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Authors: Bernice Gottlieb

Havoc-on-Hudson

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HAVOC
-on-
HUDSON

BERNICE GOTTLIEB

 

HAVOC-ON-HUDSON

 

 

Copyright
© 2015 Bernice Gottlieb.

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage retrieval system without the written permission of the author except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews.

 

 

This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, names, incidents, organizations, and dialogue in this novel are either the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.

 

 

iUniverse

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Because of the dynamic nature of the Internet, any web addresses or links contained in this book may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid. The views expressed in this work are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher, and the publisher hereby disclaims any responsibility for them.

 

Any people depicted in stock imagery provided by Thinkstock are models, and such images are being used for illustrative purposes only.

Certain stock imagery © Thinkstock.

 

ISBN: 978-1-4917-8217-0 (sc)

ISBN: 978-1-4917-8216-3 (e)

 

Library of Congress Control Number: 2015918073

 

 

iUniverse rev. date: 11/03/2015

For

Degen, Michael, Robert, Samantha, Inbo and Zoli

Author’s Note

I owe a debt of gratitude to my dear companion, Paul Gottbetter, for believing in me, encouraging me to write this story, and for coming up with the title for this book: one which so perfectly fits its contents.

I also want to thank Joan Santini and Terry Porco, who have worked side by side with me in all my endeavors for so many years. Their devotion has been a blessing.

This cautionary tale came about because of the violent crimes real estate brokers have experienced throughout the country. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, an average of 70-80 reported incidents of rape, robbery and homicide take place each year within this group of professionals. Since 2008 the number of real estate homicides nation-wide actually exceeded those of police officers killed in the line of duty during that same period.

It’s a fact that Real Estate is a “high risk profession” and many existing practices need to be revisited and amended to keep Realtors® out of harm’s way, as they labor to help the public achieve the “American Dream” of home ownership.

This story may be a work of fiction, but the dangers are very real.

Prologue

When he saw the helium-filled balloons dancing above the Open House sign, the driver slowly braked. He parked at the curb, got out of the car, and stood for a moment admiring the classy faux Georgian Colonial offered for sale. It had begun to rain heavily, and he opened his English golfing umbrella to keep his Ralph Lauren tweeds dry. Then he strolled up the manicured path to the front entrance. He knew there would be very few lookers on a stormy day, and he smiled, humming “Singin’ in the Rain” as he headed towards the front door.

Grace Chung, a slender, chatty salesperson, asked the visitor to sign in at a nearby table. Without removing his silky calfskin gloves, he pulled a silver Tiffany pen from his breast pocket, though there were a number of ballpoints on the table.

Grace sized him up as he wrote, a classy, good-looking guy with lots of money, she thought. This was a two-million-dollar home, and he didn’t look like one of those Sunday tourists who frequented open houses as a hobby. Once his name, telephone number, and email address were recorded, Grace glanced briefly at the sign-in pad but immediately gave up an attempt to learn his name: his handwriting was almost impossible to read. She wouldn’t ask him to clarify the information, but she’d be certain to get it before he left.

As they walked through the beautifully decorated home, they chatted amiably, and the customer told Grace he was relocating with his family from California. Grace tossed her black silken hair over one shoulder; she was still single and this dude was hot.

Too bad he was already taken.

About to open the door to the lower level where the elaborate home theater was located, she turned to ask if he had any questions about what he’d seen so far.

“Yes,” he said, his smile as radiant as a toothpaste ad, “what color panties are you wearing?”

At that moment, the front door opened, and a couple with two small children entered, stopping in their tracks at the horrific scene before them. The would-be rapist had yanked up Grace’s skirt and pinned her against the wall, knocking down a photograph. Pieces of shattered glass had cut Grace’s calf and ankle. She’d tried to scream, but his gloved hand clamped down roughly over her mouth and nose.

Before the stunned couple at the door could make sense of what was happening, the man in tweeds dropped his prey and ran toward the open door, shoving one of the kids aside. The girl fell backwards out the door, crashing into the umbrellas her parents had left there. The dark, hybrid car at the curb hummed to a start, and then sped noiselessly away.

When the police arrived, Grace Chung was still hysterical.

1

The serpentine driveway was littered with debris from the torrential rainstorm the previous afternoon. In order to park my car close to the entrance of the former veterinary hospital, I’d had to stop several times to move heavy tree branches off to one side of the road. My client, Lily Gould, sporting precarious Jimmy Choos, would never have been able to navigate the debris now heaped on the path.

Once inside the old building, we found the main area eerily quiet; our footsteps and voices echoed in the high-ceilinged emptiness. For many years this space had served as an active waiting room and nurses’ station, and I remembered it, fondly, as a bustling place. There were still remnants of the medical practice here and there; cages and supplies lined the walls of the side rooms and gurneys once used for surgical procedures crowded the hallways. As we walked through the vast structure, we discussed the potential the spacious rooms had for Lily’s business, a line of chic, affordable clothing that had become popular among the younger set. She needed lots of room for the bulky mechanical equipment used in clothing design and manufacturing.

Lily Gould was an attractive young woman, and, until recently, we’d been communicating solely by phone and email. It was nice to meet her finally, now that I had a substantial property to offer her.

Suddenly, Lily screamed and jumped up on a nearby chair. A dark streak sped between us across the gleaming wood floor. “Oh my God,” she shrieked, it’s a rat! Get it away from me! Help!!”

“It’s okay, Lily,” I assured her, holding my hand out to steady her. In those five-inch stilettos she was tottering on the rickety chair. “Not to worry, Luv. It’s not a rat. It’s just Charlie.” I helped her down from her perilous perch.

“Charlie?” She staggered, still grimacing, staring in the direction of the vanished mouse. Lily’s ridiculous heels, I thought, clearly endangered her more than any teeny pink-eared field mouse.

“He’s Dr. Bondi’s pet,” I lied, “an amazing trained mouse. He loves visitors and does a couple of really neat tricks, like wiggle his ears.”

Lily moaned. “I have a horrible fear of rodents, Maggie. I can’t even look at them without feeling nauseous. I do love the building, but I hope the owner takes Charlie with him when he sells it.”

“He certainly plans to,” I assured her and silently prayed the itinerant mouse wouldn’t show up again as we continued our tour. “He loves his little buddy.” Oh, dear, was I laying it on too strong?

This warehouse-sized veterinary hospital had closed when the eighty-eight year old physician reluctantly retired. Lily’s business needed what the building had to offer, manufacturing space and proper zoning, although, as yet, Lily had no need for walk-in traffic. The structure was tucked away on a large parcel of land, fronting an east-west artery near major highways, an asset for any manufacturing/retail company. Hmm, I thought, making a mental note, maybe I’d suggest to her the possibility of branching into a retail outlet. That’s worked out great for Eileen Fisher in Irvington.

On the way back to my office, I told Lily about Dr. Philip Bondi, a delightful old fellow. Those of us who’d used his services would miss his sage advice and wry sense of humor. Once, when I’d brought my pregnant Himalayan rabbit in for an emergency visit, I’d sat in the crowded waiting room while several dogs and a Persian cat spooked me by eying her with evil intent.

After a short wait, Dr. Bondi peeked out from his exam room, his mane of white hair partially obscuring his face. “Will the pregnant rabbit come in please?” he asked, lightening the mood in the waiting room, at my expense, of course.

2

I dropped Lily off at her car and headed for the office. The Main Street storefront with the blue and gray awning that reads, “Maggie Mitty, Licensed Real Estate Broker,” has served as my second home for the past twenty years. Parking near the red brick building that houses both the town hall and the police department, I stood on the sidewalk and looked around me: Hudson Hills, my hometown.

Hudson Hills is an upscale bedroom community, a stone’s throw from New York City, but a world away from its manic hustle and bustle. I often drive into Manhattan to enjoy its many attractions, but I only feel like myself again when I leave the skyscrapers behind and return to the greenery and fresh air of the suburban countryside. Many people find their spiritual energy in The City, as it’s called around here (as if there were only one city in the entire world), but, for me, it’s Westchester County that’s manna for the soul.

At the juncture of Route 9, a circuitous road that winds through the Hudson Valley alongside the beautiful river, Main Street begins its long, steep slope down toward the Hudson. Driving my old Mercedes down that hilI, I relish the unimpeded view of the river. Whitewashed historic homes with pretty porches and hanging flower baskets line both sides of the street. For many years, from this idyllic setting, I’ve watched the boats go by and the Metro-North commuter trains crawl along the river’s shore. I sometimes feel that it’s my mission to help others discover the magic of living in the quaint villages of the area.

Claire Burns, my assistant, greeted me as I walked into the office. A robust, freckle-faced redhead, she’s worked with me since the day I first hung out a shingle announcing my presence in the community.

“I know what you’re going to say, Maggie,” Claire started, defensively, brushing back bright curls fresh from the salon, “that landscaper called right after you and your client took off. He wanted us to know that, because of the storm damage, he couldn’t get the property cleaned up this morning like he was supposed to. Everyone needed him—whole trees down, branches on roofs, stuff like that. It was too late for me to call you, and it wouldn’t have changed anything.” She was clutching her late husband’s wedding ring, which she wore on a gold chain around her neck, and looking at me for reassurance that she’d done the right thing.

I nodded. Claire, a perfectionist, was always in a tizzy.

“Were the grounds a holy mess?”

“They sure were—it was a disaster zone.” I dropped my briefcase on the empty desktop and sat down. “But I think Lily liked the building. It reminded her of some of the old warehouses in SoHo.

“That sounds promising.”

“Yeah. She’s coming back next week with her business partner.”

“That’s great! Oh, by the way you got a call from that new chief of police,” Claire said. “You know? Chief Betsy?”

I nodded.

“I never can get used to lady cops—and this one is so tall. Even standing up I have to crane my neck to talk to her.” Claire was five-two and slender as one of the pencils she kept so sharply pointed in a Fordham University mug on her desk.

Why the heck was the Hudson Hills chief of police calling me? Impatient, I pressed Claire for more. “What did she want?”

“Dunno.” She shrugged. “She’s in your voice mail. She says it’s pretty important that she see you sometime today.”

“Did she say why?” Before Claire could answer, I pushed the button for my messages. Two: one from the Chief; one from Andrew Coyne, a Madison Avenue lawyer I’d met at a closing recently. Both were intriguing.

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