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The doors close and the six foot tall brown haired man in a college football jacket presses the button labeled ‘1’. He moves into the unoccupied back right corner of the elevator and looks to his right. He sees a tall blonde woman with beautiful brown eyes and gets ready to ask her if she has a boyfriend when the elevator car suddenly stops moving halfway to the next floor.
The others in the elevator shuffle around nervously and the man cannot quite figure out why. Then he looks at the number on the overhead display and realizes that the elevator is stuck between floors. The man closest to the call button presses it but gets no answer. He tries repeatedly but when no one answers after a minute has gone by he shouts, “Damn it!”
A small cry escapes the lips of a small blonde girl and she squeezes a small white stuffed leopard. The rest of the elevator’s occupants grumble in unison and stand looking at the flashing light on the display that means the elevator has broken down.
Suddenly the lights in the elevator flicker and they are plunged into darkness. The orange backup lights turn on almost immediately and they look around them. The elevator slips down a few inches before an emergency catch secures it.
The little girl begins to cry and the blonde the football man was about to talk to kneels down in front of her.
“It’ll be okay sweetie. What’s your name?”
The girl looks up cautiously, her mommy always told her not to talk to strangers but this lady seems friendly enough, and replies, “Jenny.”
“Jenny? That’s a pretty name. I’m Lauren. Where’s your mommy and daddy?” the woman asks trying to keep the little girl calm.
“Mommy was taking a nap and I wanted to go see Mr. Chin. He always gives me candy,” she pulls a few mints out of her pockets and continues, “When I told him mommy was napping he said I should hurry back to the ‘partment so I didn’t get lost or in trouble.”
“Mr. Chin is a very smart man then. Little girls shouldn’t wander around on their own. It’s very dangerous. But don’t worry, you’re safe with us. Isn’t she everyone?”
The group in the elevator nods and they all smile at the little girl. The man closest to the door smiles cautiously, afraid that his rotting teeth might upset the girl all over again. He quickly checks to make sure that no one has seen the package under his coat but their faces tell him that they have not. He is suspicious of the brunette in the back though, she feels like a cop.
The man by the buttons notices that the druggie has realized there is a pig in the elevator. He has known that she was following him for a while but as long as he gets this next kill nothing will matter any more. If only the damn elevator hadn’t broken down.
The brunette in the back decides to take this opportunity to show the picture of the man she has been tracking.
“Since we’re all stuck in here,” she begins, pulling out the photo and her badge, “I’m special agent Janet Webb. Has any one here seen this man wandering around lately? He is very dangerous and we have been on his trail for months.”
The picture gets passes around and everyone takes a look at the photograph. When the man by the buttons gets the picture he stares blankly at it and thinks to himself, ‘they’ll never find me if they think this guy is me.’
He hands the picture to the druggie and impatiently tries the call button once more. It still doesn’t work and he sighs deeply, inside and out.
The little girl says she is wants to sit down and Lauren helps her get comfy in a corner of the elevator. She stands up to take in the faces that she may be stuck seeing for a while and notices the footballer looking back at her.
“Do I have something in my teeth?” she asks in a flirtatious tone she hasn’t used since dating Bradley and wonders why this guy is so appealing to her.
“No, I was just admiring your skill with children,” he explains, “I’m Stephen by the way.”
“Well thank you Stephen. I don’t usually deal with children so young but I teach at the local high school.”
“You weren’t there when I was that’s for sure,” he says conversationally.
“No I just started last year. The old English teacher passed away two years ago and I was applying to everywhere so…”
“Which grade did you say?” Stephen interrupts.
“Um, I didn’t. Tenth.”
“So Mrs. Parker passed then. I wonder why nobody told me. She was my aunt. I was away at school at the time I guess but someone should have mentioned it by now.”
“I’m sorry about your lose, even if it was a few years ago,” she replies.
“It’s fine. We didn’t know each other very well anyway. And then there’s the fact that I was horrible in her…”
The elevator makes a sudden sound that everyone expects is it turning back on but the humming quickly dies down again. They all hear the man at the panel mumble, ‘damn,’ and they sigh collectively.
Jenny suddenly starts to cry and everyone turns to face her. She hugs her little leopard and says, “I don’t want to die Leo. I just don’t want to.”
Lauren moves back over to the girl and says comfortingly, “You’re going to fine honey. That was just the men trying to get the elevator moving again. Next time they’ll have it for sure. Then I’ll walk with you back to your apartment so that I know you’re safe. Okay?”
“Okay,” Jenny says with tears still in her eyes.
The drug addict moves closer to the girl and whispers sweetly, “It’ll be alright honey. We’ll get off this elevator real soon, don’t worry.”
The addict steps back again and is relieved that he did not scare the girl after all. He smiles sweetly at her, and even though his teeth are almost all rotted, she smiles back. He is comforted and he realizes that she is taking comfort in any way she can get and from everyone who will give it.
She looks up into his face and asks, “What’s your name?”
He looks at her and replies, “Mark.”
“That’s my little brother’s name! He’s only two and he’s really annoying but I love him any way.”
“I’m sure you do. My little brother’s name is Shawn. He’s almost twenty now. I’m on my way to see him. As soon as we get off the elevator,” Mark says regretting that he just lied to the little girl but knowing that he couldn’t tell her that he was on his way to see one of his clients. It wasn’t a total lie anyway; the client’s name is Shawn.
The group remains quite for about a minute and the elevator groans mechanically and the little girl begins to whimper again. Once the sounds stop the man by the buttons shouts, “Can someone shut her up?”
This sudden outburst surprises everyone but it frightens Jenny and she sobs loudly. Both Lauren and Mark move in to comfort the girl and after they both talk her down she remains quiet.
Nobody really knows how much longer they will be stuck there but they all realize that they aren’t going anywhere soon. Lauren, Mark, and Stephen sit on the floor and form a semi-circle around Jenny who sits against the wall holding Leo the white leopard very tightly.
Janet stands, leaning against the wall of the elevator remaining ever vigilant in case the man with the temper decides to act out violently. The man in question has still not moved from his position in front of the buttons and she has the sense that he is watching her in the reflective surface of the elevator walls.
Suddenly his hand moves to the buttons once more and she speaks up, “I really don’t think that’s going to work. It hasn’t done us any good so far has it?”
He turns to face her and she is surprised to see that he has amazingly blue eyes. She is kept entranced by his eyes as he explains, “I was going to see if the doors would open and we could all just use the stairs. No one has a problem with that right?”
Everyone but the little girl shakes their heads and watches him press the button, hoping against hope that they can at least get out of the elevator. The doors open slowly and get about a foot apart before they get stuck. They man curses under his breath and then they all stare in wonder as they realize that they aren’t stuck on a floor or even close to a floor. They are stuck right between floors and the only thing between them and the solid steel of the elevator shaft is a few inches of open air.
The girl looks up and sees that they are trapped and begins to scream. She wails and none of the group can quiet her this time. Harvey, the man with the temper, shouts about this and tells them to make her stop.
Lauren stands up and looks the man straight in the eyes. She too is caught by the pure blue color of them but she still stands her ground.
“We’re trying but your temper isn’t helping!”
He looks disgustedly at her and says, “If you can’t shut her up I will!”
He pushes the skinny, young schoolteacher aside and pulls a gun from his coat pocket. He aims at the little girl and pulls the trigger.
Mark sees what is going to happen before it does and he leaps in front of Jenny just before he trigger is pulled. The bullet that flies from the gun strikes Mark’s chest and punctures his right lung. He falls to the ground and lies there while the others struggle with what just happened.
Before the freak can get another shot of Janet rushes behind him and smashes the back of his head with her service pistol. He falls to the floor knocked out cold and she moves to the side of the dying drug dealer.
“What you just did was incredibly stupid but very brave. Just rest and we’ll try to keep you with us. I said rest but that doesn’t mean sleep. If you go to sleep we might lose you. Just try to stay in the land of the living. Somebody give me something to tie around him.”
Stephen takes his belt off and hands it to the woman. She wraps it around Mark very tightly and tries to stop the blood from flowing so freely.
Jenny looks at Mark and hands her stuffed leopard to him. He looks at it and starts to say something.
“Don’t say anything now mister. Just hold onto Leo. He’ll help you. He always helps me when I’m scared,” Jenny tells him.
Mark takes the leopard and nods his head lightly. A tear slides down his cheek and he breathes in small gasping breaths. Lauren turns to face Stephen tries to say something to him but she unexpectedly faints.
The ball player catches her and set her gently on the ground. Janet rolls her eyes with disgust and tries to think of what to do next. If the power didn’t come back on soon the killer would wake up again and Mark could die.
Just as the thought passes through her mind the lights flickered back on and the group heard the murmur of electricity flowing back through the cab. As was programmed into the elevator’s system, the car made its slow but steady way to the ground floor. When the doors opened the groups as amazed at what they see.
There was a group of police officers with weapons aimed inside and Janet quickly gives a simplified version of the story. The officers place the killer in cuffs and lead the barely conscious man to the cruisers. Paramedics arrive quickly and Mark is taken immediately to the hospital for his bullet wound.
Stephen helps revive Lauren and the two stand beside the reception desk to give their statements to the police. Janet immediately takes charge of the operation as she outranks everyone else on scene and assures the others that this particular killer worked alone and there is no need to search the building.
As she walks away from the elevator, Jenny hears her name and turns to the sound of the voice. She sees her mother looking at her and runs to greet the woman.
“Oh, Jenny! I’ve told you not to wander off and where do I find you?” Jenny’s mother stops scolding her daughter as soon as she sees the Mark being wheeled from the building. She sees the leopard and is not sure what to make of it. Suddenly worried for her daughter the woman quickly asks Jenny, “What happened to Leo?”
“I gave him to Mark. The bad man shot him and he needed Leo more than I do,” Jenny replies simply.
Her mother hugs her tighter than ever and says nothing more.
After everyone gives their statements and are assured that the elevators are working perfectly now, they all go there separate ways.
Janet goes to her office to file paperwork and report back.
Jenny and her mother go back to the room upstairs.
Lauren leaves for home and decides to call her boyfriend and break up with him having accepted a dinner invitation from Stephen, who is going home to get change.
As she walks into the restaurant Jenny sees her old friends already waiting for her. She rushes to the table without a word to the greeter and hurriedly sits down.
“Sorry I’m late. Mom was arguing with me again. Nothing serious but I still had to remind her of lunch to shut her up.”
The group laughs a little at this and the man with the scraggly beard hands Jenny a package. She looks at it for a minute and then takes it gingerly.
“What is it?” she asks curiously, “Come on Mark I don’t like surprises much.”
“Just open it and see,” the brunette sitting next to Mark replies.
Jenny tears the wrapping off and finds an ordinary cardboard box inside. She opens the box and drops it in shock. She slowly pulls the stuffed animal from the box and looks at Mark gratefully.
“Where’d you find a new one?”
He looks at her seriously and says, “I didn’t. That’s from the day exactly ten years ago when I saved your life and you saved mine.”
A waiter stops at the table and sets down five glasses full of purple liquid.
“You can’t drink so we all ordered sparkling grape juice,” Stephen replies.
They all pick up their glasses and Mark starts, “A toast to the group who survived a not so nice stay in a stuck elevator. And to Jenny for saving my life.”
“To the people who helped me catch one of the most elusive serial killers, “Janet says.
Stephen and Lauren both say, “To those who helped us find true love.”
“To Mark for pulling through and being a great friend and everyone else for befriending a seven-year-old girl with a stuffed leopard as her only friend.”
They finish their grape juice and the menus are brought out to them.
The lunch goes very well and they all decide to meet again for a movie the next Friday night. After departing Jenny thinks to herself, ‘I wonder if we were all placed together for a reason or if it was just chance.’
She chose to think there was a reason.
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"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!" - Franklin Roosevelt