ALLISON MIGHT HAVE survived the hardest task, but only just. Anxious to get out of the building, she repeatedly pressed the “DOWN” button between two elevator doors as if that somehow quickened the lift to her floor.
Seconds passed, her friend, Sara, called.
“How was the appointment?”
“A disaster,” she told her bluntly.
“It couldn’t have been that bad.”
“Trust me, it was.”
“Why? Tell me what happened…”
While on the phone, suddenly, she perceived a strange vibe behind her. She thought she noticed a person standing in the back earlier and turned her head to look — it was a male janitor, middle-aged and twitchy-eyed.
“Are you there?” asked Sara.
“Yes. I’m here,” she replied, turning back the other way. “I’ll tell you all about it later, just hang on.” Though the instant she finished speaking, she was distracted by the man’s limping gait. His sneakers dragging across the linoleum floor made the squeak of his rubber soles against it unbearable.
“Where were you? I was talking to you this whole time and you said nothing.”
“Oh, sorry. I was just… thinking about something.”
“There you go again.”
“Absent-minded, that’s what. You told me to tell you when you are like that again, remember?”
“Since when is being scatterbrained your thing?”
“I don’t know. Maybe it’s contagious. We’ve been talking more often recently —”
“Don’t tease me like Ed does.”
She let out a soft titter.
“Anywho, I just got on the highway. So I’ll see you at Moonshine in a few.”
“Wait! Stay with me.”
“What did you say? You will have to speak louder or I can’t hear you. The wind is pushing my car left and right, making loud noises as it goes. I gotta bring this up to my mechanic next time I go in for an oil change…”
As Sara babbled on, for the third time, Allison’s mind was held back. She caught a shadow on one of the elevator doors and was unable to loosen her nerves watching it enlarge. Her body froze in place momentarily as she gradually felt warm breath breathing down her nape. Mystified, she shrieked and dodged away, turning to face the offender. Strangely, she saw no one directly there except for the same janitor, who was still standing in his original spot a fair distance away.
Right then, the elevator door opened. “Going down?” one of the riders asked her.
“Yes,” she responded with relief and proceeded into the cabin promptly. The janitor as well came in after her and turned his back as soon as the door closed.
“Hello, Sara? Hello?”
“I don’t think you’ll get any signal in here, miss. Believe me, I’ve been there,” an elderly man said to her.
She smiled back, and stored away her phone the rest of the way down.
Reaching the ground level, the atrium, everyone got out and scattered. Allison returned to her car parked in a small lot in the back of the building and sat inside for a moment of quiet meditation. When ready, she shifted the gear to drive and eased her foot off the brake. The car began to go until suddenly — *THWACK* — someone jumped out from nowhere, smacking their hands onto the hood to sort of stall it. She stomped on the brake just in time to prevent it from ramming into that person. The car jerked back and forth before it would come to a full stop.
It was that janitor again. Following the shock, he drew near her window.
Allison lowered it basically to yell at him, “What is your problem?!” her pulse racing.
“You, ahem, you dropped this.”
She saw Dr. Cooke’s business card held between his fingers and snatched it from him.
“Not even a ‘thanks?’”
More frightened than she allowed herself to show, she ignored his remark and swiftly steered down the main street.