Chapter 1: Paradise Tower
"Work can kill"
Patricia Heartwing tried concentrating on the road while fixing her hair. 'Where is it? I should've asked for directions back there.' A sign popped up for a multi-storey car park. 'Well I'm in the right city at least so I might as well park in the centre if the place is near the city hall.' She parked on the fourth floor of the nearly empty multi-storey car park so as not to get any scratches on her Mercedes. She swung her legs out of the car door and got out.
She was of a slight build with bright red hair flowing halfway down her back in a ponytail. She wore a purple suit with a pair of thin oval shaped designer glasses. Making sure that she had everything with her she gathered her handbag and laptop before locking her large silver Mercedes and heading to look for someone that she could ask for directions.
It was not long before she came across a small tourist information booth. The attendant was a spotty teenager with black spiky hair. He was dressed in a white shirt, black trousers and a dark blue blazer with a red stripe running down the left side of it. Patricia approached the bored attendant and set her bags down before attempting to talk to him.
"Welcome to West Fairbank home of the Fairbank Ferrets."
Patricia put her hand to her mouth in an attempt to hide her sniggering.
The attendant wasn't amused, "How may I help you?"
Patricia took a small pocket diary from her jacket, "I'm looking for Paradise Tower. The only directions I have say that its north of the Post Office near city hall." The attendant told her to bear with him as he rummaged about his booth for a map. Five minutes later he slapped a well-worn rag on the counter.
"What's this supposed to be?" Patricia asked as she prodded the dirty and slightly soggy piece of paper.
The attendant started to show their annoyance, "It's the last map of the city that's what it is. We haven't been getting many tourists lately and so no new supplies have been ordered. Whole tourism industry is downsizing. At least that's what they tell me before I get shipped to work in a Happy Burger. You just happened to come here on the last day of this booth's operation so that's all I have I'm afraid. Sorry."
Patricia took the map gratefully if even a little apprehensively, "umm thanks. I appreciate it."
The attendant tiredly rested his hands on the counter, "No problem. Have a nice day."
A tall man watched Patricia from across the road as he began munching on a bacon sandwich. He smiled in amusement as he saw her open up the large map and try to walk about with it. He wore a light grey suit. He had bright green eyes and light blonde hair mostly combed over to the left side. He leaned against the wall of the building near the fast food cart, enjoying his bacon sandwich. He shook his head while smiling as he saw Patricia nearly walk into a lamppost. He decided that he'd better go and help her: after he finished breakfast.
She suddenly swerved to avoid walking into someone on the sidewalk and failed to realise that she had walked out into the road. He had no idea where the truck came from but suddenly it was there and the clumsy tourist seemed oblivious to her impending doom. The man dropped his sandwich, sprinted across the road and dived, sending Patricia flying back onto the pavement just before the large eighteen-wheeler nearly flattened her. Neither of them noticed the sign on the side of the white truck as it sped by. The sign was printed in large blue letters; it read "Corn and Cobb Construction Company." Underneath the sign was a small logo it was a blue letter "C" with a small red "4" printed inside it.
The driver showed signs of sleeplessness from his expression. His eyes were bloodshot and jerking around in different directions, desperately searching for something. If someone were in the cab at that moment they would have become slightly disturbed by the driver’s frantic mumblings.
"Damn. This thing is on the fritz again. I keep telling them transporting multi-dimensional materials is too risky. I'm lucky this thing didn't take the road out from under me like last time. Must find the Son; he will know what to do. Gotta build his temple, his masterpiece or its back to hell I go. I will not, cannot go back there. Soon be free again, free to live in this world." Large clouds of dust escaped from the back of the truck due to the materials on board, leaving Patricia and her supposed saviour choking on the ground before completely disappearing from sight again.
Patricia shoved the stranger away from her, "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
He looked at her strangely "Huh some way to thank me. You…"
She cut him off, "Thank you? You might have just ruined a brand new $6000 suit not to mention possible damage to my laptop."
He went on the offensive, "Well excuse me all to hell for saving your life and ruining your good suit," he said with as much sarcasm as he could muster.
Patricia looked at him as if he was speaking gibberish, "Are you crazy? The road was clear. Look the traffic is still waiting at the red light down the road."
The man couldn't believe what he was hearing, "Yes I suppose the road was clear…except for the eighteen wheeler that nearly ran you over. You mean to say that you didn't see it?"
Patricia shook her head "No. I didn't hear it either. Mister I think you had better switch to decaf. By the way what's your name?"
He got up and dusted himself down before offering her his hand to help her up, "Jack Keller's the name. Why do you ask?"
She gave him a sly look as she took his hand and got up, "I want to know who to bill the replacement suit to. Do you have an address I can forward it onto?"
Jack's blood boiled, "Listen lady…"
Patricia's lip curled when Jack addressed her as lady, it made her feel old. "The name is Patricia Heartwing."
Jack gave her a look that said 'as if I care.' "Well Patricia," he said the name with venom, "I ain't ever paid someone to save their life and I don't intend to start now. You get my drift?"
Seeing she wasn't getting anywhere her need to get to the presentation became a higher priority than arguing with this moron. "All right I won't bill you but could you at least tell me where Paradise Tower is?"
It was obvious from his face that Jack didn't like where this conversation was going. "I suppose I could if you told me why you're going there."
Patricia was getting fed up with this 'No time. I'll be late for the presentation at this rate and I can't afford to get in trouble again'. "Erm sure. Lets walk and talk at the same time."
Jack shrugged; he looked apathetic "Sure. Why not? It's just a couple of blocks away. Let's go." Patricia's feet hurt as she tried to keep up with Jack. Her heels were no match for his sneakers. "So why are you here again?"
The shadow of a large office building loomed ominously above them, hiding Patricia's frustration. "I'm here to give a series of presentations to some life insurance company based in Paradise Tower."
Jack became nosey "What's it on?"
They turned a corner "Health and safety in the workplace."
Jack laughed "Well good luck with that."
Patricia scowled at him "Thanks to you I'll need it. I only hope that you haven't damaged my laptop with your little stunt." Jack ignored her comments and decided to try and shut her up by offering her a stick of spearmint gum.
Much to Jack's disappointment she declined and kept talking to him. "So where do you work?"
Jack sighed "Paradise Tower" he muttered.
"What?" Patricia raised her voice.
"Paradise Tower," he repeated himself "I work for Godspell Architects on the sixth floor."
She mentally swept her brow "Right well I'm talking to a bunch of folks in Chainey and Lee Life Insurance."
Jack nodded "Yeah I know em. They're on the fifth floor." 'Might see her again today. Might as well make peace,' "Hey umm no hard feelings about earlier?"
Patricia smirked "I suppose my pride will heal with a little time. Sorry I bit your head off. Just be a bit more careful next time you go off to save the world."
Jack bit his tongue 'She still thinks that I'm crazy. Never mind, just hold back. You don't need any more grudges. Your life is hard enough at the minute. No need to make it any worse. "I guess I'll try and restrain myself in the future. Anyway we're here now. Look there's the side of the tower. You're going to have to watch yourself, there's building work going on up top. I think that they're adding a thirteenth floor onto the place."
Patricia turned to him "You're not going in?"
Jack shook his head "No. I'm going to get a coffee. Good luck and enjoy yourself."
He shook Patricia's hand she responded "Gee thanks, you too."
They went their separate ways. Both thankful for the space.
Patricia took some time to look at the ornate designs and beautiful craftsmanship of the masonry. It was as if the building was originally intended to be a piece of art instead of an office building. The front door was a mixture of waterfalls made of marble falling, swirling and winding around two large granite trees, which were placed either side of the large stained glass revolving doors. The doors depicted a different scene of paradise on each pane of glass. Patricia stood there for a moment watching the beautiful scenes go round. Bright swirling colours showed scenes of feasts, immortality and love. One showed flames of beautiful hues of reds, oranges and yellows keeping death and all the evil in the world at bay while those inside the flames enjoyed paradise. The slow moving pace of the doors made the flames seem to flicker. 'Wow' Patricia thought as she walked through the door. Her mind reeled as her senses were bombarded on all sides by beautiful works of art.
The lobby consisted of a plush red carpet with gold and silver patterns woven into the sea of red. There was a large wooden desk with a security guard sitting behind it near the right wall. The desk was made of mahogany and was carved with depictions of a pack of horses running from a lone rider holding a spear. Strangely it looked like the rider was part of the horse. Much like a centaur of Greek legend however the lone hunter was more hideous with a second mouth in the midriff. He was herding the horses into a spider's web. The web was made of pure silver and glimmered faintly in the light of the large crystal chandelier that dominated the ceiling. Patricia looked closer at the web and barely saw the spider made of obsidian that seemed to suck in the light that tried to shine around it.
The security guard was attired in a brown and gold uniform with a shining name badge that identified him as one David Zann. He looked quite old with white, wizened hair surrounding an ever increasing bald patch. Though it was obvious to see that he made an effort to take care of his appearance. He appeared to be furiously shining a gold pocket watch when Patricia noticed him. He only noticed her presence and made an effort to look up at her when her reflection appeared in the watch.
"Hello Miss. Welcome to Paradise Tower where work is a joy and no cost is too great to bring you happiness. How may I help you?"
She took her time answering him, as the huge gold-framed painting placed above the security guard captured her attention. It was a portrait of a wise old man. He was sharply dressed in a black suit and carried a black wood cane with a silver wolf's head and a silver tip. He was standing on a forest path that led down to a beautiful glassy, blue lake. Just looking at the view behind him made her feel peaceful.
"Ahem" the security guard coughed politely. He was well aware of the painting's alluring qualities.
An embarrassed Patricia snapped back to reality. "Oh yes sorry. I'm here as a visiting speaker for Chainey and Lee insurance."
The security guard pointed to a door at the top right corner of the hall, "Fifth floor there madam. The stairs are to your right. I'm afraid the lifts are out of order at this time."
Patricia thanked the security guard and made her way to the door. Still gaping around her at the works of art and the chandelier she noticed that the outer rim of the piece was speckled with bright coloured jewels such as topaz, amber, rubies and emeralds. With all her gazing at the different works of art Patricia nearly walked into the stairway doors before going in. 'My God. Even the stairwell is fancy.'
The stairs were black marble with green creeping vines painted up either side of them. The marble was covered with two layers of what appeared to be thick glass, a constant stream of water ran between the glass making it seem that the stairs were a giant, winding waterfall. Small plastic shrubs and trees laden with spray painted fruit and stuffed exotic wildlife littered the stairways platforms on each floor. Patricia liked it; it took her mind off how many stairs she still had to climb with her bag and laptop weighing her down.
Jack exited the coffee shop with a hot cappuccino in a Styrofoam cup and a large satisfied smile on his face. He had a feeling that this was going to be a long, hard day, 'Might as well stock up on the rocket fuel before I go in.'
As he walked back to the office he noticed the eighteen wheeler parked around the back of his building. 'Scratch that. This is going to be a very long day.' He walked over to the truck intent on giving the driver a piece of his mind and quite possibly his fist. He found no one there and the truck empty. He looked at his coffee and downed it in one gulp. 'I think I'm going to need something stronger before this day's over.'
He entered the building, ignoring the exquisite art, he was used to it. "Hey Dave. How's it going?"
The guard looked up and smiled, showing that he had a couple of golden teeth with clock hands inscribed on them, "Not too bad friend."
Jack smiled back "Still holding the fort I see. Where's Jimmy today?"
David scratched the back of his balding head, "Oh I expect he's off enjoying himself somewheres. Anyways if you'll excuse me I think it’s time that I headed out to the garage." He checked his gold pocket watch. Jack shielded his eyes as its reflection gleamed off the chandelier. "Oh by the way the postman left something for you."
Jack thanked Mr Zann and took a large cardboard tube off him. He shook it "Must be the Desmond's asking for more revisions. Huh a few lines wrong and the idiots want to tear down the building."
David sniggered "Ah well. You'll get it right someday Jack. Just remember that nothing good comes easy."
Jack turned round "Thanks Dave. I'll try to remember tha…" David had disappeared. 'Must be away to the garage. Oh well another day, another dollar. God I hate Monday's.' Jack thought as he started the long trek up to his office.