The elevator opened. Before any of them had made a step out of the elevator, there was a crazed scream. The origin of the crazed scream became apparent when an equally crazy shirtless man with a hatchet ran past the elevator. Streaks of blood could be seen across his torso. His long scraggly hair flowed in the air behind him as he disappeared from view.
Joe shook his head in disbelief. It was just ten minutes ago when he was peacefully eating a sandwich in his office.
Things can change rapidly.
The office where Joe Lortier had sat eating his ham and cheese sandwich would more aptly be described as a maintenance room or a shop. It was also his lunchroom, his workroom, his storage room and his sanctuary. The room was in the basement of his apartment building. Although it was mid-summer, and there was no air- conditioning, the room was comfortable.
The pair of fluorescent lights on the ceiling were not enough for a room this size and added to the claustrophobic feel. Joe didn’t mind. In fact, he loved his little sanctuary. Being the maintenance engineer, (as he liked to call it), for three buildings had its perks. He was able to tap into one of the cable lines to connect his television which he had found in one of the big dumpsters out back. Other than a single black horizontal line near the top, it was a decent 40-inch plasma smart television.
The room contained an old recovered and repaired fridge, a sink with running water, some cupboards, a small electric grill and a old but comfortable couch. There was a second room connected by a small door to his shop where he kept his tools.
On the television a news anchor talked about the virus commonly known as the Scourge. She explained that the high mortality rate of the virus was compounded by the fact that it had an unusually long incubation period. Joe had his lean, six-foot frame stretched out on the couch. He was watching television, eating his lunch when his cell rang. Not many people had his number. He didn’t have many friends or family, and the only people that called him were his boss Hank, Blender, or one of the tenants asking to get something fixed. He
swallowed his last bite and answered the phone. “Hello.”
“Yeah, Joe, you need to get over to Building Two.”
It was his boss, Hank. Hank Masterson was an annoying overweight man who owned several properties in the City of Ingerwood. He was rich, overbearing, and perpetually sweating, but he signed his pay cheque, so Joe had to be nice to him.
“Oh, hi, Hank. I’m just having lunch right now. What’s going on?” “Room 65 has a problem, and you have to hurry.”
“Can’t it wait like 10 minutes?”
“No!” Hank was yelling now. “I just got a call from the cops. They need you to let them into Building Two.
Something about a man with a small axe.”
“Wouldn’t you call that a hatchet? And why are the cops there?”
“It’s some druggy threatening to hurt someone. You need to get your lazy butt over there NOW!” “Okay, okay, I’m on my way.” He hung up the phone.
I’m not lazy, and I’m entitled to a lunch break.
He stuffed the rest of the sandwich in his mouth, turned off the television and grabbed the ring of keys hanging by the door. Joe walked down the hall past the laundry room and climbed the stairs to the rear emergency exit. When he opened the door, he had to squint as he was hit with the bright summer sunshine.
There were three buildings on Pochatok Street he had to look after. Building One was the 100-year-old building where he had his office. Building Two was adjacent to it and had a wide assortment of tenants, including recent immigrants, poor families and students. He was sure there was a drug dealer on the sixth floor. Across the road was Building Three, which was filled with rich, young families. It didn’t come as a surprise that the cops had shown up to Building Two. It got most of the problems.
He walked between the buildings to the front where he saw a police K-9 Unit SUV pulled up to the curb and a small group of onlookers.
“Are you the super?” one of the two policemen standing by the front doors asked. Both men appeared young. One was lean and tall, and his police issue pants were almost five centimetres too short. The other policeman was short, stocky and muscular. The tall policeman was addressing Joe.
“I’m Officer Reginald, and this is Officer Mike.” He pointed at muscles, who nodded. “We need you to open the door.”
The front doors to Building Two were glass double doors that were always locked. Tenants had keys, and all visitors had to buzz in. Joe walked up to the doors and found the large brass key and unlocked the door. He opened it and stood back to let the two men in.
“I heard that someone has a hatchet up on six,” Joe said, following them to the elevator. The hallway was too small for all three of them to walk side by side, so Joe was walking behind them. Even then, Reginald and Mike were barely able to walk beside each other.
“A small axe, actually,” said Mike, as he almost knocked over the fake palm tree beside the elevator “Do you know who lives in apartment 65?”
Joe didn’t bother arguing about the axe as they boarded the elevator. “Nope, I’m in charge of the maintenance for multiple buildings, and I don’t know most of the people that live in them. I have heard about drug dealing on the sixth floor.”
Mike looked at Joe as he mashed the button for the sixth floor. “Why didn’t you report it.” “I only heard things. I never saw any drug dealing,” said Joe.
“I bet Roxie could sniff it out,” said Reginald. Mike shook his head. “She’s not a detection dog.”
“Oh yeah, right,” said Reginald. “Where is your dog today?” “She’s got the day off,” Mike answered.
The elevator opened. That’s when the crazy, bloody shirtless man ran by.
“Wait here,” Mike held his hand up to Joe, stopping him from taking a step forward. Joe looked at Mike’s hand. “I have no intention of going out there.”
Reginald unbuttoned his holster, pulled his revolver and stepped out. Mike quickly followed. The elevator doors closed, and Joe pushed the button for the ground floor. He could feel his heart beating faster, and he tapped his foot nervously. He just wanted to get back to his sanctuary and hide till this was over. Finally, the doors opened. He waited a moment, half expecting to see a bloodied man run by, but all was quiet. He cautiously stepped out of the elevator, looking both ways. To his right was the doorway to the stairwell and to the left was the short hallway to the entrance. He began walking fast to the left towards the glass doors. Suddenly, he heard the doorway to the stairway open behind him. He turned around to see the door fly open, with the crazy Hatchet-man exploding out the door. His hatchet was in his hand above his head, and he was running right at Joe. He didn’t have time to turn and run or get out of the way. The hatchet came down towards Joe’s head. He dodged to the left, diving into the fake palm tree. Crazy Hatchet-man tripped and fell hard on the linoleum, his hatchet flying out of his hand and sliding across the floor. He scrambled to his feet and ran to the front doors, leaving the hatchet behind him. The man struggled with the door, finally opening it and running outside. As Joe untangled himself from the ridiculous looking palm tree, Reginald burst out of the stairwell door. His long legs carrying him swiftly across the floor and out the front doors after the crazy man, who was now without a hatchet. A few seconds later, Officer Mike emerged from the stairwell door, panting.
Apparently, he spends a lot of time with the weights in the gym but doesn’t do much cardio.
The officer looked down at Joe. “Don’t touch the axe.” “It’s a hatchet.”
“Never mind, I promise not to touch the weapon.” He pushed the tree back into place.
The officer seemed to get his second wind and continued his pursuit. Both policemen and the bloodied crazy man were nowhere to be seen by the time Joe exited the building. A small group had gathered to see the commotion.
Laurel and Harvey stood holding hands beside a group of kids with a basketball. Laurel and Harvey were a middle-aged gay couple that lived on the first floor of Building Two. They were congenial and even had Joe over for a chicken masala a couple of weeks ago. He couldn’t help thinking of them as Laurel and Hardy.
“Are you okay, Joe?” asked Laurel, “Did that guy have a gun or something?” “No, he had a hatchet, but he dropped it,” Joe replied.
“Isn’t a hatchet a small axe?” asked Laurel. Joe rolled his eyes.
One of the kids with the basketball yelled at Joe. “Is he a Scourge zombie?” Laurel turned towards the kids. “It’s not that kind of virus.”
Joe started walking away. “Let the cops know that I’ll be in my office in the basement,” he yelled back to Laurel and Harvey.
When he finally made it back to his sanctuary, Joe’s adrenaline was starting to wear off. The sweat was dripping off his short black hair. He hadn’t been this scared since his late wife told him she was dying many years ago. He started thinking about her, but promptly shook the depressing thoughts out of his head. He walked to the fridge and rummaged around till he found the small bottle of Crown Royal he hid for special occasions. He had a cheap bottle of Canadian Club too, but this was definitely a special occasion.
As he grabbed a small plastic cup from the cupboard, he heard a noise from the tool room. He wasn’t alone.
action & adventure