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Next Stop Murder


Next Stop Murder

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									                                     Going Down

Cary‟s day drew to a close as the street lamps below her flickered into life. Winter
had taken its seasonal shift, stripping the courtyard trees in Canary Wharf and
darkening the sky in time for the five o‟clock rush. As she packed her case, she
flicked glances left and right, studying her colleagues and their movements. There
was a strange bond of mistrust that existed on the 45th floor, an understanding that
come 5 o‟clock, it was every man and woman for themselves. 53 employees, one lift,
and a potential age before catching one after you missed the first one. She brushed the
old post-its off her desk into the paper basket and checked her watch. 4.57. She would
be in that first lift.

         Abandoning protocol, Cary edged slowly towards the foyer, avoiding the
stares of disbelief from her co-workers. Some interpreted her movements as a game
and quickly bundled papers into their cases and followed suit. A smile crept across
her face as she quickened her pace, scanning her peripheral vision for others joining
the race. Josh, her cubicle partner, paced passed her with a childish giggle, swinging
his arms wildly and coughing out fake breaths of weariness. Cary broke out into a
sprint, brushing past Josh and head on into the gaggle of suits already crowded around
the lift doors. Josh caught up and joined her in an ecstasy of rapturous laughter,
prompting looks of confusion from the men in front of them.

       The crowd had gathered around the maintenance lift, which had been adapted
for employee use whilst the main lifts were being renovated. It was a small
contraption, designed originally to transport cleaning carts from floor to floor. As
Cary caught her breath, she heard the rickety lift descending from the floors above.

        “Oh dear, it looks like we won‟t be making it after all!” said Josh as he eyed
the cluster of men that stood between the lift and himself.

        “What‟s this „we‟ nonsense? I don‟t know about you Seb Coe, but I'm getting
out of here now!” laughed Cary as she wormed her way through the throng and
towards the doors.

        The lift arrived just as Cary made it to the front of the group. As the doors
opened, the throng let out a collective groan; the lift was packed in tightly. Cary
looked upon tired eyes staring out of the lift, grey faces unwilling to accept anyone
else into their portal.

        But Cary didn‟t care. She needed to get home, to a nice warm bath and a mug
of hot chocolate. Recoiling like a snake, she pushed off her back foot and rammed
herself into the lift, closing off her mind from the protests and yelps of disagreement.
She froze into position, her head resting against a fat guy‟s sweaty armpit. „Close the
door now!‟ she thought to herself as she fought down her gag reflexes. She pushed her
pelvis against the man‟s leg as the doors began to close behind her, narrowly missing
catching her skirt.
       As the lift began to descend, Cary was able to disconnect from the large man,
narrowing her eyes at his delighted expression. „That‟s probably the closest you‟ve
ever been to a woman other than your mother‟, she thought, as the man‟s face sunk
back into its original depressed fatigue.

        Suddenly, the lift began to shake uncomfortably, its smooth descent becoming
a series of sudden drops and stops.

        “We‟re too heavy!” a voice from within the lift cried out, muffled by onerous
small-talk about useless maintenance men and outdated lift systems. The red bulb
behind the transparent MAXIMUM WEIGHT EXCEEDED sign began to flash,
prompting anxious murmurs from the men. The shakes became more frequent and
violent. And then, the big drop came.

        Finally giving up the struggle, something snapped in the shaft and the lift
plummeted, throwing the inhabitants around like rag dolls. The lights went out and
the screams went up, a mass of panicked businessmen unprepared to accept their fate.
Cary clung desperately to the rail, remembering a TV show that dispelled the myth
that jumping just before the lift hit the ground would save you. Like the delirious
execs, she was going to die.

         But it wasn‟t to be a fateful journey, for the lift suddenly ground to a halt. A
split second later, the mass of people hit the floor. As they grappled around for the
rail, the lights came back on, revealing an orgy of silk ties and cotton suits. Cary lay
under the large man she had become far too acquainted with. She pushed against his
frame, but couldn‟t muster enough strength to shift him. Everyone else had gathered
themselves and was now staring wide-eyed at Cary‟s struggle.

       “Christ, someone help me out here!” screamed Cary, angered by the lack of
courtesy from the men around her.

        “No Reg, don‟t move him. Oh God, what the fuck!” came a voice in response
to Cary‟s delirium. What was going on? Had the large man sustained injury in the
fall? Cary managed to get an arm free and gained some more leverage over the man.
As she went to push him away, she gasped in horror. Her arm was covered in blood, a
crimson trickle rushing down her fingers towards her elbow. It wasn‟t hers. With a
final heave, she managed to get most of her body free, aided finally by a man whom
she assumed was Reg. As she climbed to her feet, she withdrew in terror, backing up
against the metal wall and climbing towards the low ceiling. The large man had
sustained an injury. But it wasn‟t induced from the fall.

        Some men thrust their elbows out, struggling for space. Others banged
violently against the doors, crying out for help. All Cary could do was glance coldly
at the suspects she shared the lift with. The large man‟s face whitened as blood seeped
from behind the knife that had been plunged deep into his heart. Amidst the panic, the
falling and the fear, he had been murdered.

         A pool of blood began to form around the body, growing steadily outwards
like a flow tide. The men tiptoed precariously around the blood, one man choosing the
corpse as a more favourable standing platform.
        “Oh God! Get off him! More blood‟s coming out!” The same panicky voice
Cary had heard chirped up again, quivering fear behind every word. The voice had
come from a stick thin intern cowering in the corner. He couldn‟t have been much
older than 19. His eyes glowed red as tears began to form, a look of despair and
hopelessness etched into his pale features.

       “I‟m not getting blood on my shoes!” said the man balancing himself on the
fat man‟s legs. He looked around the lift as he spoke, as if asserting himself as a
makeshift detective. “If we all just sit tight and everyone stop talking at once, perhaps
we can figure out what happened.”

        “Alright John, I‟ll call for maintenance, someone call an ambulance and
police,” said Reg, who was pushed up uncomfortably against the emergency phone.
He struggled to read the instructions beside the phone, pushing his head behind the
petrified intern‟s back. “Move out the way!” he yelled, pushing the young man aside.
The intern stumbled for balance as he moved away from the phone, dancing around
the blood spill and falling straight into John‟s arms.

       “You‟re alright, just don‟t move”, said John, struggling for balance himself as
he repositioned his feet around the body. “This will be over soon”.

        “Bullshit! How can you know that? How do we even know he‟s dead?” The
intern barked hysterically through his tears before sobbing quietly into John‟s shirt.
Cary glanced the name sticker on his shirt: Gordon.

        “Listen, Gordon,” she said, knowing that his panic was a precursor to
everyone else‟s. “Reg is calling the lift man, and as soon as he‟s done that, I‟ll call an
ambulance and the police. You need to stop worrying, it‟ll be over soon. I promise.”
She bit her tongue as she said this, for she wasn‟t overly confident in her own
promise. If the lift had stopped between floors, it would certainly be a long time
before they were rescued. Momentarily, Reg put the phone down.

         “Right, there‟s a guy on his way now,” declared Reg. “He doesn‟t know where
the lift is, so it may take a while. Right, I‟ll call the police then.”

         “Did you tell him about the body?” A new voice pitched in from the back of
the lift; it was low and monotonous. Cary couldn‟t quite make out who had spoken.

       “Yeah, I told him that. He should be coming a lot quicker hopefully!” said Reg
jokingly, but the man he spoke to didn‟t share the joke. He was tall; his slicked-back
blond hair mere inches from the light fitting that buzzed and flickered. His features
were grey and solid, his sullen eyes fixated on the knife protruding from the body.

       “Why didn‟t you tell him to call the emergency services then?” He lifted his
eyes towards Reg as he spoke, narrowing them in accusation.

       “Yeah, because I really want to get out of here, and I‟d rather he hurried up
and got us out then wasting time on the blower. That‟s why, mate!” Reg‟s response
was tinged with anger, and Cary feared that tensions within the lift were on the rise.
      “Seems to me that we should all be here when the police arrive, because
whoever killed Duncan is trapped in here with the rest of us.”

      Cary knew he has right. The murderer couldn‟t escape, lest the maintenance
man got everyone out before the police arrived.

       “How can we trust that you even spoke to the maintenance man?” This
question was harsh, and Cary knew that direct accusation was dangerous.

       “I don‟t know who the fuck you are, but I‟m with Reg,” said John maliciously.
The anxiety was rising in him too. “The sooner we get out of here, the better. I have a
wife and kids you know!”

       “I suppose that makes you innocent does it?” The tall man was riling the only
men with shreds of composure, and Cary interrupted the argument before a fight
could break out:

        “Everyone shut up! I‟m calling the authorities now, OK? I‟m sorting it.” She
had already punched the numbers into the phone in her coat pocket and had been
waiting for the right opportunity to push the call button. She did so, raising the mobile
to her ear. She waited for the dial tone.

        As the tone came, Cary felt her scenario changing. She was no longer in the
maintenance lift, gasping for air and dragging her fingernails across the metal walls.
She was in Borough Tube station with her husband Grant, getting off the midnight
train and entering the battered station lift. The doors creaked closed as a man in the
corner eyed them menacingly, waiting. As the lift began to move, he approached
them, pulled out a large knife and demanded money. As she fumbled for her purse,
Grant lunged at the man, trying to pry the knife from his grip. But he failed, stumbling
back as the man plunged the blade into his chest. As the doors reopened and the man
fled, Cary got out her phone and made the most important call of her life.

        “Hello, I need police and ambulance service. I‟m stuck in a lift with one
casualty and four civilians. The casualty has been murdered, knife wound to the heart,
I think. Alright, that‟s at the Canary Wharf Tower, around 30th floor. The building
maintenance service has been informed. Yes, the murderer is one of us. The body
hasn‟t been tampered with. No. Ok, please hurry.” She ended the call.

         „And now ensues the battle of patience‟, thought Cary as she eyed her
companions. Gordon‟s composure had been restored, although now John had tired of
supporting his weight and had made him stand in the pool of blood. Reg was
breathing heavily, his eyes fixed on nothing. The tall stranger stood at the back of the
lift, head bowed, but eyes raised and staring directly at Cary.

       No sound. Nothing, save for Reg‟s shallow breathing. The silence was
unbearable. Cary even longed for the tall stranger to start making accusations again,
anything to cut the tension.
       “So, you knew this guy then?” said John, looking up from the body to the

         “Yeah, I know him. Used to work with him on 20th, but I moved to 59th last

       “So, why was he in this lift then?” said Cary. “Did anyone see which floor he
came in on?”

        “Me and Reg got in on 63rd, and he was already in the lift by himself,” said
John. “Maybe he was doing business on a higher floor. I sometimes make trips
upstairs when our copier breaks down.”

        “Look, let‟s cut the bullshit,” said the stranger, shooting glances around the
lift. “One of us killed him, and until the police get here I‟m not comfortable talking
with you people.”

        “You know what, you‟re right”, said Reg with mock sincerity. “Allow me to
play detective for a second here. Whoever killed this guy knew what he was doing,
because he died very quickly. The killer was hoping to get away at the next stop, but
didn‟t bet on the lift crashing. The knife will have fingerprints all over it, so the killer
will be panicking right about now.” Reg‟s argument was aimed at the stranger, which
to Cary seemed unfair.

        “Maybe the killer is pretending to be a detective to convince everyone else of
his innocence,” retorted the stranger.

        “Wait, I haven‟t finished yet. To carry a knife that size, the killer would need
an ideal place to store it, like that large coat you‟re wearing. Also, if the killer knew
what he was doing, he may have worn gloves to protect himself from leaving
fingerprints. Leather gloves, a bit like yours.”

       “Yeah, we don‟t even know the fuck you are!” said John. “And you‟re the
only one who knew this guy. So yeah, I think you did it.”

       “That‟s bullshit! Fuck you and your fucking detective work!” growled the
stranger, slamming his fists firmly against the metal walls. Cary watched as Reg and
John pressed closer towards him, taking an unwilling Gordon with them. “Back off!
Get the fuck away!”

        Cary saw the fists fly before it even happened. The stranger threw out a hand
in warning, pushing against Reg who was tearing at his face. John hurled a balled fist
towards his stomach, landing a shot firmly into his kidney. The stranger responded by
kicking out, failing to hit his target but managing to hurt Gordon, who was
desperately trying to retreat from the mob. The fight made the lift shake, prompting
ominous creaking noises from within the shaft. If she didn‟t break it up soon, Cary
knew the lift would plummet again. Wriggling her way in between the men, she
pretended to become embroiled in the fight, falling into one of Reg‟s punches. It
clipped her cheek, but there was enough contact for Reg to retract in horror at what he
had just done. As she fell to the floor in mock agony, she noticed Reg‟s shocked
expression and knew the fight was about to stop. But before he could spit out an
apology, the stranger drove his body weight against the mob, pushing everyone on top
of Cary and Duncan. The lift creaked louder than before, the emergency brakes
squealing under the immense pressure. But it held, as the execs lay there in a
crumpled heap.

        “Look, let‟s stop this!” yelled Cary. Her plan had worked and slowly, the men
got to their feet. Reg positioned himself as far from the stranger as possible, avoiding
eye contact with him. John balanced himself on Duncan‟s legs, steadying himself
against Gordon, who leant against the railing. Finally, Cary got squashed between
Gordon and John. She glanced around her and saw that everybody was covered in
Duncan‟s blood. Gordon was drenched, his white collar glowing red. But there was
something wrong with Gordon.

      “Hey Gordon, are you alright?” said Cary with a maternal voice. His face had
grown even paler and he was sweating uncontrollably.

       “I, can‟t, I can‟t, breath”. Gordon gargled his words as he tried to undo his tie.
Cary thrust her hands into his jacket pockets, searching for an inhaler or medication.

        “Alright, hang on a sec, just calm down,” said Reg, forcing Gordon‟s arms to
his side. “I‟ll get the tie off.” Cary couldn‟t find anything in his jacket pockets. There
was no medication and Cary knew that Gordon was not having a panic attack. The
blood on his collar wasn‟t Duncan‟s; it was his. He‟d been stabbed in the neck.

         “Stop, no, don‟t take it off!” she screamed, but it was too late. Reg yanked the
tie off and a fountain of blood sprayed from Gordon‟s neck.

       The blood spattered the ceiling of the lift, coating the lights in a red tint and
dripping everywhere, soaking John and Reg in a horrific red tide. The stranger
cowered beneath his heavy coat, soaked as it now was in Gordon‟s blood. Cary clung
despairingly to Gordon, using his now lifeless body as a shield from the raining blood.
The drips seemed to echo throughout the otherwise silent lift.

        The dripping gradually subsided as Cary let Gordon‟s limp body drop on top
of Duncan‟s. Reg and John hugged each other closely, abandoning any pretence of
masculinity they had once had. The stranger had stripped down to his shirt, throwing
his bloodied coat and jacket over Gordon‟s twisted face. In the midst of the fight,
somebody had stabbed Gordon in the throat.

        “I want out. Right now. I want out.” John‟s timid voice quaked with fear. His
body shivered violently as he pushed his feet against Gordon‟s body, his shoes
glistening with wet blood. “Where‟s the police? Where‟s the ambulance? Where‟s the
fucking maintenance man!?”

        “He‟ll be here in a minute John, just calm down”. It was Reg‟s turn to be
composed, but John was having none of it. Reaching under Gordon, he frantically
worked his hand across Duncan‟s chest, before feeling the protruding knife between
his fingers. He prised it out of the corpse and brandished it wildly.
       “Everyone get back! Get the fuck away from me!”

        “John, put the knife down mate! It‟ll be over soon,” said Reg, although his
petrified voice betrayed his calm front.

       “Put the knife down John, we don‟t want anymore casualties”, said Cary,
wiping the drying blood from her eyelids.

       “Yeah John, put it down”, said the stranger. He slowly approached John, who
was pointing the knife directly at him.

       “No, I won‟t put it down. Fuck you. You did this, you killed them. Stay back!”

       “I didn‟t kill them John”.

        “Bullshit, you‟re a freak! Get the fuck away from me!” John was screaming
through tears that forged paths through his blood-soaked face. He began to swing the
blade inches from the stranger‟s face.

       “John, I didn‟t do it, please put the knife down”.

        As the rift between John and the stranger escalated, Cary heard a knocking
directly above her. Seconds later, a panel in the ceiling was removed, and a round face
poked into the lift. Maintenance.

       “Oh my God!” yelled the maintenance man.

        “Get me out of here!” John jumped towards the opening, but had taken his
eyes off the stranger. Without hesitation, he lunged at the knife, wrestling it out of
John‟s hands before throwing him to the floor. Surprisingly, Reg helped the stranger
to pin his friend down, sensing that he may have become a danger to himself and
others. As they tussled, Cary grabbed the knife off the floor.

       “John, calm down! We are getting out now!”

       “OK, I‟ll take the lady first,” declared the man in the gap, offering his hand
towards Cary. “Be quick, this lift is gonna give any second!”

        Cary climbed on top of Reg‟s back and grabbed the man‟s hand, who hoisted
her up and out of the metal box. She struggled to squeeze into the shaft space, but the
maintenance man was strong and pulled her through. Wiping the blood from his
hands, he then helped her towards the lift doors, which were open about half a metre
above her.

       “Can you get up there by yourself sweetheart?”

       “Yes, just help the others.” Cary stretched towards the doors as the man turned
back to help the rest of the group.
        “Right, next person. Someone grab my…” The maintenance man suddenly
stopped talking as his composed face stretched into a frightened gasp. He stared with
disbelief into the lift, before falling through the opening and on top of the group. As
Reg and the stranger struggled to get him off, they saw the stab wound in his back.
With horrifying realisation, they craned their neck upwards, and saw Cary. She was

        Her husband had died that night in the lift, the only man she ever loved. His
heart had given out, a fatal blow that ripped the Aorta. Cary‟s therapy hadn‟t cured
her anger. The mugger was as fresh in her memory as he had ever been. She had
clung onto the faint hope that one day she would see him again, just so she could push
her knife deep into his heart, killing him exactly as he had killed Grant. But the rage
had built up below the surface, a dangerous tension she had struggled to contain.
Although Duncan was no mugger, she felt a hatred for him that had pushed five years
of suppressed killing desire to the surface. One murder wasn‟t enough; Duncan,
Gordon and the maintenance man did not make up for the mugger.

         “Sorry boys, the police aren‟t on their way. You can‟t call them now. I‟m
afraid you‟re out of time. Hold tight, going down!” And with that, Cary replaced the
panel, drowning out the final screams of the group. As she put the knife back in her
briefcase, she searched the shaft for the brake release button, which she found beside
the lift doors. Cary climbed out of the shaft, and pushed the button.

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