And it isn’t as if I haven’t had a nice life up until now. Okay, maybe parts of it have been rockier than others. But hey, I had an okay childhood; at least my parents had seen to it that I’d never gone to bed hungry.
And I was never abused or molested. I had had a successful career—granted, it had peaked at age eighteen or so.
But still, I’ve gotten to eat in a lot of awfully good restaurants.
And I know that Lucy will be well taken care of. Cooper will look after her if anything happens to me.
But thinking of Cooper reminds me that I don’t really want to die, not now, when things were just getting interesting. I’m never going to know what it is he really thinks of me! He’d been about to tell me, and now I’m going to die, and miss it!
Unless, of course, when you die you attain all the knowledge in the universe.
But what if you don’t? What if you just die?
Well, then I guess it won’t matter.
But what about those repairmen? They’d assured me elevator cables don’t just snap. Okay, maybe one of them snaps, but not all of them, all at once. Those cables hadn’t broken accidentally. Someone had deliberately booby-trapped them. Judging from the ball of flame that had erupted beneath my feet, I’m thinking bomb.
That’s right, bomb.
Someone’s trying to kill me.
Reflecting on who could possibly want to kill me takes my mind off my aching shoulder and throbbing hands—and even Cooper and the what-he-thinks-of-me thing—for a minute or so. Well, of course there’s Christopher Allington, who may or may not have already tried to shove a geranium planter on my head because I suspect him of murder. He’d better have a really good alibi for this one.
But how would Christopher Allington have known that I’d be on that elevator? I rarely ride the service elevator. In fact, the only time I ever ride it is when I’m chasing elevator surfers.
Could Gavin McGoren somehow be involved in the deaths of Beth Kellogg and Bobby Pace? This seems far-fetched, but what other explanation could there be? Julio can’t be the murderer. For all I know, he’s dead down there. Why would he want to kill himself and me?
Suddenly, the elevator closest to me returns, and this time, there’s somebody on the roof. But it isn’t Gavin McGoren. Blinking—the shaft is filled with smoke—I see through the mist that a grim-faced Cooper is coming to my rescue.
Which must mean he likes me. At least a little. I mean, if he’s willing to risk his own life to save mine…
“Heather,” Cooper says. He sounds as cool and authoritative as ever. “Don’t move, all right?”
“Like I’m going anywhere,” I say. Or that’s what I try I say. What I hear is actually a string of hysterical blubbering. But surely it isn’t coming from me.
“Listen to me, Heather,” Cooper says. He’s climbed onto the roof of Elevator 1, and is hanging on to one of its cables. His face, I can see through the smoke, is pale beneath his tan. Now why is that? I wonder. “I want you to do something for me.”
“Okay,” I say. Or I try to, anyway.
“I want you to swing over here. It’s okay, I’ll catch you.”
“Um,” I say. And make the mistake of looking down. “No.”
Well, that came out definitively enough.
“Don’t look down,” Cooper says. “Come on, Heather. You can do it. It’s just a few feet—”
“I’m not swinging anywhere,” I say, clinging more tightly to my cable. “I’m waiting right here until the NYFD arrives.”
“Heather,” Cooper says, and some of the old familiar impatience with me is back in his voice. “Push off from the wall and swing over here. Let go of the cable when I say so. I swear I will catch you.”
“Boy, you have really lost it.” I shake my head. My voice sounds funny. It’s kind of high-pitched. “No wonder your family cut you off without a cent.”
“Heather,” Cooper says. “The janitor told me that that cable you’re holding on to probably isn’t stable. It could break at any minute, like all the others—”
“Oh,” I say. Well, that’s different.
“Now do what I say.” Cooper has leaned out as far from his elevator car as he can, and still have something to hold on to. “Push off the wall with your foot and swing over here. I’ll catch you, don’t worry.”
From the top of the service shaft comes a groaning sound. I’m almost sure it didn’t come from me. More likely from the cable I’m holding on to.
Closing my eyes, I heave on the cable, forcing it to swing toward the wall on the far side of the shaft. I unwrap my foot from the dangling end and shove, as hard as I can, at the crumbling brick. Like a stone from a slingshot, I’m propelled in the direction of Cooper’s waiting arms…
…but not close enough for my liking.
Still, he shouts, “Let go! Heather, let go now!”
That’s it, I think. I’m dead. Maybe they’ll do a Behind the Music on me now…
I let go.
And know, for a second, how Elizabeth and Roberta must have felt—the sheer terror of careening through the air with no net or body of water below me to break my fall…
Only instead of plummeting to my death, as they had, I feel hard fingers close around both my wrists. My arms are practically yanked out of their sockets as the rest of my body slams against the side of the elevator cab. I have my eyes screwed shut, but I feel myself being lifted, slowly…
I don’t stop scrambling for a foothold until the seat of my jeans finally rest on something solid.
It’s only then that I open my eyes and see that Cooper has managed to pull me to safety. We’re both panting from mingled exertion and fear. Well, me from fear, anyway.
But we’re alive. I’m alive.
Above our heads comes the groaning sound again. Next thing I know, the cable I’d been holding on to—along with the pulley it had been connected to—rips loose from its supports and plummets down the shaft, to crash into the roof of the cab below.
When I’m able to lift my gaze from the wreckage at the bottom of the shaft, I see that I’m clinging to Cooper’s shirtfront, and that his arms are around me protectively. His face has gone the color of the smoke around us. There are streaks of blood and rust all over his shirt from where I’d grabbed at him with my cut hands.