Thank glory I didn’t have my ID on me. Of course, when they find your body, that’ll make it harder to identify you. Oh yeah, I was full of those cheerful thoughts. So much for getting into the holiday spirit.
I wrapped my arms around my chest and leaned my elbows on my thighs. I was safe at the moment. Despite the pounding bass coming through the emergency exit doors, the stairwell was relatively quiet. A little light filtered through the dingy windows from the street lights outside, but otherwise, it was dark. So far, no one else had found this little oasis of calm to have a quickie or a good cry. Although I’m getting close to the second one.
I’d come here with the guy I’d thought was my boyfriend. Carl had sworn it was going to be a fun holiday party with the YouPros—Young Professionals, the new millennium’s Yuppies—of Fort Collins. He’d said it was where anyone who was anyone would be at this time of year. I hadn’t really wanted to go, but he said I’d make contacts with the news corp. He played you, Haley. Just like Jimmy had ten years ago.
I shoved the unhappy thoughts of the past away and scrubbed my face. I should’ve known there was something going on. Carl seemed to be getting twitchy, like a guy who’d been using something addictive. He’d also had the look of frenzied desperation, the kind of look on people jonesing for the next best thing, and I totally bought into it. Right up until he started playing tonsil hockey with not one, not two, but three of the partygoers, one of them a guy. He was the life of the party. Yeah, can’t compete with that. Now I was in the position of no ride, no money, and no understanding of where the hell I actually was. Yeah, I had my phone, but I couldn’t tell anyone where to come get me.
I’m so fucked.
I needed to find a way home from here, wherever here was, but that meant going back through the party to get out of the building. This staircase led to the basement, and there was no way in hell I was going down there. Hello, serial killerville. I pulled out my phone to check what time it was and found it deader than a door nail. Shit. So much for GPS or calling the cavalry.
I bit my lip and considered the door I’d come through. I might be able to find a phone if I went back to the party. Hell, I could probably lift one off one of the guests and they’d never notice. Those old pickpocketing skills came in handy in the oddest times.
Sighing, I stood up and pulled my skirt back down to the proper length. Yeah, I’d be getting rid of this dress as soon as I got home. I hated when the fitted skirts rode up. All right, Michaels. Let’s do this. I grasped the door handle and pulled.
“Are you fucking kidding me?”
I yanked on the door, but the latch held despite using all of my hundred and sixty-five plus pounds of weight. The door was locked and no one could hear me in the party. And my phone was dead.
“Oh my GLORY!” I slammed my hand against the door, hoping someone might actually hear me over the damn music, but no one came to check it out. “Fuck!”
Biting my bottom lip, I looked up the staircase. Maybe one of the other doors were unlocked and I could at least get back into the building. I memorized the floor number on the party’s door and climbed the stairs to the next floor.
I was about to bang on it, but I paused when I heard what sounded like voices coming from the other side. Logically, it would’ve made sense to thump on the door and have them open it for me. But something made me pause. The voices weren’t loud, but they didn’t sound happy or particularly friendly. Maybe I didn’t want them to know I was there.
This was confirmed a moment later when I heard someone shout what sounded like, “No, wait! Don’t!” Just before two gun shots rang out.
I gasped and froze, holding my breath. Not that they knew I was there, but I wasn’t about to take any chances they’d notice me.
“All right, come on. Get his legs and throw him in the stairwell. They won’t find him until we’re long gone. And don’t forget to police your brass.”
Stairwell? Fuck! Whatever they were planning to do, it involved my stairwell and they were very likely to see me. And shoot my unlucky ass. Panic hit me in a wave and I backed away from the door, my shoes clattering loud enough to be heard over the party.
Swearing under my breath, I bent over and yanked off my shoes before I padded down several steps and ducked under the the curve of the stairs. I flattened myself agains the wall as the door above me opened and light spilled into the stairwell. I didn’t dare move as two guys dropped something heavy onto the steps, grumbling about the weight.
“Shit, did the guy have to eat all those frozen pizzas? He’s fuckin’ heavy.”
“Shut up, Inky. Just make sure he’s got no ID on him.”
Inky snorted. “How’s that gonna help? His fuckin’ face is all over the newspapers and internet. Takin’ his ID won’t hide who he is.”
“Maybe we’ll get lucky and get some cops who don’t know who he is.”
“Look, just clear his pockets and let’s get outta here. I don’t want any of those partiers findin’ us here with him. Backlog says we got too much to do in prep for the big boss comin’ to town.”
“Yeah, yeah. Keep your shirt on.” There was some rustling as they rifled through the dead guy’s pockets. “Okay, I think I got everything. Keys, phone, wallet, and Chapstick. No wonder his lips looked so soft.”
“Eww, Inky, that’s nasty.”
“No, nasty is your lips, Tinder. There’s no excuse for not keeping your lips healthy. You know the skin is the biggest organ on your body, right?”
Their voices faded as the door above started to close. Too late I realized that was my only ticket out of the stairwell with the dead guy. I whimpered with distaste and padded back up the stairs, hoping I’d be able to catch the door before it latched.
Turns out, I needn’t have worried. The dead guy’s foot had caught in the door, holding it open about an inch. I glanced down at the body’s face as I made to pass it and stopped, my stomach dropping into my bare feet.
“Holy shit, that’s ADA Patrick O’Donnell.”
Inky had been right. Everyone knew Assistant District Attorney O’Donnell and they wouldn’t need his ID to identify him. And I’d been present at the scene of his murder. Without a functioning phone. This night just kept getting better and better.
That's it for me. Check out the other authors and their flashfiction from the image prompt. Happy reading!