From Chapter 1
The glass door was locked, but that didn’t stop Camden Bristow from yanking on the handle. The imposing desk on the other side of the glass was vacant, and the receptionist who usually waved her inside had disappeared. Behind the desk, the Fount Magazine logo mocked her, whispering that the money she so desperately needed had disappeared as well.
She pounded on the glass one last time, but no one came to the door.
Turning, she moved to a row of windows on the far side of the elevator. Sixteen stories below, swarms of people bustled toward their next appointment. Someplace they needed to be. Not long ago, she’d been rushing too, up and down Park Avenue to attend meetings at ad agencies and various magazines…including the suite of offices behind her.
Human rights. Natural disasters. Labor disputes. Whenever the photo editor at Fount needed the most poignant pictures for news articles, he called her, and nothing had stopped her from capturing what he needed for the next edition. She’d dedicated the past five years to responding to Grant Haussen’s calls, but after she came back from Indonesia two months ago, he stopped calling her.
She’d e‑mailed him the pictures of the earthquake’s aftermath along with her regular invoice of fees and expenses. He’d used the pictures in the next issue, but apparently discarded the invoice. She never received a check, and he didn’t return even one of her many calls.
A few years ago, she wouldn’t have worried as much about the money --- those days her phone rang at all hours with freelance assignments to shoot pictures around the world --- but her clients had slashed their budgets and were using stock photos or buying photographs from locals. The current results weren’t as compelling as sending a professional, but keeping the lights on --- the rent paid --- trumped paying for the best photography.
Her clients may be making rent, but she hadn’t been able to pay hers for two months. Her savings account was depleted. The income from her Indonesia shoot was supposed to appease her landlord and credit card company. Even though she hadn’t heard from Grant Haussen, she held out hope that she might at least recoup the expenses for her trip so she could pay off the whopping flight and hotel charges on her credit card.
All hope shattered when she read the morning’s headline.
Fount Magazine Declares Bankruptcy
Others may have skimmed past this article, but the news stunned her. Three hours ago, she left her studio apartment and started walking until she found herself in Midtown, in the lobby of the Reinhold Building. A few staff members might remain at the Fount office, packing things up. Or if there were some sort of bankruptcy proceedings . . . maybe she could collect a few thousand dollars. Just enough to pay a portion of her bills while she tried to find more work.
It appeared that no one had stuck around to say goodbye.
The elevator dinged behind her, and she turned away from the windows and watched a skinny man in overalls push a mop and bucket into the hallway. He was at least two inches shorter than her five foot six.
She forced herself to smile, but he didn’t smile back. She pointed at the offices. “I need to find someone at the magazine.”
He grunted as he dipped his mop into the gray water and wrung it out. Shoving her fists into the pockets of her long jacket, she stepped toward him. “They owe me money.”
“You and half this dadgum town.”
“Yes, but ---”
“They ran outta here so fast last night that the rubber on their shoes was smokin’.” He flopped the mop onto the tile floor and water spread toward his boots. “I’d bet good money that they ain’t comin’ back.”
Camden slumped against the window. Even if she were able to track down Grant, it wasn’t like he would personally write her a check for money the magazine owed. He was probably out hunting for a job already, or maybe he was stretched out on his couch watching Oprah, enjoying the luxury of not having to report for duty. He could collect unemployment while he slowly perused for a new gig.
Unfortunately, there was no unemployment for freelancers.
The janitor swabbed the mop across the tile in straight brushstrokes like he was painting instead of cleaning it, taking pride in his work.
She understood. At one time she had been proud of her work too. There was nothing more exhilarating than flying off to a country rocked by tragedy and immersing herself into an event that most people only read about. She was onsite to see the trauma, feel the aftershocks, though she never allowed herself to get personally involved. It was her job to record the crisis so others could help with the recovery. All she needed to do her job was her camera equipment and laptop.
Because of all her travels, she hadn’t accumulated much stuff over the years. Her landlord had furnished her flat before she moved in, but for almost five years, the apartment and everything in it had felt like hers. It was the longest she’d lived in one place her entire life.
But tonight, her landlord was changing the locks. Her home had been rented by someone else.
The man pushed his mop by her, ignoring her. She couldn’t blame him for his indifference. This city was full of people who needed a job --- he was probably trying as hard as he could to keep his.
She would mop floors if she had to. Or scrub toilets. It wouldn’t pay enough for her to make rent, but maybe it would keep her from having to call her mom and beg for cash. If she called, her mother would pass the phone to her latest boyfriend --- a retired executive living outside Madrid. Camden would rather sleep in a shelter than grovel to him.
She hopped over the wet trail left by the mop and stepped into the elevator.
Her landlord said she had until five o’clock to pack her stuff and vacate the building. The little credit she had left on her card wouldn’t pay for a week in a Manhattan hotel. And the few friends she’d made when she wasn’t traveling were struggling as much as she was. One of them might let her sleep on a couch, but she’d be expected to help with rent.
The elevator doors shut, and she punched the button for the lobby.
Where was she supposed to go from here?
Excerpted from REFUGE ON CRESCENT HILL © Copyright 2011 by Melanie Dobson. Reprinted with permission by Kregel Publications. All rights reserved.