Ethel’s cigar—which she held clenched in her teeth—fell to the dirty floor as they tried to make it to the elevator before the spirits reached them.
They went inside the ancient elevator, and Maggie began franticly pressing the first-floor button. The door was not closing. Susie was coming into view . . . Susie and the knife . . . Susie and the bloody knife. The child’s head faced the floor as stringy hair covered her face.
“Come on, come on, come on,” Maggie said, repeatedly pressing the button as Susie reached the second floor and turned toward them.
Ethel reached up and touched the side of Maggie’s face. “Calm down and think. Think of surrounding us with white light, child. Close your eyes and feel it.”
Maggie was about to scream before Ethel touched her face. She felt a calmness fill her as she closed her eyes and did as Ethel said. The elevator doors closed; she opened her eyes. They were descending.
The lights in the cab blinked on and off. Maggie looked at Ethel who appeared to have put herself into a trance. She looked back toward the door as the elevator stopped. If the doors opened in the basement, she would have to die and put an end to this misery because she could not take it any longer.
As the door screeched open, Maggie saw Mr. Zimmerman’s office—still vacant of the superintendent. They were on the first floor. “Ethel, time to go.”
“No, not to your car,” Ethel said, resisting Maggie’s efforts to leave the building. “They’ll follow us. We need to go to my apartment where it is safe, and we’ll be protected.”
Maggie let out a deep breath and looked toward the stairway; Susie was on her way down. “You better be right because they could hack through your door or break your windows to get in.”
Ethel winced as Maggie pulled her faster than she wanted to go. “They’re spirits, Maggie, not live humans.”
When they reached Ethel’s apartment, they went inside and locked the door. Maggie helped Ethel to the couch, gently putting her legs up and a pillow under her head.
“Maggie, bring me that tin box,” Ethel said, pointing toward a shiny golden box on a shelf.
Maggie brought the box to her. She watched as Ethel took out a canister and handed it to her. “I’ve already done this, but take this blessed salt and pour it at the base of the door and the windows; it will keep them from getting in.”
She did as Ethel instructed, first pouring a thin line in front of the door. Then she went to the windows, moved the closed curtains aside, and poured some along the windowsill. She looked out into the storm, seeing nothing but torrential rain and lightning, no spirits. When she finished, she went back to Ethel. “It’s done.”
Ethel grimaced as she changed positions on the sofa. “We’ll be fine. Soon they’ll go back where they came from.”
Maggie watched as Ethel rubbed her right hip. “I think you should go to the emergency room and get an x-ray, it could be broken.”
“It’s fine,” she said, disregarding Maggie’s suggestion. “It’s just my arthritis. Whenever a joint gets moved more than it should, my arthritis kicks in and causes trouble.” She pulled herself up to a half-sitting position. “Speaking of trouble, I could use the oxycodone in my kitchen cabinet by the sink. It’s sitting next to a bottle of bourbon—bring them both, will ya, dear?”
Maggie put her hands on her hips. “I’ll get them for you but you know you’re not supposed to take a narcotic with alcohol.”
Ethel smiled. “I’m in severe pain. I just need something to ease it and help me relax.”
Maggie returned with the pill bottle, a glass of water, and the bourbon whiskey, sitting them on the end table next to the couch. She watched as Ethel took a pill and washed it down with water. “Thank you for not drinking the whiskey.”
Ethel leaned back as the apartment lights flickered. “The bourbon is my backup.”
“Should I call the police?” Maggie asked, keeping her eyes on the door.
“The police for what; to report ghosts are chasing you? They won’t believe you and besides, there’s nothing they could do anyway.”
Maggie walked to the wall phone. “We should check on Mr. Zimmerman and make sure he’s okay.”
“The number’s right there by the phone.”
Maggie dialed Mr. Zimmerman, but as usual, there was no answer. “When is the last time you saw Mr. Zimmerman?”
Ethel took the bottle of bourbon into her hand. “It’s been a couple days . . . maybe a few days, but I don’t see him that often, anyway.”
“Could those spirits harm him?” Maggie sat in the dusty wing chair. “Susie had a knife, and she went to the third floor.”
Ethel opened the bottle and took a swig of the biting liquid. “Maybe.”
“I need to check on him,” Maggie said, leaning forward with elbows on her knees. “I haven’t seen him since the first day I moved in.”
Ethel took one more swig and repositioned her pillow. “It’s not safe for you, or I, to go back out there. We’ll check on Mr. Zimmerman in the morning. I’m sure he’s fine . . . At least I hope so.”