Dead Man’s Car
On Wednesday night, at little past 10:00 p.m., my dogs and I were coming down the ramp of our parking garage from our evening walk. It was cold and damp and I wasn’t in the best of moods because the dogs were being frisky, pulling on their leashes, wrapping them around my legs. Our complex is extremely secure in that most people from the outside have any idea how to get in. It’s a complicated process, no matter which way you try to enter. It is even more complicated to get out.
I saw a man around 60 years old standing at one set of glass entrance door, punching numbers into a key pad. Somehow I could tell from a distance that he was in distress. I yelled at him from the ramp, "Do you need help getting in?" Just then, a woman answered on the speaker of the key pad, and he told her politely that he was sorry, he had dialed the wrong number.
The man went on to explain to me that he was worried about his friend who had not been heard from in "several days." "It’s not like him," he said. "Something’s wrong." He said he had called the police, but they wouldn’t come out because he didn’t know the apartment number. He told me he had been to the apartment a few times before, but for security reasons, our mailing address box numbers don’t match our door numbers. He said if he could get into the complex, he could walk right up to the correct apartment.
So, of course, yawning and tired, I volunteered to take him upstairs to the second floor. "You would know him," he said. "He’s lived here for at least six years. He’s a big guy." I explained to the man that I didn’t live in his friend’s building, and unless he had a dog, I probably had never met him as different buildings don’t share elevators or lobbies.
As we made our way up the elevator, I was struck by how calm the dogs were. They had stopped pulling on their leashes, and even Callie, who is normally growling, even at people she knows, was quiet and calm. Finn wasn’t jumping up for an ear scratch. It was as if they knew this was a serious situation. As we made our way across the catwalk towards the apartment, I asked the man if his friend had a history of depression or any sign in the past to make him concerned. He went on to say that, yes, his friend had been very depressed lately. I said, "Did he just not show up for work one day?" He told me that his friend worked from home. "If his car is in the garage downstairs, he’s in his apartment. He would never leave town without telling someone, never. This is just not like him."
We found the apartment and the man began knocking and calling out his friend’s name. No answer. The lights were off, except for the outside light by the door that always stays on for security reasons. It was a spooky situation for me. Part of me didn’t want the man to answer the door. What would his demeanor be? Would he be drugged? Angry? Holding a weapon?
I left the man at the door and went out to the front of the complex, looking for the security guard, of course, to no avail. Then I called J on her phone and told her to ask no questions. "I’m dropping the dogs off and leaving immediately. There’s a guy out here who needs help." I went to our building, dropped off the dogs and went up another floor to our manager’s door. I pounded on the door, yelling, "It’s me. It’s an emergency." Her dogs barked and barked, but she didn’t come to the door. I was pretty mad at her and then I thought, "Well, maybe she’s not home." So I went back down to the parking garage. Her truck was there, but then I thought maybe she went somewhere in her husband’s car, so I cooled off about it.
When I made it back to the man’s apartment, his friend was standing one door over to the left. "I had the wrong apartment," he said. The railing was on the left side when you’re facing the door. So he started knocking again. I told the guy that in the office was an extension ladder that would reach. I know this because it’s what they used to rescue me from the balcony several years ago. (See previous balcony lockout story for a laugh) The two of us were making so much noise on the cat walk that a lady from the first floor came out in her bathrobe and looked up at us.
"What’s going on up there?" she asked. So I explained the situation. "I have the security guard’s phone number," she replied. How in the world did she have the security guard’s phone number when I just found out last week that we even had a security guard? We have been living here five years and I hadn’t seen him until last week for the first time.
I called the security guard and he came up. I finally left him with the worried friend as they were going to go down to the parking garage and search for the car. I didn’t want to appear nosy and I really didn’t want to be there when they opened the door.
The next morning when I walked my dogs, I walked over where the man said it would be. The car. Chills ran through my body and I STILL can’t walk past that car. For privacy reasons, I am not mentioning the make or model.
On Friday, I finally found out what happened. They did find the man, dead in his apartment, apparently from diverticulitis. Don’t fool around with it if you have it. They didn’t go in until the following morning because the law states that you can only do a wellness check if you have permission from a family member or someone on the In Case of Emergency (ICE) list, which in this case was an ex-wife. It's a good thing, too, because he actually still had the wrong door. Had they broken in, the worried friend could have been sued by the tenants living there.
They had to get the fire department to come out because when he died, he landed against the bathroom door and they couldn’t open it. The daughter was supposed to come get the dead man’s car, but it is now Tuesday, and the car is still there.
I am telling you this story for several reasons:
1) If you suspect you have diverticulitis, see a doctor. Don’t let it go on without being checked. Flare ups are commons.
2) It bothers me that they couldn’t go in until the next day. He had passed about 48 hours prior, but what if, just what if he had fallen ill just a few hours prior? Could his life have been saved? I found out that if you are elderly or ill or don’t have a family or just plain want them to, you can sign something giving them permission to go into your place sooner without notifying someone first.
3) Check up on people more often who you know are ill or depressed. This could have very well been a suicide based on what his friend said of his friend’s demeanor.
I pray for this man’s family and friends. I know they miss him dearly. I hope this message helps someone.