49 What Mrs. James Thought

Mrs James was fretting, just the kind of fretting one watched out for in the elderly. It was such a silly thing, really. It had taken her a long time to use enough bleach to empty out the two big bottles she used for buoyancy during water aerobics. She had graduated long since from the more easily available empty gallon milk jugs. Although of a similar capacity, the harder plastic bottles offered more resistance in the water during exercise and a better workout.chapter49 What Mrs James Thought

It bothered her that hers were now evidence, not that she would even consider touching them, ever again. It was too bad, as she had always taken good care of them, double checking that the caps were screwed on tight each time before she used them, and setting the rope aside as well so that it had no wear and tear from the chlorine in the water. Defended against the perils of sinking, she was more confident about being alone in the water. That, plus Gervase knew her routine and looked out for her. She could swim better now because she swam most days. The victim apparently had had none of these familiar benefits at hand.

Once, before she’d started to use any flotation aids, she’d become dizzy while underwater. She recalled the momentary feelings of terrifying disorientation, with water pressing in everywhere but only one way out, only one direction to escape – but which way? – before finding the side of the pool and the safety of a handhold. She’d been in too deep for a toehold. Yes, she knew, there was terror in drowning.

It struck her that it might be some time before she’d be swimming again in her own pool. Not because of any doubt about her ability but simply that the pool would be closed, either pending investigation or cleaning or an association review of safety standards, very likely at her own insistence as a board member. It wasn’t going to be like just getting back into the driver’s seat after an accident, the standard advice for overcoming one’s trepidation, in that event.

It was wrong to be selfish; one’s entire sympathy should go to the victim. It was too awful to contemplate that it could have been her fate or worse yet, of one of the girls in her care.  Both her doctor and one of her sons had recently exhorted her to practice mindfulness; the art of paying attention, as well as practicing intention, as she understood it. Clearly here at least, the victim had not been paying attention until mercilessly too late.

Few condos have a separate laundry room. Some have a stacked washer/dryer, some a shared laundry facility.

Few condos have a separate laundry room. Some units have a stacked washer/dryer, some buildings a shared laundry facility.

There would also be a ripple effect from not being able to use the pool. She would miss the morning regimen that set her up for the day, the freedom from worrying that she still needed to exercise. Now she’d have to find a substitute. It would have an effect on her other daily routines, too. After swimming, she rinsed out her suit and put in a load of laundry. She always remembered to thank R.T. as she did this that he had insisted on an in-unit laundry for their condo purchase. She’d objected at the time, reminding him that she’d managed to use the washer and dryer in a basement for darn close to forty years and she could just as easily do the same in a common area laundry, especially as a laundry added to the purchase price of a unit. His had certainly been the better thinking. This was so private, never a care about tumbling undies in a coin operated dryer. And now that she was washing and drying at least two beach size towels every day – one a cover-up for getting out of the pool, plus another to dry off in the Ladies before going up in the elevator…

It came to her, then. The police had asked her only what she’d seen in the pool; what about what she hadn’t seen, what hadn’t been there that ought to have been?  Why, there hadn’t been a towel, anywhere! Not in the water, not on the pool deck, not on a chair, not hanging over a door, nor even slung across the oddly placed TV cart. No towel. There hadn’t been a gym bag either, where one might have been. She’d forgotten her towels once and that was the last time. It had been so embarrassing to her getting out of the water without one that she made a point of remembering. Mindfulness.

But this particular scenario intrigued her. She considered several possible explanations. If the man were a guest, a host should have provided or made certain that a guest had a towel, knowing beforehand that none were provided. Where then was that towel, not to mention where was a host? If an overnight or unaccompanied guest on a weekend visit, a slightly different sort of permitted guest, the same thing held. Even if that guest didn’t think ahead, he could have gone back upstairs to locate one. Or maybe he just didn’t care, or was caring about something else at the time. If an intruder, why come in swim trunks, of all things? Like the silly police report stories one read; a burglar entering premises with intent to steal, instead beguiled into taking a bath in the luxury whirlpool, only to be discovered by a returning home-owner.

Perhaps there had been a towel, and someone had removed it. Now why should that be? Kids sometimes nicked each others’ towels as a practical joke but there were unlikely other kids, other than the ones she’d been with all evening and besides, kids usually relented, or were told to, and gave back.

No, an adult taking away a towel from another adult without bringing it back would indicate malevolence at the very least, though not necessarily intent to truly harm. She hated the idea of malfeasance, not at the POPS, not here in her pool.

But if this were the case, should she tell the police? Perhaps they’d already ‘seen’ it, for themselves. They were detectives after all, with far more experience. But unless they were swimmers, they might not realize that it was important, might not even know that they knew it.  She’d wondered aloud to them why he’d been alone in the pool, and thought that would explain why nobody had gone for help. A person would normally call for help. Surely nobody would have left somebody either struggling or silent in the water, not here.

She decided to keep her observations, if she could rightly call them that, to herself , sleep on it, perhaps. Maybe she’d see it differently after giving it a little more thought. She was hesitant to meddle, didn’t want to give grist to the rumor mill that she was a busybody, a nosy, know-it-all type.