Inside the Grand Wizard’s House

Editor’s Note: All this week, we’re sharing writing produced by residents of Fort Lyon Supportive Residential Community, which provides recovery-oriented transitional housing, counseling, and services for homeless individuals.
Lighthouse is sending three writers-in-residence to Fort Lyon this year to help participants explore personal histories and provide a forum for practicing creative exploration. This piece was produced during writer-in-residence John Cotter’s stay at Fort Lyon in March. For more information about the Fort Lyon residency, click here.

By Eric McIntire

Yes, well I was working on one of my dad’s properties in South Denver, painting, dry-walling, and such. The neighbors, when they would see me, asked if I had seen the man who lived next door. I always replied that I wasn’t aware that anybody even lived there.

Well, one day I was painting the window trim and noticed people in suits and police officers trying to get in the door, pushing and kicking at it. So I went over with a large crow bar and popped it open for them. The smell hit me hard—it was thick and quite gruesome. There he was, lying on his back. He looked like a shriveled mummy, surrounded by his dried-up fluids.

“Hey,” one of the officers said, “I think you should stand back toward the sidewalk.”

So I returned to painting the trim as they pulled out the body and loaded him into some kind of van. The next day, as I again was working, I saw an older gentleman trying to get into the house—he was struggling because they had put up sheets of plywood. Once again, my crowbar and I came to help. I opened up the house and proceeded to walk around. The stain, the smell still lingered.

I saw paintings on the walls, resting on the floor—they resembled Edvard Munch’s dark portraits, creepy nudes; he had done them himself. I also saw pictures of the man. He ended up being some grand wizard of some sort of order. He once looked like the guy inside the Led Zeppelin IV album. The man told me I should leave, so I did.

A day later, my friend Mark showed up at my apartment, with a suitcase of Coors Extra Gold and a bottle of vodka. He was supposed to be fishing in Alaska, but as usual, he was kicked off the boat, so here he was. After a few drinks, I told him I had to go to the property and finish something. So he came with me. I decided to show Mark the inside of the house where the guy died. As we walked around, Mark gathered up five or six paintings and said he didn’t understand how I could just walk around casually with that smell.

He said, “I have to get out of here.”

So we left carrying the paintings. As we did, the lady one house over stood watching us. She’s the type who regularly calls the police. I told Mike we’d better go because I knew the police were on their way.

We got about two blocks away, then had a conflict: I wanted to go home, he wanted to go to a bar, the Campus Lounge. As we stood there with the paintings—well, guess what? There’s Denver’s finest. They arrested us and took us first to the District Three jail. There was only one other person there. We three went to the city jail, then the county. We were housed in Building 20. Somehow, the other inmates found out about what we did, and we were known as “the art thieves,” which for some reason was cool. They said it with respect. One even offered to wash my socks.

Three court dates and a month and a half later, we were released. The dead man had no family, so there was no one to press charges. So we got trespassing instead of burglary.

When I got back to my apartment, I had lost my keys, so I climbed in the window. My TV was on and I thought maybe someone was in there. In the fridge was the beer and the vodka, so nobody I knew had been there or all that would have been gone. I guess I’d left my TV on for all that time.

So I sat there on my couch, smoked weed, did some shots, and thought, “Wow, that was a trip.”