The Mystery of
Quercus Gardens Apartments
                      by Patricia Hilliard - Copyright June 2017

Chapter 9 – A Psychic Speaks  (2215 words)

Beth decided to hand the petition project over to John Oldham and her husband Bob. They seemed to get a lot more signatures much faster than she could. That was one of the important things to keep in mind when organizing, always recognize people’s talents and give them control over that aspect of the organization’s activity. Beth knew that if she tried to do everything, the group would fall apart and she would become bitter and exhausted.  

Instead, she took on the distribution of the flyers. The idea of having building captains was not taking hold as quickly as she had hoped. She made sure that the flyers indicated the website of the Tall Trees Tenant Association. Tenants could then read more about what was happening. Judging from the response, an online network of tenants was forming. They were downloading the complaint form and sending it to the landlord. Even while this was happening, Beth got no hostile reaction came from Perez. This encouraged her. Maybe the landlord had told him to stay out of it. The Tall Trees Tenant Association may have gained a “secret” victory. Beth thought how funny it was that she and the landlord were communicating without really communicating directly to each other.
Today was a crisp windy day in December. Beth headed out to leaflet all the buildings making sure every apartment got a flyer. As she walked around to all the buildings, Beth saw in the tree-tops, there were large brown hawks peering down at her. The squirrel population was now cautiously moving over the bare leaf-less branches. Predators and prey. As Beth made her way around the apartments, she kept her eyes sharp, looking for Perez. She knew he would be making his rounds, packing up the garbage and putting it out for pickup. She didn’t want to give him a chance to say anything to her or see her putting out the flyers—just in case he really was a little unstable mentally. No sense pushing one’s luck.

Occasionally, she would meet a tenant who would ask her questions. From her pocket she would pull out a card with the web site address. She would then encourage the tenant to have a look and discuss issues at length online. Beth didn’t want to risk stopping to talk. She wanted to get the flyers out and be home again.  

With most of the two-story alphabet buildings done, she headed down Park Avenue toward the Tower where Salvador Giovani lived. She was wondering if he were busy in his flower shop today or would he be at home.

“Hello, Beth Murphy?”

Beth turned around.

“I’m Cassy. Do you remember me? I’m Rosie’s friend.”

“Oh, hello. Yes, I know Rosie. She has lots of little friends, Ginger, Sooty, Smokie, Snowball and…”

“Yes, yes, I love the little kitties. Rosie takes such good care of them. But I wanted to talk to you about something.”

This word “something” had become a warning sign to Beth. She had just about had it with all this nonsense about Mrs. Mary Gilligan.
“Did you know that Mary’s apartment is really close to here?”

“Yes, I believe Rosie told me that.”

“Did you know it’s for rent now?” Cassy asked. 
Beth was irked to be delayed by Cassy. She wanted to move on. As she looked at Cassy’s face, she noticed that Cassy kept looking over her shoulder, as if she were keeping an eye on something. 

“The door to the apartment is unlocked. I’d love to go in there,” Cassy said, looking at Beth beseechingly.

“The apt is available?” Beth asked.

“Yes. She lived next door to me. Right there in Apt #3 Building L.”

Beth looked toward the apartment then thought: Danger zone: “L” is for lunatic. Beth didn’t want to have negative thoughts about tenants, but something was making them all crazy. The murder had scared everyone. Perez was still hanging around the premises. The issue was never going to go away, especially if Cassy kept spreading the word. Beth wondered why Cassy would do such a thing. What basis did she have for believing it? This mystery needed to be solved. Beth knew she would have to be the one to settle it.
Cassy tapped Beth on the arm, “Come on let’s have a look. The door is open. The Super and his crew are out to lunch. I think when they come back, they’re going to start painting the apartment,” Cassy said. 

Beth followed her, thinking if the door was open, they could just have a quick look.

As they approached the porch, Cassy asked, “Why are you doing all this stuff for the tenants? You’re making trouble for the landlord. He’s not going to like it. He’ll send Perez to take care of you.” Cassy ran her finger across her neck to indicate a knife at the throat.

“Well, I’m trying to get things fixed in this place. We’ve made some progress,” Beth responded. She wondered if Cassy was just another doubtful tenant who felt so defeated that she now worked to stop progress from happening. Why else would Cassy try to discourage Beth?

Cassy turned to Beth and stated, “I’m a psychic. I can sense spirits. They talk to me. Besides, I make a little extra money connecting with the spirit world. I’m on disability pension right now. I have a salon in my living room. People come to visit me.”

Beth gave Cassy a doubtful look. But Cassy’s attire was a guarantee that she communicated with the world of spirits. Her hair was tinted magenta. She wore big gold earrings like a gypsy. She was dressed in a kaftan printed in swirls of purple and gold. Purple beaded bracelets dangle from each arm. She looked truly magical. 
“You knew Mary?” Beth asked. Hadn’t Cassy said earlier that someone told her about Mary?

“I was friends with Mary Gilligan. She loved to plant and grow flowers. She tried to plant them along the fence over there, see?” Cassy pointed.

Beth saw a line of what looked like raggedy weeds along the fence. Their dead brown leaves and broken seed pods spoke of a season of sun and the glory of pollination. The garden had tried to grow even though its gardener was gone. 

“Ramon Perez used to mow them down. He said tenants don’t have a right to the land, just to their apartments. To tell the truth, he tried to control everything tenants did in the apartment as well.”

Beth looked over at the garden again and wondered why Perez had not mowed it this past summer. Maybe it was just part of his usual negligence. 
They approached the door. Beth pushed on it. Sure enough the door was unlocked and swung open. Beth turned to look at Cassy. There was no surprise on her face. She knew it was open. She stepped through the door.  

Inside, Beth saw cans of white paint, a bucket full of paint brushes and some putty and scrapping tools. 

“I’m an herbologist and a holistic healer too,” Cassy said. “I told Mary she should plant Garlic, Parsley, and Comfrey. She planted a few and let me harvest them. I sold them to my clients. Fresh healing herbs.”
Beth stepped further into the apartment. 

The sun was shining through the living room window. Beth could see Mary’s flowerbed outside along the fence. That would be a nice feature for someone who loved gardening. A garden you could keep watch over from your home.  

Inside the apartment the layout was standard for this complex. White walls, a bit smudged and in need of paint, clean wood floors—a little scuffed. A white closet door. Two doorways which Beth knew would lead to the bed room, on one side, and the dining room on the other, just like her own apartment. There was nothing unusual, no dark stains on the floor from a bloody stabbing. The apartment seemed quite sterile. 

“I can feel her presence,” Cassy declared. She was holding her arms in the air. Her head was tilted back as she gazed into the cosmos. Her magenta tresses swung as she began swinging her arms. “Speak to me,” Cassy whispered. “Oh my God, I can feel the spirits moving. Yes, she was murdered.” Cassy began walking around now with her arms straight out in front of her as if trying to divine just where the body had fallen.
“Right here. Here in the dining room,” Cassy cried. Tears came to her eyes.

Beth stood and watched without much concern. Mysticism didn’t frighten her, though she did like mysterious scientific discoveries about strange life forms inside caves or deep in the ocean. A little realism made them even scarier.

Cassy looked at Beth through the tears in her eyes. “You must believe me. Mary wants your help. Can you help her? She was my friend. Her soul speaks to me. You must believe and help.”

Beth put her hand on Cassy’s shoulder, “Sure, don’t worry, I’ll do whatever I can.”

As Cassy sobbed, Beth steered them out of the dining room.
“We better get out of here,” Beth said. “Technically, we’re trespassing and I don’t want to be caught by Perez.”  

They went out the door and closed it securely behind them. 

Back on the porch again, Beth looked around for any sign of Perez or his painting crew. A neighbor across the lawn came out a door and walked toward the parking lot.

“Come over to my place” Cassy said to Beth.

“I still have to get some flyers out to the Tower,” Beth said.

“It will only take a minute,” Cassy promised.

They entered Cassy’s apartment. Again, the floor plan was about the same but this time, the living room was decorated as a séance salon with long curtains over the windows, making the room dark. Pillows were all over the floor. Cassy pulled back the curtains and invited Beth in. “Sit here. I’ll read your fortune and tell you of your future.”

Beth laughed. “Sure, make it a bright and happy one.”

Cassy took Beth’s hand and looked at the lines in her palm. The dim light from the small lamp on the table in the middle of the room gave little clarification.
“I see you have had a good life. Happy marriage. Good income. But some problems in your life.”

“Well, yes, I’ve been trying to find a job, but can’t seem to find one.”

Cassy ran her finger up and down the line in the center of Beth’s palm. “I can see it here. You are in danger. You need to do something to redeem yourself. Then you will get protection from the gods.”

“Redeem myself?” 

“Let me call the ghost of Mrs. Mary Gilligan into the room and let us hear what she has to say.”

“That will redeem me?” Beth asked.

“Yes,” whispered Cassy. “Mary, can you hear me?”

Beth fidgeted in her seat. She really wanted to get the other flyers over to the Tower. Salvador may be waiting for her. 

Bang! An explosion of fire and smoke shot from the corner of the room.  
Beth screamed. “No, I’m out of here.” She grabbed the box with the remaining flyers and ran to the door. It was locked.

“Cassy, let me out of here. Now!”

“We must not disturb the process, the séance has begun. Mary wants to speak to you.”

“Tell her to call back later. I’ve got work to do,” Beth replied. She was about to punch Cassy in the mouth, but instead looked at the dead bolt lock. It looked the same as the one in her own apartment. She grabbed it and gave it a turn. The lock slid back and the door opened.

Beth ran out to the sidewalk, her heart was pounding. 
Cassy did not follow. Instead a strong wind rushed through the trees making a roaring sound. Another winter storm was coming in. Beth needed to get the flyers over to the Tower. She scampered down the sidewalk like one of those silly squirrels. A large hawk flew overhead. Predator, watch out! If only she could get to the Tower. Inside she could rest in that chair that Salvador had put in the alcove. There, she could catch her breath.

Finally, she pushed through the front doors. Inside she paused. Was this a ghost sitting before her? Salvador was sitting there reading his newspaper.
“Suddenly you appear,” he said. “And you have the flyers for me? I’ll make sure every tenant gets a copy. I will go to each door and have a discussion with them. Don’t you worry. I’ll take it from here.” 

Beth took a deep breath. “Thanks Salvador. I really appreciate it.”  She handed him the remaining flyers. “I’ll see you later.”

They waved good-bye to each other through the glass doors. Beth was so glad to be going home. She had finished her task and it was now time to prepare dinner. She arrived at her door, unlocked it and went in. She hung her coat in the closet and went to the kitchen.

The room was cold. Outside she saw snow coming down in tiny flakes. There was no heat in her building again.