After stuffing his sketch paper and pencils back in his pack, he attempted pouring a refill of the ouzo-on-the-rocks he’d been drinking. The bottle was empty. He blinked at the dim vestiges of grimy sunlight shining through his window. At this hour even most of the liquor stores would be closing for Christmas Eve. Still, facing the twenty-fifth of December sober was not a prospect he wanted to endure. About ready to retrieve his jacket from the floor, he stopped at a crashing sound from the ceiling.

Blinking blearily, he traced the sounds with his eyes.

Clomping bangs moved in a line from where they’d begun above the door towards the ceiling on the far side of the living room. There, they stopped. He furrowed his brow. There was no fifth floor. Unless he wanted to start believing in Santa Claus, he couldn’t think of anyone–especially his lazy landlord–who would be up there at this time of the year. In the distance, outside, a rumble like distant, winter thunder rolled through the streets.

Soot trickled down into the hearth of the fireplace and he caught his breath.

Rats? Urban squirrels on a stroll from Central Park?

Either would be preferable to the more logical alternative. Break-ins on the Upper West Side were common even if coming down the chimney wasn’t the preferred method.

Nikos was just about ready to either light a fire or call the police when someone banged on his door. He nearly fell over as he spun about from the crouch he’d been in.

He stared at the door. After a few seconds, he called out. “Who is it?”

No answer.

He took a few steps towards the door when the pounding repeated itself. He furrowed his brow. Enough of this was getting through his drunken haze to piss him off. His self-preservation was still being drowned in the last dregs of his ouzo. “I said,” he shouted, “Who the fuck is it?!”

The voice that answered didn’t sound like it belonged to anyone who lived in the brownstone’s apartments. “It’s your Christmas miracle!” It was a gruff but warm voice that responded. A final knock–more of a heavy thump, really–accompanied the answer.

Previous Page Next Page Page 2 of 16