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Unwelcome

Break-in at Apt 302

By E.N. GusslerPublished 2 years ago 11 min read
1

“Any plans tonight?” Melissa clocked out and slid her coat on.

“No, I think I’m just going to head home.” I replied and wrapped my scarf around my neck.

“The night is still young!” Melissa laughed and nudged me with her shoulder.

I would hardly call 10 pm “young” but Melissa was one of those girls who was always looking for the next party.

“Nah, I’ve got a hot date with Netflix and a bottle of Moscato.”

Melissa’s phone went off in her purse.

“I gotta go Nik. See you tomorrow.”

I nodded and watched as Melissa bounded down the steps in front of Muddy’s Coffee Café and ducked into her boyfriend’s Z4.

The smell of wet pavement hung in the air. I pulled the door closed and locked it before pulling a hat down over my ears to keep out the chill. It was just three blocks to my apartment, but I hated closing on Friday nights and making the walk alone.

I walked down the street, weaving my way past laughing groups hailing cabs and rounded the corner. I stopped at The Little Bookshelf to peer at the display of rare leather bound books in the window. Mr. Blumenstein turned away from his re-shelving. Seeing me, he smiled and offered a little wave. I waved back and headed back down the street, past Grazie. As usual it was filled with pairs huddled close and holding hands across perfectly pressed white linen table cloths, sipping wine and looking deeply in each other’s eyes.

Crossing the last street I felt my heart begin to pound in my throat. My breathing quickened and I felt the hair stand on end at the sound of footsteps on the sidewalk behind me, I couldn’t help but pick up the pace. At last seeing the light on my building ahead, I dug into my coat pocket for my key. The footfalls that sounded were heavy and approached quickly. I didn’t dare to look back. My hands shaking, I struggled to get the key into the door and dropped them at my feet. I squatted to pick them up but there was a black gloved hand already on them.

“Well hello there.”

The heat of his words floated past my ear and in front of my face.

Show no fear, Nikki.

I blinked hard and tried to calm my breathing before turning around. The man held out the keys.

“H—Hi.” I took them out of his hand, careful not to make contact.

“302” right?” He quickly unlocked the door with his own key, holding it open for me.

I stood in the warm glow of the tiled entryway, debating if I should check my mailbox in front him. “I’m sorry?”

“Oh I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.” He walked over to the mailboxes and opened the one marked “J”.

The nameplate on the front of the mailbox was still scrawled with the name of the sweet old lady who used to live there. A pretty young woman had come just as the leaves were starting to turn and the nights were getting cold to box up the last sixty-five years of Mrs. Rafferty’s life.

“It’s just too hard for Gran to live on her own anymore.” Jenny had said in the hall while stuffing another afghan into a box to pad the many glass items she piled on top.

“You live in 302 right?” He was fishing mail out of the box and tossing most of it into the trash. “I moved in down the hall last week.” He extended his hand. “My name’s Matt.”

“Oh right, sorry.” I forced a small smile, shifted my mail and shook his hand. “Nikki.”

The small talk continued as we climbed the stairs to the third floor. He was a bartender at Grazie but was really an actor. Aren’t they all? He grew up in a small town in Indiana and just decided to move to New York one day. I only half listened and offered a polite goodbye before ducking into my apartment at the end of the hall.

I closed the door, pressing my body against it to be sure it fully clicked and turned the dead bolt before sliding the chain lock into place. My cat, Fitzwilliam, yowled and laced circles around my legs.

“Yes, yes.” As if he can understand me. I draped my coat and scarf over the arm of the sofa and scratched behind his ears. “Dinner time, I know.”

I set out his dish while I reheated yesterday’s leftover chicken then poured myself a glass of Moscato. Then settled on the sofa with my dinner and flipped on Netflix, finding an old favorite.

Jane Austen is a cruel genius.

Halfway through I was falling asleep and Fitzwilliam grew heavy in my lap. I switched off the TV. “You’ll always be my Mr. Darcy won’t you?” I said as I lifted him and put his nose to mine. “Of course my Pearl.” I said, putting on my best Mr. Darcy voice and headed off to bed.

I stared at the ceiling, listening to the unique white noise of the world outside. A siren wailed by as I began to doze off and I glanced at the clock. 1:23 AM. So I rolled over and closing my eyes began to paint a scene in my mind. Mr. Darcy takes my hand and we dance the night away, under the light of a thousand stars. As I drifted off to sleep.

##################################

There was no warning. I was suffocated by the gloved hand over my mouth and choked by the arm wrapped around my neck. Kicking and scratching, I managed to loosen my attacker’s grip and I closed my teeth on a gloved hand. Finally free, I tried to run into my bathroom, reaching for my cell phone as I leapt across the bed.

My head was jerked back hard and I felt my neck pop as I was dragged back across the bed. My thigh slammed against the cold floor with an audible smack and I cried out in pain. My t-shirt hiked up my body as I was pulled around by the hair. I begged my attacker to let me go, take whatever they wanted, but the attack continued. My fingernails broke as I tried to stay where I was, curled against the wall where I had slid, but that gloved hand took a solid grip on my ankles and pulled me across the hall into the cold living room. Suddenly, everything went dark for me.

I came to, only to find they had tied me to a chair from my dining room. A damp dish cloth I had hung on the faucet after doing dishes last night was shoved into my mouth, the corner of it tickled the back of my throat and made me gag. My eyes watered and I tried desperately to blink away the sting of tears and slow my breathing. They secured the rag with the Hermes scarf my sister sent me a month ago for my thirtieth birthday.

If they don’t kill me, God I hope they don’t kill me, I need to remember things.

I tried to slow my racing heart which rang in my ears. I never saw it coming but I sure as hell felt it. The first hit was so loud I felt my jaw pop and tasted the hot metallic pooling on my tongue.

“Where the hell is it?!” The tall one barked in a muffled low voice. He towered over me, putting his face close to mine. The putrid smell of stale cigarettes and sour milk nauseated me. I tried to scream through the rag in my throat and shook my head ‘no’ as hard as I could, pleading with him not to hurt me more. “The bitch ain’t telling me shit.”

I kept on saying “I don’t know. I don’t know.” And shaking my head but my voice was barely audible beyond the sound of it echoing in my own head.

“Ask again.” I couldn’t see the other one, but I could hear him pulling the drawers out of my kitchen as he dug through everything.

What the hell do they want?

The second hit was straight to my stomach, the air in my lungs forced out, I gasped and choked on the rag. The tall one grabbed a handful of my hair, close to the scalp and I felt some of it rip as he pulled my head back so I was looking at the ceiling. The cold steel of the blade pressed into my neck, just below my larynx. I began to cry.

“You want me to slice open your throat, bitch?”

I shook my head, sobbing.

“Then where the safe?”

A safe? I don’t have a safe. I shook my head and tried to reply. He pressed the knife tip against my skin and I felt a slight sting.

“Hey hey, don’t kill her, T.” The shorter one came in from my bedroom and pulled ‘T’ off me. “Put that away, man.” He pushed ‘T’ back and bent down to look me in the eyes. Through the small opening of the ski mask I could see his eyes were a clear blue. “Hey there, ok. You with me?”

I just kept pleading and crying through the blood and tear soaked rag.

‘T’ began pacing and scratching his head with one hand and waving around the knife with the other. “We have to find that safe, man. Make the bitch tell where it is.”

“Quiet ‘T’, neighbors!

Neighbors? Do you know where you are? No one sees or hears anything anymore. The sounds of drunks on the street at night becomes a gentle hum here, lulling you to sleep. Not me though. I was glad to get an apartment on the third floor, far away from the sound of the elderly neighbors shuffling across the floor above, accompanied by the up-beat thump thump of a cane supporting every other step.

“Calm down. Ok? We don’t want to hurt you, we just want that safe.” He was patronizing, but I had to hope that he was telling the truth. “You want me to take that off?” He pointed at the scarf around my mouth.

I nodded slowly, making every effort to seem calm and cooperative.

‘T’ ran over and grabbed his arm to stop him. “Dude, she’ll scream.”

“She won’t.” He got nose to nose with me. “Right?

I shook my head and managed a muffled “uh uh”.

He reached up and began to untie the soft scarf that had been pressing into my cheeks, creating hairline splits in the corners of my mouth.

“I’m going to pull this out ok?” he gripped the corner of the rag sticking out of my mouth. “Stay quiet now.”

My jaw was stiff and ached as I tried to relax the strained muscles. Despite the rag having been damp, my mouth felt like sandpaper.

“Now, isn’t that better?”

“Thank you” I whispered.

‘T’ stuck the knife point to the side of my throat again. “The safe.”

“I don’t have a safe.” I insisted.

“She’s lying, dude.” He raised his hand to strike me but his forearm was caught by the calm one on the way down, whose eyes never left my face.

“How long have you lived here?”

“um…6 months.”

The calm one turned to ‘T’ and they stepped out of earshot, huddled close and started an overly animated whisper fight that ended with ‘T’ storming off into my bedroom. I could hear him rifling through my things, tossing the contents of my closet onto the floor while his partner paced my living room and stared me down in suspicion.

“Dude, come in here!” ‘T’ called from my closet. “I think there is something under the carpet in here!”

What? In my closet?

‘Dude’ looked at me with a slight smirk and turned to walk to see what ‘T’ had found.

From the other room came sounds of congratulations followed by a more defeated tone that quickly became tense.

“What’s the combination?” ‘Dude’ demanded.

“I—I don’t know. I didn’t know there was a safe. I swear. Please, just let me go. I—”

‘Dude’ raised his hand to stop me. “Check everywhere for the combination ‘T’,” he called into the other room, “it has to be written somewhere.”

The pair spent the next forty-five minutes digging through every drawer and cabinet they could find in my apartment while I tried to twist and pull my wrists and ankles to loosen my restraints. My captors were growing more agitated with every minute that passed without the coveted contents of a safe I didn’t even know I had.

The crack echoed through my skull and I felt the slow warmth of blood trickle down the back of my head, and suddenly everything went black for a second.

“Sorry about that.” He let out a small chuckle and nodded his head towards ‘T’. “He’s got a bit of a short fuse.”

“I noticed.”

“You know, this would be a lot easier if you just told us the combination.” He watched as T paced the floor, talking to himself. “T, sit down, you're making me nervous.”

“It is too hot in here, I can’t breathe through this anymore!” T ripped off his mask, exposing his face.

“The hell you doing man?” He ran over to T, trying to shield him from my view. T reached up and pulled off his mask too. “Fuck you.”

“Dude, she doesn’t know shit anyway. Carlo’s going to kill us when we don’t come back with the stuff,” He looked like a scared kid, leaning back into the pillows on the sofa. “And you know it, Sean.”

Sean’s calm and even tone did a 180 in one breath. He whipped around and pressed the cold steel barrel of a .45 against my head. “The combination.” The kindness faded from his eyes and I saw the hollowness of his heart.

Think Nikki, think! I gasped for breath and choked back tears. Wait…I know.

“The closet!”

“What closet?”

“By the door, there are numbers written on the edge of the shelves. I never knew why, but it makes sense now.”

“Go check, Troy”

Troy ran to the closet. “Dude, Sean she’s right! 22-17-4, 22-17-4…” he repeated the numbers softly to himself as he went into my bedroom closet. “Shit Sean, there’s a bunch of money and boxes in here!”

A sly smile crawled across Sean’s face. He took a few steps towards the bedroom and leaned around the corner, taking his eyes off me to check out the find. “I knew it.” Sean grabbed an empty duffle from the coffee table and tossed it at Troy. “Bag it.”

I closed my eyes, hoping the whole ordeal is finally over. Opening them, all blood drained from my face and I felt sick to my stomach to find Sean, standing in front of me, gun raised.

“Please, don’t. I won’t say anything. Just take the money.” Tears streamed down my face as I begged for my life.

“Dude, what are you doing?” Troy froze in the doorway.

“She saw our faces. She knows our names, Troy!” The look in Sean’s eyes was wild.

Troy approached him slowly. “We don’t have to, she isn’t going to say shit, ok?” He reached up to lower Sean’s hand.

“I know”

All I could hear was the ringing in my ears. All I could smell was burning gun powder. I gasped for air that would not fill my lungs. My eyes froze open.

Everything went dark.

HorrorMysteryShort Story
1

About the Creator

E.N. Gussler

Writer. Photographer. World-traveler. Adventurer. Ohio State Alum.

A California native living in Ohio, I pull inspiration from my travels & life around me.

Co-creator: VoyagersPen.com

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