Sally took another swig of her drink and grimaced, she put the tea cup down on the table. She wasn’t entirely sure what was in the cup, but she knew it wasn’t tea. What ever it was it had a bitter, acrid taste to it, dry and sour with a faint, unpleasant tinge of dust. The old woman tottered out of the kitchen a few seconds later carrying a tray laden with biscuits. “I’m sorry, I don’t have much in, I wasn’t expecting company.”
“No, that’s ok, really, don’t worry about it.”
“I’m afraid I won’t be able to help you too much, I didn’t know her very well.”
The old woman put the tray onto the table and sat down heavily on the couch across from Sally, “Now, you were saying you were looking for your friend, Rebecca was it?”
“Ah, sorry, my memory isn’t what it used to be. She was the girl who lived next door, wasn’t she?”
“Yeah, she moved in about a year ago?”
The old woman nodded, “Oh yes, I remember, short girl? Blonde hair?”
“Yes, that’s her, she went missing about a week ago, and I’m not getting much help from the police, so I thought I’d ask around. See if anyone heard anything you know?”
“Oh, that’s so dreadful, not knowing is the worst. My husband went missing about twenty years back now, I still hold out hope that one day he’ll just walk back through the door.”
“I’m so sorry. It really is the worst part, we’ve always looked out for each other, since we were kids. She wouldn’t just disappear like this. I know her, she’d have told me if she was going somewhere.”
“I’m afraid I didn’t hear anything, but my hearing isn’t too great these days. I think I last saw her two weeks ago? Or was it three? Hmm, let me think now, I do my shopping on Mondays and Thursdays, and I had my shopping with me. She offered to help me put it away. No, wait, I think that was maybe a month ago, maybe it was when I bought that new cardigan?”
Sally nodded politely, but the frustration was growing, the old woman didn’t know anything and this was just a waste of time. She had tried knocking into the other apartments but they had all just ignored her, not that that surprised Sally, Rosie had always said that the people in the building were antisocial. Sally looked around the room as the woman rambled on, still trying to figure out when exactly she had last seen Rosie. The room was dustier than it had first looked when she entered and the everything seemed dull and dingy. Obviously the woman didn’t get much cleaning done as she was getting older. That was probably what was wrong with the tea, made with dirty, dusty cups.
“And that was the last time I saw her. I didn’t want to put her out so I turned down her offer, she looked like she was on her way out and I didn’t want to cause a fuss.” “Did she say where she was going?”
“No, I don’t think so. She wasn’t dressed up, I would have remembered that, though I’m not sure what exactly she was wearing.”
Sally stood, “Well, thank you for talking to me, I should get going, I’ve stayed longer than I probably should have and I don’t want to take up too much more of your time.”
“Oh nonsense, I don’t have much to be doing these days. If you’ve any other questions feel free to pop in anytime, I’ll probably be here. I hope you find Rosie, she always was a sweet girl.”
Sally stood in the lift, she was no closer to figuring out what happened to Rosie, at least her timeline and the old woman’s matched up, give or take a day. Sally was lost in her thoughts when the doors opened, she stepped out into the hallway then stopped. The lobby was large and filled with light, this was a small corridor, dark and with a smell of damp. Sally stepped back into the lift and pressed the right button, she must have overshot and ended up in the basement. She really had been caught up in her own thoughts. The doors closed again and the lift started moving.
The doors opened, revealing the same corridor. Sally desperately pressed the door close button, she had pressed every button on the panel and though she could feel the lift moving it always brought her back to this corridor. Sally leaned against the wall and tried her phone again, there was still no signal, she took a deep breath. The lift was obviously broken and she couldn’t call for help, it would be a fire hazard if the lift was the only access to the basement, therefore there had to be a staircase around here somewhere. She pressed the door open button and stepped outside the lift.
Sally sat down on the ground, not caring that it was filthy, she had been walking for hours now and there was no sign of a staircase, she was lost. The corridors down here were like a maze, twisting and turning seemingly at random. She couldn’t even keep a mental map going because some corridors seemed much longer than they should have been, or they turned in the wrong place. There were no doors, no signs, just endless corridors. Was this what had happened to Rosie? Had she been wandering through this maze for the last week? It wouldn’t have surprised her, after all the basement seemed far, far bigger than the building above it.
Sally broke into a run, she had found the lift again, she pressed the call button and as soon as the doors opened she stepped inside, as they closed again she sank to the ground. She had been in the damn basement for the last eight hours, even now she was certain it was merely dumb luck that lead her to the lift again. She pressed the button for the first floor, half expecting it to not work. The lift started to rise. Sally steeled herself for when the doors started opening, it didn’t matter what was on the other side, she was staying in the lift, someone would notice it was broken sooner or later and they’d find her here. The doors opened, revealing the bright lit lobby. The old woman was standing in the lobby, looking slightly confused.
“Oh, Sally wasn’t it? You’re still here? I thought you left hours ago, did you find anything out from anyone else?”
Sally stood, she was feeling shaky and it was a relief to see the old woman again, even if Sally hadn’t gotten her name.
“Uh no, there was something wrong with the lift, it kept bringing me to the basement. It seems to have fixed itself now, but if you can I’d take the stairs, just in case.”
The old woman frowned at her, “That can’t be right, there isn’t a basement in this building.”