“This building is amazing!” Tony turned in place as he scanned the elaborate metal-work, mosaics, and marble of the lobby. He stopped at the double glass doors, admiring the detailed filigree of the shiny brass grills; he pulled his DSC-RX100 out of a jacket pocket. “Don’t you have a doorman?”
His friend, Robert Hedges, took a step past, thumbed the lock, and pulled one of the doors towards them. “He quit. And the one before that. We can’t seem to keep doormen.”
Tony followed him outside, into the spacious vestibule. The door slowly closed behind him. He pointed at the wall panels and the engaged columns–two on either side of the entrance, two more on their left and right, and one on each corner where the colorful terrazzo under their feet met the sidewalk. “Green travertine,” he said. “They built this entrance like a portico to a temple!” He lifted the camera. “Do you mind?”
Hedges raised his eyebrows. “I don’t mind.” He tried to avoid it, but his eyes snagged on the sculpted column-top in the left inner corner of the vestibule. He shivered.
Tony followed his friend’s line of sight. “Wow,” he breathed, “that is awesome. I didn’t notice it when I came in.” He moved to a closer position, his chin stretched, his Adam’s apple protruding. “This apartment house was built when?–1925 or so?–part of the art-deco construction spurt here along the Grand Concourse. But the ornamentation in this place is a combination of art-deco and something else.” He clicked and clicked but then stopped and peered at the LCD screen, his head still bent back, the lens pointing upward. “Hmmm, that’s strange. You’ve got two ranks of acanthus leaves–very Roman–some are incised, others are three-dimensional, but then you’ve got this … figure.”
“Yeeeahh. Him.” Hedges stuck his hands in his hoodie pockets and rocked back on his heels. “So, what did you think of my music?” he asked. “I built that recording studio myself; my computers can synthesize and record; rigged them to speakers, an electronic keyboard, and a professional quality mixer.”
“Hmmm, what?” Tony pivoted. “You know, I think that’s a green man. Like you find in British monasteries from the Middle Ages.”
“What’s a green man?” A few lone individuals ambled by on the sidewalk from both directions. It was generally quiet though, that hour after dinner in late spring when the temperature is mild and it’s not quite sunset. “Did you like the music, Tony?” Hedges persisted.
“Huh? Oh, sure,” Tony answered, his gaze intent on his LCD screen as he reviewed his shots. He sidled over to his friend, not taking his eyes off the camera. “This is weird,” he said.
“Yeah, well, I hope you had a good time. Sorry I didn’t invited you here before now; moved from Jersey a few months ago. Had to get settled. I was lucky as hell to get that loft on the top floor.”
Tony’s head was wagging like a bobble-toy on the dashboard of a car. “No, uh-uh, no. Just no.”
“Well, it’s getting late. You’d better get going. This part of the Concourse is okay, but you don’t want to be driving through some of these neighborhoods late at night.”
Tony glanced up, his face puckered with annoyance. “Bob, look at this, will you?” And he shoved the camera in front of his friend.
“I don’t really want to, Tony. We know all about that stupid little fucker. Gotta live with him, you know?” He patted Tony on the back. “You’d best delete those pics. The more attention you give him, the worse it gets. We’ll hang out again sometime, when you’re here in New York again, okay?” And he backed towards the doors.
“Uh, what? Yeah, sure. But….” He watched as Hedges spun around, fumbled with his key, twisted it hurriedly, then disappeared inside the lobby. Tony returned his attention to the LCD screen. He passed from one picture to the next, taken seconds apart. The capital with the elaborate, stylized acanthus leaves like pointed tongues clustered in two rows, and the six-inch, carved demon nestled in the marble foliage, appeared in perfect focus, the clarity and color in perfect balance. Except, “It can’t be,” Tony said out loud. He ran through the shots again, backwards and forwards. In each one, the figure was making a different face. Nothing else had shifted. The creature appeared angry, then sad, then mocking. “Is he sticking his tongue out at me?” Tony asked, his voice echoing as he stared at the last photo he took. He forced himself to twist his head around and look up at the top of the half-column once more.
The small, green thing was pointing its muzzle at him, revealing two rows of sharp teeth. Its eye-slits glinted.