House on the River’s Edge
Tall apartment buildings on the avenue shaded the intersecting, dead end street of row homes. At the end of the street was a flagstone wall set before a high, wrought iron fence. Below street-level was the FDR Drive and just beyond was the East River, where a burst of sunlight reflected across the water and over the Queens-Brooklyn shoreline.
A glance at the addresses put the home I searched for at the extreme right, overlooking the river.
My boss at the demolition company had given me the address in the morning and said they wanted an estimate. He had no idea what they wanted done, though had pointed out that the home was in an exclusive part of town. “They got f—ckin’ money,” he had said. “They can pay.”
The home had a small porch with a three step stoop and on the upper floors were a combination of dormers and turrets with windows that opened to the river from a three story perch. White shades were pulled three quarters down in all the windows and each had a candle placed in the center.
I stepped up on the porch. A shade to my left shook, and before I could knock, it retracted all the way up. Already in motion was a young girl in a dress who skipped happily in a circle. Her right hand was raised in a sign of welcome. A closed mouth smile was plastered on her face. She reminded me of a marionette.
A blue-eyed boy opened the door. No older than twelve, he must have been the one to open the shade. He had short black hair, a collared white shirt, “high-water” slacks, and polished black boots.
“I’m from — Demolition,” I said. “Here for the estimate. Are your parents home?”
He craned his neck to take me in a little better. “My mom is here, come inside,” he said pensively.
The dancing little girl now stamped about in the far left corner of an elegantly furnished living room, which had an inviting sofa with plump cushions. I watched the little girl for a moment longer. She paraded like an Indian in a ceremonial dance. In her eyes was a startlingly distant look.
(Upper East Side building)
“I like your blog, a lot,” the boy said.
I rolled my eyes and said, “What’s going on, kid?” I looked past the little girl for an adult, then down the hall in front of me, and then up the burnished hardwood staircase on my right, which led straight to the second floor.
“You wouldn’t come; the estimate was the only way to get you here,” he said.
“I keep emailing you, but you never replied, except once. You told me to call Epic Paranormal.”
“Oh crap,” I said, thinking he was the one emailing about a haunting. One of the emails had said I would know the house but didn’t elaborate. “You have a friend here. He’s been here since the beginning,” the last email had said.
My formal posture of presentation sagged. “I told you, if you have a problem with a ghost, I’m the not the one to call.”
“I know,” the boy said, frowning.
“There’s a phonebook full of people you can call. Epic is real good, and nice, too.”
“I read your blog. I thought you would want to help us.”
“You know I have problems of my own.”
“We have a ghost. I see his shadow; sometimes I hear him speak.”
“Ghost busting is not my thing,” I said, trying to sound nice(I’m not just writing that I was being amiable to put myself in a better light, though if he was older, I would have jetted out of there).
“My sister sees him clearly, she says he looks like a pirate.”
“I really have to go, kid.”
“He makes her cry and I can’t stop him. My parents don’t believe her. They had her see this doctor that doesn’t believe her. He gave her medicine, because he doesn’t believe in ghosts–” the boy looked over his shoulder.
I lifted my gaze in anticipation.
“–she just lays there and doesn’t scream, but she cries. I hear her.”
A tall woman in a casual business suit breezed into the living room. I rifled through my head, searching for something to say. The girl came up behind the mother and hugged her hip.
“This is the guy I told you about,” the boy said. “He’s the man with the garbage truck. He can junk dad’s crap.”
“James!” the woman said.
“Well?” he said, “it’s now or never.”
“We could also haul your belongings to a warehouse of your choosing,” I said, as the business-side of me stirred.
“Oh, okay, I’ll take your card and speak to my husband. But wait here a minute,” she said, and stepped through the living room.
The boy’s eyes were big and glossy. “Come back tonight and I bet from the street you can hear my sister cry,” he said.
The woman returned and handed me a twenty for my troubles. I gave her a business card and said goodbye with hardly a glace to the boy and girl, though I could feel the weight of their disappointment.
Here are all the posts in this series: Episode Thirty-Four