Condo Chronicles: The Fellowship of the Ring

“What about Ana?” I asked out loud. “I thought that you were going to train her.”

“Eh, I’ll get to her later. She’s got to do some more conditioning, anyway.” Octavio turned to Ana. “Run on the treadmill at 9 miles per hour for about 30 minutes. That should get you warmed up.”

Ana nodded. “Okay.” She winked at me. “See ya later, Pete.”

I couldn’t help but glance at his older cousin’s posterior curves as she walked away, and even though it lasted no longer than a moment, Octavio caught my ephemeral indiscretion towards her feminine assets. With a bemused expression that included one raised eyebrow, Octavio stared and grinned at me in expectancy.

I gave him a slight shrug and a cha-grin (i.e., a grin of chagrin). “Hey, look, I may be old…but I’m not dead.”

Octavio chuckled. “Esso! Look at the balls on this old man. I love it!” He clapped his hands. “Okay, let’s get suited up and get started!”

Opening my bag, I pulled out the necessary equipment: handwraps, mouthpiece, helmet, gloves, and shoes. Man…the greatest pain in the ass about boxing is carrying all this shit. And let’s be honest…I don’t really need to wear this helmet. Once I start to sweat, it’s just enough lubrication for this thing to start spinning on my head. Which wouldn’t be so bad if it had eye holes spanning all 360 degrees…unfortunately, I’m not Zatoichi. After donning all of the requisite gear, I was just about to insert my mouthpiece when I paused to pose one more question to Octavio.

“Hey,” I stated simply, getting Octavio’s attention. “Seriously, though…what do you know about this thing with the cop and the guy in the red jumpsuit?”

Octavio’s face once again transformed into another pensive mask. “I…it…it’ll sound silly once you hear it. But I promise that I’ll tell you about it after I’m finished knocking the crap out of you.” He paused long enough to give me one of his cocky smiles. “Deal?”

I nodded. “Okay. That’s fair.”

Octavio paused once more before inserting his own mouthpiece. “And remember…stop telegraphing those powershots, especially your jump hook. I can see that shit from a million miles away. If another opponent can figure that out, then that’s Bad News Bears for you.”

I shrugged. “Easier said than done…but I’ll do what I can.”

Alas, per usual, what I could do wasn’t enough. Keeping with the amateur standard of three three-minute rounds (and since my middle-aged heart threatened to burst at the hint of any more), our pugilistic dance once again proved that my young comrade had all of the power and speed of a panther while I performed comparably to a drunken sloth. (Or, as I liked to tell him when we would run together outside, with his shirtless torso attracting every woman’s attention: You be poppin’, I be floppin’.) In my favor, I did land a few punches towards the beginning, but more often than not, they missed. During the second round, when I attempted to surreptitiously throw my infamous jump hook, I found myself striking nothing but air, and without being able to explain it, I knew immediately that he was behind me. Damn kid is too quick! I turned around and was fed an overhand right that I blocked somewhat…but it was still enough to make me see stars. Even though I basically hobbled over the finish line, I did make it to the end of the third round with a few tatters of my dignity still intact. Just like always.

“Hey, you did better that last time,” complimented Octavio, as we stepped out of the ring and took off our equipment. “Though you did telegraph that jump hook yet again…”

“No shit…we should level the playing field by attaching weights to your legs. So, now that I’ve been properly humiliated, can you tell me your story?”

Octavio nodded, turning his head to yell over his shoulder. “We’re going outside for a break, Ana! Keep it up! I’ll be back in a few!”

Leaving our equipment in small piles next to the ring, Octavio grabbed a small joint from his duffel bag, and per our ritual, we walked outside and proceeded to the very lip of the cliff. A perfectly serene setting for getting a little high. Unlike most kids of his age, it was a compliment to Octavio that he had learned the necessity of not packing a joint too tightly. Within a few seconds, we were enjoying a nice strain of sativa that had quickly become a favorite of mine.

After a few quiet rounds of puffing and passing, I asked again. “So…what’s the story?”

Leaning against the fence that was his sole protection from death that awaited far below, Octavio exhaled a small nimbus of chemical delight before calmly speaking. “So…this is gonna sound silly…but here it goes. So, you know that lots of Hispanics are superstitious, right?” I shook my head. “Well, they are…my grandmother included. She used to make me wear red shit as a little boy because of mal de ojo and shit like that…Anyway, when she used to come over and tuck us in at night, she would always tell me to be good, or else the diablitos would come and get me. She said that they had come for my aunt, who had actually died from bad kidneys…and they’d get me too, if I didn’t act right.” He paused, again with that same pensive look as before. “And for a little while, I believed it…and for an even longer time afterwards, I thought that it was bullshit. My aunt died when I was just a few years old, and I can’t really remember shit about it…but, lately, I’ve been having these dreams…I see these guys hovering over her, and they’re all wearing red.” He paused again. “It’s weird, too…because I’m not the only kid who has dreams about these red dudes.”

I took the joint from him. “Woah,” I said, as I took a drag. “I wonder if your red dudes are related to my red dudes! Man, this town has got it all…illegals, demons, ghosts…”

Octavio turned his head slowly to me, furrowing his brow. “Ghosts?”

“I’ll tell you about that some other time. In the meantime, can you do me a favor? If it’s not asking for a lot, can you dig into this diablitos thing a little more? It’s gotten me curious.”

“Yeah…me, too.” Octavio nodded. “I’ll ask around, old man.”

“Thanks, kid.” I pointed in the direction of the skyline, where the clear sky was being chased away from an encroaching storm. “We better wrap this up. You should get to training now with Ana if you don’t want to run home in the rain later.” I gave a slight chuckle from the tickling THC that now ran with my blood. “You know, it’s funny…I remember being a kid in my house, watching an approaching thunderstorm and taunting it from my window, even as the rain began to fall. You can’t get to me, I’d say to it. I’m nice and warm. Keep trying, buddy! Now, though, when the clouds get dark, all I do is worry about the leaks that are inevitably going to happen…and how I’m powerless to stop it. Just like everything else.” I somberly stared into the distance. “It’s funny how your perspective on everything changes as you get older.”

Octavio’s eyes narrowed as he tilted his head at me in scrutiny. He shook his head in an almost paternal way. “Wow…you are really fuckin’ high right now.”

Though my ability to focus was quickly departing the premises, I had just enough for one last salvo at my irreverent young friend. “You…you…shut up.”

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.

Condo Chronicles: Stirring Up the Dirt

Seeking some clue to the subject at hand, I turned to Ana with an inquisitive expression, but she only acted the part of a mirror and returned to me the same look of bewilderment, with only a slight shrug as an interesting variation.

I swiveled my head back to the brawling braggadocio who had instigated this confusion. “Okay, I give up. Tell me what?”

Octavio leaned closer to me and spoke in a slight whisper. “Some of the people in this town…” He paused, panning his head in order to ensure that no other eavesdroppers were present. “Some of the people in this town…are not here legally.”

Ana tossed her head back and laughed out loud. “Ha! Oh, and I got a secret, too…that Dominican bitch who’s talkin’ shit about me will fuck you for food stamps. But I can’t promise that yo’ dick won’t fall off.”

“Okay, okay,” I said in capitulation, as they continued to chuckle at their own juvenile jokes. “Never mind I said anything.”

On top of a large black mat adjacent to the small boxing ring, we pulled out our respective sets of jump rope and proceeded to break into a sweat through small bouts of competition, attempting to best each other’s number of consecutive double-unders. Initially, I proved to be a modest contender. In those moments of mid-air suspension, there is a certain superlative feeling of satisfaction and power as dangerous tentacles tenaciously encircle your body, unable to penetrate a force field exuded by one’s confidence of skill. However, as with gravity, all things must come down, and my competitive clip landed as did my feet. Even with a handicap given for my advanced number of years, I still failed to come even close to their higher scores, and eventually, I underscored my loss with accidental lashes on my back and legs that were incurred from the rapid ropes. If you’ve never had the pleasure of experimenting with masochism and if you’ve ever been slightly curious about the historical experience of being flogged, feel free to pick up a jump rope and whirl it about your body at accelerated speeds. Eventually, physics and poor reactions will create an ideal situation, where pain can be achieved at threshold levels and body modifications (like permanent welts) come free. (Such modifications might not be as decorative as Tā moko, but they’ll make up in street cred what they lose in beauty.)

Remaining consistent, I stepped once again onto my swinging weapon of nylon and redirected its course into the small of my back. “Jesus Christ! Motherfucker! Not again!”

“You gotta pick up your feet, old man,” Octavio advised, just before he started running in place while performing a rapid series of criss-crosses. He was breathing only slightly heavier than he did when simply standing still. Is it wrong of me to suddenly wish for him to slip and to break his punk neck right about now?

“Well, thank you for that wonderful piece of wisdom, Octavio,” I replied with a seething smile and sweated brow. “I’ll be sure to write that shit down. The problem is that these outdated parts don’t respond to commands like they used to.”

Ana completed her own series of criss-crosses as she flashed me a coquettish look with the shining black opals that were supposedly her eyes. “Does that apply to everything?” Ana asked, in the midst of weaving her own pattern with the ropes.

“Nope. It’s mainly the feet and hands…but everything else works just fine.” Taking the moment to catch my breath, I smiled confidently back at her. “Thanks for asking. I’ll give it to the both of you, though…you are my betters.” Conceding my defeat, I dropped my rope and sat on the floor to do a few stretches, and as they finished their respective sets, they tossed their ropes to the side and started their own stretches while standing.

“Sooooo,” Octavio mused, in the midst of trunk twists, “About that question from earlier. Why’d you ask? Is all the melanin in Little Peru starting to freak you out?”

“Eh, I see things, I hear things,” I said while circling with my arms. “I’m not quite sure what to make of them…For example, I saw a cop and another dude going into the basement of my building. The dude was carrying a bag…”

Ana was also circling her arms. “A bag? What was in it?”

“I don’t know…but it was a big one. But when the dude in the red jumpsuit came out with the cop, the bag was empty.”

It was only momentary…but when I mentioned the phrase red jumpsuit, I noticed that Octavio slowed the momentum of his trunk twist. In fact, he stopped momentarily with the pensive look of one who is attempting to recover something discarded long ago, as if it might be lost in one’s attic. It’s a falsehood that memories are faded; they only appear ghostly since they are ensconced in iridescent cobwebs. And from all appearances, there were silken strands being pushed aside in my young friend’s mind.

I raised my voice in order to break Octavio’s trance. “Hey, you heard what I said?”

Crashing back into reality, his usual effervescent self took over once again. “Huh…what? Me? Yeah…I’m…Yeah, I’m doing great. Hey, we’re just getting older by standing around…well, maybe not you. You can’t get any older!“ Octavio laughed. “Come on, old man. Let’s skip the drills. Put on your helmet and get in the ring!”

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.

Condo Chronicles: Hanselez and Gretelerra

With squinting eyes that hinted malice, the ostentatious young man cocked his head to one side. “Are you actually challenging me, old man?”

“Absolutely, amigo,” I chimed. “I want my rematch. Now put on those gloves and get in that ring, and let me show you how a real man fights.”

Standing next to the disrespectful aggressor and wearing a Sons of Anarchy shirt, the athletic girl with black hair and eyes cooed at my assertion and smirked towards her male companion. “Oooo…he’s talkin’ shit at you, Octavio.”

Looking to her and then back at me, Octavio flashed a devilish grin in my direction. “Look at this cocky old motherfucker, Ana. He’s too old and stupid to know when to quit. Why do we even put up with this guy?”

I reached out my hand, and laughing, Octavio hooked my thumb with his and shook my hand vigorously. “I love you too, Octavio,” I joked with a chuckle.

After only living in Little Peru for a few months, Rhonda had discovered the firehouse on one of her excursions. She had a particular knack for exploration that made me give more credence to reincarnation, in that she must have been David Livingstone in another lifetime. On this particular sortie to attack her ignorance of our immediate area, she had discovered the gym while talking to the hunky firemen (which seems to be a perpetual aphrodisiac for heterosexual women), and she had reported such news back to me. (Consequently, she had likely disappointed the firemen, who had hoped that her sweaty ass would make an appearance instead of mine.) So, not knowing what to expect, I had arrived at the gym one weekend in late spring and found a gym entirely to myself…except for one young man who was hitting a heavy bag in the corner, next to a small boxing ring.

Without being prompted and with the optimistic confidence that bridles the gallivanting trot of youth, the tanned rapscallion who sported a small mohawk walked over to me and introduced himself as Octavio Salgado. After only conversing for a few minutes, I learned that he was still in high school and that he was stuck between two options for his life: being a drummer for a punk band and being a MMA fighter. As I came to know him more in the coming weeks, I learned that these weren’t simply childish notions of fancy. He had actually formed a modestly successful punk band that had opened for popular local acts, and he had won two teenage tournaments for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. (I would have addressed him as the modern-day Lloyd Dobler, but as I’ve learned with the quickening advance of time, your humorous analogies become less funny and only more anachronistic with each passing year.) Eager to display his skills, he introduced me to various martial arts, and having a natural propensity for teaching (since he also trained his cousin Ana in the ways of BJJ), it became a weekly ritual for all three of us to rendezvous at this gym, where he would train his cousin in grappling and where he would train me in striking (i.e., boxing).

With an endurance that seemed limitless, I came to appreciate his punishing training and sparring that had left me in a physical condition only matched perhaps by my teenage years. On top of being physically fit, he had a certain wit about him, and weal or woe, he seemed to face each moment with a certain amount of zealous determination. He was unapologetic and tenacious, and unwavering in the slightest, he expected the same from you. Much like the other kids of Little Peru who I had met and come to admire (and unlike my encounters with wealthy spoiled children found along the riverbanks), such dreamers were determined to make something of themselves with their own bare hands, despite the impoverished predicament beset by their parents. He had the stance of a young man determined to protect a spark that the world seemed bent on huffing out in one dreadful breath. He loved listening to 80s hair bands and metal music, and he could care less what his peers thought of his tastes. It’d be safe to say that I liked him immediately from the very start, and when around him, I couldn’t resist that particular avuncular compulsion to strangle anything or anyone who would threaten such pristine hope (or, perhaps in some subconscious way, a memory of my younger self).

“So, old man,” Octavio began, “Did you just want to do some conditioning and some weights? Or did you want to do more drills so that we can get to some sparring?”

I considered my options for a few moments. “What about you and Ana? I thought that she had a match next week that you were helping to train her for?”

Ana made a pfff sound while rolling her eyes. “We already trained, but it’s not necessary. Since when does a Dominican bitch outmatch a Cuban one?”

“I can’t argue with that one,” Octavio agreed, obviously also proud of his Cuban heritage. “I’ve heard her talk smack about Ana. If only her mouth matched her hands. She’d probably win if there was some free food involved. Stupido negro.” He gave a quick wink. “Hey, you’re from the South. You know what I mean.”

As I had come to learn in my travels, there’s always the need for class systems, so that one group could look down on another. Little Peru was no exception. After talking to more than a few people around town, I had become aware that the general consensus placed Cubans close to the top (giving themselves the surname Jews of the Carribbean) while Dominicans were placed somewhere close to the bottom. (In somewhat of a departure from the rest of their families, Octavio and Ana also seemed to more strongly identify themselves as white.) It wasn’t the correct stance to take…but if different races adopted different cultures as their modus operandi, perhaps it was the intermediary step to an eventual post-racial world. Baby steps are better than nothing. More importantly, though, they were young. I couldn’t hold such ignorant opinions against such children, for I could remember a time when I had made such poor decisions. They were smart enough to eventually figure such things out, through the same mental stumbling that we all must endure in order to assess the general truth of things. Eventually, they would learn.

“Woah, woah, woah,” I emphasized, using my hands to mimic the application of a brake. “Don’t look at me that way. Not everyone south of the Mason-Dixon line is a racist pig like you two degenerate bastards.” I motioned my head towards the boxing ring. “How about we warm up and get to some sparring?”

Octavio clapped his hands excitedly. “Your funeral, old man! Let’s have some fun!”

As they walked in tandem with me towards the boxing ring, I spoke to both of them in confidence. “Hey…can I ask you guys something?” They both voiced their consent. “You guys grew up here, and you’d know better than anyone. So…is there anything about Little Peru that’s a little off? Any dark secrets that somebody like me wouldn’t know about it?”

Octavio looked past me and at Ana inquiringly before answering. “What do you think? Should we tell him?”

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.

Condo Chronicles: From Such Great Heights

The Palisades, to be sure, are the amalgamation of all things odd and strange. Take the geological formation itself as an example. Formed approximately 200 millions years ago, they create a wide plateau and a set of sandstone cliffs that rise hundreds of feet above the Hudson River, providing the casual hiker with a dizzying vista of Manhattan, the Bronx, and Yonkers. Though there is a narrow strip of land that runs at the bottom of the eastern side (with the widest patch being the town of Hoboken), most of the Hudson’s west bank is dominated by the cliffs for dozens of miles up the river. Such a great disparity in sea level between two sides of a river is an unusual setting created by Mother Nature, and such eccentricities seem to permeate this raised ground and infect those who tread upon them, especially when you focus on its section along the Hudson Waterfront. In the way that wines are enriched by a certain terroir, creatures both human and beast seem at times to be influenced by some sort of arcane power fused into the rock beneath their feet, and cyclically, the Palisades feed on these similar passions. On the towering crests of Weehawken, the spirits de terroir were stimulated with Alexander Hamilton’s drawn blood, when Aaron Burr mortally wounded his longtime foe. During the earlier part of the 20th century, wealthy recluses spent fortunes in order to build breathtaking palatial estates of wood and stone on these precipices that offer a chance at terminal velocity. After only a few decades, though, their owners strangely abandoned them, leaving behind decaying husks that are now remnants of broken aspirations and who angrily choke invading winds flowing unimpeded through their al fresco bedrooms. Such a place seems to feast on both blood and dreams. However, though I can recall a few such incidents from my feeble mind, my knowledge of this place’s history isn’t all that encompassing. Being only moderately acquainted with the longer version of its past, I can better testify to the bizarre nature of these cliffs in the here and now, and among the Hudson Waterfront, no place imbues more of this odd streak than Little Peru.

Take a walk through Little Peru along the ground that skirts the edge, and you’ll see poignant examples of my suppositions. From such great heights, observe the affluent towns below along the Hudson River, and if you look across directly, you’ll come face-to-face with the mid-section of every famous skyscraper. On a clear day, you’ll embrace an all-encompassing perspective that stretches from the George Washington Bridge to the Statue of Liberty, showcasing the various monuments dedicated to Othmar Ammann. With such unparalleled views in an ever hungry real estate market, you would expect every spare inch of this rim to be occupied by homes…but Little Peru would have you fooled. Instead of a slew of mansions or luxury condominiums (which would be expected in any of the waterfront towns underneath), you will instead find more than a few condemned homes, dirt lots, abandoned factories, and half-completed structures, standing as eternal sentinels that silently keep a vigil over the domain beneath them. Much like the Night’s Watch of George R. R. Martin, they seem to have pledged their lives to shield the brink, from this night to all the nights to come. It’s a view that’s further bolstered by the fact that the local inhabitants steer clear of these guardians, leaving them unbent and unbroken. However, the fantastical comparison does not simply end there.

After all, one needs a menagerie in order to create a mythology, and again, the Palisades do not disappoint. In the narrow nook at the cliff’s base and along its wooded sides that aren’t as steep, you’ll find a bizarre variety of life that claims this harsh turf as their own. Unable to make homes in the paved roads of Little Peru, many of the aforementioned feral colonies (specifically those of a feline nature) constitute their dens in the soft dirt; skunks, raccoons, and badgers also have their mail delivered here. These beasts, though, are not alone. Using curbside garbage harvested from the streets above and below, tribes of destitute and homeless have constructed vertical hamlets of makeshift homes, with beds that carry an elevated amount of danger if you happen to fall out of them. Located usually under the protective cover of trees, these tiny settlements are usually hidden from the prying eyes of the outside world. Little does the bourgeois family of a Hoboken condo know that such a small enclave of hardship and maybe chagrin resides only a few feet away from their cozy, modern abode. Of course, there are also the rumors of supernatural inhabitants as well; under the cliffs of Edgewater, they supposedly take the form of angry Lenape tribesmen from centuries ago. Whether or not they also make a habit of stealing untethered lawn chairs and municipal traffic cones, I couldn’t tell you.

As I walked along a street and its accompanying fence that formed the rampart for this particular part of the Palisades, I speculated and wondered about that alternate dimension resting just out of reach over the side. Maybe its hobo characters were unexpectedly dynamic and intellectual; maybe even Wes Anderson (whom I would entrust with creating my version of heaven) might just find a few muses from such an unique cast. Though likely not…it’s hard to be inspired by someone who probably shits in a bucket. Nodding at my own wisdom, I only took a few more steps past the fence with its various taped flyers that read se renta un quarto before I had reached my final destination: the new firehouse. Completed only a few months ago and situated at one of the highest points along Little Peru’s cliffs, it possessed a serene setting envied by even falcons and contained excellent equipment for the resident firefighters, including a state-of-the-art gym. Unfortunately for the firefighters, though, some local politicians had caught wind of such plans, and they had argued against state funds to create lavish privileges for only a few. (I found a politician taking such a position as a bit ironic, but maybe that’s just me.) In the end, a compromise was reached, and the firehouse’s gym had to become accessible to the public at large. Since the firehouse was only a few blocks away from my home (and since the exercise craze hadn’t exactly made it into Central American culture), it left me with a gym mostly to myself. After walking past the large open garage and along the side of the building, I finally reached the large gym in the back that sat on the cliff’s edge. Lined with transparent plexiglass walls that offered mainly shades of azure on such a clear beautiful day, one could stand in the middle of the gym and momentarily entertain the notion that this barren spaceship was headed to some sort of ethereal plane (or possibly some version of hell for an astraphobic, in the case that the blue skies were replaced with a lightning-riddled thunderstorm).

I was in the midst of such meditation when I was rudely interrupted by an assertive bark that hit my eardrums from the back.

Esso! Look who it is! Hey…I thought that I told you never to come back here? You want another black eye?!?”

I spun around to face my challenger. The familiar visage of a wiry teenage girl and the more familiar face of an older musclebound teenage boy both intensely stared at me. They didn’t blink, and neither did I.

“Enjoy it while it lasts, kid,” I said with a warm relish, “Because it doesn’t always go your way. And today…today is going to be my day.”

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.

Condo Chronicles: We See Your Every Move

With bated breath, I waited for Miguel’s answer. Even if these recordings go back far enough, what if there’s nothing that appears on the video? What if it’s actually a ghost? Or what if you’re just fucking crazy? I didn’t know if I’d like the answer to any of those questions, but the state of not knowing was far worse.

“How far back do these recordings go?” Miguel repeated. “Not far…just a few weeks. Anything older than that gets erased. Why do you ask?”

Shit…well, there goes that possible avenue. I guess that the case of the naked trainwreck stays a mystery. “Eh, it’s not a big deal. Never mind…”

Miguel, obviously intrigued by the expression on my face, was not about to relinquish this subject. “Wait, wait, not so fast. What’s this ghost that you’re chasing? Where’s the last place that you saw it?”

“Naw, it’s late, and we both should get going. And I don’t want to waste your time…though…okay, fuck it, show me the tape for my hallway during the last week.” Now I’m using the phrase ‘tape’ too…just two old fogies in a basement.

“Sure thing, boss,” drawled Miguel, as the monitor on the far right depicted the scene of my apartment’s hallway. With a quick selection, he began to play the footage backwards, rapidly showing the pedestrian traffic of this human hive. After one entire week passed within the span of a couple of minutes, I let out an exasperated sigh of disappointment as nothing of import was seen by either of us.

I turned to Miguel in one last gesture of desperation. “So, are there any cameras in these stairwells?”

“I’m afraid not, boss,” he replied, shaking his head. “Just the hallways, I think. But, we can check real quick if you want…”

Possessing the dexterous hands of a piano virtuoso, the adept super earned his title of excellence as his fingers quickly flew across the board and started to utilize each monitor, all in order to cycle through the roster of cameras positioned throughout the building. After perusing the perspective of every lens installed along our walls, the monitor on the far right showed the final available perspective: the narrow alley on the north side of the building. The one with the spooky hand in the wall. Man…that thing still creeps me out.

I shrugged. “Oh, well…we tried. Guess that it’s time to punch out. We’ll call it a day.”

“Okay. Well, if you ever see this ghost again, be sure to tell me. When you say ‘ghost’, are you serious? For real?”

“I don’t know what I saw,” I admitted. “But if I see it again, I’ll let you know.”

“Okay, boss. I’ll just turn this thing off for now…”

Attempting to select a menu option on the screen with a label “Log Off”, his usually deft digits failed him, and he instead clicked the Reverse option instead. With a quiet murmur that sounded something akin to whoops, he tried to access the menu once again while the footage of the alley traversed the chronology of the eerie, narrow passage. Raconte-moi une histoire, camera…don’t let the past hour be a waste. Unfortunately, the camera ignored my plea; the video seemed to be a boring one of nothing. Miguel was just about to log off when I noticed some blurred movement of figures in the alley. If I had taken my eyes away from the camera for only a second, I never would have seen it.

“Woah, woah! Hold on, Miguel! Replay the footage for the alley…did you see that? It looked like there were people in there. Play it again so we can see it. Yeah…right around there…there you go. Thanks…”

As if seeking redemption from his previous minor error, Miguel worked with precision in order to concisely bring the recording back to the point of interest.

“Can you play it slow, please?” I asked. “Yep, like that…thanks…”

Following my direction acutely, the recording showed two figures entering the alley in slow motion. One appeared to be a policeman, and the other one seemed to be in some kind of worker’s uniform. The policeman carried nothing, but the worker carried a large bag that was full and slung over one of his shoulders. Even though there was no sound available, the obviously loquacious lawman seemed to be instructing the worker. They made their way to the door for the boiler rooms and the electrical closet, and using a key possessed by the worker, they quickly looked over their shoulders like thieves and then absconded by forcing themselves into the cave’s exclusive possession. Without any needed prompt by me, Miguel increased the rate of the footage until the two men had finally tired of their sojourn and departed the gate to Hades. Unlike Orpheus, though, they didn’t look back with any ounce of doubt. Notably, the bag of the worker was slung over the shoulder once again, but it now appeared to be empty of any contents.

I turned to Miguel. “Hey, so what was that about? Is there something wrong with our boilers or our circuits?”

“I don’t think so. I haven’t heard anything…but, that’s normal. Usually, Raymond takes care of that kind of stuff on his own. I don’t have the keys to that room for this building or any of the other ones.”

“The other ones?” I questioned with waning curiosity. Hunger and the longing for tacos were beginning to gain the ground that was currently held by my love for subterranean environments.

“Yeah, the other buildings where I’m the super,” explained Miguel. “You’re not the first building that Richie and Raymond put up.”

I nodded. “Oh…I see. Well, when you see Raymond next time, can you get the story on what’s happening down there? I think that the board deserves to know if there’s something wrong in the building.”

Miguel made an ‘O’ with the thumb and forefinger of his right hand. “No problem, boss. Next time that I see him, I’ll pass on the message.” And with a quick flick of those two same fingers, he logged off the machine.

“Thanks…Okay then,” I concluded, “Let’s call it a night. I’ve got some tacos de lengua y chorizo with my name on them.”

I couldn’t quite say why, but there was something about that pair in the hallway that left me with an unsettled feeling. Unfortunately, in the future, I would eventually learn the full extent as to how perceptive my gut hunch can be.

Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.