The Hobbyist

by Grainne Rhuad

My back hurt. For three days and nights now I’d been watching out the back alley window. I was hoping I would catch a glimpse of Him again. Stewart Malvo. I’m pretty sure that’s who it was. Sacha said he thought he had seen him entering the building three days ago. Sacha is a postman and also a very good source of information. With what I do, it pays to spend time with service people. Making friends with them takes little effort as they are largely unnoticed and the payoff is well worth a couple of hours listening to tirades about their wives or “The Man”.

Finding out what room he was in was more difficult. I had to ply the doorman with twenties and even then I only got, “I think there’s a guy fits that description on the ninth floor. It took me another couple of days of scanning to figure what room he was most likely in. I thought I had it narrowed down to the one with the drapes closed all the time. All the other windows played out like a view master look into daily life.
In one window I found a young woman living with her young mother who screamed at one another every evening before retreating to bed. In the same way that some people drank warm milk and brushed their teeth, this was their nighttime wind-down ritual.

In another I observed a 10 year old who had a penchant for his parent’s liquor cabinet. Naughty boy. Lucky for him it was none of my business. Equally lucky for him, his parents didn’t drink much or they would have noticed the massive quantities of water poured into their Gin and Vodka bottles. Hate to be in that apartment at the Christmas Party when they crack those crystal bottles open and find…well, water.
A couple of windows down an old woman stared out her apartment window in my direction a lot of the day which was truly unfortunate as I had to be more circumspect. Had it been an old man I wouldn’t have worried as much. When they stare they are generally looking inward, remembering, or trying to. But the old ladies, they were keen observers.

There of course was a newlywed or nearly newlywed couple whose desperate attempts to meld two lives played out in the bedroom. I could have done without that.
But there was one apartment where the drapes were closed all the time. I was fairly sure that was him.
At this point you’re probably wondering what’s going on. Cops? Private Investigator? CIA? Scorned housewife? The answer to your question would be none of the above. Stewart is my hobby. At least he is right now.

My hobby you see is finding and following people. I don’t really remember how it started. I know as a child I used to like to walk behind people to see if I could tail them home without being detected. Lots of kids do that right? Like playing. When I found that I got pretty good at it, I tried more. How much could I find out about a person? For how long? What kind of people will notice you and which ones won’t?
One of the things I found which is surprising is the most unexpected people, at least to me at first, where the ones to catch on quickest. Like the aforementioned old lady. Women in general seemed more keen. People alone or nearly so caught me faster, after all there wasn’t exactly a crowd following them. But people in the spotlight, you know, the ones all concerned for their privacy with guards and all. They were by far the easiest. It’s easy to get lost in a crowd. Especially if it is your most favorite hobby.
Now take Stewart, he is mid-management Mafia. He had been an easy pick up for me, surrounded as he was with his “business associates” and their whores. It’s not terribly hard to hide amongst a bunch of whores. As a bonus, all kept women, even Mafia ones need to talk, so that was an easy shaft to mine, so to speak.

Anyway, my back hurt. Stewie has gone to ground and I wasn’t sure yet whether it’s because of me or something else. If it was something else, all the better, this game would continue. If it was me, well….game over. I’m not interested in dying for my hobby.

Since by back was giving me pain I decided to stretch it out by taking a jog over to the Stewie’s place, jimmying open the alley door and seeing what I could find. I didn’t like close encounters with my targets but Stewie really was leaving no choice. Now what to wear….I decided to be the Super, which would also necessitate a stop off at the Super’s nap-spot followed by a nasty bump on the head for the poor lamb. It would be a minimal risk as the Super was well known to hasten his nap with needles.

An hour later, outside Apt. 9C, I was listening at the door and hearing nothing, which was odd. Stewie liked to watch TV, or be on the phone, run appliances, games, whatever. He would do anything to make himself feel not alone. Funny how scared guys like him get when it’s quiet.

I took a chance and knocked on the door as the Super. No Answer. So I quietly slid my key into the lock. This was the trickiest part. It was also pretty exciting, not knowing what I was going to find when I opened the door. Old Stew, could very well be sitting behind the door with a Beretta waiting to finish my game for me. After all he was laying low. But somehow I got the sense he wasn’t. At least that was what I hoped.

Sliding the door open as silently as possible, but not so quietly as to alert anyone I wasn’t the Super, I found myself face to face with……exactly nothing.

There was absolutely nothing in this front living space. No chairs, no pictures, no sideboards, nothing.
I made my way down the hall on the other side of the room past the kitchen which did seem to have had some use. It looked like water had been run in the last week and not drained all the way, the refrigerator was running, a pot was on the stove. I had to stifle an urge to open the fridge and see what was in it. I love stuff like that, but today I just wanted to see if my game was still on or if someone else had gotten to Stewie under my radar.

Past the kitchen there were two doors facing each other. On the left the door was open and looked into a bedroom. I took a chance and called out, “Hello? It’s the Super, I got a work order for the kitchen sink.” No answer.

The Bedroom contained a cot, a lamp a TV. hooked up to cable, and cell phone. Underneath the bed was a large suitcase, which since it didn’t reek I assumed held guns and other useful tools of Stewie’s trade. Had it reeked, or been wet, I would of assumed he was held up here waiting to make a dump for his Boss.
Turning toward the closed bathroom door, I had a cause to curse myself. I hadn’t found out what name the apartment had been rented under. If he should be in there it would look mighty strange that I wouldn’t know what his name was.

In any case it didn’t matter. Upon opening the door I found my target and it was Game over. There he sat like the cockroach of the underworld he was on a toilet bowl seat. Poor Sot. He hadn’t even needed to go to ground. His days had ended on the crapper. I took a quick look around, no drugs in sight, no evidence of a suicide. Stewie wasn’t the healthiest guy but it was hard to tell if he had died on his own or someone had hastened his exit. I had not yet added that investigation skill to my hobby arsenal. If somebody had hastened his demise I had to tip my imaginary cap to them. They got in under my radar.

I thought about going through things to learn more, but in a case like Stewie Malvo’s I figured it was in my best interest to not. I didn’t want to become the target of a bigger hunter, nor a patsy. So I backed out closing the door, locking the front up, thank God, there’s no camera’s in this crappy building. As I walked down to check on the napping Super, I thoroughly wiped all the keys, running through my mind what I had to do to wrap up my own little hideout. Packing, cleaning, leaving un-noticed.

This had been a good Game but it had been long. At least now I could see to my back. Now, to make up a story for my Chiropractor about an extended vacation or something.