Shortly after ten o’clock, a cold gust of wind blew in through the apartment windows, causing Maggie to shiver. She stopped typing and got up from the dinette table where she had been working the last few hours and went to close the windows. When she had finished pulling down the final window sash, there was a knock on the door. That must be Debbie, she thought.
Before unlocking the door, she looked through the peephole. Just as expected, Debbie and Susie were standing on the other side.
She opened the door and welcomed them inside. Debbie was wearing a white nurse dress; she even had a nurse cap pinned to her pulled-up hair. Maggie did not think nurses even wore those antiquated nursing clothes anymore. She was used to seeing nurses in colorful scrubs.
“Thank you for watching Susie,” Debbie said, smiling. “If I don’t have to work overtime, I’ll be back around eight in the morning.”
“Sure, not a problem,” Maggie said, looking at Susie, who was already dressed in a long white nightgown. She held a brown teddy bear in her hand. “Hi Susie, how are you? Do you like chocolate chip cookies?”
Susie kept looking at the floor and shrugged.
“She’s a little shy,” Debbie said in her usual bubbly manner. “She’ll warm up to you though.”
“That’s fine,” Maggie said.
“Oh, I have to go,” Debbie said, looking at her watch. “She’s already eaten and it’s her bedtime, should be an easy night for you.”
“I’m sure it will be.”
Debbie gave Susie a hug and walked out the door. “See ya.”
“Have a good night at work,” Maggie called after her. Then she locked the door and knelt down next Susie. She looked at the matted fur on the stuffed animal she clutched in her hand. “I like your teddy bear, does he have a name?”
Susie shrugged as she looked at her bear and then with big sad eyes she looked up at Maggie.
“I’ll show you around,” Maggie said, reaching for Susie’s hand. But Susie held tight to the teddy with two hands. It did not surprise Maggie that Susie was not ready to warm up to her, she had only met Maggie one time, and that was for a few minutes in the hallway. “That’s all right, this place isn’t a palace.”
When she had finished pointing out the bathroom, her bedroom, and the kitchen, she said, “Your mom said it was your bedtime. Are you ready to be tucked in or do you want to stay up a little while longer?”
“I think that means bedtime,” Maggie said, walking to Susie’s room.
Susie watched her and then followed her into the small room. She climbed into bed and turned to face the window.
Maggie tucked her in. “Good night. I’ll be right next door if you need anything.”
She turned off Susie’s light and kept the bedroom door halfway open. Then she walked into the kitchen and sat in front of her computer to continue working on her novel. So far, this babysitting job is not so bad, she thought. There were no kids running around, screaming, and getting into things. Susie was the complete opposite.
Maggie forced herself to type but after half an hour of forcing the words out, she decided to get ready for bed. She wanted to get up early and be awake and dressed when Debbie arrived to pick up Susie.
She put on her pajamas and peeked into Susie’s room; she was sound asleep. Then she walked into her room, leaving the door partway open, and got into bed. She pulled the sheet up around her shoulders and closed her eyes. The building did indeed do a lot of groaning and creaking, just as Mr. Zimmerman had told her. Sometimes it sounded like there was activity in the hallway, at other times it seemed like someone was riding the elevator up to the third floor and then down to the basement. Who would be doing that at this time of night? Fortunately, those sounds were outside Maggie’s apartment where they were not a threat.
She rolled over and finally went to sleep. Time passed until something startled her awake. She looked at the clock; it was around three in the morning. She lay still and listened. The elevator was moving. Maybe it was Bruce coming home from the bar, she thought. Despite the fact, she had no idea if Bruce even drank.
Maggie kept listening. It sounded as if several people had come off the elevator and were whispering in the hallway. Then fear rushed through her, it sounded as though someone had turned her doorknob. She quietly rolled over, faced her door, and screamed. Susie was standing in her bedroom doorway; standing there and staring at her. She had not expected that.
“Susie, come here,” Maggie said, wanting Susie with her, just in case someone was trying to break-in.
Susie stood there, oblivious to what Maggie was saying. Maggie jumped out of bed and put her arms around Susie and listened. There were no further sounds, either of her doorknob or out in the hallway. She was definitely getting a deadbolt even if she had to buy and install it herself.
“You’re cold,” Maggie said, feeling an icy chill radiate from Susie. “Are you feeling okay?”
Susie did not answer; she just stared ahead as if she was sleepwalking.
“Let’s get you back to bed,” Maggie said, directing Susie back to her room. She tucked her in, even teddy. She brushed Susie’s stringy hair off her forehead and walked into the living room.
Maggie looked through the door’s peephole and saw nothing. Deciding to follow Jess’s suggestion, she pushed the couch in front of the door. After struggling with the heavy piece of furniture, she finally had the Florence Knoll blocking the entry.