by Thadd Presley
During the meeting with the landlord, she told him that the fourth floor had been used as storage area for years. She talked a bit about her father passing away and leaving the building to her.“My brother got the money, and the yacht, and the hotel. All I got was this run-down place.”
“But, why was the fourth floor empty?”
“He had plans for it, I guess. He was always a dreamer. Fact is, he won the building in a high-stakes poker match during one of the worst years of his life. He lost everything and bet everything he had on a single card.
“As you can see, he won.”
Jack smiled. He liked to hear stories of people making good on a hunch. Jack wanted to ask about her brother, but she didn’t give him a chance to ask.
“My father was deeply into drinking, gambling and he didn’t go to church until he meet Adam and found a better path in life.”
Jack thought it was a lot of information to be telling a stranger. But, they had someone in common through Adam and that made them far from strangers.
“There could be rats or bats or anything up there,”she told him. “I haven’t had anyone in to clean the place and I haven’t actually been up there in over a year.” She looked out over the river that passed in front of the restaurant where they had lunch. “When you get your room finished, we’ll see what we can throw away, but you might find treasures up there.” She smiled. “I think the last tenant of the fourth floor was in his early seventies.He was a bit of a pack rat. He kept everything and I’m sure you will run into it.”
“Treasures would be great,” he said and assured her he wouldn’t steal anything. He was afraid if he stole from her or lied to her, drugs and death would surely follow. He wondered how much Adam had told her about his situation. “I don’t need anything fancy, just a job and a quiet place where I can get used to being with my own thoughts again.”
She smiled at that and explained again that room wouldn’t be suitable for human occupation until he gave it a bit of love and care.
He liked that she used the word “love.” It gave him a warm feeling of acceptance, a thing he hadn’t felt in a longtime.
* * * * *
We need you, Jack , the voice snapped again,sending a frosty bolt of lightening down his back, forcing him back to the present. It seemed to come from all around. Goosebumps sprang out on his arms. The urge to pee suddenly returned, and he quickly turned from the sink, which continued to run nothing but cold water,and faced the toilet.
Once finished, he washed his hands and made his way to the kitchen, only looking into the living room to check the heater. In the kitchen, he knew he couldn’t stay and that he was going to call Adam. But, not quite yet. First he made a sandwich from the leftover macaroni and carried it to the warmth of the couch where sat down.
He used his foot to pull his small electric heater toward him and watched the locked door to open any minute. Listening for the voice, trying to steel himself against it if it happened again. He thought if he sat and waited, he would know exactly where it came from, but even before he finished his sandwich, he started to doze.
His dreams began immediately.