Who could that be at this hour? She thought, gathering her robe around her frail waist. A glance at the clock: it was 11pm. No one came to this neighborhood at that hour with good news; in fact, no one came to her door in this neighborhood with any news. Ever. Until tonight. She slipped on her house shoes, straightened her sleeping cap in the hall mirror, and quietly checked the peep hole in the dark. There was a modest-looking woman on the other side. That looks like Darrel’s teacher, she frowned, reaching for the light. She undid all the locks on the apartment door except for the chain. “Yes?” she called through the narrow opening.
“Mrs. Brunson?” The nervous young woman began, “Hello. I am Miss Taylor–Darrel’s teacher. I needed to talk with you.”
Her eyes narrowed. “What is it?”
Miss Taylor looked up and down the narrow corridor, her nose slightly wrinkled at the odor of urine and beer from the elevator; the downtown projects were obviously not places she usually frequented. “Might I come in a moment, Mrs. Brunson?”
She looked around at her threadbare sofa, the ancient console television that worked when it wanted, the stained ashtray of her husband’s she just couldn’t part with. “Naw, you say what you gotta say from right there.” Don’t come in child, she thought wildly, if you come in this time of night, there’s no chance things will ever be the same.
Miss Taylor sighed and asked, “Mrs. Bronson, when is the last time you saw Darrel?”
She slowly closed the door against the incessant knocking from Miss Taylor on the other side. She made her way to the dining room, where she looked at the weathered cork board; Darrel’s attendance award from two years ago curled at the top corner, its edges dark with the build up of apartment cooking residue. She sat heavily in the chair as a chorus of voices, the city police she was sure, joined that of Miss Taylor in the hallway.