When Rhonda pulled the door open, I was expecting our nocturnal nudist to do something volatile; I was putting my money on some kind of spasmodic reaction, born out of panic and surprise. Instead, I hadn’t counted on the possibility of the truly unexpected. Unabashed, the stairwell revealed its great magic trick: it had made the acerbic vixen disappear. She had vanished, leaving a barren stairwell that flickered in tune with the fluorescent lights along its walls. Rhonda turned to look at me menacingly.
“Now, wait a minute,” I protested, “I’m telling you that she was sitting right here, third step up from the floor. I swear!”
Folding her arms in order to hide her clenched fists, Rhonda patiently stood her ground. “Okay…I’m not saying that you’re a liar. I believe you…but then where is she?”
“I don’t know,” I sighed, “Maybe she got up and went back to her own place?”
Rhonda shrugged. “Well…we tried to help, but it didn’t work out. Now can we go deal with the windows and go back to bed?”
“Sure,” I replied, nodding with eyelids that begged to be shut with nails, “I just hope that she’s okay. Let’s get back inside…”
Rising from the bowels of the stairwell, I was interrupted by the belligerent yell of a woman, along with the unmistakable sounds of breaking glass. Rhonda’s furrowed brow of skepticism suddenly softened at the audible evidence of my claims, and I couldn’t resist looking at her with a certain amount of swagger.
“Told ya,” I shot, as we both tracked the source of the noise and quickly descended the stairs onto the floor beneath us. The din echoed through the hallway as we quietly shuffled our feet across the tiled beige floor. Almost at the other end of the hallway, we could now hear clearly the sounds of an argument between a man and a woman. We reached the apartment next to the elevator, and we stood on either side of the door, pressing our ears close enough to the door so that we could eavesdrop on the maelstrom beyond its frame. Even though we only listened for a few minutes and despite the lack of eloquence present in the debate, we began to assemble the garbled bits of their disagreement and comprehend the nature of the conversation.
Rhonda looked at me questioningly. “Is that Mike and Lisa?” she whispered.
“Yeah, it’s them,” I whispered back. “Who knew that Crave Case was already married and that Lisa was his girl on the side? And he bought this place for them to be clandestinely carnal? I guess that he’s an O.G. after all.”
Rhonda shook her head. “Dumb girl…she can yell all she wants, but that’s a classic blunder: he’s not gonna leave his wife. She’s young…but she’ll learn.” She paused as another glass broke on the floor inside. “So, I guess that your rape victim isn’t inside there, huh?”
“Unless that was Mike’s wife,” I guessed, ”and then Lisa beat the shit out of her and tore off her clothes. Hmmm…now that’s my kind of girl fight…”
“You men are all such pigs,” she replied, curling her lips in disgust. “Okay, we’re done here. Let’s go home.”
Even though it disturbed me to leave such a mystery unresolved, my desire to sleep between my own sheets was far stronger. However, fate cares little about your health, and at that moment, another scream pierced the night…but not from behind the apartment door in front of us. This one was obviously outside of the building, somewhere in the street just beyond the lobby door. Unlike the cacophonic battle that continued to rage within Mike’s condo (which paid no attention to anything but itself), this particular cry didn’t originate from petty jealousy and mistaken notions of love. This utterance had a detectable note of panic, and both Rhonda and I were able to recognize it as just that. Our eyes locked and agreed on that point with silent affirmation.
My eyes rolled back in exasperation. “Is there a fucking full moon out tonight or what?”
“Is that your naked girl?” Rhonda proposed quietly.
“I have no idea. Maybe…”
“Let’s go then,” Rhonda insisted, “But let’s be careful.”
Like you have to tell me, I thought. Even more careful than before, we traversed through the building, making our way down the stairwell next to the elevator and applying only the balls of our feet to the ground. If you’ve ever attempted to sneak out of your house as a teenager, you’ve acquired such skills of stealth, and in a few cases, you might have perfected your craft. You never think that such skills might come in handy again later in life. In fact, you’d probably bet all of your possessions on that one…but as I’ve learned on more than one occasion, that bet would be a mistake. Upon reaching the lobby, Rhonda and I peaked through the clear glass panels of our heavy lobby door from a number of different angles, looking at a mostly abandoned stretch of sidewalk and asphalt. However, down the block to our left and on the other side of the street, we could faintly distinguish a few people facing each other in the front of an small apartment building. Even though we couldn’t understand the Spanish conducted between them, it was obviously a disagreement. Probably about something important at 3 in the morning…like how Jarrito is so much better than Inca Cola, I joked to myself.
“Let’s go back,” I suggested, content with the knowledge acquired about the commotion outside. “It’s obviously not her. Let them argue about whatever…”
I could tell from the expression on Rhonda’s face, though, that we weren’t done here yet. Fully awake now, her voyeur self was invested in this present situation, and she had the curiosity of a cat. Damn both her physical nose and her feminine yet feline nose for trouble.
“I can’t see what’s going on through this door,” she surmised. “Well, I’m gonna step outside in order to get a better view down the block.”
Before I could even attempt to argue against that proposition, she bolted out the door, and I quickly followed behind her. We stood on the sidewalk just outside our lobby door, finding shelter from the drizzling rain under the large blue awning. It seemed that Mika and Lisa’s conflict had absorbed the power of the storm, and the previous torrent had withered during our wandering through the building. With a better view now, we could identify two Hispanic men in the midst of a drunken argument, and between them, a young woman was desperately attempting to shield one from the other, using her own body as an escutcheon. The slight downpour, though only a modicum in comparison to before, prevented us from hearing the exchange only a few hundred feet away. Both Rhonda and I were so engrossed in concentration at the flurry of Spanish curses, we didn’t immediately notice the sound of beastly growling behind us.
Peter Bolton is the author of Blowing the Bridge: A Software Story and has also been known to be a grumpy bastard on occasion.