Thursday, April 7, 2016

# 99 Easy Street, Part Nine. Louis Shalako.



Jorge Ryan, (Wiki.)




Louis Shalako


One more trip up the stairs, and one more trip on the fire escape. Hopeful that it would be his last, Mark stowed the horn in its place of honour in the corner of the living room.

It was shocking to realize, upon close examination of his finances, that he’d earned two-seventy-five in a little over two hours. It wasn’t often you got paid to practice. 
He still had a little money of his own.

It solved one immediate problem. There were fresh nickels in there for the phone. He was also thinking of a pen and some kind of pad. He’d written a few songs on the inside, but one day, in a fit of depression, he’d torn them all up and thrown it all away. Looking back, that might have been foolish. At the time, he had honestly thought he’d never get out. Review boards did some amazing things, or so he’d been told by other patients—or prisoners, which is what he certainly was. Six months later, they were cutting him loose. One or two of those tunes had stuck with him. The odds were he could come up with something, and maybe even do a better job of it when it was real—when he had a place to try it out.

The first practice in four years had done him some good, or so he thought as he locked the door behind him and went out and down. First things first. He was looking for a phone booth with the phone book still intact, one not stolen, shredded in place by people tearing the pages out or even just pissed on by kids out past their bedtimes and raising a little hell.

The trouble with phone booths was the exposure to the weather and every sort of person. The first one he tried, the book was there, but the pages were all curling from moisture. Pages were falling apart in his hands as he tried to look up Olivetti. He might want to wash the hands after this one.

“Argh.” He gave up in disgust.

Three blocks further up the street, there was another booth. The phone book was in better shape. Mark found a couple of hundred Olivettis in the Greater New York area.

There were a good fifty R. Olivettis, a handful named Roy or Ray, which made him question his own ears and memory. But he was pretty sure the guy had said Roy. Half a dozen lived within a few blocks. A couple of the names were female. It was difficult to visualize Olivetti with a wife, and yet he probably had one. The home phone might just be in her name. He was definitely over-analyzing. Some of those buildings had secured entrances, possibly doormen on duty. It wasn’t so much a dead end as a last resort. There were just too many of them. 

There must be a way. On a hunch, he looked up property management in the Yellow Pages. 

He could also look in the newspaper Want Ads under apartments.

The text in the typical phone book was unbelievably small, something he’d always hated. The New York phone book was one of the worst in terms of sheer, physical size and population, all those boroughs and suburbs and surrounding cities contributing to a book that weighed a good twenty pounds.

There it was: Olivetti Property Management Incorporated. Mark had had the impression that Mr. Olivetti owned the building on Easy Street. The fact that Olivetti had a separate office implied ownership of a few more buildings at least. He could also be managing it for a fee or a percentage for some old fucker living in Florida. He wasn’t sure if anyone really did that, but it didn’t seem too outlandish and it wasn’t Mark’s real problem anyway.

Mark tried the number but no one picked up. That didn’t always mean anything. Some places had more than one line and they might have been busy. The receptionist might have stepped out for a moment. The answering service didn’t kick in. The secretary might have just gone out for a coffee or something. Olivetti might be taking a leak…

Six blocks wasn’t too far. On the way, he’d find a stationer’s. If he could get into the place, he could always leave Olivetti a note. Mister Olivetti would be out showing prospects different units, he would be playing golf, he would drinking up his profits. It could be a million things.

It struck him, somewhere along the way, that Olivetti had his own version of a seven-day hold.

In which case, why not just say so?

Mark was just desperate enough. It wouldn’t have been a deal-breaker, although it would have been a tough call to make.

I would almost have to flip a coin on that one.

Maybe Olivetti’s way was better after all. It sort of hung on to all the power, a typical Establishment trick.

He’d been hearing all about the Establishment lately.

***

It was still early in the season, and the lobby security guard didn’t give Mark a second look in his ratty white coat.

The pad in his hand might have helped. It made him look as if he was someone, a person with places to go and something to do when they got there. Maybe he looked like a job-seeker, quite the depressing thought. Mostly because he wasn’t and didn’t have a hope in hell anyways. Not with his record. Not any sort of job he would be interested in, although there was always the question of desperation. He could unload produce down at the food terminal, starting off on dollies and hand-carts and working his way up to forklift driver first-class. 

There was always work out there for the desperate. Much of it was even legal, although often done by illegal immigrants. Mark had trouble conceiving of any real need to take thirty newspaper routes, work from before dawn until well after dusk, living in a flop-house for the rest of your life, and yet people did. You just couldn’t pick enough worms off golf courses and cemeteries at three cents per thousand to make a living.

And yet stranger things happened.

It happened to some of them. 

Things happened to people and you couldn’t do much about it sometimes.

An Art Deco building clad in concrete and multi-coloured brick, inside and out, it was beautifully maintained, unlike the building on Easy St. Roy Olivetti would have a beautiful wife, and he would neglect and ignore her. Unless he was drunk and in a bad mood, in which case he’d have plenty to say, maybe even slap her around a bit…an amusing thought.

Being rich was such a terrible burden to bear, when you really thought of it.

A quick glance at the signboard confirmed that Olivetti was on the eighth floor, and he headed for the elevator.

There were two other people in the elevator with him, a middle-aged man with balding head and extremely conservative pin-striped suit. The girl now. was a young secretary in an impossibly-short skirt, high-heels and bare legs that had been shaved just that morning by the look of the smooth, creamy skin.

He quite liked the dress after looking at tough and competent mental-health nurses in pastel uniforms for the last four years. Mark was tired of women in flat, sensible shoes, just trying to make a living, Buster. He thought of Amy and repressed an audible sigh. Theoretically, she could make a pretty good living as an anthropologist.

The thing was to get in there and stick to it long enough to make a go of it. That was about all he knew.

The two of them got off on the fifth floor and the elevator hesitated before going on up again.

Judging by the studious way they had ignored each other, they worked for different companies.

It was a fairly busy place, and with only the one elevator, someone would always be pressing that button. He was locked inside a rattling steel cage. The doors always took forever to open.

Hitting the buttons never seemed to do much. They were mostly for show, he concluded.

The eighth floor, way up above the street, was an oasis of peace and quiet.

He really ought to rent a utility closet with taps and a sink or something. He could crap in a bag and take it out with him in the morning. Toss that in any alley and no one would ever know the difference. The walls were roughly-textured grey blocks, probably twelve inches thick.

It could only be to the left or to the right. Picking right, he was gratified to see the numbers going up in the proper order.

Olivetti’s office was down at the end, back from the street. Mark raised a hand to knock, not knowing whether it was a suite or just a one-roomer. Slowly his hand fell.

It was dead quiet up there.

Somewhere down the hall, a phone rang. The ringing stopped. He thought he heard a voice, and that somehow made it better.

Olivetti Property Management Incorporated. While not completely unfamiliar with appearances and companies that existed largely on paper—he’d once had an agent after all, the building was big enough that there really ought to be four or five rooms behind that door.

Trying the knob, it turned. The lights were on and the first thing he saw were houseplants on the top of a long row of black filing cabinets. So that was all right, then.

“Hello. Hello?” He stepped into the opening.

Nothing.

Somewhere off in the distance, on the street down below, a dump truck going forty miles an hour hit a manhole cover. The slap of the heavy tailgate penetrated like no other sound. Even the rich couldn’t escape that one.

There was an interior closer and the door was pulling itself insistently shut. The carpet was thick and lush.

There was no secretary, although there was a proper desk and a small waiting area replete with couch, and some institutional settees framed up in three-seated arrangements. All the red and yellow leather reminded him of Nero Wolfe. The smell of tobacco smoke and a coffee table with scattered magazine attested to human occupation. There were table lamps and chic Scandinavian end tables.

“Hello?”

There was nothing but silence, and yet the place was unlocked.

The door in the middle of the wall was clearly labeled, Roy Olivetti, President. You could get a sign like that made up in any hardware store.

Mark went over and knocked.

“Hello? Hello? Mister Olivetti?”

There was no response and he had visions of the guy being on the phone—either that or boning his secretary. It was just about lunch hour. He might have been the type to squeeze in a nap.

Anyways, he had a legitimate reason for being there, just in case anyone should ask.

Turning the knob, he opened the door and had a look.

***

Roy Olivetti had been shot once, right between the eyes. He was very dead.

His spacious corner office looked across the alley to an equally-anonymous office block, this one in a more serious and modern style. All the blinds were down over there and there wasn’t a sign of life.

“Oh, fuck.” Mark looked down at his hand on the door-knob. “Aw, for fuck’s sakes.”

The man was clearly dead, those heavy-lidded eyes staring directly into his. Olivetti’s chair was pushed back, away from the desk, as if he’d tried to rise. He was sprawled all over the place, limp, halfway off the chair and yet not going anywhere anytime soon…you weren’t going to get much sense out of a dead man, but Mark had one or two questions.

Mark didn’t have a heart attack, but the shock was considerable. Slowly the truth sank in.

This was bad—the smell of shit in the air underlying this conclusion in fine counterpoint.

The man’s brains were all over the wall behind him, and a thin brown line of dried blood had come down the sides of the neck and soaked his white shirt. There was another faint, acrid smell in the air. His arms hung straight down, like a puppet discarded. Theoretically, Mark should go over and check for a pulse, see if there was any chance of anything doing something for the guy.

“Fuck.”

Aw, Jesus.

He’d never see his money now…shit.

"Fuck. I'll never see my money now."
There was just no way—no way. No way to look for a fucking key or his money or anything, although there was one wild second of temptation to go through Olivetti’s pockets.

There’s just no way I’m touching that.

Mark backed out into the other room.

He had no choice but to call the cops. He had touched things in here, he’d touched things on the way there. He’d touched doorknobs, the button in the elevator—and Mark Jones’ prints were on file. He lived in the area and was out on parole. Someone would come knocking for sure. People had seen him coming in.

They would also see him going out.

All the while, wearing that damned white parka, fringed in streaky faux fur on the hood, cuffs and hem, narrow in the shoulders and wide in the tails, making him a marked man pretty much everywhere he went.

There was a phone right there on the desk.

Shit.


(End of Part Nine.)


Readers may wish to check out The Inspector Gilles Maintenon Mysteries on Smashwords.


Thanks for reading.

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