The Peeper

            Chester Walnut taps his cane impatiently. He has been waiting five minutes already for the front desk attendant to retrieve the courier package for him from the back room. It should have taken her thirty seconds, maybe a minute tops if she had to push some other boxes out of the way first. He is aggravated, but not surprised. 

            “Not surprised at all,” Chester whispers to himself. After all, the name of the front desk attendant is Maria. Or maybe it is Guadalupe. He cannot remember their names, and it does not really matter anyway. What matters is that she is an ethnic, one of those clueless girls who no doubt plopped out of her mama’s behind ten feet passed the Rio Grande on the American side. 

            Maria or Guadalupe wears a Hollister sweater and skinny jeans, when she is not attired in her work uniform. Chester knows. He has seen her in that outfit when she is off the job. She did not notice him at that time, but he definitely noticed her. 

            Chester notices a lot of things. Like how downtown has been overrun in the past couple of decades by ethnicswearing Hollister sweaters and skinny jeans. Like how young people on the subway have been replaced by zombies staring dumbly at small screens on their smartphones. Like how even blond twenty somethings from good families sway their tight, little asses like darkies and chicas in heat. 

            Here comes one of those blond tarty tarts now as a matter of fact. Like with the ethnics Chester knows all about them. Instead of Hollister sweaters, they wear cashmere turtlenecks. Instead of skinny jeans they have leggings. For those reasons, and because they have lighter hair and skin, Chester can differentiate them from all those señoritas who man the front desks and push mops for a living. What does that matter, though? They are just as bad as the ethnics with all of their ass twerking and boob bobbing. Really, they are simply Nordic harlots in clothes so tight they may as well be sausage casings. 

            Oh, and who is this blond smooching by the lobby elevator? A clean and well shaven darkie, of course, no doubt one of the finest from the ‘hood. Chester realized that this would happen decades ago when he first noticed a “Mr. Chocolate Pudding” moving into an apartment on this side of town. Chester had known the landlord and had tried to convince him to send the spook packing. The landlord had seemed to be sympathetic but had told Chester “the times are changing.” What a sellout, probably a fag too, Chester had thought when he left the landlord’s back office. 

            The front desk attendant returns with the courier package. Chester checks out her nametag: “Hello. My name is Rosarita. I am here to help you.”

            Chester is totally disgusted with the nametag. This is a high-class apartment building downtown, not a dollar store in a strip mall. Chester is not surprised, as he had expected the new property manager to cheapen the service and the décor, while still pushing up the rent every year. The guy is an obvious fag named Lionel sporting a pencil thin mustache. He is always rubbing his tight, leather pants too, like the silly boy is afraid he is not getting enough blood circulation below the waist. There is no doubt in Chester’s mind that twits like Lionel really cannot imagine anything above the basest, bourgeois sensibilities. They are born gauche, and die that way. 

            Rosarita hands Chester the package without really looking at him. Rather, she seems to be looking through him. The blank look on her pretty face suggests that she would not flinch if Chester fell from cardiac arrest just then. 

            Chester notices her blank stare. He marks that down somewhere in the back of his mind. He is always keeping score. 

*   *   *

            Chester struggles to find his key in his pants pocket, while clutching his cane and his package beneath his other arm. There is always so much stuff in his pockets. Senior Citizens need to carry everything around with them all the time. It is like the End of the World could strike at any moment, and they would be whisked away by a powerful gust if they did not have everything they needed to survive with them. The pills take up a lot of space, but there are also handfuls of Kleenex, Post-It Notes, pins, paperclips, pens, and postage stamps down there. When the Antichrist takes over he will have in his deep pockets what it takes to serve at once as one of his office clerks. 

            Chester’s apartment is the second from the last on the twenty-fourth floor of a forty-story building. Like much of his life has been, his apartment is somewhere in the middle floors and outwardly unremarkable. 

            The last apartment on this floor stands out. It is a corner suite, which means it is a larger floor plan with twice the view. It is directly across from the fire escape, which means it is safer. It has been vacant for some time. Chester presumes that this is because Lionel the Twit has increased the rents for corner suites way beyond the market price. Though many people have been clamoring to live downtown since the Redevelopment Agency transformed the area from a skid row wasteland to a “new, chic, and fashionable life park,” whatever that means, there is a limit to what people will pay. By keeping some of the rents too high, and therefore unmarketable, Lionel can tout the building as “upper crust” to all his fag property manager friends. All the while he has been adding plastic nametags to the burgundy and green striped staff uniforms and replacing the glassware with paper cups at the lobby coffee dispenser. 

            Chester hates the nametags and the paper cups, but he likes the fact that the corner suite on the twenty-fourth floor has been unoccupied for some time. He likes to sleep every night without having to hear inane chitchat or television infomercials from the other side of the woefully thin wall that separates his headboard from the schmuck neighbor’s bedroom. Just as Chester sees everything, he hears everything, too. Indeed, he seems to notice more the older he gets, like old age has gifted to him the role of the petulant hall monitor. He just does not want to be on duty when he is propped up on his pillows and snoozing before old John Wayne flicks on his TV set.

            He relishes the hall monitor role otherwise. To that end, he keeps a clipboard and a number two pencil (always sharp and ready for use) dangling from a red hook beside his front door. Whenever he sees, hears, or smells a lease infraction, which on average is once or twice daily, he makes a time stamped note. He leaves his old man scribbled notes in Lionel’s “Happy and Wellness Suggestions Box” every morning on his way out to the coffee and pastry shop where he likes to take his breakfast. 

            Chester finally finds his key. He is about to insert it into the doorknob, when out of the corner of his eye he sees someone at the end of the hall. He looks over in time to see a tall, lanky man in black clothes push open the door to the corner suite. The weirdo has an orange punk hairdo and goatee. His long, deep lined face and his sagging eyes suggest a thirty-something turning fifty-something from way too much liquor and drug use. He has the stooped shoulders of a pianist who earns his pennies slouching over piano keys in a dingy Goth bar. Given where he lives now, though, the creepy hipster would not need those pennies to make ends meet. Probably a derelict trust fund baby, Chester thinks. The kind of jerk who thinks it is cool to act homeless when scoring a hit or picking up babes, but who can escape to the comforts of his big floor plan and even bigger skyline view whenever he wants to wind down. 

            The hipster steps into his corner suite, and slams the door behind him. Great, so he is one of those pesky door slammers. Chester hates them almost as much as he does the loud talkers and the pot smokers. Everything finally has settled down from the last lease infraction that Chester has noted and time stamped, when a loud door slam out from nowhere almost knocks Chester off of his chair. This has happened at least a half a dozen times since the start of the year, and the worst part is that unless he happens to be looking out his peephole at the moment he cannot tell which of his neighbors is the culprit. 

            Chester recalls the last time he caught one of those door slammers in action. It was the mousy, old, Vietnamese woman who lives across the hall from him. She is probably Vietcong, Chester thinks whenever he views her. Commies make the worst door slammers.  He was especially happy to note her infraction; and he thinks Lionel may actually have acted on that one, for he has not seen or heard anything from that little troublemaker since.

            Time to silence this new door slammer, Chester thinks, when he pushes open his door. He licks his lips ravenously when he imagines the surprised look upon that hipster’s face the moment Lionel confronts him. The jerk is going to learn toot sweet that he has moved next door to the hall monitor from hell. 

            Chester sets aside his cane and his package. His front door also slams in the meantime, but he never notices that. What matters is the task at hand, and so with a quirky grin on his lips he grabs for the clipboard and the number two pencil hanging off of the red hook. 

            His telephone rings. It is an antique rotary device from the 1920s that hangs on his wall beside the doorway that leads to the kitchen. Like everything else inside Chester’s cramped apartment, it is hidden in darkness, since Chester like to keep his window shades pulled shut all of the time. 

            Chester does not need any light to walk to the telephone, since everything is always where it is supposed to be. Still, perhaps out of habit, he switches on the dust coated, Victorian lamp on the side table. 

The lamplight casts grave shadows off of the antique chests, vases, paintings, and Oriental screens that have turned the living room over the years into a dealer’s warehouse. Most of the framed paintings depict voluptuous, naked women falling to the temptations of the devil. Those longhaired and bushy tartlets are invariably one seductive grin away from turning into Gorgons. Poor Adam never had a chance. The artwork is spaced in between mounted pistols, daggers, and swords from centuries past. These are the finely crafted weapons of gentlemen duelers and murderers that epitomize the times when honor demanded bloodshed. Chester knows very well he is a paragon of honor, and so he has purchased more of these tokens of murder and mayhem than he has sold. Seeing them up there on his walls reminds him that he is special, and deserves to be treated with the dignity he demands. 

Chester picks up the telephone receiver on the third ring. He guesses who it is before he says anything. 

“Walnut Curios and Antiquities,” Chester states with the same officious voice he has used to answer the telephone for the past half century. 

“Did you receive the package?” The dark and sinister voice from hell inquires.

Chester’s old heart always skips a beat when the Strange Man calls him, even though he has spoken with him a dozen times already over the past couple of weeks. Some people are so menacing familiarity does not break the dark spell they are able to cast on their listeners, and notwithstanding the number of conversations Chester is really not all that familiar with this one. He does not even know his name. All that he knows is that the Strange Man is a high-end gun collector from “somewhere east” who is prohibited by the laws of his home country from buying firearms on his own. The plan is for Chester to obtain the firearm and to hold it indefinitely. Someday, the Strange Man will send an emissary to retrieve it, and that man will pay Chester quite handsomely for his role in this transaction. 

For Chester, this is a riskier deal than normal. First, it is against the rules for a tenant to keep a live firearm in his apartment. Lionel the Twit is aware of Chester’s extensive antique collection, but he is also aware that those polished firearms up on the walls have been rendered inoperable. Chester’s latest purchase is very different. Secondly, and frankly much more unnervingly, there is something about the Strange Man that inspires a sense of dread about this transaction. 

“Yes, sir. I have it,” Chester answers. 

In fact, he cannot say for sure that he has it. He received the package, but he has yet to open it. A professional in his line of work always checks the item with his own trained eyes before acknowledging anything about it. In this case, though, and for no sound reason, Chester senses that the Strange Man already knows that he has obtained it. All of their telephone conversations have been the same in that way. The Strange Man asks a question, and Chester senses at once that he knows damned well already what Chester is going to say. It is not that they are conversing back and forth so much as the Strange Man has lassoed Chester and is pulling him closer to a horrid end with every word exchanged between them. 

Why does Chester continue to take these calls then? When he senses that the Strange Man is calling him, he could step back, and let the telephone ring and ring….

Except he cannot not answer when the Strange Man calls. Like when he looks out his peephole sometimes for hours on end, hoping to catch the smallest infraction with his clipboard and his number two pencil in his arthritic hand, Chester is driven to be a middle man in whatever drama the Strange Man is contemplating. Chester is the bridge between a nasty tenant and the punishment he or she deserves, and so in this deal with the Strange Man he is a bridge from a plan to its execution. He is a hall monitor extraordinaire. He is outwardly inconspicuous, an old man with a cane and a shuffle whom the ethnic riffraff pass off as yesterday’s news. Behind his peephole, though, and when on the telephone with this Strange Man, Chester is the one who is scribbling the time stamped notes or holding onto the illicit firearm that in time will render judgment on someone out there who deserves it.  

That is a good thing, right? So why does Chester feel like he is being pulled to a dark place from which in the end he will not be able to escape? 

Chester sees the conundrum clearly in his mind, but he does not attempt then to unravel it. The Strange Man has another question for him, and he pushes away his own conscience to provide him an answer. 

“Where are you going to keep it?” The Strange Man asks. 

“Beside my bed,” Chester answers. 

“Beneath your blue and white Tiffany lampshade,” the Strange Man remarks as if continuing Chester’s answer. 

Chester feels like he has been slapped. He nearly hangs up the telephone just then. He is accustomed somewhat to the peculiar telepathic connection he seems to have with the Strange Man, but it is something altogether different for him to know what kind of lampshade he has on his nightstand. 

Has he been in my apartment? Has he seen me? Is he watching me right now?

Chester feels a cold fear trembling down the back of his neck. There is a set of eyes watching him from somewhere in his living room. He can feel those eyes slowly sliding down his backside. 

While still holding up the telephone receiver, Chester turns his head. He has to see the set of eyes staring him down; and yet his head moves heavily, like it is an enormous stone being twisted around by unseen arms. His lower lip trembles and drops. He struggles to pull in another breath of the dark, stale air in his apartment. 

He follows the lamplight to the stylized face of a Geisha staring back at him from an Oriental screen. There is judgment buried deeply her almond shaped eyes.

Chester is startled, even though he has seen this Geisha staring back at him for years. He manages to muffle his cry, though, since the Strange Man is still on the telephone. 

“Use it,” the Strange Man says.

“What?” Chester mutters, while returning the telephone receiver to his ear. 

“When you need to protect yourself,” the Strange Man continues. “Just make sure it is in excellent condition when I send my emissary.”

“Yes, sir,” Chester remarks without really grasping the conversation then. 

There is a click followed by a dial tone. Chester slowly hangs up the receiver.

Chester turns and looks back at the Geisha. He does not see the judgment that had been there earlier. It is just the same demure Oriental face he has seen countless times over the years. 

Chester retrieves the courier package he had placed by the door. He weighs it in his hand, and moves it side to side. The firearm must be very tightly packed inside the box, for he cannot hear it moving in there at all. He holds it against his chest like it is a bomb that might explode if he happened to drop it.  

He sees the clipboard and the number two pencil dangling from the red hook beside his door. He is much too rattled at the moment to remember the creepy door slammer next door, so he does not then make a time stamped note of that infraction.  

Chester steps into the kitchen, and switches on the light. He wants to drop an Alka-Seltzer into a glass of water and turn on the TV set in his bedroom. Maybe, AMC will be broadcasting another John Wayne flick. That will put his mind at ease…

Or maybe not. The courier package feels like it is weighed down by the same dark energy that he senses on the telephone whenever that Strange Man calls. He is driven to be a middle man in this scheme, whatever it is, and yet can feel physically and mentally the stress that comes with that. He is not sure even John Wayne will be able to save him now from this impending sense of doom pulling down at his heart.  

*   *   *

            On the TV screen, John Wayne is the tough trail boss, Tom Dunson. He takes a step forward and squints up at the cattle drive deserters who have returned to duty. The deserters loom over him on their horses. 

            “Get off of them horses,” John Wayne says in the same muscular monotone he uses to deliver all of his great film lines. “I don’t favor looking up to the likes of you.”

            The TV screen image freezes. There is a message in red text printed over John Wayne’s surly face: “Satellite Reception Disrupted. Please Phone Customer Service.” 

            Chester awakens. He is propped up on his pillows with his remote control by his left side. He stares blankly at the screen a moment, and then switches off the TV.

            The blue and white Victorian Tiffany lamp on his left side is still on. Like the lamp in the foyer, it casts eerie shadows. If Chester was not so familiar with his four walls, he would imagine tall ghouls in silhouette looking down at him to keep score.

            Instead, he thinks about the kink in his lower neck. He grabs the therapeutic neck pillow beneath his covers, and he shuffles over to the small microwave oven in the adjoining kitchen. He leans on the counter and massages his own neck, while he waits for the microwave oven to heat up his pillow. 

            Back at his bed he slides under his covers, places the hot pillow on his lower neck, and leans back against the bed pillows. He stares blankly at the TV screen like he is not sure what it is. An hour passes, or maybe only ten minutes. He has no idea, for it is too quiet and still for him to focus on anything but the gnawing frustrations and fears in his own mind. He thinks about the ethnics, the clean-shaven darkies, the ass-twerking blonds, the groovy pot smokers, the troublemaker door slammers, the late night loud talkers, the lease manager (probably a fag too) who rented out one of his apartments to a damned spook. With all the demons whispering their righteous tirades deeply inside his cranium, it is no wonder any prospect of sleep gives way to exhausted sleeplessness. 

            There is a muffled sound behind his headboard. It is a masculine voice, slow and deep. The tone suggests the man is issuing commands of some sort, though it is not possible to make out the actual words. 

            Chester stirs from his internal dialogue. He turns his face to the right so that his ear is pressed against the headboard. He is facing away from his lamp, and so he is staring at the darkest corner of his bedroom while eavesdropping. 

            He does not hear anything for a long time. Perhaps, he had imagined the dark voice. He had been watching a cowboy movie before falling asleep, and the voice had been uncannily familiar…

            “No,” Chester mutters. He is sure he had not hallucinated a loud talker in the corner suite bedroom behind his headboard. He is old and tired, but he remains the best hall monitor in this building. Lionel the Twit should be rewarding him with rent decreases because of all the meticulous, time stamped notes he provides him almost every morning. 

            “Yes, master,” a young woman’s voice says clearly from the other side. 

            This is the first clear phrase Chester has heard. He is excited at first to be able to affirm that in fact he had heard something. Then, he is pissed off. Surely, this is an example of loud talking taken to a perverted extreme. What kind of woman calls her male companion “master,” unless she is participating with him in some kind of kinky role-play? Isn’t that kind of thing contrary to the “community standards” and “good decorum” required of each tenant in his or her lease agreement? 

            Chester listens even more intently. He thinks he hears the masculine voice. It is commanding the woman to do something, though he cannot make out what that is at the moment. 

            “Oh, yes!” The woman screams. It is impossible then to tell if she is frightened or excited. Maybe, it is both. Little Sex Pervs are never really happy until they are on the edge, and that seems to be true of this modern day Jezebel in the other bedroom.

            There are no more sounds from next door. Everything is suddenly so still and quiet that for a moment Chester wonders again if he really had heard anything? That doubt passes when he recalls that the punk in black is a door slammer. Every decent man knows that a door slammer is only one step removed from a deranged kinkster. Assuming that is the case, then what does he care if his little sexcapade keeps up his next-door neighbor? 

            Incensed, Chester throws his covers aside, and shuffles out of his bedroom to investigate further. He grabs the clipboard and the number two pencil off of the red hook, and he presses up against the peephole. He turns his face so that he can stare down the hallway towards the corner suite. 

            He expects to catch the whore skulking away from the corner suite when she is done. She is probably one of those ethnics. They shake their booty a lot more than real Americans. They are also a lot more money hungry. He has seen how those dark waitresses and maids hide their tips in their pockets the very moment they swindle the fives and the tens away from someone. Money is in their hands one moment and hidden the next like with gypsies.  Assuming this whore is a prostitute like all those others, then she will leave soon enough. He will see her clearly enough to be able to identify her in a lineup, and then he will get Lionel the Twit to ban her in the future. 

            This is still an upper class apartment building, after all, even if it is overrun by the riffraff. There are community standards to hold up, and prostitution falls on the outside of that line. If that punk in black wants to spend his greasy dollars upon sleaze, then he will have to do it somewhere else. Everyone else may be a delinquent or a coward, but there is one honorable tenant left who will hold his feet to the fire. 

            Stewing in his own righteousness, Chester peers out the peephole toward the corner suite until he hears his grandfather clock chime seven times. He uses his cane to steady himself, but otherwise he is held up all those hours by his tenacity. He has nothing else on his mind but the fantasy of catching her in the act. 

*   *   *

            Alas, like most fantasies, this one does not come to fruition. Or at least it does not in the manner that Chester had anticipated. 

            The whore never leaves the corner suite that night. Neither does the punk in black. Perhaps, she is a girlfriend, but Chester does not think so. Bohemian dirt bags, like that orange haired, long faced, skinny weirdo with the stooped shoulders, never have girlfriends who stick around longer than their shifts. 

            Regardless, Chester is confident that he can write out an infraction note that will nail them both. He shuffles into the kitchen with his clipboard and his number two pencil. He pours himself a glass of orange juice, and writes out his note on the counter. He even adds the door slamming incident from the previous day, although he cannot recall the exact time it happened. 

            Chester is exhausted from lack of sleep, but his determination is greater. He dresses, rips his finished note from the clipboard, grabs his cane, and leaves for the “Happy and Wellness Suggestions Box” downstairs. 

*   *   *

            Chester taps the top of his cane on Lionel’s office door. It is passed 9:00 AM, and the little twit should be seated at his desk already doing the work his masters demand of him. To his credit he is almost always there on time, and Chester cannot recall when he could not stuff his folded note into the “Suggestions” box on his way out for breakfast. The fact that he cannot do so now, especially given the gravity of the note he wrote this morning, is beyond irritating. 

            Rosarita sees Chester tapping continually on Lionel’s door. She strolls up to him from the front desk. 

            “The manager is not in today,” Rosarita says. “May I help you?”

            Chester glares back at Rosarita while still tapping on the door. 

            Tanya, the assistant manager, is a heavy set, bosomy, black woman in a floral dress that is a few sizes too small. The curls in her hair are so tight they appear as if still tightly wound around curlers. Chester thinks of her as a “Chocolate Temptress” who likes to face sit her big butt on clueless white guys. He has noticed how she has looked at him over the years, but no matter how hard she may try she will never get to slam her beef down on his bespectacled face. 

            “Mr. Walnut, how may I help you?” Tanya inquires when she approaches him. 

            “Where is the manager?” Chester spits out his words. 

            “Mr. Lipper is not in today,” Tanya answers calmly. 

            “I can see he is not in,” Chester snarls. “I want to know where he believes it is more important to be than right here.”

            “Is there any way I can help you?” Tanya repeats with a fake smile plastered on her big face. 

            “I have a note for him,” Chester says. “A matter of grave importance….”

            “I’ll be happy to take your note,” Tanya says without breaking her smile. 

            Chester almost hands Tanya the folded note, but then he snaps back his hand. He has never handed Tanya anything. He knows all too well that the darkies cannot keep their own stuff in order, let alone successfully transmit a message or a piece of paper from one man to another. If he hands her his note, then he may as well crinkle it up and toss it into the garbage. 

            “It is a personal message for the manager,” Chester growls. “Where is he?”

            “I am so sorry,” Tanya states as agreeably as possible. “Mr. Lipper is not in….”

            Chester shoos Tanya away with the back of his hand. He turns his back to her, and shuffles off.  He clenches his folded note in his free hand like it is most profound. 

*   *   *

            Although Chester takes breakfast at his favorite coffee and pastry shop, he is not able to free his mind from his diatribe. Where is Lionel Lipper when he wants to hand him the best infraction note he has ever written? Moreover, does this mean the pervert and his tart next door will be able to invade his privacy yet again tonight? So much of the world has been overrun by the low estate. Is his quiet, little home up on the twenty-fourth floor no longer a refuge? 

            Chester picks at his pastry while staring at his apartment building across the street. The waitress refills his coffee cup. She is another one of those ethnics, and on any other morning he would tsk-tsk or grunt inhospitably at her so as to keep her in her place. This time, he ignores her. He wants to see if that punk in black strolls out of the apartment building. Maybe, he will catch him with his floozy tucked under his arm. Maybe, he will be alone, but even if so Chester hopes to learn something more about him. Chester can tell a lot about a man’s worth from the way he appears and behaves in public. He knows already the man is a dirt bag. He assumes that he will be reaffirming his initial assessment. 

            He picks at his pastry much longer than normal, but he never sees that man leave the apartment building. He is surprised. Surely, the dirt bag has to leave from home to score a hit or to pick up another whore from the bus stop. Those types may live for the night, but they cannot totally avoid the day. What makes him think that he can spend all day in his apartment? 

            Chester shuffles back to the apartment building. He makes a point of ignoring Rosarita at the front desk. He observes out of the corner of his eye that Rosarita pays no attention to him either. 

            Damned Chica doesn’t know her place, Chester thinks, as he passes Rosarita on the way to the elevator. He lodges yet another complaint against her somewhere in the deeper crevices of his mind. 

            Chester spends the rest of the afternoon staring out his peephole. He watches as a deliveryman leaves a package for that Vietcong tramp in front of her door. Most likely, there are dried noodles inside that wrapped box. Everyone knows that chinks go gaga for noodles. It is food for the rest of us but like a religion for them. 

            Several times, he hears the elevator door open and close on his floor. Because he is near the end of the hall, he cannot see the elevator through his peephole, but he has seen already the tenants who live down that way anyway. He has sized them up. They are all riffraff, even the white ones. He used to tolerate the old widow with the walker who had lived on the opposite end. She had been one of those loony librarian types who listen to NPR, but at least she had remembered the olden days. When she had departed for a nursing home in the dead of night two or three years ago, Chester had noted then that he was the last good tenant on this floor. 

            For all of their faults, those losers down there are not nearly as detestable as his new next door neighbor. He can live with them on his floor, but he is not so sure how long he can keep his wits with “Mr. Orange Freak” inches behind his headboard.

            Chester leans heavily on his cane, while he mans his peephole. He would not have been able to stay standing so many hours otherwise. 

            By the time it is dark outside even the cane cannot hold him up anymore. He is about to retire for the kitchen when he sees a dark form with orange hair walking passed his peephole. He presses his face even closer to the door, and as a result his nose twists painfully to one side. He thrusts his eye forward so that it is practically inside the door. This permits him to see the man’s backside. Like yesterday, he sees the stooped shoulders. What is new is what appears to be a pair of rusted handcuffs dangling beside his left thigh. 

            Chester grins. The rusted handcuffs reaffirm the man is a pervert. The day he gets that man evicted will be a high holy day in his life. 

            The dark form with orange hair escapes from view. There is a door slam, and Chester reaches for the clipboard and the number two pencil with the glee of a child reaching for a candy bar. This time, he will be able to time stamp the door slam. The next infraction note will be even better than the last one. 

*   *   *

            Chester is in bed and propped up on his pillows. He is exhausted from having so little sleep the night prior. He stares at a blank TV set that he is too tired to switch on. Any other night in the same situation he would fall asleep pretty fast, but tonight is not any other night. Tonight, he intends to catch that punk son of a bitch in the act.

            He looks down at the small, wooden box beneath his blue and white Victorian Tiffany. From the outside it looks like a nondescript music box. There is even a small handle on one side for winding up the song. Although he has not opened the box, nor touched the handle, he is sure that he is not going to hear Pop! Goes the Weasel, if he ever does so. This is not a child’s amusement. This is a weapon of honor meant for a man to do what he must do in a world gone mad. Chester doubts he will find out the Strange Man’s purpose for seeking out this gun, just as the heart beats blood without any awareness that the brain has formulated a desire to go to medical school instead of law school. Still, what the heart does at that moment is critically important to that formulation. What really excites and concerns Chester is that perhaps he is meant to be more than just a middle man in this operation. Perhaps, he is a muscle pump with enough mind and free will to take matters into his own hand. Is it truly impossible to imagine that this weapon of honor may be intended for him, just as much as it is part of whatever scheme the Strange Man has up his sleeve?

            Hours pass in exhausted stillness, when suddenly Chester hears from behind his headboard the muffled sound of a deep, masculine voice issuing commands. Like before he cannot make out the exact words. 

            He sits upright, and turns on his knees so that he is facing the wall behind his headboard. He presses his face up against the wall, and he turns to one side. With his right ear on the wall, he stares toward the darkest corner of his bedroom. He listens with the focus of a submariner trying to hear the approach of an enemy; and, indeed, in his mind what he is doing now amounts to the same. He is at war with this creepy next door neighbor no matter if the other guy realizes it or not. He may be snarky on occasion with the other tenants, no doubt for the best reasons, but with this punk in black Chester has increased his resolve to DEFCON 1. 

            “Yes, master,” a young woman’s voice says clearly from the other side.

            Chester grinds his teeth in indignation. That is the same little harlot as from the night before. He can hear her voice clearly enough to know for sure. That means she spent the entire day in the corner suite. Otherwise, Chester would have seen her coming and going at some point. 

            “Oh, yes!” The woman screams. This time, Chester can hear for sure that she is both excited and frightened. She is a thrill seeker clearly; the kind of girl who likes to go down a man on a rollercoaster. Not that Chester had had that experience, but it does not take too much to imagine the type. 

            Chester does not remember hearing much afterwards the last time, but now he hears the distinctive rattle and click of handcuffs being snapped around a pair of wrists. He also believes he hears the harlot giggling. Chester imagines that she is one of those Catholic schoolgirls with the plaid skirts. Every one of those Papist girls is a box of rocks in the head and pent up hormones everywhere else. They are always up to no good. 

            The giggling stops abruptly. There is absolute stillness. Chester listens longer just to be certain, but he hears nothing at all. 

            He gets out of bed, and starts to run toward the living room. He wants to get back to his peephole before anyone can leave the corner suite. 

            He bumps the front of his right foot against a bed leg, and stumbles in horrid pain to his knees. He tries to stand up too quickly, but only manages to roll onto his right side. 

            Despite the excruciating pain pulsing up from his foot like lightning bolts, he can hear footsteps in the hallway beyond his front door. It could be one of the other tenants. The younger ones sometimes come and go in the middle of the night. Even that Vietcong troublemaker occasionally comes or goes after midnight. She must be a part of a terrorist cell. Those types are always planning the overthrow of our fine, upstanding government when real Americans are fast asleep. 

            Chester is certain that is not the case this time. Oh, no, given all he has heard he would bet his grandmother’s life, if she were still alive, that that is the punk or his tart walking down the hallway. One of them is fleeing as if from the scene of a crime. 

            Chester rolls back onto his knees, and grabs the top of the chest of drawers. He pulls himself up, and he hobbles out of his bedroom and towards the front door. 

Just as he arrives at the peephole, he hears the elevator door opening down the hall. Since he cannot view the elevator through his peephole, he opens the front door and pokes out his head. He faces the elevator just as the door closes. He is not able to make out who had stepped inside. 

Chester steps back, and shuts his door. He slams his fist against his wall with utter frustration. He knows that if he is going to be consistent, he really should note his own lease infraction. He decides to let that one slide. 

*   *   *

            Chester hobbles passed Lionel’s lobby office. He presses down much harder than usual on his cane because of his bad foot. Sweat pours down his forehead from the pain jolts he gets with every step. 

            He now has two folded notes in his hand; the undelivered one from yesterday and a new one from earlier this morning. He had intended to put both of them inside the “Suggestions” box on Lionel’s desk, but as he had feared the lobby office is closed yet again. What in the hell is happening? Who does he really think he is? Damned fag is as impertinent as he is simple. Never trust a man with a thin mustache. 

            Unable to report these lease infractions, Chester has no choice right now but to deal with Tanya. He is probably wasting his time, but what choice does he have in this emergency situation? 

            Chester steps into Tanya’s office without bothering to knock. Tanya looks up from her computer and plasters on her fake smile. 

            “Good morning, Mr. Walnut,” Tanya says. “How may I help….”

            “I’m not here for chitchat,” Chester interrupts. “I have in my hand here two – count them two – lease infraction notes.”

            Chester hands Tanya the folded notes without getting too close to her. He is very mindful of the spells her kind can cast on unsuspecting men. He imagines then falling back to the floor unconscious, and awakening with his fine nose up her butt. 

            “Well, thank you, Mr. Wal….” Tanya begins to state when receiving the notes. 

            “Now, I want you to answer my questions,” Chester interrupts. “Where is Mr. Lipper, and why is he not here?”

            “Mr. Lipper is out of the office,” Tanya says. 

            “I know that!” Chester snarls.

            “But do not worry, sir,” Tanya says with a friendly flutter of her eyebrows. “I shall hand him these notes when he returns.”

            “No offense, ma’am,” Chester seethes. “But if I were to hand you a banana I’m not confident you would pass it on to the baboon.”

            Tanya flinches, though she is careful not to drop her smile. Chester observes the surprised look in her eyes. He senses he has put her in her place at least for now. 

            Chester removes a handkerchief from his pocket, and dabs the profuse sweat off of his high forehead. He sniffs the sweat on his handkerchief before he returns it.

            Chester points toward the ceiling with his free hand. He is trembling notably from red hot anger and exhaustion. 

            “There is a man on my floor,” Chester barks. “A man in black with orange hair and handcuffs….”

            “A man on your floor?” Tanya asks in as steady a tone as she can muster then.

            “Yes!” Chester screams. 

            “With orange handcuffs….” Tanya remarks.

            “No!” Chester screams. “The handcuffs are not orange. The man is.” 

            “The man is orange….” Tanya remarks.

            “No! No! No!” Chester screams while pounding the edge of the desk. 

            Rosarita steps into Tanya’s office with a security guard. The security guard is a tall, muscular, black man who steps in front of Chester. He looks down at the angry codger with contempt. 

            Chester looks up at the security guard. He is incensed at the intrusion, but he is also frightened enough to calm down. He removes his sweaty handkerchief again, and he dabs his forehead. 

            “There is mischief in the bedroom next door to mine,” Chester says, while he puts away his handkerchief a second time. 

            “Mischief,” Tanya says. 

            “The most egregious kind,” Chester continues. “The man has kept a whore for two nights straight….”

            Chester leans forward on his cane like he is about to say something profound and secret. The security guard inches closer to him just to make sure he does not try anything. Tanya nods at the security guard as if to state she feels safe at the moment.

            “I can hear them,” Chester states. “The language is explicit, the behavior even more so.”

            There is an awkward silence. Chester straightens up, and he clears his throat. 

            “I shall look into the matter,” Tanya finally promises. “Is there anything else?”

            Chester stares long and hard into Tanya’s eyes. He doubts anything will come of this. Her kind simply does not have the mental faculty to follow through on such a critical matter. He now wishes that he had held onto his notes until Lionel gets back. 

            Chester hobbles out of the office without saying anything further. Rosarita is quick to get out of his way. The security guard watches him carefully until he has left the lobby for the coffee and pastry shop across the street. 

*   *   *

            Chester almost falls asleep while picking at his pastry. Even with his two full cups of steaming coffee, he remains listless. He signals for the check even before he has finished with his pastry, and soon thereafter he hobbles back to his apartment. 

            He spends several hours at his peephole waiting to see if Tanya walks up to the corner suite to confront the punk in black. He gets a little excited every time he hears elevator doors opening and closing, but no one strolls down to his end of the hallway. He observes that the package in front of the door opposite his is no longer there, and he imagines the Vietcong troublemaker huddled inside of her apartment with other terrorists eating a feast of Chinese noodles. 

            Sometime in the early afternoon he is too tired to prop himself up anymore with his cane. He hobbles back to his bed, and he falls asleep there before taking off his clothes. He must have slept like a log, because he is in the exact same position on the bed when he awakens suddenly in the middle of the night. 

            The bedroom is pitch black, and for a moment Chester cannot tell if he is now awake or still dreaming. He is really not able to focus his mind on anything definitive until he hears the muffled sound of a deep voice from behind his headboard. Though he cannot make out the words, for the first time he can make out better the tone and the inflection. Why does that punk in black remind him of the Strange Man? Does he really hear the Strange Man’s voice, or is he imagining things on account of his great anxiety about the whole matter? If that is the Strange Man, then has he been playing a vicious prank on him all of this time? If so, then for what end, since surely any man above the age of twelve will not find anything at all funny about this crass situation?

            “Yes, master,” a young woman’s voice says clearly from the other side.

            Chester sits up on his knees, and he presses his right ear as tightly as possible against the wall behind his headboard. The young woman’s voice had been so much clearer on this occasion that he had thought at first that she was speaking inside his bedroom. If he can hear her this well while lying on his bed, think of how much more he will hear with his ear up close to the wall.

            He hears the bedsprings from someone walking across the mattress upon his knees. He hears someone else, presumably the harlot, scooting up against the punk’s headboard. It seems like the two of them are positioning themselves for some sort of activity, no doubt the deranged kind that occupies the time of sex crazed psychos. 

            “Cross your wrists,” the deep, masculine voice says. 

            Chester’s heart almost jumps out of his chest. For the first time, he can make out the man’s words. Surely, this is enough to add “loud talker” to the growing list of lease infractions he is leveling on that punk. He should hobble over to his clipboard, so that he can write out a time stamped note, but he stays put. The last thing that he wants to do is to miss what is happening. Instead, he makes a mental note to add the “loud talker” charge later even if he cannot time stamp it. 

            “Oh, yes!” The young woman screams. Again, that little tart sounds like she is excited and frightened at the same time. Because her voice is so much clearer on this occasion, though, she also sounds like she is about to orgasm. 

            Definitely an ethnic, Chester thinks. Only ethnics orgasm so fast and furious. It is because they are always in heat; twenty-four seven, except for when they put on a sad face in the welfare line. What they lack upstairs they overcompensate with their hormones. 

            There is the rattle and the click of handcuffs. The punk presumably has cuffed the harlot’s wrists to his headboard. 

            Chester grins. He is quite happy to be catching the perverts in the act in what seems like stereo sound, but deep down he is also getting his jollies from all this. He consciously denounces the idea that he may be sexually aroused, and yet as the kink continues his twitchy grin gets wider and wider. 

            The bedsprings creak, as the little tart writhes toward a loud orgasm. Chester presses his inner thighs close to one another. Sweat pours down his cheeks like rain.

            “Who are you?” The young woman asks. She seems to have been startled out from her orgasmic build up. 

            Chester arches his eyebrow. Did a third person just step into their den of sex sickness? He makes a mental note to add “orgy” to the list of infractions. Surely, even if not listed as an infraction in the lease agreement, orgies do not measure up to the community standards expected of the tenants. 

            He starts to envision a scene with Peter O’Toole from Caligula when….

            A gunshot blasts. The sound is so intense and immediate that it nearly knocks Chester off of his bed. He grasps at his heart with one hand. 

            He staggers off of his bed, while still grasping at his heart, and hobbles in the general direction of the living room. The bedroom is as pitch black as before, but he knows instinctually in which direction to flee. 

            He slams his free hand against the living room wall, until finally he stumbles upon the antique wall telephone beside the entrance to the kitchen. His shaky finger has a heck of a time dialing anything let alone 911. He gives up and dials 0 to speak to the operator. 

            “I need the police,” Chester just manages to blurt out. “Hurry!”

*   *   *

            Chester watches from his peephole as the uniformed police arrive. He has to lean heavily upon his cane to remain upright. He has turned on his living room lamp and as a result is surrounded by ghoulish shadows. He feels the Geisha eyes staring down his backside again, but he does not look back. He remains fixated on what he can see through his peephole. 

            Interesting that none of the other tenants have poked out their heads to take a look, Chester thinks. Surely, an unexpected gunshot should arouse them from even their most depraved preoccupations. 

            He hears the dispatcher speaking out from the police radios. The tinny voice reminds him of Hooks from Police Academy. Those damned darkies are everywhere. 

            One of the police officers knocks on Chester’s door. Through the peephole he looks like a German bruiser with an oversized nose. Must be a Jew, Chester surmises at once, even though it should be clear enough that the peephole has disoriented the size of the man’s nose on account of his close proximity to the door. 

            Chester steps back, and opens the door. That nose is nothing special after all. 

            “Good evening, Mr. Walnut,” the police officer says. “I’m Officer Garcia.”

            Garcia? Chester thinks. How can a spic look so German? Must be a fake name.

            “Did you arrest the bastard?” Chester asks. 

            “Where did you say you heard the gunshot?” Officer Garcia asks. 

            Chester feels the red-hot rage boiling up from his stomach. He asked this guy a question and got a question in return. Do the police not realize that they work for the taxpayers? 

            “I was on my bed minding my own business, when I heard a gunshot from the bedroom behind me,” Chester responds. 

            “Do you remember the time?” Officer Garcia continues. 

            “Just a minute or two before I called,” Chester responds. 

            “How would you describe the sound?” Officer Garcia continues. 

            “I told you,” Chester seethes. “It was a gunshot. Pop!”

            “Where did it come from?” Officer Garcia continues. 

            “What are you? One of those Affirmative Action Cops?” Chester snarls. “I told you I heard it from the bedroom behind me.”

            “Could you tell what part of the bedroom?” Officer Garcia continues without flinching from Chester’s insult. 

            “The bedroom! The bedroom! What does it matter which part?” Chester asks incredulously. “If you can’t figure it out, I’ll show you and the boys exactly where the gunshot came from.”

            “Yes,” Officer Garcia says. “Come and show me.”

            A female officer steps out from the corner suite so as to assist Officer Garcia with escorting Chester to the bedroom. Chester notes that she is more obviously an ethnic. Every inch of her little, tight body can be envisioned through her form fitted police uniform. Her boobs are upright, and her nipples are perky. The whore must be a pole dancer when he is off duty. If she was ever caught in the act at one of those adult venues, she would get off by saying she was “undercover.” Chester remains as far from her as possible while hobbling into the corner suite with the two officers. 

            There are two other officers in the corner suite. They have switched on all of the overhead lights already. 

            The corner suite is completely empty. It even has that new carpet smell that suggests a vacant space ready to be leased out when someone ponies up the money.

            Chester is startled. He tries to tell himself that maybe the punk has yet to add any furniture to the suite apart from the bedroom. After all, the bedroom appears to be much more important to him than the others. 

            That explanation falls away when he steps into the empty bedroom. The new carpet smell is even more intense in here. 

            Chester wanders through the bedroom. He is dumbfounded at first, but then increasingly irate. 

            “I tell you it happened here,” Chester says. “The giggling whore, the handcuffs upon the wrists, the moans and groans. Then, it all stopped. It was just one gunshot.”

            Officer Garcia and his female colleague say nothing. They watch Chester walk about the bedroom with blank looks on their faces. They appear to be studying him. 

            Chester turns toward Officer Garcia in exasperation. While leaning heavily on his cane, he mimes with his free hand holding up paper. 

            “I handed in two infraction notes,” Chester states. “Nicely folded.”

            “Infraction Notes?” Officer Garcia asks. 

            “Yes,” Chester says. “She said she would hand them to Mr. Lipper, but I doubt it. The notes are time stamped. Well, some of the incidents are time stamped. Others, I had to write in after the fact from memory.”

            Officer Garcia and his female colleague glance at each other. 

            The female officer steps forward. Chester reads her nametag: Officer Roberta Gonzalez. Sure enough. She probably pushes the mop back at the local police station. 

            “Where did you say you heard the gunshot?” Officer Gonzalez asks. 

            Chester leans forward on his cane, and slowly looks down at his shoes. He is so beside himself at the moment he cannot even speak. 

*   *   *

            The police ended up bringing Chester back to the station for more questions. It became apparent that they did not believe that a gun had been fired anywhere in the building, and they wanted to sniff out if he had filed a false claim. They received a report from the security guard about his behavior in Tanya’s office the prior day, and that made them even more suspicious. Chester caught on to the ulterior motive of their questions and stopped talking. They asked him if he would submit then to a psychological evaluation “for his own safety,” but he refused. 

            The police released Chester late the next morning. Worn out from the whole experience, he actually fell asleep on the bus on the way back to his building. He did not even step into his favorite coffee and pastry shop when disembarking from the bus. He was too tired and ornery, and so he crossed the street, entered the building, and passed by Rosarita without acknowledging her. 

            Chester slept off and on the rest of the day. He had no appetite, and the warm sweat pouring down his cheeks told him he might be coming down with the flu. That did not really bother him, though. What taxed his mind was what had happened the previous night. Did he actually hallucinate the whole thing? Is he losing his sanity as a result of all that perversion out there? Perversion that not only accosts him when he ventures outside but now even creeps through his bedroom wall? Moreover, does he have what it takes to fulfill his little part of the Strange Man’s scheme, whatever that may be? Ostensibly, he is just holding onto the gun until the Strange Man sends an emissary to pick it up. But what if the Strange Man intends for him to do more for his larger scheme than just that? The Strange Man had told him clearly that he might open the box and use the gun, if necessary. Is that something he would have said to him, if he had envisioned Chester as a purely passive actor in this unfolding drama? 

            Chester is laying face up on his bed. His eyes are wide open. He has not been able to snooze in hours. It is pitch black, and so he presumes it is night. 

            His telephone rings. He sits up on his elbows, and he stares toward the open door to the living room. The telephone rings twice, three times, four times, but he is too frightened to move. Dread embraces him where he is, and it wants to retain him there perhaps forever. 

            He knows he has to answer the telephone, since he knows who is calling him. There is no way to avoid it. The telephone will keep ringing until he answers his call of duty. 

            He answers the telephone on the thirteenth ring. He is not superstitious as a general rule, but he cannot escape the feeling in his gut then that that is a bad omen.

            “Hello,” Chester says in a barely audible voice. 

“Use it,” the Strange Man says.

“Yeah,” Chester mutters.

“When you need to protect yourself,” the Strange Man continues. “Just make sure it is in excellent condition when I send my emissary.”

There is a click, then a dial tone. Chester hangs up the telephone. 

Chester takes in a slow, deep breath. He hobbles back into his bedroom, and he turns on his lamp. He looks down at what appears to be a music box with a little handle coming out from the right side. 

He picks up the box, and tries to open it. The top of the box will not budge no matter how hard he tries. 

He sits on the side of the bed. He takes a handkerchief off of his nightstand, and he dabs the sweat off of his forehead. He returns the handkerchief, and then he starts to rotate the handle. 

It is a music box, apparently. As he rotates the handle, first with trepidation, and then more eagerly, he hears the tinny sound of Pop! Goes the Weasel. 

The top of the box unlocks at the end of the song. Chester opens it and sees a gun and a bullet encased in form fitted slots in velvet. The bullet glistens in the faint lamplight. 

Chester looks around like he half expects to be caught doing something illicit. He wipes away more sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand. He takes in another slow, deep breath. 

Chester removes the gun from the box. He holds it up in the lamplight. He is drawn to this cold, hard instrument with a passion he has never before experienced.

Chester removes the bullet. He holds it up in the lamplight. A queer little grin forms on his face. He looks like the schoolboy in an attic unearthing his first Playboy

He loads the bullet into the gun. He takes in another deep breath, and holds it against his chest like a coveted blanket. 

“Get yourself ready,” the deep voice says from the other bedroom. This time, it is unmistakably the voice of the Strange Man. It is so clear that it sounds as if the speaker is whispering directly into his ear. 

Chester does not need to press his ear against the wall. He hears everything now like it is originating from inside his own head. 

“Yes, master,” a young woman’s voice says. 

Bedsprings creak. The Strange Man apparently is walking across the mattress on his knees. The harlot scoots back to the headboard. She giggles like a crazy witch. She is not a passive participant in this perverse role-play. She is enticing the Strange Man as much as he is commanding her. 

“Cross your wrists,” the Strange Man says. 

“Oh, yes!” The young woman screams. She is already on the verge of orgasm. 

The rattling handcuffs are clicked shut around the young woman’s wrists. 

The bedsprings creak a lot faster. The young woman moans ecstatically. 

Chester’s telephone rings. Though Chester groggily looks toward the wall telephone in the living room, it rings as much in his mind as anywhere. He knows who is calling and what he has to do. 

Chester hobbles to the wall telephone. He picks up the receiver, and speaks before the Strange Man can say anything. 

“I know what I need to do,” Chester says in a tired monotone. “I’ll leave your gun in excellent condition.”

There is a click, then a dial tone. Chester hangs up the telephone. 

Chester stuffs the loaded gun into his pants pocket, and he grabs his cane. He steps out of his apartment. The door slams behind him. He knows that that is a lease infraction, but he decides to let it pass. 

*   *   *

            Chester steps in front of the corner suite. He presses his ear against the door. He cannot hear anything, but there is no doubt that the punk and his little tart are up to no good.

            Chester is about to knock on the door, when he sees that it is ajar. Clearly, the punk is goading him to step inside. The punk is luring him into a trap. Chester grins, because regardless of what the punk is trying to do to him he is the one with the gun inside his pocket. Chester fondles the gun. The cold, hard steel remains the greatest of all moralizers, and the tables are about to be turned on the punk and the world of ethnics and perverts that he champions.

            Chester pushes open the door, and steps into an empty apartment. It is pitch black and still inside. It is also quiet, and for a moment Chester wonders if indeed it is as vacant as the police officers had suggested. He hesitates, and nearly turns back.

            He presses forward when he sees a faint light spreading out from behind the bedroom door. He hobbles up to the bedroom door, and presses his ear up against it.

            At first, the sound from the other side is too muffled to signify much, but he is a patient man when it comes to eavesdropping on his enemies. The hall monitor can best nab the troublemakers with quiet persistence. 

            Sure enough, as the seconds tick away, the sound from inside the bedroom is getting clearer and louder. It is the sound of a little tart squirming and moaning with ecstasy towards her climax. The sound seems to come as much from Chester’s mind as from….

            No, that is not true. It is originating entirely inside Chester’s mind. He literally feels the sound erupting out from a deep crevice in his mind and spreading like lava into every compartment of his brain. From there, he blood rushes the sound into the rest of his body. He is equally excited and frightened, like he is going down on a little tart on a rollercoaster. His twitchy grin erupts into a wide smile. He has matured in a matter of seconds from the schoolboy with his first Playboy to the dirty, old man in a cramped apartment who lusts for the world he despises. 

            He sees a beam of light coming out from the top third of the bedroom door. It turns out there is a peephole there from the living room into the bedroom. No doubt, that had been cut into the door in order to facilitate some sort of voyeur fantasy, but Chester is not repulsed this time. He has set aside his judgmental mind for the erotic id of this very moment. He is indulging, and the stir in his pants tells him that he is a psychotically happy codger for the first time in God knows how long. 

            Chester stares into the peephole. He sees the back of an orange head locked in between two naked thighs. The peephole does not provide a wider view, but that is enough to release a cascade of sweat down Chester’s face. He feels his heart out of control inside his chest. He has a difficult time breathing through all of this perverse excitement. He feels like he is about to explode with a big, goofy grin on his old face.

            Chester pushes open the bedroom door. He stands in the doorway, and sees the punk in black going down on the little tart. The little tart has her wrists cuffed to the headboard above her. She is naked, and for the moment her eyes are closed. She is a beautiful girl being ravaged by the devil like in one of Chester’s prized paintings.

            She is also strangely recognizable. Chester focuses on her face. He has seen it before, many times before, actually….

            Rosarita? The girl who works at the front desk? The girl who looks through him but never at him? The girl he notices in her Hollister sweater and skinny jeans, but who never notices him unless she absolutely must? 

            She opens her eyes. She stares straight at the open doorway. 

            “Who are you?” The young woman asks, startled, and then disgusted. 

            The punk in black lifts his head out from her crotch. He turns around and also faces into the open doorway. His face is not now the long, linear, deep-lined one that Chester had seen (or thought he had seen) out of the corner of his eye. It is Chester’s face. He is even sporting Chester’s dementedly happy expression. He is like a mirror reflection in a dark corner of hell somewhere. 

            There are others in the room, too, many others, in fact. Tanya is standing by the bed and looking back at Chester with her fake grin. She is naked and just aching to sit on a man’s face. The security guard is beside her. He is a naked beefcake with an enormous package. Standing beside them is Lionel the Twit back from wherever he has been all this time. He is less impressive physically, but he is doing his part to titillate with his thin mustache and his effeminate sneer. Then, there is no nonsense Officer Garcia, buck-naked with a police baton in one hand and a can of K-Y Jelly in the other. The female officer stands beside him. Her nipples are as perky as can be. Behind the female officer is the Vietcong troublemaker. She is sucking up Chinese noodles from a bowl. There is even the old widow who had left for a nursing home in the dead of night. She is sitting naked on her wheelchair, unable to hold up her head, but doing her part by rubbing her breasts side to side across her thin thighs. 

            With the exception of the old widow they are all looking back at Chester with the same demented, happy expression. They are salivating the erotica with him, but also laughing at him. He is one of them, just another old pig in the mud, and they are welcoming him to the party.  

            Chester imagines himself as a pig rolling in a mud sea full of other pigs. He is indistinguishable from the others. Honor, respect, heritage, all of these ideas are out the door for a black stained swine in permanent heat. 

            With this image in mind Chester’s lust gives way to cold, spine tingling terror. He shivers uncontrollably. Cold sweat drips off of his face. His old heart feels like it is freefalling into his bowels. 

            Everyone in the bedroom points and laughs at him. Uproarious cackles fill up what sanity remains in his mind. It pushes out his reason. What is left in there is the beast rage of a murderer on the cusp. 

            Chester removes the gun from his pocket. No one seems to notice, since they continue to laugh at him. 

            They may not notice what he is doing, but he notices them. He sees all of the bastards. He is the hall monitor. That is what he does best. 

            And in particular he sees how that Rosarita whore is looking and laughing at him. She is the cause of all this. She is the ringleader of indiscretion. Of course, she is. She is a damned ethnic

            Chester fires his lone bullet directly at Rosarita’s face. 

            Everything is still, quiet, and black. Chester is alone. 

*   *   *

            Officer Garcia stands several feet away from Chester’s corpse. He has seen so many suicides over the years he is no longer really sickened by the fan of blood that had erupted out from the back of Chester’s head. 

            Apparently, Chester had put the gun in his mouth. That is pretty typical, too. 

            What is odd is that Chester broke into the vacant corner suite to do the deed. He had busted open the lock, walked up to the bedroom doorway, stood there for a while (indicated by the depth of the shoeprints in the plush carpet), and then eaten the bullet. Strange behavior, but of course the previous night he had insisted that he had heard a gunshot from the same bedroom. Something about this vacant space on the other side of his bedroom had triggered his madness. No one will ever know the voice of that madness that pushed Chester over the brink. It is perhaps just as well. 

            There is another oddity about this suicide. According to the CSI team, there is so much saliva coated on the muzzle that apparently Chester had been sucking on it for some time before he pulled the trigger. 

*   *   *

            Chester Walnut’s suicide gets a column on a back page the following day.  It is the buzz of conversation in the apartment building for a few days thereafter. Then, it is forgotten altogether, until three weeks later when someone from the state arrives to remove everything from his apartment. It turns out the long term resident had no will and no heirs. The government will hold onto his personal property for a defined period of time, and then it will sell the items at auction. All of the proceeds will go to a state fund for at risk minorities and refugees.  

            Only the gun and the bullet used in the suicide remain in police custody. It is their policy to hold onto weapons used during a crime or a suicide for at least a year in case there is any need for further forensic study. The gun and the bullet are put in separate evidence bags and kept inside a locker marked “Walnut, C” and the date of the incident. The items will be destroyed on the year anniversary of Chester’s death.

            The night before that is going to happen a nondescript man in a suit walks up to the officer on duty. The man does not say a word. He hands the officer a stamped and signed release form. Apparently, an obscure federal agency wants the items for some sort of research project on suicides. The details are on the form, but the tired and bored officer on duty only gives all that verbiage a cursory look. He co-signs the form, and he hands the nondescript man the two evidence bags. 

            Before stepping into the night, the man checks the gun and the bullet through the evidence bags. They are in excellent condition clearly. Chester had done what he had promised. The ledger on his case may be closed. 

            The obscure federal agency, the research project, and the nondescript man in the suit all vanish the moment he exits the station. The gun and the bullet disappear also. It is as if the suicide never happened, and the old man’s life is forgotten in time.

Published by Michael Sean Erickson

I write, act, and produce films in Los Angeles. Everything else is conjecture.

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