Dominic Lombardi straightened his tall form, with a mixture of anticipation and concern, waiting for the verdict from his lawyer on his offer for the property. Most times, it mattered little if the vendors declined because now in his career, he could afford to be selective. Other properties and projects always happened along. However, this time, it was different. This time, it was personal, and it was a property Dominic desperately wanted. He wanted it so badly that he had removed all the conditions on his offer, something his lawyer had strongly advised him not to do.
“The Sussex property is a huge risk! We don’t know if it has clear title,” his lawyer had stressed. “You could be buying a property that has multiple mortgages or easements on it. Hell, in the end, it could cost you millions more.”
It was a risk that Dominic felt he needed to take.
“You’re too emotional about the property,” his lawyer had alerted him.
Dominic knew that. Removing the conditions had been an insane decision that under normal circumstances, he would not make, but it was his emotional attachment to the property that had driven him to it. His longing had been totally fixated on getting the property back.
Dominic kept his face impassive despite being wrought-up with anticipation. He edged forward in the leather chair. “Out with it,” he told Ross, craving to know the verdict.
Ross Hayden, a stalky man in his mid-thirties, with thinning brown hair, was Dominic’s long-time real estate lawyer and friend. Dominic needed to know whether the news was good or bad, so he could plan his next move. He always tried to stay three or four steps ahead. “Are you sure you want to know?” Ross’s face lay solemn. His lawyer’s hesitation was usually a bad indicator. How many times had his offers been rejected? This had to be close to his fifteenth tendered agreement of purchase and sale for the property over the last five years.
Dominic raised his brow. “Yes, I want to know.”
“Positive?” Ross asked again.
Dominic harrumphed. “Damn you, Ross, just spill it out!” He inhaled deeply in preparation for the ill news. How many more offers would he need to tender before he succeeded?
“You’re officially the legal owner!” A big smile quickly spread across Ross’s face as he extended his hand over the desk, holding the legal document.
Dominic sat numb, staring at the papers, not fully comprehending his victory. He had been prepared for the worst, another rejection, and another few months of waiting, maybe even years. Had it really happened this time?
“You did it! Your offer has been accepted with no counter conditions. And the title turned out to be clear.” He shoved the legal-sized papers closer for him to inspect. “It’s a done deal! The money has exchanged hands.”
Dominic finally let out the deep breath that he had been holding. So much more than money was at stake with the purchase of the property.
“You officially own the Sussex property. I’ve already couriered one of the signed agreements to your office.”
Dominic had done it! Finally, after twenty years, he obtained the property back. The corners of his mouth lifted with a satisfied grin. He took the copy of the Agreement of Purchase and Sale from Ross and scanned through it with a growing sense of satisfaction and relief. For years, he had worked tirelessly to get the three-acre property back that had once belonged to his Nonno, his grandfather, the man who had raised him. Yet every time the property located on Sussex Court went up for sale something had managed to stand in his way of purchasing it.
In the first years, it was lack of money. The old Victorian house had been a classic in its time, even declared a heritage home, but it was the land, which bordered Lake Ontario that had become valuable real estate in the interim, catching investor’s eyes, driving up the price, and making it inaccessible to him. Later, poor timing and difficult vendors barred his success. At one point, Dominic had lost huge amounts of his capital due to an ailing economy that devastated the construction industry, but he had re-built his wealth, and this time much larger. Despite all the cumbersome circumstances, he persevered in getting the property back.
Dominic had promised his grandfather that he would get it back for him with the house still standing on it. It was the first property his grandparents and parents had shared when they immigrated into Canada from Italy twenty-nine years ago. It was also Dominic’s childhood home.
At the tender age of five years, Dominic was the lone survivor of a car crash that had killed his parents. From then on, his grandparents had raised him. Six years later, his grandmother’s early death, and his Nonno’s disability had forced its sale, something that had hit his grandfather hard. Other than at the family funerals, the day they moved out of the home was the only time Dominic had seen his Nonno cry. Even though Dominic was only a child of age ten at the time, he vowed he would get their home back for them.
After all these years, Dominic had finally had the means and opportunity to buy it back and he succeeded. The property cost him a bundle, with it situated directly on the shore of Lake Ontario as one of Toronto’s most sought after waterfront properties, but it was worth every penny to him. Sadly, his grandfather was no longer alive to experience his success; his Nonno had passed away fifteen months ago.
“For you, Nonno,” Dominic whispered with a sense of melancholy, staring at the agreement, knowing how proud and happy his grandfather would have been to see the property back in the Lombardi name.
When Ross had notified him to stop by his office for a few minutes before his last appointment, the acceptance of the offer would have been his last guess. The present owner had been unreasonable in many of his demands, and the tedious signing back and forth had carried on for months, looking less and less hopeful with neither side approving of the other’s conditions. Dominic had thought the owner had changed his mind about selling it as was done so often in the past. In a last attempt to persuade the vendor to sell, Dominic had advised Ross to remove all his conditions on the offer, something that should have been avoided for many reasons.
For building purposes, the waterfront property hosted many problems, although already deemed for future development, issues reported by the tree management, numerous environmental studies were demanded, and a nasty archeological report that needed handling, all preventing building on the land and all costing money and time to settle. The lengthy list of issues had discouraged developers from buying it for the exceedingly high price the vendor asked. And no personal buyers who were interested in building a home on the property had been interested in spending the exorbitant amount of money for the land to risk being denied the removal of the old heritage house that stood upon it. For Dominic, the issues had been a godsend; it was the only reason the old house still stood erect on the property.
A lot of work and a lot of money had been needed, but Dominic had triumphed; his diligence had paid off. The property was his.
“You’re so damn lucky!” Ross said. “This calls for a drink!” He lifted from his executive chair and crossed over to a well-stocked mini bar built into a wall-to-wall bookcase.
Ross knew how long and hard Dominic had been struggling to acquire the property and the emotional cost he had to pay. Since Dominic’s first offer submitted five years ago, Ross had handled all the negotiations and legal work.
By obtaining the property for his grandparents, Dominic was showing them his gratitude for everything they had done for him. He wished they were still around to appreciate it.
Dominic looked down at his watch that read a quarter to four, enough time to have a quick drink and make his last meeting at four-fifteen.
“Sounds good,” Dominic replied, setting the contract on the desk, bursting with a feeling of exhilaration. Even if he was late for his next meeting, he justified that the occasion warranted his tardiness.
After work, Dominic definitely had plans on doing some serious celebrating. His Nonna would expect it. The occasion called for a shot of grappa on his grandfather’s behalf, and perhaps a visit to his grave, to give his respects and extend him the good news personally.
“You had guts removing those conditions.” Ross said as he grabbed a bottle. “Hell, I wouldn’t have risked it. I doubt many would have.”
“Sometimes, you have to risk a lot to gain a lot,” Dominic stressed.
Ross shot him a sideways glance. “Sure, but tell me you didn’t sweat it?” Ross opened another cabinet door that sat full of crystal and then pulled out two brandy sniffers.
Sure, Dominic had possessed doubts, but his desire to succeed outweighed them. “Once I’ve made a decision, I go with it. Can’t afford to rule with regrets or doubts.”
“I’ll say it again, you were damn lucky!” Ross returned with the crystal and a cognac. He held up the bottle for Dominic to see.
Dominic edged forward in his seat, noting the deep coppery liquid. “Good choice!”
“Only the best for such an occasion,” Ross replied. He poured the exorbitant cognac into the stem-less glasses, causing them to swivel gently on the desk.
Dominic owed his friend a debt of gratitude for all his work in pushing the deal through. “Thanks, for all your help.”
“No problem. Besides, you pay me well.” His friend grinned.
“You’re worth it,” Dominic emphasized, returning a nod of thanks.
Before the bottle hit the table, a loud blaring sound sent a ringing into Dominic’s ears, causing him to jolt.
Ross looked over at the closed door with a frown of concern. “Bloody hell, it’s the fire alarm!”
Dominic rose from his chair. “What’s happening?” he shouted, over the deafening noise that filled the room.
Ross shook his head, as he quickly set the bottle aside. “Not sure,” he yelled, moving around the mahogany desk. “But we’d better get moving. It’s a long way down.”
Ross’s office was located on the forty-first floor of the Dalton Tower in Toronto’s financial district. Many of the sixty-five floors of the high-rise were dedicated to offices that dealt with real estate businesses, branding it the real estate tower of the city.
Dominic grabbed the agreement and folded it up, before stuffing it into his inside suit pocket. Although this was one of four signed copies, he wanted to take one original with him, as reassurance that this deal had gone through and that he wasn’t dreaming that it had finally happened.
Ross gestured with a wave for Dominic to follow him out. “Let’s go!”
Dominic heard the panic in his voice. In passing, his friend snatched up the glass and chugged down the cognac.
“Maybe it’s a drill,” Dominic said, trying to reassure him, knowing that in his own office tower, they scheduled periodic fire drills.
Ross shook his head as he all but threw the glass down. “Nothing was scheduled,” he hollered. “We had a drill about a month ago.” His worried tone implied it was the real thing.
The two of them rushed through the empty reception area with Ross’s assistant having already left for the day. Dominic had been his last meeting, as usual.
After locking the two glass doors to the office, Ross ran down the corridor to the elevators.
Dominic rushed behind him. Lush navy carpet ran down the hall’s length. Several crystal chandeliers and brass wall scones alternating on each side lit the area. Dominic noted it was one of the classier towers built in the city. With the dark cherry wainscoting–running along the lower half of the walls contrasting nicely with the light marble floors–it was obvious the builder had spared no expense in its elegant design.
The blaring noise was louder in the hallway. Dominic gave a small shake to his head, the sound terribly painful to his ears.
Ross repeatedly pressed the elevator button, but according to the floor indicators, all the elevators remained parked at the twentieth floor.
“Damn! They’re not working!”
Dominic realized they were probably in emergency mode and would not respond to a call unless one had a key.
“Let’s take the stairs.” Ross dashed to the end of the hall and Dominic followed him. They would have a long way down if they had to descend forty floors on foot.
An evacuation route, under a Plexiglas frame, adorned the wall by the stairwell exit, indicating this was their closest alternate escape route from the office.
Ross flung open the door, revealing concrete walls and steps that held an iron railing that led down and disappeared around the corner. The shrilling sound rang dampened in the concrete stairwell, thankfully giving his ears reprieve.
“Thank God there’s no smoke!” Ross yelled out as he maintained a good pace, implying the lack of it was a good indicator there was no fire.
Being a builder, Dominic new that if the concrete was thick enough and included an airlock barrier, it would prevent smoke from entering the stairway; yet he was not about to tell Ross that and make his already nervous friend, more worried.
As they continued swirling down, he heard muffled talking and racing footsteps echoing from ahead, likely other occupants fleeing the tower.
Ross began scooting down two steps at a time. His friend seemed panicked, and Dominic wondered if he should be more concerned than he was.
On the thirty-eighth floor, they caught up to two men and three women in business attire, trotting down with urgency.
“Do you know what this is about?” a tall black man in a gray pinstripe suit turned and asked them. His violet tie resting on his lilac shirt was eye catching.
“No, haven’t heard anything,” Ross replied.
Dominic nodded his concurrence.
“You guys know anything?” Ross asked the others.
An elderly man, with sparse hair and a good portion around his middle, was already in a sweat. He spoke in between heavy breaths, “I tried the security desk – got no answer.”
Dominic wondered how the man would be able to handle the remaining thirty-seven floors.
Two of the women had slipped off their high heels, trying to keep pace with the group.
After a time, they caught up to another man and woman. The woman with her tall and slender form immediately caught his attention. His eyes ogled her. Long sandy hair and light porcelain skin added to her beauty, and her long slender legs emphasized her tallness. In her blue tailored suit, her slim figure looked gorgeous. Dominic guessed she was in her mid-twenties. He decided when they reached the lobby, he would ask for her name. She did not appear to be together with the shorter man racing well ahead of her. Together or not, the man should be shot for leaving the woman behind.
With the stairs permitting only two lanes of traffic, their tempo slowed by the larger group dictating the pace.
A stocky woman from the group, in a black jacket with matching skirt stopped to catch her breath and shouted, “Another thirty-five floors to go everyone.” The fast descent had clearly over-exerted her. Dominic hoped all of them would make it down with their health intact.
As they circled around the next corner, a concrete wall suddenly blocked their path, forcing a few at the front of the group to collide with each other. The unexpected barrier brought them all to an abrupt halt.
“What the fuck is this doing here?” the shorter man with glasses cursed as he straightened his beige jacket.