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Dana Martinez entered the low rent apartments through doors that must have seemed grand once, many years ago.
Though not obscene there was the requisite amount of litter one might reasonably associate with people who believed their time in that tenement was temporary.
She walked across the foyer with a slight smirk, her strikingly tall frame and simple, stylish black dress seemingly out of place in the shabby lobby.
Her designer pumps with stiletto heels clicked loudly on her way to the elevator. She paused, her head tilted right ready to receive a barb from her landlord, who was usually parked at the main desk with a black coffee and newspaper in hand.
Coffee and paper were there but no one was seated. Dana approached and leaned over the counter. The landlords office door was unlit but slightly open. OK, That never happens, she thought to herself. Same with the bathroom further down the hall, where she thought he must be.
Dana stood straight, carefully looking both ways while removing her high heels. Years of living on the streets had honed her instincts into a razor sharp amalgam of logic and intuition. Something was not right. She put her purse and shoes by the side of the counter and padded to the elevator.
In the back of her mind the voice of the child that learned to hide in places that even the rats would avoid, was screaming “He’s dead. Run!” but stronger was the need to know and Dana was not one to back down from a threat.
She leaned into the elevator, her finger hovering over the third floor button and paused again. Holding the elevator door she leaned her head back stared intently down the hall, her lips moving as she counted wordlessly.
Ten seconds hall plus 7 seconds per flight multiplied by three, versus lift time.
Decided, she quickly bent back into the elevator and hit floors one, two and three, then sprinted down the hall.
Running on tip-toes, she reached the end and quietly whispered “yes” as she saw the stairwell door propped inwards with a cinder block.
The aging doors had begun slamming too loudly, a few decades ago she thought ruefully, so the super opted to just leave them open. At least it allowed a bit of extra illumination to the dim and erratically lit stairway.
She charged up one flight with quiet, quick steps.
As she passed the door to the first floor, she slowed down to listen for the elevator, hearing the soft chime signaling the doors would open.
She bolted up the next flight but then slowed as she noticed the next level was unlit and there were a few syringes on the stairs.
As she rounded the rail onto the darkened third level she paused to listen to the elevator door closing below.
Her eyes adjusted to the darkness. She tiptoed over a veritable minefield of used needles and broken glass and reached the lit doorway and peered down the hall towards the elevator.
She felt her guts turn to water; it was her apartment door that was open.
The elevator chimed down from her doorway and the doors began to open. Within seconds of the door opening she heard the almost imperceptible click of fine Italian shoes increasing in volume as a dark shadow formed in the rectangle of light emitted from her brightly lit living room.
With a sudden start she noticed her reflected form was fully visible in the end-of-hall window next to her.
She backed into the dark stairwell doorway, eyeing the window. She was unseen but could see down the reflected hall.
Part of the shoulder and neck of a crisp white shirt protruded past her door frame. It hinted of a fit and immaculately dressed man of average height with dark hair.
He was being careful not to expose himself as he watched the elevator entrance. After a few seconds she heard a slight tapping sound, like a ring on the door frame. Impatient, she thought. Once the elevator began to close, he moved back in. The sound of footsteps faded away.
Dana still needed to know.
She moved stealthily down the corridor towards her apartment, stopping occasionally to press her ear to the wall.
As she neared the doorway she paused listening to the sound of someone systematically searching her bedroom. Nodding to herself she continued to the open door.
She remembered his curly shoulder length hair and how he smiled. How he asked her if she needed help when she was being bothered by two frat brats at a local bar.
She almost laughed but then watched in fascination as he turned awkwardly with his crutches and explained, “Now you guys just piss off or I will fall down and point at you screaming you pushed me. If the entire bar doesn’t fuck you up, the cops will cuz that is what you get when bully a cripple.” They stared momentarily in disbelief.
“Look, how about little sweetener that might help you make up your minds? See those two girls playing darts?".
The jocks turned around to look.
“I don’t know why but they are into you two. I heard them talkin’.”
Jock one looked to Jock two and nodded. Though their expressions were resentful, they left without a word. Best to forget the encounter and see if they still had some game.
Charming, with a dimpled grin, he was one of the most courageous people she'd ever met. She realized it made her feel like he was her hero, despite the fact she was a blooded, street bred, predator that fought far above her weight class.
She took it for granted whenever she returned home, he would be there, spinning his chair around so he could say, “Hey baby, it is SO good to see you.”
She felt her face turn to stone at the sight of his limp form slumped in that chair. Blood pooling in a puddle below him, still dripping from what she knew must be a massive gash across his throat.