Maggie adjusted the bag of dirty clothes and held it at her side as she stepped off the elevator and into the dimly lit basement. She knew the washer and dryer were down here, but Mr. Zimmerman had not shown them to her when she came to see the apartment and sign the lease.
She looked down at the dirty concrete floor. Moisture oozed from the corner where the dingy white painted concrete walls met the floor. Looking up, she saw old fluorescent lights flickering and heard them hum a continuous noise down the length of the long corridor.
To the left was the stairway and to the right was an open door to a dark room. Thinking it could be the laundry room; she reached inside and felt for a light switch. Finally finding the switch, she flipped it on. A light bulb hanging from an electrical cord came on, revealing boxes, bins, and items that seemed to be in storage. When she looked farther back into the space, she noticed hospital beds, old-fashioned wheelchairs, and stretchers. The reminders of the building’s history made her shiver. She wondered how many people had died there.
She turned the light off and continued down the hallway. There were two other rooms on the right, but she was not able to open them. Good, they are locked, she thought. She really did not want to see what might be inside them.
The room in the left corner of the basement had a dim nightlight. She could see a washing machine and a dryer inside. Relieved, she walked into the room.
She turned on another flickering fluorescent lamp, causing its electromagnetic ballast to emit a headache producing buzz. She sat the bag of sheets and detergent on the small table and looked inside the only washing machine. It looked clean enough, so she put the required quarters into the slots, pushed in the coin slide, and pressed start.
When she had finished loading the washer, she closed the lid, took the garbage bag, and walked back into the hall. Between the noise and the smell, there was no way she was going to sit in the room and wait for the wash to finish. Instead of taking the elevator, she decided she would take the stairs back up to the second floor; at least they were open and spacious. When she got to the lobby, she saw Ethel come in through the front door.
“Hi, Ethel,” Maggie said, rounding the corner to continue her ascent.
“Hi, dear,” Ethel said, with vocal cords made of sandpaper. “Sorry about yesterday but I had a coughing spell and had to take care of it. I get those every now and then.”
“Not a problem,” Maggie said, standing on the next flight of stairs. She noticed Ethel had stopped and was staring at her as if she had seen something frightful. “Is everything okay?”
“Yes, dear,” Ethel said, waving her hand in front of her face. “I sometimes get spells, I’m fine.”
“Spells?” Maggie questioned. “Like a seizure?”
Ethel nodded. “Yes, like that, but not a seizure.”
“I hope you feel better,” Maggie said, concerned for the elderly woman. “Is there anything I can do?”
“Thank you, but I’m fine,” Ethel said. She began walking toward her apartment and then stopped. She turned and looked back at Maggie, who had continued her climb. “Dear?”
Maggie stopped and turned to look at Ethel. “Yes?”
“I hope you don’t think I’m strange, but I’m able to see into the future and I would love to read you sometime. Would that be all right?”
Maggie shrugged. She did not necessarily believe in that kind of thing, but she agreed. “Sure, sounds like fun.”
“Can we make it soon?” Ethel asked, stroking the beads around her neck.
Her expression was so serious that Maggie was beginning to think Ethel was seeing something that very moment. She nodded and continued up the stairway as Ethel stood there, watching her.
That was strange, she thought, as she continued climbing. When she reached the second floor, she stood there and listened. It was quiet, too quiet.
When she reached her apartment door, she turned the knob, making sure it was still locked. Thankfully, it was. She took the key from her pocket, unlocked the door, and walked inside. After closing the door, she locked it with her skeleton key.
“I’ve got to call Mr. Zimmerman and get another lock on this door,” she said to herself.
She looked at the black rotary telephone sitting on one of the end tables in the living room. Sandpiper Bluff was located too far away from a telephone company to get the Internet through the phone line so she would not bother connecting the old phone. Her cell phone would work fine connecting to the World Wide Web. Especially since the apartments had no cable or satellite hookups.
A portable black-and-white television set was on the other table. It could not be used either because there was no digital converter box.
Furnished apartment? Yeah, right, Maggie thought as she took her cell phone off the kitchen table. She called Mr. Zimmerman, but it rang and rang, not allowing her a way to leave a message. She would try again later.
It would be several hours before Debbie brought Susie over for her to babysit. In the meantime, Maggie finished the wash, made chocolate chip cookies, and worked on book four of the Raven’s Ridge Mysteries.