Wednesday, December 9, 2015
Heat. Sweltering, inescapable heat rising up though the floors. It was all that Professor Lyons could concentrate on, all that anyone in the building seemed to be talking about. He had tried, very reasonably, to convince the apartment's handyman to let him take a look at the broken air conditioner to see if there was anything he could do to relieve the inhabitants of Collingwood Heights of their agony, but the repairman took it as a personal offense that someone else would want to do his job. And so, he relented, but decided that he could not possibly continue on when he was sweating profusely through his shirt.
He threw his notes into a bag, made certain that the door was properly locked, and walked down the hallway to the elevator. On his way there, he passed a man, short in stature, carrying a briefcase under his arm. Only it wasn't the normal way people carry briefcases, one stiff hand clutching the shiny handle with an air of distinction. No, this man obviously had something of importance in there, because he was more than delirious.
"Good morning," Professor Lyons said, with a courteously restrained smile. For a second he doubted whether this guy actually lived in these apartments, then remembered that this was the most accessible building in Collingwood, and there were a lot of questionable tenants he interacted with day by day.
"And good day to you sir," Said his neighbor with a snicker. He hugged the briefcase to his body and continued on. Professor Lyons had to admit he was intrigued by the contents of this mysterious briefcase, but it was the least of his concerns at the moment.
He stepped into the elevator, which was presently a sauna, and went to the lobby. After his last misadventure with the seemingly severed hand, he had asked the bellman, Fred, not to accept any parcels that didn't go through the mail, and to keep an eye out for anyone suspect loitering around the building. Not surprisingly, Fred always dozed off during his shifts, so an army of thieves could storm the building, and he would be completely oblivious.
Professor Lyons left the inferno that was Collingwood Heights, and came across a woman with wild brown hair, around forty years old, he estimated, who was pushing a Target shopping cart with a sleeping bag inside and a couple meager provisions.
"Hello, Ethel," Professor Lyons greeted her. She scowled instinctively, then looked up from her cart to see who it was.
"Oh," She said, seeming surprised, "It's that nice young fellow who gave me his jacket that one chilly night." She spoke as if she, herself, were her only audience.
"It's me," He confirmed, "Professor Lyons."
"Oh a professor?" She had a startled expression on her hardened face. "So you must be observant then? Or are you one of those types with his nose always buried in a book!?" She threw back her head and laughed, thoroughly amused by something that only she knew.
"Have you seen my daughter, Willow? Oh, she's a bright young thing...going to be a star one day! But doesn't even visit her own mother anymore!"
"Um," Professor Lyons said, slightly uncomfortable, "Could you try describing her for me?"
"Well, she looks like all the other girls her age, thin, half-starved, painted face, always well-dressed. You would know it if you saw her, she has that special something that only talented people have. Always a flock of followers, even in Collingwood!"
She fell silent for a moment.
"I want her to come home," She said, more seriously. "She's a brilliant girl She taught me to play the piano, and what it meant to miss somebody."