Michael Leonce played a keyboard in Prospect Park Peristyle, Brooklyn, in 2004. He died last month on the Q train.
By Michael Brick
By Michael Brick
The old musician died on a southbound Q train. It was after midnight on a Sunday and the body of the old musician rode to Stillwell Avenue where the subway tracks end and there is an amusement park and then there is the sea.
Inside the cavernous train shed the old musician was pronounced dead at 3:10 a.m. on March 5, 2006. He carried an umbrella and a rolling cart, work boots and cards with names of people he had met. His keyboard was gone. No signs of criminality, the police declared. Investigation continuing.
The identity of the old musician was refined from Male, Black, 60's to Michael Leonce, 68. His children claimed his body. A son-in-law, Barry Greene, called the people whose names were on the cards.
Mr. Greene said that the old musician was once a policeman in Trinidad. He took a son and two daughters to Boston and he got a divorce. He moved to New York and worked as a subway electrician. A woman from church told him he had another child, too. He injured his back and drew workers' compensation. He slept in city parks, but not always.
The cards he carried told of a McDonald's restaurant where he was allowed to store papers in a basement. Among the papers were receipts from nights spent at the Madison Hotel. There was a letter seeking a balance statement from a Caribbean bank. There was $6,000 in an account at Citibank.
"We were told," Mr. Greene said, "that he had a lump sum of money somewhere."
The old musician guarded his secrets. He made the Prospect Park Peristyle a stage on sunlit afternoons when your good eye could see the domino players and the jacketless girls between the roofless colonnades.
On a spring day in 2004 he played for a small audience. He sat behind his instrument in an overcoat and a knit cap. His keyboard was balanced on an upturned cart and there were shopping bags and plastic bottles. The melody was trebly and the beat was ferocious, and when the song was done he took the names of the men who had listened.
"That's a calypso that's written by me," the old musician said. "I'm not releasing it yet."