78 Dead Right

Perry Frazing proceeded, instructing his client with a logical, if insensitive, explanation of death by drowning. Morrie nodded; best get this part over with.

“His body was found floating face down. That means there was still air in his lungs that couldn’t get out. He went in alive and breathing. Odds are the weighting down happened after he died. He was more sunk down because of that extra water weight but there were no marks of a struggle. If he was dead, no blood was circulating to make bruises from the weighted ropes. There were no marks from the rescue pole, either, so it was likely used to fish him out, not to try to hurt him, after he was already drowned, then it was left in the pool.”Chapter 78 Dead Right

“So if they killed him first and then threw him in, there might be marks still visible, or bleeding from injuries, and with no breath left in him he’d have sunk more?” Morrie found this hard to say; his words forced to a crawl by the slow replay in his mind’s eye of cruel imported images of his nephew, too near the water, so unlike the happy, poolside families portrayed in endless vacation videos. “But if he’s in the water and still alive, and drowns, and then they hurt him, there’d be no marks from those injuries and he’d sink less, with still some air inside to keep him up?”

“Plus, he’s in a warm pool, not a cold lake, so things don’t happen as fast. The beer cans could have been planted as evidence but tests did show that he’d been drinking, with no signs of forcing that into him. Blood alcohol levels can go down significantly after drowning but in your nephew, they were still right up there. They’re going to say he was drunk and drowned.”

“A drunk trespasser gets the hole in the donut?”

“That’s what they’ll say.”

It had bothered Morrie right from the beginning about Rusty drinking while at The Prospect on Prospect that night. He was supposed to be there for work purposes and Wrested Development had company policy about that. Of course, Morrie regretted his own bad example the evening of The Alchemy grand opening. Had Rusty taken a first and then a second drink for courage, as he had done on that occasion? And without a sea of faces warning him, as Morrie had seen in his audience, that he was off track as a result, had Rusty taken a third, or more? Maybe the kid had needed even more courage. What for? What’s so hard about looking out a window? Maybe best to steer clear of these questions.

“It’s an offense to mutilate a corpse, though. You can’t be willful, reckless, wanton, unlawful, or negligent or disfigure a body by mishandling.” Perry coursed fluidly through this list.

“You talking about using those jugs to hold him down? I get the mishandling bit but if he was already dead, like you say he was, and there was no bruising and no disfiguring, does that mean those can’t count?”

“We could likely consider motivation if we get that far. The weighing down is probably an individual act, or maybe two people. The somebody who used the rescue pole should have reported a man in the water, and so should anyone who found him under the jugs.”

“If I can’t sue them all for it, who can I sue?”

“Depends on the investigation.” He disliked repeating himself; some people just didn’t listen. “Some facts. The police will want to know how he got in and with whom. If we know that, or where he changed his clothes…”

A few downtown condo buildings have a common area solarium with a Lake Michigan view.

A few downtown condo buildings have a common area solarium with a Lake Michigan view.

Morrie’s attention drifted away. The more he kicked around his own role in this mess, he couldn’t, wouldn’t tell what he knew. Any on again-off again social connections he’d had with residents of the building had not been any use to him. He hadn’t openly suggested any wrongdoing or trespassing, only advised Rusty to use his legitimate MLS access to get into the building. What he did when he got in, well, that he’d left to Rusty to figure out, only proposing that Rusty try to view The Alchemy site from as close to the top as possible. If the original plan was to go high up in the building to look out, why, and how had he ended up down and drowned in the pool? Rusty had talked about and understood the assignment and wanted to get it right, to prove to his uncle that he was capable of pulling it off. When Rusty had told him he was going in soon with some guy, Morrie hadn’t paid much attention to the who, only that he was finally going to get inside. Was this ‘some guy’ a potential buyer, or maybe a resident thinking of selling? Who else could it be? If Morrie or Rusty had ready access somebody living there, wouldn’t they have tried that door long before now?

Morrie attempted to rewind the memory tape from that conversation with Rusty, searching for details. It hadn’t been that long ago, maybe not quite yet consigned to ‘Filed – under forgot’. And there it was.

Rusty had mentioned something else about the ‘some guy’. It was someone he’d just met who could get inside alright but wasn’t sure when. This began to smell bad to him, revolting like the sometime piles of dead, stenching alewives on Lake Michigan shores; shores, when he was newly arrived, he had expected to be so clear and compelling.  Coming from his desert homeland, he had hopes and dreams for all of this liquid bounty – it informed his paradigm for development – of rosy, shining sunrises to greet his very best customers, those eager to pay to look at the lake. Better to pay to look at it from a lofty distance than pay to smell it close-up, to see those silver cold and rotting black fish eyes fixedly staring up from the sand. Dogs, disgustingly, rolled in dead fish, then their owners petted them and brought them home through hallways and into their units. He shuddered. It was because of filthy dogs that he spent so little on common area carpeting and installed lurid colors to mask the stains.

“Mr. Mangold? Morrie? Still thinking, or are we done with questions for today?” Perry had a court reservation for noon at his club.

Morrie ruminated why it took going into the office of his attorney, at ridiculous rates passed off as reasonable ones, to get him to really begin to focus. Absorbed with retaliation and lawsuits going in to see Frazing, the subject of his preoccupation was now Rusty. Rusty, whom Morrie never  thought much about, who’d been always just there and who maybe he’d inadvertently sent to his death.

As he had overlooked Rusty alive, maybe all this time he’d been looking at his death in the wrong way too, or at least in a limited way, like that tower lady gazing into her mirror to see beyond her window; had everything she’d ever seen always been through the dark glass, a flat, prospect-less picture? How could he gaze beyond the surface of that cracked mirror and this distorted reflection of Rusty for explanations. Might his own reputation, his treasured legacy, be seen as tarnished?

“Sure,” Morrie finally said, his train of thought sputtering to the the end of its line. “We’re waiting to get the facts before we do anything.”