You Care Who Killed Roger Ackroyd

By Nick Mamatas

A house I owned was a crime scene once.

It took months for me to get rid of a tenant who was consistently late with the rent–mostly because she had kids and I couldn’t bear to throw them out into the cold of New Jersey’s winter, and partially because I had hopes that she could turn things around. I couldn’t have been more wrong; the ceiling in one room had collapsed thanks to a consistent leak, and she couldn’t be bothered to tell me, not even to threaten a suit or as a reason to withhold rent. She just didn’t pay and avoided my calls and visits and certified letters. And when she finally vacated the premises, owing me $3,600 and leaving no forwarding address or other information, she just left the doors wide open. That was a Tuesday.

By Friday, when I came to check out the place (and to be sure that she was gone), the house was ruined. The kitchen windows had been punched in and both back and front doors left ajar. The copper pipes of the baseboard heating registers had been removed, as had much of the boiler. Ironically enough, there was mail addressed to me–renewal for my homeowners insurance was coming up in two weeks. I called them, then the police, then waited in the broken building for ninety minutes–except for a side trip under the house, crawling in the dirt in the dark, to try to find the main water supply switch. I slithered out  …

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