Manhattan offers a lot of activities, especially if you work part-time. My favourite is people watching. I used to people watch at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal and in Times Square. A lot of tourists crowd these locations and they’re easy to identify, but I prefer watching native New Yorkers. New Yorkers are more interesting.
My favourite people-watching targets are not those people waiting impatiently at the ferry terminal or rushing through Times Square. I like observing the people living in the upper floors of towering residences. Especially in the building across the street from my apartment.
A friend of mine told me about a shop that sells quality optical instruments, like nautical brass spyglasses and the modern equivalent, the floor standing telescope. It’s the perfect tool for people watching.
Recently, I’ve been spending a lot of time observing my neighbours. For the most part, they’re rather boring people. Just when they appear inspired to do something interesting, they’ll draw the curtains across their windows and I’ll have to guess what it is that they’re up to.
But for one couple across the street, I don’t have to guess. In the past three months that I’ve been people watching them, they’ve never drawn their curtains. Because they live in a corner suite on the thirty-fifth floor, they must assume that no one can see them or what they’re doing. They assume wrong.
I don’t know who they are. Let me call them Bill and Mary. Two business professionals living busy lives. I’ll bet they’re married, but I’ll also bet they’re not happy. Bill may have an office job somewhere. He travels a lot; suitcase going away, suitcase coming home. Mary works from their condo. Most days I see her sitting at the kitchen table with her laptop.
When they’re home together, they look and behave like everyone else. In the kitchen, preparing dinner; in the dining room, eating dinner; in the living room, watching TV; in the bedroom, sleeping. Except on Saturday nights. Every Saturday they get dressed up and go out. When they return, they go into their bedroom and make love. Boring, unhappily married love.
Bill and Mary are young, attractive and healthy. Most mornings they go jogging together. After jogging, Mary has her shower first. After, she sits on the bed and dries her hair while Bill is in the shower. Then Bill gets dressed and leaves. Mary wraps herself in a towel and wanders around their condo, alone, drinking coffee and talking on her cellphone, before getting dressed and opening her laptop.
Last month, Mary’s routine changed. On Monday mornings, shortly after Bill leaves, a gentleman visits Mary. I’ll call him Derek. Mary takes him into the bedroom and closes the bedroom door. Derek pushes her against the door and kisses her passionately while she tries to loosen his tie and undo the buttons on his shirt. He backs up a step, her towel falls to the floor, he gets undressed and the two of them embrace and fall on the bed. Saturday night sex may be boring, but Monday morning sex is very, very not boring. After, they have a shower. Together. I can’t see inside the shower, so I don’t know what they’re doing, but they seem to spend a lot of time in there.
I’ve always thought Derek was aware of Bill, but that Bill wasn’t aware of Derek. I was wrong!
Last Monday, Derek appeared about twenty minutes after Bill had left the condo. Mary led him to the bedroom and closed the door. Things progressed as before, and Mary and Derek were soon on the bed enjoying an extended lovemaking session. I don’t know how much noise they were making, but neither heard Bill when he re-entered the condo.
Bill parked his suitcase by the door and opened the hall closet. He lifted a small black case off the top shelf and put it on the kitchen table. He unlocked the case and removed a handgun, then removed a silencer from the case and screwed it onto the end of the gun’s barrel. He looked down the hall toward the bedroom and tilted his head a little. He was listening. He sat at the kitchen table. He didn’t move.
I swung the telescope so I could see Mary and Derek again. Shortly, they got off the bed and headed into the shower. I looked for Bill. He was walking down the hall toward the bedroom. He put his ear to the door and, satisfied with what he heard, slowly opened the door. He stepped into the bedroom and pointed the handgun into the shower. He raised the gun to eye level and fired.
I looked toward the shower. No one came out. Bill lowered the gun and walked back into the kitchen. What just happened? Did I really want to know? Slowly, I stood up and moved toward the wall. Flat against it, I slithered to the window and closed the curtain. When I sat down again, I was shaking.
If you’re looking for a floor-standing telescope, there’s a good one for sale on eBay. Like new, only used for three months. Really, the ferry terminal makes for better people watching.
James Bryan Simpson, recently retired from former employment as a pharmacist, a pharmaceutical industry medical scientist and a medical writer, now enjoys the freedom of writing fiction. At times, plots and characters materialize or dilemmas resolve during long walks with his two dogs on the rural property he shares with his wife, Jan. In addition to writing, he also enjoys managing his woodlot, gardening, and spending time with his four granddaughters.
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