Fifth Avenue

Christopher Smith





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 organizing the event, stood before the building with her arms crossed. 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 Redman International 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 had chosen 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.

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 had been 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 and 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.

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