Elizabeth opened the door, prepared to count the twenty-seven steps that led her toward her one bedroom apartment, when she heard a dog bark and felt something hard and small jam into her back.
“Take the steps slowly, like you always do, Elizabeth.”
She didn’t recognize the voice and when she moved to turn her head to the side, it pushed harder into her and she heard a gun cock. Somewhere in the near distance she heard a man whistling and she wanted to scream for help.
“Think twice and you’ll see your instincts will get you killed.”
“What do you want from me?” She felt a hand on her shoulder, urging her onward. Her feet, glued to the rubber mat, refused to move. “I have some money in my bag. Take it.”
The whistling faded away and the man behind her sounded as if he was grinning. “I told you what I want. Now, go on. Count your steps.”
She didn’t know how he knew her habit but if he knew that much about her… “Who are you?” The gun left her back and she winced as the assailant twisted her arm behind her back. She was shoved into the entryway of the apartment and she heard the door close and the lock turned. As she looked up the first twelve steps Elizabeth realized her arm was free. She turned and swung wildly at the man. Hands pushed against her and she fell against the first three stairs. She was down low now and she used her legs and began kicking at the stranger. She didn’t care that he had a gun; knew that if he got her all the way upstairs he would likely kill her anyway.
“Elizabeth? Is that you? I used your spare key and let myself in. I hope you don’t…”
Hearing her sister’s voice, Elizabeth was about to yell up to Samantha, but as she began to call out, the gun was shoved into her mouth. It startled her so much that she felt herself lose a little of her bladder. Footsteps were descending above her and a dam of tears broke and her body began shaking.
“Oh my god!”
Elizabeth couldn’t see her sister; she didn’t dare move. Instead, she continued staring at the man in front of her, pleading with her eyes.
“Samantha. I wasn’t expecting you.” The man spoke calmly. “Why don’t you come down here so we can talk?” He smiled at Elizabeth. “You wouldn’t want to make things any worse for your sister, now, would you?”
Samantha, crying pitifully, walked the rest of the stairs down before stopping five feet away. “Please don’t kill her.”
Elizabeth watched the man move his empty hand to his blue jean jacket pocket and pull out a syringe. He held it out above her head.
“Samantha, I want you to carefully step down and take this out of my hand. Then I want you to inject it into your arm.”
Elizabeth shook her head, felt the gun move with her mouth. She tried to tell her sister not to do it.
“It won’t kill you. I promise. It will just make you really sleepy. I’d urge you to run upstairs pretty fast, otherwise, you’ll fall and I don’t want to see you hurt yourself.”
Samantha was moving her head left and right.
“Yes. Or it will be all your fault when Elizabeth’s head gets blown to pieces.” His hand stretched out closer to her. “Now, be a good girl, and take your medicine.”
Elizabeth closed her eyes and listened to her sister step slowly closer.
“You promise it won’t kill me? You won’t kill her?” She asked, whimpering now.
The man didn’t reply.
Elizabeth opened her eyes when she heard her sister running back up the stairs and then heard glass fall and shatter.
“I guess she didn’t make it all the way up.” The man looked at Elizabeth. “She’ll be out for hours, but she won’t die.” He pulled the gun out of her mouth, stepped half a step back. He watched as she wiped saliva away from the corner of her mouth. “Go.” He motioned upwards with the gun.
She turned around, put her hand on the wood railing, and stepped cautiously, one at a time, counting in her mind, and reminded herself to breath. She stopped when she reached her sister, who had fallen in the hallway just before turning down another hallway that led to her living room and kitchen. She was about to turn around when she felt a pinch on her neck. Icy fluid seeped into her body and she finally did turn around.
“One. Two.” The man counted slowly. “Three. Four.”
Elizabeth’s legs grew heavy and her head woozy. She saw the man putting his gun away, saw herself falling into his arms, and then blackness took over her world as he reached five.