Fat people float. It’s just a fact of life or death rather, Brame thinks as he watches the dark shape fade away in the water. Fat people are too buoyant and need to be weighted down which only creates more problems. He prefers the skinny ones. Simply toss them in the river and they would sink on their own, far enough down the currents can carry them away so they’re no longer his problem.
Traffic should be his problem as he walks over to the guardrail separating him from the first three of six lanes of the Hudson Parkway. Six lanes of speeding motorists all intent on being somewhere else and not a single one of them focused on their driving.
He slings his battered olive green canvas satchel across his back and steps onto the low guardrail, balances on the dented metal barrier, and happily waves at a mohawked kid who flips him the bird in passing. Only six lanes of traffic to get to the other side and no one takes notice of the slim darkly clad man on the side of the road until he calmly steps down from the guardrail directly into the path of a hedge broker screaming over his Bluetooth while checking his figures on a PDA. The broker slams on his brakes, jerks the wheel, and the guardrail does its job of preventing the shiny SUV from going into the river. Instead it bounces the vehicle back to the left, creating a tight arc so it has turned 180° when it hits the center median, flips the guardrail, and lands in oncoming traffic, creating an instant pile up.
Oblivious to the spinning wheels, hissing radiators, curses and screams, and continuing screeches and thuds of more cars slamming into one another, Brame reaches the other side of the parkway, disappears into the trees and scrub and comes out on a bike path which he follows until he finds a park bench. He’s tired now. He’d like to sleep or maybe get something to eat, but there’s something he has to check on first.
Digging through his satchel he pulls out an object wrapped in a scrap of flannel blanket. His eyes light up when he hears a rattle and he hurriedly pulls the flannel away. The box is ornately patterned tarnished silver, bound with two leather straps, joined by a third to make a carrying handle. He yanks up the sleeve of a ratty jacket, unknots a black silk cloth tied around his wrist and pulls at it until a silver skeleton key attached to a chain slips out.
“Honey, get on this side of me. He doesn’t look right.” A man eases his female companion to the right of him as they near Brame.
Crossing his arms over the box, Brame stares up at the back of a sign, at a tree limb, tries to twirl a lock of hair around his fingers, and feels the box slipping and grabs at with both hands. The woman clutches the man’s arms with both hands as they pick up their pace to hurry past him. He squints at their backs. Sticks out his tongue. He doesn’t like people who judge others just for sitting on park benches. As if there is anything wrong with sitting on a bench.
He loosens the straps a little. In goes the key. A quick turn and a click. The lid is open just enough for Brame to stick his fingers inside and feel around until he finds something. He pulls out a key attached to a metal fob with three raised numbers: 666. He closes the lid, tucks away his skeleton key and the exposed chain, and rewraps the scrap of black.He holds the key and fob close to his face for inspection turning it over and over with calloused fingers. No address. Just a number, but he knows exactly where to go.
A smile splits his face as he tucks the key into a front pocket. Brame is a happy man. The key is just further proof that when he does good things he is rewarded.