“1998 Niagara” by Pat Mooney Sweet
Mondays Are Murder features brand-new noir fiction modeled after our award-winning Noir Series. Each story is an original one, and each takes place in a distinct location. Our web model for the series has one more restraint: a 750-word limit. Sound like murder? It is. But so are Mondays.
This week, a daughter remembers her divorced father in Pat Mooney Sweet’s Buffalo, New York.
by Pat Mooney Sweet
Black Rock, Buffalo, NY
On Columbus Day weekend my brother and I had gone to a mass dedicated to our father who’d died of a heart attack in the back room of 1998 Niagara Street. He’d been young, only fifty-three, never sick a day in his life, never treated for heart disease. And there’d been no signs of struggle. The coroner said his heart just stopped. The priest assured the dozen or so Catholics spread out in the cavernous building that as a baptized son of the church Daddy’s soul rested in peace. I wasn’t so sure.
The city demolished a number of eyesores that year, including 1998, considering it abandoned property, though anyone who’d spent one night in the Victorian monstrosity knew better. It took a while for me to check out the pit left by the wrecking crew, and when I did I brought my pit bull along in case the spirit or flesh or bones of one of the squatters we’d heard singing in the root cellar in the dead of night turned up. Or if we managed to find the tunnel to Hell down there that I’d always imagined.
Her name, according to the upstairs tenants, was Rosie, although in the five years Daddy rented the lower apartment none of us had ever laid eyes on her. When our parents divorced, Daddy had us every other weekend and he kept it pretty simple: takeout pizza from Zip’s, a Disney movie from Blockbuster. I dreaded going to bed in the spare room above the root cellar. I could hear someone singing down there. And not nice songs, either. Daddy said that it was just an old homeless lady, and since Rosie never bothered him we should return the favor and let her be. She must have had a tough life.
I asked my mother what a lady was doing living underneath Daddy’s apartment and she said that it was news to her, and that she wouldn’t put anything past the son-of-a-bitch. I promised my mother that if he ever had a girlfriend sleeping over during our visits I’d call her right away. The terms of our visits excluded girlfriends. But Daddy was great about boundaries, even Rosie’s, and I knew someone with such a bizarre voice couldn’t be his girlfriend. We had no reason to suspect she was more than some old woman, nocturnal, but harmless. Then came the peepholes.
My brother noticed them first, telling me to be careful where I undressed. Sure enough, someone had drilled a little round hole in the wall alongside my bed and another in the bathroom. When we showed Daddy he said the place probably had termites and not to worry, he’d inform the landlord. Around then I began to worry about Daddy. He’d been out of work since the steel plant closed and had been getting notices that his car was being repossessed. That was when my brother started worrying. He’d loved driving around Buffalo in Daddy’s front seat, big as a living room. Our mother drove a crappy little Datsun she’d bought with her alimony checks. We asked her how Daddy would get a job with no car. Don’t worry, she said. He lives on a bus route.
Sure enough, Daddy began bringing us home on the #5. One weekend when Mom took my brother off visiting colleges I got on the bus with Daddy alone. He looked if he hadn’t slept, and he swore at the loud school kids celebrating such a sunny day in May, Friday, almost summer. When we got to the apartment he’d had company; that was for sure. Never a smoker, he had cigarette butts all over the place, and half-empty glasses with lipstick on the rim. I remembered my promise to tell mom if he ever brought a woman to our visits, but I had no idea how to reach her. The weird thing was he looked as surprised about the mess as me.
He gave me control of the TV, let me order from Zip’s, and, knowing how I hated hearing Rosie singing underneath me, told me to make up a bed on the couch. When he thought I wasn’t listening, he called the D-district police and complained that his apartment had been broken into. All night he sat up waiting, but nobody showed.
He’d been dead for a week when Mom identified his body. During the investigation, the upstairs tenants claimed never to have heard of a squatter named Rosie.
PAT MOONEY SWEET was born and raised in the city of no illusions. Pat Mooney Sweet writes full time, often about dramas playing out right in front of her house. Another of her stories about the neighborhood, Leaving for Good, appears in the fall 2016 edition of the Buffalo Anthology.
Would you like to submit a story to the Mondays Are Murder series? Here are the guidelines:
—We are not offering payment, and are asking for first digital rights. The rights to the story revert to the author immediately upon publication.
—Your story should be set in a distinct location of any neighborhood in any city, anywhere in the world, but it should be a story that could only be set in the neighborhood you chose.
—Include the neighborhood, city, state, and country next to your byline.
—Your story should be Noir. What is Noir? We’ll know it when we see it.
—Your story should not exceed 750 words.
—Accepted submissions are typically published 6–8 months after their notification date and will be edited for cohesion and to conform to our house style.
—E-mail your submission to [email protected]. Please paste the story into the body of the email, and also attach it as a PDF file.
Posted: Dec 5, 2016