Descent Into Panic

Chapter 10

Sam reacted to Al's cry with lightening reflexes. Which was just as well as everything happened in a split second.

He pushed Drew toward the opening created by the plummeting car and jumped after.

Drew sailed over the makeshift doorstop, landed and rolled clear.

Sam was not so lucky.

The disconnected cable whipped wildly and rapidly like a rattlesnake in a whirlwind, and caught Sam a glancing blow on the back of his right leg, just above the knee.

It was enough to knock him off course, and he barely managed to grab hold of the lower edge of the aperture with one hand, his body slamming against the wall and then swinging precariously.

"Don't look down, Sam!" Al warned again, his voice laden with urgency, but it was too late.

Even as he struggled instinctively to get a purchase with his other hand, Sam's head turned past his flailing legs and he watched the elevator car get smaller and disappear into the depths below.

The shrill sound of Allegra Mancini screaming continued to fill their ears for long moments, and then everything went eerily silent.

Then Drew was there, reaching down and grabbing Sam's hand, pulling him toward safety. The chair was impeding his ability to reach, so Drew yanked it out of the way, using his own body to keep the doors from closing.

Sam wasn't helping the process at all. He was staring vacantly at the spot where he'd last seen the car, and his body was rigid with shock and fear.

While there had been a solid surface beneath their feet, it had been relatively easy for Sam to blot out any conscious thought of the deep shaft below. Now, he was all too aware of the drop, and his fear of heights was kicking in with a vengeance.

Al pressed a few buttons on his hand link, and had himself re-centered so that he was only inches from Sam's face, interrupting his line of sight.

"Sam. Sam? Can you hear me, Sam?" Al waved his hand in front of Sam's eyes, but he didn't so much as blink.

"C'mon buddy, snap out of it," Al begged, snapping his fingers as if trying to wake Sam from a hypnotist's trance.

Sam remained paralyzed.

Drew was worn out by recent events and really struggling to keep a grip on the dangling figure. He wouldn't give up though.

"Come on, sir. You can make it," he panted. His gloves were now ragged, and his hands tender and raw from the cable, but he held on and heaved for all he was worth. Sam's hands were similarly damaged, metal splinters were embedded in the heels of his thumbs, and the friction burns were making the discolored flesh sting. He showed no indication of being aware of the discomfort.

"Yeah, c'mon, Sam. Up, up, up, up, up!" Al exhorted him, as if he were a parent trying to get a lazy teenager out of bed.

Eventually, by sheer will power, Drew hauled Sam through the opening, and they both collapsed to the floor. The doors slid shut as they cleared the aperture. Drew was laughing with relief.

"Thank God!" Al sighed.

Taking barely a moment to catch his breath, Drew turned his attention to Mr. Quincey once more. The old man was lying stiff and staring into space. For an awful minute, Drew thought he was dead.

"No! Don't you die on me!" he cried. He felt for a pulse in the neck. It was somewhat erratic and not that strong, but it was there.

"Sam? Buddy? You hurt?" Al asked, bending down on the other side of the stricken man. Getting no response from the horse's mouth Al then interrogated Ziggy, but with equal lack of information forthcoming.

Drew gently patted Sam's cheeks, his hands, his arms, trying to elicit a response. He got nothing.

"Guess I'm gonna have to carry you," he declared, bending to position Sam so that he could drape him over his shoulder. He grunted with the effort, his back protesting the renewed strain.

"Huh?" Sam mumbled, still more out of it than aware.

"Sir?"

"Sam?"

"Gnah."

"Don't worry, sir, I'll get us out," Drew promised, trying again to lift his burden.

Sam seemed to be vaguely aware of him at last. He shook his head slightly.

"Leave me," he whispered hoarsely. "Save yourself."

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