Preston Theodore Cantor III smiled with delight as he taped the eviction notice to the apartment door, right over the large red X. His fifth of the evening, he’d warned each of the forty tenants of his newly inherited Redstone Tower that late payments would no longer be tolerated. He hoped for victory by attrition, and ultimately to fill the building with a better class of people who had deeper pockets.
Preston had three more notices to post on the way to his own princely suite on the tenth floor. Oddly, a red cross marked each of the shabby doors he passed, sometimes painted or formed with colored tape. One symbol was scrawled in lipstick.
As he taped the notice over it, a little girl with hair full of barrettes toddled out the doorway. She brushed past and looked up at Preston with big brown eyes.
“What you doin’?” she asked.
“It’s a note for your mother.” Preston looked at the ruby lipstick that had smeared his hand. “What’s with the crosses?”
“It’s Halloween night. Mommy says it keeps the demons away.”
Preston rolled his eyes at the unsophisticated tenants and their silly superstitions.
He finished the job and unlocked his door, adorned only with a small wooden box that had an open slot for collecting rent checks. Immaculately refurbished, his lavish apartment would serve as a model for the other renovations to come. He stepped inside with a wearied sigh, deciding the first order of business would be to get the damned elevator fixed.
As he uncorked a bottle of champagne, a knock rapped the door.
“Go away!” he shouted. Angry evictees could be such a drag. He turned on the stereo. Frank Sinatra soothed his nerves.
The knock returned, louder. Preston cranked up the music to drown it out. Old Blue Eyes’ golden voice filled the room, crooning the chorus to “That’s Life” as Preston gulped down his booze.
The door thundered and shook with an insistent pounding. He gritted his teeth, stalked across the room and lunged for the knob.
“What do you want, damn it!”
Preston slung open the door to the blazing eyes of a dark figure that spread huge black wings. He dropped his glass, heard it shatter. A gnarled talon shot forth and wrapped around his neck. A hundred thoughts flashed through his mind, each image branded with a crimson cross. He scratched, batted and flailed, but the hellish thing just gave him a wink and ripped a garbled scream from his throat.
The winged creature tossed the torn body over the balcony rail and swatted Preston’s collection box to the ground. It smeared on the door in fresh, glistening blood a large red cross, vertically inverted, and then flew into the night sky.