Padlocked Penthouse Excerpt


Barnett rode up the glass elevator. He had his leather briefcase in his hands. Inside the case he carried the evidence Vivika would need. The elevator seemed slow but steady. It almost groaned under his weight. Fear crept into his belly. Was this the right choice?
Would it save his wife and daughter?
He took a deep breath as the glass elevator slid into his penthouse. He could see the piano and the little mirror on the wall his wife stood at endlessly. She wasn’t there. The elevator let out a bright cheery ding, and the clear doors parted. His foot touched the smooth marble floor and he found himself wondering what on earth he was doing.
How could he help a ghost walk into the light? It was an impossibility at best.
Fear made his skin tremble. “Aurora? Pear?” He stumbled on a candle on the floor. There was a thin line of salt on the ground. He followed it slowly.
He called for them, but silence was the reply. “Aurora?”
He called louder, pacing his long sturdy steps around the oval penthouse. The candles kept dotting along the salt, but none of them were lit. His vision went blurry, and he recognized he had tears forming in his eyes. What if he was too late?
Finally, he said the one name that would get him a response. “Vivika?”
All of the light bulbs flickered and he was in darkness, utter darkness. “I’ve come to talk to you,” he said, his knees trembling. “Vivika, it’s going to be all right. I brought you some things to see.” The lights shone again.
He waited and all the hairs on the back of his neck stood up straight. Everything seemed so intense. The bright, tart lemon scent suddenly burned his eyes and nose and throat. He gasped and coughed.
“Vivika, it’s going to be okay.” He held back a little choke. He was being smothered by lemon; it hung thick in the air like skunk spray. He could feel it reaching into his lungs and burning, burning into him.
“I want to show you what I have.”
He fumbled for the briefcase latches in the dark. He rubbed his eyes with his hand slowly, trying to make the burning stop. His nose and tears were running from the potent scent.
“Do you even know what happened? You’ve been dead a long time.” He tried to recite some of the facts from memory. “Mikaela and Roselle were your daughters, and you and Frans… I’m sorry, but none of you made it out alive. It must be devastat-” He felt the scream rather than heard it. It hurt his chest and he fell to the ground. A nasty wind rushed around the penthouse in a big sweeping scream and his ears! They were bleeding from the force of it, from the intensity. The wind pelted him with bits of salt. The scream hurt his chest and his belly and it was like he had screamed.
No, he was screaming.
His lungs burned from the effort. He let out another shriek of terror. He shuddered and tried to get a grip, but fear had won; every bit of him was frightened. She was so much bigger and more monstrous than he had ever imagined. She could swallow the city whole if she wanted. She was darkness, hate, and bittersweet. She was angry and had no intention of stopping any time soon. She was fire, and oh, she burned. She burned within him.
Then, with a pop, she went silent, and he was alone and scared.

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