Disclaimer: The Sentinel and its characters belong to Pet Fly, UPN, and Paramount and no copyright infringement is intended.
A Thing About Elevators
by Helen W.
A "Dead Drop" epilogue written in celebration of SentinelAngst's 5th anniversary
Mandy had always had, well, a THING about elevators. Fundamentally, it boiled down to, they could plunge into the ground at any time and kill you.
She knew that there were people whose job it was to make sure this didn't happen, by inspecting elevators regularly. She'd never actually seen such a person (despite years of vigilance), but they had to exist, because they left behind certificates of inspection.
The unsettling thing about most certificates of inspection was that they gave improbable upper limits for capacity. The one for the elevator in the building she lived in, 852 Prospect, for example, said that it could hold 20 people, or 2000 lbs. Well, first off, there was NO WAY 20 people could fit in the elevator. And, who ever heard of 20 people weighing only 2000 lbs.? Unless they were children. But what would 20 children - okay, 18 children and two adults, let's be reasonable here, Mandy wasn't POSITIVE but she THOUGHT there were rules about this sort of thing - be doing, all at once, in an elevator which serviced only eight condo units? Well, twelve, really, if you counted the first floor, but Mandy didn't know what someone on the first floor would be doing on the elevator. Unless he or she was heading to the basement storage units.
Okay, twelve units.
What had she been thinking about, again?
Right. No way would there ever be 20 people in the elevator, and unless it was a class trip of some sort the 20 people would never fit under the 2000 lb. maximum.
Her major worry today, though, was that the date of expiration on her building's elevator's inspection certificate had come and gone THREE WEEKS ago. Mandy was NOT PLEASED. She'd written the condo association after the first week, but nobody had gotten back to her yet. Was there something that the association knew, that was causing them to delay reinspection? Was the cable fraying, but too expensive to replace, perhaps because of the roof work they'd had to do a few months back?
There was a phone number on the certificate to call "to report an accident", but Mandy wasn't ready to get the authorities involved. Yet. Well, mostly, to be truthful, she hadn't called because she only thought about it when she was either inside, or waiting for, the elevator, and her cell phone didn't work well in the center of buildings.
Plus, usually her hands were full.
Today, Mandy's anxiety was heightened by the report she'd just heard a bit of on the radio on the drive home from the grocery store, about the elevator downtown which some lunatic had tried to blow up. Or something - she'd switched the radio station as soon as she'd realized the gist of what was being said, not needing to feed her favorite paranoia. Still, she was feeling a bit jumpy, and resolved to take the stairs up to her condo today; then she realized she'd bought a gallon each of water and milk.
She made it to the building's door, each hand carrying a gallon bottle and dangling a plastic bag of groceries, before realizing that, as usual, her keys were buried deep in her purse. Fortunately, one of her neighbors appeared on the other side of the glass and let her in. That slightly-too-old hippy from #307. Yes, that's right, his car, and the truck of his nice-but-too-much-like-her-ex-husband roommate, had been right in front of her on Prospect, then driven around back to where the odd-numbered units had their assigned spaces.
Blair and Jim. And there was Jim now, coming around the corner from the mailboxes, carrying a fistful of envelopes and magazines. He nodded hello as he passed by, heading to the door leading to the stairs. He pushed it open, then turned around. "Coming, Chief?"
"No, I'm good. Let's get this over with," said Blair.
"Is it about that horrible thing downtown?" asked Mandy. "I'd take the stairs myself, but..." and she raised both hands a little and nodded down at her load.
"As a matter of fact, yes," said Blair, pressing the elevator call button.
"And our inspection sticker has expired, have you noticed?" said Mandy.
Blair seemed to care; he paled a little. Mandy was liking him more all the time. Usually men just didn't understand her. And Jim seemed even less enthusiastic about the elevator than Blair!
Jim was still standing in the open doorway, looking expectant, but Blair was ignoring him.
The elevator's doors rattled open feebly; Blair gave her a ladies-first wave, then followed her in. The doors started to close; at the last moment, Jim's hand shot into the elevator, impacting the bumpers of the almost-shut doors. With an almost life-like grumble, the doors reopened and Jim stepped in. "You don't have to do this," he said to Blair.
"Yes I do," he muttered.
Mandy inclined her head towards the inspection certificate. "Look at that!" she said.
"Wow," said Blair, as the elevator started to move. "Can you imagine 20 people in here?"
"No, I meant the expiration date..."
And the elevator stopped, much too early.
"Did you press a button, Chief?" asked Jim.
"No," Blair answered. Mandy realized she hadn't either.
Jim pushed the button for the third floor; the little white disk didn't light like it was supposed to. Then he pressed the "open" button - nothing!
"It shouldn't matter though, right?" Blair said, pushing Jim aside to start pressing buttons - all of them, as far as Mandy could tell. "It doesn't screw up an elevator, to get on without pushing a button right away!"
NONONO! They couldn't be trapped. Mandy released what she'd been carrying and squirmed between the two men. "Let me..." she said, her voice sounding squeaky in her own ears. She put her thumb to the "open" button and leaned with all her strength for a moment. The door remained closed, the elevator motionless. She stepped to the door itself and started trying to pry it open with her finger-tips. But little sparks were starting to dart in front of her eyes, and her head now seemed curiously unconnected to the rest of her (or was it the other way around?) making it difficult to get any sort of a grip.
She was going to be trapped in here, and her milk was going to go bad, which was made worse by the fact that she'd splurged and bought organic.
"Miss..." said a voice.
"Mandy," said another voice. Blair. "Her name is Mandy," he continued. She realized she was sitting on the floor of the elevator in a puddle of - oh, let it be the water! That was only 50 cents a gallon! - yes, water, the milk was by her knee and looked fine. Blair was crouched beside her. "Let's scoot back, okay?" he asked. "That'll give us a little more room for working on the doors."
That made sense. Mandy felt hands under her arms, and she was lifted slightly; crab-crawling wasn't the most dignified form of locomotion, but it seemed to be working, and she settled against the far wall. Funny that she'd just near-fainted like that. She wasn't really that scared. She just felt like throwing up and her heart was pounding and that was making her head really hurt especially that vein over her eye where she'd had that infection when she was fifteen that nobody ever took seriously and she could have gone blind and oh boy did she not want to throw up but her head was doing that floaty thing even more and she'd never be able to look either of these people in the face again good thing they were men and didn't know any of her friends...
Someone - Blair - was crouched next to her and trying to peel her hands from over her eyes, which is when she realized she'd had them tightly closed and covered. Fat lot of good that would do. He handed her a plastic bag, which, she realized, no longer contained her canned goods. "Breathe into this," he said. "You'll feel better in a moment."
Even though she wasn't hyperventilating, the trick worked. The next thing she knew, Jim had gotten the elevator doors open about a foot-and-a-half, and was using all four of her cans of soup to keep them that way. They seemed to be between floors; the higher floor was about even with Jim's eyes, and he was peering down through the low-but-eminently-passthroughable space below. "It looks like a seven-foot drop."
Seven feet. Darn high ceilings. Manageable, though.
"What about my groceries?" she asked, feebly.
Jim grinned at her. "Blair and you can get off first, and I'll pass them down. Would that work?"
She nodded. Blair helped her stand, and then squeezed through the opening and jumped, looking like someone entering a swimming pool. Yes, she could do this.
"Want a little help on this end, too?" asked Jim. She nodded, and he guided her down so that she was sitting in the open door. "Blair's going to make a stair for you out of his hands. Press against him with your foot, then turn around and use your arms to lower yourself."
Even feeling Blair support her left foot from below, and with Jim's hands on her wrists, there was a terrifying instant when she seemed to be falling. Then she was back on the first floor, with Blair's hands at her waist.
"You okay?" he asked.
"Nothing damaged but my pride," she said.
Blair laughed. "If it hadn't been you, it'd have been me. At least, today. Trust me."
That had to be a lie, of course, but it was a kind one.
Blair released her and started to take groceries from Jim above.
"Okay if we leave the soup cans in place?" Jim called down.
"Yes, of course," she said. Worrying about the groceries seemed a little silly now. Still, though... "Make sure you remember the milk."
"Sure thing," said Jim.
Three minutes later, they trudged up the two flights to the third floor together, Jim carrying the gallon of milk and his mail and Blair bearing the rest of the groceries, since restored to their bags, leaving her only her purse, which had somehow never moved from her shoulder. Nobody mentioned the water. Maybe it was time to get a water service anyway, though Mandy wasn't sure whether those services actually placed those big 5-gallon jugs on water coolers for you or whether you had to take care of that yourself. Timing could definitely get tricky if they did it for you, and there was no way she could lift those things!
Maybe this was an issue she didn't have to figure out just now. Especially since she still had nine gallons of water under the counter. Hated the balance to get below 10, though, because, well, you never knew.
At her door, Mandy gratefully accepted her groceries back. "We'll take care of calling someone about the elevator," said Jim.
"Sure you're okay?" asked Blair.
Mandy nodded. "Thanks," she said. "I, uh, guess you could say I have a THING about elevators..."
"I think you helped me cure mine," said Blair with a smile.
Well, at least someone was happy.
Men were odd.
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