Ransom Note Press
Who Gets the Apartment?

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ISBN 978-0-9773787-3-9  / 0-9773787-3-X

by Steven Rigolosi


U.S. $13.95 / Canada $16.95

"Rigolosi, a completely fresh voice in the mystery genre, writes with gusto... Don't miss this book." --Library Journal

Central Park West & 72nd Street. Luxurious 3000 sq ft. duplex penthouse: 2 bedrooms, fireplaces in LR & master BR, 3 baths, cathedral ceilings, all modern kitchen with DW & all new appliances, dining room, balcony overlooking the park, doorman bldg with full security features, basement parking included. $600/month. Two-year lease. Available first of the month.
Call 212-555-2997.

It all started with the ad…

New York book editor Corinne Jensen, facing eviction from her overpriced Manhattan apartment, can’t believe her luck. In a city where tiny studio apartments rent for $2,000 per month, Corinne finds herself landing a luxury Central Park penthouse for a rent more inexpensive than she ever thought possible.

But Corinne doesn’t know that the same apartment has been rented to three other people—an up-and-coming artist, a New York assistant district attorney, and a computer expert. When the four strangers attempt to move into the apartment on the same day, they realize they’ve been swindled.

Will the “Gang of Four” come to an amicable agreement, or will they gladly cross moral boundaries in their efforts to secure their right to the apartment? Will they band together to bring the swindler to justice, or will they connive and double-cross one another as they play the New York real estate game? Will their alliances remain intact, or will allegiances shift?

Crackling with suspense and filled with double-crosses, WHO GETS THE APARTMENT? will keep you reading late into the night. This special two-in-one edition also includes the long-awaited sequel, GOOD BOYS NEVER WIN.


Chapter 1 from Who Gets the Apartment?


Anyone who's ever sought a decent apartment at a decent price in a decent Manhattan neighborhood knows that you need only one thing to find such a place: sheer, unadulterated, God-sent good luck.
With waiting lists for rent-controlled buildings reaching the 15-year mark, some enterprising Manhattanites have developed creative methods of apartment hunting. They rise early to scan the obituaries, then arrive at the buildings of the recently deceased with pocketfuls of cash, hoping to cajole the building manager into giving them the recently vacated apartment. They marry or declare domestic partnerships with complete strangers to get their name on a lease. They chase down every possible lead generated by friends, family, and co-workers. But none of these methods work unless Lady Luck is firmly on their side. And today, for some happy reason, she smiled on Corinne Jensen.
Corinne had had a terrible night's sleep—if you could call tossing, turning, sweating, and semiconscious hallucinating a "night's sleep." It was rumored that her company might be put up for sale, and she wondered if she'd survive yet another horrible merger or acquisition. Her Mom and Dad, back in Buffalo, seemed to be going downhill, and she knew that sooner or later she'd have to start sending money. She didn't resent this (it was only fair, since her sister had the far more onerous task of actually caring for their parents), but it wasn't as though New York book editors had a lot of extra cash lying around.

But these worries paled in comparison to the prospect of being thrown out of her apartment, which was imminent. The building was going co-op and she didn't have the money for a down payment. She should have saved more. But it's impossible to save money when you live in Manhattan. Everyone knows that.

She'd spent the last three months in a fruitless quest for something she could afford and feel safe in. All she wanted was a simple one-room apartment, like her current place, but even small studios on the Upper West Side were renting for eight or nine hundred dollars more than her small, pleasant apartment on 88th Street.

All her problems would have been solved if she'd been willing to relocate to, say, Yorkville. But the Upper West Side, where she'd lived since coming to New York after college, was her home. She knew the cashiers at Zabar's by name. The brothers who ran the newsstand Amsterdam Avenue taught her a new Russian word each time she picked up the new Vogue. She even had "her" table at Café 82, a small diner on Broadway.

She looked at the clock: 5:09 a.m. She uttered a mild profanity and gave up any hope of sleep. She might as well get up and go for a run.

The morning was crisp and chilly. She felt invigorated as she stepped out of the building and began a slow jog. As she ran, she tried to block out the feelings of envy she felt for the residents of each and every apartment building on West End Avenue. All those people, she thought, torturing herself, cuddled up cozy in their beds, sleeping like babies, not about to be kicked out onto the street.

As she ran in place, waiting for a traffic signal to change, a delivery truck for The Clarion pulled alongside her. A burly man tossed two bundles of the new issue onto the curb, then climbed out to stuff the newspapers into the yellow box from which neighborhood residents could retrieve their free copies.

Corinne loved The Clarion. It billed itself, somewhat pretentiously, as "the voice of the Upper West Side." Full of attitude and opinions, the paper was heavy on coverage of cultural events and local politics. Since the paper had gone from a subscription base to free circulation a few years ago, she'd noticed many more ads for prostitutes, escorts, and "hot chat" lines in the paper’s back pages, but these were easy to ignore.

When the driver pulled away, she opened the box and took out a copy. The driver had stuffed the papers into the box upside down, so the first thing she saw was the "Clarion Bulletin Board" on the back page.

The ad leapt off the page:


Central Park West & 72nd Street. Luxurious 3000 sq ft. duplex penthouse: 2 bedrooms, fireplaces in LR & master BR, 3 baths, cathedral ceilings, all modern kitchen with DW & all new appliances, dining room, balcony overlooking the park, doorman bldg with full security features, basement parking included. $600/month. Two-year lease. Available first of the month. Call 212-555-2997.

$600 a month? Impossible. Surely they meant $6,000? But…what if she really could get an apartment ten times the size of her current place for a third of what she was currently paying?

She looked at her watch: 5:36. It was probably too early to call the number, but she didn't care. She ran to the public phone at the other end of the block, praying that, just once, some stupid kid hadn't smashed the receiver or used his pocketknife to cut the wires. Miracle of miracles—she picked up the receiver and got a dial tone. She punched in her calling card number and the number listed in the ad. After two rings, a male voice said "Hello."

"Hi, I hope I'm not calling too early? My name's Corinne Jensen. I'm calling about the ad in The Clarion. Is the apartment on 72nd and Central Park West still available?"

"Yes, it is." The man sounded quite pleasant.

"Is the rent $600 a month?"

"Yes, that's correct."

"I'll take it."

There was a light chuckle. "Don't you want to see it first?"

"No. I'll take it."

"Miss--Jensen, did you say?--I can't rent an apartment to you over the phone. We need to meet in person. Plus, I have to do credit checks, background checks, et cetera."

"Please don't give it to anyone else. I'll be right over. It's not too early to come, is it?"

"You can stop by any time. I'll be here all day, until about six. Let me give you the address." And he did.

"Please, please, don't give it to anyone else before I get there."

"Listen, I can’t promise you anything. I'm only the rental agent. Just get here as soon as you can. And bring three months' rent and two months' security in cash, just in case."

"I'll be there within half an hour. Even if I have to steal a car. Who should I ask for at the building?"

"I'm Andrew Weisch. Have the doorman send you to Apartment 18D."

"I'm Corinne Jensen. Wait, I told you that already. OK, I'm hanging up now. I'll be there in half an hour. Bye."

She slammed the phone down and ran back to her apartment at cheetah-like speed. Thank God she’d decided to hide a substantial wad of hundred-dollar bills in her cookie jar! Manhattan landlords usually require security deposits in cash, and she hadn’t want to find an unacceptable apartment on an evening or weekend, then lose it to a rival because the banks were closed and ATM machines have a ridiculously small cash limit. She smashed into the apartment, grabbed her nest egg, and ran back out the door without locking it. Back on Broadway, she hailed a taxi like a woman possessed.

She gave the address and held a twenty-dollar bill through the security window. "Get me there in under 10 minutes and this is your tip," she said, as if the cabbie needed an excuse to race through the streets of upper Manhattan like Jeff Gordon at the Indy 500.

When the cab pulled up outside the building, a pristine pre-war high-rise on the corner of Central Park West, Corinne threw the money at the driver and raced into the lobby. She gave her name to the doorman, who sent her up to apartment 18D.

From the elevator, she could see Andrew Weisch waiting at the apartment door. He was tall, slender, and goodlooking, with a fashionable haircut and expensive designer eyeglasses and shoes. She forced herself to calm down and walk slowly.

"Mr. Weisch? Corinne Jensen. Sorry about the way I'm dressed. I was out jogging when I saw the ad, and I didn’t want to waste any time. I really am a presentable person—I'm a book editor at Clarendon & Shaw."

Weisch smiled. "I don't usually look my best first thing in the morning, either. Come on in."

Corinne crossed the threshold and entered-—a palace. She gasped as she surveyed the first floor, a huge, open, L-shaped living room/dining room combination surrounded on three sides by floor-to-ceiling windows and a wraparound balcony. A baby grand piano sat majestically off to one side. She stared in slack-jawed amazement as Mr. Weisch led her through the dining room into the large eat-in kitchen, which was filled with expensive appliances and every modern convenience.

She continued to make small noises of wonder and astonishment as she followed him up the stairs to the two bedrooms, both of which were larger than her entire apartment. The master bath had separate bathtub and shower stalls, a double sink, a skylight, a toilet, and a bidet. The second bedroom was only marginally smaller; the current resident seemed to use it as some sort of office. Both rooms had the same magnificent floor-to-ceiling windows and skylights.

Corinne was shaking with excitement. At the completion of the tour, she said with as much sang froid as she could muster, "This is certainly a lovely place. I'll take it."

"It is a wonderful apartment," Weisch admitted. "Let's head back downstairs and get the applications taken care of." Corinne followed like an obedient puppy.

"I need to make a few calls to check your employment status, credit rating, et cetera," Weisch said as she signed her name dozens of times. "Would you excuse me for a few minutes?"

"Of course," Corinne replied, fighting back a surge of optimism—as, she’d found, it never does pay to get one’s hopes up. Still, she thought with some satisfaction, her credit was excellent, and she'd been with the same company for more than ten years.

She glanced at her watch. It was just after 6:30. "Isn't it too early to make business calls?" she asked.

"The agencies are open 24/7," Weisch replied, handing her a box of donuts. "Help yourself. I'll be back in a few."

She slowly munched on a half-stale cruller, practically shaking with excitement and joy. She envisioned the many fabulous wine-and-cheese parties she'd be hosting. And the thrill of having that second bedroom, for guests and for her computer…! She came close to having a real estate orgasm, a phenomenon known only to those few on whom the Real Estate God (in cahoots with Lady Luck) has bestowed his largesse.

Weisch returned ten minutes later.

"Congratulations. The apartment's yours. As soon as you give me the first three months' rent and two months' security, of course.

"Just a few rules," Mr. Weisch continued amiably as Corinne counted out the cash. "The apartment is rented unfurnished, so everything you see will be gone by the time you move in. The building has a zero-tolerance policy for pets, so I strongly advise you not to even consider sneaking one in. There's additional storage in the basement, in the cage marked 18D. The rent includes all utilities; we also arrange for your phone service, so you don’t need to contact the phone company. Parties are allowed, but the building has strict policies about loudness after midnight.

"Do you have a car? No? OK, we'll rent the parking spot in the garage to someone else then. If you ever do get a car, let us know, and we'll see what we can do. But we can't guarantee a place in the garage.

"We do expect the rent to be paid promptly on the first of each month. You can leave a check with the doorman, or I’ll give you an address to send the check to.

"All these rules are spelled out in the rental agreement," Weisch concluded, handing her three copies of that document to sign. "And that's the end of my lawyer spiel. Do you have any questions I can answer?"

"Just one. I don't mean to look a gift horse in the mouth, but why are you renting this place for such a…um….reasonable price?"

Weisch shrugged his shoulders. "I wish I knew. This apartment's owned by the man I work for, John Blackmore. I just do what he tells me to do. He doesn't like his underlings asking him questions."

"Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. I was just wondering."

"The wealthy have their own way of doing things. I just go with the flow. Mine is not to question why, mine is just to do or die, blah blah blah. You know how it is."

She read over the terms of the rental agreement carefully. Nothing out of the ordinary. She'd never been happier to sign a document in her life.

Andrew Weisch also signed the agreement, then reached into his pocket and pulled out three sets of keys, which he dropped into Corinne's hand.

"Mr. Blackmore will countersign the agreement, and we'll FedEx a fully executed copy to your current address," Weisch said. "Give it a couple of days. Welcome to the building. You move in on the first."