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Title: Confessions in an Elevator
Author: jsblume
Style/Genre Prose / Fiction / Literary Fiction
Description: A group of people are trapped in an elevator.
Notes:

Father John Reynolds paused after passing through the entrance to The Queen Victoria Suites. The lobby, indeed the entire building itself, was carefully decorated to reflect the era of its namesake. Father Reynolds pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped the brow below his balding head. It was humid today, and the cool of the air conditioner felt good. His short, stout frame was not equipped to handle it. A stern expression affixed itself on his round and chubby face as he scanned the lobby.

"Pardon me," a voice called from behind him.

Father Reynolds stepped aside and turned to see a tall man dressed in a pinstripe Armani suit and sporting a black Fedora. Mark Waverly looked like a 1920's gangster. On his arm was an even taller and very attractive young woman acting like his gun moll. By the way she carried herself, Father Reynolds suspected her to be a "lady" of the evening.

"Pardon me," Father Reynolds replied, bowing his head slightly and scowling in the woman's direction. Marlena let out a quiet scoff as she sashayed past, while Mark ignored the priest and continued to strut across the lobby to the elevator.

Glancing around the lobby again, Father Reynolds spied Ms. Brock-Hampton. She sat primly in a high--backed Victorian chair, staring down her nose at everyone and everything. He hurried over to where she was sitting.

"Ms. Brock-Hampton, it is so kind of you to--"

"We can discuss this in my rooms," she replied. Casting a disdainful look in the other direction, she raised a limp hand towards the priest. Father Reynolds grasped it, intending to bend over and kiss it. He was surprised when he felt a pull on his hand and she stood up. Walking with the grace of a debutante, she led him to the bank of elevators stopped expectantly. The call button was lit, but Father Reynolds pressed it anyway. She was accustomed to being waited on hand and foot; he would not risk her ire.

Mark and Marlena were also waiting at the elevator. He whistled an absentminded tune and tapped one foot out of time. She winked and favored the priest with a lascivious smile. Father Reynolds turned away, grasped the cross hanging around his neck and whispered a prayer.

"God forgives you," he said, looking back at the woman. The elevator dinged in reply, and the doors opened.

"Come on!" a voice yelled. "Will you move it? The elevator's here."

Father Reynolds turned to see a young boy, about eleven or twelve years old, in a wheel chair being pushed by a teenaged girl. They were both pale and scrawny, but it was clear that for the boy it was due to illness. He looked sickly despite his agitated state. The girl appeared to have lost her will. It was as if the life had been sucked out of her body and all that remained was a shell. Her expression was vacant and her eyes were dark.

With a surge of energy, Jimmy broke free from his sister Christy and wheeled his chair with as much speed as he could muster past the waiting group and into the empty elevator. He spun the chair on its hind wheels and landed the front wheels with a thump, coming to rest in the middle of the elevator. His eyelids fluttered and he slumped from the effort, but a sly smile played on his lips.

Ms. Brock-Hampton stalked onto the left side of the elevator, followed by the gangster and his moll on the opposite side. Father Reynolds held a hand on one of the elevator doors to hold them open and waited for the girl to board. She stepped on and reached for the panel, pushing the button for her floor without even looking, and then squeezed past to stand behind her brothers' wheel chair and attempted to disappear into the wall. The young man in the suit looked startled, and quickly pushed the button for his floor. Father Reynolds boarded the elevator and pushed the button for the penthouse.

The doors closed and the elevator began to rise. Just past the third floor, the elevator began to shudder and the lights began to flicker. Everyone looked up at the ceiling lights, but no one said anything. The elevator ground to a halt and the main lights went out, leaving them in the glow of emergency lights.

Jimmy wheeled forward and jabbed at the button for his floor.

"Come on!" he said.

Mark cast an anxious glance at Father Reynolds' collar, noticing it for the first time. The priest had picked up the emergency phone and was nodding in response to the person on the other end of the conversation.

"Thank you," Father Reynolds said, and hung up the phone.

"Wh--what happened?" he asked, fumbling to remove his hat and resting it over his heart.

"The elevator has stalled," Father Reynolds replied. "Everything is fine. They will have a crew to rescue us soon enough."

"I want out of here!" Jimmy said.

"Patience, young man."

"Why?" Jimmy sneered. "Is God going to save us?"

"If that is His will."

"Huh!" The boy jabbed at the panel a few more times, and then rolled backwards and hit the wall with his chair. He folded his arms across his chest and started to pout.

* * *

The room felt smaller and heavier as the passing minutes accumulated in the silence.

"Well," Father Reynolds said in a jovial tone. "We may be together for a while. Perhaps we should introduce ourselves?"

"Uh," Mark fidgeted under the priests' gaze. "Mark Waverly. Just here for pleasure. This is my, uh, girlfriend. Marlena."

Marlena smiled and winked.

"May God be with you both." Father Reynolds turned to the children. "And who may you be?"

"I might be Jimmy Marx," the boy said. "And this might be my sister Christy. Or maybe we're gangsters, like him! D--d--d--d--d--d--d--d--d--d!" Jimmy pretended to hold a gun and swung it around the elevator, as if gunning everyone down.

Father Reynolds patted Jimmy on the head. "Perhaps we don't need the gun today?"

Jimmy crossed his arms and glared up it the priest.

"I am Father Reynolds from the First Catholic Church. And this," he gestured," is Ms. Brock-Hampton."

"You're that rich lady in the penthouse, aren't you?" Jimmy said.

"Respectfully, please," Father Reynolds said. "Ms. Brock-Hampton is a lady."

"Huh!" Jimmy extended a hand and did his best mock bow, just as he'd seen common folks on TV do for royalty. "Ms. Brock-Hampton." He giggled and sat back up.

* * *

The minutes ticked by. Mark tried to pace, but was stopped short. He was in a back corner of the elevator. Jimmy was next to him with his chair against the wall and Marlena stood in front of him. There was nowhere to go.

"Are you alright, my son?"

"I, uh, fine. Fine."

"Well, I am not fine," snapped Ms. Brock-Hampton. "The situation is quite unacceptable."

"Ye--yes," stammered Mark. "I have a flight this afternoon. I can't be stuck in this elevator."

"I concur with the young man," Ms. Brock-Hampton said. "I do not wish to spend the remainder of my life in this elevator with these... people."

"We all die," mumbled Christy.

"What was that, dear?" Father Reynolds asked. Christy ignored him. "There is no need to panic. Our fate is in God's hands. We must have faith in Him."

"Trust in Him?" Mark asked in a strangled voice. "I don't think I'll be going to heaven."

"God forgives all sins of a repentant man."

Mark gulped. "All sins?"

"Yes, my son. Our Lord is forgiving because He loves us so."

Marlena and Jimmy both scoffed.

"Even your sins, my dear," Father Reynolds said to Marlena.

Mark tried to pace again. "How do I do that?"

"Repent? You begin with a confession of your sins. Beg for forgiveness of your transgressions. After you complete your penance and you are forgiven, vow to never repeat your sins."

"I confess, already!" A note of panic entered Marks' voice.

"A confession is a private matter. This is not an appropriate place."

"I can't..." Mark squeezed himself into the corner. A look of guilt crossed his face. "I must..."

"Of course, my son," Father Reynolds said in a soothing tone. "If you must, but let's keep it to only the most urgent and least offensive, out of respect for the rest of us." He looked meaningfully at Marlena.

"I have nothing to repent," Marlena said with a seductive smile.

"Is she a whore?" Jimmy asked.

"For heaven's sake!" cried Ms. Brock-Hampton. "Must we?"

"Please continue, my son."

"Ah!" Mark raised his hands and clenched his fist. There was no room in this elevator to release his pent--up energy. "These... aren't rightfully my clothes."

"Did you steal them?" Jimmy's eyes lit up.

"No, I didn't steal them! I--" Mark sighed. "I... I embezzled a couple grand from my company."

Ms. Brock-Hampton eyed him with a sharp, suspicious look.

"What does 'embezzled' mean?" Jimmy asked.

"I stole it!"

"Cool!"

"It doesn't matter to me where you get your money, honey," Marlena said.

"Thou shalt not steal. You must return the money and accept the consequences of your actions."

"I don't want to spend my life in jail."

"Life is a jail," mumbled Christy.

"Did you say something, dear?" Father Reynolds asked her. She looked at the floor and ignored him, pretending she hadn't said anything. Turning back to Mark, he said, "You have broken the laws of God and man. You must humbly submit to His judgment, and to that of a court of law. If you are a first offender, perhaps I could speak on your behalf and arrange for community service. There is much work to be done at my church."

"Pshaw!" Ms. Brock-Hampton exclaimed. "Mr. Waverly's sentence should most certainly not be commuted! We all pay for our sins." She turned her head away and clenched her jaw. "All of us."

"Ms. Brock-Hampton, I understand you are angry," Father Reynolds said.

"Angry?" she said. "You don't understand angry! Greed is one of the seven deadly sins, isn't it? Your God has apparently chosen to punish me for it with an early death! Not even a quick one - I have almost a year to ponder the error of my ways." She glared down her nose at Mark. "At least I obtained my wealth legally."

"It is a time to repent and to assure your place in heaven by His side."

"And why would I want that, Father? I am perfectly content with my life as it is."

"Gah!" Christy yelled. "You guys just don't get it, do you?"

There was stunned silence for a few moments. Christy had been so successful at making herself invisible that they forgot she was there.

"I'm sorry, dear," Father Reynolds said. "What do you mean by that?"

"Life is a bitch, okay? And then you die."

"Young lady!" Ms. Brock-Hampton exclaimed.

"The lucky ones die young," Christy ranted. A dark look crossed her face. "Some of us, though, some of us have to make our own luck."

Father Reynolds choked. "I'm sorry, dear, but what do you mean by that?"

"Nothing," Christy said. She crossed her arms and stared at the floor, trying to shut out everyone around her.

"Surely, you don't mean to kill yourself, my dear?" Father Reynolds asked.

"Why shouldn't she?" Jimmy snickered. "And her name's not Shirley."

With a violent heave, Christy shoved the wheel chair. It struck the elevator doors and Jimmy pitched forward, hitting his head.

"Ouch! You deserve to die!"

"I do deserve it!" Christy retorted. "I've earned it!"

The lights flickered on and the elevator lurched into motion.

"Please," Father Reynolds begged, "give me your room numbers and promise not to do anything until I can talk to you."

"612," Mark said.

"Christy?" She ignored his plea. "Jimmy?"

"Are you gonna save me from that maniac?"

"I can't save you, but I can help you."

The elevator doors opened on the fifth floor.

"Forget you," Jimmy said as he wheeled himself out. Christy followed him.

The elevator doors closed and reopened on the sixth floor.

"I will stop by as soon as I can," Father Reynolds said.

Mark ducked his head in acknowledgment and escorted Marlena off the elevator.

The elevator doors closed again and it rose to the penthouse floor. Father Reynolds followed Ms. Brock-Hampton through the narrow foyer to the suite door. She walked across the main room and sat down in a chair by the bay window. Father Reynolds sat down in the chair next to her.

"Tea will arrive shortly. Would you care to join me?"

"If I may, Ms. Brock-Hampton, I don't wish to minimize your concerns, but I fear for the young girls' life."

She smiled and nodded. "I will be here for some time yet."

"God bless you!"

Father Reynolds hurried to the elevator and waited for it to arrive. Once inside, he pushed the button for the fifth floor.

"Lord, help me find this girl," he prayed as he exited the elevator. Walking up to the nearest door, he raised his hand to knock and stopped. He couldn't go door--to--door, could he?

Father Reynolds stepped away from the door and looked up and down the hallway. Taking a closer look at the floor, he noticed indentations in the carpeting that might be from a wheelchair. He followed the tracks around the corner, but they were already fading. He continued around the next corner and nearly fell over the maids cleaning cart.

Discouraged, he retraced his steps back to the elevators in time to see Christy stepping into one. Father Reynolds made a dash for it and squeezed between the doors, which opened again when they detected the intrusion. Father Reynolds leaned against one wall and held another hand to his chest as he gasped for breath.

"You... promised...you'd...wait," he said, panting heavily. He finally caught his breath and managed to slow it to a more reasonable rate.

"Please, dear," he said. "Let me to a least take you to the convent. You can find respite there and stay as long as you like. Please. What do you say?"

Christy sighed and nodded.

"Bless you, child."

Father Reynolds hailed a cab and arrived at the convent within twenty minutes. He walked Christy to the door and conferred with the nuns. Leaving her safely with them, he walked back to the waiting cab and returned to the hotel.

Once inside the elevator, he pushed the button for the sixth floor. One last stop to make. The doors opened and he stepped into the hallway. After inspecting a few door numbers, he turned down the hallway and found room 612.

He raised his hand and knocked. Receiving no answer, he knocked again, harder. Still no answer. This time, he made a fist and knocked even harder.

Father Reynolds took a step back from the door and pondered. After a moment, he took the elevator back to the first floor and approached the concierge desk.

"May I help you, sir?" the woman behind the desk asked.

"Yes, my name is Father John Reynolds with the First Catholic Church. It is very important that I speak to Mark Waverly. He was staying in suite 612, but he's not answering the door."

"Suite 612? I believe the gentleman has checked out." She consulted her computer. "Yes, Mr. Waverly checked out fifteen minutes ago. You just missed him. I'm sorry."

"Thank you, anyway," Father Reynolds said. "I guess I can't save everyone."

Copyright @2012 by jsblume. All rights reserved.
jsblume has granted JS Blume Publishing™ non-exclusive rights to display this work.

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