The Mystery of
Quercus Gardens Apartments
by Patricia Hilliard - Copyright June 2017
Chapter 4 – Out and About (2968 words)
By Tuesday, everything seemed right with the world. The furnace was working in their building. Bob was able to take his hot shower and was now on his way to work. Beth had been able to wash and style her mid-length brown hair. She felt ready to face the world. It’s the simple things that matter. Now, Beth stood on the sidewalk along Park Lane just beyond her own apartment doorway. She looked out over the area that was called Quercus Gardens Apartments. The buildings and lawns covered approximately six acres of land located in the center of town. She thought about the two-hundred and thirty-six apartments and wondered how long it would take her to put a flyer under each door. The buildings of Quercus Gardens had an architecture design that made each cluster of builds look like a quaint English country village. The girth of the trees told the truth about the age of the complex, assuming that most of the trees were planted after the structures were built, the place had to be about thirty years old. Beth walked up and looked at one of the bare oak trees. It was tall, sturdy and full of squirrels dashing up into the branches to hide in their leafy nest ball at the top. Adjusting the heavy box of flyers in her arms, Beth started walking down the sidewalk. It was a beautiful crisp cold sunny day. On the top of the box, Beth looked at the map she had drawn of the complex. Park Lane was the street that ran down through the middle. Buildings A, B, C, D, E filled one quadrant and Buildings F, G, H, I, J filled the other with a parking lot between. On the other side of Park Lane were buildings K, L, M, N, O in another quadrant with P, Q, R, S and T in the other quadrant with another parking lot between. In this part of the complex, it came to twenty buildings, with ten apartments each, equaling two hundred apartments. At the end of Park Lane was a narrow street called Prospect Court. At this intersection stood the Tower. It had six floors with six apartments per floor, which added thirty-six more apartments with letters U, V, W, X, Y, Z for each floor. The apartments were small studios or what some called small “efficiency” apartments, having a bathroom and a main room which functioned as kitchen, living room and bed room. Beth marveled at the total, two-hundred thirty-six apartments. On the east side of the Tower was Main Street, the shopping area of town. Beth had heard that at the top of the Tower was a deck from which those who lived in it could view the forest of Quercus Gardens Apartments below. The size of this complex was so daunting that Beth was still wondering what she had gotten herself into. Fortunately, at the meeting, they had agreed to have captains for each building. She hoped that soon, she could hand the flyers out to the captains and let them do the distribution. Having already distributed flyers to her own building, Beth now put flyers under the doors of building B and C. Finishing those she strolled onward.
She felt lucky to have such a sunny day to do this. With the strong cold winds of the past week, the oak trees were now holding on to only a few flaming red leaves that looked like flags unfurled for an upcoming battle.
Beth made a turn and headed up the sidewalk to Building D. An acorn fell and hit her on the head. It stung a little. Beth thought that in spite of her great beauty, Nature seemed to like to remind everyone that she could occasionally be mean-spirited. In fact, the sidewalks were little mine-fields of rolling acorns. Beth had to be careful not to step on them or she would slip and fall. What landscaper decided that oak trees were appropriate for residential design? She stepped up onto the first porch of Building D and tucked flyers under the doors. It didn’t take long before she was heading over to the other quadrant where Buildings F, G, H, I and J were. More acorns dropped on her head and she nearly took a fall at Building H. It was dangerous to attempt walking in the complex at this time of year. She crossed Park Ave and began distribution at Buildings J. “Hello, how are you?” Beth looked up from having just tucked a flyer under a door. The person greeting her looked vaguely familiar. “I was at the meeting. I filled out a form. I’m so glad to see you. You’re handing out the meeting announcement? My name’s Julie. Julie Huntington, I’m a friend of Alice’s.” “Yes,” Beth said. She handed a flyer to Julie. “I want you to see what my problem is. You won’t believe it. And I’ve been living with it for a year now. Come inside.” Beth really didn’t want to see the inside of anyone’s home. It seemed like an invasion of their privacy and she really didn’t need to know. It was the superintendent who needed to be seeing these things. But what could she do? She followed the tenant through the door, through the living room where a child was sitting on a sofa watching television. Beth politely smiled and said hello to the child. The mother led them to the bathroom. “Look at it.” Beth leaned in and saw a bath tub that had dropped down through the floor, only a small distance, but with the threat that it could drop further down. “Do you use it?” Beth asked. “We take showers. The drain works, but I’m afraid of what may happen. The Super has been here to look at it, but he has done nothing. My husband thinks there are termites underneath that have chewed away the beams.” “And you wrote about this on the form we sent to the landlord?” Beth could not imagine living with this risk. She would have been furious. Fortunately, since the apartment was on the first floor, the tub may have already settled on the ground. That may have been why it had not dropped completely out. Beth was really surprised. She never expected this kind of hazard in such a charming apartment complex. How could Perez have allowed this to continue when he knew it was so bad? The two women left the bathroom and stood in the living room to talk. “You know, I really like the location of this apartment. I really hope with our tenants group we can get the repairs made. I don’t want to move out. I want to see these buildings maintained. Is that too much to ask?” “I know how you feel,” Beth assured her, “I like it here too. My husband suspects that Perez isn’t given enough helpers and supplies to do the work that is needed. So he just looks and walks away.” “Well, this can’t go on like this.” “I know. We should be hearing from the landlord soon. I sent out the letter with the forms. Let’s see what happens. I guess we’ll see you at the next meeting?” “Sure thing.” Beth left the building and walked carefully over to the next quadrant where she could now distribute her flyers to Buildings K, L, M, N, O. Out of the corner of her eye she saw someone moving about in the garbage shed. It was the superintendent, Ramon Perez. Beth quickly dodged behind a shrub and waited. She really didn’t want him to know about the tenants’ actions. After all, he was only an employee of the landlord and would soon get his instructions from the main office. She peeked through the branches. He moved garbage cans about and pulled out garbage bags full of garbage. He was working alone.
For a minute Beth felt sorry for him. It was a stinky dirty job. She knew from her own garbage shed that the tenants did not always follow the instructions on the signs and put their recyclables and burnable trash in the right place. Besides that, strangers wandering through the complex would add their trash to the heap. Neighborhood cats, rats and raccoons would tear open the bags and pull chicken bones and pizza crusts out for their own consumption. Soon Perez was finished cleaning this shed. He moved on to the next one. Beth cautiously slipped her flyers under the doors of these apartments then moved on to Buildings P, Q, R, S and T in the last quadrant.
As Beth moved door to door, sometimes a tenant would come out, give her a nasty glare, but pass her by without saying a word. Sometimes one would stop and ask, “What are you doing?” Beth would hand over a flyer and explain. At Building R, one tenant watched from an upstairs window as Beth moved along. Beth stopped from time to time to gaze up at the tenant who stared down at her. Just as Beth was finishing up, the peeping tenant came down to confront her. “I see you are the one who’s doing that tenants group.” “Yes.” “You think you’re going to get away with this?” “Yes.” “You haven’t heard about Perez and his evil temper?” “I’ve heard the rumors,” Beth replied wondering what was going to come next. She really didn’t want another grand tour of a fallen bath tub. “You know he’s committed a murder, don’t you?” “I don’t know it for a fact,” Beth stated, looking straight into the tenant’s eyes. “You wouldn’t want to know it for sure, would you? Not with what you’re doing. You might be his next victim.” “Listen, if he had committed a murder, I honestly don’t think he would be working here. Besides, I’m here to get the problems fixed. Do you have a problem in your apartment?” “I wouldn’t tell anybody around here if I did. I get things fixed myself. I won’t let that murderer in my apartment.” Beth nodded, “I see. Who did he murder?” “Mrs. Mary Gilligan. He did it in a sneaky way, with poison. He didn’t like the flowers she planted.” “I really have my doubts about that,” Beth responded. The story was coming out the same. That consistency made Beth wonder, did they all know each other? But wait, this time poison was mentioned. “See for yourself,” said the tenant and she turned and headed back to her apartment. Beth was flabbergasted. How could people actually believe that someone could commit murder and get away with it? This was insane. Beth wondered what she could do to put this rumor to rest. Maybe she could do some research of obituaries and find Mrs. Mary Gilligan’s name. Beth could then write an article about it for the tenant newsletter. But then there were so many other issues to focus on. Why bother giving credibility to such nonsense? For now, Beth had to get her task done. She headed over to the Tower. After all the walking she had done this morning, she hoped that the Tower had an elevator. It was six stories high, consisting of floors U, V, W, X, Y and Z. She strolled down Park Ave to Prospect Court and entered the door. The one nice thing about distributing the flyer was that she now had a view of the entire complex. For the past two years of living here, she had never really looked the entire place over. Now she had laid eyes on almost every stretch of lawn, gone under most of the trees and strolled down most of the sidewalks. Inside the Tower, she saw a narrow winding stairwell and a small doorway to an elevator that could hold about four people at a time. She stepped in and hit Z which would take her to the top floor. The elevator door closed and she stood quietly with the last of the flyers in her hands as it slowly made its way to the top. She had just enough to drop one at each door of this building. The door opened and Beth stepped out. There was a short hallway with six doors, three on either side. These were the studio apartments. She had seen them listed in the newspapers over the years and had wondered what this building was all about. Having done this floor, she jumped back into the elevator and dropped down to the next floor. “We really need to get a captain for this building,” Beth whispered to herself as the elevator slowly lowered to the next floor. Having done that floor, she now moved down to Y, X, W and then down to V. Now she was back in the lobby again, on floor U which was the first floor. She came out of the elevator and began placing flyers under the last six doors. A man came from outside into the lobby. “Here, here young lady, what are you doing? This is my building and I won’t have you making a stir here. What is this about?” Beth had one last flyer in her hand. She gave it to him. “Many of the tenants here in Quercus Gardens need repairs made and the landlord seems not to care. We have sent notice to the landlord and are hoping to get other tenants involved so we can get more repairs made.” “Oh, you have problems? We don’t have problems here in this building. I call Perez, he’s a nice working guy. He gets the job done. But you know, he’s got too much work on his hands. I try to help him here in this building. I mop this floor and tidy up. See I put a little table under the mailboxes and a nice rug and chair here for people to sit. I sit here myself sometimes. I like to greet the tenants. That’s my apartment over there, U1. But come with me up top and see what we’ve done. By the way, my name is Salvador Giovani. I own the florist shop just two blocks up the street. I like it here, this little building, my place has just enough space for me. What do I need? But come up top and see what we’ve done. “I’m Beth Murphy.” They shook hands. Beth immediately liked Salvador. He seemed charming and confident. He smiled, very unlike Perez. Still, it was good to hear a tenant speak sympathetically of Perez. It was reassuring to Beth. They rode up in the small elevator, beyond floor Z. Salvador had a key that took the elevator up higher to the roof top. When the door opened they stepped out onto the roof. Beth suddenly felt afraid. Here she was on a roof top with a stranger, friendly though he was, could he be a partner with Perez? Would he push her over the edge then take the body to the basement for disposal? Beth shook her head. What crazy thoughts she was having. She looked around. There were walls around the edge of the rooftop over which she could see the taller buildings of the town. Beth walked over to look out. Below she saw the forest of Quercus Gardens. She located her own building. It was a great view. Against the walls, Beth saw many brown flower pots of various shapes full of soft black soil. It looked like a sleepy Garden of Eden awaiting spring planting. Salvador pointed to a table and chairs. They sat down together. Beth looked up at the blue sky and bright sun. Even on this chilly day, the sun had warmed the roof. She tried to imagine what this placed looked like in summer with flowers blooming from each pot. It must have been beautiful. “This is a wonderful idea having a roof top garden. Did you plant all this yourself?” “I did most of the work, but one other tenant joins me when she can.” “Perez lets you do this?” Beth asked. “I’m amazed.” “Certainly, like I told you, I help him keep the place clean.” “But you suffer from a major loss,” Beth added with a smirk. “What could that be?” Salvador asked. “You have no acorns or squirrels up here.” He smiled and Beth laughed. “Now, let me see this flyer you are handing out.” He pulled out a small pair of glasses and looked at the words that Beth had labored over. “Very good. Let me do what I can to help.” “Would you be willing to be a building captain? I would give you the flyers and you would get them out so that all the tenants here would know about the meetings. We’re having another one soon. See? It shows the date and place in the flyer.” “I see. Yes, I’ll be the building captain here. I do almost everything else. I love it here and it is so close to my florist shop.” “This is wonderful, Salvador.” “Call me Sal.” “Thanks, Sal, I hope to see you at the next meeting.” “I’ll be there!” Beth took the elevator down alone then exited the building. What an experience. She strolled down Park Avenue toward her apartment. The day had been full of accomplishment and discovery. She had just handed out all the flyers and she had discovered a garden in the sky. Now she knew more was possible.
Even though they were only renters, Quercus Gardens was home to them. They wanted it to look nice and be safe and comfortable. Together the tenants would make Quercus Gardens a great place to live.