Chapter 2

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THE CLOCK ON HIS office wall read one o’clock. But it seemed like the hands weren’t moving. Mark stared at his computer, trying not to look at the clock. The incessant tick-tock seemed to mock him.

His boss, Hank Douglas, leaned in the doorway. “Mark, I need that file on the Hoffman project. I’ve got a meeting in an hour with Hoffman to go over any changes he might want to make before we move on. Oh, and could you run me another set of blueprints, just in case?”

“No problem. The blueprints are printing as we speak. I’ll finish up Hoffman’s file and get it to you in five.”

“Thanks, man,” Hank said over his shoulder as he dashed back to his office.

Hank was a man of speed. Not only was he quick-witted and spoke fast, but it seemed like he even talked on the run. If he was speaking to an employee he was walking past the person or rushing to a meeting, or the elevator door was closing between them as he added a few final remarks.

Hank was also the CEO of Synergy Engineering and Design (SED), one of the top five engineering firms in the country. The company designed multimillion-dollar homes for celebrities, including quaint vacation homes in Sun Valley, Idaho, commissioned by major movie stars. For some, twenty-eight million was a small price to pay for a good room when on vacation.

In addition, the company had a commercial division responsible for buildings like Trump Towers Asia and the beautiful, yet urban, Parchment casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Everything operated out of the Douglas Building in downtown Manhattan, which was located on Broadway across the street from the Marine Midland building. It was twenty-five stories of glass and stone jutting from the earth in what one would say was an impossible construction. Twisting metal mixed with stone made the building look like something from a science-fiction movie.

The top of the skyscraper was crowned by thirty-foot pine trees, which cast long shadows over the pond that sat in the west corner. The garden-like park was open to the public, and the employees enjoyed walking on the winding path that looped throughout the park. In the summer months, a family of mallards returned each year to grow fat from all the free food tossed to them.

Mark, who rarely had a chance to enjoy the rooftop park, was in charge of the residential department. His staff designed houses from basic design-build to landscaping and interior design. He was the chief engineer with twenty-one other designers under him. Altogether, SED employed almost a thousand people and was on its way to becoming one of the most sought-after firms in the nation.

Mark had come from the small town of Cañon City, Colorado, an old mining town that had morphed into a tourist town after the gold ran out. The population of the town was only fifteen thousand. Moving to New York after growing up in a small town had been a bit of a shock to his system. Nevertheless, he managed and now loved the city and had learned to overlook its ugly spots.

He’d had a normal childhood, for an orphan—after the age of eleven. Before that was a complete blank, as if someone had wiped his mind clean. He’d seen therapists who’d tried hypnotism and counseling and any type of therapy they could think of but still he could not remember anything of his early childhood. At first it hadn’t bothered him, for his foster Dad and Mom never brought it up and changed the subject anytime he asked a question. This brought so much tension between them that they sent him off to another home. In his confusion and rebellion, he didn’t stay long in one foster home. Only as he got older did he realize what an impact losing the first eleven years of your life were—but anytime he tried to get them back, his social workers or foster parents adamantly refused to talk about it. Which made him suppose that whatever he’d gone through at an early age was not something they wanted him to relive. He had dropped bringing up the issue with anyone else, but he was constantly on the lookout for clues from his past.

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