This is the seventeenth part of a fiction serial, in 792 words.
Sammy Lee came to see me to tell me he was going home to Hong Kong now he had finished his studies. His dad was using an agent to rent the flat, and had already been promised a reliable tenant. I was quite touched when he gave me a large jade Buddha, and thanked me for always being kind to him.
I spotted the new bloke on my balcony camera, ten days after Sammy left. He was struggling in during some heavy rain, with a huge suitcase in each hand. Burger Babs turned up to hold the door open for him, and from the way they interacted, I was certain they knew each other well. He was short and muscular, and despite the cold and rain, all he was wearing was a training vest and some lycra leggings.
I named him Gym Guy.
By that time, I had drawn a plot of the block on a huge sheet of cardboard. A square box represented each flat, and I put the names- well my names- of those who lived in them in each box. So that day, I crossed out Sammy Lee, and wrote in Gym Guy.
Nobody knew that I had retired, and was no longer a copper. Even Edna hadn’t seemed to make the connection that she never saw me coming and going at the regular times. And she was always lurking about outside, or just in the entrance lobby. My camera picked her up all the time, and I had never realised just how much time she spent nosing around outside. Asylum Seeker man didn’t seem to go out at all. I had no recording of him leaving or entering during a whole seven day period.
Then I noticed something significant when checking the daily recordings. The Loud Couple no longer seemed to be a couple. The woman could be seen going to and from the car park, but the younger bloke was nowhere to be seen. At first I thought it might just be that he was on a course or something, but whe he didn’t show for the whole month, I concluded he had gone. I had an idea to make notes of all this, and started to keep a word document on my laptop to write everything down.
My suspicions about Burger Babs and Gym Guy were also confirmed when I saw them coming in together, his arm around her. Then they stopped outside the main entrance, and had a big snog. Perhaps he also had relatives who were criminals. That would suit Babs nicely.
Theatrical’s dalliances came home to roost one night. I heard a commotion, followed not long after by the noise of police radios outside. I got out of bed and checked my door camera. I could see and hear him telling two bored-looking cops that he had come home from a club with a friend. Then that friend had beat him up, and stolen his cash and mobile phone. Trouble was, he didn’t know the bloke’s real name, and his description was not too good either, as he was drunk as a sack.
Of course, I could have told them that I would have it on my camera recordings, but I didn’t. Serve the Conehead right.
With Sammy gone, and me keeping out of Edna’s way, I started to think about what a bunch of arseholes lived in the block now. Elvira and Fat bald Bloke were definitely still together, and she had a new wig that wasn’t so high it almost touched the door frame. Despite bearing the obvious scars of her attack, he appeared to have forgiven her, and she must have escaped doing prison time too. Market Boy slipped in and out without ever saying a word to anyone, and I started to think about what he did in his flat all evening.
Bulgy Eyes came up and knocked on my door one night. I wondered what he wanted, but had no intention of answering. He must have thought I was in, as he knocked a few times before giving up. I noted that on my word document. Frizzy Haired Sexy Girl was out for longer each day. I reckoned she was doing extra shifts at the casino, or had found herself a sugar daddy. Most weekends, she hardly came home at all, so must have been staying somewhere. As for Teacher Lady and her lump of a husband, they calmed down once they got no hassle over using the space reserved for The Asylum Seekers.
I reserved a whole Sunday for going through hours of recordings, and cross-checking against my notes. By bedtime, I had reached a firm conclusion.
They were all a complete waste of space.