ONE FLIGHT UP in NEW YORK CITY
Hamilton Terrace, at 141st St. in Harlem
"Monique swerved her pearl gray BMW onto Hamilton Terrace. Its hill loomed before her, bordered on both sides by immaculately maintained brownstones and gingko trees in emerald bloom. The streetlamps glowed in the dusk, wrought-iron sentinels guarding this sliver of peace and prosperity in the midst of Harlem’s socioeconomic jumble. Monique glided her gleaming vehicle into a parking spot right in front of her limestone mini-manse. Her eyes traveled from the polished copper roof guards to the bas-reliefs of rose garlands that crowned the fifth floor like decorative icing on a tired wedding cake. Monique could calculate the cost of each flower in hours spent at the office and in medical school. She and Wayne had combed the Yellow Pages…in their quest for a craftsman worthy of restoring their family home. And now she had singlehandedly brought the entire edifice of their dreams to the brink of destruction."