35 “Life is but a Dream”

Guy was down in the exercise room for a long, slow workout session. He liked his privacy. The POPS facility wasn’t one of those with picture windows where everyone could see both out, and in. That was too much distraction, for his taste. A few other residents had come and gone but other than nodding to them, he’d just kept at it, left on his earphones. He didn’t feel much like talking. Carrie was entertaining—a girls’ night in—and he’d opted to make himself scarce. The ladies could do very well without him. He also wished to avoid being set up with one of her friends, whether his sister really intended or not for that to happen. Lee also was on her own to decide about whether to join the party. Usually when she’d had enough of adults, she pleaded homework and went to her room. It was Sunday night, so it would be easy for her to make the excuse.Chapter 35 Life is but a Dream

The big moon of a wall clock advised him that, at a ten minutes to nine, it was still too early to go back upstairs. Perhaps a swim, to kill some time. The hallway door to the pool was right next to the exercise room. He always carried both towel and trunks in his gym bag. He could change into his swim gear in the Mens room between the lobby and the pool, then afterward rinse off there before going on up home. He thought he might wheel the big portable TV set into the pool area, for something different. If it could reach its from central alcove as far as the lobby or meeting room, it ought to reach the pool, too. He saw no reason not to try. There’d be no little kids racing and tripping over the cord, not at this time of night. He could watch a show while taking an easy trawl through the pool. It might be quite relaxing. He preferred watching sports involving a goal at either end, the back and forth action.

Out in the hallway, he was surprised to see an extension cord already trailing along the floor and under the pool room door. He heard voices from inside. Curious if somebody else had the same idea, he pushed open the door. The TV was there alright, tuned to a cooking demonstration. There was also a man, floating face down. Guy dropped his bag. It landed on his foot. Cursing, he hobbled over to the edge. He couldn’t see who it was, couldn’t see the face. Galvanized, he rushed over to the rescue equipment, yanking off his t-shirt as he went.

*   *   *   *   *

Succumbing to the numbing whirlpool, Gertie’s nerves slowly unwound. But Bert, anger coiling up, hadn’t spent all this money for a penthouse for his daughter to be attacked by a low-life. He had to find out who it was, get him thrown out of the association. They could drum somebody out for inappropriate behavior, he knew, and there wasn’t much worse than this.

“Gertie?” he said, through the bathroom door, “you alright, then?”

“Sure, I’ll be fine, thanks.”

Carrie Karon, Guy's sister, Lee's aunt and Ferry Godmother, owner of Pluto's, a downtown spa

Carrie Karon, Guy’s sister, Lee’s aunt and Ferry Godmother, owner of Pluto’s, a downtown spa

“I think I’ll just go down for my nightly stretch. I won’t be long. I’m leaving Pocano here, with you.”

“Lock the door!”

“Will do.” He even double checked it on the way out, muttering, “Poor kid,” and then, “Bastard.”

Tonight, primed to spring into other action, he had no intention of taking that stretch. He took the stairs down on the off-chance her assailant had followed.  As he approached the pool door he heard the TV, just as Gertie had said. Strange place for it to be. The first thing he saw was Guy Karon. But it couldn’t have been him. Gertie knew Guy.

Bert began to absorb the scene before him. He had the impression of a classical oil painting, depicting an ancient mariner floundering above the depths. Karon, bare-chested, muscles bulging, stroked at a man who was face down in the water, steering him along with a long white pole that he gripped with a bunch of swaying gray cloth. Guy looked up, wild-eyed.

“Oh God, Steinhardt, help me.”

“What are you doing?”  Bert was wary, stood his ground, heard his voice strain above the racket of the TV playing an ad for beer. Guy, short-winded, gasped his reply.

“Found him…didn’t grab the ring…trying to see who…might still be alive.”

It was becoming a little clearer to Bert that Guy was not murdering this man, that the man was apparently already a corpse, or well on his way to being one. He certainly looked like every movie picture of a drowned person he’d ever seen. As Bert also wanted to know exactly who was in the water he went over, knelt down, and lowered his face as Guy held the body still.

“Who is it…can you see?”

“Not one of ours. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s someone else. You get down and look.” Guy set down the rescue pole, leaned over, and watched as the body gently bobbed in the still rippling water.

“What?? It’s the Mangold kid, isn’t it?”

“That would be my guess. Asshole.” He was about to mention that Gertie had been assaulted just a few minutes before in all likelihood by this man—witness the beer cans in the water—but he stopped himself. Best keep Gertie out of this.

“What in the name of Hades was he doing here?” Guy disgustedly pitched the pole into the water. “This is the last thing we need. There will be all hell to pay over this.” Pulling the gray t-shirt back over his head, he warned. “Fingerprints. Keep your hands in your pockets.” All Bert could feel in his pockets was some loose change.

“Not wanted on the voyage.” Bert pronounced over the dead man, and flipped a few coins into the water.

“You paying his fare then, Bert?”

“We have to keep quiet about this, Guy. Does anyone know you’ve been in here?”

“No, I’ve been alone since I left the work-out room. Haven’t seen anyone. You?”

“No, I’m just down taking a breather before I turn in. The usual.”

“Then, I agree. Not a word to anyone. What about the TV? Think we should put it back?”

“Definitely not. Too risky. Besides, it’ll give the kid something to do.” Bert scoffed, changing the TV to a travel channel. “Maybe he’ll get the idea, and go away.” Sensing some private joke, Guy didn’t inquire.

“Let’s get out of here.”