Roxy pushed the heavy, wood and glass door closed with her foot and grabbed a handful of mail from her box. As she started up the three stairs to the landing, she noticed the door of her landlady, Mrs. Larkin, opening, and an almost silent groan escaped.
When she came up the stairs from the subway earlier, she realized her new shoes were not as comfortable as she thought. All she wanted to do at that moment was go upstairs, take them off, and relax. “Hello, Mrs. Larkin. How are you this evening?”
“I’m fine Ms. Franks. Do you have a minute to stop by and visit?”
Guilt, which Roxy had devoted a good deal of her life to, helped make her decision. She put off visiting for the entire two months since she moved into the second floor flat. Mrs. Larkin bumped another applicant to rent her the space—an incredibly affordable apartment in Lincoln Park. Though new to Chicago, Roxy heard about the nice, upscale neighborhood before she moved there. “Okay, just for a minute though, Mrs. Larkin, I really need to take these shoes off, my feet are killing me.”
Mrs. Larkin ushered her into her home and to a chair. “Let me pour you a small glass of wine, Ms. Franks. That’ll help settle you, and you can take your shoes off here if you’d like.” She half filled two glasses on the table in front of her and gave one to Roxy. “Here you are, dear. How was your day?”
The wine, along with becoming aware of her surroundings, had combined to make Roxy feel as if she journeyed back in time. Her grandparents decorated their house in the same style. Dark, heavy pieces of wood furniture filled the room and a variety of silver picture frames and small figurines covered their surfaces. Lace doilies sat on the arms of the chairs and the couch, and under the lamps and vases. She hadn’t noticed a television anywhere, but it could have been in her bedroom, or the kitchen. She did notice a very old radio in one corner and of the room and something else right in front of her. “What are these?” She pointed at an item on the coffee table. “They look like old fashioned nylons.”
“Oh, they are. They’re silk stockings. My husband, James, bought me five pair after he came back from the war. We married in 1945, but he died in 1947 and since I don’t go out often, they’ve lasted a long time. This is the last pair though, and there’ll be no more to come. Maybe when they’re gone my memory of James will be gone, too.” Mrs. Larkin rubbed the fabric through her fingers and smiled. “Go ahead and feel them.”
Roxy took a sip of wine and set the glass on the table. “Oh, these are wonderful, quite a bit nicer than these panty hose I’m wearing.” She smiled at the small white haired woman who delighted in showing off her stockings.
“Yes, it’s a shame they don’t make them anymore, at least not that I know of. How’s your wine?”
Roxy retrieved her glass having forgotten about it. “I think it might have been just what I needed. I’m starting to relax.” She returned to her study of the knickknack-filled room, until she spotted something that seemed completely out of place. “Do you lift weights, Mrs. Larkin?” She pointed the glass toward a small barbell and hand weights, and hoped that her voice had not sounded too surprised.
“Oh, no, those were my husband’s weights. I never put them in the trash.”
“How did your husband die, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“I don’t mind, but it’s not a very pretty story. A woman moved into the building a few months after we bought it. She called herself Stacey, I believe. They found her strangled and my husband lying next to her with a bullet in his head. The police said he killed her and then shot himself. It was his gun but I never believed that for a moment. She was a tall redhead and looked a lot like you. If the police were right, the only thing I can imagine is that she enticed him with her charms. She was a beautiful woman. Once James was able to break free from her spell he may have been overwhelmed with guilt and anger, and thought that the best solution.”
“I’m sorry, Mrs. Larkin. It must have been awful for you. Why did you keep the building and continue to live here? I don’t know if I could have done that.”
The old woman shrugged and looked at the weights. “I wanted to keep an eye on James, I suppose, just in case another Stacey showed up to tempt him. I decided it would be best for me to be nearby.”
Roxy thought that sounded a tad creepy, and realized at the same time that she didn’t feel well. “I think I better go up to my apartment, I’m a little lightheaded.” She noticed for the first time that Mrs. Larkin had not touched her wine.
“All right, Ms. Franks. I’m delighted you had a chance to stop by, and I’m sure your dizziness will go away soon.”
Roxy climbed the flight of stairs to her apartment, leaning on the wall for support. When she unlocked the door and went inside, she tossed her shoes and the mail, to the floor and fell on the couch. “What the hell is wrong with me, I didn’t even have a half a glass of wine and I feel drunk.” She looked up and saw she’d left the door open, but found herself unable to move off the couch. Her vision blurred but she saw that someone stood in front of her holding a silk stocking.
“Hello, Stacey. Maybe this time you’ll leave us alone for good.”
“What do you think, Sarge?”
Sergeant Borelli looked around the apartment and shook her head. “I read over the old files. This is the fifth redhead strangled with a silk stocking in this building in the last sixty years, and the first one was supposed to have been killed by Mr. Larkin. That’s not a coincidence and I don’t believe in ghosts. What did Mrs. Larkin say?”
"That she hadn’t seen Ms. Franks for a few days, and the last time she did, she said her feet were killing her so she couldn’t stop in for a visit. Larkin’s the only person who’s been in the building the entire sixty years, but she’s eighty-seven years old and a little thing. How could she strangle someone as big as Ms. Franks?"
"You're right, I doubt that she could."