He couldn't remember when he hadn't lived on the streets.
That didn't mean much really, as his brain was somewhat addled by the cheap plonk that was his choice of liquid. He would have preferred a decent Scotch, but finances had been a little stretched to say the least, since his long-time dive into alcoholism and homelessness.
Still, he reminded himself, these digs were about the best that he had experienced.
Cool in Summer.
Relatively warm in Winter.
Completely out of the rain and the cold winds that could whistle cruelly passed the hidey-hole. And the pedestrians above him supplied him with a trickle of cigarette butts. Those who knew that he resided below their feet, would often leave him a half-eaten sandwich or some other morsel. Dropping it down to him as they passed overhead, walking quickly up the concrete ramp to their place of employment. Pretending that there were no such thing as homeless guys so close below them. Dirty, hungry men finding refuge living under a concrete ramp at the front of a modern, architectural office monolith. Sleeping on cardboard, even wrapping themselves in large cardboard cartons or sheaths of newspapers.
Satisfying their somewhat guilty feelings by leaving a morsel as they quickened their gait to return to the real world.
Their attendance required urgently at their desk. As though the fate of the World awaited their panicked return!
He sniggered at these cynical thoughts.
People thought that they were so important, as though their brief sojourn to the Toilet, to grab a coffee or to have a quick smoke at the front of the building would affect the equilibrium of Nature.... of the World and of all things!
People were so wasteful too!
He would often think that half his kindly donors would be lost if they found themselves in similar circumstances as he.
They wouldn't survive.
That thought pleased him.
He living on the streets for so long, proof of his resilience and street smarts.
Of his survival instincts.
A half-eaten apple dropped down beside him.
A half a sandwich in a white paper bag that some-one had paid good money for, thrown in his direction.
A cigarette pack with three unlit smokes followed.
'It must be Pay Day for all the Office plebs up there,' he thought to himself. 'Certainly, the eagle has shat plentifully for me to-day!' He giggled at the rewards seeming to be dropped from Heaven. He wasn't going to knock back the sudden largesse of the crowd above!
He had a hell of job trying to decide which of his windfalls he should partake in first!
It was one of those lucky lunch breaks that bought manna from heaven. The donors would hardly think twice of their wastefulness, possibly tempering that guilt with the knowledge that they had been so thoughtful to the 'Alco', the 'Bum', the 'Homeless Tramp' who resided out of sight below them.
He rolled over smelling himself for the first time that morning. Like a dead dog. Perhaps a fresh turd smelled better. He would need to visit the Shelter soon otherwise they'd be looking for him. Prising him out from his hidey-hole. Making a fuss, pretending to be thoughtful. Showing concern for him. But other eyes would be watching the fracas. Waiting until he disappeared to take ownership of his little palace.
A drunken fight would result if he wanted to reclaim what was rightfully his.
He doubted that he could survive such a melee, though he knew that amongst his 'band', there were those who respected his proprietorship over these digs. He had yet to defend his patch though he knew that there were others who wouldn't need asking to make a claim!
- - - - -
It was the smell that people started to complain about.
It hung heavy in the still morning air as the Office Workers scurried to their respective floors.
Another day of labour.
Of saving the World from itself!
The Manager of the nearby Homeless Shelter crawled into the void under the concrete Handicap Ramp to discover the body as the guy hadn't shown up for his habitual Sunday meal, shower, and a change of clean clothes.
This lower section of the void barricaded from the view of the constant flow of pedestrian traffic above by the dense Camellia Hedge on the open, Public side while the small gap between the ramp and the fa?ade of the building on the other side served as the ingress and egress point.
The white flowers now coming into bloom dotted the darker, shiny green of the leaves. These pure white blooms exuded their subtle perfume. Bees buzzed from flower to flower, ignorant of the ghastly deathbed within spitting distance of their honest endeavour.
Old Man Arthur 'Artie' Goodman had made the area his home for nigh on five years. A harmless old bloke who didn't bother a soul, even when he was off his face dead drunk.
An occasional slurred expletive but nothing above a murmur. A series of words that may have meant something to the old bloke, but was gibberish to those who may have overheard.
'Wouldn't hurt a fly' the consensus of all whom my partner and I interviewed that morning.
The old bloke poisoned, we quickly surmised. The offending apple still clutched in his hand.
The smell of his rotting flesh putrid within the confines of the void.
I had started to crawl under the dense Camelia hedge to gain entry to his last resting place.
I gave up as soon as I got a nose full.
Marjory Hendricks, Detective Two of the NSW Murder Squad, my partner and the brains of the team for the past five years, informed me that there was an easier way to gain entry from the other side of the concrete ramp. I backed out and stood, brushing the damp dirt from my trousers as I did so.
"Detective Lind! You are compromising the crime scene. Bloody hell, get yourself away from there until we give you permission to walk roughshod over our area. Out! You hear me?"
"That's not the acerbic, educated tones of one born in The Manor. How goes you, 'Muscles'? I heard that you were back. Staying long? How was your lazy sojourn on the Continent? Cold?"
Clem 'Lofty' Hills Series:
Murder Squad Series: