About a week ago I returned to our small condo complex and noticed that our neighbor’s door down the hallway was open.
"Hi," I said, "I'm Jaron."
The stranger identified himself as Fred and shook my hand.
"Fred," I said, "I see you're wearing rubber gloves. Are you a police officer?"
Fred said he was a fireman and there had been an incident. He would not comment about Jack Belikoff, the owner of the condo.
I have known Jack for about six or seven years, ever since he bought his top-floor condo from a retired contractor.
The first time I talked to Jack, I told him that if he was going to have hookers visit his condo and then throw them out into the hallway without paying (after beating them up) that some of his neighbors might complain.
"Yes, Jack," I said, "that's all very well and good. However, they do make a lot of noise and they become so frightened by you that they turn on the fire alarms to get help."
Jack told me to mind my own business.
My wife and I nicknamed him "The Mad Russian." He was a stockbroker and he was successful at it, judging by his new Lexus and Mercedes. He belonged to the finest health clubs and took lessons in Karate and erected satellite dishes on the roof.
As you might know, I am the roof monitor and I told Jack that before he could install roof dishes it had to be cleared by me.
Jack's eyes bulged and he said, "I come from Russia to live here in free country. I do what I want. I can listen to any TV I want." Then he lunged at me with a playful karate swipe and missed my ear.
From time to time the Mad Russian would wash his karate uniform in the laundry room. If he found one of the cleaning women washing something for one of the other owners, Jack would rip their items out of the machine and explain to the terrified servant that he was a resident and that he came first.
And if she did not like it, then that was too bad. Then he would call the cleaning woman a pig and use the washing machine.
I chatted with Jack about this activity and he told me, "I come from Russia to live here in free country. I do what I want. Especially washing."
On several occasions other residents pointed out to Jack that his cigar smoke was stinking up the elevator and it was not nice to throw cigar butts in the garage. Jack would patiently explain that he came from Russia to live in free country. The Mad Russian threatened the residents who did not approve of his activity with personal injury.
From time to time, Jack would get drunk and swim naked in the pool in the middle of the night. He said that although it bothered the other residents, America was a free country.
Once or twice, people accidentally parked in his garage space. He wrote them notes indicating that he would have their cars towed immediately. He came to only one annual board meeting that I know of and threatened his fellow homeowners with mayhem for not voting the way he wanted things to progress.
From time to time Jack told stories of people shooting at him with a handgun. But he was prone to exaggeration. He said he dealt with Russian industrialists and they entrusted him with large hunks of cash. I often saw Jack sitting next door at the café talking to other large men. Sometimes they handed each other stacks of 100-dollar bills.
After I spoke to the fireman with the rubber gloves, I watched the activity around Jack's condo. Several officials from the coroner's office wheeled a corpse out in a body bag and that was the last we saw of Jack.
The police ruled it suicide. They said Jack had shot himself with a handgun smack between the eyes. Some people say that Jack was murdered. Highly doubtful.
Why anyone would want to harm the Mad Russian is beyond me. After all, there was no one in our condo who ever spoke out against Jack, other than yours truly. And I have an alibi. I was in San Diego at the time of the death.
For some reason there seems to be festive spirit in our condo these days.
Pick any subject from Russia to love to murder and type it in the window below. Hit search. Chances are Jaron has written about it.
copyright 2001 Jaron Summers