In plain sight

architectural detail of face

More of Andrew’s story

The apartment was stark. There were no photographs, nor artwork on the walls, and only dingy white paint throughout the two-room walk-up. Minimal furniture was all Andrew needed since he never entertained guests.

He took his meals at a small, wobbly card table. Andrew owned one plate, one bowl, one glass, one coffee mug, and one set of cafeteria-style eating utensils. He cooked his meals over a hot plate, and in a thrift store toaster oven.

His bed was a fold-out couch that stayed folded out. A single, worn and tattered, stuffed chair had a permanent indentation in the cushions where he would sit watching television, or reading a book. A tall, dusty floor lamp stood between the couch and chair, along with a small side table that was just wide enough for his yellow legal pads and pens.

Andrew’s one luxury was an extensive library. He converted the apartment’s only bedroom into an impressive office. Bookshelves crammed with legal tomes and classic novels lined three walls. Old post office letter bins, stacked three and four high, were overflowing with newspapers and professional journals.

A wooden coat rack stood in one corner of the living room. Andrew hung his ancient barrister robe there when he returned from a long day of lecturing. A closet near the front door held his Goodwill suits, and hand-me-down dress shirts.

Andrew kept to himself, only speaking to outsiders when necessary. He had a standing order at the bodega on the first floor of the building where he lived. On Thursday evenings, a delivery boy brought two bags of groceries to his door. Andrew tipped the courier $10, but rarely said “thank you.” Only the newsstand vendor who special ordered the Sunday Edition of the Times Picayune for Andrew spoke to him on a regular basis.

Neighbors, and regulars at his legal rantings at the City Square, would be shocked to learn that Andrew, in his rumpled robe, threadbare clothing, and scuffed shoes, was independently wealthy.

Most people thought his income was solely from the dribs and drabs of pocket change people tossed into his hat at the square. These people didn’t know about the hidden safe in his cheap apartment, nor about the bundles of non-sequential $100 bills he had secreted there. He had frugally lived off of this hoard of cash for nearly 20 years.

At night when he was all alone, Andrew would open the safe, add what little money he had earned that day, then remove a small cigar box. Sitting in his old chair, he would open the box and leaf through the faded photos inside. The girl depicted in the snapshots showed a familial similarity to Andrew. The photos pictured her aging from a newborn to a teenager.

This pictorial review replayed every night. Some nights the photos brought Andrew to tears. Other nights, his anger was barely contained. Whatever his reaction, he reverently replaced the photos in their box, then patted the top with great affection before returning them to their hiding place.

On this night, Private Investigator Hollis Drake waited in his car parked across the street from Andrew’s apartment. He adjusted his camera’s telephoto lens aimed at building’s front window hoping to catch a glimpse of the enigmatic recluse. A parabolic microphone picked up the other man’s movements inside his living room.

For a someone who did little to be inconspicuous, Andrew was successfully living under the radar. With his wild mane of white hair and scruffy stubble, Andrew appeared nothing like the once polished big-city lawyer Drake believed him to be. Still, Drake needed proof of Andrew’s true identity, but the man was infuriatingly reticent.

As much as he hated to, Drake knew that a small B&E was necessary if he was to find any useful information on his mark. Drake’s bosses at Massey, Denton & Associates were getting nervous, and their client was getting impatient. Drake would wait until Andrew was in full swing at the City Square the next morning, then he would break in to the apartment. There had to be something inside Drake could use to prove Andrew Ransom was hiding in plain sight only 200 miles from the scene of his wife and daughter’s murder.

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Light and Shade Challenge: “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” ~ Oscar Wilde

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