin with the beginning.

Chapter One

The Developer

New York City

When Kevin Traynor stepped out of the lobby of his Art Deco apartment building in the East Forties, he was greeted by a beautiful blue morning sky. The building was a vintage 1930s office tower that had been converted to apartments. The sun appeared as a golden sphere in the eastern sky: It was going to be a hot day by noon. Yet, at this hour, a refreshing breeze still swept from river to river.

Although it was not hot yet, he felt like taking off his black blazer. However, he remembered his shoulder holster. Was today the right day to introduce the silver spoon socialists to open carry? Or for that matter, to any kind of carry? Probably too early in the millennium. As he rebuttoned his blazer, the wind blew his red, white, and blue striped silk tie over his shoulder.

The lawyer did not have any appointments this forenoon — so he decided to walk to his office at First American Building. He joined the crowd of pedestrians heading for work on the concrete sidewalk. The Manhattan traffic — the concerto performed by limousines, cars, cabs, and buses — swallowed him.

Traynor did not stand out from the crowd in any visible way; he looked like the typical businessman. People who saw him might think he was on his way to some Wall Street trading floor. He was of medium height and weight. However, there was more than met the eye at first glance. In his bearing, in the way he walked and how he approached people, there was determination, self-confidence, and pride. It left the impression that he was going to be in charge of things wherever he went. He looked around. In the plate glass window of a bank building he saw the reflection of his angular face, short dark-blond hair, and aviator sunglasses.

When Traynor turned south onto Fifth Avenue, First American Building met his eye. It towered above all other skyscrapers, beckoning him as a beacon — a beacon of direction as well as of purpose. Rising above Fifth Avenue at Twenty-third Street, it was still quite a walk away.

The five towers of First American Building soared from the center and corners of a huge cube housing Manhattan's largest indoor shopping mall. The whole complex was clad in dark solar bronze glass. Each tower rose to be a perfect prism without any setbacks, each floor a perfect square of exactly the same size. The central tower was twice as tall as the four surrounding towers; its top was crowned by a communications tower.

Traynor looked up at the tower, at his office, at the antenna mast above. At its very apex flew the Stars and Stripes. Frequently, the Flag up there got tattered by the high winds, but it was always replaced — and the worn Flags were sold in the souvenir store of the building.

Below the limestone mountain of the Empire State Building Traynor dropped by at the excavation for a new office skyscraper he was developing with First American Corporation. The immense void stretching to Sixth Avenue and down to bedrock was crawling with yellow earthmover ants (Caterpillarus americanus). Way down below, behind the chain-link fence, Traynor identified several subspecies: excavators, bulldozers, wheel loaders, and dump trucks, to name a few. With the trucks removing the surplus soil via ramps, they were making short shrift of this excavation job. He had always wanted an Ant Farm like this. Just that when you got closer to yellow earthmover ants, you realized there was no way you could get those giants into your bedroom.

In a security container at a gate, Traynor signed in. A guard handed him a hard hat. Outside, dump trucks roared and rumbled along. He walked down one of the ramps.

At the bottom of the crater Traynor passed some excavators whose scoops had been replaced with a giant's power tools. Those with hydraulic shears were cutting down steel columns of demolished buildings. Those with hoe rams were breaking up concrete foundations and bedrock. Rock trenchers, which looked like bulldozers with huge chainsaws instead of blades, kept cutting and planing bedrock.

Traynor walked through the staccato of hardworking construction equipment and the scent of diesel exhaust. Yes, he loved the smell of diesel exhaust in the morning. He was looking for Steven "Steel" Gunnarson, the engineer who had designed the tower. When he had located him among the hard-hatted workmen and talked with him, Traynor continued downtown.

Beyond the treetops of Madison Square Park rose the Met Life Tower, a scaled-up imitation of the campanile of St. Mark's in Venice, Italy. Across Fifth Avenue from First American Building stood the old Flatiron Building. Once, it had been among the tallest in the city, before it was dwarfed by the Met Life Tower, then the tallest building in the world. Now, the five towers of First American Building dwarfed both of them. That was the essence of New York, thought Traynor: Taller tower tops tall tower — even taller tower tops both of them.

Traynor pushed his way through one of the revolving lobby doors of First American Building. The multi-story lobby of the skyscraper was lined with tiers of stores stacked to the roof of the atrium. The roof of the east atrium spanned far above him between the facades of two of the outer towers. He passed between the stainless steel columns supporting the facade of the main tower above.

Here, in the central atrium around the core of this tower, four powerful fountains shot jets of water to the ceiling high above. The decorative marble mastabas forming the centerpieces of the fountains were inscribed in silver letters with the corporate motto: "First American Corporation — The Highest, the Greatest, and the Best." On top of each marble slab revolved a huge golden Sign of the Dollar, framed by water jets.

Read on…

Or buy the full story.

No comments: