The black Packard was on Washington Place and Mercer and Greene Streets east of Washington Square Park. This fashionable urban district contained vast amounts of New York lore and history in its grand old bones.
De Wolfe’s residence was a four-story, double-wide house of red-brick with brown-stone trimming. The house, needless to say, cost De Wolfe a pretty penny. He bought the property, only to raze the old structure and construct a new one under the skilful directorship of Lewis Calendar, an “architect-of-the rich.” At the time, money paid a vital role in obtaining Calendar’s professional services. It seemed Calendar had previously committed himself to another client De Wolfe quickly outbid. That transaction cost him a pretty penny too, but every cent spent, De Wolfe thought, was well worth it.
De Wolfe looked out the car window, and wished people didn’t think him a humorless man (cynical, yes; sarcastic, yes), but he knew he had no one to blame but himself in casting this implacable, nonpenetrable persona. But it was too late for him to pull back the curtain, to reinvent Maxwell Engelbert De Wolfe. He was fifty-six. Literally, he’d run out of time.
“Fagan, where does the damn time fly off to, anyway?”
“It’s something I certainly ask myself, Mr. De Wolfe.”
“I suppose it is an age-old question, with no answers, just the interest of the mind to muddle through.”
Fagan Dooley had never heard it put quite like that whether he agreed with De Wolfe’s remark or not. He chuckled and it seemed to please De Wolfe. Fagan kept the chuckle alive to soothe De Wolfe’s spirits.
He was the chauffeur of one of the richest men in the world, and, in a way, every day, felt privileged. He came from a poor Irish lot, the New York City slum. A tenement life, where food, daily in the Ronan Dooley household, was at a shortage, clothes, hand-me-downs; and sharing a bed with his older brother, Malachy, until age fifteen.
Dooley laughed inwardly: he didn’t know if he liked De Wolfe more when he was drunk or sober, but he didn’t have to like him at all. It wasn’t a job requirement: he was under his employ. But seeing how De Wolfe lived, he, on occasion, wondered if one person was in reality better off than the other: rich or poor.
Now Fagan Dooley eased the Packard into an underground garage that housed ten cars—all beauties. Coming out the darkness and into a bevy of garage lights, didn’t brighten De Wolfe’s mood, ironically, it made it worse. For De Wolfe knew he was home, and after the requisite demand of moving out the garage and onto the built-in elevator in his 32-room Washington Place mansion, De Wolfe knew what was in store for him, the usual dismal state of affairs and duty.
When both men reached the underground elevator, Fagan pulled down on a brown braided cord at the right of the elevator there to alert the mansion’s staff that De Wolfe had arrived. As soon as De Wolfe exited the elevator, Helga, a tall, big-boned, blue-eyed, beautiful blond German girl with braided hair, greeted him.
“Good evening, Mr. De Wolfe.”
“Good evening, Helga.”
Fagan remained in the gold finished elevator.
“Good evening, Mr. De Wolfe.”
“Good evening, Fagan.”
The elevator’s doors then shut with Fagan Dooley still in it.
Helga took De Wolfe’s black top hat and Chesterfield coat which she helped remove from his shoulders. He leaned on his cane, and looked up at the mansion’s grandiose foyer that looked practically as if he’d stepped into a Catholic cathedral, the fifty foot domed ceiling maintaining its stable, serene beauty, and the marbled walls ordered from Sienna, Italy, and arched windows of stained glass. De Wolfe stood on a burgundy broadloom.
De Wolfe, with the master interior decorator, Edwin Marten, had put all the pieces of the mansion’s magnificence together over a period of one year of active, intense buying and unrestrained creativity, even if at times the two men bumped heads, Marten, on occasion, as stubborn as De Wolfe, but both in love with beauty and making a grand statement without excess or ostentation. For De Wolfe, the constant haranguing and bickering, brought greater passion and exuberance to the project. It meant to him, that both of them cared deeply about the mission’s objective.
It was his evaluation of commitment efficiently working at work, and, at play. He wanted to work with someone as competitive as him (Cyrille Fitch, for example). Edwin Marten had his esthetic of beauty and he his, and so when the two forces collided, out of the collision came a new esthetic, one that was pure, original, and unspoiled; one not to be copied or imitated by anyone, no matter their great wealth or designing talent or ambition.\
It was his evaluation of commitment efficiently working at work, and, at play. He wanted to work with someone as competitive as him (Cyrille Fitch, for example). Edwin Marten had his esthetic of beauty and he his, and so when the two forces collided, out of the collision came a new aesthetic, one that was pure, original, and unspoiled; one not to be copied or imitated by anyone, no matter their great wealth or designing talent or ambition.
Helga was De Wolfe’s personal maid in the De Wolfe mansion. She drew his bath, ironed his clothes; performed all practical functions for him.
“How has your day been, Helga?”
“Quite good, Mr. De Wolfe,” Helga said in a soft soothing voice.
She was much taller than De Wolfe even in flats, and De Wolfe liked this about her. It rendered her a sense of authority, a regalness that lent itself well to the mansion’s tone, expanding its dimension, De Wolfe had at one time considered.
Helga turned and stepped away from De Wolfe. De Wolfe followed her. This was how De Wolfe trained Helga, to follow this simple protocol of him following her so that nothing was ever out of order or place in his mansion. That he, Maxwell De Wolfe, was in control of everything, from the smallest to the most extreme details.