« on: June 11, 2014, 12:53:08 am »
He trudged up the stairs and found the same officer he’d left earlier in the day watching the door. Just to be sure he stopped in front of him.
“Did you go in the apartment?”
Mike nodded and stepped back into the old man’s place. He turned immediately to walk back to the bedroom and stopped. He wasn’t here to interrogate the portal again. Instead he strode back over to the entryway and, with his body just inside the door, looked around the room.
The carpet was dark brown and a path was worn from it over to the linoleum floored kitchen. Directly across the door sat a checkered couch with the cushion on the right side faded from overuse. A desk stood just to the left. Mike went over to it. It was an old style, a student’s desk, with a tiny leg space and plenty of drawers and deep gouges cut into the wood. He started into the drawers.
Sales receipts and old paystubs were shoved on top of one another. Mike looked through several of the receipts but found none out of the ordinary, none linking the old man to any bizarre place. The paystubs were all from the state of Rhode Island. Mike tossed most of those aside but kept one for his own records. The officers on the scene may have a file for the old man but that was something that he intended to check tomorrow.
He came upon bank statements and stacks of retirement papers, the title to the old man’s car and take out menus. The old man was a hoarder; it’s what got him into this mess. Mike pressed on.
A stack of birthday and Christmas cards were in another drawer. Mike opened them. Some were generic and signed by co-workers but a few odd ones had lengthy messages written in them in Spanish. In the final drawer an answer to that brief question, a stack of photographs, the colors faded and the edges ragged, of the old man as a young man.
He was sporting a wide brimmed hat and a workshirt remarkably similar to the one Mike had seen him in earlier, with boots and thick pants. He was smiling and leaning on a shovel, dirt smeared across his clothes and his face shining with sweat. Lush plants with huge broad leaves surrounded him and as Mike thumbed through the pictures a series of people appeared alongside him, other workers, smiling and filthy like him, but with darker skin and shorter in stature. Mike guessed South America, somewhere, as he flipped past.
The final photograph showed a different man. He wore the same clothes and he leaned on the same shovel but the smile was gone and the eyes were oblivious to the camera. The edges of the picture were soft and wrinkled and papery and thumbprints and streaks marred the surface. The old man as a young man stood next to a woman. Her hair was thick and dark and her eyes were huge and knowing and she smirked at him with her hands on his shoulders and he with one dirty hand on her hip over the white dress she wore and his other hand holding up the shovel and neither aware, neither caring about the camera.
Mike flipped the picture over but there was no writing, only more stains from the same hands over so many years. He stroked the photograph like he was sure the old man had so many times and placed it back on top of the pile. It was time to get back to his wife, to Karen. Gently Mike put the stack of photographs back in the drawer then, nodding to himself, pulled out his phone and took a quick picture of the worn shot on top and, satisfied, shut the drawer again.
The rest of the apartment would have to wait for tomorrow.