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Black Mapsby Peter Spiegelman
Synopses & Reviews
Everyone was in a bad mood. It was a palpable thing in midtown, as pungent as the bus exhaust on the cold evening air and as loud as the traffic. The streets were awash in it. Cars and trucks and taxicabs were locked in mortal combat, surging forward by inches, then rocking to a halt, their drivers cursing and leaning on their horns, their passengers fuming. Surly streams of people poured from office towers and washed into the gridlock, adding their own fulminations to the angry grind. Sharp elbows and rude gestures were everywhere.
Maybe it was the season that brought it on-a week before Thanksgiving, the cusp of the holidays. Maybe it was the prospect of Christmas shopping, or of all that family time, bearing down like a freight train. Maybe it was the gnawing obsession with this year's bonus-assuming there was one—or the corrosive dwelling on the next round of layoffs. Maybe everyone was battle fatigued—edgy from the latest terror alerts, strung-out from life in the crosshairs. Or maybe it was just another hellish rush hour. Whatever, it was some nasty karma.
At seven p.m. I was threading my way through these wretches, headed up Park Avenue toward 52nd Street. The intersection was a particular mess. Sawhorses and traffic cones were scattered across it, and in the middle of the street was a trench that belched steam. Steel plates only partly covered the excavation, and I wondered if anyone had yet disappeared into its depths. I crossed 52nd, threading between two taxis, and pushed against a wave of people into the lobby of Mike's building. I crossed the marble floor to the guard station, produced half a dozen pieces of ID, waited while they called upstairs, signed in, and got on an elevator. I pressed 30, and the doors closed silently.
Michael Metz is a partner at the law firm of Paley, Clay and Quick, and the firm's biggest rainmaker. He’s also my friend, and has been since college, from the day we first chased each other around a squash court, vying for a spot on the team ladder. For the last couple of years, he's also been my most regular employer. Mike’s got an eclectic practice-corporate work, entertainment, matrimonial, every now and then some criminal work. And I've done lots of different things for him- background checks, find-the-girlfriend, find-the-boyfriend, find-the-assets. But tonight, he’d said, was something different.
The elevator doors opened with a sigh, and I stepped into Paley, Clay's reception area. At this hour, in this season, it was dark and quiet. The front desk sat in a pool of light and looked like a mahogany tollbooth. It dwarfed the old guard dozing behind it. He yawned and rubbed his eyes as I approached.
John March to see Mike Metz, I told him. He flipped slowly through the wrinkled papers on his clipboard and punched some numbers into the phone. He whispered into the handset, and told me in a voice I could barely hear to go in.
I pushed through glass doors and walked down a broad corridor lined on one side by shelves of law books, and on the other by offices. The offices were mostly dark, though here and there I spotted some luckless associates and scowling paralegals. I turned a corner and passed a vacant conference room, an empty kitchen, and a small clutch of people staring anxiously at a copy machine. I walked through another set of glass doors into a region of larger offices, Oriental rug
John March, former banker and current rural deputy sheriff, takes the case of Rick Pierro, a successful self-made man, who is on the verge of losing everything to a blackmail scheme that threatens to engulf him in a huge money-laundering scheme that is the focus of a federal investigation. A first novel. Reprint. 17,500 first printing.
Peter Spiegelman worked on Wall Street for twenty years developing software systems for international banking institutions and retired in 2001 to devote himself to writing. He lives in Connecticut.
From the Hardcover edition.
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