"Sam Duffy, take your phalanges off my hat!" Maggie snapped, proud that she remembered the medical term for fingers. It didnt surprise her to glimpse the outline of a holstered gun under his long coat, given how filthy rich the buildings nine tenants were, each occupying an entire floorand given how John Lennon died across the park. All in all, Sam was not your ordinary doorman. The tenants liked having him around. Usually she did, too. Not now.
"Pardonne moi, madame," Sam said and swept his hand away. "But its got to be from England. Ive never seen a hat like that anywhere else."
"Its from the selfsame place, Sam, thank you very much. And I dont want to hear none of your jokes. Okay?"
"Me? Joke? Before such a chapeau? Turn around. Let me see it. What are you so dressed up for, anyway?"
Maggies gaze flew up to the domed chandelier in irritation. Romans 5:2-4, said "tribulation worketh patience and patience, experience; and experience, hope." Sam was helping her learn patience by getting on her nerves. She decided to be firm. "Sam, I dont have no time to play. Im in a hurry!"
She saw a hurt look flash in his eyes and decided to say a little more. "My church is having an important function today and Ive got to be there."
He looked surprised. "Off to church with you, then! Clean tomorrow. It wont matter. The good doctors not even here and I havent seen his sister this week. You cant work dressed like that, anyway." He scrutinized her. "Do you know you have runs all up your stockings?"
Maggie humphed, opened her large purse, and half lifted a package of pantyhose.
"I see," he said.
The elevator dinged behind them and she stepped inside the car. "Im paid to clean the lab on Wednesdays when hes gone, Sam, dressed up or not. Lord willing, Wednesday is when Im gonna clean." She punched the code for the eighth floor into the elevator keypad.
He shook his head as if she were hopeless.
Maggie exited into the foyer in front of Dr. Rossis suite. In recesses on either side of his double doors were two intricately patterned blue and yellow vases Dr. Rossi said were antiques from Deruta, Italy. She unlocked the doors and entered. When she flicked a switch, light played on the wide corridors arched ceiling, gently illuminated paintings, a softwood floor with parquet trim, and a slim Persian carpet. Midway down the corridor in a cubbyhole hung a seventeenth century crucifix made of heavy silver, the most beautiful shed ever seen. Below and padded in red velvet was the ebony prie dieu on which Dr. Rossi and his sister knelt and prayed. Maggie always felt like she was in a palace, just walking down this hall. She passed rooms on her right and left and, because she thought shed heard a sound, stopped at the solarium.
"Hello? Anybody here?" she called.
It was the only room where shed ever heard sounds from the penthouse upstairs, which was occupied by a Mr. Brown.
Not that she was a snoop, of course. She was only curious, like anyone would be if theyd seen what she had over the years when she was downstairs in the basement emptying trash. Maggie had found that if she stepped up on one of the metal equipment housings, she could see through a crack in the wall between everyone elses garage and his. Shed seen no less than two United States presidentsone current, one an exa couple Arabs in their Rolexes and robes, a Supreme Court judge, senators, congressmen, and a Chinese-looking guy, most of them hat-in-hand and grinning, shaking hands goodbye as they got off Mr. Browns private elevator, got in their limousines, and left his private garage. No fanfare. Nothing in the papers about their ever being here. It didnt seem right to her that important people should always be arriving in secret and one at a time. Shed tried to pump Sam for information, but when it came to the tenants, Sam was a living sphinx.
Copyright © 2003 Jamilla Rhines Lankford. All rights reserved. Used with permission of Great Reads Books LLC
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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