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This story has two endings. I couldn’t decide which I liked better, so I wrote it both ways. This is the story with the second alternate ending. I felt the readers here at Lit.org would like this one better.
However, if you are interested in checking out the original ending, here's a link to it at Waving Alien. Sorry about the plug for WA...
The express elevator stopped with a shuddering jerk between the tenth and eleventh floors. The two passengers both grabbed the hand rails in confusion, wondering why it stopped at all. They had both pushed the first floor button when they had gotten on.
The woman gave a nervous laugh and cautiously approached the controls. She repeatedly pushed the first floor button, and when nothing happened, she tried a few of the other buttons with the same result.
“Third time this week.”
Startled out of her private silence, the woman turned to face the other passenger. “What?”
“I said it’s the third time this week. The third time the elevator has broke down I mean.”
She stared at the man. A nagging uncertainty kept her alert, ready for anything. She turned back to the controls, keeping the man in her peripheral vision. After pressing the elevator alarm which didn’t seem to work either, she opened the access door with the emergency telephone so she could call for assistance. It was dead.
“Did you hear about the murders?”
Now the woman was frightened. “I want to warn you I am armed,” she said as she turned around and backed into a corner.
“Really? Me too, you can never be too careful,” the man replied as he reached beneath his overcoat...
The woman panicked and started fumbling in her purse for the small caliber pistol she carried.
...and he pulled out a pack of cigarettes. He lit one up and exhaled the smoke into the confined space they shared.
“You’re not supposed to smoke in this building. I would really rather you didn’t.” The woman tried to cover her over reaction by bringing out a compact mirror and checking her hair and makeup.
“Well I would rather not be stranded in this damn elevator with a gun happy chick either, so it looks like we both lose.”
Properly humbled, the woman replied, “Look, I’m sorry. With the recent killings, well, I think everyone in the city is on edge. And we are in an elevator after all.”
“Sure, I understand. But the victims have been both male and female. I’m as at risk as you are.”
“But it is assumed that the killer is a male, he escapes through the hatch in the ceiling...”
“Or an athletic female. Neither has been ruled out.” The man flashed a disarming smile at the woman. And then the lights went out... “Shit!”
The woman let out a little squeak of a scream and you could hear the rustling sound of both passengers movements in the pitch black.
The lights came right back on only to find the man and the woman pointing guns at each other. The woman had dropped her purse on the floor. They had both shifted to an adjoining corner in the darkness and each had to redirect the aim of their guns to the new position they occupied.
“PUT YOUR GUN DOWN!” Screamed the woman.
“NO! YOU DROP YOUR GUN! DO IT NOW!” The man was shaking and aimed his gun with great difficulty at the woman’s head.
“Wait! Wait!” With huge gulping breaths, the woman was calming herself. Her own wavering gun seemed an unbearable responsibility in her hand. They were in a standoff.
Finally, catching her breath, she said, “Wait, this isn’t right! All the murders were done with a knife. We have guns...”
“You could have a knife in your purse!”
“I don’t have a knife. Look for yourself.” The woman kicked her purse over to the man.
Keeping his gun aimed at her, he quickly reached down and turned the purse up side down and shook it, spilling the contents on the elevator floor. There was no knife.
“What?” asked the man.
“Take off your jacket, throw it over here so I can check it! It’s the only way I can feel safe...”
“Fine! Ok! Just don’t think I’ll be so distracted that I can’t shoot your ass!” And with that, the man took off his jacket, keeping his aim by transferring the gun from one hand to the other as he shook each sleeve in turn off his arms. He tossed it over to the woman.
She bent down, never taking her eyes off the man, carefully going through the pockets and feeling around the lining to make sure nothing was hidden. Satisfied it was clean, she stood back up.
“Now you take your sweater off!” Demanded the man.
“What? I can’t hide anything in my sweater! It doesn’t even...”
“I said take it off!” he interrupted, cocking his gun.
She could tell there was no way around it and removed her sweater throwing it under hand to the mans feet. He stepped on it and probed it with his foot to insure it wasn’t concealing anything.
Both passengers were right on the edge. Both were still so convinced that the other was the killer that neither would give an inch. In this fashion, each demanded that the other remove a piece of clothing so that it could be checked. Soon enough, they were both standing there, completely naked.
At this point, two things happened simultaneously. The elevator started moving, and the service hatch in the ceiling opened with a squeal of unused hinges. A person dropped out of the access hole and the man and woman both caught a glimpse of something in his hand just before the lights flickered out again...
As the express elevator descended, a growing crowd of emergency personnel and police, summoned by an automatic alarm sent from the malfunctioning elevator, heard a hail of gunfire echoing from the shaft. The innocent ding of a concealed bell mocked the tenseness of the situation as it announced the elevators arrival. The doors slid open creating a swirling vortex of gunpowder tainted smoke, sucked out of the interior of the express.
The police had their weapons drawn and were stunned by the vision before them. Laying in the dissipating haze of smoke were two naked bodies displaying what appeared to be numerous bullet wounds, their guns still clutched in their lifeless fingers. Standing with his back plastered against the wall was a fully dressed man wearing a hat and holding a large screwdriver.
“They shot themselves!” He said, shaking his head. “I came down through the ceiling hatch to repair the elevator and they started shooting! There was nothing I could do!”
The police took the man with the screwdriver off for questioning and secured the crime scene. His identification confirmed that he was a building maintenance employee. He had fallen to the floor when he entered the elevator, thus avoiding the spray of bullets. Unfortunately, he had no idea what had transpired before he had dropped down through the service hatch, and was soon released.
The maintenance man walked out of the police station a free man. A few blocks away, he casually dropped his false identification into a trash bin on the sidewalk. He removed his hat and ran his fingers through his hair knowing that it was a close call. He had almost been caught. And if the passengers had not panicked, he would probably be dead.
He looked down into his hat to check the Velcro strap that secured the knife he had used in his previous killings. He walked away, satisfied and invigorated by the excitement of the death of his intended victims, even though not accomplished by his own hand...