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August 22, 2014
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A summer mystery: Part I: The setup


Eddie had washed the windows and polished the door handle. He had futzed with the flowers and dusted his desk. It was getting to be time to head down to the basement, and he was sort of dreading it. The low hum of the AC kept the lobby cool. The basement would be sweltering.

The Met game was just starting and he decided to give it a few innings. If he got lucky, maybe the heat would let up.

“Sorry about the cardboard,” Santiago, the daytime doorman, had said while he was leaving. And Eddie had said it was fine, even though it had annoyed him a little bit.

It was already the second inning when Mrs. Johnson from 5C appeared at the door looking disheveled. She had been shopping. There were three bags, and they looked expensive.

“Good evening,” he said as he held open the elevator door.

“My husband home?” she asked.

“I haven’t seen him.”

“Hopefully, I’ve beaten him and he won’t have to know about these,” she said, as she gestured to her bags.

Eddie made the motion of locking a key over his lips as Mrs. Johnson thanked him.

The young couple from 5B were at the door during the fourth inning—they had been drinking and were talking about red shoes. He smiled but didn’t ask questions. They came home late often, usually talking loudly about something or other. Tom, the actor from 3B, was home during the seventh. He was always pleasant.

Eddie glanced at his watch, 10:30 p.m.; he should get to that cardboard.

Across town, Detective Brown sat in an unmarked patrol car with an ice coffee. He had a headache and was alternating putting the plastic cup on his temple and drinking from it. The night had been slow but Brown didn’t mind, he liked it even. Especially when there was a game on.

He popped three Advil, and hoped it wouldn’t be a late night.

Eddie easily slit through the tape on each box. He folded them flat and placed them behind him. He was sweating profusely; the air down in the basement was thick and hot. It smelled terrible.

Bottom of the ninth, Mets were down. He stopped to mop his sopping brow. And then he saw it. A human hand. He almost couldn’t believe it. It was poking out through a space in the cardboard. He leaned in for a closer look.

Eddie screamed as he stumbled backwards and tripped over the boxes. He darted into the service elevator and slammed the door, jamming the controls as the elevator lurched up. Eddie burst into the lobby and ripped the phone from its cradle.

Detective Brown received the call.

“Some doorman just found a dead body in the basement. West Village,” the radio crackled.

Brown pulled on his ice coffee. Emptying it.

“Got it,” he said into the radio and to his partner, “Better step on it. But please, no siren. My head kills.”

Eddie was sitting on one of the chairs in the lobby with both hands wrapped around a bottle of water. He was white and shivering.

“Detective Brown,” Brown said and extended his hand. Eddie shook it and Brown sat down in the chair opposite him.

“Tough night?” Brown said.

“You could say that,” Eddie answered.

“Let’s take a walk around the block,” Brown said.

The doorman actually had an incredible memory and Brown was impressed. After talking to him for a half an hour and consulting with the visitors log, he read his findings back. By now, the lobby had been cleared out, any onlookers held back with police tape.

“So that’s four cleaning ladies, seven food deliveries, one mailman, a dog walker, six visitors, one other doormen and 11 residents.”

“Sounds about right,” said Eddie. “Thirty-one people.”

“You make 32,” said Brown as he smiled.

It was an off putting smile and suddenly Eddie wasn’t sure if he was saying that he was a suspect. The service elevator opened and a body under a sheet was whisked away. Eddie looked on with horror.

“Thanks so much for your help,” said Brown. “We’ll be in touch.”

Then to no one in particular, “Somebody get me an ice coffee and some Advil.”

He sighed. It was going to be a long night.

To be continued...