Murder on the First Floor, Laughter on the Fifth

Witt Tarantino  |  8 min read


A hooded man was walking down a street in the chilled fall air of a New England night. He was in one of those big cities, like Portland or Providence, a quiet city that lacked the commerce of Boston, or the energy of New York. Nevertheless, this man was walking toward an apartment building. It was a five-floor brick building owned by an independent company.

The city had allowed the building, which had previously been a large home, to be converted into apartments, with the one stipulation that at least one of the apartments be affordable housing for people in the lower income brackets. The owner made the bottom floor into two rather small one-bed, one-bath apartments. The next three floors were each converted into their own apartments, and the final floor was made into a sort of penthouse, with access to a rooftop garden and patio area. On the top floor, a wealthy businessman sat in front of a large plasma TV. He was wearing his favorite sports jersey. In his company were some of his work friends. Each man was verging on the point of drunkenness, and had become rather rowdy. They were eating handfuls of table snacks at a time, and drinking expensive microbrewery beers.

On the first floor lived two families. The left apartment housed a single mother and her 2-year-old child. She worked two jobs in order to support herself and her child. She lived on food stamps and the stale loaves of bread she stole from her job at Panera. Her child was sick, because there wasn’t any heat. Instead, the two were huddled on an old, mauve couch underneath piles of blankets. They were watching the same sports event, but on a small, plastic TV.  Though the woman was a single mother, she had started dating again. She had recently entered into a serious relationship with a tall, handsome man. Unknown to her, he had severe anger issues and his way of dealing with it was to impose his power on weaker individuals. His previous girlfriend broke up with him after he failed to get a raise he was hoping for, and punched her in the face.  All of this was unknown to the woman sitting in front of a glowing screen, with her child wrapped around her waist, until he walked through the front door.

He had beads of sweat dripping from his shaven head. The hoodie he was wearing had been taken off and placed at the front door. He walked toward the TV, and unplugged it. Anger was seeping from every pore of his body. It dripped on to the carpet, and filled the air with the hot aroma of hatred. The woman told her child to go to bed. She tried to calm the man, but he was inconsolable. He was angry with her, and irrationally so, for she had played no hand in the loss of his job. Nevertheless, he produced a small knife from his pocket. He flashed the silver tip of the weapon toward the woman, who stifled a scream as to not frighten her son. She tried to talk some sense into the man, but he was far beyond the point of sanity. He brought his knife arm up into the air, and struck down with all of his power until the blade was deep inside the woman’s chest cavity.  She began bleeding profusely, and died in a matter of seconds. The man turned the TV back on, and watched the rest of the game.

On the top floor, the group of men continued to watch the game. They hadn’t heard a noise, and even if they had, it couldn’t have torn them away from their beloved sports team long enough for them to take any real action. The poor woman below them had died. Her son would be put into foster care, and a new tenant would move in. What did it matter to the man who lived in the penthouse?