“The building is closed.” Altenhafen announced from a dark reception desk lit only with a reading lamp.
Ginny approached in her uniform and placed her flashlight on the counter. “Final Line Security.”
Altenhafen picked up the flashlight with his thumb and finger like it was a dead rat and handed it back to Ginny. “Where is Karl Bhaur?” He asked.
“We’re separated. The company’s in my name. So, you have a contract with me, not Karl Bhaur. You won’t be seeing Karl Bhaur.” She put the flashlight back on the reception desk as a direct challenge.
“We’ve always dealt with Mister Bhaur. He knows the building.”
“And tonight, I’ll get to know it.”
“Do you have identification?”
Ginny handed him her driver’s license and Altenhafen keyed her information into the desk computer. He printed off a form for her to sign, swiped a passkey on his desk reader, and handed it to Ginny.
“What is your position with Lutus?” she asked, taking a cell phone picture of Altenhafen.
Altenhafen packed up his papers. “Lutus is a company that never opened. It has been in receivership for the past ten years. I work for the Receiver. And my position is fetal.” And with that he left.
Ginny followed him to the underground parking. As his car lights pulled away steel rolled doors shut and left Ginny alone by the stairs’ doorway. A phone was ringing above. Not a cell phone. A land-line.
She returned to the reception desk. She saw a red flashing message indicator on the phone which she concluded was not her business.
There were glass windowed offices to her right, so she started with those. She swiped the passkey, saw the green indicator light come on, heard the click and open the door. She glanced inside at the empty dusty office, listened for the lock to click shut again, and then moved on.
The reception phone rang again.
On the other side of the floor were more traditional offices with opaque walls. Some of the office furniture was stilled wrapped in plastic from the manufacturer. The company had never opened. A new desk but covered in years of dust. A filing cabinet still wrapped in layers of plastic, unopened. A coat rack with the plastic wrap half torn off. Ginny was dependent on twilight from the glass windows and her flashlight to see her way, short of the glow from the open elevators on the first floor.
The reception phone rang again. She went to it and saw the call display. It was Karl’s cell phone number. She rubbed her left arm. Karl used to give her shoulder punches. He was just teasing he’d argue, but it left bruises.
Ginny took the stairs up to the second floor. More door checks. More wrapped and unwrapped office furniture. Some of the halls had discarded heaps of thick plastic along them. By the service elevators were splintery wooden forklift pallets and flattened shipping boxes. Third floor. More dust and plastic.
Ginny’s cell phone rang. She tucked her flashlight under her arm and saw who calling. Karl Bhaur. She let it ring out.
Her lawyer had advised her not to block his calls, but to keep redirecting him to deal only with the lawyer. The lawyer also advised a restraining order. Which she would not do because that seemed too much like giving in. Plus, you would have had to give reasons to get a restraining order and Karl had already been charged a few times for aggressive behaviours in his security work and Ginny did not want to make him unemployable.
Fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh floors. Swipe, open, look around, close, repeat. Dust and plastic.
The eighth floor had no offices, no halls, no carpeting. Only metal beams, partial wiring, and the same tinted windows. The twilight made the empty floor quiet and peaceful. Ginny circled the centre elevators and fire-proofed staircases and found no locks to check or swipe.
Her cell rang again. Karl again. She shut off the ringer.
The ninth floor had no walls but was covered in carpeting and some cubicle half walls. More plastic wrapped office furniture. There were no doors to check so Ginny circled the stairs and elevators again and found washrooms. When she stepped in auto lights came on. The washrooms had some plumbing installed by no toilets or sinks, only exposed pipes and drains.
On the tenth floor Ginny went looking for the women’s bathroom finding she needed to go after seeing the unfinished ninth floor one. There was no lighting coming on in this washroom so she used her flashlight and to find a stall. While finishing she heard a car horn somewhere near the building. She made her way to the east windows which overlooked the front of the building. She wondered if Altenhafen had come back for something. The angle down was too sharp to see the front entrance. She went to the west side and could not make out any vehicle, either.
The tenth floor had walls and hallways and doors again. It looked as complete as the lower floors. Ginny swiped the door locks and they flashed green.
The eleventh floor was fine, except for a smell. She wondered if the central air was working on this floor. Three of the thirty-six doors on this floor flashed red when she swiped their locks. They would not open. She tried the passkey on the first one. She shined her security flashlight on it and tried the handle again. Nothing. She tucked the flashlight under her arm and swiped and jiggled the door handle without result.
She made a mental note of the location of these offices and made her way to the final floor. As Ginny climbed the stairs to the twelve floor there was more of that smell. A rotted smell. She remembered a kitchenette on the first floor. A microwave, a wall imbedded dishwasher, a staff break room of some sort. Did someone bring food up here? Did they have a party and something went bad? A dead animal in the duct work?
She stepped out of the staircase to another dimly lit floor that looked the same as the eleventh. She circled the elevators and found the door to men’s room was propped open. A waste can had been put in to block the door from auto closing and auto locking. Her security instructor on her course said of locks on bathrooms, ‘I don’t know what kind of crap you’re trying to protect in there.’ Ginny laughed, then noticed she was shaking.
She pushed the second inner door to the men’s room and went in. She surveyed with the flashlight. There was a smear of dried blood on the floor. There was a pink ring in the nearest sink. Paper towels were overflowing from a wall mounted garbage slot. Ginny put on her protective gloves and pulled some of discarded paper towels from the bin and inspected them with the flashlight. She pulled on the edge of the metal frame holding the bin recessed in the wall. It opened to show a clear recycle garbage bag handing from the chute. She poked and shined the light down it and found some color further near the bottom of it.
She removed the clear bag from the slot and laid it out over the sink counter. She pulled more paper towels out to reach the color. It was a shirt. A Hawaiian shirt. Shorts. Gym socks. They all had red on them. She sniffed. Blood. The brand name tag was gone from the back collar of the shirt. Karl cut the tags from his shirts. He said the back of his neck always itched from them. He always removed inside tags from his clothes. Ginny recognized the shirt. She had bought it for Karl. It was an apology for something he was mad at her for.
She speed-dialed the police on her cell and got herself out of the men’s room leaving the stuff behind.
When the call was answering she explained, “Yes, this Ginny Bhaur, I’m with Final Line Security. I think I found evidence of a… I’m not sure what I’ve found. No, I’m sorry? The Lutus Building downtown on Main. No, I’m alright, I’m alone. I don’t need anyone. Yet. Yes, I will. Thank you. I will. I understand. Thank you.”
She put away the cell, then took it out again to keep it ready. As the other hand held the flashlight, she juggled the passkey with her cell to swipe the doors as she made her way along the first hall. The first door flashed red. The lock on it did not click. The handle would not open. Ginny sniffed at the doors edge.
She forced herself the next door. Swipe. Silence. Handle. Nothing. The smell was stronger. Each door now had a red light and could not be unlocked. At the end of this hall Ginny reached the last door. It scanned green. The lock clicked. The handle could be moved, she could open it, but before going in Ginny took a look down the hall and saw the elevator light was on three.
She remembered all the elevators were opened and on the first floor when she started. The light was on three. Then it went to four. Ginny didn’t think she could get back to the centre or stairs before it arrived. There were six hallways on each floor like spokes from the centre and each ended at the windows. And the window couldn’t be broken by heavy flashlight Ginny carried.
She had to look in the room. She had to check it before he got here. Before whoever got here. But really, she had no doubt who it was who was coming.
She pushed open the door to the room and saw nothing but plastic discarded on the carpeted floor and a desk and office chair.
Only the desk and office chair were pushed tight against a wall, and the plastic didn’t look discarded so much as placed.
‘If you cannot run you need to shelter in place.’ Her instructor had taught.
The elevator opened and Karl stepped out looking her way. “Ginny?”
He smiled. The boyish smile. He walked towards her quite relaxed. So relaxed that it took Ginny a moment to process he wasn’t in his security uniform. He was in another Hawaiian shirt. This one was more yellow than green. And this one was clean. There was no blood on it at all. And he was wearing shorts. And sneakers with white gym socks.
What if she was wrong? What if he had only hurt himself one night and came here to clean up? And he didn’t want to be late for his shift? So, he came up here to change? And he forgot to bring his clothes home to wash. To get her to wash them, because he would never do laundry.
‘Do not allow yourself to become a stationary target.’
He had halved the distance to her and still moved casually as if they were first dating again. “Ginny.” His smile was becoming clenched.
Maybe everything was alright, Ginny thought. She always began by thinking it was her fault. She misunderstood him. She didn’t appreciate how much he loved her.
‘If you are found, where you have sheltered in place, you have to fight.’
Thirty feet away and then Ginny saw Karl lift something metal in his right hand upwards.
For a second, she was shaking and falling apart and then she attacked. The metal in Karl’s right hand was a knife. It went into Ginny’s leg before he could get it any higher. She brought the security flashlight down on his temple. He dropped immediately and she hit him again and again.
‘Let the weight of the weapon do the work. You don’t have to force it.’
But Ginny was putting all of her hundred and forty pounds into it, and she was holding it two handed now. Light kept bouncing up and down the walls and sometimes it showed little whispers of the blood splatters coming from Karl’s head.
The next thing Ginny remembered was the staring at the ceiling as she was wheel stretchered into the elevator. She held up her hands to look at them and they were covered in blood. Someone had turned on the office lights. It was too bright and Ginny had to close her eyes to keep from throwing up at being moved this way.
Coming out the elevator the stretcher stopped in the hallway for a moment. “Please look after her.” She was sure she heard Altenhafen’s voice, though she wondered how they dragged him back here in the middle of the night. If it was still night.
Hospital recovery for the leg wound, and then the police interviews. Ginny got herself a criminal lawyer who advised her, “They found four bodies. All women. All in the past two years. All wrapped in plastic and left up there. They only used your security service for the nights. And that was your husband. Your ex. No one else had any reason to go up there. You’re lucky Lutus is in Receivership. Any other company would be suing your business over this.”