Please Go Here for the beginning of the story.
The door lock clicked and Milo pushed open the heavy oak door. He stepped into an old stairwell with wooden bannisters and carved wainscoating. The woman from the intercom had switched on the stairwell light and he could see up to where she leaned over the railing. The walls were painted a soft green, with mauve motifs of trees and vines. The post at the end of the bannister sported a figurine of a satyr playing a flute.
“Stay outside,” Milo cautioned Jerry. “I don’t want to scare her.”
“But, what if the goons see me?” Jerry whined.
Milo gave him a sharp glance, “Stay outside, Jerry.”
Milo let the door close behind him, but not before Jerry stuck out his foot and jammed the door open. “I’m not getting stuck out there,” Jerry said.
Milo stood at the bottom of the stairwell and looked up. “Good evening,” he called up. “Thanks for opening the door.” His voice echoed throughout the stairwell.
“You better have a good reason for asking me to do this.”
“We do. And I’m really sorry. There was no other choice. The gangsters are right on our tail.”
“I don’t want any trouble,” Francesca said, her voice tight.
“I don’t either,” replied Milo. “And I don’t want to scare you.”
“Well, I should hope not. What can I do for you?”
Milo was just going to reply when the automatic stairwell light switched off. The stairwell plunged into darkness and for a second Milo’s heart pounded.
“I’ll get the light,” came the woman’s voice out of the darkness above. “Sorry about that.”
The light switched back on and Milo gave an involuntary sigh of relief. “Thanks. I should perhaps introduce myself. My name is Milo Caffin. My partner is Jerry Stack.”
“Where is your partner?” asked the woman.
“I told him to wait outside. Didn’t want to alarm you.”
“Very thoughtful of you.” Milo saw her fold her arms. “So a decent fellow. What is a decent fellow doing running from gangsters?”
“That’s a good question,” answered Milo. “I’ve been asking myself the very same thing. Now I’m in this strange predicament. And I need to impose upon your good graces.”
The woman stood staring down at him a moment, then let out a snort. “Okay, come on up. Ask your friend to join you. But don’t try anything stupid. I’ve got my cell phone and have the number set for my next door neighbor. He’s got two big dobermans who don’t like intruders.” She paused. “By the way, my name’s Francesca.”
The stairwell lights went out just as Jerry shoved open the door and jumped inside. “They’re here! They’re here!” he whispered. “Let me in!”