I stood on the sidewalk, behind the strips of yellow police tape, with the other onlookers. It was a freezing cold night; tiny flakes of snow tried their best to fight against the bitter, New York wind. But we were all too curious to go home to warm rooms and cosy firesides.
Police ‘black and whites’ were everywhere along the street and cops stood in little groups of three or four, talking quietly among themselves. Plain clothes detectives in heavy overcoats, walked up and down the steps of the totally ordinary brown-stone building. Many had ashen faces and one young cop, obviously a rookie, was throwing up in the gutter and steadying himself against one of the police cruisers.
Three ambulances stood forlornly, up against the kerb, their flashing lights illuminating the street and adding a garish touch to the nightmare scene.
Emergency response teams were wheeling gurneys into the building, while first-responders were coming out of the doorway with blood-stained hands and shocked expressions. It was obvious that some heinous crime had been committed. Either that or there had been a dreadful accident.
The spectators, wrapped in winter coats and scarves, chatted in a subdued manner. One guy blew on his hands and said,
“Someone’s been murdered in there !”
“More than one from the look of it”
‘”Betcha it’s that serial killer !”
“Looks bad”, whispered a woman, “It’s the sixth this month. We ain’t safe in our beds”
“The ******* cops ain’t got a ****** goddamn clue” said another, his Brooklyn accent punctuated with obscenities.
Speculation continued as we jostled for position. Bodies, covered in black bags, were now being wheeled out; no clue to age or sex. Two adult size at first, then a smaller one. This was carried reverently by a uniformed cop, who handed his precious cargo to a medic then took out his night-stick and smashed it against the nearest hydrant, in anger and frustration.
“Whatcha think ?” asked a guy in a checked lumber jacket and fur lined cap, as he stamped his feet to keep warm. I just shrugged. Why ask me ? Just another New York murder, I guessed.
The ambulances left, one by one. No need to rush of course, but their lights flashed all the same, illuminating the sad journey to the morgue. Gradually the police cars dispersed too, the cops were still on shift and had other streets to patrol; other crimes to investigate in this city that never sleeps.
The detectives huddled on the steps for a while, some smoking and others just shooting the breeze. Then they too departed, leaving a solitary uniformed cop on duty, to guard the premises. When the last grey saloon had gone, the crowd wandered off to their various destinations, no doubt to regale their family and friends with yet another grisly murder. The street was quiet once more.
Three or four hours later it was snowing heavily. The cop had decided to sit in his cruiser to keep warm. He could still see the entrance, festooned with yellow tape. Surely no-one would be out nosing around in this weather.
I had returned to the street and went, stealthily, down the steps that led to a basement apartment. I knew it was empty, so I let myself in as I had done earlier. There was a door into the main building from the basement and it was worth the risk.
Oh yes, definitely worth the risk ! I always liked to re-visit the scenes of my crimes …. I hoped the blood would still be there …..