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    Geron Kees
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The Thief of Small Things - 3. Chapter 3

I'd forgotten that granddad was off the next day, so he was in no hurry to get up the next morning. By the time he came into the living room I was showered, fed, and two hours into the next book in the fantasy series. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and the sunlight streamed in through the dining room windows and spilled across the carpet to land at my feet.

Granddad was in his blue bathrobe and fluffy slippers, and I had to smile.

He smiled back. "What? It's that funny?"

I shook my head. "It's just...you look so relaxed."

"That's my intention, I can assure you. You ate?"

"Uh huh. I'd have waited, but you didn't say to."

"No, that's fine. I could have slept until noon, for all you knew." He scratched at the stubble on his chin, and examined the ceiling. "Now what do I feel like for breakfast?"

Soon, some very enticing aromas filled the living room, and I had to put down the tablet and go and see what was making in the kitchen.

Granddad smiled when I appeared. "Cinnamon polenta pancakes with strawberries, and scrambled eggs with Parmesan, chives, and basil. Are you still hungry?"

I didn't want to make him share his breakfast. "I had a bowl of oatmeal earlier."

"Ick. Peasant food. You should try some of this." He winked. "I made enough for two."

I laughed. "Okay."

We sat and ate together. "So, what shall we do today?" he asked. "Feel like the park?"

Central Park was always interesting, especially in the summer. It was only three blocks away, about a five-minute walk. There was a lot to do there, an easy afternoon's worth of fun.

"Sure. It's been a while since I've been."

"It's mostly the same. But it's a nice walk, and it's pretty outside. Just dress for the heat, because it's going to be a hot one."

After we ate we cleaned up, and I went to my room to change. I powered down the tablet and tossed it on the bed, and put on a pair of blue shorts and a light-colored tee-shirt. A quick two-minutes to brush my teeth and grab my phone, my wallet, and my sunglasses, and I was ready to go.

I met granddad at the front door. He was also dressed in shorts, a saffron yellow in color, but the kind you wore a belt with. He wore a white polo shirt above, and a tan Fedora above his sunglasses. He looked kind of classy, I thought, and not at all gay. Well, not totally gay.

We took the elevator to the street, and again I thrilled at the sensation of momentary weightlessness as the elevator descended. Granddad laughed when I mentioned it, saying he hardly noticed it anymore. I liked the way it evened out midway down, so that when you got to the bottom there was no severe feeling of deceleration. I've been on modern elevators that almost make you stagger when they stop.

Because it was midday now, the sidewalks were reasonable for traffic. If you got out on them early, the joke was, you could be swept along for blocks, and end up well past were you intended to go. I was put in mind of one of granddad's jokes, about the little old lady who stepped out onto the sidewalk one morning to go to the hairdresser, one block away, and wound up in the Bronx. 'My feet never once touched the ground!', she had exclaimed.

But it wasn't bad now at all, and we made good time down West 72nd street, eventually arriving at where The Dakota stood just across the street from the park. This was a special place for granddad. Here, I knew, forty years before, John Lennon, one of the Beatles, had been killed outside the front door by a deranged fan. I knew this because granddad was a fan, too, and every time we passed that apartment building, he would say, "Rest in peace, John."

He said it again this time, and I looked over at the huge building. In a way, it reminded me of The Boltfort, looking as if the same architect might have designed both buildings. They both had the look of a castle of old, one you might see in a creepy Dracula movie or something. Yet neither building was ugly, or frightful; they just looked born of another world, and another time.

Which, I guess, they were. The Dakota was a shorter building than The Boltfort, but just as big around. And just as cool, in it's own kind of eerie way.

"That's an expensive place to live, isn't it?" I asked, as we crossed Central Park West and entered Terrace Drive.

Granddad laughed at that. "You better believe it. I think the last apartment there to come up for sale a few years back went for twelve and half million."

I almost stumbled. "Dollars?"

It was a dumb question, and I snorted at myself for even asking it.

But granddad only smiled. "Yep."

Wow. "Stuff costs that much around here?"

"Near the park, definitely."

I grinned at him. "So you're rich? I never knew that."

He laughed. "I'm comfortable, but I am not rich. One of the things you learn about city real estate is that a few blocks make a big difference. The last condo to go for sale on the floor below mine brought a shade over one and a half million. I think that was two years ago."

I whistled. "So you're a millionaire. That's cool!"

He turned smiling eyes upon me. "Maybe on paper. I paid one hundred-fifty thousand for my place, thirty-one years ago. If I wanted to buy it now, I couldn't afford it."

We crossed the bridle path, reached an intersection, and cut left to go around to Strawberry Fields, the monument to John Lennon. Granddad liked to stop at the mosaic there, where he would stand quietly a moment, nod his head, and then move on. This John Lennon guy must have made quite an impact on him when he was young. I had heard some of the man's music, and it was interesting and heartfelt, but it just didn't appeal to me like it must have to granddad. It seemed so old.

"It was as much the times as the music," granddad had said once, sighing. "You had to be there to understand."

We stopped at the mosaic, where I stood quietly while granddad communed with the Imagine symbol; and then we moved on. He was always quiet after that experience, and it took me a few minutes to coax him back.

"So, what do you feel like?" he eventually asked, smiling once again.

There's a lot to do in the park. There's the lake, of course, where you can get a rowboat or a gondola and take a leisurely cruise. Or, you can fish for bass right off the shore, as long as you put back what you catch. You can go to the Belvedere Castle and stand at the stone parapets and see out over the Great Lawn to the north, or the Ramble to the south. Close by to that, in the evenings, there's an open-air round with seating, where they have Shakespeare in the Park. I had seen a performance once, a showing of As You Like It, and been surprised that I enjoyed it. I'm more into George R.R. than I am William, you know?

In the other direction, the Summer Stage at Rumsey Field had evening concerts of all kinds, from rock to jazz to hip-hop. I'd seen a few interesting performances there, too. But those were evening things. We needed something to do right now.

Actually, just walking was fun. There were people everywhere, and all sorts of stuff to see. The Conservatory Gardens, Cleopatra's Needle, the Bethesda Terrace Arcade. The Literary Walk, with statues of Shakepeare, Sir Walter Scott, Robert Burns, and Fitz-Green Halleck (there's also one of Christopher Columbus, but don't ask me why). The Swedish Marionette Theater; the transplanted Coney Island Carousel, with its fine old riding horses; and Cherry Hill, a nice place by the water to sit and enjoy the day. And you could make a wish at the Bethesda Fountain, and perhaps it would come true.

But --

"I don't know. I don't feel like anything special. Let's just walk for now."

"Fine by me. Come on."

One thing I seldom fail to notice are gay couples. They're not everywhere in the park, but they are there, and they are just being themselves and no one is taking notice. There was a couple by the water, shirts off, one with a radio controller in his hands, while a small boat moved about offshore. They were laughing and full of smiles, both for what they were doing, and for each other. Happy.

Granddad noticed them as well. "Pretty day," he said, smiling. "I wish Sid was with us. He loves the park, too.

I nodded, knowing exactly what he meant. We walked on, just enjoying the day like everyone else around us was doing. It was warm out, but not terribly so, and surely not warm enough to keep people at home.

The park has gotten a lot of bad play in the movies, which often show it as a mugger's paradise, and with everything from demons to axe murder's hiding down its many paths. Anyone that actually lives nearby the park will smile at that nonsense. The truth is that the park is as safe as any of the nearby neighborhoods. It opens at 6:00 AM and closes at 1:00 AM, and in warm weather the place is full of people for most of those hours.

Would I want to be alone in the park at one in the morning? Not really. I wouldn't want to be out on most of the city streets at that hour, either. But there were evening performances in the park all summer long, and things to do aplenty, and as long as people were there the place was as safe as any other park, anywhere else.

We visited Cherry Hill, and the Bethesda Terrace, then walked around to Pilgrim Hill and cut north there and passed Cedar Hill and the Cleopatra Obelisk, looked over the backside of the Metropolitan Museum of art, then cut over to the Great Lawn and walked among the people there. It was a great place to sit and talk and absorb some sun, and a lot of people brought beach towels or blankets and made a relaxing afternoon of it.

Central Park seems large, but it really isn't. It's a half mile across and two and a half miles long. You can visit just about every part of it in an afternoon, if you keep moving. We pretty much did that, talking the whole time, and just enjoying the crowds of people around us. There was plenty of eye candy there: shirtless guys walking dogs, laying on towels, sailing toy boats, throwing frisbees or balls, running, jogging, or just sitting and watching. Laughing, smiling, looking happy. I made eye contact with a few, and received a couple of smiles that made me wonder. And that made me a little sad.

A smile can suggest many things. I really didn't know what I was seeing, and it didn't really matter. I was here for two weeks, probably, and then it would be back to the burbs. Anyone I met here would be left behind, so what was the point of wishing for more?

The afternoon passed pleasantly, and we eventually found ourselves back around by Sheep Meadow and Mineral Springs, and just a short walk from where we had entered the park.

"I think that's enough for me," granddad said then. "I'm getting hungry."

"Yeah." I grasped the front of my tee-shirt and waved it, letting a little air inside. "I could use a shower, too."

"Amen to that." Granddad smiled, and pointed ahead. "We can cut through here and hit West 72nd. After we get home and get cleaned up, you can help me fix dinner."

That was always fun, and I smiled. "What have you got in mind?"

He shrugged. "I don't know. Something Italian?" He laughed. "Or maybe Mexican?"

Granddad made wraps that were a beast! "Um...Mexican sounds good."

"I thought it might. Well, come on then."

We made it back to Terrace Drive, and exited the park. Granddad again offered his wish to John Lennon to rest in peace as we passed The Dakota, and then the pointed roofs of The Boltfort finally came into view.

"No place like home," granddad said, smiling at the place. "Such as it is." He examined the exterior of the building as we mounted the front steps, and shook his head. "The place has been let go a little lately, I think. Used to be, all that stonework around the entry was kept clean and bright."

"What happened to it?" I asked.

"Well...nothing happened to it. It just gets dirty. City air is notoriously dusty. The new maintenance man just doesn't do anything about it."

I examined the intricate stonework, and could see the blackened lines, and grit in the mortared areas. "A quick pressure wash would clean it right up."

"I know. The old maintenance guy did it regularly. The new one, Mr. Santini, sucks lemons."

I laughed at that. "Maybe you should tell him."

"Maybe I should. Wouldn't do any good, though. He's one of those people that seems to grimace every time you ask them to do their job."

Granddad entered his code, and we stepped into the building, passed through the art deco foyer, and reached the elevator.

"What happened to the old maintenance guy?" I asked.

"Huh? Oh...he moved on, about a year and a half ago. He was offered a good job in Boston or Cambridge, or someplace like that, and he and his family left. You know there's an apartment on the first floor in back, for the maintenance person? It's small, but it goes with the job, and it's a hell of a nice perk. So they had a pile of applications for the open position. Why they settled on this knucklehead is beyond me." Granddad scrunched up his face and shook his head, and offered up his great Bugs Bunny imitation. "Aah, what a maroon!"

We laughed, and headed up to the top floor. Granddad let us into the condo, and I sighed as the cooler air moved over me. "That's more like it."

"Go get cleaned up, and I'll meet you in the kitchen in fifteen minutes, okay?"

I nodded, and headed back to my room. I put my cell and wallet on the nightstand next to my tablet, sat down, took one shoe off, and was just untying the second one when I froze. My eyes jerked back to the nightstand, and all I could do was stare.

My tablet lay there, looking perfectly innocent. Except that I had not left it there before leaving. I had left it on the bed. I continued to stare at it, reviewing in my mind what I had done earlier in the day. I had tossed the tablet on the bed, changed, brushed my teeth, and...left. I had not touched the tablet again.

So how did it get to the nightstand?

A creeping sensation came over me then, and I looked all around the room before bringing my eyes back to the tablet. Could I be wrong? I closed my eyes, and thought back...no. I had left the tablet on the bed.

I jumped up and kicked off the other shoe, and went down the hall to granddad's room. I was just about to knock when I heard his shower start up. He wouldn't hear me now, and I didn't want to get him out of the shower, anyway. I went back to my room and sat on the bed.

A new thought came then. Hey...maybe Sid had come by while we were gone? He might have come in, walked around, saw nobody was at home...but that didn't sound right, either. He'd just have called granddad to see what was up. It couldn't have been him, and I shook my head.

Someone else had been here. And...now I remembered back to the day before, when I had sensed someone in the hall, but no one had been there. Jesus. Was the place haunted?

But I didn't believe in that sort of stuff. I guess me not believing didn't mean it couldn't happen, but I have never felt that any of that sort of ghost stuff could be true. If there were really ghosts, everyone would know about them. That was just the way the world worked. Secrets were terribly hard to hide for very long. If Bigfoot and flying saucers really existed, we'd know. And the same with ghosts.

So what was happening? Someone was getting inside the condo, that's what. A real, live person, and a sneaky one, too.

I got up again, and went down the hallway to the closet, and opened the door. I hit the light switch, and went inside. Once again I looked over the shelves, the wall, and all the stuff there. Then I stepped back and peered up at the ceiling, shading my eyes from the light. The ceiling here was paneled just like the ceilings in the rest of the condo, a series of foot-square carved wooden tiles painted white like the rest of the closet. It looked quite unremarkable.

I got down on my hands and knees and circled the closet, tapping on the wall, and giving it a push every couple of feet, memories of secret panels from every mystery movie I'd ever seen parading through my mind. The wall sounded the same in each spot, and no section of it felt any less sturdy than the rest. I arrived back at the door, and sighed.

Nothing.

I felt stupid then, and got to my feet. I turned off the light and closed the door, and went back to my room. I heard the shower go off in granddad's room then, and decided that this mystery could wait a few minutes. I closed my bedroom door, went to the bathroom, yanked off my clothes, and jumped into the shower. I was lathered and rinsed in a long minute, and just toweling off when I heard granddad go by the bedroom door.

"Heading for the kitchen. See you in a few minutes."

I had to smile at that. Granddad had lived in this condo for over thirty years. If it was haunted, he'd know. If it had sneaky burglars creeping in, he'd know. Now I doubted what I had done earlier, no matter how clear the memory was in my mind. I must have absently picked up the tablet and put it on the nightstand before leaving. I must have!

Then why was I so certain I hadn't? Damn!

It only took me a moment to get dressed, and then I was on my way to the kitchen. Granddad had already spread out dishes on the countertop. He was quick, I had to give him that. There were cherry tomatoes, a red onion, several cloves of garlic, an avocado, and a mango on the cutting board. He turned to smile at me, and waved a hand at the knife rack. "Want to do the honors?"

I diced onions and garlic and tomatoes, while granddad shredded lettuce, and grilled slices of chicken breast on the countertop grill. We talked, and had a good time. And all the while, I couldn't quite get away from the weird things that had happened earlier.

We got to talking about The Boltfort, and how old it was. Granddad had a lot of stories to tell about the place, that was for sure. A lot had happened here in his own thirty-one years as a resident, and he was also very up on things that had happened in the past.

It was an impulse that made me say it. "Have you ever heard any stories about the building being haunted?"

He had peeled the mango, and was slicing it. He paused, and smiled at me. "You're the third person to ask me that question in a week."

I blinked at him. "Really?"

"Uh huh. Mrs. Simmons, across the hall, asked me that question the morning of the day before you got here. Sunday. She usually keeps to herself, but when I was getting the paper, she was standing at her door. She asked me if any weird things had been happening at my place."

I licked my lips. "Have they?"

Granddad cocked his head at me. "No. I mean...no."

The way he said it kind of stunned me. "You don't sound very certain."

He laughed then. "Davy, I might be the youngest person living on this floor. Once you get to be my age, you are not so surprised to find that you remembered something wrong, or forgot you did something. So It doesn't really surprise me that Mrs. Simmons, who is ten years older than me, might do the same."

That jarred a memory, and I looked over at the bread box. "Like thinking you had a whole loaf of bread, when it was only a half?"

"Exactly. It's not the first time I've misremembered something, and it won't be the last."

That was sort of astonishing. "You've done that before?"

"A few times. Mostly food-related things, so I know it's just me. I eat more of something than I thought I did, or forgot something at the store that I thought I bought. Just small things, really."

My throat suddenly felt a little dry. "What did Mrs. Simmons say was happening at her place?"

He grinned. "She thought ghosts were eating her breakfast cereal. And always moving the remote control for her TV. And using her shower, even."

I cleared my throat, the onions maybe getting to me now. "Has she...has she seen any ghosts?"

"No. It always seems to happen when she's out, she said. Her sister lives somewhere across town, and is in a wheelchair. Mrs. Simmons goes most days to visit her and help with her needs. She said she has come home to find the TV remote moved from where she keeps it, or things changed in her kitchen."

"Changed?"

Granddad sighed. "I get that Mrs. Simmons is a little anal. Or maybe a lot. She says she puts things in exactly the same place all the time, and notes how much of things she has left so that she can shop for herself while shopping for her sister. She thinks her food is being eaten by ghosts, but most definitely her breakfast cereal. She apparently keeps it in a big clear plastic container with gradations on it - you know, like a measuring cup has? - and she says the cereal level goes down while she's gone."

That did sound a little nutty. Granddad apparently saw that opinion in my eyes, and laughed again. "Son, you just don't know what it's like getting older. Your brain starts to play little tricks on you, and you just have to laugh at them if you see them. Some people don't even see them and understand them as age-related. They think other things are going on. Like Mrs. Simmons, I think."

I relaxed a little. "You think she's a little nuts?"

"No. Just old. And way too serious for her own good." He leaned towards me. "And maybe has a touch of dementia. She's known me for twenty-three years, but in the last few she has started calling me Carl."

I smiled. "Your name is Craig."

"You know that, and I know that, but --" he simply let the rest of it hang, and I nodded.

"So she's a little out there."

He sighed. "She's seventy-five, is all."

"Who was the other person who asked you?"

He frowned then. "That was Mike Donovan, down the hall. He's a couple of years older than I am, but always struck me as very together. He said some of the same things that Mrs. Simmons said. Only he laughed about them, saying he never thought he'd lose his marbles the moment he retired."

"He retired?"

"About a month ago. He went from never being home to being home most days. He says it's like that when he goes out and comes back sometimes, it feels like someone has been in his condo while he was gone."

"Really?" I frowned at that. "And his food is being eaten, too?"

"No, he didn't say that. But he did sometimes feel like things had been moved - just small things - but that he couldn't be sure. What he was feeling lately was that someone had been there while he was gone. Just a kind of weird feeling he had." Granddad shrugged. "He was chalking it up to jitters over retiring and being home so much. A sudden big change in your life can do that to you."

How well I knew that!

Granddad narrowed his eyes at me then. "Are you saying you feel like my place is haunted?"

Was I? "Well...no." But I decided to confess. I needed another opinion, one I could trust. "It's just...when we went to the park, I left my tablet on the bed. When I came back, it was on the nightstand."

I thought he would laugh at that, but he didn't. "Hmm. Are you sure?"

"I think so. It hit me like a brick that it had been moved. I've never had that happen before."

Granddad looked thoughtful then. "I don't see how anyone could get in here. You need a pass code to get in the front door, and there are cameras in the lobby, even if you can't see them. And some on each floor. Anyone coming in any of the entrances, or coming up the elevator, will be seen by the duty clerk in the office. There are good locks on all the doors, too. It would take someone really good to get in here without being caught."

"You don't have a security system though, do you?"

"No. The security is on the building. There has never been any need for the condos to have them, too."

I pointed at the rear door of the kitchen. "What about the back stairs?"

He looked at the door, too. "I don't think there's cameras there, but that's because the door at the bottom is never unlocked. It's a big, solid steel door, with no knob or anything on the outside. The stairs serve as a fire escape now. You can go out that way in an emergency, but you can't get inside." He shook his head. "Besides, there are three deadbolts on my rear door, and it's steel in a steel frame. Nobody is going to force their way in there."

I walked over to look at it, just to be sure. There were three deadbolts, just like granddad said. I grasped the knob and jiggled it, and the door felt truly immobile. No one was getting in there without a torch and a hell of a lot of noise.

I turned, and granddad was watching me. "You're really spooked, aren't you?"

I decided to come clean. I told him about sensing someone in the hallway, but that no one had been there when I looked. And thinking I saw the hallway closet door close, but finding no one inside when I opened it. And hearing the odd noise, like the call of some big bird.

He looked surprised at that last one. "Like a big hawk or something?"

I nodded. "You've heard it?"

"Uh huh. A couple of times. Always when I'm just getting home, coming in the front door. I just thought it was coming from somewhere else in the building. Maybe from the air-conditioning on the roof or something. The soundproofing's good, but nothing is perfect."

I stared at him. That he had heard that same sound as I had changed everything. That I had not imagined the sound might mean that I had not imagined any of it.

"What about other people on this floor? No one else has said anything?"

Granddad rolled one shoulder kind of helplessly. "I don't talk to everyone. I don't even know everyone. There are eight condos on this floor, with just the elevator as common ground, The floor is split into four quarters. I know Mrs. Simmons pretty well, and Mike Donovan in the other hall, and a few others here and there. But not everyone. It's just like any neighborhood, David. Some people you know to talk to, others you just wave at in passing."

I thought about my own neighborhood back home, and had to agree. "So then you don't know the people on the other floors, either?"

"A few, here and there, like I said. I see quite a few of them in the elevator. But none of them have said anything unusual lately."

"So just people on this floor."

He gave out a small grunt. "Yes. But these are also the people most likely to confide in me. So you can't go by that."

I closed my eyes a moment, and shook my head. "I don't believe in ghosts."

"I don't, either."

I opened my eyes. "So what do you think is going on?"

He made an uncertain face. "I didn't think anything was going on, until now, and I'm not even certain now."

"I don't think I imagined that stuff," I said.

He considered that, and then nodded. "No. And I don't think I imagined hearing that sound, either." He looked around the kitchen and nodded again. "Or maybe some of the other things that have happened around here." He gave a little sigh, and turned the chicken breast strips on the grill, then turned off the flame. We both remained silent as we finished up preparing the wraps.

He picked up one of the bowls he had set aside. I knew it contained a little salad dressing, a tablespoon of lime juice, a teaspoon of chopped cilantro, and a couple of pinches of ground cumin. He set the bowl by the still warm grill, and I helped him lay out the whole wheat tortillas.

Onto them we arranged the shredded lettuce, the slices of mango and avocado, and the diced onion, garlic, and tomato. To that was added strips of the hot grilled chicken breast, and then we drizzled the mixture from the now warm bowl onto all of that. We made two wraps apiece, and went to put the dishes on the table. Granddad poured us each a glass of forest fruit bash, and we sat to eat.

"I have to say I have no idea how to proceed," he confessed, after we had each taken a bite. The wraps were wonderful, as always, but not the chief thing on my mind just now.

"I don't either."

He smiled then. "I can get a few motion sensitive cameras, and we'll place them so they watch the hallway. One at each end will cover all the bedrooms."

I looked around us. "And one for the kitchen, too?"

"Okay. And one for the kitchen."

"Where can we get them?"

He laughed. "I have no idea. I can order them online and have them shipped overnight, I suppose." One eyebrow went up then. "Or maybe two-day priority mail. Overnight costs an arm and a leg."

I nodded. That would do. Whatever was going on around here, it had been happening for a while now. Another day or two of waiting couldn't hurt.

I suddenly realized how tight my shoulders felt, and sighed and let them drop and relax. Then I took another bite of my wrap, and smiled. "Well, the food is great, as always."

Granddad looked pleased.

 

* * * * * * *


We watched a little TV that evening, and it did take my mind off the odd events of the last two days. Granddad had eclectic tastes, and we watched an adventure movie, and then one about a family in an old house where strange things were going on. Both met my criteria for oldies but goodies, and they were a lot of fun. But the second movie, especially, filled my mind with ideas about secret passages and underground tunnels, and I was reminded of some of granddad's stories about the New York underground, almost another world that existed below the streets, comprised of ancient access tunnels, drainage channels, and abandoned subway lines, in which supposedly roamed the lost ones of the city.

The Boltfort was an old building - more than a hundred years old - and the idea that it was a part of the times when some of this strange underground had come into being intrigued me. The ideas on how things should be were different back then, and society more stratified than it was now. There were things built into the buildings and artifacts of those times that you just wouldn't see today.

The back stairs to the kitchen, for instance, led to the back doors of each apartment or condo on each floor, and nowhere else. They were also isolated by quarters, with the back stairs for one quarter of the building serving those two units on each floor, and having no access to the other quarters. You couldn't actually enter the building from the back stairs, unless you went through one of the residences, or through the one door in each quarter, on each floor, that let into the residential hallway. But those steel doors weren't something you would get through without a ring of keys, and without passing under the watchful eyes of a camera or two. This design had originally been to keep delivery people and service people from gaining access to the building proper. It suggested a different mindset than any I was really used to, and it made me wonder what other eccentricities might have been built into The Boltfort that people today might not be aware of.

In a way, it was kind of exciting. I mentioned my thoughts to granddad after the second movie was over, and he smiled. "Wouldn't surprise me at all to think there might be secret passages in this building. But I kind of doubt there are. The place has been renovated several times, the last major overhaul occurring right before I bought in. There have been little ones since, and contractors and inspectors all through the building. A lot of people have looked over the filed plans to this place, and I think anything secret would have been found." He grinned then. "But it's a cool thought, anyway."

That did a bit to squash my imagination, and all I could do was sigh. It continued to amaze me how vivid the couple of odd experiences I'd had seemed at the time, and how pale they had become just a few hours later, with doubt at what I had seen or felt creeping in and making me wonder if I wasn't really imagining the whole thing after all. That was my sense of reality stepping in, I guess. I just couldn't believe that the building was haunted, or that mysterious intruders could come and go as they wished without anyone seeing them.

It just didn't seem real.

"You think it's just my imagination?" I asked, feeling a little stupid now. "The stuff we've been talking about?"

Granddad watched me a moment, and then shook his head. "No. I've lived here a long time, but it's only in the past few months that I have felt really forgetful due to things being missing or less than I thought I had in the kitchen. I wouldn't notice if the TV remote had been moved like Mrs. Simmons might, but I have occasionally come home at night and heard that weird noise, and --"

He frowned, thinking. "Hmm. I came home one night and went to shower, and found I had no soap in my bathroom. You know, just a tiny piece left?" He smiled. "I usually keep extra bars in the cabinet under the sink, but I was all out. So I walked down to the spare bedroom to get one from under the sink in the bathroom there, and when I went in, I noticed that the shower curtain was drawn back and the bathtub was wet. That the water had been run."

"And you hadn't used it? What about Sid?"

"No. When he stays over, he uses my shower." Granddad smiled. "You know."

I smiled, too.

"Anyway, while I was standing there, a couple of drops rained down from the shower head. I checked the faucets, and the cold one wasn't turned completely off, and the shower faucet had been left on. So I assumed it had just been dripping, and that was why the tub was wet. But no one had used that tub in some time, so it kind of mystified me."

"It would have made me wonder, too."

He waved a hand. "Yeah, but that sort of stuff goes out of your mind pretty quickly. I guess I just forgot about it, until now. In the light of other events, the incident gains some new meaning."

"Uh huh. Especially as your neighbor said her shower had been used, too."

He frowned, and nodded.

I had to smile. "I can't imagine someone breaking in just to take a shower. Certainly not a spirit or ghost of some kind."

"It is a little hard to believe. But this is the city. Hard to believe stuff happens every damn day."

We straightened up the living room, and headed for our bedrooms.

"Tomorrow is my last day off this week," granddad said, as we paused at my bedroom door. "Any ideas for what you'd like to do?"

"Not really. I'll think about it before bed, though."

He gave me a quick hug, and smiled. "Sleep tight. Don't worry about this stuff, okay? If something is really going on, it's been going on for some time. No one has seen the ghost, or whatever, and no one has been harmed in any way. He only seems to visit when no one is home."

I frowned at that. "What about me seeing the shadow in the hallway?"

"I've been considering that. It happened after I left for work, remember? Say there really is someone sneaking in here. They'd know my schedule by now. Maybe they just didn't know you were here."

That was an interesting point. "Maybe. But if someone came in a second time and moved my tablet, they'd have had to know we went out."

"Maybe they have a way of knowing when we leave. I don't know. We're still at the maybe stage of all this."

A new thought came to me. "Maybe they can hear us? What we say?"

"We just don't know." Granddad patted my shoulder. "That's enough for tonight. Go to bed, and relax. We can talk more in the morning."

"Well --" I began, but then bit off what I was going to say and turned to go into the room.

"Wait." Granddad reached out and stopped me. "Don't go to sleep with anything unresolved on your mind. What were you going to say?"

I shrugged, the idea only half-formed. "I was wondering if maybe we should call the cops?"

Granddad's eyes widened, and then he laughed. "Bite your tongue, boy. I am not about to call the city's finest and say I have a ghost eating my bread when I'm not looking."

That made me laugh, too. "I guess it would sound a little nuts if put that way. I just thought...maybe if they came and looked around, it would scare away our uninvited guest."

"It might. But I can't see them being happy with us for reporting an invisible intruder with no real evidence to support the claim. They might show up, but they'd probably bring a couple of burly young gentlemen in white coats, too." He smiled then. "Although that might be more fun than it sounds."

I laughed. "It was just an idea."

"It was good one, but I think the timing is wrong. Let's wait until we can show them something more concrete, okay?"

I nodded, and we went our separate ways. I closed the door to my room, but didn't lock it. I wanted granddad to be able to get in if he needed to do so.

I climbed into bed, and tried to read some more of my book, but I was just too distracted. Talk about a mystery! And this one just kept getting better. So I turned off the light, and told myself to go to sleep.

I had left the curtains partly open, which let in some of the city lights, which made the room dim instead of dark. That made me feel more comfortable. As an afterthought, I got back out of bed and took a length of dental floss from the bathroom and looped it over my doorknob, and tied a ballpoint pen to the other end of it. If the door was opened, it would hopefully make enough of a rattle to wake me.

I turned off the light again, and made myself comfortable in the bed, but I was sure that with all the stuff I had on my mind, sleep would be slow to come.

I was wrong.

Copyright © 2020 Geron Kees; All Rights Reserved.
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Chapter Comments



Quote

I'm more into George R.R. than I am William, you know?

Who is William Martin? Did Chris & Billy adopt him?
;–)

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5 hours ago, mikedup said:

Interesting chapter, strange events I have no doubt that more things are going to happen before we find the reason

Could be! :)

 

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4 minutes ago, travlbug said:

…how many of the homeless keep themselves hidden?

When I was homeless, few people realized that I was because I didn’t ‘look’ homeless. My clothes might have been old, but they weren’t threadbare and raggedy. I wasn’t carting around all my world possessions (most of mine were in storage). And I showered daily, used deodorant, and didn’t stink!

So, while I was homeless, I was basically hidden in plain sight!
;–)

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58 minutes ago, Geron Kees said:

I cannot imagine you homeless, what with the size of your heart, and the obvious amount of room within it! :)

I have an enlarged heart? I thought Wayne Gray was the medical guy! That’s a really dangerous condition, isn’t it?
;–)

Edited by droughtquake
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It's unsettling knowing someone is violating the privacy of your home. Good thinking on David's part to rig a makeshift alarm, but the intruder seems intent on avoiding contact so I'd say it's unlikely they would be entering while knowing someone is home.

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11 hours ago, droughtquake said:

I have an enlarged heart? I thought Wayne Gray was the medical guy! That’s a really dangerous condition, isn’t it?
;–)

I consider most of your conditions to be dangerous. But we still play in the same sandbox, anyway! :)

 

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5 hours ago, drpaladin said:

It's unsettling knowing someone is violating the privacy of your home. Good thinking on David's part to rig a makeshift alarm, but the intruder seems intent on avoiding contact so I'd say it's unlikely they would be entering while knowing someone is home.

I think that everyone at one time or another has heard a noise, or sensed something odd, leading to the sudden, weird feeling that someone was in the house. This usually prompts a walk-around, and the discovery that no one is there. I've had this happen myself.

Our imaginations are one of the best parts of being human, but sometimes they can run away with us, just a little. :)

 

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