TUESDAY: Stalled

BY BEVERLEY BACHMANN

Copyright is held by the author.

THE CONDOMINIUM complex was practically deserted, so when Angela and David, an attractive couple in their mid 30s, took the elevator down to the lobby from their penthouse suite, they were the only passengers.

Without warning, their uneventful journey took a frightening turn when the car in which they were traveling suddenly stalled, stranding the couple somewhere between the 30th and the 29th floors.

Angela looked over at David, her eyes wide with worry.

He was concerned too, but he decided to keep that to himself. “It’s probably nothing,” he said as a few more seconds went by.

“Are you sure you didn’t push the wrong button by mistake?” Angela asked, looking for some kind of reassurance. David understood this; nevertheless, her question annoyed him.

“Of course not,” he shot back, but then he caught the expression on her face and moved in closer. “Listen,” he said, putting a protective arm around her shoulder, “I won’t let anything bad happen to you. You know that, don’t you?”

She was silent as she processed this information. “Okay,” she said, although the tone of her voice indicated she was anything but. Suddenly a thought occurred to her, and she began frantically rummaging around in her purse. “Dammit!” she cried. “It’s missing.”

“What’s missing?” David asked, casually scanning the walls of the elevator car.

“My cell phone! That’s what!” Frustration was getting the better of her. “I can’t believe I would do a thing like that,” she said, half to herself — half to the man she was going to marry in three days’ time. She turned angry eyes at him. “It’s the wedding — just have too much on my mind. You know, it would be a lot easier if you would help out once in a while.”

David gave her a guilty smile. “I’d love to, Sweetheart, but I’m working my tail off at the clinic and that doesn’t leave much time for anything — frivolous.” He knew as soon as the word left his mouth that he had made a big mistake.

“Frivolous! Is that what you call the most important day of our lives?! Frivolous?” she sputtered in rage.

“Take it easy,” he said without taking his eyes off of the document he had managed to locate. “You’re just suffering from pre-wedding jitters.”

“We should have taken the stairs,” Angela grumbled. “Then we wouldn’t be in this fix.” When David didn’t respond, she added, “I can’t be late for my fitting. It may not mean much to you, but my wedding dress means a lot to me.”

David kept silent. He knew he was at fault for his insensitive ‘frivolous’ remark, and, in fact, he felt like a first-class jerk. He promised himself he’d make it up to her later. After all, Angela was the girl of his dreams.

His mind drifted back to the night they met at the bar down the street from the hospital. Lots of girls were beautiful, but Angela took his breath away. After a few weeks of dating, he discovered that she was an heiress and independently wealthy. David was impressed. He wasn’t a fortune hunter, but he had long ago grasped the significance of money. He remembered all too well what it was like to be saddled with a staggering load of debt after medical school and looking for a job — any job — in a world where would-be doctors were delivering pizzas instead of babies.

A few seconds went by in silence.

Angela approached him. “What are you reading?” she asked.

“What to do in case of an emergency,” he replied.

“Oh.” She paused for a moment. “I thought it was the stock market report,” she said flippantly before turning her back to him.

David bit his lip. His sensible brain told him to push the intercom and inform whoever was at the receiving end that they were trapped and needed assistance. His primitive brain told him to grab Angela by the throat and throttle her.

“Well,” she prodded. “Are we going to spend the rest of our lives in here, or what?”

He closed his eyes tightly. “The rest of our lives … the rest of our lives.” David couldn’t get that expression off his mind. He loved her. He didn’t question it. And there was that little matter of financial security. He sighed deeply.

“For God’s sake, we’ve been in here forever. Do something!” Angela was scowling now. If only she hadn’t left her cell phone in her other purse, she could have called somebody for help. Actually, anybody would have been preferable to “do-nothing David,” as his mother frequently referred to him.

David looked over at her. He did seem to be stalling, and what’s more, he had no idea why. The task at hand was easy enough. All he had to do was speak into the intercom and transmit a message. It wasn’t as if he couldn’t perform complex tasks. His internship had required him to assist in several surgical procedures with successful results. So he knew he was a capable person.

When he lived at home during his university days, he had been preoccupied with his studies. It was his younger brother who helped around the house by doing things like mowing the lawn and emptying the dishwasher while he sat in his room pouring over anatomy books and trying to absorb as much of science as he could. And David really didn’t have time to listen to his divorced mother whine about “the lack of good men out there.” So he became “do-nothing David,” and the name sort of stuck.

Angela was different. No one would call her “do-nothing Angela.” She belonged to many organizations — where her take-charge personality was often an asset. And she discovered that she liked directing people. In fact, it turned out to be her specialty. So, when she came across even tempered, mild mannered David, she took notice. She didn’t really need a man with money, or even ambition. What she needed was someone who wasn’t going to challenge her authority. With handsome “do-nothing David” she hit the jackpot.

“Hello. Is anyone there?” David leaned into the intercom. “We’re stuck in the elevator near the 30th floor. He paused to listen. There was no response.

With each passing moment, the air became thicker with tension. Angela was close to losing it. “Well,” she said, stamping her foot, “are you just going to stand there?”

He turned his body slowly, deliberately in her direction. “What would you like me to do?”

“I don’t know,” she said peevishly. “I guess just be your ‘do-nothing’ self.”

For a few seconds time seemed to be stalled somewhere between hope and despair, and then, as if by magic, the elevator started to move. Suddenly it was falling, floor by floor, without stopping until it reached the lobby where it landed with a gentle bump.

“Let’s get out of here,” David urged before striding briskly to the outside doors a few feet away.

When he reached the exit to the street, he turned around to say something to Angela, but she wasn’t there. Puzzled, he turned his head in all directions to look for her. There was only one thing to do. Retrace his steps.

The elevator had already closed, but since no one was around waiting for it, David figured if he pushed the button, the doors would open and maybe he would find Angela on the other side.

He did.

She was lying crumpled in a heap on the elevator floor. He rushed inside and knelt beside her. A quick examination told David the whole story. She had been strangled.

7 comments

  1. JAZZ

    A very short story about a couples very short elevator ride with dramatic results. The author did a good job with this concept, but the ending was a bit on the cheap side. Almost as though the horse refused the jump and we went over head first.

  2. Mary Steer

    Whoa! I had to read the ending twice before I figured out what had happened. Found the opening a little too journalistic — would’ve preferred more “showing” than “telling” — but after the first two paragraphs, I was along for the ride (stalled ride?!). And the ending is very clever.

  3. michael joll

    The hook came in the third sentence. Too late to prevent my eyes glazing. Skip the beige opening. Not a fan of the passive voice except where necessary, or feel/felt, or suddenly, etc. I spent the entire story picking threads that I didn’t see the ending coming but oddly I didn’t feel cheated.

  4. Patricia Hegarty

    Clever story, nice twist at the end. Well done!
    There were a few instances where you ‘fed’ the reader e.g. para 4 this phrase could probably have been omitted “but he decided to keep that to himself”.

    All in all interest level high.

  5. Joseph Monachino

    It is an interesting story. The ending is startling, but clever. I felt that the story flowed nicely. I didn’t expect that ending but it was definitely thought provoking.

  6. Connie Cook

    Hi Bev, A great read. Personally I liked the casual intro. It gave the ending more impact and not what the reader was expecting. You lured me in!

  7. John O

    I really liked how you gave so much depth to both characters in that short space 🙂 Well done

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