Philip Seymour Hoffman lay dead on his side on the bathroom floor clad in a T-shirt and shorts, a hypodermic needle sticking out of his left arm.
In the trash, police found five empty heroin envelopes. Nearby were two full envelopes.
Some of the envelopes were marked in purple with an Ace of Spades. Others were stamped with an Ace of Hearts. Narcotics cops immediately set to determining which dope dealers use those brand names.
In the disordered fourth floor apartment, 4-D, on Bethune Street in Greenwich Village were photos of the 46-year-old actor’s three young kids. Police say that he was supposed to collect them from their mother for them to spend some time with their dad, but he had failed to show.
“That was not like him,” one police official said.
The mother is said by neighbors to have been with the kids in a playground just a block and a half away. Police say the mother contacted somebody who works with Hoffman. This person went to the apartment around 11:30 a.m. on Sunday. A call to 911 brought the police at 11:36 a.m., joined by paramedics, who pronounced him dead.
As neighbors tell it, the mother took the kids – a kindergartner, a second grader and a fifth grader – to a nearby garage to get her car. She is said to have driven the short distance to Hoffman’s apartment and left the kids in the car while she dashed inside, by one account, shouting, “I have to see him!”
Investigators from the Medical Examiner’s office had already performed their own ritual and waited for the police to finish before removing the body. An autopsy will be followed by drug screens.
Down on the street, small crowds had gathered at end of the closed-off block, spectators who had at other times thrilled to Hoffman’s talent on the screen. Neighbors spoke of how he would walk his children to the local public school.
As a crime scene investigator emerged to fetch a brown paper evidence bag, photographers fired off their flashes as they had when taking shots of Hoffman at openings and awards ceremonies. The light glinted strobe-like off the brick façade and the air momentarily filled with the paparazzi sound of camera shutters.
At 6:30 p.m., the official time for the start of the Super Bowl across the Hudson River in New Jersey, a white van from the medical examiner’s office came up the street and backed up to the front entrance.
Two attendants climbed out, took a gurney from the back of the van, and disappeared inside the building. A detective who became known as the Hipster Cop during the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations because of his trendy attire unlocked the lobby’s double doors so both could open.
Less than 10 minutes later, the attendants wheeled out the gurney, which now bore a black body bag. The photo flashes fired again, and the air once more filled with clicking as Hoffman was loaded into the back of the van. The doors thumped shut, a final sound to what had already ended.
“All right,” one off the attendants said.
The van drove off and turned onto a street posted with notices that the new TV series Believe will be shooting there during the week. The series is produced by JJ Abrams, who cast and directed Hoffman in Mission Impossible III, taking the actor from the art house to the cineplex, making him a mainstream star.
But Philip Seymour Hoffman had remained Philip Seymour Hoffman, complete with whatever made him put a needle in his arm. And now he had come to a real-life end on a day he was supposed to see his kids.