Chapter One This little jaunt was a departure from Jack's SOP of meeting prospective customers in a place of his choosing, but he didn't expect any problems this go-round. Beekman Place was hardly a Manhattan trouble zone. The day was so nice he'd decided to walk. No big deal. Only a couple of miles from his apartment, but a big jump in rental price. A cab ride would deprive him of this beautiful day. Autumn was strengthening its grip on the city: cooler temperatures, gustier winds...sweater weather. Jack's was a cranberry V-neck, worn over a blue-and-white plaid shirt and tan slacks. The preppy look. Never out of place in Midtown. Medium-length brown hair, medium brown eyes, medium height, medium build. Nothing special about him. Just the way he liked it. Practically invisible. The summer haze had fled south, leaving the midday sky a piercing blue; red and yellow leaves whirligigged from branches, and all the Duane Reades sported ghosts and goblins and spiderwebs in their windows. The official Halloween countdown had dwindled to less than twelve hours. Just last night Vicky had put on her Wicked Witch of the West costume---green skin, warty nose, the whole deal---and modeled it for Jack. She fairly vibrated with anticipation. Nine years old going on forty, she loved dressing up, and loved candy. Halloween was the one day of the year---well, maybe Christmas too---that Gia let her daughter's sweettooth call the shots. Come November 1 it would be back to reality: Boca Burgers, kasha and beans, and one---just one---piece of candy for dessert. And for me, Jack thought, one Whopper with cheese to go, please. He'd come down Central Park West, past a large, cheering rally of some sort on one of the park greens, walked east over to First Avenue, then turned downtown. The Trump World Tower was looming large in his vision when he hung a left onto East Fifty-first. A block later he stepped onto Beekman Place. It ran between Fifty-first and Forty-ninth. Right. A whole two blocks long. Felt like he'd stepped from a wrestling match into a library. The bare-bones bustle of First Avenue was gone, replaced by party-colored trees lining quiet pavements. He'd Googled the area before coming over. Interesting history. Nathan Hale had been held prisoner in one of these mansions before his execution. Billy Rose used to live here, so had Irving Berlin, although his old place now housed the Luxembourg mission to the UN. Jack walked past canopied front entrances attended by liveried doormen until he came to the brick and granite front of 37 Beekman Place. He nodded to the Hispanic-looking doorman in the gray uniform with black piping. "Can I help you, sir?" His English carried only a hint of a Spanish accent. The nameplate over his left breast read Esteban. "I'm here to see Mrs. Roselli. She's expecting me." Esteban led the way into an echoey lobby: white marble floor, white marble walls, white marble ceiling. He lifted the receiver attached to an intercom in the left lobby wall. "And who shall I say is calling?" "Jack." "May I have your last name, sir?" "Just Jack. Like I said, she's expecting me." He looked dubious but pressed two numbers on the pad. "Ms. Roselli? There is a 'Jack' here to see you." Esteban listened a few seconds, then hung up. "Apartment one A, sir." He pointed to a hallway leading off the lobby. "First door on your right." He stared at Jack. "Are you related?" "No. We've never met. Why do you ask?" "Just curious. IWilson, F. Paul is the author of 'Crisscross A Repairman Jack Novel', published 2004 under ISBN 9780765306913 and ISBN 0765306913.