Untitled Short Story #1
Jeremy Larson’s first thought when the elevator ground to a halt between floors at eleven o’clock at night was shit, followed by I wonder how long this is going to take and oh man, anybody but her.
The her was an intern at the law firm Jeremy worked for, a well-known group of financial attorneys whose offices took up three floors inside a high-rise building in Boston’s Financial District. She’d come in with a batch of bright-eyed paralegals a week ago and made quite the first impression.
While walking into the introductory meeting, she had passed Jeremy at the conference table and stumbled, spilling a cup of hot coffee all over his laptop. The cascade of hot liquid had destroyed Jeremy’s computer and any chance he’d had of winning the estate dispute case he’d been working on before he was called in to meet the new group of eager-beaver coeds. He hadn’t backed up his files, and while that was his own stupid mistake, now he had nothing to show for a week of case prep and it made him lose his temper.
The tirade Jeremy launched into was foolhardy and embarrassing and made him look like an asshole in front of his coworkers. He’d fled the room, but not before seeing the look on the girl’s face. It hadn’t been one of contrition for her actions or shock at his outburst—no, her expression was something else entirely.
She’d looked like she wanted to murder him, and now he was stuck in an elevator with her.
The overhead fluorescents had gone out when the elevator stopped. Tiny red emergency lights flickered on a moment later, casting an eerie glow against the shiny metal walls. Jeremy swore under his breath and poked at the rows of numbered buttons in front of him in vain, knowing nothing would happen but needing to do something. And maybe he was also trying to avoid the intern, since in all the coffee-related chaos he had never learned her name. But what did that matter? Surely she wasn’t going to speak to him after the way he acted.
“Son of a bitch,” came from the other side of the elevator. “I should’ve known this was going to happen.”
Jeremy looked—he couldn’t not look, not with a voice like that.
She was short and wore minimal makeup, her petite frame covered by a gray sweater-dress and black leggings. Her long red hair was gathered into a high ponytail, and it turned out the eyes that’d been so angry in the conference room were a cool blue-green.
“What do you mean?” Jeremy asked, confused and annoyed and yes, still embarrassed. “Also, could you tell me why when you spilled your coffee all over my stuff you looked at me like it was my fault?”
“Trust me, we’ve got bigger problems.” The intern—who Jeremy realized upon closer inspection looked a little too old to be a law student—put the stack of papers she was holding on the floor and slid a hand into the top of her stylish right boot, extracting a knife.
Jeremy took a step away, felt his back hit the wall. “What the—Jesus, I’m sorry, okay? It was just a computer!”
“You think I’m going to stab you because of the temper tantrum you threw last week?” When Jeremy nodded, she snorted at him. “You’re an idiot.” She pushed the blade of the knife into the seam between the wall and the panel located below the buttons. She used the knife to pop the panel off and set it aside. “You didn’t recognize me that first day?”
“No?” Jeremy squinted, tilting his head to one side. Now that he thought about it, she looked an awful lot like— “Oh, shit. You’re Reina Rush. Your father is—”
“Benjamin Rush. Otherwise known as the plaintiff in your estate dispute case.”
“You’re not a law student, so what the hell are you doing here? Wait, were you trying to sabotage the case?”
“First I needed to know if there was a case,” Reina said, fiddling with the wires hidden behind the panel she’d removed. “That was why I tripped—I was reading over your shoulder, and then once I saw what you had I spilled the coffee. I expected you to have a backup drive, but when you started screaming at me all I could think about was smacking you silly. You were so upset about losing your precious case data—you didn’t care that you were playing god with somebody’s future. My future.”
“Your mother died and left her family’s entire fortune to you instead of Mr. Rush,” Jeremy said, watching Reina’s elegant hands work without the slightest idea of what she was trying to do. “You have to admit that’s odd.”
“She left me the money because she knows what kind of person my father is.” Reina straightened up, knife back in her hand. “I can’t jump-start it—they must’ve cut the power off at the main electrical panel. The whole building’s probably out.”
For some unknown reason, Jeremy felt a sense of dread building at the base of his spine as he asked, “Who’s they?”
Reina’s expression was grim. “The men my father sent to kill me.”
A bark of laughter escaped Jeremy. “What is this, a bad action movie? He’s suing you, for Christ’s sake—and you’re his daughter!”
“You haven’t met Benjamin if you think that matters to him. If we hit the emergency switch to call the fire department his goons are going to know exactly where we are. The only advantage we have right now is that the law offices take up three floors, but it’s late. There’s nobody else here and it won’t take them long to find us.” Reina pointed up. “There’s a hatch in the ceiling of the elevator. If we can get through there and up to the previous floor, we can find the stairs and get the hell out of here.”
Her logic was sound, but Jeremy was having a hard time believing the elevator hadn’t stopped because of a mechanical failure. “Why should I go anywhere with you?”
“Because when they find you in here they’re going to know I was with you.”
“And how will they know that?”
“You’ll tell them once they start pulling out your teeth.”
How was he supposed to respond to that?
It turned out he didn’t have to, because that was when a noise Jeremy had only heard on the news and in video games hit his ears: the unmistakable rat-a-tat-tatof machine gun fire.
Reina’s eyes grew wide. “We have to move—now!”
She grabbed Jeremy’s shoulders and swung onto his back in one fluid movement. He stumbled but didn’t fall, hands rising automatically to grip her legs for support. He could feel the heat of her against his neck and tried in vain to fight off a blush, suddenly thankful she couldn’t see his face from this angle. Life or death situation aside—Jeremy had accepted that was what it was when the gunfire started—Reina was a competent, beautiful woman, and it was hard not to react to her.
In seconds she had the ceiling hatch open and was climbing through, reaching a hand back down to help Jeremy. “Come on! They’re getting closer!”
Jeremy grasped her hand and grabbed the lip of the opening, pulling himself through. It was dark in the elevator shaft except for the light in the crack between the doors to the previous floor. Reina kicked the hatch on the elevator closed and they felt their way over to the doors. The doors were harder to pry open than the movies made it look, but between Reina’s slender fingers and Jeremy’s brute strength they were able to wrench them apart.
They belly-crawled onto the previous floor and listened. No noise, so they got to their feet and hurried down the hall, searching for the door to the stairs. Jeremy was sweating, heart hammering in his throat from adrenaline as he burst through the stairwell door with Reina and started taking the stairs three at a time, desperate to get away.
Miraculously they reached the lobby, but the miracle was short-lived: the guard behind the big desk out front was dead, bloody bullet holes littering his chest. A masked man with a machine gun standing near the body started firing his weapon as soon as Reina and Jeremy made a break for freedom.
Together they ran through the hail of bullets, punching through the glass doors into the crisp night air as the world shattered around them, hurtling down the sidewalk as sirens began to wail in the distance.
The first thought Jeremy had once he was outside was, I guess she doesn’t want to murder me after all.