The Stars Shine Down(17)


by Sidney Sheldon

"Let's fix the bastard," they said.

They dropped by to lend a hand after work, working past midnight and on Saturdays and Sundays, and the sound of construction began again, filling the air with a joyful noise. Beating the deadline became a challenge, and the building was soon swarming with carpenters and electricians and plumbers, all eager to pitch in. When Sean MacAllister heard what was happening, he rushed over to the site.

He stood there, stunned. "What's going on?" he demanded. "Those aren't my workmen."

"They're mine," Lara said defiantly. "There's nothing in the contract that says I can't use my own men."

"Well, I..." MacAllister sputtered. "That building had better be up to specifications."

"It will be," Lara assured him.

The day before New Year's Eve the building was completed. It stood proud against the sky, solid and strong, and it was the most beautiful thing Lara had ever seen. She stood there staring at it, dazed.

"It's all yours," one of the workmen said proudly. "Are we going to have a party or what?"

That night it seemed that the whole town of Glace Bay celebrated Lara Cameron's first building.

It was the beginning.

There was no stopping Lara after that. Her mind was brimming with ideas.

"Your new employees are going to need places to live in Glace Bay," she told Charles Cohn. "I'd like to build houses for them. Are you interested?"

He nodded. "I'm very interested."

Lara went to see a banker in Sydney and borrowed enough money on her building to finance the new project.

When the houses were finished, Lara said to Charles Cohn, "Do you know what else this town needs, Charles? Cabins to accommodate the summer tourists who come here to fish. I know a wonderful place near the bay where I could build..."

Charles Cohn became Lara's unofficial financial adviser, and during the next three years Lara built an office building, half a dozen seashore cottages, and a shopping mall. The banks in Sydney and Halifax were happy to loan her money.

Two years later, when Lara sold out her real estate holdings, she had a certified check for three million dollars. She was twenty-one years old.

The following day she said good-bye to Glace Bay and left for Chicago.

Chapter Seven

Chicago was a revelation. Halifax had been the largest city Lara had ever seen, but it was like a hamlet compared to the giant of the Midwest. Chicago was a loud and noisy city, bustling and energetic, and everyone seemed to be hurrying to some important destination.

Lara checked into the Stevens Hotel. She took one look at the smartly dressed women walking through the lobby and became self-conscious about the clothes she was wearing. Glace Bay, yes, Lara thought. Chicago, no. The following morning, Lara went into action. She visited Kane's and Ultimo for designer dresses, Joseph's for shoes, Saks Fifth Avenue and Marshall Field's for lingerie, Trabert and Hoeffer for jewelry, and Ware for a mink coat. And every time she bought something, she heard her father's voice saying, "I'm nae made of money. Get yourself something frae the Salvation Army Citadel." Before her shopping spree was over, the closets in her hotel suite were filled with beautiful clothes.

Lara's next move was to look in the yellow pages of the telephone book under "Real Estate Brokers." She selected the one that had the largest advertisement, Parker & Associates. Lara telephoned and asked to speak to Mr. Parker.

"May I tell him who's calling?"

"Lara Cameron."

A moment later a voice said, "Bruce Parker speaking. How can I help you?"

"I'm looking for a location where I can put up a beautiful new hotel," Lara said.

The voice at the other end of the phone grew warmer. "Well, we're experts at that, Mrs. Cameron."

"Miss Cameron."

"Right. Did you have any particular area in mind?"

"No. To tell you the truth, I'm not really familiar with Chicago."

"That's no problem. I'm sure we can line up some very interesting properties for you. Just to give me an idea of what we're looking for, how much equity do you have?"

Lara said proudly, "Three million dollars."

There was a long silence. "Three million dollars?"

"Yes."

"And you want to build a beautiful new hotel?"

"Yes."

Another silence.

"Were you interested in building or acquiring something in the inner city area, Miss Cameron?"

"Of course not," Lara said. "What I have in mind is exactly the opposite. I want to build an exclusive boutique hotel in a nice area that..."

"With an equity of three million dollars?" Parker chuckled. "I' m afraid we're not going to be able to help you."

"Thank you," Lara said. She replaced the receiver. She had obviously called the wrong broker.

She went back to the yellow pages again and made half a dozen more calls. By the end of the afternoon Lara was forced to face reality. None of the brokers was interested in trying to find a prime location where she could build a hotel with a down payment of three million dollars. They had offered Lara a variety of suggestions, and they had all come down to the same thing: a cheap hotel in an inner city area.

Never, Lara thought. I'll go back to Glace Bay first.

She had dreamed for months about the hotel she wanted to build, and in her mind it was already a reality - beautiful, vivid, three-dimensional. Her plan was to turn a hotel into a real home away from home. It would have mostly suites, and each suite would have a living room and a library with a fireplace in each room, and be furnished with comfortable couches, easy chairs, and a grand piano. There would be two large bedrooms and an outside terrace running the length of the apartment. There would be a Jacuzzi and a minibar. Lara knew exactly what she wanted. The question was how she was going to get it.

Lara walked into a printshop on Lake Street. "I would like to have a hundred business cards printed up, please."

"Certainly. And how will the cards read?"

" 'Miss Lara Cameron,' and at the bottom, 'Real Estate Developer.' "

"Yes, Miss Cameron. I can have them for you in two days."

"No. I would like them this afternoon, please."

The next step was to get acquainted with the city.