I don’t know how many times we listened to the recording. A dozen times? Two dozen? We only stopped because her laptop was running out of battery, so she had to get up and plug it in.
I stood up too. My heart was beating hard. Listening to the recording had filled me with… resolve. With purpose.
“We need to get into 37c.” I said. She nodded in agreement. “Let’s go get the key from the landlord.”
We went down to the first floor, to the landlord’s office. He was sitting at his desk, staring at the opposite wall. He didn’t react when we came in.
“Hey. We need the key to 37c.” I had a feeling that he’d hand it over without a fuss. He’d been there last night. He’d seen what we had.
He looked up at me. There was a terrible emptiness behind his eyes. I could sympathize.
He just sat there for a moment, motionless. No – not motionless. The fingers of his left hand were moving, tapping out a simple beat on the desk. It seemed familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it.
“The key?” I held my hand out, prompting him to hand it to me. He stopped tapping on the desk.
“The key.” He repeated back, his voice a shudder. “Yes.”
I noticed his hands were shaking. Slowly and deliberately, he reached up and pulled the key out of his shirt pocket. He pressed it into the palm of my hand.
“Thank you.” I said. “And don’t worry. We’re gonna take care of this.” He didn’t reply. Just went back to staring at the wall.
We left his office and went back upstairs. There was someone in the hallway. Well, they were half in the hallway. The other half of them was in their apartment. 35c.
She was standing in her doorway, rocking back and forth on the balls of her feet. An older woman, probably in her mid to late fifties. I’d never seen her before. She looked like a marathon runner. I mean, I’m in pretty good shape, but I had a feeling that she could probably run circles around me. She was humming a simple tune. It seemed very familiar, but I couldn’t quite place it.
She stopped humming when she saw us approaching.
“You two were there last night?” It wasn’t a question.
“Yes, we were.”
“It’s a real shame.” She talked fast. She adjusted her glasses with a quick, jerky motion. They made her eyes look huge. “Somebody oughta do something about it.”
“Oh!” She exclaimed. She seemed pleasantly surprised by my response. “Good. I – I have something for you. I’ll be right back.”
She darted back through her doorway. I could hear her rummaging around.
I looked over at the musician. She shrugged. She had a small smile on her face. I was smiling too. There was something about the situation that was strangely amusing.
The marathon runner came back out into the hallway. She was holding a gun. She had a dishtowel in her hand so she wasn’t actually in contact with it. “Here. Take this.” I grabbed the gun from her – less because I wanted it, and more because I didn’t trust someone as fidgety as her with a gun.
“Don’t worry.” She added in a lower voice. “It’s not registered.”
“Great.” I tucked the gun into the back of my waistband.
She prepared to go back inside, then stopped.
“She used to sing in the shower, and I’d stop whatever I was doing to listen to her voice.”
She opened her mouth like she had more to say, then closed it. She promptly stepped back inside and shut the door.
The musician and I looked at each other. We weren’t smiling anymore.
“You ready to go inside?” I asked, indicating the door to apartment 37c. She nodded. I reached out to unlock the door, but she grabbed my arm to stop me. “What?”
She pulled two pairs of disposable rubber gloves out of her pocket. She handed one pair to me.
“Good thinking.” Somehow, I hadn’t connected the dots that we were about to be trespassing on a crime scene, and we should probably avoid leaving fingerprints. Even the marathon runner knew to wipe off the gun. But I’m the kind of person who forgets the little things like that. Like where I put my keys.
We went inside. The apartment smelled… odd. Not like I would’ve expected a day old crime scene to smell. It smelled like the sea, like wet sand and smooth things found in tangled nets. There was also a faint hint of desperation, but that could’ve been coming from me.
Looking around, I found myself focusing on – of all things – the apartment window, of all things. It was closed. That struck me as odd.
It was supposed to be open.
Last night, it had been open. I distinctly remembered feeling the breeze as the police officer had wrestled my knife away from me.
I went over to the window, avoiding the center of the room. I unlatched it and gave it a tug. It opened with a faint squeak.
The air outside was muggy and still. The view wasn’t great. The window looked out into an alley. The building across the alley didn’t have any windows on that side. Just red bricks, starting to crumble from age. Looking down, I could see a dumpster and some trash strewn about. There was some poorly drawn graffiti, probably done by some kids. I realized I was focusing on all the wrong things. I took a deep breath.
Turning around, I forced myself to look at the center of the room. At the place where it happened.
The musician was standing right at the edge of it, staring at the same spot of empty space that I was – neither of us willing to look directly at it.
At her blood.
We stood there for a moment, both of us just staring at nothing. I broke the silence. “This isn’t getting us anywhere. We need to…” I didn’t know what we needed to do.
She pointed behind me, at the window, an inquisitive look on her face.
“Yeah, the window was open last night. But there’s no fire escape or anything. If the killer left that way, they must’ve been able to fly.” I looked out the window, down at the concrete below. “Or have been tough enough to walk away from a five-story fall. Either one’s possible – but if it’s the second one, we’re gonna need something bigger than the gun I just got from your neighbor.”
She moved up to me to look out the window. The window was small, so she had to get right up next to me. She was trembling. Or I was trembling. I couldn’t tell. Tentatively, I put my arm around her. I made sure not to touch her with my glove. I wasn’t sure if that mattered, but I wasn’t going to take any chances.
She leaned against me.
“Should we go down there? See if there’s any… clues, or whatever?”
“In a few minutes.”
She nodded again.