Emerging from beneath the underpass, Dan glanced at the glass-covered exterior of the Hyatt Hotel, which had displaced the old Commodore – a jumping off point for a trip on the The Limited. Gone now, just like the train. But the Chrysler Building was still there, a bit further east, its sunburst-terraced Art Deco crown clearly visible even on a somewhat gloomy day.
Under the arch sat the Central Café, its façade designed to resemble a French bistro. “Now the busiest and best breakfast in New York,” a sign on one of the café’s windows proclaimed.
Safely on the other side, Dan headed east, toward the light green, iron overpass that takes Park Avenue across 42nd, on its way around Grand Central. “Pershing Square,” said a green and gold plaque in the middle of the arch. Not a square at all and as such, not much of a memorial to the hero of World War One.
He pushed through one of them and found himself on the corner of East 42nd and Vanderbilt Ave., staring across 42nd Street at the Lincoln Building. Although Grand Central could hardly be described as quiet, the noise level jumped markedly on the street. A couple of sirens were blaring a few blocks off, competing with the insistent staccato of a jackhammer somewhere closer by. Trucks, hitting a steel plate in the street, added to the din. People standing near Dan as he waited to cross 42nd were talking, but he could scarcely hear a word.
Dan, dodging a woman pulling a roller bag with one hand while carrying some sort of beverage in the other, reached the top of the ramp and a rounded vestibule where several sets of doors led out to the street.
Would they ever be with Gloria in Manhattan again? Dan wondered as he resumed his progress, under a gently curving marble arch.
“← SUBWAY 4·5·6·7·S SHUTTLE PASSAGE MAIN CONCOURSE →”
None of those for him.
Yes! It was a bar! Just beyond, a discreet brass and black sign lay almost flush on the marble wall. “The Campbell Apartment. Cocktails from another era.” Dan was sure he knew the era in question. His mind floated back to The 20th Century Limited.
Heading up a hallway out of the main concourse, Dan noticed something identifying itself as a Directory on the wall, beside an elevator. ...
Offices were on most of the floors, but there on “3”, along with “Falt Watch Service” – was that spelled correctly? – was an entry that said “Tennis Club."
As his eyes traversed the upper expanse, pausing at some of the stars, Dan thought of Helleu. Paul Cesar Helleu, a painter of society women in France, the man summoned by Proust, his friend, for a deathbed portrait. How many people who pass through here now know the name of the man who designed the ceiling, know anything about him? A curious choice in the first place. But perhaps Helleu had painted one of the Vanderbilt women.
- - - -
Dan’s curiosity was aroused, then extinguished as his mind clicked over to Alice and, of course, to Helen. Did she still have it, he wondered?