When she left the courtroom years before, the need for new business clothes to wear in front of juries no longer existed. No more long-sleeved black and navy dresses, black pumps, hose. In fact, she hadn't forced herself into a pair of pantyhose in years and the clients she counseled in her psychologist's practice would suspect something very amiss, even downright wrong, if they saw her in anything but her favorite pair of worn jeans and scuffed brown cowboy boots. Living in Manhattan where everything was cement, she'd already had the boots resoled twice, but there was no way she'd break down and buy another pair. These fit just right.
Sights and sounds of the city glided past as she looked out the backseat window. Throngs of pedestrians at every corner waiting to flood into the crosswalks, vendors cooking God knows what. Hailey called it "street meat"; she never really knew what it was, but it sure smelled good. Makeshift carts selling knock-off purses, watches, pashminas, scarves, and jewelry. The big avenues going north and south, up and down. The island floated by ... First Avenue, Second and Third, Lexington, Park, Fifth, Sixth ... before she knew it, the cabbie hit the brakes in front of GNE, Global News and Entertainment.
With her purse on her shoulder and her notepad clutched to her chest, Hailey wove through the people milling in front of the towering skyscraper that housed GNE. She'd never been in the building before, although she'd jogged by it many times in the past en route to Central Park. She rarely detoured off her regular jogging path up and down the East River. To get to the park from the East side required ducking through hundreds of cars, thousands of pedestrians and way too many exhaust fumes. Whenever she did do it however, she was always struck by the park's beauty. The first time she ran through it forever stuck in her mind.
It was a brilliant Sunday morning and she'd been running over an hour when she unexpectedly came upon the park exit leading to the Plaza Hotel. At a distance, she saw a gold-plated statute, high up on a pedestal, shiny and glittering in the sun. It was one of the largest around. Wondering who deserved such glory, she stopped running and walked up to see it.
It turned out to be a shrine erected to William Tecumseh Sherman, the Union General responsible for literally burning a wide, sweeping swath of a path through the South, including the city of Atlanta, during the Civil War. The destruction of country so beautiful – carried out not to win the war, but out of pure joy at the South's devastation – remained a dagger in the hearts of many Southerners to the present day.
"Driver's license, ID" An old, gray GNE security guard repeated the phrase by rote without looking up from behind a long, glossy bleached wood counter.
Fishing through the deep leather purse hanging on her shoulder, Hailey pulled out her old District Attorney's badge, cased in an old worn wallet holder. From behind the shiny gold badge, she pulled her Georgia driver's license and held it over the counter for the guard to inspect. He took it from her hand and began copying the information down on a sign-in sheet. Looking around, Hailey noticed several well-dressed security guards strategically placed throughout the lobby. They all wore blue sports coats with grey pants, with nearly invisible earpieces in their ears.