Mrs. Israel, 92
Ersatz Widow, Detective Now
When Anibal Vasquez, our superintendent on 86th and Columbus, found a dead body belonging to Tim, too thin Englishman from apartment 31 who said finance as though it was two distinct words, Fi pause nance, his chosen profession, when Anibal found Tim in a perfect straight line, all six feet of him, neatly sprawled, , dead right in front of the mailboxes, he pressed the red emergency elevator button. All of us who were home at the time – 4 PM on the first Thursday in October, all of us descended into the lobby.
We mostly took the stairs.
My husband and I have lived in this building, characterless really, for 33 years. Ours is a rent controlled apartment, pretty much the opposite philosophy of anything Marie Kondo believes. We love colors and stuff. Nothing is white and the more the better is our motto.We have objects in many categories: books, spices, dishes, glasses, irrational tschockes. Moroccan rugs and Mexican platters. We’ve traveled as much as we can carrying striped woven bags with us wherever we go, generally crammed with necklaces and puppets, water pitchers and hieroglyphic paintings on tree bark.
Our building itself is entirely characterless. Imagine the opposite of charm. The lobby floor
where Anibal found Tom is especially offensive for its nothingness: light grey vinyl squares. And the killer if you can use a word like that in these circumstances the killer is the gorgeous subway tiles, black and white hexagons. Blood was easy to see on the vinyl. It came from a bullet wound right to his heart, just the way people seemed to die in those old politically incorrect Westerns from our childhoods.
About twenty of us assembled together: the older tenants, mostly disheveled, with some kind of artistic ambition or other (one woman made crocheted dentures in rainbow colors), and the newer tenants, clean, a little too muscular, with packages arriving frequently from West Elm.
The oldest of us all, Mrs. Israel, a Yiddish speaking 92 year old woman originally from Brighton Beach with four navy Talbots suits from 40 years ago when she’d worked at JP Morgan Chase, Mrs. Israel who nodded to people if she had to, but rarely spoke, Mrs. Israel who impulsively told me 2 years ago on a cold winter day by the front door that there’d never been a Mr. Israel but she believed in convention, didn’t want to marry anyway so just changed Miss to Mrs when she turned 50, Mrs. Israel announced to the room in a strong can do voice: I will find the killer. She was clutching one of those old fashioned lunch box looking handbags. She probably had her lipstick inside just in case.
Anibal started clapping, and then we all did. Mrs. Israel, Building Detective.
I know it’s an inside job she announced, then left for her apartment, a studio on the fourth floor.
She kept us abreast with elevator signs.
I’m buying 20 identical notebooks and labeling them all for each apartment. I’ll interview each of you she said.
After a rigorous 4 weeks on her part one interview a day (I’ll be here exactly an hour she said
when she entered our apartment, Unless, she added, Something is Revealed) she
posted her findings on November 13, having first called the police.
Jessica in apartment 20 was actually Tim’s ex-wife she said. She didn’t tell me that. I’d be betraying a confidence if I told you how I knew. She had reason she had motive and she actually bought a gun. You won’t believe this, she added on her sign, but Jessica, such a gentle seeming woman, she brought me cookies once. Jessica killed Tim.
She wrote: Most fun I’ve had in 92 years.
Remember to send your submissions for the next issue of ALTE to email@example.com. Please use the Alte email address. The theme, again, is “suddenly.” We have extended the deadline until December 14.
Mark your calendars again. Those who attended our Zoom Hanukkah/Holiday/Whatever candle lighting event last year asked us to do it again. We heard you. Thursday, December 2. Details to follow.