Out in the hallway I stood dead center. As I remained in that one spot I took a quick visual assessment left and right of the many door-pairings I had not yet entered. I estimated that there must have been at least a dozen more of these warehouses, and the thought of wasting time in exploring all of them began to anger me, making me think perhaps I should have tried my luck searching for the elevator key. I resolved to abandon this level and proceed up the stairs to the next one. As I headed back to the staircase I checked the time: ten thirty PM. I had been away from her for nearly half an hour. What if she woke up and I wasn’t there? What if she also was unable to locate the elevator key? What if she tried to walk up the stairs on her own and fell? Maybe I should never have left her.
I reached the door for the stairs but instead if entering I did another cell phone check. As expected: no signal.
I entered the stairwell and listened for the sounds of other bodies present (such as maybe Catherine struggling on the stairs below me). I heard nothing.
I climbed to the next level marked “SB-2.”
Again, I found a dark hallway that became suddenly lit by a motion sensor. Again, it was wide enough for two cars to travel. Again, it had a tangle of pipes and vents overhead. Again, many pairs of doors stood where a garage door was mated with a people door. The first set of doors I went to was labeled “Pharmacy.” I entered and found it stocked with non-perishable medical supplies. And again no phone anywhere. I held back my anger and stormed out.
After exiting that warehouse I returned to the staircase without bothering to explore the other storerooms, checking the Blackberry as I went.
I proceeded up to “SB-1.”
There I found unoccupied living quarters of military sensibilities: five barracks for twenty soldiers each, and several dozen private quarters for officers. None of the rooms had windows. Each room had phone jacks, but no phones. My frustration increased. I next found a completely unused mess hall, and then a medical clinic. The clinic caught my attention: surely there would be a means of communication in there.
I entered it and found a waiting room with no magazines, and a receptionist’s desk with nothing on it. Behind the receptionists desk sat a computer station with no computer and no phones. A door adjacent to the receptionist’s desk led into a large filing room whose open shelves sat utterly empty of any files. Beyond that I found many closets and store rooms, over a dozen examination rooms, several multi-bed hospital wards, and three operating rooms. But nothing that resembled a phone or a radio.
I exited the clinic and contemplated whether to explore this level any further. But I just shook my head and again returned to the staircase. Before exiting into the door for the stairwell, I did another Blackberry check: still nothing.
I proceeded up another level and arrived at the landing that was marked “LB.” I started to walk toward this door, but then paused and took the time to glance upward where I saw three more flights above me before the stairwell came to its termination. I turned back to the “LB” door, and that was when it suddenly hit me: “LB” stood for “Loading Bay.”
I took hold of the “LB” doorknob, but it wouldn’t turn: it was locked.
“Oh, God no.”
I tried banging and shouting. But there was no reply. I recalled what the elevator doors had looked like when Mystery Lady and I (Catherine and I) first stepped out of the limo. And I recalled the position of the sole fire door adjacent to the elevators --that door I had seen after exiting the limo was this door! I knew it without a doubt!
Was that limo driver still waiting out there all this time? I wondered. Would he hear me if I banged loud enough?
I began banging with everything I had. Then I stopped to listen. Again, no answer.
I took out the Blackberry, but it still proved lifeless.
I recalled the key ring, so I fished into my pockets, pulling them out with a jangle. I examined them all. I immediately eliminated the Mercedes key and concentrated on the rest. One at a time I tried them each in the keyhole. But one at a time they all failed to fit. Except for one—it was red, and it actually fit all the way into the keyhole, but it still wasn’t the correct key for this particular lock, so it simply didn’t turn.
I contemplated going back down to the bottom level and returning to the plumber’s shop beneath the catwalk. In that shop lay several excellent drills and saws capable of cutting through this doorknob. I tabled that idea for now and decided to keep ascending.
I re-pocketed the keys and continued up the stairs where I found two more blind and doorless landings. And then at last I reached the very top. The stairs terminated at a landing with a low concrete ceiling. I took another useless peak at the still-dormant Blackberry.
One wall of this landing had an air vent covered over by a metal grating. I briefly entertained the idea of popping off the grating and crawling through the air vent. But I instead turned my attentions toward the unmarked fire door opposite the vent. I turned the knob, but it was locked. Then I brandished Catherine’s keys and went straight for the red one. It likewise fit this keyhole. After I pushed it all the way in, I turned the key and felt the tiny locking pins effortlessly give way. The doorknob rotated and the door creaked open. I pushed through to yet more pitch blackness.
-------------------End of Chapter 9-d--------------------