The pawnshop was on South State Street in the heart of the Loop. When Jesse Shaw walked through the door, the old man behind the counter looked up.
“Good morning. Can I help you?”
Shaw laid a wristwatch on the counter. “How much will you give me for this?”
The pawnbroker picked up the watch and studied it. “A Piaget. Nice watch.”
“Yeah. I hate like hell to part with it, but I’ve run into a little bad luck. You understand what I mean?”
The pawnbroker shrugged. “It’s my business to understand. You wouldn’t believe the hard-luck stories I hear.”
“I’ll redeem it in a few days. I’m starting a new job Monday. Meanwhile, I need to get as much cash as I can for it.”
The pawnbroker was looking at the watch more closely. On the back of the case, some writing had been scratched off. He looked at the customer. “If you’ll excuse me a minute, I’ll take a look at the movement. Sometimes these watches are made in Bangkok, and they forget to put anything inside.”
He took the watch into the back room. He put a loupe to his eye and studied the scratch marks. He could faintly make out the letters “T Phi p wi h L v fro L ra.” The old man opened a drawer and took out a police flyer. It had a description of the watch and the engraving on the back, “To Philip with Love from Lara.” He started to pick up the telephone when the customer yelled, “Hey, I’m in a hurry. Do you want the watch or don’t you?”
“I’m coming,” the pawnbroker said. He walked back into the next room. “I can loan you five hundred dollars on it.”
“Five hundred? This watch is worth…”
“Take it or leave it.”
“All right,” Shaw said grudgingly. “I’ll take it.”
“You’ll have to fill out this form,” the pawnbroker said. “Sure.” He wrote down John Jones, 21 Hunt Street. As far as he knew, there was no Hunt Street in Chicago, and he sure as hell was not John Jones. He pocketed the cash. “Much obliged. I’ll be back in a few days for it.”
The pawnbroker picked up the telephone and made a call.
A detective arrived at the pawnshop twenty minutes later.
“Why didn’t you call while he was here?” he demanded.
“I tried. He was in a hurry, and he was jumpy.”
The detective studied the form the customer had filled out.
“That won’t do you no good,” the pawnbroker said. “It’s probably a false name and address.”
The detective grunted. “No kidding. Did he fill this out himself?”
“Then we’ll nail him.”
At police headquarters it took the computer less than three minutes to identify the thumbprint on the form. Jesse Shaw.
The butler came into the drawing room. “Excuse me, Mr. Adler, there’s a gentleman on the telephone for you. A Lieutenant Mancini. Shall I…?”
“I’ll take it.” Philip picked up the telephone. “Hello?”
“This is Lieutenant Mancini. I came to see you in the hospital.”
“I wanted to bring you up-to-date on what’s happening. We had a bit of luck. I told you that our chief was going to send out flyers to pawnshops with a description of your watch?”
“They found it. The watch was pawned in Chicago. They’re tracking down the person who pawned it. You did say that you could identify your assailant, didn’t you?”
“Good. We’ll be in touch.”
Jerry Townsend came into Lara’s office. He was excited. “I’ve worked out the party list we talked about. The more I think about the idea, the better I like it. We’ll celebrate your fortieth birthday on the day the tallest skyscraper in the world opens.” He handed Lara the list. “I’ve included the Vice President. He’s a big admirer of yours.”
Lara scanned it. It read like a who’s who from Washington, Hollywood, New York, and London. There were government officials, motion picture celebrities, rock stars…It was impressive.
“I like it,” Lara said. “Let’s go with it.”
Townsend put the list in his pocket. “Right. I’ll have the invitations printed up and sent out. I’ve already called Carlos and told him to reserve the Grand Ballroom and arrange your favorite menu. We’re setting up for two hundred people. We can always add or subtract a few if we have to. By the way, is there any more news on the Reno situation?”
Lara had talked to Terry Hill that morning. “A grand jury is investigating, Lara. There’s a possibility that they’ll hand down a criminal indictment.”
“How can they? The fact that I had some conversations with Paul Martin doesn’t prove anything. We could have been talking about the state of the world, or his ulcers, or a dozen other damned things.”
“Lara, don’t get angry with me. I’m on your side.”
“Then do something. You’re my lawyer. Get me the hell out of this.”
“No. Everything is fine,” Lara told Townsend.
“Good. I understand that you and Philip are going to the mayor’s dinner Saturday night.”
“Yes.” She had wanted to turn down the invitation at first, but Philip had insisted.
“You need these people. You can’t afford to offend them. I want you to go.”
“Not without you, darling.”
He had taken a deep breath. “All right. I’ll go with you. I guess it’s time I stopped being a hermit.”
Saturday evening Lara helped Philip get dressed. She put his studs and cuff links in his shirt and tied his tie for him. He stood there, silently, cursing his helplessness.
“It’s like Ken and Barbie, isn’t it?”
“There you are, darling. You’ll be the most handsome man there.”
“I’d better get dressed,” Lara said. “The mayor doesn’t like to be kept waiting.”
“I’ll be in the library,” Philip told her.
Thirty minutes later Lara walked into the library. She looked ravishing. She was dressed in a beautiful white Oscar de la Renta gown. On her wrist was the diamond bracelet Philip had given her.
Philip had difficulty sleeping Saturday night. He looked across the bed at Lara and wondered how she could have falsely accused Marian of stealing the bracelet. He knew he had to confront her with it, but he wanted to speak with Marian first.
Early Sunday morning, while Lara was still asleep, Philip quietly got dressed and left the penthouse. He took a taxi to Marian’s apartment. He rang the bell and waited.
A sleepy voice said, “Who is it?”
“It’s Philip. I have to talk to you.”
The door opened and Marian stood there.
“Philip? Is something wrong?”
“We have to talk.”
He entered the apartment. “I’m sorry if I woke you up,” Philip said, “but this is important.”
He took a deep breath. “You were right about the bracelet. Lara wore it last night. I owe you an apology. I thought…perhaps that you…I just wanted to say I’m sorry.”
Marian said quietly, “Of course, you would have believed her. She’s your wife.”
“I’m going to confront Lara with it this morning, but I wanted to talk to you first.”
Marian turned to him. “I’m glad you did. I don’t want you to discuss it with her.”
“Why not?” Philip demanded. “And why would she do such a thing?”
“You don’t know, do you?”
“Frankly, no. It makes no sense.”
“I think I understand her better than you do. Lara is madly in love with you. She would do anything to hold on to you. You’re probably the only person she has ever really loved in her life. She needs you. And I think you need her. You love her very much, don’t you, Philip?”
“Then let’s forget all this. If you bring it up to her, it won’t do any good, and it will only make things worse between the two of you. I can easily find another job.”
“But it’s unfair to you, Marian.”
She smiled wryly. “Life isn’t always fair, is it?” If it were, I would be Mrs. Philip Adler. “Don’t worry. I’ll be fine.”
“At least let me do something for you. Let me give you some money to make up for…”
“Thank you, but no.”
There was so much she wanted to say, but she knew that it was hopeless. He was a man in love. What she said was: “Go back to her, Philip.”
The construction site was on Chicago’s Wabash Avenue, south of the Loop. It was a twenty-five-story office building, and it was half finished. An unmarked police car pulled up to the corner, and two detectives got out. They walked over to the site and stopped one of the workers passing by. “Where’s the foreman?”
He pointed to a huge, burly man cursing out a workman. “Over there.”
The detectives went over to him. “Are you in charge here?”
He turned and said impatiently, “I’m not only in charge, I’m very busy. What do you want?”
“Do you have a man in your crew named Jesse Shaw?”
“Shaw? Sure. He’s up there.” The foreman pointed to a man working on a steel girder a dozen stories up.
“Would you ask him to come down, please?”
“Hell, no. He has work to…”
One of the detectives pulled out a badge. “Get him down here.”
“What’s the problem? Is Jesse in some kind of trouble?”
“No, we just want to talk to him.”
“Okay.” The foreman turned to one of the men working nearby. “Go up top and tell Jesse to come down here.”
A few minutes later Jesse Shaw was approaching the two detectives.
“These men want to talk to you,” the foreman said, and walked away.
Jesse grinned at the two men. “Thanks. I can use a break. What can I do for you?”
One of the detectives pulled out a wristwatch. “Is this your watch?”
Shaw’s grin faded. “No.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah.” He pointed to his wrist. “I wear a Seiko.”
“But you pawned this watch.”
Shawn hesitated. “Oh, yeah. I did. The bastard only gave me five hundred for it. It’s worth at least…”
“You said it wasn’t your watch.”
“That’s right. It’s not.”
“Where did you get it?”
“I found it.”
“On the sidewalk near my apartment building.” He was warming up to his story. “It was in the grass, and I got out of my car, and there it was. The sun hit the band and made it sparkle. That’s how I happened to see it.”
“Lucky it wasn’t a cloudy day.”
“Mr. Shaw, do you like to travel?”
“That’s too bad. You’re going to take a little trip to New York. We’ll help you pack.”
When they got to Shaw’s apartment, the two detectives began looking around.
“Hold it!” Shaw said. “You guys got a search warrant?”
“We don’t need one. We’re just helping you pack your things.”
One of the men was looking in a clothes closet. There was a shoe box high up on a shelf. He took it down and opened it. “Jesus!” he said. “Look what Santa Claus left.”
Lara was in her office when Kathy’s voice came over the intercom. “Mr. Tilly is on line four, Miss Cameron.”
Tilly was the project manager on Cameron Towers.
Lara picked up the phone. “Hello?”
“We had a little problem this morning, Miss Cameron.”
“We had a fire. It’s out now.”
“There’s was an explosion in the air-conditioning unit. A transformer blew. There was a short circuit. It looks like someone wired it up wrong.”
“How bad is it?”
“Well, it looks like we’ll lose a day or two. We should be able to clean everything up and rewire it by then.”
“Stay on it. Keep me informed.”
Lara came home late each evening, worried and exhausted.
“I’m concerned about you,” Philip told her. “Is there anything I can do?”
“Nothing, darling. Thank you.” She managed a smile. “Just a few problems at the office.”
He took her in his arms. “Did I ever tell you that I’m mad about you?”
She looked up at him and smiled. “Tell me again.”
“I’m mad about you.”
She held him close and thought, This is what I want. This is what I need. “Darling, when my little problems are over, let’s go away somewhere. Just the two of us.”
“It’s a deal.”
Someday, Lara thought, I must tell him what I did to Marian. I know it was wrong. But I would die if I lost him.
The following day Tilly called again. “Did you cancel the order for the marble for the lobby floors?”
Lara said slowly, “Why would I do that?”
“I don’t know. Somebody did. The marble was supposed to have been delivered today. When I called, they said it was canceled two months ago by your order.”
Lara sat there fuming. “I see. How badly are we delayed?”
“I’m not sure yet.”
“Tell them to put a rush on it.”
Keller came into Lara’s office.
“I’m afraid the banks are getting nervous, Lara. I don’t know how much longer I can hold them off.”
“Just until Cameron Towers is finished. We’re almost there, Howard. We’re only three months away from completion.”
“I told them that,” he sighed. “All right. I’ll talk to them again.”
Kathy’s voice came over the intercom. “Mr. Tilly’s on line one.”
Lara looked at Keller. “Don’t go.” She picked up the phone. “Yes?” Lara said.
“We’re having another problem here, Miss Cameron.”
“I’m listening,” Lara said.
“The elevators are malfunctioning. The programs are out of sync, and the signals are all screwed up. You press the button for down, and it goes up. Press the eighteenth floor, and it will take you to the basement. I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
“Do you think it was done deliberately?”
“It’s hard to say. Could have been carelessness.”
“How long will it take to straighten it out?”
“I have some people on the way over now.”
“Get back to me.” She replaced the receiver.
“Is everything all right?” Keller asked.
Lara evaded the question. “Howard, have you heard anything about Steve Murchison lately?”
He looked at her, surprised. “No. Why?”
“I just wondered.”
The consortium of bankers financing Cameron Enterprises had good reason to be concerned. It was not only Cameron Enterprises that was in trouble; a majority of their corporate clients had serious problems. The decline in junk bonds had become a full-fledged disaster, and it was a crippling blow to the corporations that had depended on them.
There were six bankers in the room with Howard Keller, and the atmosphere was grim.
“We’re holding overdue notes for almost a hundred million dollars,” their spokesman said. “I’m afraid we can’t accommodate Cameron Enterprises any longer.”
“You’re forgetting a couple of things,” Keller reminded them. “Number one, we expect the casino gambling license in Reno to be renewed any day now. That cash flow will more than take care of any deficit. Number two, Cameron Towers is right on schedule. It’s going to be finished in ninety days. We already have a seventy percent tenancy, and you can be assured that the day it’s finished everybody is going to be clamoring to get in. Gentlemen, your money couldn’t be more secure. You’re dealing with the Lara Cameron magic.”
The men looked at one another.
The spokesman said, “Why don’t we discuss this among ourselves and we’ll get back to you?”
“Fine. I’ll tell Miss Cameron.”
Keller reported back to Lara.
“I think they’ll go along with us,” he told her. “But in the meantime, we’re going to have to sell off a few more assets to stay afloat.”
Lara was getting to the office early in the morning and leaving late at night, fighting desperately to save her empire. She and Philip saw very little of each other. Lara did not want him to know how much trouble she was facing. He has enough problems, Lara thought. I can’t burden him with any more.
At six o’clock Monday morning Tilly was on the phone. “I think you’d better get over here, Miss Cameron.”
Lara felt a sharp sense of apprehension. “What’s wrong?”
“I’d rather you saw it for yourself.”
“I’m on my way.”
Lara telephoned Keller. “Howard, there’s another problem at Cameron Towers. I’ll pick you up.”
Half an hour later they were on their way to the construction site.
“Did Tilly say what the trouble was?” Keller asked.
“No, but I don’t believe in accidents anymore. I’ve been thinking about what you said. Steve Murchison wanted that property badly. I took it away from him.”
When they arrived at the site, they saw large sheets of crated tinted glass lying on the ground, and more glass being delivered by trucks. Tilly hurried over to Lara and Keller.
“I’m glad you’re here.”
“What’s the problem?”
“This isn’t the glass we ordered. It’s the wrong tint and the wrong cut. There’s no way it will fit the sides of our building.”
Lara and Keller looked at each other. “Can we recut it here?” Keller asked.
Tilly shook his head. “Not a chance. You’d wind up with a mountain of silicate.”
Lara said, “Who did we order this from?”
“The New Jersey Panel and Glass Company.”
“I’ll call them,” Lara said. “What’s our deadline on this?”
Tilly stood there calculating. “If it got here in two weeks, we could be back on schedule. It would be a push, but we’d be okay.”
Lara turned to Keller, “Let’s go.”
Otto Karp was the manager of the New Jersey Panel and Glass Company. He came on the phone almost immediately. “Yes, Miss Cameron? I understand you have a problem.”
“No,” Lara snapped. “You have a problem. You shipped us the wrong glass. If I don’t get the right order in the next two weeks, I’m going to sue your company out of business. You’re holding up a three-hundred-million-dollar project.”
“I don’t understand. Will you hold on, please?”
He was gone almost five minutes. When he came back on the line, he said, “I’m terribly sorry, Miss Cameron, the order was written up wrong. What happened is…”
“I don’t care what happened,” Lara interrupted. “All I want you to do is to get our order filled and shipped out.
“I’ll be happy to do that.”
Lara felt a sharp sense of relief. “How soon can we have it?”
“In two to three months.”
“Two to three months! That’s impossible! We need it now.”
“I’d be happy to accommodate you,” Karp said, “but unfortunately we’re way behind in our orders.”
“You don’t understand,” Lara said. “This is an emergency and…”
“I certainly appreciate that. And we’ll do the best we can. You’ll have the order in two to three months. I’m sorry we can’t do better…”
Lara slammed down the receiver. “I don’t believe this,” Lara said. She looked over at Tilly. “Is there another company we can deal with?”
Tilly rubbed his hand across his forehead. “Not at this late date. If we went to anyone else, they’d be starting from scratch, and their other customers would be ahead of us.”
Keller said, “Lara, could I talk to you for a minute?” He took her aside. “I hate to suggest this, but…”
“…your friend Paul Martin might have some connections over there. Or he might know someone who knows someone.”
Lara nodded. “Good idea, Howard. I’ll find out.”
Two hours later Lara was seated in Paul Martin’s office.
“You don’t know how happy I am that you called,” the lawyer said. “It’s been too long. God, you look beautiful, Lara.”
“Thank you, Paul.”
“What can I do for you?”
Lara said hesitantly, “I seem to come to you whenever I’m in trouble.”
“I’ve always been there for you, haven’t I?”
“Yes. You’re a good friend.” She sighed. “Right now I need a good friend.”
“What’s the problem? Another strike?”
“No. It’s about Cameron Towers.”
He frowned. “I heard that was on schedule.”
“It is. Or it was. I think Steve Murchison is out to sabotage the project. He has a vendetta against me. Things have suddenly started to go wrong at the building. Up to now we’ve been able to handle them. Now…We have a big problem. It could put us past our completion date. Our two biggest tenants would pull out. I can’t afford to let that happen.”
She took a deep breath, trying to control her anger.
“Six months ago we ordered tinted glass from the New Jersey Panel and Glass Company. We received our delivery this morning. It wasn’t our glass.”
“Did you call them?”
“Yes, but they’re talking about two or three months. I need that glass in four weeks. Until it’s in, there’s nothing for the men to do. They’ve stopped working. If that building isn’t completed on schedule, I’ll lose everything I have.”
Paul Martin looked at her and said quietly, “No, you won’t. Let me see what I can do.”
Lara felt an overwhelming sense of relief. “Paul, I…” It was difficult to put into words. “Thank you.”
He took her hand in his and smiled. “The dinosaur isn’t dead yet,” he said. “I should have some word for you by tomorrow.”
The following morning Lara’s private phone rang for the first time in months. She picked it up eagerly. “Paul?”
“Hello, Lara. I had a little talk with some of my friends. It’s not going to be easy, but it can be done. They promised a delivery a week from Monday.”
On the day the glass shipment was scheduled to arrive, Lara telephoned Paul Martin again.
“The glass hasn’t come yet, Paul,” Lara said.
“Oh?” There was a silence. “I’ll look into it.” His voice softened. “You know, the only good thing about this, baby, is that I get to talk to you again.”
“Yes. I…Paul…if I don’t get that glass on time…”
“You’ll have it. Don’t give up.”
By the end of the week there was still no word.
Keller came into Lara’s office. “I just talked to Tilly. Our deadline is Friday. If the glass arrives by then, we’ll be okay. Otherwise we’re dead.”
By Thursday nothing had changed.
Lara went to visit Cameron Towers. There were no workmen there. The skyscraper rose majestically into the sky, overshadowing everything around it. It was going to be a beautiful building. Her monument. I’m not going to let it fail, Lara thought fiercely.
Lara telephoned Paul Martin again.
“I’m sorry,” his secretary said. “Mr. Martin is out of the office. Is there any message?”
“Please ask him to call me,” Lara said. She turned to Keller, “I have a hunch I’d like you to check out. See if the owner of that glass factory happens to be Steve Murchison.”
Thirty minutes later Keller returned to Lara’s office. His face was pale.
“Well? Did you find out who owns the glass company?”
“Yes,” he said slowly. “It’s registered in Delaware. It’s owned by Etna Enterprises.”
“Right. They bought it a year ago. Etna Enterprises is Paul Martin.”