Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Fearful (08/23/07)
TITLE: Four Floors Up
By Linda Roth
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The idea had sounded so gallant, a community service, adventurous; but while forcing my legs - which now felt like rubber stumps - to move my body, I wondered. Each step gobbled up more of my confidence, sucking my breath away, causing me to doubt my sanity. What had I gotten into?
One step up after another. One strained breath after another. Faint light hid reality and magnified our movement.
The last coat of paint on the stairs had faded years ago leaving a haze of faded blue around the edges. The sound of our feet reverberated like the last steps of a prisoner’s boots clanking up to the gallows.
I was female and youngest member of the Lenawee County Sheriff’s Department. One of our detectives, needing help with a drug buy, asked for my assistance.
At twenty-one, I was lacking in street smarts, but full of eagerness. I longed for adventure, and this was it. Normally I sat behind a desk answering phones, dispatching deputies or the county volunteer fire departments, or looking up answers to strange questions regarding the candlepower of headlights.
All of that work was done behind the security of bulletin-proof glass.
But now there was no assurance of safety. Only a staircase to conquer one step after the other, one floor and then another. All the way up to the top. What then?
Drugs were just coming on the scene. Our county didn’t have a complete unit assigned to them. There was just one detective, the snitch trying to get less time in jail, and me ~ who had never tasted alcohol nor even knew how to light up a cigarette. My world involved church and Godly youth groups.
The snitch and I continued up the steps. I wasn’t wired. I had no way to call for help. I carried no weapon. I had only met this man minutes before. Would he have a change of heart?
I had no idea where the detective was. Did he have binoculars on us? Once we entered the apartment, binoculars wouldn’t help. I was on my own. What if the men turned against me?
It was going to be the drug seller, the snitch, and me…alone. My love of adventure fell flat and I stumbled over it as we entered the apartment. A finger of sweat traced my spine and disappeared into my waistband. We entered the apartment.
The men and I walked through the kitchen, through a small living room stuffed with dilapidated furniture; a thread-bare, variegated rug muffled the sound of our feet. We entered a bedroom. A window on the far side provided the only light. The faded pale green walls showed peeled paint crisscrossed with sweeping cobwebs.
Just inside the bedroom was an old dresser. In the middle of the room was an unmade bed, and beyond that the window, covered with a torn rust-colored, plastic curtain - its light casting a faint devilish glow into the room. Outside was a fourth-floor drop to certain death on cement. The space was hot and stuffy. A faint smell of urine permeated the area. I tried not to breathe the foul air.
Turning around, I saw the snitch reach his right arm out to close the door.
The room darkened.
The drug dealer stepped over to the dresser and opened a creaking drawer.
I forced myself to think. I would be on the witness stand to testify. I stepped closer to the men. Closer to the danger. I had to watch their hands. I had to remember the facts.
The snitch was of medium build and thin. The drug dealer was larger. Overweight. Able to handle himself.
And there was me…trying to remember why I had put myself into this situation - wishing I could wake up and find this all a dream.
But it was real. And it wouldn’t be my last nightmare.
I lived through this dreadful adventure; then the detective approached me again. Full of enthusiasm, he smiled and told me what a good job I had done. I was filled once more with a desire to serve the community, to please my superiors, to use my youthfulness to do what the others on the department could not do.
The cycle will repeat itself.
And the thought crosses my mind; will I live to testify - next time?
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