Death at the Atlantic
It was already 1:30pm and she was late, as usual. Phil hated people being late, it showed a lack of respect in his opinion. To make it worse it was her idea. She had chosen the Atlantic Hotel for this unwanted lunch date and as he waited in the lobby he could see the charm; the opulence was maybe slightly overbearing but he guessed that was one of the reasons she liked it. Apparently this was the current favourite of the ‘inner circle’. As Phil took this in he had a strange feeling of familiarity; he was sure he had never been here before and yet he knew, instinctively that the curtains in the rooms would be a deep burgundy. He had no intention of booking a room though, especially not with her, but he didn’t feel like he needed it confirming. Somehow, he just knew.
“Darling, you’re early!”
“No, you’re late. Again.”
“Fashionably late, of course.”
Angelica, the woman who at twenty one could have had her pick of the men, chose him. Phil had thought he was the luckiest man alive back then. He didn’t know why this beautiful woman would show any interest in him, let alone become his wife. Now he knew, though. Twenty seven years later he knew all too well what she saw in him. Success. Even at that young age it was clear Phil was going to do well in life and Angelica wanted in on that success.
Angelica breezed past him in a cloud of Chanel No 5, with only the briefest acknowledgment to anyone looking on that she was in fact here to meet him, instead of passing the time of day with an acquaintance. With a practiced movement she pressed the button to summon the lift that would take them to the tenth floor and to the ‘best restaurant in town’. Phil knew he was expected to follow, and follow he did. He had negotiated impossible deals in many high powered meetings but when it came to Angelica he knew she was not to be questioned, and certainly not to be denied whatever it was that took her fancy at any given time. That particular day her fancy had been to meet for lunch at the Atlantic Hotel. She had never wanted to see him during the day before, it felt like living in the same house as him was too much for her at times, so actively seeking time with him was unusual. There must be something for her to gain from this… or something she wanted. But, of course, one doesn’t question Angelica’s motives. And certainly not to her face.
After a silent wait that seemed too long, the lift arrived. Again, Phil was sure that the lift was usually quicker but didn’t know how he knew or why he was so sure. Trying to shake this feeling he stepped into the lift behind Angelica.
“It’s the tenth floor!” Angelica stabbed at the tenth floor button with her perfectly manicured nail and exclaimed under her breath why on earth he would think they wanted the twelfth. Phil wouldn’t have been able to explain why he automatically went for the big brass button clearly marked twelve, even if he wanted to. There, again was that sensation that he had not only been here before, but knew this place. He knew that that sound coming from the gears above was not normal, and this seemed very important. But why? Phil was not normally a superstitious man, he had become the man he was by thinking things through logically, methodically. He never made a decision based on gut feeling alone – if you can’t show your working, Phil isn’t interested. Which all went into making Phil feel very uncomfortable, he didn’t like not being in control.
Phil turned his attention back to Angelica who, until this point had been busying herself regaling the lift doors with tedious stories about how Tiffany had embarrassed herself wearing a fox fur to an anti-hunting dinner.
“She might as well have ridden in on horseback sounding the bugles for the hounds!” A satisfied grin spread across Angelica’s face at the memory. The heavy silence that followed was swallowed by a high pitched whine, like the grating sound of fingernails down a blackboard that was the start of a whole new chapter in Phil’s life.
Just as the sound was beginning to become unbearable, it stopped. And so did the lift. Unfortunately for Angelica and Phil the lift had not yet reached its arranged destination and was now sat in-between floors four and five. Angelica started frantically pressing buttons, clearly frustrated by the interruption in her day.
“I don’t think that’s going to help, dear.”
“Well I don’t see you doing anything!” Angelica sneered, continuing to jab at the buttons, more now just to be contrary rather than in the hope of it rectifying the situation.
“I don’t know why they didn’t put in a whole new lift system when they renovated the building.”
“Probably too expensive, I imagine.” Phil said as he watched his wife take in the unquestionably outdated lift. He hated agreeing with Angelica but the shabby carpet and fake wood wall panels didn’t exactly go with the rest of the perfectly finished hotel décor, and could certainly do with looking at. That’s if it even starts again.
“Erm… Hello, this is the head of security, please allow me to firstly apologise for this inconvenience.” The tinny voice came through the small speaker just below the collection of floor buttons, “Unfortunately the intercom is only one way, but please be assured we are doing everything we can to get the lift moving again. This appears to be a recurring problem and we should have a technician here within the hour. Again I am very sorry for this inconvenience.”
“Within the hour?!” Angelica’s perfected air of indifference was now lost to panic as she shouted at the intercom, despite just being told it was one way, “Recurring problem?! Are these people incompetent? How can they hope to run a business like this? I shall be suing for compensation you mark my words!”
“I’m sure they’ll have us out of here in no time, dear. They probably just overestimated the time so it would look good when they arrive quicker.”
Despite Phil’s effort to calm his wife, Angelica would not listen and had instead started to pace the small area, which only took two steps to reach the opposite end.
“There’s no air! I can’t breathe in here!” Clutching at her throat, Angelica gulped at the air as if the oxygen supply would run out at any time, “I need air, Phil, do something!”
“What am I supposed to do? We’re not going to run out of air, dear. It’s not like the lift is hermetically sealed, if you just calmed down….”
“Don’t you dare tell me to calm down! Be a man, Phil, and do something!”
All the years of bitterness and coldness fell away as Phil looked at his wife, all her defences were down and he finally saw the vulnerable, scared woman underneath who needed help. Needed his help. Despite the situation, Phil was glad; glad he got this chance to see his wife again properly for the first time in so long. Determined to do something for her, Phil looked around the lift again for inspiration, for anything that could let some more air in. He noticed that the ceiling, like the walls, was made up of panels and hoped he might be able to shift one to the side. Reaching up, Phil was comfortably tall enough to get purchase on one of the movable side panels, finally the lift being small was working in his favour. Trying to slide it towards the door, it appeared to catch on something and the panel would only move a couple of millimetres. This time Phil tried to push it the opposite way and after a moment the panel finally started to move freely and he was able to rest it on the panel behind. As he was making sure the panel was as far back as it would go he felt something brush down his back. For a second he thought it was Angelica, maybe showing thanks for opening the hatch; however unlikely that was, he can always hope. Before he had chance to turn around Angelica let out a scream that would have drowned out the sound the gears had been making. Time seemed to slow down as he turned, first he saw Angelica’s face, her hands covering her mouth and her eyes so wide there was a perfect ring of white around her irises. Then he saw the source of her terror; he saw himself, hanging from the ceiling, the right temple covered in dried blood. Small pieces of his skull poking through the skin.
Unable to take his eyes off this inverted version of himself he reached up and touched his own right temple and felt something wet, sticky. Looking at his fingers he saw fresh blood, he was certain that had not been there before, surely Angelica would have mentioned it? Looking back to Angelica in the hopes she might be able to explain this, might be able to tell him he was imagining it, that there was nothing there, he suddenly felt like he was falling. It was like a memory of something that wouldn’t end, he could almost feel the air rushing past his face but he wasn’t moving.
“Hello,” The familiar tinny voice of the head of security came back over the intercom to break the trance that had come over both Angelica and Phil, “We are going to have to try and get you out manually so please stand back from the doors.”
Just then the sounds of men working on the doors came into the lift, the sound of metal on metal as they tried to crow bar the doors open caught Angelica’s attention and she turned toward them. Relief flooded her features as she turned back to Phil to share the joy that this ordeal would soon be over and the likeness of the body would prove to be just that – a likeness only. But he was gone, Angelica was alone in the lift with the body of her husband hanging from the ceiling.
VERDICT ON DEATH AT THE ATLANTIC
by Mark Gillespie
Six months after the body of Philip Walker, 52, was found by his wife, Angelica Walker, 48, on the ceiling of the hotel’s lift a guilty verdict has been announced for defendant Katie Fitch, 25. CCTV footage from the hotel clearly shows Mr. Walker arriving with Miss. Fitch and interviews with hotel staff confirm that the pair were checked into a room on the twelfth floor. The couple were in fact regulars, known to the staff. Details from the trial reveal that Miss. Fitch was unhappy with the fact that Mr. Walker refused to leave his wife for her and an argument ensued. Several witnesses recalled hearing shouting in the hallway of floor twelve but no action was taken. Breaking down on the stand Miss. Fitch explained how she had pushed Mr. Walker, not realising that due to maintenance the lift shaft was empty, causing the deceased to fall to his death onto the lift car below. Panicking, Miss. Fitch had left the hotel failing to inform authorities of the death. The jury took only two hours to come back with a guilty verdict for the charge of manslaughter.
Throughout the trial Mrs. Walker remained absent, leading to a lot of speculation as to why she would not want to be at the proceedings and if this was a reflection of how she feels at finding her husband was having an affair. Rumours continue to circulate that Mrs. Walker has in fact checked in to a private medical facility after claiming Mr. Walker had been with her in the lift prior to finding the body. Medical professionals have ruled this to be impossible – it was Mr. Walker’s suit getting caught in the gears that caused the lift to stop, trapping Mrs. Walker.
Miss. Fitch will learn the length of her sentence when court is reconvened in one week.