IT WAS FOUR in the morning in New York City, the city's quietest hour—perhaps only quiet hour. Francis "Frank" Nelson, Jr., stepped off the curb in front of the Dexter Arms on West 58th Street, and looked left and right. A cab was idling across the street, but still no driver behind the wheel. He had crossed the street a few minutes earlier to rap on the driver's window, but the car was empty then, too. That seemed odd, but what isn't odd at four in the morning in New York City? He looked left and right again, but still saw no sign of another cab. Preferably one with a driver.
Where is the driver?
He had been freezing his butt off for almost ten minutes now, and his impatience was beginning to ball up into a tight, throbbing knot in the base of his stomach. He wasn't a New Yorker, but he did enough business in the city to embrace the cynical and sometimes too true belief that the only time you can't find a taxi or a cop is when you need one.
Stage two hypertension. Doctor says I've got to manage stress better. If I don't get out of here I'm going to stroke out tonight.
He was tired and anxious to get back to the second floor of the brownstone on the east side of Central Park. Very nice but at twenty-five thousand dollars for the week it cost too much under the circumstances—his company was on the ropes financially. So was he. Everything he had was sunk in the company.
That is why I had to do what I did tonight.
Nelson was ready to scream with the tension. He was already irritated that no one was working the bell stand at the Dexter to make a cab appear right away. The young lady attending the registration desk, barely able to speak English and barely awake, he thought with a snort, assured him that she could get a cab in no time. Right. He paced inside the lobby and then paced outside on the street for as long as he could stand the cold. Not very long.
He had hired his own car and driver for the week, but he was cabbing it tonight because he didn't want his activities known. Nor did the people he was meeting with. The man in charge—not what he was expecting—said it would be much less conspicuous to catch a cab back to the brownstone at this time of night. He agreed. But where was the cab? Just how hard was it to get an open cab at four in the morning?
Okay, I know the cab across the street is open, but how about an open cab with a driver?
He was late to say the least, and if his wife, Justine, was awake or woke up with him coming back now, she would kill him. She would accuse him of cheating and drinking. Neither was true, of course. At least not tonight and not in the sense she would assume it.
But things could get bad, very bad, if she or anyone else began asking questions about why he was at the Dexter Arms throughout the night.
Nelson told her not to come this trip. That only made Justine more set on travelling with him.
She loves to disagree. I should have begged her to come.
"Kristen, what are you doing? Tell me you aren't going out in this weather."
"It's my last chance to run in Central Park."
"It's below zero."
"Don't exaggerate, Klarissa. The weather guy said it would be at least five degrees this morning."
I can't understand what my sister just mumbled from under the covers but I don't think it was very nice.
Her head pops into view. "Really, Kristen? Really?"
I'm tugging my leggings up. "We grew up in Chicago, Sis, this is child's play."
"It's not even four in the morning, Kristen. Go back to sleep. Or at least get out of here and let me sleep."
"I'm going. Give me a sec. I'm going."
"But not for real long. I've got to pack for my flight later this morning. Mom will be calling fairly soon to make sure I've given myself plenty of time to get to LaGuardia."
Klarissa finally sits up to glare at me. I stifle a smile. Her glorious mane of golden blonde hair looks as beautiful mussed as when it's done up for her television work. Women pay big bucks to have a stylist try to make their hair look like Klarissa's does with a simple toss of her head when she wakes up. My hair is pulled back in a tight ponytail for my run. Same as I wear it for work. Life's not fair.
"Okay, Kristen," she says. "You're right—like always. Far be it from me to argue. We grew up in a freezing cold city. So I guess that makes your obsessive . . . your obsessive stupidity toward physical activity understandable. Since you're crazy enough to run in this weather, at least be quiet about it so one of us gets some sleep," she finishes in disgust, rolling away from the nightstand light and putting a pillow over her head. "And stay warm!" she adds, muffled but loud enough to wake our wing of the Hilton.
I look over at Klarissa, her hair cascading from underneath the pillow. So beautiful. Always the princess. I'll never understand my sister. I lift the pillow, give her a quick kiss on the top of her head, smile when she mumbles something else, nice or otherwise, and head for the door.
Hey, what did she say about me being obsessive and stupid? And what's with giving me the business on being noisy? I was being quiet. I think. And what's with her claiming I always have to be right?
I've got to run. I'll argue with her later.
After the door shuts behind Kristen, Klarissa sighs and gets up to go to the bathroom.
My sister. Is it possible one of us got put into our family by mis- take? Detective. Workout warrior. Fighter. Kristen isn't happy unless she's fighting or getting ready to fight. Or sweating. She doesn't have a clue how beautiful she is. I'll never understand my sister.