Cynthia gasped as she watched the paramedics carry her body from the elevator. How long had she sat there pulling strands of hair from her head? She had no idea.
“Come now, you shouldn’t sit in here forever. Eventually, it would get rather boring.”
Cynthia looked up to see the young woman who had spoken. She was very slender. Her blonde hair fell far past her shoulders, covering the better part of the upper part of her black dress.
“Yes, come now. It’s time we get on with it,” a second voice spoke. Another young woman, surely a twin, stepped up to the elevator entrance. “We are Miley and Meg. Good to meet you, Cynthia.”
The second young lady had long black hair falling over the white dress she wore. Miley and Meg smiled at Cynthia, but the smiles did nothing to put her at ease. She pressed herself as far into the back corner of the elevator as she could. Her breath rasped and her eyes jumped back and forth between the two. She couldn’t think clearly. Memories flashed in her mind. The elevator car plummeted down the shaft and crashed at the bottom. Her body being carried away. She wrapped her arms around her knees, pulling them as tightly as she could. She closed her eyes.
“The scary part is pretty much over now. Come Cynthia, stand up.”
She didn’t know which of the young ladies had spoken. In the darkness of her closed eyes, she remembered the hands all over her body. She dug her fingernails into her thighs, opened her eyes, and screamed as loudly as she could.
Money has its privileges. Pete Finn opened his eyes and backed away from the woman he had just kissed. Mabel, right? Even the most stupid ones don’t like to be called by some other name.
He rubbed his hand down her arm and smiled at her, “My meeting won’t take long.” She smiled back at him but said nothing.
Pete loved the Tower had this lounge off the main lobby. He had picked up a good number of women there since Cynthia’s demise. He felt that Mabel, like all the women he had from the lounge, was out of his league before he came into the money. But now, he took his pick whenever he was in the mood for company, which was quite often.
Walking toward the elevators, he was eager to show Oswald the new sport coat he had bought a few hours ago. He looked down on me when we first met, but now, with all the money, I am on his level. He has to respect me. Pete smiled as the elevator doors opened.
“Welcome to the Tower. We are happy to receive you.” Pete liked the elevator’s familiar greeting.
Miley and Meg each gently took an arm, and they lifted Cynthia. When she could stand on her own, they led her out of the elevator into the pale gray light.
“Think of the Tower as a train station slash recruitment office. From here, you will choose your next path,” one of the young women spoke as if she were giving a tour.
The other spoke, “Oswald likes you. He wants to recruit you. But you will make your own choice.”
“Oswald? Mr. Bennett?” Cynthia whispered. “He’s the devil?”
The two young women chuckled in harmony. “No, he’s on the 63rd floor, not the penthouse.”
“What?” Cynthia looked up at the one with the blonde hair.
“Mr. Bennett works for the Divine. Think of him as an accountant.”
The other young woman spoke, “But he adds up souls rather than money.”
“It’s all rather simple, really,” the blonde said.
Cynthia couldn’t see anything in the pale gray light until they approached a door. The blonde opened the door, and they entered a break room. It was a break room like any you would see in an office building. The black-haired young lady led Cynthia to a table while the blonde went to the vending machine. She returned with each of them a cup of coffee. “I love this stuff,” she smiled.
Pete sat in the chair in front of Oswald Bennett’s desk. While Mr. Bennett studied some papers, Pete admired the statues of nude women on either side of the desk. The attention to detail was impressive. Pete felt his body reacting to their appearance.
Mr. Bennett looked up from his papers. “Why are you here Mr. Finn?”
Pete smiled. “I’m here to tell you, you’re a genius. You delivered far beyond my expectations. Fifty percent of assets, ha.” He crossed a leg over the other. “I had forgotten the life insurance policy. By the way, thank you for suggesting that.” Pete leaned forward and spoke more softly, “I don’t know how you rigged the elevator. But, hey, I received a check for five million dollars.”
He stood up and turned from one side to the other. “What do you think of my new jacket?”
Mr. Bennett gave a bored glance to the sport coat. “I gifted the same jacket to my chauffeur last week.”
Pete slumped a bit as some of his pride slipped away. Had he been offended?
“Why did you want a divorce, Mr. Finn?”
“I, uh, I guess I was bored with her.”
Eight years of marriage. The same woman in his bed every night. It became so monotonous.
“You are an idiot, Mr. Finn. I want you to leave my office at once.” Mr. Bennett spoke in a calm tone but left no doubt that he meant what he said.
“Hey, what the-”
“I promise you, Mr. Finn, if you annoy me further, you will regret it.” Mr. Bennett slowly stood.
Pete didn’t know where this was going, and he didn’t want to know. He turned and left the office.
Cynthia looked down at the empty paper cup in her hand. She couldn’t remember actually drinking the coffee. During the twins’ banter, she had found that the blonde was Miley and the black-haired one was Meg. She felt her thoughts trying to gather. But the memories of the hands and the burning kisses hindered her recovery. She didn’t know how long ago, but the twins had stopped talking. Each of them sat and stared at her with blank faces.
“Hello, Ms. Carver.”
When she turned to see who had spoken, the cup fell from her hand.
Standing in the doorway was Mr. Bennett. Cynthia wasn’t sure what to say, what to do. Had he caused what had happened to her in the elevator? You arrogant prick. If you caused what happened to me, I will claw your eyes out!
“I hope Miley and Meg have entertained you.” He walked into the room and stood in front of Cynthia.
“You are what we refer to as a tween; not a good person, nor are you a bad person. You have spent your entire life hovering somewhere between the two.” He smiled at her and took a drink from the paper cup in his hand. When had he gotten coffee? Cynthia stared at him.
“Relax. Drink.” He pointed to the paper cup full of hot coffee that now sat in front of her on the table. She turned and stared at the cup. So confused, her mind struggled to comprehend anything. How did that get there?
The elevator doors slid open, and Pete stepped inside. He pressed the button for the lobby and looked up at the recessed lights in the ceiling. Boy, that didn’t go as expected. He closed his eyes. His whole body felt tingly. He felt like a deer in the road that just stared as the car swerved and went around him. What was his problem? Pete knew at that moment; he could never impress Mr. Bennett.
He took off his sport coat and rolled up the sleeves of his shirt. He scratched his forearms. The tingly, itchy feeling was annoying. The elevator shook and rattled as it slowly descended the floors. He unbuttoned another button on his shirt, noticing it was quite warm in the elevator. You’d think they’d keep the air conditioning working. He frowned as he loosed another button.
Well, a couple stiff drinks and a heaping helping of Mabel, and I’ll be fine. He smiled at the thought of what he had planned with the woman. He looked down at the deep blood-red carpet on the floor. Sweat gathered at his temples and around his neck. Man, it’s hot in here.
The elevator stopped at the thirteenth floor, but the doors didn’t open. Pete looked around the car and waited. A small spark ignited in the center of the carpet and became a fine blue flame. What the hell? He stepped forward and stepped on the flame to put it out. Another spark, and then another. Soon, there were a dozen fine blue flames on the floor. He stomped repeatedly to put them out. For each flame he extinguished, two more appeared. It took a moment to register in his mind. The elevator was on fire. The flames waved and danced all around him, but none were directly under him. He stood still, with no idea what to do.
Sweat poured from his body as he watched the flames grow and spread to the walls. The blue flames climbed the walls and spread across the ceiling of the car. Pete was completely surrounded by the flames. But none of them touched him. Smoke grew denser as he coughed and gasped to breathe. His heart pounded in his chest as his mind tried to think up an escape. The temperature steadily rose in the elevator. As the sweat flowed from the pores of his skin, he took off his shirt and used it to wipe the sweat from his eyes. He looked at his forearms. They were turning deep red. Small blisters formed sporadically across his skin.
He screamed, “Help! Somebody help me!”
There was no response.
His shoes and pants ignited, and he grappled to take them off as the fire engulfed them. He screamed for help again when he saw the blisters on his feet. None of the flames touched his body. He cried out again as pain swept throughout his body. He realized all at once that he was being broiled alive.
“I have a proposition for you. I’d like you to work for me here at the Tower.” Mr. Bennett smiled as he took her hand and guided her to stand. “And I am prepared to offer you a rather enticing bonus as well.”
Cynthia couldn’t think of anything else to do, so she stood. She jerked her hand away from his. She didn’t want him touching her.
“Come with me.” He turned and started toward the door.
Cynthia looked back at Miley and Meg. They both stared blankly at her.
She kept a distance but followed Mr. Bennett out of the break room.
“You will be well compensated and there is no better job security in the world.”
The elevator plummeted downward, floor after floor. It crashed to a stop on the sub-basement floor. When the doors opened, the car filled with a pale gray light. Pete stepped over the charred body on the floor and peered out the doors. He could see nothing but the pale gray light.
“Are you ready to have a bit of fun?” A soft feminine voice was followed by giggling.
Pete stepped out of the elevator as two young women approached him. One was a blonde wearing a black dress, the other had jet-black hair and was wearing a white dress. This should be interesting. He smiled, “Hello ladies.”
“Hi, I’m Miley and this is Meg.” The blonde smiled as she wrapped her arm around his waist. The black-haired young woman wrapped her arm around his waist after she kissed him.
Pete wrapped his arms around both of the young ladies, one on either side of him. As they guided him through the pale gray light, he asked, “Where are we going, ladies?”
He smiled when the blonde said, “We’re going to the playroom, baby.”
“You can work in administration, but I’d like you to consider being my assistant in recruiting.” Mr. Bennett talked as he quickened his pace.
Cynthia followed him only because she didn’t know what else to do. She looked all around her. All she could see was the pale gray light. “You’re offering me a job?” It was such a bizarre thought she had to ask.
“Well, of course I am Ms. Carver. Now you keep up. I’ll not waste your time or mine. Come work for me. You’ll have your own office. You can decorate it any way you like. And you can enjoy your bonus whenever the mood strikes you.”
They came to a door. Mr. Bennett turned and smiled at her. “Tick Tock Ms. Carver. I don’t like to waste time. You’ve heard my offer, see the grand bonus, then give me your decision.” He turned again and opened the door.
They stepped into a dark room. Track lighting lit an area in the center of the room. Cynthia saw a table in the center. It was tilted toward her. Miley and Meg stood on either side of the table, and on it lay Pete. He was nude and tied down with barbed wire. It wrapped around his forehead, his arms, and his chest. Both legs were held firmly by the wire as well. His eyes were full of fear as they lifted to focus on her.
“Cynthia?” He murmured in disbelief.
Mr. Bennett spoke firmly, “Here is the cause of all that has happened to you. All your fear, all your pain, was his doing.” He stepped forward with a whip in hand. He whirled it above his head, then lunged his arm forward. The whip cut through the air and snapped a loud sound as the tip of it tore into Pete’s flesh. Pete screamed in pain.
Miley, the young woman in the black dress smiled, “Remember the hands and the kisses? You were right, you provided 80% of the assets in your marriage. Not only did this creep try to take a 50/50 cut, but he also took out a life insurance policy on you. He got five million dollars.”
Mr. Bennett smiled at Cynthia, “This is your bonus, Ms. Carver. Revenge. Any time of any day or night, you may come here to extract your revenge in any fashion you choose.”
He handed the whip to Cynthia.
Meg, the young woman in the white dress, spoke. “This man is selfish. He is a complete idiot. He has no idea how stupid he is. Forgive him Cynthia.”
She was tempted to use it, but Cynthia had no idea how to use a whip. She opened her hand and let it fall to the floor.
Mr. Bennett smiled and took her hand in his. He laid a revolver in her hand. “Enjoy your bonus, Ms. Carver. You deserve it.”
Cynthia remembered the day she walked in and caught Pete with another woman in their bed. She remembered the thought of buying a gun for the next time she saw him. Remembering the hands all over her body, she leveled the gun at Pete.
Miley smiled. “Go ahead, honey. He deserves it. Pay him back for what he’s done to you.”
Mr. Bennett added, “And your bonus is forever. You can pull the trigger over and over for years. He will feel every shot.”
Surely, it was just by chance. Cynthia realized the sights of the gun were aligned with Pete’s genitalia.
Meg interrupted, “Cynthia, if you pull the trigger, you accept the job. There is no turning back.”
Cynthia’s hands trembled as she pulled the hammer back on the revolver. She remembered the pain of the burning kisses she had received.
“Cynthia, don’t!” Pete yelled.
He tried to pull his legs together to hide his manhood, but the barbed wire held him firmly.
Miley stepped forward as an orb of red light surrounded her. “Do it! Shoot the son of a bitch! You know he deserves it!”
Meg too stepped forward; an orb of white light surrounded her. “Cynthia, revenge is cold. It will not heal your wounds. Lower the gun. Forgive him for his foolishness.”
Cynthia wasn’t thinking. She slowly walked forward, keeping the revolver aimed at Pete. She held the weight of the revolver in both hands as she pointed the barrel between his eyes.
Pete looked up at her. He couldn’t move. “Cynthia, don’t do this. I’m sorry. I am. They consumed me. Mr. Bennett is trying to consume you, too.”
Cynthia pressed the barrel to the bridge of Pete’s nose. He closed his eyes tight, trembling in fear.
All I need to do is gently squeeze the trigger. Oh God, I want him to pay for what he’s done. Cynthia closed her eyes for a second as memories of her time spent with Pete raced through her mind.
“Think about it.” Meg urged. “Where do you go from here? After you pull the trigger, what next?”
Oswald Bennett frowned. He looked at his watch and turned toward the door. He said nothing as he walked out of the room.
Cynthia opened her eyes. She wanted to cry, but no tears came. She lowered the gun. “I can’t do it. I want to, but I can’t pull the trigger.” She turned to Miley and saw the scowl on her face. She turned to Meg.
Meg smiled and walked up to Cynthia. She gently took the gun from her hands. “Come Cynthia, let’s go find peace.”
A huge white light appeared in the far corner of the room. Meg guided Cynthia toward it.
Pete sighed, “Whew, that was close.” He couldn’t turn his head, held firmly by the barbed wire. He turned his eyes toward Miley. Her black dress hung tight to her shapely form. He admired her ample breasts. “Come, untie me. I promise I will please you.” He smiled at her. He had seduced many women, all of which seemed overwhelmed with his sexual prowess. This young lady, demon, or whatever she was, would be no different. He was sure he was man enough.
Miley turned toward him. She smiled and rubbed her finger down his chest. “Oh baby, I’m sure you will please me.” She reached down and retrieved a small dagger. The blade glistened in the red light around Miley. “You will please me over and over again.” She slowly lowered the tip of the dagger toward his right eye. “What are you doing? Untie me and I will show you the man I am!” He yelled.
“What a man you are, baby. I’ve known many such as you.” She smiled.
Pete closed his eyes tight, terror ripping through him. He screamed as he felt the dagger pass through his eyelid.