Who's Talking About Me and What Are They Saying?
...and we were talking about me because I had found the body.
We are Judith, the velvety resident manager and Tim, the surly maintenance man without the heart of gold. And we would not actually start talking about what a brave, good little assistant manager I had been until after Christmas. I had two days to work myself into a little drama and change the course of a couple of lives just because I can't not help myself to the stuff people leave behind.
(You know what I'm talking about if you've ever moved into an apartment where the landlord hasn't quite finished clearing out the old stuff. You know what I'm talking about if the dumpsters or the curb are piled high with perfectly usable lamps, chairs, kitchen products...boxes of letters and scrapbooks.)
So here's what happened on the 23rd.
Judith, despite her suavity, is not having the best year of her life. She's 35, and perfect. Perfectly groomed, perfectly tailored, sort of beautiful and the kind of manager that has underlings wanting to do their best. She's whipped this fading Cape Canaveral-era complex into a well-kept secret and will doubtless parley that into a career, but this holiday season all she wanted was to get out of town. Without her husband.
And so she did. Our bank manager introduced her to some rich guy or seemingly rich guy and they're off to Big Canoe, yet another concept in weekend living. (big houses, private grounds, gates, lake, leaves). So she's out by mid-morning.
I know this because I was showing a woman named Patty her third townhouse and was standing on the sidewalk wondering if the bitch was shopping me for another complex or was just picky picky picky when Judith drove by in her little red MG (top down), waved and made a "better you than me" face.
Tim's whereabouts were just as easy to explain but I couldn't prove them. He was doing a disappearance. After checking in in the morning in his special way: make coffee, leave grounds, etc., for me to clean up and scatter handful of work orders on dining room table of model/office (so i know he's been there), he evaporates. I did notice his car was not in its usual spot and figured he was off to Buckhead Hardware to nickel and dime the company.
Simple day. Didn't hurt myself steam opening bank report that Judith had left for bank manager to pick up later in day. Collected some rents. Wrote up some work orders. Accepted friendly invite from Nancy and Stephen Baker in 120-C to join them for dinner and collect whatever they didn't want to move or take to Salvation Army.
They live right next door to Abigail, who, evidentally, had been drinking vodka at some point in the day.
Dinner with the Bakers consisted of grilled cheese and bacon sandwiches made on a cast-iron pan Nancy said I could take home with me; she didn't want to move it to Seattle. And a big fat one. And some wine. And another big fat one.
Stephen helped me carry the pan, which he said he wished he could bring with him and offered me money to mail him (I said yes); a box of curtains still attached to their rods; an egg beater, and an ironing board, out their back door and along a poorly lit walkway that runs between two rows of back-to-back townhouses. My own townhouse is further along the complex. I was heading back with him for more stuff when, just passing Abigail's unit, I noticed the back gate (ramshackle wooden affair) to her patio was unlatched. I peeked in to see what she'd done to the patio and saw that her sliding glass door, which at midnight should have been closed, latched and secured with a broom handle, was open.
Stephen and I, still mildly buzzed, looked at each other.
"If that was your place, would you want your assistant manager closing that door?"
"I'd want her to check it out," he said.
So we did.
Abigail was stretched out on the sofa, one foot dangling, one arm behind her head, the other clutching a princess phone that lay across her chest.
I used it to call the operator.