On the morning of the day he disappeared, David Elliot awoke, as he did every weekday, at precisely 5:45 A.M.
Dave slid his legs out from beneath Pratesi sheets. He glanced neutrally at where his wife, Helen, lay curled into a small, tight ball, on the right-hand side of the bed. The Panasonic clock radio on her nightstand was set for 8:20. By the time she awoke to her more cultured business day, he'd be in his midtown office, hard at work.
He stepped into the closet and swept his Nikes, sweatsuit, socks, and headband off a shelf. Then, padding over to the long, low, far-too-modern bureau--the most recent fruit of Helen's obsessive redecorating--he fumbled a fanny pack out of a drawer, dropping a rolled-up change of underwear and his wallet, keys, and gold Rolex President watch into it.
After visiting the guest bathroom to relieve himself and brush his teeth, he went to the kitchen. The Toshiba coffee maker's brew light glowed green. The timer's digital display read 5:48. He decanted the pot into a large enameled mug decorated with a picture of the 47 Ronin, the souvenir of a visit to the Sengakuji Temple during a business trip to Tokyo. He emptied the grounds from the brewer basket, filled the machine's reservoir, and reset the timer for 8:15. Helen needed her morning coffee just as much as he did. Or maybe more so--Helen was far from sociable upon rising, and it was not until she opened the doors of her Lexington Avenue gallery that she put on her best behavior.
Warm, thick coffee slid down Dave's throat. He shivered with pleasure.
Something soft brushed his pajama leg. Dave reached down to tickle the cat's chin. "Bon matin, ma belle,"
he said, knowing that all cats speak French of preference. The cat, who was named Apache, arched her neck, stretched, and purred.
Helen loathed Apache's name. She had insisted more than once that Dave change it. Second marriages produce more compromises than first marriages. Dave knew that, and knew that he should accede to his wife's request. But a cat's name is a cat's name; it has nothing to do with its owner's wishes. And so after five years of marriage Dave still called the animal "Apache," while Helen (who, being blonde, was used to having her way) icily referred to it as "that cat."
On Saturdays and Sundays, Dave ran west, jogging across Fifty-seventh Street to Fifth Avenue, then north to Central Park. On those days, the running was purest pleasure. There were fewer menacing crazies on the street--or so it seemed--and the runner could concentrate on running.
Less so the weekdays. No matter how you ran, no matter where you ran, watchfulness was called for. Certain blocks were to be avoided; alleys were a risk; none but the reckless jogged beneath bridges and overpasses; nor did the prudent begin their runs before dawn. On a morning run even a man like David Elliot, a man who did not have an enemy in the world, sometimes glanced warily over his shoulder.
His workday route took him east on Fifty-seventh to Sutton Place, then north on York Avenue until he reached a pedestrian bridge across FDR Drive. He ran up the path by the East River until he reached the high Nineties. Once there, he turned south again, retracing his steps. After crossing the bridge a second time, he jogged west to Park Avenue, and then south to the corner of Fiftieth and Park.
It usually was just after 7:00 A.M. when he entered his office.
As an executive vice president of his company, David Elliot was entitled to, and enjoyed, the perquisites of rank. His forty-fifth floor suite consisted of eight hundred square feet of expensively understated space, a walk-in closet, a discreet wet bar, and a full bathroom with tub and shower.
Dave liked his water hot. Steam filled the bathroom as he lathered himself from top to bottom twice over. Still in the shower, he took a Gillette safety razor and a can of shaving cream from the shelf above the spigots. He never used a mirror when shaving, and hadn't for so long he couldn't remember. It was another habit he had picked up in a war unwillingly remembered.
David Elliot, with a towel around his waist, stepped out of the bathroom and into his office. On the mahogany credenza behind his matching mahogany desk, a Toshiba brewer, the twin of the model at home, beeped three times, signaling that his coffee was ready. Dave filled a chocolate-brown mug with it. The cup was decorated with a raised, angular, silver-enameled design: the Senterex corporate logo.
Dave took a sip and sighed. Life without coffee is too awful to contemplate.
He noticed, damnit,
that the watercolor over his credenza was askew. Every week or two, some dust-rag-wielding vandal from the nightly cleaning crew knocked the thing sideways. It was a minor irritation, but one that was growing in its power to annoy.
Almost invariably Dave was the first person in the office--or at least the first in the executive suite. Bernie Levy, master of the corporate ship, didn't show up until 8:00 or so, his limousine leaving Short Hills, New Jersey, at 6:50 sharp. The rest of the executive cadre drifted in between 8:15 and 8:45, depending on what train they caught from Greenwich, Scarsdale, or Darien, and always much conditional upon that train running on time. The first of the secretaries arrived at 8:30 punctually.
For this reason, Dave knew he could, as was his unvarying morning habit, lounge buck naked (but for a towel) at his desk, savoring the day's second cup of coffee, and studying the pages of The Wall Street Journal
Several peaceful minutes later, with a third cup of coffee in his hand, he ambled into his walk-in closet to select his suit for the day.
Today he chose a lightweight tan, almost khaki, number. Although the brutal humidity of the past summer had broken, the late September weather was still warm. Dave's wool suits would remain on their hangers for a few weeks longer.
With suit pants donned and belted, and feet comfortably placed in soft, glove leather Bally loafers, Dave unwrapped a fresh, starched white shirt. He put it on, and after some consideration selected from his tie rack a pale yellow tie with a blue motif. A full-length mirror backed Dave's closet door. He pulled the door three-quarters closed so that he could study himself.Never learned how to knot a tie without a mirror, did you?
his guardian angel asked.
He looked himself over carefully. Not bad. Not bad at all.
His waistline hadn't changed since college. Forty-seven years old, but looking younger than that. Oh, you handsome dog, you're going to live forever.
Dave nodded as if in agreement. The daily jogging, the two nights a week workout with weights, no smoking but for an occasional and much prized cigar, a diet about which even Helen couldn't complain, alcohol comsumption that was modest by any...
The questioning voice came from the office behind him--Bernie Levy's voice, its gruff Brooklyn accent unmistakable. Dave glanced at his Rolex. 7:43. Traffic must have been light this morning. Senterex's chairman and CEO was in the office well ahead of schedule.
Dave shrugged on his jacket, nudged his tie knot imperceptibly to the left, and gripping his coffee cup, pushed open the closet door.
"Yes, Bernie. What's up?"
Bernie was facing away from the closet. Dave didn't see his gun until he turned around.
Excerpted from Vertical Run by Joseph Garber. . Excerpted by permission of Bantam, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.