The Only Legals









Ezra Azra

.


 
© Copyright 2023 by Ezra Azra

Photo by Paul Farmer at Wikimedia Commons.
Photo by Paul Farmer at Wikimedia Commons.


Dulcie was hurrying home in the rain. She had volunteered to work a second shift at the factory because the overtime pay offered was so much higher than her regular-shift pay.

By working overtime, she had broken her rule to never have to walk home at night. She lived in a dangerous neighborhood. The rent was low because the tenant vacancy was the highest in the City. One welcome consequence of the high crime rate was that at any time of the day and night, there were police officers visibly nearby investigating a crime. Law enforcement officers were always an assuring presence, even though she never knew of a time when they arrived before or during a crime.

She rented an apartment on the third floor. She did not inform the landlady she had sublet to another person. If the landlady knew, the rent would be increased.

Jennifer was her roommate. Jennifer worked at the same factory as Dulcie. Neither Dulcie nor Jennifer could have afforded to pay the rent on their own. Dulcie had no doubt that other tenants in the building were operating as she and Jennifer were.

She reached the building. The rain was falling heavier. The sidewalk was crowded with persons hurrying along. That was not a safe circumstance.

In that neighbourhood, the more people there were on the sidewalk, the greater the probability was of a criminal assault.

Dulcie quickly unlocked the street door, and entered the building. She had arrived safely. She was definitely going to celebrate with Jennifer.

There was no elevator. She walked up the stairs to the third floor. She heard a lot speaking and walking about as she neared the third floor. She paused a few seconds, considering if it would be wiser to retreat and wait in the foyer on the ground floor. She remembered Jennifer.

In that building, she and Jennifer worried more whenever one of them came home to an empty apartment.

When Dulcie reached the third floor hallway, she saw uniformed police everywhere.

Do you live here, lady?

Yes.

What number?

Thirty-two.

Okay. Come along. I will escort you.

What happened, officer?

The investigation is in progress, lady. I am not allowed to give out information. Once in your apartment, please do not leave without our permission.

All right.

When Dulcie entered the apartment, Jennifer was not there. The worrying began, instantly.

Dulcie proceeded to change her clothes in her bedroom, in preparation to prepare a meal in the kitchen.

In her bedroom, when she removed her drenched coat, an object fell to the floor. She thought it might have been something of hers. She moved it aside with her foot, as she completed changing into dry clothing. Some of her wet clothes she hung up in the bathroom; some in the hallway closet. She noted, in passing, that Jennifer's coat was not hanging in the hallway closet.

She went to the kitchen. After she had finished eating the food she had prepared, she remembered the object on the floor. She went into the bedroom to look for it.

She found it. It was in a cloth pouch. Her interest was piqued because she knew she did not own anything in a pouch. She took the object to the kitchen table.

She untied the pouch. She was speechless. She had put the object on the table.

It was a round red jewel encased in a metal rim all around. Dulcie suddenly was having difficulty breathing.

The jewel looked expensive. It did not belong to her. That somebody in the factory slipped it into her pocket, was highly improbable. Her coat had been in her locker. Only a worker and Management had locker keys. Then, who? Where?

On the crowded sidewalk under cover of rain and night? That thought was frightening. The criminal who had slipped a stolen item into her pocket would find her.

She desperately wished Jennifer were there to help her think of how to handle the situation.

Should she go to the police? She dismissed that option because the police were already in the building investigating a crime. If she reported a crime in the building while they were investigating another crime, she was likely to become a suspect in the first crime.

She could dump it in the dumpsters at the edge of the parking lot at the back of the building. She and Jennifer had perfected throwing garbage in bags into the dumpsters from their third-floor apartment.

That solution caused the problem of what would she do if the person who had slipped the jewel into her pocket, confronted her for its return?

She returned to the police option. She heard the front door lock being opened. She quickly hid the object in her pocket, and went to the front door. Jennifer?

Yes.

I'm happy you made it. Did you take the overtime?

No, Dulcie. I was arrested and taken to jail. That's where I am coming from. Perhaps I will lose my job, Duls.

Dulcie was overwhelmed in sadness. Come, eat, Jennifer. I made something for you.

Thank you. Let me change. Jennifer went into her bedroom.

Dulcie sat at the kitchen table, in tears. When Jennifer explained her situation, Dulcie was afraid matters would become impossibly worse.

Jennifer sat opposite Dulcie at the table, and both of them ate the food Dulcie had prepared. They ate in silence, until they had finished. They spoke when they were drinking their beverages after their meals.

When I saw the police here, I thought it was because of me.

They were here when I arrived, Jen. They wouldn't tell me why they are here. Why were you arrested, Jennifer? At work?

At work. Somebody reported they saw me steal something from a coat that was on one of the benches in the locker room. Factory Security searched my locker, and me. They found something suspicious in my locker, and so they turned me over to the City Police. They arrested me and took me downtown to jail. The Factory lawyers came and got me released on bail. I'm not to leave town until the investigation has been completed.

What is the object you were supposed to have stolen?

I have no idea. Factory Security and the City Police searched me. They say they found something suspicious, but they havenít provided me with details. Thatís why the Factory lawyers could get me out on bail.

Do you know who accused you?
No. It has to be a worker. Only workers are allowed into the locker room where that coat was supposed to be on a bench. I am sorry, Dulcie. The police officer at the jail said it's possible the police would come here to search.

Dulcie had a mild attack of heartburn. She ran to the bathroom. Jennifer waited, in remorse. Dulcie returned to the kitchen table.

You think they will search my bedroom, too?

I asked the Factory lawyers. They said it would help me if you allowed them, but that they could do nothing against you if you refused.

Dulcie's predicament worsened. A police search of her place would put her at serious risk; but if she refused, she would increase suspicion against Jennifer. She believed entirely that Jennifer was not guilty of any crime.

Jennifer, unwittingly, helped both their plights.

Dulcie, whoever is trying to frame me, will be certain to search the building's dumpsters. We have to not dump our garbage, for weeks. Or, you ready for this?

Ready or not, Jennifer, just say it.

There's a factory dumpster on our way to work just before we get to the locker room.

They looked at each other, understanding, clearly, the logically next idea. They smiled.

And, sorry, Dulcie, you will have to do most if not all, on the sly, because whoever at the factory is framing me, will be watching me closely. If I still have a job at the factory.

There was a long silence. Dulcie spoke slowly, and silently, and very worriedly.

We haven't done anything to be in trouble with the police, Jennifer. Our real worry is if all this reveals to the landlady that you live here.

Jennifer smiled. Dulcie was perplexed. What? You don't think we will be in trouble with her if she finds out?

Dulcie, when at the police station I gave the police this address as my home, they became excited, almost. They have had this building under surveillance for about a year. All the police presence here now, is probably because of the landlady. You and I know that most of the sixteen apartments in this building are vacant. The police think they are not. The police think the landlady is running an illegal immigrants operation. You and I are probably the only legal tenants in this building. The landlady is thankful she can use us as proof she has legal tenants who are true-born citizens. Duls, because the landlady mentions us and this apartment so often as legal tenants, you and I and this apartment 32 is well-known at the Police Station.



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