4:52PM Monday, March 7, 1983
Kane unlocked the door to his studio apartment in Midtown. He’d known his landlord for two years, and the man’s monthly habit had increased to the point where Kane received the apartment in trade, and his name never appeared on a lease.
Kane locked his door, tossed his backpack on the couch, hung his jacket and hoodie on hooks next to the door, and brewed some coffee. He took a cup of coffee, a cutting board, and a box cutter to his desk. He slipped on latex gloves, shook one of the sheets loose in the baggie, touched it by the corners, and laid it on the cutting board. He ran the box cutter along the perforated lines until he had ten strips, and he sliced two of the strips into single hits. He put three strips and all of the single hits into an unmarked pill jar and put the pill jar and box cutter in the top drawer of his desk. He took off the rubber gloves and carried the baggie with the remaining sheets to the closet. He pulled a suitcase out of the closet, knelt down on the floor, and pulled up a loose board. Beneath the loose board in the back of the closet, he found a lockbox. He used a key on his key ring to unlock the lock box and placed the baggie of acid beneath a freezer bag of barely cut cocaine.
Someone knocked on Kane’s door.
Kane returned everything to the closet and closed the closet door. He walked to the front door and saw Seth Gromski through the peep hole. He opened the door and let Seth into his apartment.
Seth said, “I have been calling for hours. How did everything go?”
“It was fine. I was leaving campus when a woman died. I had to talk to the police about it.”
“Did you kill her?”
“I knew her. She was in my German class.”
“How did a German student die?”
“Natural causes, probably a heart attack. She’d smoked for fifty years.”
“What was a fifty-year smoker doing in German class?”
“Harriet had worked at the college as a janitor and retired a few years ago. She liked to learn. One of the perks of working at a state college is that you can take classes for free. She’d taken night classes after her kids were grown, and she was finally going to complete a degree in history. She wanted to go to Germany, so she was taking German.”
“How do you know all this?”
“We got to talking.”
A moment of silence passed. “Kane, I have never seen you get to talking.”
“She was a nice lady. Her husband passed last year, and she was trying to do some things, you know? She had kids. Life got away from her. She had plans for her retirement, but then her husband was diagnosed with cancer. She kept working at it, at life…I guess she let things go until it was too late.”
“Did you tell the police all of this?”
“I told them what they needed to know. I waited until they took away her body and told them what I knew about her family. Do we really need to talk about this?”
“I guess not. Are we going to test this batch?”
Kane opened the drawer to his desk and removed the pill bottle. “Should we start with three?”
“If it is worth the money, three should be all we need.”
Kane nodded, shook seven hits onto the cutting board and used the bottle’s lid to slide the extra hit back into the bottle. He lifted three hits into his mouth with his index finger, one at a time, and Seth did the same.
Kane returned the bottle to the drawer and carried the cutting board to the sink. He heard Seth step into the restroom, the only other room in the studio apartment. The couch folded into a bed, and each night Kane slid the coffee table to one side of the room. He had no television and no kitchen table. He either ate at his desk or on the couch.
Kane heard the toilet flush, and Seth stepped out of the restroom and turned to the set of shelves filled with books and several shoeboxes. Seth slid a shoebox toward his body, lifted the lid, and flipped through the row of cassette tapes.
Kane asked, “You want something to eat?”
“Do you have anything?”
“This week’s or last?”
“I don’t know.”
“I will pass.”
The phone rang, and Kane handed Seth a bottle of beer, walked to his desk, sipped his own beer, and picked up the receiver. “Hello…yeah…Seth and I are here. We’ll probably be here for a few hours…Sure. Stop by if you want.”
Kane hung up the phone.
“Cassidy is coming over?”
“I do not know what you see in her.”
Seth took a tape out of the shoe box, removed the cassette from its plastic case, and slid the cassette into the boom box on the shelves. He pushed rewind. “She is something.”
“You don’t like her.”
Seth shrugged. “Perhaps I do not know her that well.”
The cassette player clicked and stopped, and Seth pressed play, and they heard the fast-paced strumming that begins “The Song Remains the Same.” Seth sat on the couch, and Kane turned his desk chair to face the coffee table. Seth took a packet of cigarettes from the chest pocket of his plaid shirt, tossed a smoke to Kane, and lit his own. Kane moved an ashtray from his desk onto the coffee table and lit his cigarette. They sat for a moment in silence.
“Is the carpet breathing?”