40 What Mrs. James Saw

Mrs. James was the first one called into the meeting room to speak with the police. She’d never done this sort of thing. A detective introduced himself, asked her to sit down. She missed the protection that the dog, once again in the hands of Gervase, had briefly given.Chapter 40edit

The detective began. Although she had heard him say it, she had forgotten to remember his name. “Mrs. James, you were the first to report the incident.” She nodded. “Tell me when you did, and what you saw.”

“I was in the lobby with the Mendel girls waiting for their ride to school. They live here, part-time. I’m their sitter. It was a little after seven.”

“Were you with them last night?”

“The whole night, yes. On Mondays, I usually come down prepared to swim as soon as they leave. Gervase was just coming in with a dog he’d been walking, the girls left, and he and I chatted for a few moments. He said he was going to take the dog back upstairs and get started on his morning rounds.  Then I went through the Ladies room entrance to the pool…”

“Why that way? Why not down the hallway?”

“I had to make a little stop in there first, to leave my sweatsuit in a locker before going on into the pool area. As soon as I walked in and saw…well, I threw my towel over my swimsuit and called out down the hallway, hoping to catch Gervase. Luckily he was still there, waiting for the elevator. For once, I was glad it’s so slow. We went back to the pool, I went to dress, we returned to the lobby, and he phoned.”

“And was there anyone else in the lobby area, or the Ladies? Or anything unusual?”

“Not that I was aware of. People going out often bypass the lobby and go straight down on the elevator to the garage. On Mondays, the garbage truck usually goes at about the same time as the girls and I get to the lobby. That was the same.”

“When did you first see the TV cord along the floor?”

“I suppose when Gervase and I were in the hallway.”

“Have you ever seen the TV in the pool area?”

“Never. Though the TV does get moved around on this floor.”

“Did you touch anything in the pool area?”

“I touched nothing, except the doors of course. I saw the man and I couldn’t do anything on my own to help. My first thought was to find Gervase.”

“Was this man anyone you knew?”

Martin and Martinelli, police detectives investigating events at the POPS

Martin and Martinelli, police detectives investigating events at the POPS

“I couldn’t see who it was. I didn’t take the time. We knew we had to call you immediately.”

“What else did you see before Gervase called?”

“There were other things in the pool, the rescue pole, some cans, coins.”

“The pole was already in the water?”

“Yes. And what looked like the flotation bottles I use for exercising. Only the rope was still attached and it was tangled up over the body.”

“You say those weren’t normally left in the pool, or in the pool area?”

“After I’m done with them, I re-tie each handle to a rope end to hang them up on a hook in the storage cupboard on the pool deck.”

“You remove the rope to use them?”

“Yes, to hold one in each hand.”

“Did you check to see if yours were in the cupboard?”

“No, as far as I know I’m the only one who uses them.  I just assumed those were mine, but with the caps missing, because they’d sunk. Though that’s odd…”

“Odd?”

“No caps would defeat the object. They wouldn’t float, so neither would you.” The police did not interrupt her as she thought out loud. “But because those were sinking wouldn’t necessarily mean that you’d go down with the ship. You should be able to let go of them.”

“You mean you’d instinctively let go?”

“If you were paying attention, certainly.”

“I see. Were you and Gervase together the whole time you were in the pool area?”

“Until I went to get dressed.”

“Did you touch the TV?”

“No. I think it may have crossed my mind to turn it off. It was a hymn sing, or some such. Dreadful, but no.”

“Is there anyone else who regularly swims on Monday mornings?”

“I’m usually there alone. Gervase knows how long I usually stay. He keeps his eye on me so I’ve never worried about…well…drowning. That poor man. All alone.”

“Can you tell me which other residents typically use the pool?”

“Only who I’d seen or who told me they did. It wouldn’t necessarily be all of them.”

“It would be a start, so please continue.”

“I bring the girls sometimes on weekends. Their Dad comes down too, they say, though I’ve never seen him. There’s Gertie Steinhardt, when she’s here staying with her Dad. The Karons. Kitty Doyle was a lifeguard, she says, and I’ve seen her here, too. The Cabots used to come every day, but they both recently died in that plane crash overseas. And the Pardoes, they tell me they swim, on occasion. That’s about it, I think, though I’m sure there must be others. I’m a morning swimmer. Others use the pool at different times.”

“Have you ever seen or heard of anyone letting a non-resident use the pool?”

“Well yes, occasionally there are guests.”

“Thank you, Mrs. James. We ask you not to discuss this with anyone until we’ve done our interviews. Could you please ask the concierge to come in now?” Relieved to be done with the police, at least temporarily, she returned to the lobby. Pocano was behaving like a champ, leashed but not tethered, laying quietly by Gervase’s desk amid the hubbub.

“They want you next, Gervase. Shall I mind the dog again while you’re in there? I can’t very well let myself into the Steinhardt’s without their permission and Mullins would take exception to my bringing a dog home. But I can sit here awhile longer, especially as he’s such a good dog.” Pocano wagged his tail, appreciative and hoping for yet another reprieve.

“Thanks, if you’re sure?” Gervase turned towards the meeting room.

Mrs. James coaxed Pocano over to her customary chair and tried to comprehend the events of the morning. It was the first time she’d really had a single thought about the security of the building. In all her time spent in the lobby, she’d seen various people denied access for one reason or another. She reasoned that if it turned out this wasn’t a resident or a guest, not only an apparently unaccompanied guest but also one using the pool, then he must be an intruder. The police would soon know who he was, whether there was any identification or not. There were now photographs of the dead man that Georgia Mendel had taken. Residents would be asked if they recognized him. At the very least, the question of resident, guest, or intruder would soon be resolved.