I appreciate a thorough investigation. A good ‘ole fashioned puzzler requiring some research and critical analysis is even sorta fun for me. This has been helpful while managing ten 60’s-era condos on a small, secondary island. I’m often required to balance my Sherlock Holmes cap atop all the other hats I don to get the job done. And while I’ve rarely shied away from a challenge attached to a paycheck, solving mechanical and maintenance issues will never be one of my many talents.
Mystery: Why is the water pump running without guests in the building?
Answer: Because a leak has gone undetected in a storage closet for weeks.
Mystery: Why did the utility bill triple despite less use of the AC?
Answer: Because the water pump ran continually to keep up with the leak.
Mystery: Why do I smell mildew in the entryway of one particular condo?
Answer: Because there’s a hole in the roof, and it’s raining on the ceiling tiles.
Last week brought two mysteries. I suspected a common link, but couldn’t be sure.
A strange noise had presented itself on a few different occasions. A splatter splat splat pitter pat of liquid hitting my roof, deck and sometimes the ground behind my cottage. It sounded like Sally, the housekeeper, dumping mop water onto my roof. But she hadn’t done this for several months, ever since I told her my bedroom ceiling leaked in the exact place she dumped the water. Besides, she wouldn’t have been mopping at the time of the splatters.
I hoped it was just the guests staying above my cottage dumping out cooler water from their veranda. This made the most sense.
It made the most sense, that is, except for my worst fear as property manager: the dreaded sewer backup.
Which brings me to the second mystery of the week.
I had also just noticed — when walking across the deck toward my front door — a pissy smell. So. There was also a sneaking suspicion that raw sewage was spilling under my deck after every flush due to a burst pipe. Or something equally unfortunate. This could explain the sporadic splatter splat splat pitter pat that I’d heard on the deck. Maybe it only sounded like it was on the roof. A ventriloquist sound effect. But if it was raw sewage, wouldn’t I be smelling #2 in addition to #1?
It worried me enough to put the mystery sound/smell combo at the top of the next day’s maintenance list. The handyman validated my concern the following morning. Upon reaching the top deck stair, he did not offer the usual salutation. Instead, he asked through my kitchen window, “Why I smellin’ piss?”
He determined that it was cat piss— a tom must be spraying. It wasn’t possible, he assured, for a pipe to have broken in the place I smelled urine. So it must be a cat.
Since I had definitely caught more than one acrid whiff of cat piss, and since this is not a rare thing to smell on the property, I let it go at that. Although, I must admit that part of me knew I’d also smelled the separate and distinct odor of human piss in the area directly outside my kitchen window. But having many other things to fret over, I de-esclated the sound/smell mystery for the day.
Fortunately, the truth emerged (as it often does) quite organically later that evening. Or should I say, very early the next morning.
I woke up at 2:30 am to splatter splat splat pitter pat on the deck outside my kitchen window. Checking my phone for the time, I saw a text sent 15 minutes earlier from my across-the-street neighbor. She apologized for bothering me so late, but said there was a guest locked out of his condo making quite a racket trying to get back in. Yelling for Mom and throwing rocks at windows for upwards of 30 minutes, I later discovered.
This was perplexing. The condo she mentioned was currently vacant.
But then I remembered another text received earlier that evening from the guests staying two stories above my cottage. They wanted to know which bars in Cruz Bay I recommended for a younger crowd, asking on behalf of their 19-year-old son. Being a helpful host, I suggested four, and passed along the message to have fun and be safe.
It occurred to me that the teenager must be confused as to which condo is his. While he harassed the empty condo at the top of the stairs in the lower building, his family slept at the top of the stairs in the upper building. I pulled on some clothes and went outside prepared to guide his drunkity butt home. Stepping onto the deck, I noticed some fresh puddles on the otherwise dry wood directly below my kitchen window. That is, the spot from which I’d heard the splatter splat splat that had woke me just now. I bent down and sniffed. Sure enough. Piss.
Now I understood. First, the kid must have made it home, seeing as he’d just pissed off of his veranda and onto my deck. To be clear, this is right between my kitchen window and front door. Furthermore, not only did he do this while trashed in the middle of the night just now, he’s been doing it all week during the day. Presumably, in the presence of his parents. Even waving the stream about, it seems, if I’m to trust my ears as regards variety in splatter locale.
This is the splatter splat splat pitter pat noise! This is the piss smell!
Though he’d clearly made it home, I thought to check for good measure. No sooner did I reach the deck stairs when I from above, heard from the kid’s veranda,
I spun around, looking up. He smiled down at me from the veranda, swaying a bit. Involuntarily. Like a skyscraper.
“Yeah, a neighbor just texted me complaining about someone banging on a door.”
“Oh, I had the wrong door at first. I’m sorry. Ashley, I’m really really sorry.”
I pointed my index finger at him in classic scolding fashion.
“Go to bed.”
“I’m so so sorry…”
“Go to bed… Go to bed and stop pissing off the veranda.”
“I’m so so sorry…”
I walked toward my door, returning every apology with the directive for bed, accenting it with the finger scold.
“Ashley, I’m so so sorry.”
“Go to bed.”
“And stop pissing off of the veranda.”