The velvet blackout curtains were caspian blue, and drawn over the windows and the glass door that led you into the courtyard. Those curtains were almost never drawn, but today was an exception. Murphy and the responding EMS, a pair of paramedics, a man and a woman, thought it best to cover up the windows. Give the man a little bit of dignity, and shield the tenants from acquiring a sight they couldn’t unsee. Protect their pampered eyes from the gore, from the sad truths the building normally sheltered them from. The building provided the illusion of safety, as their wealth disconnected them from reality. A white sheet covered the mangled nudity of what was left of the lawyer who lived in 18C, most of his neighbors in time would forget all about him. There was nothing anyone could do for him. No one can help you when you can’t help yourself. The EMS pronounced him dead, and detectives arrived to investigate the tragically sudden death of Kranepool.
Russell mopped up Mauricio’s breakfast. I discarded the broken pieces of the ceramic coffee mug. If only you could toss away the broken pieces of yourself as easily instead of always carrying them inside your chest, allowing them to rattle around and constantly remind you of what broke your heart in the first place.
Murphy felt bad for the guy, most people did, but the truth aside from feeling bad about it, it had no lasting effect. Time moved on regardless. You hoped it mattered the way it should to his family but I’ve seen how these people treated their family. I knew how my family treated me and I thought, maybe we shouldn’t feel sad for Kranepool freeing himself from his human vessel but happy for him, envious even.
Murphy towered over the detectives. He was never one to fancy himself a people person, but we never see ourselves the way others do. He could hold a conversation with every type of person, upper or lower class, it didn’t matter. He went to the lockbox that was never locked and retrieved the spare keys for 18C. Before he left in the front elevator, he asked me to call Gerry Nevins and find out if he could come in early. It was Gerry’s last day of work before his vacation to Amsterdam. For as long as I knew him he only left Queens to come to the city for his shift and then back to Queens as soon as bloody possible. The phone rang a few times before Gerry answered, “Hello?”
“Hey Gerry, it’s Rainer. What’s up, man?”
“Rainer, my boy. It’s a miserable day out there.”
“I know. It’s even gloomier this side of the river.”
“When I was in triple A on days like this-”
“Not now, man. I have a bit of sad news.”
“Go on,” Gerry said.
“It’s Kranepool. He jumped out of his fucking window, dude.”
“Say it ain’t so.”
“It is so.”
“He couldn’t have waited until after Christmas.” In the coming weeks leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ tenants will hand over envelopes to the staff, tipping us in appreciation of the work we’ve done over the course of the year. A little added bonus with lovely notes attached or fresh baked cookies from some, and absolutely nothing from others besides a pair of rolling eyes. I knew who not to expect anything from. I was fine with that. I didn’t want anything from the assholes but I was looking forward to the gratuity from the good ones this season in particular. I figured it would help increase my savings, which meant renting an apartment sooner. I knew I’d need enough to cover the first month’s rent, security deposit and utilities, and basically everything one needs to lead a normal life. Coffee maker. Record player. Clothes. Furniture. I was starting from scratch. I appreciated anything I got from the tenants because at the end of the day I was well aware they didn’t have to give me anything. If it was ten dollars or a hundred dollars, I was grateful all the same.
I chuckled, “That’s pretty fucked up.”
“Why is that fucked up? Don’t be so tender. I’m just saying he could have waited a few weeks. It’s a compliment really. He wasn’t frugal. I’m not speaking ill of the dead or anything. I’m just saying he was a generous man. I liked the man. I genuinely liked him. You’re guilting me, lass.”
“It’s fine. Relax. Are you busy? What are you up to?”
“Ichabod and I are discussing how come the Mets couldn’t beat the fucking Cards in the NL championship this year. How did he not swing at the fucking ball, man. Two strikes. I’m gutted still.”
“I know. I know. Alright. So you’re not that busy? Can you come in early today? Mauricio threw up at the sight of the body and ran off.”
Gerry gave a hearty laugh. “That’s great. That man is such a puss. Yeah, I’ll come in a few. Let me get my sets in and I’ll get ready and report. In celebration of my last shift before I leave for the red light district I’m bringing Ichabod and a case of Budweiser to start the party properly.”
“Awesome,” I said. “ I’ll tell Murph when he comes back down with the cops.”
“You tell him I’ll come and save him from the lobby.”
“You got it.”
“If I was on the team we would’ve gone all the way this year. Without a doubt. Win a championship on the twentieth anniversary of the ‘86 championship. Would have been pure magic.”
“For sure, man.”
“Strong finish though. 97-65 record. Led the NL east.”
“Alright, see you shortly.”
Russell opened the door for Mrs. Coral. She had a plastic bag, which I took from her despite her protest that it wasn’t heavy. Mrs. Coral was a very independent woman, and I respected her. I put my arm out and she took it and I escorted her to the elevator. The elevator doors opened and Mrs. Coral entered first because I’m a gentleman and she was a lady. The cab of the elevator was nice, cherry wood and a classic bronze panel with white numbered buttons. I pressed the number four and it lit up. Vanna White, came to mind. The associations that my brain often triggered, a product of my ocd, the thoughts it pieced together and set in motion did not always serve me well. I’d take an aging game show host or baseball statistics over the typical negative associations that wrenched my emotions in its vice like grip, my mind and heart were trapped in iron maidens.
Mrs. Coral lived on the fourth floor of 534 E. 57th street. Lenny Dykstra, an outfielder for the ‘86 Mets wore the number four. He had 127 hits, 8 home runs, 45 runs batted in and 31 stolen bases that year. His nickname was Nails, and Mrs. Coral has just returned from getting hers done.
She was a tiny woman. The phrase eats like a bird came to mind when I saw her. She dressed impeccably albeit from yesteryear. She had a plastic bag from Gristedes over her hat. Her jacket was heavy fabric and adorned with a gold brooch. She used to get tipsy at Neary’s but her last drinking buddy had passed on. Her dog, Artemisia, had passed on. Her friend who would accompany her to the Angelika three days a week to see every movie they were showing had passed on. Her husband died forty years ago and she remained faithful to him. She was an avid reader with great standing at the local library. She put me on to Haruki Murakami. She was the only person who was familiar with my namesake. Long before the arthritis plagued her hands I heard she was a concert pianist tickling the keys at such venues as Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. She hid her sadness well or maybe she had mastered her emotions. She also had a great sense of humor and a sharp, dirty mind.
“It’s pretty wet out there,” I said.
“I’d wager you make a lot of girls wet.”
“whoa. Mrs. Coral. Shame on you.” I closed my eyes and let out a deep breath.
“Am I being naughty again? Stop blushing you prude. So what’s the story with the lobby? Renovation? Is my maintenance going up?”
“Can you keep a secret?”
“Who am I going to tell? All my friends are dead.”
“A tenant committed suicide. He jumped out of his window and landed in the courtyard.”
“Oh, no. Do you know who?”
“Yes. Mr. Kranepool.”
“Oh, my. That’s awful. Such a handsome man. I bet he was well endowed. What a waste. Everyone is going through something, honey.”
The elevator reached her floor, I walked her to the front door. Each lobby was personalized and hers had some bookshelf wallpaper, and was badly lit by a birdhouse chandelier. Red tiles lined the floor.
“I can never find the right key.”
“It’s ok, take your time. If someone else buzzes they will have to wait.”
She opened the door, “Thank you, hon.”
“My pleasure. You know you’re my favorite?” If only this dirty old broad was half a century younger. My. God.
“You say that to all the octogenarians.”