The Prenderville Foundation was in a building off-Broadway, not far from where the twin towers used to stand.
It was not far from Wall Street or City Hall, and when I looked at my phone, I saw that Felicity was not far away, having followed Florenz from the Starbucks near the Woolworth building to City Hall.
It was an interesting place for a man of his profession to go. Perhaps he was trying to drum up business among the civic leaders.
Was it significant that Mandy had set up her business in this district, not far from Wall Street, and Civic Hall, where a lot of her most ardent admirers were located?
To be honest, I wasn’t all that interested in where the Foundation's money came from, it was much the same as those ex-presidential foundations, always flush with funds, but you’re never sure what those funds are being used for, and the newspapers, every now and then made allegations which quickly died as fast as they rose when rich and powerful lawyers start arriving at the chief editor’s office in numbers.
I was just interested in whether she knew my father, and if she did, what their business relationship was. Of course, I fully expected to get bundled out the door by two burly bouncers long before that happened.
That was how I found myself outside the front door, looking in.
A gust of cold air brushed me as I stood there, and for a day that had been still and warm, I had to take it as an omen. Nothing good was going to come of this. I should take heed, turn around, and walk away.
For about five seconds I had the resolve to do just that.
On the sixth second, I took a deep breath and walked through the doors.
I had been expecting a soup kitchen or something similar, with lines of homeless people gratefully accepting food and a place to sit in relative comfort and warmth behind the shaded windows. It was anything but that, with a counter, a wall, and a door. I assumed if you had a good enough excuse, you could get through the door, and to the other side.
I walked up to the counter and stood there, waiting.
There were two people behind the counter, dressed in clothes that told me they were Foundation workers, a uniform of sorts, and both were talking, a conversation that was not about work, but an upcoming party at the weekend. One had been invited, the other not, and the not was wondering why.
Visitors clearly weren’t a priority.
A quick check at the ceiling level showed two cameras that would cover the whole foyer. It would certainly pick up my face, and it was probably being viewed by a faceless security guard in a small room somewhere, assessing if I was a threat.
Still, the invitation-less employee was bemoaning his bad fortune.
I looked at my watch. Three and a half minutes. I was considering making them aware of my presence, but I decided this would be a game, betting mentally with myself on how long it would take before they realized I was standing on the other side of the counter.
Five minutes. The phone rang, and the nearest staff member picked it up.
There were a number of changes in facial expression, from annoyance, to surprise, to fear, and then astonishment. Then he replaced the receiver and turned.
“Miss Prenderville is sending her personal assistant down to collect you. She said to say she’s been expecting you.”
OK, my turn for a surprise then astonishment. “You don’t even know my name yet.”
“You are Harry Walthenson, aren’t you?”
“Then we do know who you are Mr Walthenson.”
The side door opened and a Chinese woman of indeterminate age came out. “Mr Walthenson, I presume?”
“Then come this way please.”
Without another word I followed her through the door that led to a corridor running down a long wall, to an elevator lobby. An elevator was waiting for us, one with a driver, we stepped in, he closed the door, and we went up.
One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven. Stop.
The door opened and we stepped out. We walked along another corridor to what I thought was a corner office where the assistant knocked on the door, opened it, and motioned for me to pass through.
Once inside, the door closed behind me.
I was the only one in that room. On two sides there were windows that looked out towards the Hudson, and, if I stood in the right position, I could see the Statue of Liberty.
It was largely empty except for a desk, three chairs and several sideboard cupboards. Down the side to my left was a doorway, closed.
The room had CCTV cameras as had each of the corridors, so someone had been watching me from the moment I stepped into the building, or even as I approached the building.
I stood in the centre of the room and waited.
After two minutes, the side door opened and a woman I recognised as Mandy Prenderville came into the room. She looked different from the photos I’d seen of her, then she had been about 200 pounds, now she was no more than 80. It made a considerable difference, especially if I were to use some of the facial recognition software.
She came over to me, hand outstretched.
It’s good to see you, Harry. You look just like your father at that age, you know.”
I shook hands which felt strange.
“Sit, let’s talk.”
© Charles Heath 2020-2022