A new sample from Nagler 5, now called “Waiting for the Lies.”
An explosion leveled two blocks of downtown Ironton. Lauren Fox, the city planner (and Frank Nagler’s companion, is charged with determining a redevelopment plan, but sees trouble from the start.
Lauren Fox forced her way through the half-opened door into the lobby of a bank she had commandeered on Blackwell, a block away from the explosion site. Hurried, over-caffeinated and mind filled with details, she had forgotten that entry doors opened outward and had tried to shoulder it open inward. Instead, she shifted her shoulder bag and box of records she was carrying to the left, grabbed the handle with three fingers of her right hand and pulled the door open enough to jam her left foot into the gap, and then turning a half-circle, pushed the door open enough with her foot that she could slither through the opening.
Inside, she exhaled, dropped the shoulder bag with a thump, and kneeling, more gently placed the box next to it, trying not to spill the metal cup of coffee inside the box.
“If getting into the building was that hard, what’s day going to be like,” she muttered.
She had taken two calls the first day. One from Calista Knox telling her that Leonard’s store would be open all day and night as long as needed, and second from Mayor Jesus Ollivar, telling her to begin planning for the recovery.
She laughed sourly the day before when she had arrived at the bank for the first time. The place had no desks, just computer work stations atop pedestals anchored to the floor. Alright, she told herself. Nothing will be easy. She had the pedestals ripped out and carpeted the floor with an sixty-four-square-foot tax-map version of downtown Ironton taped to the floor.
The bank manager had protested. “We had volunteered our lobby out of civic responsibility,” he chirped, dancing around the room, following Lauren as she gave directions to her staff and the public works crew that were clearing out the space. He stepped in front of her and said, “I must protest. This is not what we agreed to.”
Lauren, working on her third day of three hours of sleep a night, and more coffee than any one human could absorb, held up her right hand. She closed her eyes, took a calming breath, and then opened her left eye to a narrow, glaring slit.
“Mr. Jenkins, I thank you for the use of your space, but I’m the city planner and in this declared emergency I can do whatever the hell I want or need to do.”
That was surprisingly calm.
She stepped around him, and he slid to stop her. His eyes blazed behind his little round glasses and his lips pulled his mustache over his mouth. “I must consider…”
The calmness deserted her. Lauren put a hand on his shoulder and steered him aside. “Buddy, I got about a minute of patience left and if you have a problem you can call the mayor. I’m sure with two smoking blocks of downtown piled up across the street, he’ll be thrilled to hear from a whiny bank manager about how we have disrupted his precious office lobby.” She turned to face him. “To which no one will be coming for while, by the way.”
“Well, I’ll …” and he walked away.
“Hey, Mr. Civic Responsibility,” Lauren called after him, “Drag a couple of those desks from the back offices and put them up against the wall.” She smiled. “Thank you.” She tipped her head to the right to indicate the spot. Jenkins huffed out a breath and turned to the back of the lobby. “Hey, Marty, give him a hand, huh?”
Failing to suppress a grin, Marty, a public works foreman, patted Jenkins on the back and said, “Mr. Jenkins, let’s move some office furniture. Can you help me do that?” He looked back and winked at Lauren. “Don’t mind her, she gets better by noon.”
Lauren knelt down to one of the maps, markers in hand, bit the corner of her lip and said, “Ha!”
The stiff shuffling of paper and soft phone conversations took the edge off the silence of the high-ceilinged room with marble floors. The bank was built more than a hundred fifty years ago as a showplace to store the iron money that build Ironton. Its thick brick structure helped it survive a fire in 1883 that wiped out the blocks of wooden buildings on the eastern side of downtown; it was used in that fire as the last line of defense against the raging, advancing inferno. She had placed a brass plaque on the bank a few years ago to mark that event.
Wasn’t there something funny about that fire? she asked herself, but then shook away the concern. Not now.
The tax maps had already been marked with four black crosses and dates, indicating a spot where a victim had been found.
Lauren leaned over the map and scratched a green cross over a blue-outlined lot and block. Cleared. Then she ran a finger over a long row of papers taped next to the maps until she found the corresponding address and apartment. She marked another green cross.
She leaned back on her folded ankles and shook her head. I don’t get why they’ve only found four victims.
Two days after the explosion searchers found the first victim, an eighty-seven year old woman, Agnes Marchand. She lived on the second floor above the antique shop and died when the ceiling and roof fell on her.
Lauren examined the maps and nodded when she found the black marker with a date.
A day later, the second and third victims were found two buildings over. Their identities were being researched. The landlord said they were Marita and Juan Hernandez. But an identification card in a wallet in the apartment rubble said his last name was Morales. Their deaths had been recorded on the map, Lauren saw.
On the fourth day, the last victim was found, a twenty-year-old cook, Ethan Ricardo, who was called “Rickey,” at the Cuban restaurant on the corner of Warren and Blackwell. The initial investigation said the explosion started in the basement of that shop. His death was so marked.
Lauren scanned the list of names and addresses that ran along side of the tax maps. The list held about fifty names: Parents, kids, singles.
“Something’s wrong,” she muttered as she grabbed a fistful of her brown hair and pulled it up and away from her head. She examined the split ends. “Man, I need a trim.”
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