“Hey, I haven’t seen you around here before,” Rebecca as she grinned from ear to ear at the stranger as she walked into her building’s laundry room.
“Hi,” he said as he returned a smile. “I just moved here from Georgia. My name is Preston.”
“Preston.” She repeated. “Welcome to the neighborhood, Preston! My name is Rebecca.” She licked her lips subtly as her eyes glazed over Preston’s frame. He was quite exotic; nothing like she’s used to seeing in town. Her neighborhood in Pawtucket did not offer much eye candy. Many of the locals were just that, locals.
Rebecca moved back to her home town five years ago to help her aunt while her grandmother was ill. Something about her neighborhood reminded her of being in a barrel of crabs. Once you are in the barrel, there’s no way out unless someone pulls you out. And usually, once you’ve found a way out, you’ve found yourself in more trouble.
Rebecca joined the field of underground logistics working for an organization she never had a front seat in. She was more of a middleman, making arrangements for the organization’s shipments on different ports around the world. When she was ready to leave, she was allowed to do so, no questions asked. She did not look over her shoulder once. Her sister Helena managed to be the exception to their neighborhood’s rule and went off to college. Rebecca’s proudest moment was listening to her sister’s salutatorian speech. Helena was her baby and from the moment she laid eyes on her she promised to always watch over her.
“So Preston, how’d you find yourself in Pawtucket?”
“Just looking for a change of pace. So far I’m liking what I’ve seen.” He replied as he returned a flirtatious look.
“I’m in apartment 503D. Stop by if you need anything,” Rebecca’s tone was suggestive.
He smiled but did not reply as Rebecca strolled out of the laundry room.
Rebecca settled into bed but could not rest. Her mind was on her mother and the last time she saw her. Her mother disappeared when Helena was two and she was seven. Their grandmother would always promise them that their mother would return but Danica never came home. Rumors circulated the neighborhood that she may have been murdered or sold away by her dealer. No one could say for sure. At a ripe twenty years old, where ever Danica disappeared to, it was no where good. Rebecca would still relive their last moment together every so often and it would startle her out of a deep sleep. Rebecca tossed in her bed trying to avoid the recurring dream of her mother’s departure.
“Momma will be right back, baby girl. I love you and Lena very much,” she said in Russian, her native language. Her slight accent always lingered in the back of Rebecca’s thoughts. That was the last time Rebecca heard her mother’s voice. She remembers her mother’s jet black hair being soaked as she kissed her good bye. Danica wore her father’s gold crucifix around her neck every day. She cast a look over her shoulder and kissed the crucifix as she walked out of her children’s life for good.
A knock on the door interrupted her thoughts. Given the late hour, Rebecca assumed it was an emergency and rushed to the door.
“Lena, what are you doing here?’ Rebecca whispered as she swung open her apartment door.
“I had to get away!” Helena tried to catch her breath. “I think someone is following me.”
Rebecca ushered her inside before peeking down her hallway to make sure it was clear. She turned to face her sister whose face was streaked with tears.
“What’s going on?” Rebecca asked.
“I can’t tell you,” Helena stammered. Her tawny brown skin was flushed. “I just need your help getting out of here.”
“Here, where? You have to tell me what’s going on or how can I help you?”
Helena leapt from the sofa and started pacing the floor and wringing her hands.
“Did you kill someone?” Rebecca continued her interrogation.
Helena shook her head vigorously in response and continued to ring her hands.
Before Rebecca could continue questioning her younger sister, there was a knock on her door. Both sisters froze in the living room.
The unannounced guest rapped on the door again.
“Who is it?” Rebecca called out.
“I’m sorry, I know it’s late but I need to call the maintenance guy and I don’t have his number,” Preston yelled through the door.
Rebecca turned to her sister to reassure her that the man at the door was her new neighbor but Helena went to hide elsewhere in the apartment.
“Just a minute!” After giving herself a once over in the hallway mirror, she opened the door.
“What’s up?” Rebecca asked.
“I need the number for the maintenance guy,” he repeated.
“Kinda late, no?” Rebecca flirted casually.
“I guess,” Preston started walking towards Rebecca to close the space between them.
“Let me get that number for you, ” she dipped around Preston and headed to the back room.
“I would have never guessed you and Helena are related,” he said following Rebecca towards the back.
She stopped in her tracks.
“What did you say?” Rebecca queried; she turned around cautiously to look Preston in his eyes.
“Helena, your sister, she never mentioned you,” his tone was ominous as he stepped closer to Rebecca.
“I never mentioned a sister to you,” Rebecca stepped backwards, matching his pace. Her mind flashed through the self defense techniques she learned during her years traveling as a logistics expert.
Preston lunged for Rebecca but she instinctively side stepped his aim and spun around so she was facing his back. As he tried to catch his balance from missing his target, Rebecca quickly lifted the heel of her foot and landed it into Preston’s back. She took the opportunity to race past him when he stumbled into her kitchen island.
Helena could hear the commotion from her hiding place. Her heart pounded in her ears as she sat on the floor anxiously. Preston promised he would not chase her down and yet he managed to locate her older sister.
The sisters did not call out to one another for fear they would give up their hiding places. Rebecca ran into her bedroom and closed the door. There was no where for her to go besides out of the window and she would not leave her sister behind. She could hear Preston approaching the bedroom door so she planted her feet firmly on the ground in anticipation of his attack.
“Okay, Rebecca,” he reasoned through her locked bedroom door, “let’s not do this. Perhaps I came on too strong. Open the door.”
Rebecca did not respond; instead, she took several paces back preparing herself for a worse outcome. The sweat from her brow started to trickle down the side of her face.
“Three,” Preston warned. He began attaching a silencer to his Colt M1911, “two, one.”
He raised his weapon to the door handle, cocked it back then fired at the door knob.
Two more shots fired as he lunged for Rebecca. Helena stepped over his body and ran to her sister’s arms.
“That’s not Preston,” Helena commented. She looked down at the rangy man writhing on the floor and kicked his gun out of his reach.
“Get his arms,” Rebecca instructed her sister. The man roared in pain as Helena pulled his arms behind his back.
Rebecca grabbed one of her silk scarves and began tying his legs vigorously while Helena kept pressure on his bleeding shoulder. Rebecca finished tying his feet then got another scarf to tie his arms taut behind his back.
“There’s a bleeding man on my floor, Helena,” Rebecca was out of breath. “Explain.” She rolled the wailing man on to his side and crammed a pair of socks into his mouth.