The building was a stone, steel, and glass spire the likes of which New York had never seen. It simply appeared out of nothingness on the Winter Solstice between the Langham and the Dakota on Central Park West. Up close, it appeared to be like every other high-rise apartment complex in the neighborhood. The farther you backed away from it, however, the more it took on the appearance of a medieval fortress tower perched atop a craggy bluff. At its appearance, everyone from the neighborhood committee on up to the Offices of the Mayor and the Governor of New York got involved in investigating how it got there without anyone knowing about it, where the extra land to fit it came from, who authorized the permits, who built it (and with what labor!, the unions demanded to know), and who owned it. What baffled everyone who looked into the mysterious building was that there were people who already lived in the beautifully eerie edifice. People with personal histories and legal identities that were unimpeachable and, as far as they knew, the Storm Tower was always there.
The Storm Tower. That was what it came to be called because every storm that came through seemed to batter the seemingly invulnerable spire thrusting into the cloudy skies with dazzling displays of Mother Nature’s fury in the form of incandescent streamers of lightning that did not stop until the storm passed. Meteorologists began noticing that every storm to pass over New York City seemed to linger, as if attracted by some weird weather magnet, over the exact spot where the Tower was located on their maps. Lightning strikes to buildings like the Chrysler and the Empire State Building also fell drastically from the time New Yorkers noticed the Tower’s existence. Eventually, people found other things to worry about and New Yorkers did what New Yorkers do: ignore the oddity and get on with life.
Well, most New Yorkers.
The wind blew through the trees of the Park with a howling moan, as if the tortured soul of the body lying on the frozen ground was still in agony. The crime scene techs were still scraping bits of charred skull and brains out of the snow, fastidiously ignoring the group clustered around the headless corpse. The body had been clothed, but most of those clothes seemed to have been burnt up in whatever happened to his head with the exception of the remains of jeans around the groin. Enough to know the body was definitely male, probably Hispanic, and for some reason had been in the process of unbuttoning said jeans when ... whatever happened happened.
The uniformed officers were in a holding pattern around the body, eyes pointed outward, away from the scene around the body. Five plain-clothes detectives stood around the corpse, huddled in their coats, watching two techs probe and prod it like a gruesomely interesting lab specimen.
“Well! Is it the same?” the oldest of the detectives snapped, his craggy face scrunched into an irritated scowl. He was so obviously Polish he might as well have had the Polish flag tattooed to his forehead. He was also well into middle age and beginning to lean towards portliness, despite the imposing physique bundled up in a fur-lined black trench coat. “Lightning?”
“If you would give me a few minutes of peace, Lieutenant, I could tell you. This equipment does not run at light speeds, expensive as it was for the City Council to buy,” said the woman in the rather stunning red sequined ball gown under the long black wool coat that said “Medical Examiner” on the back of it. She was in her late thirties or early forties and her honey brown eyes were intent under amber eyebrows scrunched together in concentration as she scraped the samples into the hole at the center of the box of electronics she held in her left hand. Watching the digital screen on its side keenly, she grinned when it finally flashed its results under the powerful lights surrounding the scene. “Lightning. And given the state of his fly when said lightning hit, he was probably here in the park for something less than legal, like all of the others. Do you want me to call the feds, or shall you, Lieutenant?”
The elder detective growled down at her and stalked away. “F•©king feds! As if they knew what the hell was going on any more than we do!” he groused as he pulled out his cell phone. “Chief, Lieutenant Drombrowski here, sir. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. No, sir. I have no idea and you know Dr. Kluvalla, but if I were to guess I would say we probably got an almost-rape victim out there somewhere who just got lucky enough for this idiot to have tried to take her into the Park. No, sir. But sir ... yes, sir. I understand, sir. What do you want us to do until they get here? Yes, sir.
“F•©king bureaucrats,” he grumbled under his breath as he put his phone away and turned back to the scene. The other four detectives were looking at him with hope. “The Chief of Detectives says we can investigate this ourselves until the feds get here in the morning. Apparently the entire unit went to DC to testify to Congress and report to their bosses. That means we probably have about four hours until Special Agent No Idea gets back in town and we hand it over to his people. So this is how we are going to do this. Johnson and Tortarelli, head over to the Tower. Knock on doors and see if any of them saw anything unusual about two hours ago besides a flash of lightning. I know that damned tower has something to do with all of these bodies. Oh, and see if any of them knows who owns the building. But don’t ask it like that. See if you can get them to give up the address of whoever gets their rent checks and answers their maintenance calls, as if you need that person to give them permission to view any security footage they might have gotten. They may just tell you it is the super, but it is worth a try. Noidalla and his goons refuse to give us any details on what they have found out about that side of their investigation, so we can use this opportunity to get our own answers. Aimes and Arvan, head back to the office and get with the tech boys. Get them to find you some video of Mr. Crispy coming into the Park. If he had a victim with him, get them to ID her. We need someone living to tell us what the hell happened here and hopefully she can and will.
“And remember, if you write anything down, make copies of it because as soon as Noidalla shows up, they will be taking our notes with them into that black hole they call an office,” Drombrowski told them urgently as they all walked out of Central Park and back to their vehicles. “Let’s get to it people. I want updates in three hours. If you need me, call my cell. I might be away from the office and car for a bit chasing down another angle.”
Detective Marcus Johnson was a solidly built black man in his early thirties with a shaved head and bright green eyes peeking out of a handsome and warmly friendly face. A football career killed in college by a blown knee shunted him into the police academy where he found, much to his surprise, that he was rather good at solving puzzles. The Tower was one of his hobbies. His succession of girlfriends all found his spare bedroom at first amusing, then creepy, and finally infuriating since, when he wasn’t at work or required for something social by said girlfriends, they inevitably found him staring at walls littered with pictures and scraps of paper and other bits he had managed to pick up over the years since the Tower’s appearance. He was one of a handful of detectives the NYPD had who were considered local experts on the edifice and so he was automatically included on their task force when the Mayor of New York got tired of getting no answers from the Federal Tower Task Force created to investigate the serial “crimes” committed in the Park using what all the experts agreed was lightning.
Detective Antony Tortarelli was a short, bulky Italian whose family came over from Italy when he was a child, giving him an authentic Italian accent that turned any straight female (or gay male) he came across into helpful goo. He was smart, seductive, charming, and courteous, and women tended to want to tell him just about anything he was willing to listen to. He was not a Tower expert. He was simply a very good natural interrogator whose talent was honed by the Army in Afghanistan and Iraq over the course of his ten-year career. When he got home, there were not very many opportunities outside of intelligence work and he had seen enough of that sort of thing for a lifetime. When his cousin suggested the NYPD, Tortarelli felt that was a good way to cleanse some of the bad karma he had built up. The Chief of Detectives insisted his inclusion on the revamped NYPD Task Force because he was one of the best interrogators they had and nobody was talking about the bloody Tower to them.
The two seemingly mismatched detectives pulled up to the gate of the Tower. The gate was a fully functional defensive structure that would probably turn away anything short of a tank. It was made of some kind of steel alloy the scientists couldn’t identify and was harder than anything they had ever seen. It pierced the three-foot thick, ten-foot high granite wall sheathed in black marble that surrounded the Tower. Said wall was topped with steel spikes as well and the bodies of three cat burglars hinted that they were probably electrified. The two liveried doormen approached the car stiffly, the one on the driver’s side pulling his scarf away from his mouth.
.... There is more of this story ...