“Come on Mr. Jenkins! Rents overdue!” Mr. Jones shouted. “Mr. Jenkins is a bit on the old side. So you have to be kind of loud for him to hear you.” He pounded his fist a few more times on the solid door.
“Alright already! I’m coming dammit,” an old voice thundered back from behind the closed-door.
There was a slight click from the deadbolt sliding, then the door pop opened just enough to reveal an elderly man peering out through the crack. “Who’s this Nancy boy?” Mr. Jenkins asked. His voice gravelly and harsh.
“Trainee,” Mr. Jones replied.
“Trainee, huh? Whatever happen to that queer lookin’ fella you had before? What was his name? Harry Scroater?” Mr. Jones just shook his head slowly. “Well, follow me… trainee,” Mr. Jenkins said with a sardonic, feminine inflection.
Steve crept in behind Mr. Jones—who walked right into the musky smelling apartment like he’d done countless times before. There was a thick coating of dust on everything in the room, with the exception being a worn rocking chair with a deep indent of a person’s body on its tattered cushions. It looked as if this chair had been used daily for at least 30 years.
“Old man, you got my money?” Mr. Jones snapped.
“Yeah, yeah, it’s over on the counter. You ruthless bastard. You know I’m always good for it.”
“Well, that’s what they always say until they don’t.” Mr. Jones glared at the old man, but the old man just smiled in return. “Anyway, you going to need anything out of the ordinary before the end of the week?” Mr. Jones fought back a smile as the old man started to rub his bald head with an over exaggerated waving motion.
“No, I’m all good. Just the same old, same old, ya know? Oh wait, I do need some extra scratch off tickets if you think you can pull that off?”
“Yeah, sure, more tickets. Steve, did you get that? You taking notes?” This time it was Steve who took the brunt of Mr. Jones’ glaring mean mug.
“Umm… yes,” Steve responded, sounding unsure of himself.
Mr. Jones and the old man ignored him and began talking about something on the news. While they were preoccupied with meaningless chatter, Steve started to look around the dusty apartment with slow and deliberate glances.
“Old man, you got my money?”
The first thing to catch his eye was an unusual painting hanging on the back-end of the wall. He swore he saw this exact painting once on a school field trip to the Smithsonian American Art museum. The painting looked to be American Revolution era—a fact cemented by the date of 1774 etched into the wooden frame.
There wasn’t anything too bizarre about the painting; it just depicted a group of soldiers on horseback going through the forest. But one thing did stand out—an old man walking next to a general. The old man was slightly hunched, bald, and had a very pronounced nose. He was the only person in the painting without a uniform on.
Steve panned his eyes over to Mr. Jenkins. He now studied the old man’s features much closer than he had when they first entered the apartment. He had a slight hunch, bald head, and a very pronounced nose—almost sharp looking as it sloped over his top lip. Steve looked back at the painting—fixing his eyes on the nose of the old man in the painting. It was the same man!
How could this be? Steve thought to himself. It was impossible.
The two men kept on talking while Steve inched his way over to an antique desk in the corner. There was a small lamp on the desk that lit up a small circle of photographs with a orange-tinged hue. Making sure he wouldn’t be noticed, Steve pushed the photos very slowly with the edge of his hand—splaying them out like a deck of cards.
Being careful to not be seen, he stepped in front of the photos and made sure his body was facing the two men—this way if they looked over at him it would look like he was just waiting patiently for them to be done talking. Tilting his head carefully, Steve started to examine the photos.
The one on top was a picture of a WWII platoon. And strangely enough, the same old man from the painting was standing to the far side of the soldiers. And again, he wasn’t wearing a uniform. Picture after picture—Vietnam, Korea, Desert Storm, WWI—all pictures of soldiers and all had the same old man off to the side. But it was the last picture that was most startling. It was a picture of John F. Kennedy during a parade in Dallas; the day he was assassinated. President Kennedy was waving from the backseat of his Lincoln to a group of cheering Americans. And off to the side near a grassy knoll—was the same old man!
“What the hell?” Steve mumbled under his breath.
“Huh? You say something, boy” Mr. Jones asked.
“What? No.” Steve replied.
“Alright then, we better get going. We got a lot more to do today.”
“Good! I was getting ready to kick the two of you out anyways,” Old man Jenkins croaked.
Back in the hallway, Mr. Jones and Steve started making their way back to the supply closet. “You know, you always hear about an old man Jenkins on TV or movies, but I never actually met one in person before,” Steve said, half talking to himself.
“Yeah, well the thing about Mr. Jenkins in room one, he is the first Jenkins that all of those stories are based off of.”
“What do you mean, first?
“I mean, he’s the original old man Jenkins. Came to this country around the time of the Revolutionary war.”
“Oh come on. That would make him like, hundreds of years old,” Steve said. He didn’t want to believe it, but he couldn’t explain the pictures, either.
“So what. That’s nowhere near the weirdest thing you’ll find in this apartment. I thought you said you read the ad?”
“Well, yeah… but… I thought it was just for show. You know? I didn’t think when it said ‘Mysteries and strange things happen every day’ that it meant impossibly old men would be up and walking around.” Steve instantly felt stupid saying it out loud.
“Son, I think by the end of the day, you’ll have plenty of things to put in that lil’ comic book of yours.”
Steve had no idea what he had gotten himself into. But he figured since he came this far, he might as well stick it out until the end. So he followed Mr. Jones to their next destination on their daily rounds.