Click here to read City of Fear, Part 1
The taxi took the expected route downtown. Past the courthouse where a mother had thrown hot coffee at her, past the Greek restaurant where the owner had told everyone he’d seen them plotting suspiciously, around the corner from the flower shop he’d bought her roses from after stuffing the boy’s body in a drain pipe. This was a city with eyes and she could feel them on her like heavy mud, even though she was just riding in the back of a taxicab wearing sunglasses at 7pm.
The display materials for the booth had arrived by the time she checked in, so she didn’t have to talk with the conference manager. Grateful, she politely declined the bell hop and rolled her suitcase toward the elevator, waiting for an empty one. She took off her sunglasses to look at the brass floor buttons in the dim light. And then she heard her name.
She raised her broken eyes to see Phillip Decker, a boy she’d dated for a month in college. His hair was almost gone but it was definitely him. He was standing at the threshold of the elevator wheeling his suitcase behind him.
She wanted to cry. Caught in less than an hour. What would he do? Phillip stepped in slowly and pressed the button for his floor. And he looked at her, thinking, putting pieces together he didn’t think he’d have to that day.
“The Hydro-Thermo conference?” he asked, already way ahead of her. She nodded. They stood, looking at each other as the floors dinged by. She willed up a wall that would protect her, keep him from stabbing open old wounds, protect her from an update on the state of her story in the city. She stared into his eyes, a helpless lamb, begging for mercy and yet pleading for him to get it over with, just say it, destroy her quickly before she did it herself.
“Shirley, don’t let him kill you too.” Her eyes went wide – was he out? He saw her panic and held up his hand to explain.
“No, he’s still locked up. It’s just…you survived. You’re okay. Be okay.” The elevator dinged impatiently and he moved through the doors obediently. He turned – “I’ll see you at the conference.” The doors closed.
Shirley closed her eyes. She was back in the center of the storm and had just received her first glimpse of calmer weather. Could she just be okay? Did she even remember what that was like? The elevator dinged and she put on her sunglasses, getting ready for the doors to open.