He mounted the stairs, taking them two by two to catch up. “It’s just,” he huffed, “her way.” He rounded the first landing, cradling the bag in both hands. “She just,” he glimpsed Valerie turning the corner to the second flight, “does what she,” again, he came up short for air, “does.”
This is not attractive. Nathan stopped talking and focused on climbing.
He caught up with her on the last half flight before the stairs terminated in the third floor hallway. The front-facing apartment had a door directly adjacent to the stairwell. Nathan knew it was empty because he had helped its former tenants carry their kitchen table down the stairs a few weeks ago. The other side of the hallway terminated at the chipped wooden door to Ella’s apartment.
Nathan gestured to the door at end of the hall. He and Valerie advanced on it as one until they were facing its peephole, standing shoulder-to-shoulder.
He knocked firmly.
Krisis, Book 1
Issue #1: Girl Disappearing
Chapter Three: Dissemblers (pt. 1)
“Ella, it’s Nate,” he said in what he thought was a booming, masculine voice, though he wasn’t entirely sure for whose benefit. Possibly his own. “Just stopping by with my friend before dinner.”
There was no sound from within the apartment.
Nathan again withdrew the ring of keys from his pocket with one hand, plucking one of a pair of smaller keys to open the first of two locks on the door, and then the other smaller key for the deadbolt.
He pocketed the keys and spoke again in his chesty voice, “Ella, I’m coming in now.”
He considered for a moment, and then added, “Don’t be naked.”
Nathan pushed the door open.
The lights in the living room were off, and he reached out blindly for the switch on the wall to his left. He caught the edge of it with his fingertips and the ceiling light winked on, bathing the room in light.
Nathan set down the bag of pie and yarn as he glanced around the room.
The green couch was clear of all the debris that surrounded Ella when he visited, and her textbooks were neatly piled on the end table, next to her half-melted candles. The sink in Ella’s tiny kitchen was clear of the plates and dishes from their dinner together. Martina’s old guitar sat on its stand, a capo clipped across the third fret.