I hurried down the hall and knocked on the door of 2C.
It smelled of dog poop at this end of the hallway.
I knocked again. Mrs Harp emerged, not from the door upon which I knocked, but from the apartment behind me, across the hall, and shrieked;
“About time you got here!”
I recognized the angry voice I’d heard buzzing over the phone in the boss’s office not five minutes before. It was a very hard, high, irritating sound, especially grating to my foreigner’s ear.
“Well, whataya going to do about it?” she squealed.
I turned from the door of 2C to greet Mrs Harp. She stood in worn pink nightgown and matching fluffy slippers, her face thickly painted in makeup. In her hand, which more than anything resembled a bloody claw owing to the length and color of her nails, was a half-filled glass which she waved around for emphasis. Behind her stood the neighbor, looking embarrassed and anxious to be rid of Mrs Harp.
“Well!?” she repeated, “Whataya going to do? My little dogs are in there with that fiend!”
The dogs inside apartment 2C, hearing their mistress’ voice, began to bark ferociously. More dogs inside joined the barking, there must have been four or five of them now.
Changing her tone, Mrs Harp leaned over to say through the door, “My poor, poor darlings. Don’t be frightened. Mommy will be with you soon. The nice man is going to take away the mean, old, bad man.”
Then, having finished speaking to her darlings, she changed from loving Mommy to angry Munchkin, shrieking at me, “Do something, you idiot!”
I turned from Mrs Harp and knocked again on the door of 2C. Pounded, really, because one couldn’t hear themselves think with all the racket from the howling inside. It sounded as if Beelzebub’s very own hound of hell, three-headed Cerberus, had been shrunk to the size of a Chihuahua and then joined the Lapdogs of the Baskervilles inside, baying for the pure blood of the innocent.
If there be any innocents left.
I pounded on the door again, trying not to sound like a flabbergasted cop.
“Javier?!” I called. “It’s me, Flasher! From the office. Open up, will ya? The boss sent me. Hey, Javier!”
“Screw off!” was shouted loudly from behind the door.
“Javier!” I pleaded. “Come on! Open up, mate!”
The door opened a crack and Javier looked out with panic in his eyes. “Tell that loco to get out of here before I come out, man!” he said.
Then, seeing Mrs Harp behind me, he started to shut the door. Thinking fast, I stuck my foot in the doorway just in time to have it nicely slammed.
“OW!” I cried.
I may have been thinking fast, but I wasn’t thinking smart, because seeing the door was impeded for some reason and would not close, Javier pulled it back and slammed it again, harder this time, into my foot.
“OW!” I screamed again. I looked into Javier’s face. He looked crazy.
“She’s crazy!” he screamed.
“Who’s crazy? You mean Mrs Harp?” I couldn’t think for the pain in my foot.
“She tried to seduce me, man! Go on, ask her!”
“I never touched him!” she screeched. “Crybaby!”
“Come out and let’s go!” I pleaded. “There’s a crowd forming.”
“Yeah!” Mrs Harp screeched. “No one’s going to seduce you now, crybaby.”
The door opened and what seemed like a million little dogs streamed out and began yipping and barking at our feet. Then, timidly, out stepped Javier. He was from South America, Honduras I believe, about forty years old, a small man. He hadn’t been at Empire Messenger Service more than a few days. The dogs at our feet barked insanely. Javier’s frightened eyes stared at Mrs Harp.
“Keep her away!” he ordered. “She’s loco, man!”
“Okay,” I said, “Okay. Nobody’s going to ...”
Mrs Harp was suddenly upon Javier, strangling him ferociously and kicking at his shins.
“Asshole!” she screamed. “Keep away from my dogs!”
“Oh! Ow!” gurgled Javier. “I like dogs, lady!”
“Let’s get out of here,” I said, attempting to separate them. Meanwhile, Mrs Harp’s dogs had continued to snip and yip at our heels. We were ankle deep in the little critters.
“Let’s go!” I yelled and with a tug freed Javier from Mrs Harp. Javier and I ran for the elevator, elbowing aside the curious tenants who blocked our way.
“Where’s your badge?” demanded the crabby one as I brushed past.
Behind us, Mrs Harp unleashed her lapdogs.
“Sick em, my darlings!” she cackled.
To be continued…