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  • George Young

Chapter 6 – Southern Manhattan Suffers Historic Drop in Average IQ



A three-day weekend. A year ago an enjoyable time for Roger, but now the idea of not going into work for 84 hours, give or take, put everything around him into the slow motion grind of avoidance.


Since his separation, Monday through Friday work served as a distraction. Weekends were another story, but he had the boys every other one, and that made the ones when he did not have Tyler and Max in his John Street apartment, tolerable.


Tip of the Spear, the office, the people, and the projects provided sanctuary for Roger. The routine gave him structure. His coworkers, save for Gary, did not ask him about the separation and kept their conversations relegated to the business of advertising. He worked late many nights, which delayed the return to the empty apartment in southern Manhattan.


****


The agency represented home and family for Roger now. Taking him away from it for a three-day weekend no longer had any appeal.


The actual Fourth of July fell on the Friday of the workweek, and the agency promised the employees that Thursday the 3rdwould be a very short workday. Roger drained every moment out of it he could, and remained at his desk when Gary stopped by at 5pm.


Everyone else left after lunch.


Gary leaned against the doorjamb. He stared at Roger, until he realized that Roger was refusing to acknowledge him.


“Let’s go, Davenport,” he said. “I don’t want to find you in here on Monday morning with three days growth on your face and body odor filling the room.”


Roger forced a weak smile.


“I have my shaving kit with me, and I could always use the shower in the bathroom in your office. I do have all the codes, you know.”


“Is that right?” Asked Gary. “Thanks for reminding me to have them changed once in a while. I’m not good about that.”


Roger exhaled blowing his lips and tongue in a Bronx cheer. Gary laughed and switched off the office lights. The two were out the door; into the elevator; and onto 9thAvenue in two minutes.

A sunny and mild day for July greeted them. Roger shaded his eyes, and slipped his right hand into his briefcase to pull out his sunglasses. He put them on as Gary grabbed his own pair from a side pocket inside his suit jacket.


“I think I could make an excuse,” said Gary. “If you feel a drink would help get you to southern Manhattan in a better frame of mind.”


Roger lifted up his sunglasses and looked at Gary. The two walked the block from 16thto 15thStreet and then over to 8thAvenue.


They halted just in front of the entrance to the subway on the west side of 8thAvenue. Gary was heading uptown. Roger down and across town.


“No thanks,” said Roger. “I’ll take my chances with a very long walk back to John Street. I could certainly use the exercise.”


“Alright, Roger,” said Gary. “I will see you on Tuesday.”


Gary disappeared down the steps. Roger dropped the sunglasses back down on the bridge of his nose and walked to 14thStreet. He was just about to turn left to start his journey in

the cross-town direction, but changed his mind and opted to take Hudson downtown through the old meatpacking district and into a section of Manhattan that showed the effects of capital investment with block after block of retail, newly constructed apartment buildings, and casual restaurants with sidewalk seating.


The usual hustle of humanity on Hudson Street seemed quiet for a pre-Holiday rush hour. No traffic jams. Pedestrian crowds light. That familiar Manhattan crush too many people on too narrow sidewalks had evaporated in a sea of weekend plans.


Roger traversed the distance to and from his apartment to the office often enough to know the route measured just a little longer than two-and-a-half miles and would take him an hour. Maybe longer if he reallytook his time and stopped at a bookstore with no intention of buying a darned thing.


It would be on less hour to kill before the oasis of Monday.


To kill?


***


The Summer in New York City started out with lower than normal temperatures, and little rain. The 4thof July weekend promised to be no different. Roger walked the distance to his apartment and did not break a sweat. He did have to remove his dark grey suit jacket and loosen his red and blue striped tie.


Roger also took off his hat, a throwback matching Fedora.


Old School described many things about Roger, dress being one of them. He liked the Mad Men style, and dressed in plain darkish suits and skinny ties. His taste in clothing ran conservative and the haberdashery trend the TV show started appealed to him immediately.


Roger Davenport presented the very picture of the television series as he strolled down West Broadway with his jacket slung over his shoulder held by only a single finger of his right hand; briefcase and hat in his left; and the collar of his white shirt just the right amount of open.


And for a while his admin, Joan ironically, greeted him with, “Good morning, Mister Draper. Coffee?”


The exchange worked for both of them, since Roger loved the attention and did not drink coffee, so Joan avoided the Old School female errand of fetching coffee for the male boss.


Gary Kaplan stated that Roger became the saddest advertising creative director on Earth, when the show went off the air. To his credit, though, Roger continued to sport the attire.


****


The hour-killing walk ended. Roger entered his building and took the elevator to the tenth floor. He entered his apartment and stripped off the tie, which he draped over the Barcalounger. Roger took in the view from his apartment, which again existed solely of the building across the street.


“Now what?” He said aloud.


To that, he went to the kitchen and poured about four ounces of bourbon into a tumbler. He reached for the freezer to get a couple of ice cubes, but changed his mind.


“Why bother? It only dilutes it,” he said to no one.


Halfway through the four ounces, he opened his briefcase; took out his laptop; and placed it on a box in the kitchen. Roger unpacked the contents of the box, but he since he hadn’t purchased a table yet, he had nowhere to eat his meals, save for the box. And now, it would serve as a desk, another piece of furniture he’d neglected to buy.


He checked his personal email. Just an annoying reminder from Patricia that she and the boys were away for the Fourth of July Holiday weekend. She did not wish him a happy engagement anniversary just as she had not wished him a happy wedding anniversary on Memorial Day. He read a few news feeds (Nothing new on the murder from Memorial Day); and checked the weather (Continued mild for the week).


Boredom and curiosity drove him to open Google Earth. He had not used the application since Memorial Day, the night of the murder.


He opened the application, but immediately closed it and shut off the computer. Roger left the black screen up.


“What are you doing?” He asked. “Besides talking to yourself?”


He switched on the television


“I’ll just channel surf,” he said out loud. “It will at least kill—”


Nothing interested him on any of the channels, so he went to Netflix and downloaded an episode of Mad Men from the first season. Watching it got him to 11pm. Late enough to call it a night.


Roger got ready for bed, but could not fall asleep. His insomnia was getting worse. Around midnight, he kicked back the covers and walked out to the kitchen. The bourbon enticed from the counter, but he turned away from it.


“Maybe I’ll watch Lost Weekend,” he said. “That will push me in one direction or the other.”

Turning from the bourbon bottle his eyes landed on his laptop, still open from earlier in the evening. He turned it on and opened Google Earth.


“Beats talking to myself, or does it?”


He searched for “Bars Open Near Me Now.” When he looked south from Theater Alley, he saw something he did not want to see.


At Liberty Place, south of Theater Alley, the exact same figure in the same position poised to execute another victim. A chill ran through Roger and he shook his head like a dog. He looked again. Still there.


He hit Command-Shift-4; heard the reassuring sound effect of a camera shutter snapping; and waited for a screen capture to appear on his desktop. It did. He emailed it to himself.


Roger double-clicked on it and when it opened, the shadow figure was there; knife positioned overhead; victim and blood underneath. He could get no further detail on the assailant, but the recipient of the stabbing appeared to be another young woman.


Roger shot out of the kitchen and into the living room. He grabbed the land-line and called 911.


“911. What is the nature of your emergency?”


“I, uh, think I’m watching, uh, witnessing a murder!”


“Where is this occurring, sir?”


“Uh, Liberty Place, below - !” He replies.


“I’m familiar with the area. What is your name, sir?” She asks.


“I don’t want to give you my name,” he replies. “Please send someone over there right away. I called several weeks ago when--,” and Roger stopped talking.


“Hold the line, please,” she says.


Roger rocks back and forth on his bare feet. He opens his mouth to say something into the receiver and reaches, once more, for the ‘End’ button. He pulls his hand back.


“It’s the same thing AGAIN! Should I run over there? The police are not going to believe it. They didn’t believe it last time!” He lowered his voice to a whisper when he realized he was getting loud.


“Detective Cooper, homicide.”


The same detective.


“DETECTIVE COOPER! HOMICIDE!”


“At least you yelled all the words this time,” said Roger, with a Peter Lorre laugh at the end of his statement.


“Is this Mike Williams?”


Roger dropped the phone. He picked it up.


“What?” Asked Roger. He fumbled and dropped the phone again. He got to the floor and shouted into the speaker. “Yes. Yes. This is Mike Williams.”


Another pause. Cooper covered the mouthpiece and motion to his partner. Acheson gave the thumbs up that the trace had started from the moment the dispatcher took the call.


“What is it this time, Mister Williams?” Asked Detective Cooper. “Did you see a murder committed on Facebook?”


“What? Uh, no Detective. It’s the same thing. I mean except it’s over on Liberty Place, and this time I have a screen capture.”


“You have a what?” Asked Cooper.


“A screen capture. I can send it to you. Just need an email address.” Roger answered. His voice cracked on the last statement.


“Alright, Mister Williams,” said Cooper. “Why don’t I find out exactly who you send it to. I’ll be right back.”


“You’ll be right back? What does that mean? Detective, there may be a murder going on right now, exactly the same as the one several weeks ago that occurred on Theater Alley!”


Roger heard a faint hum on the phone line, and he banged the received down into its cradle. He checked his pants pockets for his keys, and finding them in his left, bolted out the door and into the elevator. If the police were not going to at least send a patrol car over to Liberty Place, he would run over there now. The location of the Google Earth murder was only two blocks south of his John Street apartment.


The elevator chugged up to his floor and he bounced up and down on his toes as he waited for it. It arrived and he got on.


It stopped on the third floor. Roger exhaled. A young woman stepped inside. Her hair, streaked with lavender. Earbuds implanted above her studded lobes.


The doors opened on the ground floor and Roger shot out into the lobby. He collided with two NYPD policemen. Both officers lightly restrained Roger. The older of them, a swarthy man of about 45 with a well-trimmed gray mustache tightened his grip. Roger read ‘Stephan Murkowski” on his nameplate over his shirt pocket.


“You Roger Davenport, also known as Mike Williams?” he asked.


Roger stopped what had been a weak struggle. The police had traced his phone call and found out his name; where he lived; and dispatched a patrol car to pick him up.


“I’ll be whoever you like, but I, uh, can you please come down to Liberty Place with me?” He implored. Roger shouted the words at the officers, who blinked in synch.


“We have orders to take you directly to the precinct station, Mister Davenport. Detective Cooper will see you there,” said Officer Murkowski.


His partner, a younger Asian man named Arthur Lee, reached for a pair of handcuffs clipped to his belt. Officer Murkowski waved his hand back and forth.


“We aren’t going to need to cuff you, are we Mister Davenport?” He asked.


“No,” said a contrite Roger. “But I will ask you once more to please drive past Liberty Place. I’m sure it’s on the way to the precinct.”


Lee and Murkowski exchanged a look.


“I think we can do that,” said Murkowski.


“Thank you,” said Roger. “Can we hurry?”


“I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone ask to hurry to the police station, have you Arthur?” Joked Murkowski.


“Nope. It’s a first.” replied Officer Lee.


The policemen and Roger walked out of the building. The officers allowed Roger to place himself in the backseat of the patrol car. They drove south on Gold and, because of the heavy construction blocking vehicular traffic, turned right on Liberty Street. When they arrived at the alley of Liberty Place, the officers hopped out of the car, and made a cursory look around.

Not a person in sight, but had they been two minutes earlier, they might have seen a body being dragged out of the alley and hidden underneath a dumpster that had just been dropped off that afternoon in the area. And if the officers had stayed two minutes longer they might have spotted the trickle of the victim’s blood pooling just outside the dumpster. The next day the body of Nickie Walsh, the 25-year-old Goldman-Sachs intern would be discovered where Ruben had hidden it.


“Sorry, Mister Davenport,” said Officer Lee. “But that alleyway is, uh, dead. There is no one there.”


“Thanks for checking it out,” said a dejected Roger. “You can take your time now.”

Officer Murkowski allowed himself a laugh as Roger slumped in the back seat. He pushed himself further and further into the cushions while they rode to the precinct.


TO BE CONTINUED.

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© 2018 by George W Young