Once More With Feeling By Charlie Coleman

Sometimes, when it’s quiet, which is most of the time around here, I can remember what my life was like before moving to Omaha. First things first, I’ve reformed. From what you’ll find out later. Cool your jets. Here, in the city that always sleeps, I’m a real estate agent.

Formerly, my career was in the city that never sleeps. There I was a real estate agent. Well, sort of a real estate agent. I thoroughly enjoyed my role there in the chain of commerce even if it was one that The Wall Street Journal didn’t foresee. I don’t have the appearance of your average predator; excuse me, real estate agent. I’m relatively short, approximately five foot four, with curly blond hair and dimples, which makes me a veritable grown up Shirley Temple. Unfortunately that’s where Shirley and I part company. It makes for a totally disarming appearance. People trust their eyes. They never guess that this little parcel of loveliness could be so lethal.

I remember my final benefactor. I call them benefactors for lack of a better term. After all they were quite generous to me even if it was in an unanticipated way. I recollect lighting a cigarette. Usually this activity elicited a response one way or another, more than likely, negative. This was one way to determine the vitality of whomever I met. The more they objected, the more alive they were. The more problems they might manifest. If they didn’t object they were probably in piss poor shape. Ironically, their lack of prudence increased their chances of a quick, graceful exit. Those who exercised could be so damn difficult. Curse those gyms. Those people took so long to depart, hanging on with so many more last breaths than I had time for. Didn’t those rude people ever hear of a New York minute?

Anyway, my last approached me and trusted his beautiful cobalt blue eyes. The kind most people and Huskies would love. Now he was about to be betrayed by them. He was thankfully right on schedule, just as planned. My plan, not his.

“Hey, young lady, don’t you think that it’s a little dangerous for you to be out here alone at this time of night? And, for that matter, what’s with that stick of poison dangling from your mouth?”

“Why I was thinking the same thing about you, young man. What’s a good looking young guy like you doing out all on his own? And for that matter, would you like a puff? You really don’t have any risk of dying from lung cancer.”

“Surely you’re kidding, missy.”

“I don’t think so and this will prove it.”

With that remark I ever so gracefully slashed his throat with an elegantly executed backhand swipe. Mr. beautiful blue eyes dropped like the Dow averages in 2008. The only difference was that there wasn’t any chance of his coming back up.

“See, I told you weren’t at risk for lung cancer. No one ever listens to me. It’s just so annoying.”

Let’s be clear, I didn’t kill for fun. I didn’t kill for food. I killed for real estate. Did you forget? I’m a real estate agent. Clients came to me to have me find them highly elusive rent stabilized apartments, just like the one I live in. Those Upper West Side gems that are still going for $750 a month while the open market rate for one of these beauts is a cool $5,000 plus. I’ve built up an ever growing client base by word of mouth referrals. Clients never ask me how I do what I do. They’re either too modest or decide it’s better not to know. In their case, ignorance truly is bliss. Good for them. Good for me. Today’s client is tomorrow’s benefactor. Like everyone else in NYC, I know that the best way to get dibs on a rent stabilized place is to check the obituaries. I just take it one step further by deciding who will appear in the obits. Therefore, I’ve always got a head start on the competition, nothing like an unfair advantage. But hey, it’s real estate, there really isn’t anything approaching fairness in its domain.

Logistically the most difficult part of my job is disposing of the body. I could have left him there which meant that someone or something would find him sooner or later. I could have placed him in the trunk of my car, I go to the gym too, and dumped him in the East River. That, however, was so old school. And, after all, I am ecologically minded. What the hell, the river has so much junk in it already. The dilemma that I faced though was how to keep the police clueless if and when the body was eventually discovered as they usually were. I needed a ruse, a red herring for the police pickled or otherwise. After some serious deliberation I decided to sever a couple of parts of his body and scatter them to and fro. The post office was complaining that no one ever used them anymore. Hey, I can fix that and help those letter carriers keep their jobs. All things considered this would make the eventual police investigation so much more interesting. After all, I just love keeping the police guessing. They were such good sports to play with even when they didn’t know who they were up against. They forced me to keep my game up. I couldn’t afford to put up a poor performance. One bad move equaled game over. The thing that kept the police baffled was my deftness in leaving them virtually clueless. No tattletale DNA strains lingering around begging to be discovered. No strands of hair left dangling tempting fate. No bodily fluids left with reproach inherent within their rivers. Nice, neat, efficient and deadly was my modus operandi. Professional, professional, professional, just like any good real estate agent.

That, however, raised another question.

Just whom would I share the satisfaction with?

I reflected on the delights of living in Manhattan. But then, I thought, I’m not like the former Mayor Mike Bloomberg. There’s no rich man’s city philosophy at work here. The people in the outer boroughs should share in this joyous event. I remember hearing the first 911 tape on the radio. I pictured my first recipient, Mrs. Weinstein. I’ll bet she was your typical nice old Jewish Bronx lady who relished receiving things in the mail. Probably one of those lovely little old ladies who mark their calendar noting the dates that anticipated catalogs would arrive at their doorstep. Therefore, when the unexpected small box arrived in the mail I’d guess that she was overcome with joyful anticipation. Her arthritic little fingers surely scurried along the gummed edges of the package until she found the edge. Prying it open she most certainly beamed like a small child on Christmas morning even if she was Jewish. That was until she reached in to the open package and pulled out a finger, not a lady finger, mind you, but a real finger.

“Hello. 911?”

“Yes, is this a fire, medical or police matter?”

“I received a finger in the mail.”

“Someone gave you the finger in the mail?”

“That’s somewhat right. Someone sent me a finger in the mail.”

“What is your address?”

“2710 Greystone Avenue.”

“I’ll connect you to the right precinct.”

“50th Precinct, Sergeant Saunders speaking.”

“Yes. Sergeant Saunders, this is Bessie Weinstein of 2710 Greystone Avenue. Someone sent me a finger in the mail.”

“What, someone gave you the finger in the mail?”

“No, they sent me a finger in the mail.”

“Do you know who sent you a finger in the mail?”

“Yes.”

“Santa Claus?”

“Santa Claus?”

“Yes, Santa Claus, except that Santa has a lower East Side address on Delancey Street. And I thought that everyone down there was Jewish.”

“I guess not.”

“What should I do with it, put it in the freezer until someone can come and get it or should I mail it to you.”

“No, don’t mail it to me or anyone else for that matter. I think it’s seen enough time in the postal system for now. We’ll send someone over to pick it up.”

“Do you think that they’ll want coffee and a bagel with a smear?”

“No, that’s OK, just give them the finger.”

“OK, I’ll stick it the freezer for now. I’ll be sure my son Arnold doesn’t mistake it for a hot dog when he stops by.”

“Yes, please, don’t give the finger to anyone until we get there.”

Then there was Susan Lacavone. I’ll bet she was your average single, Brooklyn girl who was waiting to give her heart to the right guy. When she pulled the package from her mailbox she must have wondered what was in it. Presumably she wasn’t expecting anything. She certainly wasn’t expecting to find that someone had given their heart to her.

There were a few others. I assume they were all surprised recipients of various body parts, internal organs etc. I was really busy. I felt like UPS at Christmas. But hey, it kept me occupied and, as they say, an idle mind is the Devil’s workshop. It was sort of like a hobby and everyone knows it’s good to have a hobby.

I thought that the mailings were good enough to send the police in the direction of a serial killer. I, obviously, didn’t have the cold, calculated demeanor of a serial killer. After all I was a NYC real estate agent, which means that I was much worse.

Now, here in Omaha, I find that I have a lot of time on my hands. Things could really pick up if Mr. Greiner would agree to sell that Victorian that he owns, but he’s so obstinate.

Hey, I’m wondering …

*

Charlie Coleman is a writer living in New York.

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