• Andrea Anderson

Gasp

genre: neo-noir murder mystery

word count: 421

They find the body in the maintenance elevator, the one that’s buried in the basement behind the steaming-hot, screaming-loud laundry room, and that’s had a candy cane striped red-and-white “OUT OF ORDER” sign hanging from its doors for about as long as Lucy’s been around—which isn’t very long, to be perfectly, honestly fair, but still long enough to feel like a fucking lifetime.


Like a little bit of a death sentence, not that she’ll ever say it.


Not now.


“Is that—” Nancy gasps, pointing a shaking finger at the stiffly upturned, freshly polished brown oxfords sticking out from the elevator doors. “It is, isn’t it? It’s him?”


“Yeah,” Lucy says with a grimace. It’s early—the sun not quite up, the sky not quite blue, and the yawning, groaning bustle of the kitchens preparing breakfast and the maids stocking their carts with towels and shampoo and latex gloves not quite infecting the lobby yet. She wonders what he was even doing down here. How he was caught. “It’s him.”


Nancy fiddles with the clipboard she’s holding, clutching it to her chest and gnawing on the inside of her cheek like she thinks it’s a wad of bubblegum. “What should we . . . do?”


Lucy rolls her eyes. “Call the police, obviously.”


“Really?” Nancy shuffles closer, practical beige high heels clacking against the seemingly permanently damp concrete floor. “What if they assume one of us did it?”


Lucy tosses her hair back, barrel curls bouncing, and prays for patience. And a cigarette. And a bloody knife or a smoking gun or a shattered vial of poison or something to adequately, if just temporarily, act as the de facto murder weapon. Maybe it’s planted in the elevator; the lights are off, and the doors were only partially pried open. There could be a crowbar in the corner, bent out of shape and spattered with . . . whatever brains are made out of. Skulls. Whatever’s inside of them.


“Did you?” Lucy drawls.


“Did I what?”


Do it.


Nancy gasps again, drawing a fluttering hand up to her throat, to where an ugly strand of pearls would be if they were going to church instead of a glorified closet full of filing cabinets. “Of course I didn’t do it,” she whispers, audibly appalled. “How could you—why would you—he’s our boss!”


Lucy shrugs. “It’s not like he wouldn’t have deserved it, if you did.”


Silence, and then, in a very different tone of voice: “Did you do it? Lucy?”


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