"Can I interest you in saving America?"
That's the text message Peter Fallon receives from a Wall Street bigwig. It's not a challenge he can turn down, especially since the country is in the midst of the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression.
Hidden somewhere in New York City is a box of 1780 bonds with a face value of ten thousand dollars. The Supreme Court is about to decide if these bonds still have value. If the decision is yes, those ten thousand dollars, at five percent interest, will be worth a very pretty penny...
Peter Fallon and his girlfriend, Evangeline Carrington, must find the boxand fast. Suddenly, their race against time becomes a race through time as Peter and Evangeline track the stories of New Yorkers whose lives have been changed by the bonds… and all the while they'll unravel the thrilling and inspiring origins of the City of Dreams.
About the Author
WILLIAM MARTIN, New York Times bestselling author of ten novels, is best known for his historical fiction, which has chronicled the lives of the great and the anonymous in American history while bringing to life legendary American locations, from Cape Cod to Annapolis. Martin's first novel, Back Bay, introduced Boston treasure hunter Peter Fallon, who continues to track artifacts across the landscape of our national imagination in more recent works like The Lost Constitution and City of Dreams. His novels, also including Harvard Yard, Citizen Washington, and The Rising of the Moon, have established him as a "storyteller whose smoothness equals his ambition" (Publishers Weekly). He has also written an award-winning PBS documentary, one of the cheesiest horror movies ever made, magazine articles, and book reviews for The Boston Globe. He was the recipient of the 2005 New England Book Award, given to "an author whose body of work stands as a significant contribution to the culture of the region." He has three grown children and lives near Boston with his wife.
Read an Excerpt
PETER FALLON READ THE CALLER ID, pushed the Talk button, and said, “I am not moving to New York City.”
“That isn’t why I’m calling,” said Evangeline Carrington.
“But that’s where every conversation ends up.”
“Listen, Peter, I’m in a bookstore.”
“What are you doing in a bookstore?”
“Buying you a wedding present.”
“I have enough books.”
Peter was sitting in his office. Books everywhere. And in the outer office, more books. But not just any books: a Shakespeare Second Folio from 1632, a first edition of Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations, a signed first of Tales of the South Pacific, the rarest Michener, three million dollars worth of books, all bought, sold, and brokered from the third floor of a Boston bowfront, above an art gallery that was above a restaurant.
“If you think I’m getting you golf clubs,” she said, “forget it.”
“I’d love a new Callaway driver,” he said. “We can play on the honeymoon. Nice golf courses in France.”
“Forget France,” said Evangeline. “I want you to come to New York.”
“See? I told you. This is where every conversation ends up. I don’t want to live in New York. And there’s a wedding in ten days. In Boston. There are details.”
“Name a detail that I haven’t already taken care of.”
“I have to put the dance tunes on my iPod. I have to shuck the oysters—”
“Peter, get serious.”
He sat up straight, as if she were in the room. “Okay. I’m all ears.”
“I’m in Delancey’s Rarities on Fourth Avenue, in the back. I’m going through a bin of engravings, because I know how much you like them, and this bag lady comes in.”
“A bag lady? In New York? There’s news. Does she smell?”
“Of rum. I can smell it back here. But she doesn’t sound drunk, or old, or especially derelict. That’s what’s got my attention.”
“Eight million stories in the naked city, babe.”
“She’s saying how Delancey is an expert in old money, and so is she, so they should team up, because she knows where there’s a lot of it, and if they work together—”
“Smart bag lady. She knows enough to go to Delancey. A major player in the scripophily market.”
“Collecting old money. Antique stock certificates, bonds . . . it’s hot right now.”
“Oh, hey, wait a minute . . .”
Peter could hear Evangeline breathing. He could almost hear her listening.
While he waited, he clicked the Internet and glanced at the stock market. The Dow was dropping—and fast—in the last half hour of trading.
Then Evangeline was back. “The bag lady says she has something that’ll impress Delancey. But she’ll only show it to him on her turf.”
“She sounds batty. Don’t let her hear you or see you, or she’ll make herself your pain in the ass instead of his.”
“She can’t see me in the back. And she can’t hear me because I’m whispering, and Delancey’s playing his old-timey music.”
Peter could hear the music, too. “That’s Benny Goodman. The term is timeless, not old-timey.”
“Okay. Timeless. Now they’re talking about a room papered in old money. You know, Peter, I think we should see what this is about.”
“We?” Peter laughed. “Aren’t you always saying, ‘Peter,’ in that cold, calm voice you get when you’re pissed off, ‘Peter, I’m just a travel writer. Don’t be dragging me into your treasure hunts.’”
“Peter,” she said in that cold, calm voice, “ten days from now, what’s mine is yours and what’s yours is mine, right?”
“You were the one who turned down the prenup. Right?”
“Right”—Peter put his feet up on the desk—“because I’m after your money.”
“So if this is something big, and it pays off, it’s community property. Right?”
“And it could make a helluva wedding present . . . wait a minute”—her voice rose an octave—“she’s showing Delancey a picture. Peter, this could be . . . something.”
“Right.” Peter tried to control a laugh. “Something.”
“I can see you smirking, Peter. Stop it. Oh, hey . . . she’s leaving. The bag lady’s leaving. Do you think I should go after her?”
“Yeah, sure. Why not?” Peter laughed.
“Peter, screw you.” And she clicked off.
PETER SPUN IN his chair and looked out the window.
He realized that if this marriage was going to work, he had to learn the difference between smart-ass and plain-vanilla ass.
He thought about calling her back, but that would only make things worse. So he just pictured Delancey’s store.
Peter’s old mentor, Orson Lunt, once said, “Whenever you’re in New York, go down to Book Row. Stop in at the Strand, of course, then go to Delancey’s. It’s dark, it’s messy, but it’s a treasure trove. Look around, go through the bins, get to know Delancey, ask him as many questions as you can, but answer as few as possible, because he’s sharper than Gillette, and he doesn’t miss a trick. . . .”
Orson was retired now, but Delancey was still going strong, the kind of guy who’d probably die in his store some day, get to heaven, and go looking for Bill Shakespeare, just to ask him where he’d buried his manuscripts. Then Delancey would figure out a way to come back to life, dig them up, and sell them to the highest bidder.
Of course, Delancey had done pretty well in this life, too. He played the poor bookseller in the dumpy shop, one of the last holdouts on Book Row, but he also owned the building, and every year or so, he sent Peter an e-mail that went like this:
Strike one: Peter hated to be called Pete.
I’ve been doing business with a New York stockbroker who also happens to be a major collector. Considering his interest in our field, I think you might be interested in his services. Business to business, so to speak. This is some chance. He does not take on many clients. And believe me, there’s no one in Boston who can match this guy’s heat.
Strike two: Peter had a Boston broker who delivered all the “heat” any investor could want, without New York’s high overhead or taste for two-hundred-dollar lunches.
So give it some thought. Minimum investment, five mil.
Strike three: for Peter to come up with that much money, he’d have to sell his inventory, his condo, his car, and he’d still be scrambling.
Peter often wondered what Delancey got out of the relationship beyond a loyal customer, and he almost called Evangeline to warn her about a sales pitch. But he knew she was too smart to fall for one.
So he imagined her walking from the back of the store, past the long bookshelves, toward the afternoon light flooding the front . . .
. . . AND SHE WAS.
She stuffed her cell phone into her purse and hurried through the American history section and up to the big windows that looked out onto Fourth Avenue.
The bag lady had left and turned south toward the Bowery. She was pushing a shopping cart full of boxes, bottles, a plastic trash bag, and a scruffy little dog.
Evangeline couldn’t see her face, just a dirty raincoat and a dirty Mets hat over a mess of dirty brown hair. Should she follow?
“Find anything?” Delancey said “find” with a New York accent that made it come out foiwnd. Though it was early May, he was wearing a gray wool vest sweater over a white shirt and skinny brown tie. And his comb-over reflected—literally—his talent in the lost male art of creating something out of nearly nothing but Vitalis.
Strictly old-school. That was what Peter said about Oscar Delancey, and he meant it as a compliment.
“I didn’t find any priceless engravings of Lincoln, if that’s what you’re asking.” Evangeline craned her neck to watch the bag lady rattling away.
“The Bowling Green, eleven o’clock tonight,” said Delancey.
“That’s where I’m supposed to meet her.”
“I heard”—hoid—“you on the phone. Did you say hi to Pete for me?”
“Of course I did, and don’t call him Pete.”
“Did you tell him about the crazy broad who just left?”
Busted. Evangeline stepped back from the window and gave her blond hair a little flip. She knew that he liked looking at her. To a man in his late sixties, a woman of her age was just a kid. That was why she had worn a skirt and a heel. She always made better deals if Delancey was in a good mood. She noticed his eyes flick down to her legs, so she turned her foot to give him some calf. But when his eyes stopped at her chest, she folded her arms and said, “Of course I told him. A bag lady walks into a bookstore and starts talking about a room papered in money? How in the hell could I miss that?”
“I was talking about a room papered in money. I was telling her that I hear stories like hers all the time, about old grandmothers findin’ old bonds underneath old wallpaper in shitty old bathrooms on the Lower East Side, and if I go and look, I don’t find anything but old cock-a-roaches.” Delancey dropped into his chair and swung to his computer. “I’ll bet Pete told you to leave her to me.”
“He did, but if you’re not interested in what that bag lady—”
“Honey, she’s one of the reasons I put in a buzzer system.” He pressed a button beneath his desk and the door lock gave an electric hum. “I’ve got one of the best inventories of rare books in Manhattan, and I never worry about the bad guys, but pain-in-the-ass old bums with b.o. drive me crazy, male or female.”
“So why let her in?”
Delancey shrugged. “Eh . . . I’m a soft touch. What can I tell you?”
“She showed you a picture just now.”
“An old house on the West Side. It was a fancy estate in Washington’s day. An eyesore in Lincoln’s. Torn down in Teddy Roosevelt’s. She used to come in all the time with cockamamie stories like that. Now she says if I meet her tonight, I’ll learn somethin’ big. I’m not bitin’.”
Delancey gave a bigger shrug. “What do I look like? Stupid? I’m a businessman, for chrissakes. I’m not into cops-and-robbers stuff. Not like your boyfriend.”
“So why does she bother you instead of some other dealer?”
“Eh . . . she must read the papers before she sleeps in them.” He looked at her over his glasses, as if trying to decide how much to tell her, and said, “I sold a couple of old bonds to an uptown buyer and it made the papers.”
“Well, I wouldn’t tell you except that—”
“Don’t say you wouldn’t tell me except that you like my legs.”
Delancey chuckled. “I wouldn’t tell you, except that his identity was in the papers. My stockbroker. Austin Arsenault. You heard of him?”
She shook her head.
“I sold him two Revolutionary War bonds that he’s now trying to get the Treasury to honor. Gone all the way to the Supreme Court. It’s a big story in the scripophily biz.”
“Does this make you the scripophily stud?”
“Yeah. But the pretty girls ain’t flockin’. You know any pretty girls you could send my way?”
“Maybe.” Evangeline sat on the edge of his desk and swung her leg. “I also know that a room papered in money might make a pretty nice wedding gift.”
Delancey watched her leg for a moment.
She was playing him, and he knew it, and she knew that he knew it.
Then he said, “If you really want to meet this bag lady, have dinner with me tonight. Then we’ll see if she shows up.”
“And if she does?”
“I’ll split the commission. But half of nothing is still nothing.”
She stopped swinging her leg and offered her hand. “Deal.”
He took the hand and grinned. His teeth were stubby, mostly yellow near the roots, mostly white toward the ends, as if he only brushed halfway. “Bring a friend. And wear something that shows your . . . assets.”
“Good that you said ‘assets.’ If you’d said ‘tits,’ I would have been mad.”
“Well, you can show them, too, if you want to humor an old man.”
“You’re not old,” she said. “Just horny.”
PETER FALLON WAS asleep in front of the television when the phone woke him. He saw the green of Fenway. He heard the announcer’s voice: “Red Sox three, Yankees two.” He grabbed the remote and pressed Mute, then he picked up the phone. “It’s ten thirty. This better be good.”
“I’m having dinner with Delancey,” said Evangeline. “I’m in Fraunces Tavern.”
Peter could think of no more incongruous sight than the little building that sat at the corner of Pearl and Broad Streets, surrounded by the giants of Lower Manhattan. In Boston, you were always stumbling across redbrick reminders of the Revolution. But a third of New York had burned to the ground in 1776, and a lot more had gone up in the 1835 fire. And the rest had fallen to progress once the concrete march from the Battery to the Bronx had begun. In the whole fourteen-mile length of Manhattan, there were only four or five buildings where the sunlight still slanted through the windowpanes of the eighteenth century. Fraunces Tavern was one of them.
The New York Sons of Liberty met there before the Revolution. British officers dined there after chasing off the Continental Army. George Washington said a teary good-bye to his officers there after the Revolution. And when the Federal government opened for business in New York, Alexander Hamilton moved his Treasury Department into one of the upper chambers. Now it was restaurant downstairs, museum upstairs.
“Eating pretty late,” said Peter, “even for a New Yorker.”
“Delancey and I are supposed to meet this bag lady at eleven o’clock, on the Bowling Green.”
“You’re still on that? Why couldn’t you meet her in Battery Park at lunchtime?”
“I’m not calling about the logistics, Peter. I didn’t plan this. The bag lady did.”
“Good way to do business. Let crazy customers call the shots.”
“Be quiet and listen. It’s about Delancey. We were having a nice meal. The usual chitchat. He jokes with me about how disappointed he is that I didn’t bring him a girlfriend. We order. He’s telling me about the business—”
“I bet he told you it was terrible.”
“He was telling me about these Revolutionary bonds he sold, and just as the food comes, he gets this funny look, like he’s seen someone or . . . something. He pops up, says he has to go to the can, and leaves.”
“For the night?”
“He never comes back.”
“You mean he stiffed you?”
“He sent me a goddamn text message: ‘Evangeline, something has come up. Go home. I’ll fill you in tomorrow.’ The son of a bitch.”
Peter didn’t like the sound of this. Delancey was cheap, but he had never left a hot meal uneaten in any restaurant, fancy or greasy or anywhere in between. “I’d do what he’s suggesting. Pay the check. Have the restaurant call you a cab. Go home.”
“Like hell, Peter. I didn’t come all the way downtown at this hour just to—”
“Let me try calling him, see what’s going on.”
“He’s not answering. Like you say, he stiffed me.”
Peter suddenly felt very helpless. She was two hundred and twenty miles away. She was pissed. And she’d probably had a glass of wine. He hoped she hadn’t had two.
He said, “Remember what you told me last time? ‘Peter, from now on, we don’t go looking for trouble. Nothing dangerous.’”
“How dangerous can it be to meet some bag lady on the Bowling Green?”
“Plenty dangerous, if this is a setup.”
“Peter, you’re the one who’s always saying to trust our instincts.”
“I also tell you to trust the process, and the process is all about research, logic, and—” He knew he wasn’t reaching her. He had to try something to keep her in the restaurant until she calmed down a bit. “Hey, is it busy there?”
“About half the tables are taken in this room, half in the other room, and it sounds pretty noisy in the taproom, too.”
“Can you take a few pictures with your cell phone? They might show me something. But be subtle about it. Send me the pics. I’ll look at them and call you back.”
A FEW MINUTES later, Peter had mail. He muted the TV again, clicked the attachment on his laptop screen, and opened the file.
Three pictures appeared.
They were more shadowy than sharp. Not surprising. No flash on a cell phone. And the restaurant went for eighteenth-century ambience, which meant low-key electric candle sconces on the walls and real candles flickering on the tables.
He could tell that she was sitting by a window in the Tallmadge Room, the one with the cherrywood paneling and the working fireplace.
There was a young couple directly behind her, a group of hard-drinking businessmen at the table next to her, two old couples by the fireplace.
And sitting at the table near the doorway to the Bissel Room was a lone diner, male. Peter tried to blow up the photograph to get a look at him. But there wasn’t enough light to make it worthwhile, and what was unusual about people dining alone?
So he called her back. “I got nothing.”
He could tell that she was outside. He heard cars, footsteps.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
“The Bowling Green.”
“Peter, don’t always be saying ‘don’t’ to me. I’ve been in scarier places than the Bowling Green on a Monday night in May. And if we’re getting married, you have to get used to me following my instincts once in a while. Trust that process. I’ll call you later.”
He could almost hear the pop of her phone as she flipped it shut.
There was nothing for him to do, so he turned back to the ball game.
IN MOST OF New York, the parade went on day and night. But Lower Manhattan was different after dark, especially since 9/11. It was more like Houston, a business district that emptied when the workday was done. And it had always reminded Evangeline of Boston, with streets that were narrow, twisty, unpredictable, the streets of the ancient city, streets with a pattern that would not have been unfamiliar to Alexander Hamilton or even Peter Stuyvesant.
The night was cool. She was glad that she had worn a camel’s hair sportcoat over her silk blouse, along with Antik denims and comfortable cowboy boots. Her heels echoed behind her as she followed Broad Street to Stone Street to Whitehall.
She stopped in front of the entrance to the Bowling Green subway station, a modern arch of glass and steel. For a moment, it enticed her down.
Maybe Peter was right. Maybe this was crazy. Just jump on the 4 or the 5, change at Fourteenth Street, and be back on the Upper West Side in no time.
But she was committed now. She had always been the one dragged kicking and screaming into Peter’s hunts for lost tea sets or Shakespeare manuscripts or drafts of the United States Constitution. What better way to begin their marriage than to drag Peter into something? What better way to remind him that she was still going to be as independent as ever? And if it paid off, what better wedding present?
The area was quiet but not especially dark. Floodlights sculpted shadows onto the neoclassical façade of the old Alexander Hamilton Customs House. Quaint street lamps lit the tree-lined oval of grass where the Dutch had run a market, where the British had bowled the jack, where the Americans had torn down a statue of the king.
So Evangeline glanced at her watch—almost eleven—then she went through a gate in the wrought-iron fence surrounding the Bowling Green.
And suddenly, it was especially dark. The tall sycamores seemed to suck up the light. The sound of the fountain in the center of the oval—the alien sound of running water in the heart of the city—drowned out the hum of the few cars passing by.
Broadway ran down the west side, Whitehall down the east. Two cabs were idling at the corner of Whitehall and Beaver. The cabbies were standing outside having a chat. An NYPD cruiser glided slowly down Broadway. That made Evangeline feel better, because the sidewalk in front of One Broadway was covered by construction canopy: pipe staging and plywood to protect pedestrians from overhead work, also good for hiding muggers, thieves, and other phantasms of the New York night.
She stood a few moments more, thinking that something might happen quickly if it happened at all. She was glad that it was a small park. She knew that she could make it to the safety of the street in a few strides. So she went toward a bench on the north side of the fountain and sat . . .
. . . and listened to the running water . . .
. . . and looked at her watch . . .
. . . and scoped out the entrances, one at the south end, one at the north . . .
. . . and took out her cell phone and checked her messages . . .
. . . and jumped when she heard footsteps behind her.
But it was only a jogger. He did not even glance at her. He pounded past the fountain and went out by the south gate.
So she checked her messages again . . .
. . . and left the phone open on the bench, like a little night-light, or an alarm . . .
. . . and listened to the running water . . .
. . . and watched a middle-aged man and a girl in her twenties stroll into the park. They stopped in a shadow, kissed, kissed again, pawed each other, then noticed Evangeline and turned quickly for the subway.
She knew their story: the husband had told the trusting wife that he was working late. He had not told her what he was working on: a pretty secretary, perhaps, or a client with 36DDs.
Evangeline had been the trusting wife once, married to a dermatologist whose motto was “the softer the skin, the better.” She called it her sandwich marriage, after her time with Peter Fallon the young man, before her time with Peter Fallon the grown-up.
Grown-up? Perhaps there was a better term . . .
She looked at her watch: 11:09. Six minutes and she was out of there, due diligence done, curiosity not satisfied but reputation for stubborn sense of purpose upheld.
She glanced again at her phone. No new messages in the last three minutes . . .
. . . and set the phone down . . .
. . . and gazed up at the façade of the Customs House . . .
She had read that once there was an old fort there. She imagined torchlight instead of floodlights. She imagined Alexander Hamilton and his artillery company out at the Battery. She imagined two-and three-story buildings instead of skyscrapers, and . . .
She heard something behind her.
She looked over her shoulder.
“No need to turn around.”
The bag lady’s shopping cart had a bad wheel. She pushed it right up to Evangeline’s feet and scowled. “Where’s Delancey?”
Evangeline smelled rum, but not much in the way of b.o. or bad breath or any of the other smells she expected from someone wearing a raincoat so greasy it reflected the light of those quaint street lamps.
She said, “Delancey thought it would be better if I came in his place.”
The bag lady’s dirty little fuzzball of a dog popped out of a pile of rags and stood with his paws on the edge of the cart and growled at Evangeline.
The bag lady began digging through the trash barrel next to the bench. “If I hadn’t seen you in the store, I wouldn’t be talkin’ to you now. I came here to talk to Delancey. Why didn’t he come?”
Evangeline decided to offer a bit of truth. “Something made him nervous.”
The bag lady stopped rooting and looked up, “I make a lot of people nervous. Do I make you nervous?”
Evangeline looked around. “This whole thing makes me nervous.”
“Well, I do business on my turf, or I don’t do business at all.”
Evangeline swallowed. Her mouth was dry. “I . . . I can understand that.”
“You can understand? Well, isn’t that fuckin’ sweet of you.” The bag lady pulled a Pepsi bottle out of the barrel, checked for a bar code, then threw it into the cart.
Evangeline said nothing. She saw no point in antagonizing this woman, who was not nearly as old as she appeared from a distance. The hands were dirty, the hair matted into dreadlocks, but the face didn’t have the leathered appearance that a lot of homeless developed. Evangeline put her somewhere in her forties.
The bag lady pulled out a bottle of rum and took a swallow. “We’re all nervous these days.” She offered Evangeline the bottle.
Evangeline wondered if it would be better to accept the offer and make this a meeting of the drinking sisterhood, or decline the bottle, the germs, and the honor, but leave the bag lady with a little more rum. She declined.
The bag lady laughed, revealing two neat spaces where her front teeth should have been. Somebody must have knocked them out, thought Evangeline, because the rest of her teeth looked pretty good.
The bag lady dropped the bottle into her pocket and said, “Who wouldn’t be nervous these days? You got your government spending, your limp-dick recovery, your crash of 2008 caused by the subprime mess, which you can blame on slick lenders and stupid borrowers who don’t know that if it sounds too good to be true it probably is—I call it thieves selling garbage to morons—oh, and don’t forget the politicians on both sides of the aisle, that fat Massachusetts fuck Barney Frank, sayin’, ‘when it comes to affordable housing, I’m willin’ to roll the dice’—yeah, his dice, our money—or that slithery Texas snake Phil Gramm—don’t you think he looks like a snake?—comin’ up with the bright idea to repeal Glass-Steagall, so that bankers become brokers and brokers become bankers and you can’t tell who’s a good guy and who’s a bad guy and—shit, they’re all bad guys—say, I’m not borin’ you, am I?”
Evangeline shook her head.
“Good. I hate to be a bore at all those fancy uptown cocktail parties, so I practice my chitchat on the Bowling Green.” She went back to the trash barrel and pulled out a newspaper. “New York Post. Did you know Alexander Hamilton founded this rag?”
“As a matter of fact, I was thinking about Hamilton while I was sitting here.”
“Bullshit. You were thinkin’ you have to tinkle you’re so scared to be sittin’ here in a park with a crazy hag like me at this time of night.”
Evangeline said, “I’m not scared. Not with a watchdog to protect us.”
She reached out to pat the dog, and he bared his teeth.
“Down, Georgie.” The bag lady laughed. “You know why I like this place? It’s where the Dutch had their first hog-and-cattle market, so this is where the money changers first met in New York. That makes it the birthplace of American trade, which makes it the birthplace of American money. And all our troubles are about money.”
“My name is Evangeline.” She offered her hand. “What’s yours?”
The bag lady said, “Call me Frivolous Sal, a peculiar sort of a gal.”
“So, are you Delancey’s assistant or something?”
“More like a new partner.”
“So, how much of the story do you know?”
Evangeline did not want to say “absolutely nothing,” so she said, “As much of it as Delancey knows.”
“I’ll bet you don’t know about this.” Frivolous Sal pulled a small brass crown from her pocket. “Do you?”
Frivolous Sal looked around the Bowling Green. “You see all the posts holdin’ up this fence? There were little crowns like this on all of them. Little crown finials. But the rebels tore ’em all off the night they tore down the king’s statue in 1776.”
Evangeline extended her hand. “May I hold it?”
Frivolous Sal gave her a squint, then asked the dog, “What do you think, Georgie? Do we let this lady hold a piece of history?”
The dog looked at Evangeline and sniffed.
Frivolous Sal said, “Georgie likes you. He thinks you’re honest.”
She dropped the crown into Evangeline’s hand. It was heavy brass, polished and shimmering in the lamplight. A hole had been drilled though it and a leather lanyard passed through the hole, as if it were a talisman of a more noble past.
“Is this what Delancey was supposed to see?” asked Evangeline.
“This is just the preview.” And something cracked through Frivolous Sal’s voice, something hard, trained, professional. “But the real story is coming right . . . about . . . now. Coming in at the south entrance, coming this way, coming fast.”
A man appeared from the shadows beyond the fountain. He wore a gray suit and rimmed glasses. He was tall and skinny. His stride was long but more frightened than confident. He carried a briefcase.
Evangeline tried to catch his features, but they were bland, square, conventional. She didn’t think, in the moments she watched him flicking in and out of the pools of light cast by those quaint street lamps, that she could ever give a police sketch of him.
“Slow down there, cowboy,” said Frivolous Sal. “You’re supposed to be bringin’ a message to Delancey.”
“I don’t see Delancey.” The man never broke stride. “And I’ve been made.”
“I told you this would happen. Even on the Bowling Green late at night.” He was heading for the north entrance. “Two of them, under the canopy over by One Broadway.”
Frivolous Sal looked over her shoulder. “Fuck.” Then she looked to her right, as if she was expecting backup from somewhere on the other side of the Bowling Green.
The man with the briefcase began to run. And the dog did what dogs do. He jumped out of the carriage and ran after the running man.
Frivolous Sal cursed again and ran after the dog.
Evangeline looked back toward One Broadway: two men were appearing from under that plywood and pipe canopy, moving toward the south entrance of the park.
But she had seen enough. Whatever was happening, she didn’t want any more of it. So she jumped up and ran.
The dog was barking near the north entrance. Now the bag lady forgot the dog and started after Evangeline. “Come back, you silly bitch. Stop, thief!”
Evangeline was running straight for a cab still parked at the corner of Beaver Street. The fence rose between her and the cab, but Evangeline did two circuits around the Central Park Reservoir every other day. So she was in shape enough to grab a spoke and vault over, right into the middle of Whitehall Street.
At least there were no cars coming.
So she sprinted across the street and grabbed the handle of the cab door.
Frivolous Sal let out a scream and began to wave her hands to attract attention, but two or three cars went past. Just another crazy bag lady making a scene.
Evangeline jumped into the cab and said to the driver, “Seventy-ninth and Columbus. Fast.” Then she looked out at the shadows on the Bowling Green. The man with the briefcase had disappeared . . . into a cab or a car or onto a bicycle, she couldn’t tell. Another man was crossing Whitehall Street and vaulting the fence. And those two from under the canopy were still advancing.
Evangeline reached into her pocket for her cell phone. Instead, she felt something harder and heavier and far older. In all the excitement, she had forgotten to grab the phone but had kept the crown finial.
TWENTY MINUTES LATER, Peter Fallon’s cell phone rang. Evangeline. He pressed the button. “What now?”
“I don’t know. You tell me.” It wasn’t Evangeline. It was some guy.
“My name’s Joey. I picked up this cell phone from the sidewalk on the Bowling Green. Your number’s on it.” He spoke with a Brooklyn accent.
“The sidewalk?” Peter’s stomach turned. His focus split and split again. Who is this? What’s happened to her? Who do I know in New York who can help? He decided the best thing was to play it cool. So he asked, “Did she drop it?”
“That would be why it was on the sidewalk, don’t you think?”
“And she didn’t notice?”
“If she did, she might’ve picked it up.”
This guy was annoying, thought Peter, but don’t mouth off . . . yet.
“She jumped into a cab,” said Joey. “I’m sure she wants her cell phone back. What’s her address?”
“You want her address? Listen, pal, I was born at night—”
“Yeah. Yeah, but not last night. Ha-ha. Very funny. A smart-ass. I should write it down to call you whenever I need a laugh. Now I got your girlfriend’s cell phone, so—”
“We’ll get it in the morning,” said Peter.
“It’s your phone, too? This your wife? Is she there?”
“No, she’s not your wife, or no, she’s not there.”
“Both,” said Peter. “Just tell us where to meet and when. We’ll give you a hundred bucks for your time.”
“A Benjamin? Nice. I’ll take a hedonistic sage over a dead president any day. You like that? Hedonistic sage. Bet you thought I didn’t have an education.”
“I just want the cell phone back.”
“Meet at the Bowling Green, tomorrow morning at nine thirty. I’ll be wearin’ a blue windbreaker and a Yankee hat.”
“I’ll have on a blue blazer and a blue button-down with an open collar.”
“That’ll make things easy. Only about a million guys in New York wearin’ Yankee hats. Only about a million more wearin’ blue blazers and button-downs.”
“I’ll have my girlfriend with me, too,” said Peter. “You’ll recognize her, right?”
“I never forget a face, especially a pretty one, even at night. I might forget their names in the mornin’ but—”
“Are we done?”
“See ya tomorrow, Boston.”
Afterward, Peter called Evangeline’s landline. She answered on the fifth ring. She had just gotten in. She told him what had happened and admitted she had panicked.
He said he’d be there in the morning. “We’ll go to the Bowling Green together.”
She took the crown finial from her pocket and turned it over in her fingers. She wondered what it was she had really seen that night, and how it had all begun.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
William Martin really has a firm grasp on what it takes to keep his readers flipping pages. The back and forth style of writing keeps the story line fresh. His extenstive research proves worth the effort. The recurring characters bring familiarity into the novel. Always an intense, well thought out plot, Martin keeps me coming back for each book he puts out.
After following Peter Fallon and Evangeline through the streets of Boston in Martin's first novel many years ago, I always eagerly await their next adventure. Martin draws you into a world of history, drama and excitement with yet another perfectly crafted tale that will leave your pages flying and keep you up well past your bedtime. I have read them all and I sped through this one at record speed. Martin has graced us with yet another gem, offering some of his most exciting, captivating and moving passages to date. Join Peter and Evangeline as they delve into uncharted territory, New York, and I promise you will not be disappointed.
I enjoyed "The Lost Constitution" so much, I pre-ordered "City of Dreams." The day I finished City of Dreams, I bought Mr Martin's two earlier Peter Fallon books (Back Bay and Harvard Yard). These books are intriguing, sensuous, and provocative--a real American mix of history, mystery, romance, and adventure. William Martin is a superb storyteller as well as a superior writer. And if you're already familiar with Martin's Peter Fallon stories, wait till you see how the character of Evangeline has developed. I couldn't stop reading City of Dreams, for the characters and story. At the same time, seeing the economic perils on the news every night, I couldn't help but think that City of Dreams was more than a good novel; it explains financial dynamics in definitely-not-dry terms in a plot that includes the heroes of the American Revolution right up to today. Then again, just the descriptions of Manhattan across three centuries make City of Dreams a real treat. Finally, it's the little things that make this book extraordinary. The chapters about the Riley Family living in Hell's Kitchen, for example, are written so well, the family and setting become chicken-skin real. Literary magic.
William Martin has done it again with another fabulous entry into the Peter Fallon series of books. This is his best since BACK BAY and it delivers the thrilling story wrapped around great historical moments that is his trademark. Not only is the plot fast paced and exciting, but our favorite characters are back for the adventure, and the ongoing romance between Peter and Evangeline absolutely crackles. Full of big ideas and big scenes, CITY OF DREAMS is great for a book club - you're going to want to talk about this!