FIRE ESCAPE Chapter 1 20180103

“You’re looking a little lost, kid.”  I looked up from my confusing trip down memory labyrinth, recognizing the voice as awfully young sounding for someone calling me “kid.”  The face I saw looked about my age–late twenties.  He was a white guy, though.  I guessed my old Washington Heights neighborhood had become the latest front in the gentrification wars. 

“No, I’m not lost–I live here,” I said without thinking.  How would he know where I lived?

“Ah, great–I’m actually looking for someone who lives around here,” he said.  The guy wore khaki pants and a blue button down shirt with some kind of boring brown coat over it.  Damn he was a bland white dude.

“OK?” I said, eyeing him suspiciously.
“You know a Julio Velasquez?” Did he know Uncle Julio?
“Who are you?” I asked, not wanting to give away too much information.

“My name is Wise and a friend gave me is card.  Told me that I should look him up the next time I was on–” he hesitated, “–Manhattan.”

He handed me a business card with a bent corner and banged up edges.  I recognized it immediately as one that Julio gave to customers.  It simply had his name and the word “consignments.”

I remember when Jill and I were working with him, it was the first time I’d seen the word and had to look it up on the family computer.  It made what Uncle Julio did sound much more impressive than I remember it being.

“Yeah, he used to live around here.”

“Yeah, I know. I already went to the address and apartment number on the back of the card, 
but he doesn’t live there currently.”

I looked at the back of the card, and saw the address of my building and his old apartment number, which was in the basement.  So, I guess Uncle Julio had moved away, or at least out.  “I haven’t seen him in years.  No idea where he lives now.”

“Oh, that’s a shame.  I think he has something of value to me,” Wise said.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“It’s a little personal.  Let me give you my card.  Reach out if you happen to get back in touch with him or know where I might look for him.  It’s very important that I get in touch.”
I handed Julio’s card back to him and he handed me his own card.  “Sure.  If I do either of those things, I’ll contact you.”

“Thanks,” he said moving off, down the street.

I thought about what he had said, the fact that Julio had moved on, and that this Wise guy said Julio had something of value to him.  I thought about all of that old junk again and wondered if that Wise was looking for some of that.

I decided to check out Julio’s old apartment for myself.