“I would go with the four-pack, those are not enough.” Sarah’s boyfriend, Justin, said to her as they browsed the grocery store shelves, perusing the flashlights.
“Why would we need four flashlights? There are only two of us.” She responded, placing the single flashlight she had originally picked out back on the shelf.
“One of them could break or get lost. You never know.” Justin told her, grabbing a large pack of flashlights and several boxes of batteries. Sarah rolled her eyes, but didn’t try and stop him as they continued stockpiling their cart with water bottles, candles, and canned foods.
Most people hear the word hurricane and immediately feel fear, but Sarah never saw them as much of a threat. She lived in northern Virginia and had never experienced the severity of a true storm. The news channels were broadcasting the possible catastrophic outcomes of the imminent Hurricane Sandy. The news was always predicting major disasters that just never seemed to meet reality, but she went along and did her due diligence as a concerned citizen, collecting storm supplies.
After waiting in the checkout line for twenty minutes, the couple finally headed back to their home to unpack their supplies. Justin checked that all doors and windows were secured, then the duo cuddled up on the couch to watch a movie while awaiting the storm. Hurricane Sandy was still a few hours south of them, approaching Washington, DC and then it would head up to New York City where Sarah’s sister, Victoria, lived. The sisters had spoken earlier that day and Victoria had assured her that she would be fine, so Sarah wasn’t worried. That was until her phone rang a little before midnight.
“Hey, Victoria.” Sarah said, picking up her phone.
“Sarah!” Victoria whispered into the phone through sobs. Static scratched through the phone and then the line went dead. Sarah immediately tried to call her back but the line was down, it wouldn’t even go to voicemail. She tried a few more times, but continued to get the same result. She turned to Justin with a panic-stricken look on her face.
“Let’s go.” Justin nodded at her and stood up, pulling on his shoes. Sarah smiled at him gratefully and quickly followed him, pulling on her jacket while he grabbed his keys. They headed out the front door to start the drive to New York City from Alexandria, Virginia.
Rain from the storm had already started and winds were strong around their car as they traversed the empty highways. Sarah nervously sat in her seat during drive, her mind imagining every worst case scenario of what could have happened to her sister. She had seen Victoria cry maybe twice in her life and she rarely came to her big sister for help anymore. Sarah closed her eyes and tried to push down the feelings of anxiety.
The duo finally reached the Lincoln Tunnel and were relieved to see that it was still open, even though the radio had been warning of a closure, but as they came out the other side their relief quickly dissipated as they were confronted with a surprising scene. The entire bottom half of the city that never sleeps was pitch black. They drove through a few lit up streets before hitting the line of darkness that split New York in half.
They slowly drove through the dark streets with only their headlights to lead the way, dodging fallen trees and poles, while listening to the sounds of glass breaking and alarms screaming as well as a terrifying silence that the streets of New York had never known before. They continued to try and figure out detours around flooded streets to get to Victoria’s street. Sarah was relieved to see a huddle of police officers on the corner down the block from Victoria’s apartment. When they pulled up to the apartment building, Sarah jumped out and rushed to the front door.
She pulled on the door handle, but it didn’t budge. She looked to her left and saw the panel of buzzers to call up to the apartments so she pressed on her sister’s buzzer but nothing happened.
“What’s wrong?” Justin asked when Sarah turned around looking panicked.
“There is no power. The door is locked! There’s no way to get in!” Sarah shouted.
“And her phone is off so you can’t call her to let you in.” Justin finished her thought. They stood on the steps for a few minutes trying to figure out what to do. Sarah suddenly looked up,
“I have an idea!” She rushed down the steps and ran towards the group of police officers, lit up only by the blue lights from the squad car.
“Officer! Officer!” Four police officers turned to look at the young woman running towards them on the street.
“Can you help me? My sister called me, I don’t know what is wrong but I need to get up to her apartment. The door isn’t working.” Sarah rambled, trying to catch her breath as Justin caught up to her.
“Ma’am, the power is out. No electric lock doors will work.” One of the officers told her, clearly annoyed.
“I know, but I have to get to her. I don’t know what’s wrong!” She argued with him.
“Why would you think anything is wrong?” A second officer asked her, looking more concerned than his peer.
“She called me crying and then the phone went dead, she never cries!” Sarah said, starting to panic thinking that they weren’t going to help her.
“Which building is she in? Let’s go.” The kind officer asked her and started walking down the street. One of the other officers joined them, while the rest stayed by the squad car. Sarah quickly led them to her sister’s building.
“We had two break ins in this building earlier this evening. What apartment number does your sister live in?” The officer asked her.
“5B, all the way at the top.” She replied, her tone dripping with anxiety.
“That apartment wasn’t involved in any of the reports.” He said and Sarah sighed in relief. The officer walked down the steps and looked up at the windows on the top floor. He walked up and down the sidewalk for a moment, sizing up the building as Sarah and Justin watched him and waited for him to tell them what to do.
“Alright, do you see that fire escape?” The officer asked them, they nodded yes and looked up at the precarious metal scaffolding that seemed rusted over.
“We can reach it if we work together and then one of you can climb to the top. Miss, you should probably go up since you are the lightest. Sir, you and I will have to get her up there.” The officer instructed.
“How? Neither one of us is that tall.” Justin replied. The officer walked over to right under the fire escape ladder and then dropped down onto all fours.
“Stand on my back then lift her up to reach the ladder.” The officer looked up at them, but there was no need to tell them twice as Justin was already taking off his shoes so he didn’t hurt the officer. He then carefully stepped onto the officer’s back, working hard to balance himself. He then motioned for Sarah to come and she gingerly stepped onto the officer’s back as well. Justin then lifted her by her waist up and Sarah worked with him to climb onto his shoulders. After several attempts and one knee to the face incident, Sarah was finally kneeling on Justin’s shoulders and clutching the bottom rung of the fire escape ladder.
“I need to be a little closer!” Sarah said, looking down at the two grunting men beneath her apologetically. With all his strength, Justin pushed her legs up further and Sarah was able to reach high enough on the ladder to get her feet on. She quickly scrambled up the rest of the ladder onto the first platform and then scurried up the rest of the floors until she reached her sister’s window. She looked down and gasped, remembering just then that she was terrified of heights. Gulping and taking a deep breath, she started banging on her sister’s window.
After a few moments, the curtain pushed to the side and her sister’s terrified face appeared on the other side of the glass. Sarah motioned for her to open the window.
“You’re here!” Victoria gasped, surprised.
“Are you okay?” Sarah said, climbing in the window. Victoria nodded,
“I’m afraid.” She squeaked in a little voice, looking for a moment just like a small child. Sarah pulled her in for a hug.
“Let’s pack you a bag, you’re coming to stay with me.” Sarah said. Victoria nodded and the sisters packed a small bag before heading back out the window, down to the street where Justin and the kind police officer were waiting for them.
Sarah Robinson is the bestselling author of four novels in the romantic suspense and contemporary romance genre including Tainted Bodies, Book One of The Photographer Trilogy. She has several other novels in the works and is currently negotiating contracts with several publishing houses. She lives outside of Washington, DC with her husband, Justin, and their menagerie of pets. For more information on Sarah and her books, please visit her website.