Underneath It All (AtoZ Challenge)


Welcome to the A to Z Challenge : 26 Stories during the month of April

Welcome to… The Apartment Building: Swan Rise

(For Links to the previous stories, CLICK HERE


Head bashed in, stabbed, poisoned and suffocated: enough ways to kill many people, but someone wanted Doris Bertram really, really dead. She had lived in 5F, and it was the Elevator Incident that fired her up to run for President of the Tenants Committee against Patty. That was her first mistake; the last was that she actually won.

Doris came to live in Swan Rise during the second wave, when some of the original tenants moved out, or on. A widow at an early age, Doris never remarried, content to bring up her two brats children by herself and running her office department with a firm hand. She skirted around the Laundry Room Mafia by breaking bread and becoming friendly with Dorothy “Dotty” Bregano,  Capo de Tutti Lavanderia, the leader of the laundry room. She ingratiated herself with every super that came along by “over tipping” them for each and every job done in her apartment (and for always offering that super’s favorite beer or spirit while he “worked”).  She’d had many of the building children in her residence at one time or the other, play dates with her two as they fought and challenged their way to the top of their respective power chains. All of those parents had Doris in for drinks and parties.

Doris played the long game, and she played it well. She and Patty had an understanding: they stood outside of each others influences, never having any true altercations over the years. They would greet each other when passing, wish the other a day’s grace, but never once did they sit down for a chat, a tea, or anything resembling a friendship. For Doris, she was glad someone took charge of the building. The majority of the changes sought, while mainly benefiting Patty outright or her vanity, suited Doris as well.

Then, the elevator finally gave up the ghost and was down for over a month. Patty took complaints to the building management, but living on the second floor did not inconvenience her like it did Doris, who lived three more long floors up. Doris was fired up, stirring up anyone she met coming or going. It helped that Dotty passed along her passion to anyone  who came across the Capo’s path as well, and the laundry room became a twirling mass of revolt. It wasn’t easy bringing laundry up and down the stairs, and Patty’s nonchalance about it all was infuriating. She had hers picked up and delivered, never using, or really caring, about the convenience in the building.

What Doris discovered, and what sent her into a tail spin and on her kamikaze way, was what was actually holding up the elevator repairs: Patty had convinced the building management that while they were replacing the motor that burned out, they might as well “fix up” the interior box with a drop ceiling, piped in muzak, and faux paneling to add to the new control works. All bells and whistles that no one else cared about, but in Patty and the owners eyes (who saw higher rents), presentation was everything.

Doris fumed, and got most of the residents fuming, and soon she was running the tenants association. Patty was out, and Mrs. Beatty with her: Mrs. Beatty’s services were “no long needed”, Doris “politely” told her. In two weeks Doris made a huge stink and  got things moving, much to Patty’s chagrin. The elevator had a completion date posted, and she got the building owners to stick to it. She also was moving onto other areas that had been neglected: fire sprinklers and video security. All of the tenants were amazed at what was happening in such a short time. All but Patty, and Mrs. Beatty.

At the end of Dori’s second week reign, Patty took Mrs. Beatty to The Frolicking Lamb, an Irish pub a few avenues away. Mrs. Beatty would nurse a half pint of bitters through the evening while Patty ordered the first of many a pint of Black and Tan. The two of them commiserated over their ousting. Well, Patty pontificated rather loudly and rudely (witnesses heard her scream out “…bitch needs to die!” a few times, but they hadn’t interceded); Mrs. Beatty listened, nodded, and shed a few modest sighs.  Mrs. Beatty had to help Patty back to the building: she called a cab to take them to Swan Rise, and then she had to help lug Patty to her apartment, put her to bed, and then lock up.

This came out in the police investigation the next day, after Doris Bertram’s door was found open and Doris was found D.O.A. The open door led to a lot of property of the victim ransacked; things smashed and upturned, jewelry and assorted “good” things missing (as per her oldest daughter), and the window to the fire escape open wide, with the gate unlocked. A statue of Buddha was used to bash in Dori’s head, and one of Doris’s own knives was used to stab her. This was found in the butcher block knife holder in her newly refurbished kitchen, put back in its place. While it seemed that there was an intruder, after questioning the building residents, some in the building fell under suspicion.

Frank was a suspect, simply because of his being Frank. The Weather Man was looked at, but dismissed early on as being “addled but safe.” Andres and his wife were looked at, as well as a few others. The Laundry Room Mafia all had different opinions on who would have killed “poor, poor Doris”.  Dotty was the most distraught, and while she took refuge in Dry Vermouth and Gin, she cast her gaze upon Doris’s rival, and let the police know.

Patty had been a prime suspect, and her doings were scrutinized up and down and left and right. One key sticking point for a detective was Patty’s reading material in the home and from library circulation: murder mysteries and Real Life Crime Stories. Patty said she that was just the genres she enjoyed reading. Somehow a local reporter got a hold of that information. The headlines screamed “Suspect in Gruesome Murder A Serial Killer Follower!” and assorted other juicy titles in a similar vein.

In the end, nothing was conclusive on the residents looked at or the possible outside offenders who preyed on the neighborhood. The case remained open, and eventually became cold.

Patty was reinstated as the President, with Mrs. Beatty by her side. The first thing Patty pushed through were the surveillance cameras so “nothing like this can ever happen again!” she exclaimed. Mrs. Beatty nodded as she recorded the minutes and kept her head down.

After the meeting that night, Mrs. Beatty returned to The Frolicking Lamb and ordered a full pint of bitters. When it arrived, she lifted her glass, closed her eyes in prayer, and did not nurse her drink that time. She had another, which was very unlike her.

Years later, when the gas line exploded, the building was searched for clues to the cause, and later for structural damages to all the systems. An insurance agent would come across clothing that was buried in oil muck at the bottom of the elevator shaft: pants, blouse and woman’s shoes. The agent shrugged her shoulders and didn’t look strongly enough to find the blood splatter still somewhat discernible. Nor did she pay any mind to the embroidered handkerchief, as the initials VJB were obscured by old, soaked in dried blood.

14 responses »

  1. Oh dear…surely not Mrs Beatty! 🙂 Your building is quite a hive of activity! Of course, someone else might have had those initials…we don’t know the names of the Weatherman or the Whistler, and it could have been a man’s handkerchief.


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