The more I thought about it the more my grandmother’s seemingly abandoned apartment looked…. well, not so abandoned. It was the way the dust had shifted in the room, the lived in feel of the furniture, the fresh coffee ring on the end table. I’m not an expert on hauntings but I’m pretty sure a ghost would have used coaster – especially if it was Cornelia Valois’ ghost.
At that moment the weariness of my international travel hit me. My head was spinning and my stomach was empty. I grabbed a slice of pizza and called the front desk.
“This is Natasha Rehman in apartment 5E. It looks as though somebody’s been using my grandmother’s apartment.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean my grandmother’s been dead for two weeks and there’s fresh pizza in her refrigerator.”
“Is it good?”
“Tastes like Tuscan chicken in a spicy sauce.”
“I’ll be right up.”
Faster than you could say thirty minutes or free Harry, the night concierge was at the door.
“Where’s the pizza?” he said.
We stood around the granite kitchen counters stuffing our mouths. Harry’s presence alone was like butter on a hot skillet… my fear just melted. At six feet, four inches Harry had never been a small guy, but after retiring from his job with the police force and private security firm and settling for a more sedentary position as night concierge – along with a steady stream of junk food – he had doubled his size. Harry’s girth along with his piercing eyes and bushy eyebrows could make the Hulk seem like a fuzzy panda
“I gotta get the number for this place,” he said noting the Pizza Pie-er label on the box. In between wolfing pizza and chugging soda there was a distinct clanging sound. I tried to swallow but the morsel of pizza remained a lump in my throat
Armed with a slice of pizza and a baseball bat Harry and I padded quietly down the hallway as Harry opened each door, nothing seemed out of order until we got to the bathroom. There was a soft glow emanating from beneath the door. Whoever it was, was still there. Slowly, the doorknob began to turn. In an instant I had a glimpse of the intruder’s tall lanky frame covered tentatively by a towel. There was a piercing scream as the towel fell to the floor, that well could have belonged to anyone. Harry leapt out and apprehended the intruder who still wet was as slippery as a fish. It was like a woolly mammoth tackling a slug. Skinny arms and legs struggled beneath Harry’s massive body. Harry stood up and loosened his hold on a not so scary youth.
“Hey, what are you trying to do… give a guy an aneurism,” said a very wet Rumi.
“Urguh…put some clothes on,” I said shielding my eyes.
“Gladly,” said Rumi wrapping a towel around himself and grabbing a t-shirt. He brushed away a stray wet lock. His thick dark curls were significantly wilder than mine, practically kissing his shoulders. His face was flushed. He peered out with his large piercing eyes and thick lashes. The family resemblance was obvious. In fact, if it weren’t for his square jaw and masculine nose he could pass for my skinny little sister instead of my annoying younger brother.
“What the hell are you doing here? You’re supposed to be in college…in New York! Why aren’t you at NYU?”
“I’m on spring break…I’m taking a sabbatical…Ok, I dropped out”.
I gave Rumi my most fierce, you better not be screwing with me cuz I know where all your skeletons are buried look.
“Fine, I flunked out.”
“And you’ve been hiding out here?”
“I didn’t want to go back home and I found an extra key.”
“In Dad’s wallet.”
“Well, you’re trespassing. I’m the new owner.”
“Clearly, this is a family affair,” said Harry. “My job here is done.”
“Don’t go so fast,” said Rumi, “I got ice-cream to go with that pizza.”
Harry looked at his watch, “I guess it’s about time for my break. I’ll tell Bob to watch the desk for the next twenty minutes.”
Cappuccino Crunch flavored ice cream from J.P. Licks was enough to at least temporarily dissolve my cankerous feelings towards Rumi. The flavor started off subtle and then blossomed into unexpected coffee delight. The three of us finished off the carton. Afterwards, I felt as heavy as armor…crunchy, chocolaty, armor.
“I’m going back downstairs,” said Harry exiting. “Sorry, about your grandmother. She was one in a million.
“I’m off to bed,” I said yawning and stumbling down the hallway.
“Cool, I’m meeting up with friends,” said Rumi. “Don’t wait up. I’ve got a key,” he said winking and heading out the door.
Next post: Oct. 15