Sleep of the Lion, 2

Three men had been killed and the city was ablaze in panic and fear, but before that, not a day went by, she was certain of it, when a woman wasn’t killed or assaulted in the city. She shook her head and glanced at note in her hands. She looked up at the building in front of her. 137 Lion Street.

***

To the casual observer, Lion Street presented a seamless facade of gentrification, smooth and pleasing to the eye. But to Madeline it was a sterile place. Lion Street had once been a thriving center of commerce in the city, but the vitality of it had been slowly asphyxiated, year over year, by unimaginative urban planners who could only see profits.

Where there had once been airy workshops and small retail stores, each building different, built by different owners for different purposes, unique in character, scents, and sounds, now the buildings oozed a mute, uniform sheen, the colors, shapes, and textures of the building materials and designs seemingly chosen to present no particular distinctiveness, like items selected from a mail-order catalog. All marble and hand-polished woods of foyers and entranceways for the high-end condos and loft apartments above.

“Living space for the affluent dead,” she thought.

As pervasive as the gentrification was however, it was incomplete, and Building 137 represented the exception that proves the rule, one jagged, yellowed tooth in the otherwise perfect smile of the street.

Set back from the street and shorter than its neighbors arching into the black above it, the building at 137 Lion Street cowered in shadow with the air of a desolate high mountain pass.

The black door with its small brass numerals and silver pull, sitting plainly as it did unadorned in the center of the building’s facade, could have been the entrance to a building, a cave, or another dimension. A faint acrid odor wafted  in the air, a reminder that long ago the building had been a tannery.

The front door was unlocked and opened to a small stairway landing. No hallway, no elevator, no marble or polished wood. Nothing except a well-worn wooden staircase confronted her. The original entrance to the tannery was, she presumed, at the back of the building.

At the top of the three flights of stairs, she paused a moment to catch her breath. The climb wasn’t a difficult exertion for her well-toned body, but her heart raced nonetheless. As she stood in the shabby hallway at the top of the landing and looked at the door to Dr. Leoniss’ apartment, one of the few memories of the party returned to her.

The door presented a singular appearance.  Many coats of brown of paint haphazardly applied over many years gave it a scumbled effect, making the facets of the cut crystal door knob gleaming in a polished brass setting seem entirely out of place. She remembered the door. It had been months ago, but it could have easily have been years. She raised her hand and knocked.

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