“Don’t be afraid.” The detective laid his hand on her shoulder as a door opened in the adjacent room. Beyond a pane of smoky glass, a troop of surly men marched onto a platform.
Laina slid her icy fingertips inside her collar and itched under the medallion chain.
“Like we told you, they can’t see you,” the officer said.
Scarred and tattooed suspects turned to glare at her from the next room. In the center of sullen faces, a bearded man sneered. His eye teeth glinted in the spotlight. Vamp.
She gasped. “You sure they can’t see me? Look at him!”
“No, I told you. That the guy?”
She shuddered as the medallion prickled chills into her chest and pointed. “Third from the right. Without a doubt. I’ll never forget that face.”
“Thank you, Miss Selving.”
On her way out of the police station, a full-figured female officer glanced up from her desk. “Get all your paperwork signed?”
“I think so.” As a handcuffed man leaned over in a nearby chair and vomited, Laina turned to the policewoman. “You like this job?”
She chuckled. “Honey, nobody likes their job every day. But this is a job worth doing, and it’s what I’m meant to do right now.”
“Aren’t you scared, at least, sometimes?”
“I got back up, girl. When my time’s up, I get to go home. Ain’t no room for fear in my job and no reason for it in my life. You thinkin’ about joining the force?” She folded her arms.
“Not at all.” Laina bid a quick goodbye and pressed the exit door open. Maybe she could get to her apartment before sunset.
She took the bus across town to a stop at the corner of Broad Street. Twilight shadows pooled in the alleys, stretching to join one another as she strode down the block. The infamous grey building loomed like a mortuary to its residents. A new scrawl of red spray paint scarred the side of the entry steps, marking it “Tower of the Cursed.”
Laina scanned the area. The alley remained free from blanket piles. No frazzle-haired woman tonight. She hastened up the steps into the building. An out-of-order sign hung on the elevator. With a sigh, she headed up the staircase. As she rounded the first landing, an eerie whistle floated up from the flight below her. That children’s song.
She took the steps two at a time, her feet pounding in rhythm with her racing heart. Boots clomped at a consistent pace, remaining a flight below. And the whistling continued.
As Laina swung around the railing at the floor below hers, a kindergarten-aged girl petting a Yorkie caught her eye. She rushed to them and pushed the dog into the child’s arms. “Get inside. Right now. It’s not safe out here.” The nursery tune grew louder. “You hear that? Hurry!”
“I don’t hear anything. Come on, Rosie.” The girl scooped up her yapping dog and ran down the hall.
That was the song. Ring Around the Rosie.
Laina sprinted up the last flight. She dug into her purse while running down the hall. The keys rattled in her trembling fingers, missing the lock several times. Once inside her flat, she fastened all the locks and leaned against her door. Mid-sigh, the sound of hallway footsteps seized her breath. She pressed her ear against the cool, metal surface. With six staccato notes, puffs of air filtered through the crack and brushed the end of her nose. Laina recoiled from the door, her body shaking. She fished her hand through her purse. As soon as she grabbed her phone, it rang.
She rasped. “Hello?”
“Hey, it’s Rory. Wondering if I can come pick you up for a bite to eat or something tonight.”
“Can you come right now?”
“Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you” (Psalm 139:12).