Hattie glanced upwards the stairs and sighed; their steepness insurmountable to Hattie in her old age, though she conquered them every day. She clung on to the wooden railing and, hitching up her long skirt, started her ascent with a Herculean effort. Hattie could not fathom how today’s girls in their full skirts—bell-shaped by cumbersome crinoline hoops—glided up and down stairs like fairies. Much too old for current fashions, she longed for the long dresses and high waistlines of her youth.
Up, up, up she went, taking her time, step-by-step, the wood beneath her feet creaking as loud as her old, old bones. But the steep, polished staircase did not deter Hattie. She rested when she needed and, with great patience and willpower, little by little she vanquished the stairs.
She paused halfway up, her hand tight around the railing, her heart pumping fast in her chest.
A scuffle, a slam, a gunshot.
The door on the top landing burst open. Two men clad in mismatched three-piece suits and newsboy caps ran out. Their feet clattered on the rickety staircase as they barreled down it. Police sirens blared in the distance as the man in pin-striped slacks flung a revolver into the gloomy alley beside the building.
The rascals reached the street and ran with footsteps clanging on the concrete sidewalk. The pin-striped man rounded a corner when his partner, who donned a plaid blue cap, stopped and glanced back at the old stairs with a mystified expression.
Pin-Stripes urged him to run, “Let’s go!”
“I think I just saw her,” Plaid Cap said.
Pin-Stripes paused, bouncing on his heels, unsure whether to stay or go.
Curiosity won, “Saw who?”
“The old lady. The one on the stairs.”
Pin-Stripes chuckled, “Nah, that’s just a ghost story. She doesn’t exist. Come on!”
A Verizon van zoomed past and splashed the sidewalk with puddle water. The two gangsters shimmered in the sunlight as murky droplets showered them, then vanished before the water hit the ground.