59 Is Bob Hope Dead?

Mrs. James pondered as she crocheted. The pattern for the white scarf was repetitive so while her hands went one way, her mind was free to go another. She watched outside as Lee mounted her new bike and turned up Prospect. Gervase sat down in the chair so recently vacated by R.M.Chapter 59 Is Bob Hope Dead?

“You look pensive, Mrs. James.”

“Do you have a few minutes to talk?” She scanned the lobby for anyone who might overhear them.

“What’s on your mind?”

“How did this man come to be in the building?”

“I’ve been going over this in my head, too. I did consider ours to be a secure building, although we don’t have all the latest gadgetry like security cameras, or keypad entries that are frequently changed. Some buildings have round the clock Gervases. Seems to me sometimes that I’m here all the time. But of course, I’m not. Can’t help but wonder what would have happened differently if I’d been here working on Sunday night.”

“You’d have seen something.”

“I’d certainly have found the body, and not you. I regret that the most, I think.”

“That’s kind, Gervase. But why do you suppose he tried again to get in, after you turned him down the first time? Was it because he knew you wouldn’t be here?”

“My hours are common enough knowledge. That makes me think that a resident who knows my schedule must be involved and planned to bring Mangold in when I wasn’t around.”

“But whatever for? Was he still coming in as an agent?”

“If they don’t have the code to get in here for a showing, I tell agents I won’t let them in, even with customers in tow.  They can call up the resident to decide whether to admit them. Or better yet, they can make an appointment and get the code. Oh, and another time?” Gervase shook his head in disbelief. “An agent had a Sunday open house. He printed up and taped to the building entry over there detailed instructions on how to get in, complete with access codes, so he wouldn’t have to stay in the lobby to admit potential viewers. An alert resident ripped that down, thank goodness, and took it up later with the unit owner.”

“We need to clone you so you can be here 24/7.”

“At another building downtown, the unit buzzers are right outside along the sidewalk. There’s no end of pranking goes on there.”

“Yes, the neighbor kids called it ‘ding, dong, ditch.’ Any other ways? To breach our walls?”

“Somebody could pose as a delivery person or a contractor.”

“We encourage residents to not let people loose in the building.”

“Yes. The resident can meet a driver in the lobby. I’ve also taken food deliveries up to units. Anyway, a driver who became a drowning victim would have left a car outside. No car was found.”

“How about through the garage?”

“Once again, if somebody tried to drive in there’d still be a car there. Maybe you could walk in after a car while the door was still open but you’d take a chance on being seen. The elevator can bypass the lobby to an upper floor but this is the level the pool is on. Seems like an awful lot of work just to go for a swim. This all sounds so obvious, doesn’t it?”

Some buildings use an entry keypad as a security measure.

Some buildings use an entry keypad as a security measure.

“But how could someone get into a unit, even if they were on an upper floor?”

“You leave your door ajar sometimes, don’t you? People assume that they are safe from each other in here.”

“I guess that’s true. Mugging a unit owner in the hallway.  Not very realistic, is it?  Nobody’s been mugged or reported missing keys. What happens to keys when a unit sells?”

“Typically, keys go to the new owner or are sometimes left with me for collection. You keep a record of what owners move out, and who moves in.”

“Perhaps not fast enough…”

Gervase sighed. “An unscrupulous agent coming back in on a known code, and what would be the motive for that anyway, after a showing, or a unit has sold?  To allow a prospective buyer, or himself, an evening swim? Very strange, but why not just schedule another showing? It doesn’t make any sense. So I keep going back to the likeliest idea. He came in with a resident. And a resident can offer a guest a swim.”

“I’m sure, like me, you can’t help but dwell on it all. There is one thing though on which I want to ask your particular advice, something that I’ve thought of.  I haven’t spoken about it yet, with anyone.”

“You mean that you haven’t told the police yet, either?”

“Exactly so. It goes like this. The police asked us, well, I assume they asked everybody the same, maybe not, anyway they asked me what I remembered I saw.” Gervase nodded. “They didn’t ask me what I didn’t see, what should have been there that wasn’t.”

“Such as?”

“There was no towel.”

“I don’t remember seeing one either, now that you mention it. Is that important?”

“Most of the time, adults who go in the water bring along a towel, don’t they, for getting out?”

“True.”

“So, why was he there without one? Everybody who lives here knows that you have to bring your own. Did he have one and somebody took it? Why do that? Or did he not have one? If he was a guest, why didn’t his host arrange for him to have one? What do you think? Should I tell them about this, tonight?”

“Absolutely. Why wouldn’t you?”

“You don’t think it’s meddling?”

“Actually, it’s getting me thinking about what I didn’t see. What’s that famous rebuke from Sherlock Holmes? ‘You see but you do not observe.’ I had an aunt who, every once in a while, would ask us if Bob Hope had died. She was getting old and addled, and was having a bit of trouble with separating her dreams from reality. I guess I can see why she might have been particularly confused about him, though. He lived to be 100, so she may well have thought he’d been dead, already.”

“There’s a similar quote, from the Bible, about having eyes but not seeing and having ears but not hearing.” Mrs. James preferred to overlook the conversation about becoming addled. “So what are you thinking that you may have not seen?”

“Maybe that something hasn’t quite registered, yet. You say it took you awhile to get there?”

“Yes, I was thinking about doing laundry at the time. Not a very direct line, I’m afraid. Maybe if you just let your thoughts freely associate?”

“Maybe it’s not as simple as just answering the questions we’ve been asked, after all. Thanks for getting the wheels turning in a different direction.”

“Thanks for listening.”

“By the way, not to intrude, but were you also talking about this to R.M. just now?”

“Sort of. I was asking him about how he remembers things, how he makes connections.”