The Jock and the Madman
After battering down the door, the detectives moved with Bruckner through the apartment, stunned. Silence filled the place, but illness reverberated as they weaved between stacks of newspapers, letters, boxes, piled to the ceiling. “A real scene of mental illness,” Bruckner said.
It was meticulous in its own way. No garbage smells, no food left out. But everything seemed out of place, disoriented, maintained according to a set of rules foreign to normalcy. The bed, for instance, wore a layer of evenly stacked papers, a foot high, smoothed and covered over with a blanket. In the bathroom they found a clear plastic tarp stretched across the back of the tub for no apparent reason.
It was mid-July, and the place steamed. There was no sign of a struggle, no obvious evidence of a crime, so the cops had to just let the place go. “It would have taken weeks to go through that stuff,” Mangold said. “We get a murder a day. There’s just no time.”
As the months passed, Bruckner called police from time to time with his thoughts on the case, but “they were not entertained,” he said. They were lotus eaters, distracted by fields of other crimes throughout the city. Sometimes they humored him. Sometimes they just didn’t pick up the phone.
“Little things kept happening,” Bruckner said. Little clues. Dental records finally confirmed that the body hung from the tree was, indeed, Angie’s. She wasn’t sick, and she wasn’t in New York. So who paid her rent?
Well, Red Colt did. Bruckner found rent receipts filled out in his curly script. Red Colt and Angie had enjoyed a relationship, and when she disappeared one day he had — like any homeless man — seen no reason to abandon a perfectly good apartment. Angie paid just a hundred bucks or so in rent, thanks to a financial assistance program, and apparently Red Colt could scrape that much together each month. Good for him, in a way. But it didn’t look good.
The homeless oracle, Tyson, approached Bruckner one day and said he’d had a vision: “I saw a man,” he said. “He was choking Angie in an apartment. It was Red Colt.”
Bruckner just shook his head. More worrisome, he wondered if the police might try and pin it on Red Colt. “Here’s this kindly old man, and I know if they arrest him, he won’t be able to explain himself,” Bruckner said.
For the moment, police continued to search for the suspect named Darryl, the man who slept near the body site. He was ex-military, somebody said, he knew Angie. Determined to find Darryl, Bruckner went back to the riverside. Darryl wasn’t anywhere to be seen, but there was a mountain of old clothes. They had been left there with the body, apparently by the killer. Police hadn’t taken it all to the lab because they felt it was too wet and moldy to provide evidence.
Bruckner started sorting the clothes and junk himself. Maybe there was something the cops had missed. Something that might leap out at him, something like — ah. What’s this? An old golf club pamphlet, with some writing on its cover. Random notes about various subjects, written in a strict block style, almost a military fashion. Completely unremarkable to most people. But somehow the cryptic writing sounded a note in Bruckner’s mind. It seemed frenetic. It seemed compulsive.
Bruckner returned to the apartment. This time without the cops. He let himself in, and let the illness of the place wash over him. For a reformed obsessive-compulsive man, entering the space was like a former smoker running through a field of tobacco. He might not indulge anymore, but he recognizes the leaf.
Time streamed past. He spent several years, it seemed, just standing in the doorway. Then he moved about, just looking, not touching yet. The calendar in the kitchen seemed almost cartoonish, with big X’s marking off the days, right up until March 28th, the same day Sharon Fahnestock heard fighting here.