Walter Bass, a parking lot attendant, called to report a supernatural apparition haunting the floor of the downtown parking garage where he works.
"What we have here," Bass said in his phone message, "is a stain that depicts the complete picture of a young boy found dead on the property 50 years ago. With a pigeon."
A ghost. Two ghosts, if you count the pigeon.
"This is a phenomenon that has to be checked out," Bass said.
I haven't been to a good apparition since St. Mary appeared in Colfax 20 years ago. So I went to the Stewart Eberhardt Building, a multistory city office and parking garage near the channel head. Bass mans a ground-floor booth by a car entrance. I asked him what was going on.
"What it is, is a phenomenon," Bass said.
He told me the story. In 1968, during construction of a previous building, a boy snuck onto the site after hours. The boy climbed girders, trying to capture a pigeon as a pet.
The boy lunged to snare one. He caught the bird but lost his footing and fell to his death, clutching the unlucky bird.
Now the mournful youngster was manifesting himself in a ground-floor hallway. With the pigeon. The walls were weeping, too.
Bass carded us through a security door. We stepped into a long, starkly lit concrete hallway. The sepulchral hallway had no doors or windows for most of its length.
Bass stopped. "This is the spot," he declared. "And what do you see? You tell me what you see."
I looked down. A reddish-brown fluid of some kind - spilled coffee, protoplasm, blood of Cthulu - stained the concrete floor. Its shape was roundish, vaguely torso-ish, topped by the distinct silhouette of a young boy's head and a pigeon's upper body.
Bass pointed to a darker blotch in the boy's chest. "That's his heart," he muttered in a respectful slumber-room voice. "That's his pigeon with his damn eye. That's the boy, looking at his pigeon."
Bass showed me the walls. The concrete walls were weeping red fluid, leaving dried streaks. I wouldn't know if this is typical concrete secretion or if Jimmy Hoffa is in there.
"It's a scary situation," Bass said, creeped. "You're walking down that gauntlet, you're looking at the wall, then you look at that spot, ... my goodness!"
Bass stepped respectfully around the stain. "Can you check it out?" he asked me. "Get to the bottom of it?"
I said I would try.
Back in the newsroom, I pored over the paper's accidental death file.
A hobo was cut in half trying to hop a freight train. A sailor at the Port of Stockton was whipped to death when a mooring rope snapped and struck him with enough force to knock him out of his boots. An inmate at the women's prison died of a heart attack after dropping a hot curling iron down her blouse.
Et cetera. No Pigeon Boy.