"I heard they got ... screwed to death," Barbara said in a whisper that didn't disguise the underlying hum of excitement in her voice.
Darrell snickered. "Where'd you hear that? I heard they were decapitated--eyeballs ripped out, intestines hung around the place like garland."
"I can't imagine what you'd find exciting about that, Barb! Dead's still dead! This place me the creeps," Karen muttered. "Do you mind not talking about all those stories? You know its just urban myth, anyway."
"But there really were several killings in this old building, according to what I heard," Mack said.
"Keep your voice down!" Barbara hissed. "There might be a night watchman around."
"Oh come on! In this building? It's been deserted for years. I heard it was supposed be torn down years and years ago."
The four college students stopped when they reached the grand stair case leading up from the lobby, scanning the lobby with their flashlights.
"Wow!" Karen exclaimed in a keen whisper. "This place looks like it must have been really something at one time! How old did you say the building was, Mack?"
"A couple of hundred years ... at least."
"Yes, way! I looked it up. It was built in the early 1800's."
"You just looked at it wrong," Darrell said sneeringly. "There ain't no way this place's been standing here that long. It's even got an elevator. They didn't have elevator's that long ago."
Karen snickered. "When did you get to be an expert on elevators? And how do you know it's an elevator, anyway?"
Almost before the words were out of her mouth, they heard a tinkling chime and the doors they'd been studying slowly began to open. All four froze, staring at the slowly opening doors in horror. When they saw the cubicle was empty, the two guys relaxed, uttering nervous laughs. "Fuck! I nearly shit myself! Thought for sure it was the night watchman!"
"That's seriously fucking creepy," Karen said in a quavering voice. "How could the elevator be working? There's no power!"
"Must be some kind of backup generator system for the elevators," Darrel said, chuckling nervously.
"Why would they even have something like that? You said the building had been empty for years and years," Barb demanded.
"You know ... I thought this was a bad idea to start with. Now I think it's a really, really bad idea. Let's go," Karen put in, her voice still shaky.
"Oh come on, baby! I thought we were going to party in the old spook building?" Mack said in a cajoling voice. He held up the suitcase of beer he'd lugged inside.
Darrell straightened abruptly and strode toward the open elevator.
"Quit messing around, Darrell!" Barb called after him.
"Yeah, man. What're you doing?" Mack seconded her. "I thought we were going to tour the place. I ain't gettin' on that old elevator. No way!"
"Don't be such a chicken shit!" Darrell snapped. "It came down, didn't it? We can go to the top and work our way down. Walking downstairs beats the shit out of climbing them!"
"What if it falls?" Barb put in.
"Or the doors close and we get stuck inside?" Karen pointed out. "Nobody knows we're here. We could be stuck in there for days!"
Mack set one foot on the bottom stair. "I'm taking the stairs."
"Suit yourselves!" Darrell snapped. "I'm taking the elevator. Meet you three chicken shits at the top!"
"Darrell don't!" Barb exclaimed as he stepped into the cubicle and punched a button. The doors started to close slowly.
Barb rushed toward the elevator, but the doors closed before she could reach them. She stared at the closed doors in disbelief for several moments and then lifted her fist and pounded on the doors. Mack and Karen rushed over, calling Darrell's name.
Barbara turned to look at them wide eyed. "I think it went up."
Mack pressed his ear to the panels and finally stepped back, looking up. "Man, that thing is moving! The light shows it's reached the twelfth floor."
Karen and Barbara stepped back and looked up. "It stopped," they said, almost in unison."
"Because there's only twelve floors," Mack said dryly.
"What do we do? Wait here and see if he comes back down?" Barbara asked worriedly.
Mack looked disgusted. "Walk up, I guess. You know he isn't just going to come back down when it was his idea to come here and explore the place to start with."
"I'd rather go get the cops and get them to look for him," Karen said uneasily.
"And get locked up for trespassing?" Mack demanded, aghast at the suggestion. "Don't be stupid. He just took the elevator. Come on. We'll find him."
"I don't want to wander around this place," Karen said, anger finally seeping into her voice. "I don't like it. Let's just go. He'll come back to the dorm when he gets tried of playing detective."
Barbara glared at her. "Hey! It's Darrell's car we came in. We can't just leave him! This is a god awful neighborhood and it's the middle of the night. He might get mugged!"
"We might get mugged!" Karen snapped. "It's an abandoned building. There's no telling how many derelicts are camping out here--maybe drug addicts."
Mack stalked to the stairs. "I'm going to look for Darrell. You two go wait in the car if you don't want to come."
"I'm coming," Barbara said decisively. "Karen can wait in the car if she doesn't want to come."
Karen stared at the pair with a mixture on anxiety and anger, glanced behind her at the cavernous lobby and considered sitting in the car by herself for maybe hours, wondering where they were and when they'd come back. Knowing them, they'd probably find Darrell and decide to have their party after all, get stinking drunk, and she'd end up spending the night in the car by herself. She charged after them when they reached the first landing and disappeared from view, her heart in her throat.
None of them talked as they climbed the stairs, briskly at first and then more and more slowly. Finally, when they reached the landing at the fifth floor, Mack moved to the door. "I'm taking the fucking elevator. This is bullshit."
Karen argued with the two of them all the way to the elevator that it wasn't safe. The cables were liable to break and drop them all the way to the ground.
The elevator dinged before they reached it, the doors slowly opening as they had in the lobby. All three of them froze in their tracks for a split second. Mack was the first to recover, charging toward the elevator doors. "Darrell, you asshole!"
He stopped abruptly when he'd glanced inside.
"What is it?" Barbara demanded breathlessly.
"Ok, now this is scaring the shit out of me!" Karen said in quavering voice. "It just stopped--like it knew we were on this floor."
Mack sent her a look. "God, Karen! You really get into this kind of bullshit, don't you? There aren't any spooks or bogeymen in the building. It's just stuff people make up! The elevator probably just stops at every floor."
"It didn't before," Barbara pointed out.
"So you think it's the elevator from hell?" Mack demanded with a disbelieving laugh, stepping inside and bouncing experimentally as if testing the cables. "I'm not walking all the way to the top. You ladies coming?"
"I'm not getting on that thing!" Karen said emphatically. "You aren't, are you, Barb?"
Barbara sent her an apologetic look. "I really don't feel like walking up."
"We can go down--stay in the car while Mack finds Darrell," Karen suggested hopefully.
Barbara opened her mouth as if she would say more, but before a sound came out, a horrible, inhuman scream came from the vicinity of the stairwell, followed by a heavy thumping--as if a body was plunging down the stairs.
Screaming, Karen ran toward the elevator just as Barbara leapt inside. Dashing inside behind her, Karen and Barbara grabbed each other, screaming again. "What was that?"
"Take us down, Mack! I want to get out of here!" Karen demanded, hysteria threading her voice as the doors closed and the elevator began to move.
"Shit!" Mack exclaimed, punching a little frantically at the buttons. "It's going up!"
The three turned and looked at each other in horror for several moments.
"It's probably just that it was already going up," Mack muttered after a moment.
"What do think that was that we heard?"
"Probably that asshole Darrell trying to scare the shit out of us," Mack retorted.
"It worked!" Karen said hotly. "You think that's really what it was? It sounded ... It sounded like a body falling."
Barbara uttered a choked cry, tears of fear welling in her eyes. "I swear to god if that was just Darrell's idea of a joke I'm never going to speak to him again!"
Unnerved, the three stood watching the light move from one level to another. A jolt went through all of them when, instead of the elevator stopping and the doors opening when the light for the twelfth floor lit up, the elevator continued to move upward. They all exchanged a horrified look.
Mack uttered a snort. "Must be the penthouse."
Barbara and Karen both let out a sharp gasp when the elevator jolted to a stop, staring wide eyed at the doors at they at last began to open, uncertain what they expected to see.
The corridor, as far as they could see, looked like the others they'd seen on the way up. After exchanging a nervous look, the three moved to the doors and cautiously peered out, more than half expecting Darrell to leap from the shadows and scream at them like a banshee. Seeing no sign of him, they stepped out and flicked their flashlights around. There was only one door besides the door to the stairwell, and it was standing open.
Mack started toward it. "Darrell, you total, fucking asshole! You nearly scared Barb and Karen to death with that stupid shit!"
Barbara and Karen were right on his heels as he stepped inside the room and flicked his flashlight around the interior.
A man was sitting in a chair near one window, Karen discovered, sucking her breath in in a sharp gasp. "Darrell! Damn it! You scared the hell out of us!"
The beam of the flashlights didn't quite reach that far, but she knew it had to be Darrell.
Until he lifted his head and looked directly at her and she saw his eyes glowing red.
"I have been waiting for you," he said in a deep, growling voice.