Eliza was a beachcomber - not that she made a living out of it or anything (nor was she like that weird old man who lived in half a wrecked boat at the shore). She would walk along the sand as the tide went out and pick up the jetsam that was stranded there, imagining how it had been lost.
She never picked up pebbles or a sea shell. She was only interested in the abandoned, manufactured items. She would take her finds back to her tiny flat in the middle of town and arrange them on ledges and bookcases and shelves around the walls. Then she would sit and look happily at her treasures, while she talked to the spirits of their previous owners.
When the building collapsed, the inquest jury agreed that the structure was never intended to hold such a weight of junk and the old woman’s eccentricity had contributed to her death. Her neighbours agreed it was an outrage that no-one had done anything about it before.
The old man watched from his half-boat as the merpeople returned to the sea with their recovered possessions, then he headed up to the church on the cliff where he was the only mourner at Eliza’s funeral.