It was little more than a week into August when I parked my ten-year old Oldsmobile in the parking lot of my apartment building and got it. It was near midnight, and I was tired and wanted to do nothing more than to grab a bite to eat and get some sleep.
My apartment building was a six-floor structure, one of four arranged in an off-kilter rectangle. It wasn't the best area in the area, which was just outside of Washington DC, but it was a blue collar neighborhood, with hard working people.
I let myself through the front door with my own key and walked to the elevator. There was a slight whiff of food and body aroma in the air, mixed with a slight tang of the newly painted walls, that would be sufficient to give me a headache if I stayed in the lobby. Fortunately, the elevator was on the ground floor and I stepped inside.
I punched the button for the fifth floor and leaned against the car’s wall and closed my eyes. I was working fifty-five hours a week at three part-time jobs, and I was tired. The economy was in poor shape, and I couldn't find a full-time job. I was making enough to keep my head above water, but only just, and my car needed work. I had bills, including college, and owed the IRS a chunk of change. I had few friends and a girlfriend wasn't in the cards. In short, I was alone, struggling, and not worth anyone’s time or effort to mug.
When the elevator doors opened, I walked out, turned right, and headed for my apartment. The hallway was starkly empty, with a dark green industrial carpet and beige walls bereft of any character. The apartment doors were a lighter shade of beige, with a number and a peephole. While the carpet deadened my footsteps, I knew the hallway was one large echo chamber.
Apartment 512 looked like all the other doors, drab, unremarkable, and conforming. More than one I had thought of painting the door another color, but the tenet’s lease forbade that, and I couldn't afford getting thrown out. I unlocked the door, opened it, stepped inside —
And nearly got my head taken off by a baseball bat.
The only things that saved me was my peripheral vision and my reflexes. I saw the bat coming at my head and I ducked. The bat grazed my head and slammed into the door with a loud “clang!” I spun toward the attacker, grabbed his arm and punched the guy in the nose. The guy, who was wearing a ski mask and a surplus army jacket, managed to jerk his head back just enough so I didn't flatten his nose. But he snarled a curse and bounced off the wall next to my front door.
Then thug number two made his presence known. An arm snaked around my throat and yanked me back. “The letter!” someone growled in my ear. “Where is the letter?”
I snapped my head back and tried to stomp on his foot, but I was wearing tennis shoes and he was wearing work boots. He avoided my head butt and yanked me back, in an attempt to pull me off balance. I went with the yank, adding my own weight and momentum to his, resulting both of us stumbling back. We hit the back of my couch and we both went over her. He let go of his choke-hold, and we bounced on the couch and hit the floor. I rolled over and onto my feet, only to have a third skin-mask and army jacketed thug, this one with a knife, come at me. “Get him!” he snapped.
I grabbed a book off the table next to me and threw it at the knife wielder. The book struck him in the head and his knife missed me by several inches. I yelled as I kicked him in the groin, then spun as I felt a hand on my shoulder. Thug number two got his punch in first, and I saw stars. He followed up with a couple of knees to my solar plexus that took the breath out of me. Gasping for air, I grabbed him by the jacket and fell back, taking him with me. I managed to get my foot into his stomach and threw him into the bookcase behind me. He hit the bookshelves like a bowling ball hitting pins, and several shelves collapsed, showing him with half of my collection of hardbacks.
The other two thugs didn't like that. As I tried to get up, one of them kicked me in the ribs. Pain flared along my side, and I grunted in pain because I couldn't scream. “Where’s the damn letter?” Thug two screamed at me. He kicked me again. “Give us the damn letter from your uncle’s lawyer!”
I wasn't in any shape to answer, even if I know what the hell he was talking about. Why would one of my uncles’ lawyer send me a letter? Instead, I tried getting some air back into my lungs, which didn't make Mister Kicky any happier. “He kicked me again. “Where is that damn letter, you motherfucker?”
My temper, which has never been a friend of mine, got the better of me. I got up as he kicked me again, this time in the shins. I staggered, grabbed another book from the side table and flung it at my tormentor I had the satisfaction of watching the book bounce off his face right before thug number one slammed his baseball bat across my stomach. For the second time in a minute, I was on the ground, grasping for air.
“We want that letter!” Thug two screamed, punctuating each word with a kick. My torso was screaming at me, and air wasn't coming in my lungs fast enough. Someone started screaming and for a few seconds, I thought it was me. But then I heard Thug two snarl, “Let’s go!”
The kicking stopped and I heard my front door slam open and the I heard the sounds of several people running down the hall and several voices I couldn't understand. Slowly, I got up on my hands and knees. Breathing was a chore, but at least I could do it.
I felt someone kneel next to me, and I lifted my head to look at Mister Spadaro, one of my neighbors. “Take it easy son,” he said, placing a gentle hand on my shoulder. “The police and the paramedics are on the way.”
I nodded and lowered myself down to the floor again. Mister Spadaro, on older man with a tanned face, carefully turned me over, and used a couch pillow to cushion my head. I was still lying there when the paramedics arrived.
Like I said, it's a rough draft. Comments are welcomed.