The mass of confusion that trying to call the cops set off in my large family was matched by the confusion I felt. I had no answers for my brothers demanding to know why I’d run up the fire escape to begin with or for my parents demanding to know how I knew Mr Jenkins was dead. While we waited for the police Poppa took his master key and went to see for himself. He came back down, shaking his head and trying not to look as shaken as he obviously was.
I just sat at the table numb to the world around me. I could only hear the chattering of my excited family. I couldn’t understand a word they said. Nothing made sense. How had I known? What was it about that shadow passing overhead that made me so sure something was wrong? And what on Earth had happened to that old man?
I finally heard Officer O’Malley’s voice calling to me. I looked up into those big, blue, Irish eyes and for a second it all seemed like a dream. But it was more of a long, drawn out nightmare. I found out later that the cops had already been upstairs and back down when O’Malley started talking to me. At the time I kept thinking it was weird that they hadn’t gone up yet. Travis, the rookie O’Malley was training, looked like he’d seen a ghost. Momma had to show him the bathroom.
Hearing the officer through my folk’s paper thin walls had an effect on me – a bad one. He came out and I ran in. As I was losing all of my supper I kept thinking, Why? Why would anyone hurt that old man? How could this have happened?
Three hours later, having answered every question both officers and two more detectives could put to me, I still had no answers to the ones that were eating my soul. Old Man Jenkins had lived in my parent’s building since before they’d bought it. He’d helped Poppa fix just about everything and acted as the super when my parents weren’t home. He was the closest thing to an uncle we’d ever had. He would play at being grumpy but every kid in the building knew it was an act. He was the guy you could go to when you couldn’t go to your parents. Big as an ox, he never hurt a soul – why would anyone ever hurt him?
Or was it an ‘anyone’? That shadow had leapt off the fire escape into midair and vanished. No human could do that. I hadn’t shared that with the cops – I’d had a hard enough time explaining why I’d run up the fire escape. They weren’t impressed with ‘I thought I saw something up there’ and truth was, neither was I. Technically true, but not really true – I had had that feeling again. Like I heard something even though I hadn’t. There was something sinister about that shadow – but it was something I could never put into words.
It was late when I crawled into my own bed in my apartment. Marty was on my couch because Momma was worried about me. I hadn’t argued since I was almost as worried as she was. What was wrong with me? Was I losing my mind? In the dark recesses of my brain, there was an idea that I didn’t want to consider. I felt sure that if I did, I’d know what that thing was. I was equally sure I’d go totally insane if I did. Exhaustion won and I was asleep before I could decide which was worse.