Excerpt #3 of 5
As I righted myself, I took a second to compose, the nerve endings in my lower half signaling their dismay and rebellion. I checked my watch. If I was gonna make my shift as the night watchman at Coral Bay Condominiums, I’d have to hustle. I’d hate to lose my new job. But then again, I didn’t have much respect for someone who’s never lost anything. My name is Ray Quinn. Eleven months ago, I lost everything.
While I used to wage war in the streets against felons and thugs, my largest battle now was staying awake for an entire shift. The height of last week’s drama at the condo was when Mrs. Ragland’s Yorkshire terrier left an unwanted deposit on the carpet in the lobby. In a short time, my world had disintegrated into this.
I navigated my way across Jackson Street to the glass double doors of Coral Bay Condos. The eight-story building was about twenty-five years old. The sign above the doors read Where Luxury and Comfort Meet.
I rapped my knuckles on the glass. The doors were locked from 8:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m., and my shift started at 9:00. The second shift guy, Hank Karpinski, was sitting in my chair at the front desk. Hank didn’t move. I doubted he could hear me. He was easily a hundred and thirty years old and the only person on the planet I might be able to take in a dead sprint. I rang the door chime. His gray head bobbed my way, and I waved. He squinted, then pressed the metallic buzzer to let me in.
I pushed through the door. “How are things going, Hank?”
“Crazy as usual, Ray.” Hank made his way around the counter. “Mrs. Campola is off her medication again. She’s been mean as a snake all day, calling down and hollering at me.”
“Busy, busy, busy.” The old man shuffled past me toward the door. “Watch Crevis tonight too. He’s already here and fired up as usual.”
“I figured.” I eased into the cushioned swivel chair at the front desk, then propped my cane on the table next to me. Hank had kept my seat warm.
Four security monitors hung on the wall behind me, covering different areas of the complex—the front door, the back, the underground parking garage, and the elevators. The front desk faced the lobby and the glass double doors.
Two maroon couches were in the lobby, so residents could sit and talk. At night, they were virtually unused, which was one of the reasons I volunteered to work the midnight shift. I could sit back in my little kingdom, alone, watching the world pass by. Like a wrecked voyeur of sorts, my life was more of a spectator sport now.
The job wasn’t too bad, though. I answered phones, buzzed folks in and out, watched the monitors, and called for help if we needed it (usually an ambulance, since many of the residents were elderly). The pay wasn’t great, although it did supplement my retirement benefits. A friend suggested I pursue a second job, if for no other reason than to get out of my apartment more. He might have been right.
Stretching out my right leg, I massaged it, hoping it wouldn’t cause me too much discomfort tonight. The walk and near rumble left me a bit sore. I needed to talk with management about letting me park on the premises. I thought parking a couple of lots away would give me some exercise, but now I wasn’t so sure. I pulled my Sudoku Masters book from my pocket, then flipped to my current puzzle. I loved a good puzzle. As a kid, I wore out a dozen Rubik’s Cubes.
“Ray!” Crevis Creighton rounded the corner from the first floor hallway and burst into the lobby. “I got a new knife at the flea market. Wanna see it?”
So much for being undisturbed. “No.”
He plopped his size-twelve hoof on the chair next to mine and drew a dagger from a sheath tied to his boot. Crevis’s face lit up as he held the blade in front of him.
Crevis was my nighttime co-worker who walked the property while I manned the desk. I couldn’t bring myself to say partner in the same sentence with Crevis; it violated all good standards of decency.
About my height, a good six foot, Crevis had a wiry build and was a little lighter than me (especially since I’d put on some pounds recently). With a bright red flattop haircut and long gangly arms, he resembled a spider monkey with a pencil eraser glued to its head—with all due respect to the little primates who might have a couple of IQ points on him. He was in his late teens or early twenties and had ruddy skin, pitted with acne scars like a wall spackling job gone awry.
End of Day 3 Excerpt - More coming in tomorrow's email!
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The Night Watchman
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