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"Let me ask you a question?"


He never waited for a reply, just asked, and then without a pause answered his own query. It was the verbal equivalent of a toddler tugging at your sleeve.


He paused to examine the hood of the muscle car he was buffing, checking whether the sheen was even. The deep rumbling throttle sounded a little like his raspy chortle, carnal and immediate.


His gummy smile upon registering my presence in his mechanic's shop was genuine and in contrast to the tough guy image that served him well on the streets of south Brooklyn.


Appearances were important to him professionally. Vintage car restorations were pricey and a nick or a scratch was not tolerated from his customers. He turned the ignition off before coming to embrace me protectively.


"So let me ask you, what are you doing here baby? I know, you just needed to see me."


I nested against his chest and his gold crucifix on his neck chain pressed against my forehead.


I put the hair behind my ears, and pulled away a few inches out of his embrace so I could look him in the eye.


"I have something serious to ask of you."


After describing the situation, I saw him clench and unclench his fists.


He asked me what day I would be working late next week. Then he smiled and hugged me again.


"No more worries."


The pungent odor of bleach in the downstairs hall floated up to my upstairs apartment. Management had done its best to clean it up to rent it again. They treated the death like a pesky water leak or broken appliance or any other routine situation a landlord faces.


Hopefully, this time they will do a better background check and not offer a lease to a problem tenant with wandering hands.


The detectives said the break-in was remarkably clean, not a nick or a scratch on the door frame.


"Let me ask you a question?"


With his notebook in hand, the plain clothes officer inquired if I had heard a disturbance or whether I knew anything about the man that occupied the ground floor and now occupied a cemetery.


In bocca chiusa non entro mai mosca.

Translated from Italian that means: A closed mouth catches no flies.


"I was working late last week," I said. "Besides, I didn't know my downstairs neighbor at all."


The whirring of the drill competed with the Guns and Roses soundtrack bouncing off the walls of the shop. He lifted the protective goggles over his forehead.


"This is an unexpected but welcome surprise..."


I came to get answers; to confirm what I already knew.


There was a warmth in his eyes and before I could form the words that stuck in my throat, he nodded.


He held out his right hand and as I clasped it in mine. I felt the scratch, more of a gash, in between his index finger and thumb.


He raised our embraced hands up to my lips.


I kept my mouth closed. This time I was the one who nodded.


Andrea Della Monica is a writer and journalist whose work has appeared in various print and online publications, including xoJane, The Nerve, Hippocampus Magazine, Vol. 1 Brooklyn,  Crunchable, and Her essay was a finalist in the 2015 Brooklyn Film and Arts Festival. Her children's book is available on Amazon. She happily cares for furry four-legged friends and spends time in the Berkshires.


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