Cassie Cunningham, double-espresso-shot coffee in hand, grabbed her hard hat from her office trailer, and went to look for the site foreman of The Grosvenor, the newest hotel under construction in Manhattan. Sweat trickled down her back despite the lightweight cotton T-shirt she wore beneath her hi-vis jacket. She smoothed down the legs of the black khakis she might as well order in bulk from Gap, before putting her hard hat on over her braided black hair.
She checked her phone. It was only ten minutes before ten. How could it be this hot already? August showed New York off at its grimiest best. The smell of rancid garbage blended with overheated bodies created a scent you had no choice but to get accustomed to.
Cassie shielded her eyes and looked up at the progress of the elevator shaft, the sight causing her chest to expand with pride. It was true that some people were moved by a soaring aria, others a heart-wrenching poem. Some lost themselves in the simplicity of a love song. But to her, there was nothing compared to the breathtaking beauty of watching a new building rise from the proverbial ashes of an old one that had long past served its purpose. A building that would change the skyline forever.
“Cassie. You’re late. Not like you.” Site foreman Bruce Gambioni slurped on a large drink from 7-Eleven.
Cassie scrunched up her face. “Did we go with the Super Big Gulp or the Double Gulp today?”
Bruce shrugged. “Double Gulp. Fifty ounces of liquid refreshment right here.”
The idea of drinking the unnaturally orange-looking soda turned her stomach. “Fifty ounces of liquid sugar, you mean. My teeth hurt looking at it.”
“Yeah, well, my wallet hurts looking at that tiny coffee with the long name you always drink.”
“Fair point. It’s an extra hot double espresso flat white with almond milk.”
“It’s a lot of Denver hipster nonsense is what it is.”
Cassie laughed. “It’s over ten years since I moved here.”
“Doesn’t make you a New Yorker. So, what’s up?” he asked. “Where’ve you been?”
She ran her fingers along the side of her jaw and her lip, which still felt numb. “I started this Friday the Thirteenth off with a root canal. Where are we up to?” She tilted her head in the direction of the large crane atop the shaft.
“Well, continuing the great day you’re having, we had a problem with a coarse aggregate delivery they say will put us four days behind. And we found a pipe on the northeast corner that none of the surveys showed.”
“The coarse aggregate’s an easy fix. I’ll get on the phone as soon as we’re done. Did you get someone to call the city about the pipe?”
Fricking UPDs. Unexpected pipe delays. Possibly an old pipe left behind before the site had been redeveloped in the early seventies. Or it could be a vital pipe that would cause a gas leak or flood if cracked. It was a crapshoot. Therefore, there would be a definite delay while they figured it out.
“Yeah. Put a call in as soon as I found out. Just waiting to see how long it will take them to send someone out. I told them to call you.”
Summer’s peak vacation season was the worst time to get the overworked city officials to do anything fast. It was anyone’s guess how long they’d take. “I’ll make a follow-up call once we’re done here.”
“And this is why I love you. I hate dealing with the city.”
The loud ring of her phone pierced the air, and she glanced at the name. “Sorry, it’s Elijah Walters. I need to take this.” As she stepped away from Bruce and answered, she wondered why a partner of the firm was calling her.
“Cassie, good morning. Can you come over to the office as soon as you have a minute?”
“Sure, Elijah. Is there something specific you need me to be prepared to talk about when I get there?”
There was a pause. “No. I need to speak with you privately.”
“Okay, I’ll leave now. Give me thirty to get there.” Cassie hung up the phone. “The boss man wants me to head over to speak to him, Bruce. I gotta go. But I’ll handle the city and the aggregates on the way.”
“You want to take my truck?”
Cassie looked at the gridlock on the streets around her. “I’ll jump on the subway. I’ll be back before the end of the day, I’m sure.”
Forty-five minutes later, she wasn’t feeling quite so confident. No, these emotions were a lot closer to blind fury. “You realize this is grossly unfair.”
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