Tuesday, December 4, 2007

I Want to Live Here 3

What happened next was that I lost my Christmas buzz and my buddy long before the emergency guys and cops arrived. Stephen took one, no, two looks at Abigail and slipped out of her townhouse and into his own.

"I'll be back," he promised...and I believed him.

But I was alone for that half hour and used the time to check on Abigail's vitals. Such as they were. And such as I could without knowing what to look for. In the head-swimming confusion of the next two hours, I would say "She seemed 'obviously' dead to me." Which she did. Her skin chilled and stiffening, no heart beat, nothing "there" when I felt at her throat.

I scurried around looking for a hand mirror without finding one. Instead, I picked up a framed photo of her sitting at a table for two on a dockside cafe, the photographer's shadow rippling across her legs, positioned it near her mouth, and searched for signs of breath. Nada.

In my anxiety (was it a half hour to wait or was it even longer?) I ran water into a glass in the kitchen, noticing as I did, an open bottle of vodka on the counter and a sludge of cut limes in the sink.

Had Arborgate's own Miss Lonelyhearts, drunk herself to death?

Holding the glass to her lips with my right hand, (my left cradling her head) I spotted a new bruise just above her forehead, disguised by the long bangs. She must have fallen. Laying her back down, I returned the glass to the kitchen, washed, dried and put it away. As if that segment of the evening hadn't happened.

I wanted to run across the street to my office and search out her next-of-kin, though I believed this would prove to be her ex-husband, a man she'd complained about just a few days earlier. But of course I couldn't leave her and Stephen was still next door, presumably occupied with securing his rather large stash.

The police officer who finally wrote down my answers to his patient questions was from up north and not much older than me. The EMTs were older, but very sweet and acted like maybe I needed to drink sweet tea and get warm. I was, they told me, probably in shock. I didn't think so but when my eye balls started shifting left to right and my teeth began to chatter, they sat me down and pushed my head between my knees. So, I guess they could see a faint coming.

Nancy and Stephen knocked on the open front door with offers of coffee and we repeated an account of the evening and the events leading up to my seeing Abigail's open door.

"Do you normally check on doors here?" asked Officer Landers.
"I check on things," I said. "I check that things are all ok...the dumpsters are closed properly, that there's no garbage tossed around, which there almost never is except when people move out. Then the places gets a little messy. Or, you know, after a storm. If someone's door is open and it's late, yeah, that's not ok, so I check it out."
"Isn't that dangerous?"
"I never thought it was. Maybe because Stephen was with me or... I don't know, it seemed like the right thing to do."
He nodded. It was the right thing to do. It was my job.
"We always liked it that you guys were around all the time," said Nancy. "That you and Judith and Tim live here."
"It's a community," said Stephen. God, they both worked for ad agencies. Could you tell?

Once the EMTs hustled Abigail's body out the front door, dinging the molding with their gurney, the officer asked me to lock up. We took a look at the still open sliding glass door, checking that it was not broken. It was fine.

"I guess she wanted some air," I said. "I wonder when she fell."

"Did she fall?" asked Stephen.

"It looks that way," said Landers, rubbing his forehead where Abigail had injured herself. "She's got a bruise right about here."

We each looked around, silently inventorying the rooms for dangerous edges. When I pointed to the glass-topped dining room table, Landers nodded.

"Tripped, maybe. Banged her head. She could walk around with a head injury like that for hours before passing out."

"Subdoral hematoma," said Nancy.

"Where'd you learn that?"

"It happened to my cousin when he was driving his car. Got in a fender bender, hit his head on the steering wheel. They found him dead in his living room two days later."

"He didn't go to the doctor?"

"He'd complained of a headache but that was all."

I wondered if Abigail had complained of a headache and, if so, to whom?

"You'll probably see her husband in the morning," said Landers.

But the next day, a woman declaring herself to be Abigail's sister was pounding on the office door at 9 a.m., demanding to be given keys to the townhouse.

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