This story includes violence and coarse language.
“He threw it out, right in front of me.” Pearce was incredulous, but he hadn’t been in the gang very long. This kind of thing happened.
“You got it back?”
“Yeah. From the main garbage bin in the basement this morning. 1025 dumped it down the chute with his trash.” Pearce was holding a padded envelope, the kind with bubble wrap lining the inside.
Hatch listened from his seat on the swings. Other members of the Postmen were milling around the dark playground, talking or getting assignments. A few were already walking toward The Estate to make the night’s deliveries.
“Give it to Meesh. Hatch, go with him. There’s another package for 1025 waiting in the lobby.”
Meesh groaned and got up from where he was sitting. He grabbed the package from Pearce and followed Hatch toward the apartment building. The Estate loomed in front of them, rising up out of the park. It was a grimy mess with graffiti covering the exterior as high as the taggers could climb. Broken and boarded up windows dotted the first four or five floors. But the further up Hatch looked, the more the damage thinned out. It didn’t look like such a bad place to live, if you could get high enough.
It was the same inside. The hallways on all floors were plain and stark, but when people opened their apartment doors you could see the difference. The lower apartments were smaller, crowded, and seemed like the superintendent hadn’t visited them in years. As you went up things got more comfortable, open, and expensive.
Meesh pointed to the pile of packages just inside the lobby. More were showing up each night. Hatch shuffled through them and found a shoebox-sized one addressed to room 1025.
The Postmen didn’t live in The Estate, but they made deliveries there. Packages arrived in the lobby during the day and the gang of teenagers took them up to the apartments at night. They made sure the right people received them, big or small, high or low. Most people weren’t expecting anything, and didn’t like seeing a Postman at their door. Some got hysterical. Others tried to argue the package wasn’t really for them. Some, especially on the lower levels, just looked tired.
The Postmen didn’t know who sent the packages, but it was their job to make sure people accepted them. And that meant not throwing them in the dumpster.
As they walked through the deserted lobby Meesh glanced at the elevator bay and gave Hatch a look. Hatch kept going and pounded the crash bar to open the door to the stairwell. Meesh shook his head and followed.
The main elevator at The Estates hadn’t worked for as long as Hatch had been around. It sat with the number one cheerfully lit up -- but it was useless. There was an express elevator at the other end of the building, but it only went to the penthouses and you needed a special key. Only people who lived on the upper floors had access.
“They should fix that stupid elevator,” Meesh moaned as the two of them started up the stairs. He always complained about the smallest amount of exertion. Hatch knew for a fact that Meesh would sometimes even deliver packages to the wrong apartments on lower floors instead of climbing the stairs to their intended recipients. That made Hatch furious.
“Or someone should at least get us a key to the express. Why should we have to drag ourselves up ten flights just to deliver…”
“Fuck the elevator,” said Hatch softly.
They climbed in silence to the tenth floor and down the hall to room 1025. Meesh knocked on the door impatiently while Hatch flanked him with the new box in his hand.
Meesh stiffened as the door opened. 1025’s face darkened as he realized who they were. Postmen weren’t on the upper floors as often, and people there were sometimes shocked to see them. But 1025 wasn’t surprised. He was angry.
“What do you morons want now?”
“Looks like you lost something.” Meesh held the padded envelope from the night before out towards him.
“I already told your friend. That’s not mine.” 1025 took a step forward and filled the doorway.
“Bullshit. Say whatever you want, but you’re taking it.” Meesh grabbed the other package from Hatch. “And it looks like this just came for you, too.”
“Get the fuck out of here with that.” 1025 was going from simmer to boil. “I live here. Who the hell do you assholes think you are, sneaking in, causing trouble so you can deliver your precious little packages to people who don’t fucking give a damn?” He was inches from Meesh’s face.
“They’re not -- my -- fucking packages!” Meesh shifted and threw the box and envelope hard under 1025’s arm, into the apartment. 1025 grabbed Meesh and shoved him solidly into the wall on the other side of the hallway. Every nerve in Meesh’s body lit up.
Hatch stepped between them. For a few seconds 1025 and Hatch stared at each other. Then Hatch glanced past him at the packages on the floor of the apartment and pushed Meesh in the direction of the stairwell. They heard the apartment door slam behind them.
- - - - -
Brick walked up to Hatch by the swing set the next night. He was one of the most physically imposing Postmen, but he was easy to talk to and kind. If Hatch ever got a package, he wanted Brick to deliver it.
“This look familiar?” He held up 1025’s padded envelope.
“Garbage chute?” A small crowd of Postmen started gathering around them.
“Not this time. You know 336?” A few of them nodded their heads. She was a nice lady who didn’t have much and cleaned other people’s apartments for extra money. “She came up to me in the hallway. Said she found this in her handbag this afternoon. Didn’t realize what it was. Thought somebody might be missing it.”
“What do you mean she found it in her handbag?”
“I’ll give you one guess whose apartment she was cleaning this morning.”
Hatch looked down at the ground. A few other Postmen started mumbling under their breath.
“Let me guess. This looks familiar too, then?” Rath stepped forward from the edge of the group and held out a package about the size of a shoebox. “I heard 1025 was down on second earlier today, arguing with someone. I had a feeling so I stopped by tonight. Turns out 243 owes 1025 a bunch of cash. 1025 forced him to take this off his hands. Tried to trade out. I got the package off 243 before he opened it.”
“Fuckin’ slimeball.” The mumbling got louder.
“People have to own their own shit. Hatch, you’re going up. Brick and Rath, you too.”
Hatch got up from the swing set and started walking toward The Estate with Brick, Rath, and the two packages.
“And Hatch, there’s a new package for 1025 in the lobby. Take it up with you.”
- - - - -
Brick, Rath, and Hatch stood outside 1025 with the packages sitting in front of them. The new package was heavy and the size of a mini-fridge. The smaller box and envelope sat on top. Brick nodded. Hatch knocked.
1025 opened the door as if he was expecting them. He looked down at the packages, then up at Hatch. A sneer ran across the corner of his mouth. But then he huffed, stepped sideways and nodded for Hatch to come inside. Hatch bent down, picked up the pile, and walked into the apartment. The door shut behind him, with Brick and Rath outside. He heard the deadbolt turn.
Hatch walked through to the living room. 1025 was doing pretty well for himself. It was a very comfortable-looking apartment. Well furnished. Very clean.
“Have a seat.” 1025 was used to being in charge. He was getting down to business.
Hatch set the packages down and sat on the sofa. 1025 chose an armchair directly across from him, with a long coffee table in between.
“I’m just here to make a delivery. These three are yours.”
“No they’re not. I don’t want them.”
“Maybe you didn’t order them. Maybe they were on backorder or something. I don’t know. But they're yours anyway.”
“I don’t know why you can’t take a hint. I threw that one away twice.” He pointed to the padded envelope. He was half right. “Then you tried to pawn this one off on me.” His eyes darted between Hatch and the smaller box. “And now -- this.” He gestured to the large package sitting beside Hatch and leaned forward. “I don’t want your garbage.”
“We don’t send the packages. We just bring them up.” Hatch smirked. “What, do you just want us to let them pile up in the lobby?”
“You think this is funny?”
“No. I don’t.” Something about 1025 didn’t seem right. He was too tense. “Look, these things come in threes sometimes. Things escalate. Why don’t you just open the first one and I’ll take the other two back downstairs.”
“Why don’t you shut your fucking mouth! I’m not opening anything!” Hatch faced down a small, black handgun from across the coffee table. It wasn’t just debt 1025 had been trading this afternoon. His hands shook as he released the safety.
“These are yours. I’m just the Postman.”
“You’re a fucking terrorist!”
The first shot went through Hatch’s chest and into the couch. The second missed and shattered the bay window behind him. Glass fell ten stories as the gang watched from the playground.
Hatch sat as blood soaked through his shirt. It saturated his jacket and started running down the front of his chest. Easily, he leaned forward, picked up the third package, and placed it heavily on the coffee table in front of 1025. With two hands, he grabbed the top of the box and ripped it open in one terrible movement. Behind him, 1025 heard the locked door open and Brick and Rath step inside.
And suddenly, throughout the hallways and stairwells of The Estate there were Postmen. Some were headed for 1025. Others for the surrounding apartments. And more for unsuspecting people on the lower floors. The Postmen were everywhere, and each one carried a package.