At last, the elevator stops, and I slide out, a bounce on my steps. There's no music coming from the Japanese neighbor's apartment, nor the smell of spice and onions. I press my ear softly against the door, trying to catch a whiff of conversation on the other side but I have no luck.
Maybe she's not in.
But then again, the whole place was eerie silent as well. Which was suspicious.
Something didn't seem right.
It's way past six PM, which means everyone should've been home by now. Uncle Patrick leaves the spare parts firm he works for by four at most, then twelve any day he didn't have a lot of work. The Japanese lady runs a food court downtown and often rushes home to make dinner before I got off my shift at the local cafe. It's basically a tradition for the flats to be rowdy every evening.
Shrugging my shoulders, I turn the corner and halt at our door when I hear whispers. I don't recognize the voices in the room, but the most prominent one is deep and scary, like a creditor threatening his debtor to pay up. I wonder if Uncle Patrick has visitors over but forgot to inform me. We tell each other everything.
Ignoring the cooling dread pooling pooing in between my fingers, I lift a fist and knock softly. "Uncle Pat? Are you in there? It's me, Titania."
My legs wobble as I run my sweaty palms together, finally realizing that something is wrong.
I jump as a couple of rats race past me, disappearing down the corridor. Placing my left hand on my chest, I reach out for the doorknob with my right and turn it, pushing back slightly.
"Uncle Pat?" my brows furrow as I try to register the piece of clothing tied around his mouth, his hands behind his back. He's still seated on his favorite leather chair, a white rope around his legs as well. "What's happening? Who tied you?"
I push the door wide open now, rushing in. There's a bruise forming on his right cheekbone and his lip is cut. I clench my hands in anger. "Who did this?"
He makes a muffled sound, pushing me away from me. I get the signal to run but there's no way I'm leaving without you. "You have to explain. I'm taking you with me."
The door slams shut behind me and I scream, my spirit practically leaving my body as I turn to see a hulking man for the first time, pointing a metal gun at me. His face is partly veiled and he steps forward, clutching a hand around my throat and riding me up against the wall.
My entire life flashes before my eyes as I struggle against his grip. Uncle Patrick's muffles increase as he tries to kick aggressively, his eyes on me, stark with fear. I look past the hulking man's dark, steely eyes to see that he wasn't alone. His equally veiled companion advances toward Uncle Patrick and knocks the butt of a gun across his temple, sending him crumpling on the floor, along with the chair.
"No..." I trail off with a cough, gasping for air. The man's hand tightens further around my neck, almost stifling my life. Suddenly, he releases me, and my back slides miserably down the wall. I lift my fingers to my sore neck.
"Who the fuck are you people?"
I realize that I'm practically digging my own grave by asking stupid questions. These guys are armed robbers at most and thought we have a lot of money. Probably because Uncle Patrick works for the most popular spare parts firm in Manhattan.
"If it's money that you want, then I'm sorry to disappoint you. We have nothing. You can see for yourself, the state of our house." I gesture around our surroundings.
The two men stare hard at me, then the man who knocked Uncle Patrick out steps forward and pointed his gun directly at my forehead. "If you don't stop talking right this minute, I'm gonna blow your fucking head off."
"Right, right. I'm sorry." I pin my lips together with two fingers. "I promise, I won't talk again."
"Actually," he taps the butt of the gun against the heel of his palm, moving even closer. "It'll be best if I knock you out as well. This isn't about you, but the wrong place and the wrong time, sweetheart. Now you're gonna go in for it as well."
Before I can protest, I feel a sharp pain in my temple. Lights explode in my vision, then complete darkness as I fall over, my head hitting the wooden floor gently, my eyes closing.