42 What’s So and Isn’t So

Returning to his car, today parked several blocks away, R.M. acknowledged the many perils of the real estate business. This weekend he’d had to cancel showings on account of all the rain, as many roads were under water. The he-Shell and the she-Shell hadn’t want to look at properties in this weather. Canceled showings were par for the course, for many reasons. It took time to set up a schedule of back to back appointments and additional time to cancel them; listing offices to be called and then re-called, as well as sellers to placate. His time could have been better spent but all these things one learned to take in stride.Chapter 42 edit

Getting just to square one this morning, getting into a property for an interview for a possible listing hadn’t happened, a fluke this time. Not necessarily weather but certainly water related, if reports were true. Getting to home base at the opposite end of a transaction and closing on a property was often just as tortured a process, with most delays related to a missing or incomplete document, or to financing. Once, many years before during a heavy rain event, a property scheduled for closing the very next morning had been completely flooded. R.M. had donned his old hip boots and armed with a flashlight in the downpour, waded as far as he was able towards the house but found that there was nothing to be done. That closing never took place. All of his work gone for nothing, the damage so extensive that the house was eventually torn down, as were several others on the same street. But today, it appeared a person was lost forever; a much more permanent, irrevocable kind of closing.

*   *   *   *   *

“Here we go again, my friend,” Martinelli sighed. “Suspicious circumstances up the wazoo. Never knowing what we get in the old ‘annals of crime’ sweepstakes, not even whether we have a crime or not. Given that, what do we know about this one?”

“Aside from that, as usual, everybody always lies?”

“Well now, it usually turns out that someone is telling the truth, doesn’t it? We’ve never had an investigation in a condominium before. Lots more folks to talk to, with a caretaker guy who could get us into each and every private unit but can’t cause we don’t have warrants. A bunch of basically useless prints that anybody here could have laid down, anytime. Wish that bloodhound could talk, though. I could swear he was about to say something to us this morning. Those big watching, following eyes…” There was no immediate reply, just a sulky expression from his partner. “This is a death but is it a homicide? Can we answer that yet?”

“Not until the post-mortem.” Martin was the younger and more techie of the two. “But they’re doing a forensic autopsy, so we should be treating it as a possible crime scene.”

“Yeah, but if it was a classic drowning, with no signs of trauma, it’s not murder. He was alive when he went in. Most of the time people drown on their own, especially if they have ‘drink taken,’ as the empty cans suggest. Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that he was drunk and drowned. Let’s start there. What do we know about that, or not?”

“More like what we don’t. We still don’t have any idea why or how he got in the building, much less the pool. Where are his clothes and shoes? Did he come swanning in from Prospect wearing swim trunks, after some fool of a resident just happened to see a guy dressed like that at the door and let him in? Where did the beer come from? Why is the rescue pole in the water? Why coins? And what’s with the bottles, much less the TV? We don’t know any of that, yet. We’ve searched all the common areas in the place and found nothing.”

“But if cause of death is drowning, what difference does any of that make?” Martinelli, the senior and by his own admission the more jaded of the two, scanned through his mental tapes of other drownings. “He might have put all that stuff in the water himself before he drowned. Couldn’t he even have been watching TV? Although, do you know anybody who actually watches hymns?”

“Maybe he forgot the words,” Martin quipped. “Or maybe he was coming in to preach to the residents. It was Sunday night. Remember that neighbor a few years ago, the one near the drug house? He used to call the station and report ‘another prayer meeting at the house tonight’ because of so many people going in and out. Maybe a prayer meeting at the pool?”

“Okay, so he’s an angel. He flies through walls, no clothes, carrying two cans of beer but no towel. He rolls the TV into the room, drinks, throws the empties, coins, and the rescue pole into the water so he can’t be fished out. He gets the bottles out of the cupboard where they’re kept completely out of sight, so he doesn’t know they’re even there – duh – then wraps them, with the caps removed, around his neck and then jumps in the pool. So it’s a suicide, right? I might buy the coins and the cans and the pole and the TV, however strange, but the rope? That would mean he intentionally attempted to weigh himself down. Pardon me, but it’s tough to swallow.”

RM scheduling appointments for buyers to view properties, or possibly canceling them

RM scheduling appointments for prospective buyers to view properties, or possibly canceling them

“Not suicide, then. Even if somebody brought or allowed him into the building, does it follow that same person knew that he’d drowned? What if our victim was staying here for the night, dog-sitting or something, and came down for a swim? Do we even know if he could swim? Why come dressed to swim, if you couldn’t? And if you couldn’t, why try it alone, always assuming he was alone?”

“Do you think he was trying to use those bottles to float, and got it wrong?”

“Not sure. You’re thinking maybe he put them in the water himself, or was there another visitor?”

“Does that matter?” Martinelli, in attempting to answer those questions, ended up with more of his own, plus another pun. “But let’s keep our heads above water. In the course of our investigation, somebody who knows him should tell us if he couldn’t swim, right? However, even if he could swim, he could still drown. Anyway, the concierge said that residents usually tell him if a guest will be here, not always. Assuming that he’s a truth-teller. Plus, he also told us that this was the same guy, calling himself a realtor, who tried to get in here once before. Isn’t it beginning to seem more likely that somebody, a resident, knew the guy was here and knew that he was drowned and then ditched him?”

“Or possibly several people, given all the stuff in the pool? Now why would that be?” ruminated Martin. “Just a fun thing for a roaming gang of residents to do on a Sunday night? Murder on the Prospect Express?”