The old man had been very wealthy., everybody who lived in this building was very wealthy, old money mostly but some new money too, it's all money. Money can buy you anything in this life but you can't cheat death no matter how rich you are.
He was gone now, dead and buried, the staff all let go. The chef, the nurse, the cleaner, the housekeeper, the driver all looking for the next wealthy family or individual to pamper. Letters of recommendation clutched in their hands no doubt, maybe even a mention in the will?
The apartment lay bare, the family had sold it quickly; even in slow times an apartment in a Candela building didn't stay on the market long. His executor handed the keys over to the building superintendent with a letter, legal of course, informing him of the change in ownership. The new owners will have gone before the board, their lives dissected, their wealth investigated, their charitable donations accessed, their characters examined. It's not enough just to have money in some buildings...
The apartment was indeed empty but the building superintendent and I we knew what we were looking for. In a cedar lined closet we tapped out the hollow behind which a safe was hidden away. I remember them putting it in more than 25 years ago, a company from the Lower East-side who specialized in quality safes. Though she measured no more than 30 inches in height, she was a heavy old girl. We pried her out with pinch bars and elbow grease and sweat from our brows. Once she was on the movers dolly it was simply a matter of navigating the passage way to the rear of the apartment and then down to the basement via the service elevator.
The locksmith who had the contract for the building wished, naturally, to keep the contract, and agreed to open the safe gratis. I poured the tea, we sat and watched him in action. Not so much a master at his craft more a capable jobber he none the less opened the safe within the hour. Alas to our dismay no riches were to be found, only a pair of false teeth and a sepia coloured piece of paper on which the combination to the safe had been scribbled many years ago.