Anzzia Magazine Summer 2019 Volume #31 - Page 22

The place felt cold, sterile, hostile. Institutional disinfectant scarcely masking the odor of unwashed bodies. Harsh florescent lighting bouncing off stainless steel benches, making it impossible to think clearly. Phillip was frozen, his legs numb. The thin, worn pajama bottoms did nothing to alleviate the chill, the iciness invaded his entire body.

Hours passed. Detective Lentz ignored him. He was separated, kept alone. The other lost souls were led, one by one, to a hidden room along the rear of the building. Each emerged in washed-out, striped jumpsuits, the colors varied from green-to orange-to red, their street clothes left behind.

Most looked bewildered, out of their element. Others acted as if they’d come home, fist-bumping fellow returnees.

Not all sat on icy benches. Some were curled into fetal positions, claiming empty corners, shaking off whatever demons possessed them.

Why was he singled out? He didn't have multiple tattoos or scars crisscrossing his face. He was average, ordinary, boring even. Just another guy in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Had they been told why he was there? Doubtful. But Phillip knew why. And that's what terrified him. They said he'd murdered someone. Again.

Eight Hours Earlier.

Phillip drove as fast as he dared, anxious to terminate the date from hell.

"I had a good time tonight," Melissa said, "How about you?"

"Um...not really."

"I don't know how you could say that. I thought we got along great."

“Do you have any idea how obnoxious you were? You guzzled a bottle of wine before the food even arrived.”

"I was trying to have fun Phillip.”

Sighing, "Yeah, I know.”

"The night doesn't have to end. You can stay if you want."

Phillip thought of a hundred ways to answer her, but none seemed...safe.

"So..." Melissa pleaded, "Will you stay?"

"I said I’d go out with you Melissa, but that’s it. I told you, I have to get up really early."

He parked next to the apartment complex’s entrance, left the motor running, and willed her to get out.

Didn't work.

"At least walk me to the door," she said. "It's dark out there."

Reluctantly, Phillip shut off the car, and got out.

He walked to the passenger side, mumbling, "When will I ever learn how to say no?"

She still hadn't budged. So, he did what he was forced to do and opened her door. She took her sweet time getting out, giving him a clear shot at the gap between her bare thighs. She was hot.

That should have been his first clue he was in over his head.

Walking toward the building, she tried to hold his hand. Phillip faked a cough and put his hands in his pockets.

He opened the lobby door and said, "Well, good night then."

Melissa gazed up at him, "You can't just leave me here. I'm on the second floor, and this place creeps me out at night."

He hesitated.

"Please Phillip? It won't take long. I promise."

Holding back a sigh, he swept his arm, indicating she should lead the way.

She pushed the elevator up-button.

Once inside, she grabbed his hand again. Too quickly this time for him to pull away smoothly.

One Way Out