Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Gathering: Chapter 11 - Apparent breakthrough, worrying reverse



We are investigating the death of rich doper Harrison Ogilvy, in which a mysterious man from abroad seems to be implicated.

Bobby Lomax and I decided to stake out Marcy's diner. We didn't know what the foreign guy looked like, but we reckoned that if he was as weird as Lara said he was then we would know him if he came back in. The problem was of course that we had no idea if he would come in. Or how long it would be before he did. We spent much of two days taking turns to hang out in the diner, drinking coffee and reading the paper, but we never saw anyone who looked even remotely like they might be this sinister man of foreign appearance.

I admit it, I began to find the whole business boring. I had to remind myself why we were trying to find this foreign guy - because maybe he had killed some Harrison Ogilvy, some other guy that neither of us knew but who was someone that our friend Hunter Maddocks had been talking to in a dope den. I found myself wondering whether it was really so essential for us to track down the alleged killers of Harrison Ogilvy. Maybe we could just give up our investigations but keep telling Maddocks that we were continuing various non-specific lines of inquiry, until he lost interest in the whole business. That's what I found myself thinking, anyway.

I didn't want to give up on the hunt for Ogilvy's likely killers, but I didn't want it to take up the rest of my life either. I was becoming impatient. Maybe if we waited forever in Marcy's diner then the strange foreign guy would come back in. But maybe he wouldn't. Or maybe he wouldn't come back in for months. I did not want us to be still staking out that café in a couple of months time. There had to be some other way of speeding things up.

I remembered Lara saying that she thought Ogilvy might have had the foreigner staying in his apartment. Now, there was no chance that this guy was still there, unless he was a complete chump, but maybe when he or Ogilvy would have left behind something that could point me to what they were up to and where I might find them. So I thought to myself, what the hell, let's have a go at breaking into the apartment to see what I can find.

I'm guessing you've never had to break into an apartment. Up to this point, neither had I. I had to think about how best to do it. First of all I had a snoop by the building to get a sense of how easy it would be to enter. It was one of those places where you can walk straight in, but there was a superintendent on the door whose job included not letting suspicious characters in to break into the residents' homes. I did not feel that I had to worry about him - such people keep an eye out for low-lifes, but when they ignore a smartly dressed men who clearly come from a respectable family, so I would be able to sail past him. Getting into the apartment itself would be a little bit more tricky, but not impossible. If I wore a long coat I could carry a small jimmy underneath it, without exciting the suspicions of the superintendent. With that I would be able to quickly lever open the door and then I would be in.

Timing was crucial. It struck me that that daytime would be ideal for raiding the apartment. This was the kind of building where young bachelors lived, so during the day they would mostly be out at work without any wives or kids hanging around to notice a man jimmying his way into an apartment. But in this case daytime would not suit. As Ogilvy had died recently, there was every possibility that during the day there would be someone from the family there in the apartment, going through his stuff and working out what they wanted to keep and what to dispose of. That left the night or late evening, which had its own problems. If I came by too early, I ran the risk of someone bumping into me while I was breaking into the apartment. If I left it too late, the superintendent was more likely to have his suspicions aroused by the arrival of someone he did not recognise. And of course, doing the job at night time would mean I had to be extremely quiet, because when people are lying in bed trying to sleep the slightest sound elsewhere in the building can sound very suspicious.

I decided to swing by at 10.30 pm. Most folks would be getting ready for bed around then, but it was not so late that someone entering the building would seem unusual. I sauntered by the superintendent, trying to look as nonchalant as possible. "Good evening," I said. He grunted a reply, barely looking up from the pulp magazine he was reading. I made my way to the elevator and took it up to Ogilvy's floor. Gingerly I walked down the corridor to the door of his apartment. There was no one in the corridor and all around me was silence. I listened at the door of the apartment. No sound could be heard. The lights were out inside. I thought of knocking on the door, just in case anyone was within, but I decided against it. I didn't want anyone in the other apartments hearing the knock, and I didn't think there was any chance at all of there being someone inside. So I got to work. This was a fancy apartment block that I expected to house only people with a lot of money, but Ogilvy's door had a not very impressive lock. It did not take much effort with the jimmy to break the lock and open the door.

There was a tiny bit of noise as the lock broke, so I stepped inside and closed the door behind me, listening for the sound of any noise from the other apartments. Nothing. If anyone had heard me breaking in, no one had put two and two together and worked out what the noise was. I was in. No one was going to disturb me. So what would I find?

I didn't want to turn the lights on, as I reckoned there was too much danger of someone walking by in the corridor and getting suspicious when they saw light coming from under the door of an empty apartment. So I used a small flashlight to illuminate the room I was in. The door brought me straight into the apartment's living area, with a couple of other doors off leading no doubt to a kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. Someone had obviously been here ahead of me, as there were a number of bulging valises neatly placed on the floor. A quick glance at them revealed them to be filled with men's clothes. Pretty good stuff too. Ogilvy's family must be packing up his clothes to take them away. I wondered if Ogilvy might have been about my size, but I didn't like the idea of wearing a dead man's suit. I'm not superstitious, but that would be too much.

Some bookshelves caught my eye. I shone the light over them and checked out the titles. There were some titles of a kind that would not strike anyone as unusual, but some others seemed a bit more esoteric. The Golden Bough. Witch Cults of Europe. Thaumaturgical Prodigies of the New England Canaan. Psychopathia Sexualis. The True Revelations of Abra-Merlin the Mage. Mein Kampf (in an English translation). Secrets of the Kabbalah. Zohar. The Life and Times of Christian Rosenkreutzer. And so on. But what was clear from looking at the shelves was that someone had taken away some of the books, and that whoever did this had done so in a hurry. There were obvious gaps between the titles, with the books on either side hanging out awkwardly as though they had come askew when their tightly packed neighbour was removed, with the remover not bothering to straighten the shelves when he was finished. I imagined Ogilvy's occultist friends grabbing the books they valued and fleeing from the scene as fast as they could.

I looked a bit closer at one of the gaps in the lower shelves and made a discovery. A piece of paper had fallen behind the shelves. I reached in and took it out. It contained some handwritten notes. The writing mostly meant nothing to me, but it sure looked like funny stuff. Symbols that I think had astrological significance littered the page, as well as strange diagrams and phrases that looked like they were not in English or any other language I'd ever heard of. And there was an address! Bingo, I thought. The address was just a street and house number, and the street was not somewhere that immediately rang a bell with me, but I was sure I would be able to find it in a directory. And then I would find something that would get me closer to whatever had happened to Ogilvy.

Like I said, I had never broken into an apartment before. If I had, I would probably have known that the first job of any credible house-thief is to make sure he is alone in the apartment. I failed to do that. And I was so caught up in my inspection of the bookshelves that I stopped listening out for any sound that might mean my presence had been discovered. So it was a complete and terrible surprise when I felt a hard object jabbed into my back.

"This is a gun," said a woman's voice. "Do not make any sudden movements."

Next Chapter

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