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When I Fall by Barb McClatchy
With a unique view into corporate America and a squeegee in hand to crystalize it, one window washer sees the unthinkable 30 stories up...
Mel Hawthorne’s prospects with Sarah Gavin appear slim, particularly once her fiancé announces to the world that his pharmaceutical firm has cured cancer—despite knowing the drug’s side effects. While washing windows of a Philadelphia building, Mel believes he's witnessed a murder, but unfortunately the police can’t find a body nor any evidence of foul play. Mel races to solve the alleged crime, but what Sarah’s fiancé doesn’t realize is that concealing the drug’s side effects immediately sparked a twist of fate that’s been smoldering for years, leaving a trail of evidence that no one but Mel and his closest cohorts cares enough about to pursue.
Set in the City of Brotherly Love, the novel is sure to leave you wishing you had pieced the puzzle together before you realize you've been taken on a ride yourself.
Friday, June 20, 2003, 6:36 a.m., Center City Philadelphia
Mel Hawthorne’s feet hit the concrete wall first. He lowered himself to the city structure’s top row of windows and removed his squeegee from his harness. The winds pushed the envelope at about twenty miles per hour, blowing him off course several times. Undeterred, Mel repositioned himself and continued on his path.
He completed four or five floors and approached his next target. Then he saw her: a woman seated in a chair with her back to the window, a man standing directly in front of her. The man knelt on the floor beside the woman, grabbed her hair and jerked her head back, hard. Mel’s stomach tumbled toward street level when he saw the blade appear, reflecting the sunlight that poured into the room from behind him. He knew instantly that he was probably too late…
Friday, May 30, 2003, 7:00 a.m., Center City Philadelphia
Dean Polaris leaned across his mentor's desk and quickly surrendered the ill-fated report, feeling the furrow in his brow deepen as he began rubbing his temples. His coveted golden egg had just turned into a hot potato: the miracle cancer cure he'd be unveiling to the world in less than two hours was somewhere south of truly miraculous.
Through squinted eyes he looked up at his mentor, who—as he overlooked the City of Brotherly Love from his 54th-floor window—was apparently pondering the impact of Dean’s newfound knowledge.
Dean shifted his weight in the chair. Jack Rochelle’s silence signified that he was manufacturing one of his famous analogies, an analogy from which Dean would be forced to draw his own conclusions on how to proceed with the information…an analogy that would undoubtedly serve to avert any chance of self-incrimination for Jack.
Jack released a long, guttural breath, something between a sigh and throat clear. “I have a one-of-a-kind 1955 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith that I keep under lock and key at the Manor. Her body is in pristine condition; she rarely sees the light of day. She’s worth a fortune,” he said as Dean watched him study the city. “I routinely receive absurd offers from antique car dealers, particularly after she was featured in Collectible Auto, although she’s not for sale.”
His mentor turned and faced him.
“She’s a beauty. Now what if the engine were held together with spit and glue? Would I have told Collectible? No, Dean. I wouldn’t have, because—based on how I would’ve delicately managed the flow of information—in the long run, it wouldn’t have mattered. As far as Collectible’s editors and photographers are concerned, she’s a classic work of art. To them, and to their audience, it’s what’s on the surface that counts. The photographer was there to take still shots, not a test drive. The writer could’ve made up the details if he had to, if I convinced him to. It’s what their audience wanted to see and believe that was important.”
Dean watched his mentor hobble back to his chair and slide into it. He clearly understood Jack’s message, as ambiguous as it was intended to be.
Turning a blind eye was not typically a problem for Dean. But this situation was far different, and far more serious than others he’d confronted during his climb to success. The Toquil Report was obviously not meant for Dean’s eyes, nor anyone else’s other than Jack’s for that matter. He had shown up a few minutes early for their meeting. Jack was in his private bathroom, and Dean was caught reading the report when he emerged.
“You know, Dean, right about the time your mother started diapering your ass, I was probably somewhere just like this watching the Watergate scandal unfold, the fools. It’s all a matter of keeping the circle of knowledge small and having leverage. Then—and only then—are you able to effectively control the flow of information. Lose that, and you’ve lost everything,” Jack said as he slipped the report into his drawer and locked it. “Now, any questions?”