Audrey's Door

Part I

The Seduction

Harlem Hills Triumph!

October 22, 1861

Delight! At dusk on October 20th, the doors to Manhattan’s newest luxury apartment building, The Breviary, opened at last. Coal giant and primary financier Martin Hearst cut the ribbon to riotous applause. The teeming crowd’s cheers resounded across both rivers, and were even heard by this office down in Times Square. Despite The Breviary’s slanting Chaotic Naturalist architecture, independent engineers agree that the stately monolith is sound, and will stand for centuries to come.

The event raised a new standard in both architecture and society balls, which one can only hope Washington Square will answer with verve. After the ribbon cutting, guests reposed their mourning over this terrible war against brothers and waltzed inside the main lobby until dawn. In attendance were the future occupants of the building, its unkempt architect, Edgar Schermerhorn, two Union generals, three senators, and celebrities such as Claire Red-grave, Barry Sullivan, Fanny Price, and Hannibal Hamlin. Libations and decadent hors d’oeuvres floated on silver trays like river flowers, and the event was crowned by a sunrise marksman’s contest on the building’s roof. The worse for rum, not even Major General Winthrop hit a bull’s-eye, though tragically, one of Hearst’s Negroes took a bullet to the knee. The party broke at dawn. Guests watched the great building from the backs of their carriages. I do not think I was alone in waving it, and that perfect evening, farewell.

The building boasts every amenity imaginable, from water closets to gas-powered lights, and its future residents represent the finest families in America. What’s more, its westward slant and unique design outwit its mundane brownstone cousins, heralding a style all New York’s own. We deserve such a landmark—Manhattan is a Post Road way station between the wealthy South and Boston’s aristocracy no more. We are the ascendant new America—hardworking, intelligent, and free.

From The New York Herald

1

The Tenant

Fate.

Audrey Lucas found the apartment through an online ad in The Village Voice. The real-estate section was updated on Tuesday afternoons, and she checked it as soon as three o’clock rolled around, just like she’d checked it last week, and the week before that, too. She’d seen twelve places this month, and not one of them had been fit for a dog. They’d had showers in their kitchens, paint peeling from walls, urine-stained carpets (pets or people?), and, once, the red chalk outline of a fat guy’s body. She’d almost given up and started calling real-estate brokers in Queens when—bingo!—today’s search brought up a match:

Morningside Heights Charmer. Landmark Building. Large, Pre-War 2br. City Views, EIK, $999. Priced to go!!! Call owner: (212) 747–4854. No Brokers, plz.

Her hand hovered over the phone’s receiver. There had to be a catch. $999 was too good to be true. You couldn’t share a fifth-floor walk-up for that price in this city. Still, she grinned: Prewar, baby! She dialed the number, and couldn’t believe her luck when a man with an upper-crust British accent got on the line and told her the apartment was still available.

“An architect? What a lovely career. I dabbled in it myself once upon a time. Come straightaway, dear. I’ll arrange a viewing,” he said. His voice sounded old-timey, like a Harold Arlen song (“Let’s Get Crazy; Let’s Fall in Love!”), and she was charmed.

She prairie dogged up from her cubicle to avoid the sightline of her boss, Jill Sidenschwandt, and the rest of the Parkside Plaza team, then ducked out the back stairs to the street and was on her way. The #1 Train was flooded again, so she grabbed a taxi from West Broadway. On the passenger-seat television panel,