(Catch up, here)
The sidewalk's cracked so it takes me a little longer to get to the building's door. If I'm not careful, I'll trip and fall and break a hip.
"I can help you!" a small voice shouts.
I swivel my head around, to see who's speakin', but no one's there. I grunt and lift my foot over an uneven edge in the cement. A small hand grips at my elbow.
"My name's Sammy."
"Eh?" I look down at a toe-headed boy walking next to me.
"I can help you to the door. Do you live here? I've never seen you here before. I'm Sammy, but the way."
I shrug my shoulder and try to dislodge this little leech from my arm, but his suckers are in deep.
"What do you want?" I growl. We've managed to get to the building's door but there's a problem. It's locked. I jerk on the handle.
"I helped plant these flowers and I painted the door."
I spare a glance at the bright pink peonies and the door did look like a fresh coat of blue had been slapped on it. How am I gonna to get inside? I don't have a key. I look at her name printed in bold black on a label next to a button. She sure as heck wouldn't let me in if I buzzed her.
"I can get the door for you!" He pulls out a key on a chain from around his neck. In a few seconds, he's openin' the door for me.
I smile to myself and pat him on the head as I pass. Ah, innocence. "One more thing…"
"…Sammy. Do you know what apartment Ruth O'Donnell is in?"
Sammy scratches his head and sticks his tongue out the corner of his mouth. "The old lady that never comes out of her apartment 'cept to yell at the landlord?"
Sounds like Ruthy. I nod.
"Thanks, kid." I pull myself up the stairs by the handrail. I don't see an elevator. This was going to be a long trek. I stop at the second floor landing, panting for air.
"Do you know her? I haven't seen you around before. Are you a grandpa, you look like a grandpa," Sammy asks.
I give him a curious look as I start to climb the next set of stairs.
"You look old."
"It's because I am, kid. Don't you need to go home or somethin'?"
"Nah, you're more interesting than going home. You look like you've had fun in life. What kinds of things did you do at my age?"
This kid's still following me? "Nothing that you should be doing. Trust me, if I had a choice, I wouldn't be hangin' out with me."
He doesn't seem to hear me. "You know, we usually get many strangers here. But today, we've had two already!"
I'm only half-way listening to him. "Oh yeah?" I rest at the landing on floor four. Only one more flight to go. Getting old is the pits.
"Yeah! You know what else is crazy?"
"What's that, kid?"
"The other guy wanted to see Ms. O'Donnell, too!"
It takes a second for what he says to register. Then my heart starts pumpin' blood as cold as ice through my veins. "Another man was here?"
"Uh-huh. And he looked mean."
I race up the last flight of stairs, and for those thirty steps, I'm a young man, running with the devil on his heels.