- Editors' Pick
They bought the gas masks and Hazmat suits at Home Depot.
This was fourteen months after Hurricane Katrina, when parts of New Orleans had already returned to normal, but Rich and Tee Marvin weren’t taking any chances.
Rich’s mother, Shirley Marvin, had asked them to travel to her former home in New Orleans and check on the things she’d packed away at a downtown storage facility. Shirley, who was eighty-four in October 2006, had been experiencing occasional memory lapses associated with old age, and she thought she had “between twenty and seventy paintings” in one unit, she’d told Rich, and furniture in another.
Most of the paintings were by somebody named Noel Rockmore.
Rich and Tee live in Cotuit, Massachusetts, a village on Cape Cod. They traveled about sixteen hundred miles to reach the nineteenth-century warehouse where Shirley had been renting space for twenty years. Covered from head to toe without an inch of flesh bare, they took a service elevator to the second floor and came to the first of the units. It was a large space, 20 feet by 10 feet, for which Shirley paid $250 a month. While helping with her bills, Rich had learned that his mother hadn’t paid for the storage in three months, giving the business the right to take possession of the property and auction it off. But Shirley had been a good customer, and so the place had cut her a break.
Rich and Tee swung the door open and stood stunned by what they saw. Boxes crowded every inch of space and pressed a...