Fifth Avenue: Chapter One (Full Chapter)

10/06/2010 Posted by Admin


New York City

The bombs, placed high above Fifth Avenue on the roof of The Redman International Building, would explode in five minutes.
Now, with its mirrored walls of glass reflecting Fifth Avenue's thick, late-morning traffic, the building itself seemed alive with movement. 
On scaffolding at the building's middle, men and women were hanging the enormous red velvet ribbon that would soon cover sixteen of Redman International's seventy-nine stories.  High above on the roof, a lighting crew was moving ten spotlights into position.  And inside, fifty skilled decorators were turning the lobby into a festive ballroom.
Celina Redman, who was in charge of the event, stood before the building with her arms folded.  Streams of people were brushing past her on the sidewalk, some glancing up at the red ribbon, others stopping to glance in surprise at her.  She tried to ignore them, tried to focus on her work and become one with the crowd, but it was difficult.  Just that morning, her face and this building had been on the cover of every major paper in New York. 
She admired the building before her. 
Located on the corner of Fifth and 49th Street, the building was the product of thirty-one years of her father's life.  Founded when George Redman was twenty-six, Redman International was among the world's leading conglomerates.  It included a commercial airline, office and condominium complexes, textile and steel mills and, soon, WestTex Incorporated--one of the country's largest shipping corporations.  With this building on Fifth Avenue, all that stood in George Redman's way was the future.  And by all appearances, it was as bright as the diamonds Celina chose to wear later that evening.
"The spotlights are ready, Miss Redman."
Celina turned and faced a member of the lighting crew.  Later that evening, the spotlights would illuminate the red ribbon.  “Let's try them out."
The man reached for the cell phone clipped to his belt.  While he gave the men on the roof the go-ahead, Celina looked down at the list on her clipboard and wondered again how she would get everything done in time for the party. 
The flowers had yet to be delivered and then arranged on the two hundred tables for eight; the caterers had phoned saying they were late but would be there within the hour, which was three hours ago; the barmen had arrived, but with only half the alcohol she ordered and not a drop of champagne; the walnut dance floor her mother insisted on having was nowhere in sight; and the scaffolding, the damned scaffolding that had taken hours to erect so they could hang the damned ribbon, had to be removed soon, before night fell and the guests arrived.
With such severe time limitations, Celina didn't know how she would pull it all off.  But she would.  All her life she had been trained by her father to work under pressure.  Today was just another challenge.
Hal nodded at her.  "Should be any time now," he said.
Celina tucked the clipboard beneath her arm and looked up at the roof.  She was thinking that, at this distance, she would never see if they worked when a switch was flipped and three of the ten spotlights exploded into flames. 
For a moment, she couldn't move. 
Thousands of shards of jagged glass were hurtling toward her, glinting in the sun. 
She could see a great cloud of black smoke billowing on top of the building. 
There was fire--roaring, twisting toward the sky. 
And there was one of the spotlights, flipping through the air, rushing toward her and the ground.
She felt a hand on her arm and was pulled to safety just as the spotlight whooshed past her and slammed onto the sidewalk, where it cracked the cement and burst into a shower of fiery red sparks.  For a moment, everything went silent--and then the glass began to hit in a deafening cascade of sound.
She was pressed against the building, frozen in fear as she watched traffic on Fifth veer right, away from the fallen spotlight, and snarl to a halt.  Suddenly, there was nothing but the squeal of metal crushing metal, the shrilling of car horns and the frightened cries of passersby, some of whom were cut from the falling glass. 
Stunned, Celina looked at Hal.  He was in the street, looking up at the roof, shouting something into his cell phone.  His face was flushed.  The cords stood out on his neck.  There was so much noise, Celina couldn't hear what he was saying.  She took a tentative step forward, toward the crushed spotlight, and knew exactly what he was saying--the men on the roof were hurt.
She hurried into the lobby, shot past the waterfall and stepped into her father's private elevator. 
The building was too tall.  The elevator was too slow.  No matter how quickly she raced to the top, it wasn't fast enough.
Finally, the doors opened and she stepped onto the roof. 
People were running and shouting and pushing.  Some stood motionless in fear and disbelief.  Those who had been standing near the spotlights when they exploded were either silent with shock, or crying in pain from the burns that ravaged their bodies. 
She moved forward and nearly was run into by someone rushing for help.  She watched the man pass, her lips parting when she realized he had no hair.  It had been burned off.
She forced herself to focus.  She had inherited her father's strength and it was this that she called on now.
Through the smoke that whipped past her in soiled veils of black, she could see the damage--at roof's edge, two of the remaining nine spotlights were engulfed in flames, their wires twisting like angry snakes on the ground beside them.  Mark Rand, the man in charge of the lighting, was standing near the spotlights, shouting orders, trying to gain control.  Celina went over to him, her legs weak.  Although she didn't know what she would do or how she would help, she was damned if she would do nothing.
Rand pointed at one of the burning lights as she approached.  "There's a man trapped behind that spotlight.  When the lights blew, he fell back and struck his head on the concrete.  He's unconscious."
"Why isn't anyone helping him?"
Mark pointed to the tangled mass of writhing wires.  "No one's going near them," he said.  "It's too dangerous."
"Then turn off the power."
"We can't," he said, and motioned toward the generator at the opposite end of the roof.  Although it was still running, it, too, was alight with flames.  "It could blow at any moment."
Celina's mind raced.  Through the smoke, she could see the young man lying on his stomach, his arms outstretched, the live wires curling inches from his body.  She scanned the roof for something that could help him.  Anything.
And then she saw it. 
She grabbed Mark's arm and they went to the crane that was behind them.
"This is the crane that lifted the lights up here?"
"That's right."
"Then use it to get rid of them."
Mark looked at the spotlights.  Their casings were coated with a hard shell of rubber to resist dents.  It would not conduct electricity. 
He scrambled into the crane.
Celina stood back and watched him bring the enormous steel hook about.  It swung swiftly through the smoky air, glinting once in a dim band of sunlight and was upon one of the burning spotlights in what seemed like seconds.  It took several tries before he hooked the tip of the spotlight's casing.  And when he did, when he finally lifted the spotlight into the air, one of the wires hissing beneath it rested against the fallen man's forearm, sending him into convulsions.
Celina's hands flew to her mouth.  She watched the man's head arch back into an impossible position.  Reacting instinctively, she rushed forward and knelt beside him--just as Mark Rand began swinging the spotlight over her. 
With a start, he pulled back hard on the controls, lifting the spotlight away from Celina with a jerk, causing it to jump and waver on its hook.  For one terrible moment, he felt sure it was going to jump the hook and fall on top of her.  The spotlight was teetering in the air, no more than ten feet above her, spewing black smoke as it swayed on its metal line.  The wires snapping beneath it were almost touching her back.  But gradually, he brought the spotlight under control and moved it away from her.  When it was far enough away from the generator, the spotlight unplugged itself, the light flashed and it went dark. 
A member of the lighting crew went to Celina's side.  Together, they pulled the young man to safety.  Celina knelt over him.  The man's body was sheathed in perspiration.  His skin was the color of chalk.  She gripped him by the shoulders and gently shook him.  She noticed his name sewn into the pocket of his denim work shirt and shouted it once, twice, but there was no response. 
Her mind raced.  She had been trained in CPR, but that was in college and now she struggled to remember how to perform it.  She tilted his head back to clear the airway and then ripped off his shirt, exposing his chest.  She looked to see if it was rising and falling, but it wasn't.  She listened to see if he was breathing, but he wasn't.  She placed the back of her hand to his mouth, but felt nothing.  She checked for a pulse in his neck, but found none.  She pressed her ear to his chest.  Nothing. 
For a moment, she thought her own heart had stopped. 
He was dead.
Immediately, she covered his mouth with her own, pinched his nose and forced two sharp breaths into his lungs.  She checked once more for a pulse, found none and gave several compressions to his chest, wishing she could remember exactly how many she was supposed to administer.  She stopped after the twelfth and repeated the procedure.  And then she did it again.
But the man didn't respond.
Fighting to remain calm, Celina looked up for help just as the New York City Fire Department stormed the roof, hoses and axes in hand.  She turned to her right and saw Mark leaving the crane.  The final spotlight was removed and he was coming toward her.  "What's the matter with you?" he shouted.  "You could have been killed--"  The words died in his mouth when he saw the man lying beside her.
"Get help," she said.  "Move!"
She bent back over the man, again pressing on his chest, again forcing air into his lungs. 
But there was no response. 
Panic rising, her shoulder-length blonde hair hanging in her face, she repeated the procedure, knowing that time for this man was running out.
But her efforts seemed in vain.  No matter how hard she tried to revive him, the man just lay there, motionless. 
And so she went for it. 
Raising her fists above her head, she slammed them down onto the man's chest, causing him to jerk slightly upright.  He expelled a rush of air.  "Breathe!" she shouted.
To her surprise, he did.  His eyes fluttered.  Color rushed to his cheeks and he gagged and coughed and vomited.  Celina felt a surge of elation and turned him onto his side so he wouldn't choke.  Tears began streaming down his face as he pulled in great gasps of air.  Celina held him on his side.  "It's all right," she said.  "Just breathe.  You're safe now.  It's all right."
When the paramedic reached them, she knelt beside Celina, cleaned the vomit from the man's face and covered his nose and mouth with an oxygen mask.  Another woman appeared and covered him with a blanket.  Celina stood and watched with Mark as relief washed over the man.  He drew deeply on the clean air. 
For him, the nightmare was over.
"Where did you learn that?" Mark asked.
Celina’s face was pale.  "My roommate in college had a sister who was a nursing student.  She used to teach us things I considered worthless.  One of them was how to perform CPR."
“Not so worthless,” he said.
Together, they looked at the spotlights Mark had removed.  Although they were no longer burning, the air around them was dim with smoke. 
"Why did they explode?" she asked.
Before Mark could respond, a fireman approached and answered her question instead.  "I'll show you."
She exchanged looks with Mark and stepped over to one of the smoldering lights.  There, they watched the man pull two frayed, blackened wires from the now empty light socket.  "Do you see these wires?"
They nodded.
"They shouldn't be there."  He bent to his knees and asked Celina and Mark to do the same.  On the back of the spotlight, he pointed to a small hole where the metal was contorted and twisted out of shape.  "This hole shouldn't be there, either."
Celina braced herself for what was coming and the uproar it would cause.
"Off the record?” he said.
“It's not confirmed, but it’s obvious.  The spotlights were rigged with plastic explosives.  When the power was turned on, the electricity came into these two wires and set off the bombs."
"Who would plant three bombs here?" she said.
"That's for you and the police to figure out."

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  1. @graywolfpack said...


  2. @graywolfpack said...

    shared on
    as Jeff-Sue Legg.

  3. pennblan said...

    shared on Facebook

  4. pennblan said...

    tweeted @penelope1111

  5. pennblan said...


  6. Nolan said...


  7. Nolan said...

    Story has a very good start.