A car door closes. Her eyes open as if a switch was flipped and all her senses have become active. She sits up on the bed in her dark little apartment, a dingy dive by the beach that she was renting and just becoming used to calling her home.  She leaps off of the bed and slides to the side of a window draped with ill-fitting vinyl blinds. The only light in the room is from a streetlamp just outside of her second story room and it floods in through the horizontal slits that hang from the window. The Renter leans over and slowly puts her fingers between the plastic slats and separates enough space for her to peer out. Black van. Three men, no, four men are heading toward the gate down below from the street and coming into the complex. They are walking around the pool down by the stairs, each in black or dark clothing. They are coming up the stairs now. She removes herself from the window and slides over to the kitchen. She grabs two knives from the counter top and tosses one by the bed by the window. The other she holds in her hand. She also grabs a wine bottle and places it into her right hand, spout pointing to the ground, and goes into the bathroom and crouches down. From the dark windowless bathroom she can clearly see the rest of the apartment with the exception of the kitchen which was a thin wall away to her left. Footsteps. She could hear the shoes of the men just outside her door coming to a stop. The sound of prickling at the doorknob fills her ears and she struggles to calm the panic and adrenaline that is attempting to flood her mind. She has to remain calm if she is going to be the one who is going to walk out that door tonight.

The prickling ceases, and a thin stream of vertical light now appears on the carpet and falls across the bed. They are inside now. The stream of light widens drastically and floods the wall opposite the door. The shadows of three men are stretching across the floor and wall, all filing in close together as one turns and makes the beam of yellow light from outside grow thinner and thinner and finally disappear. It is now dark again. She has to move quickly, before the intruders eyes adjust to the darkness. One of the men steps toward the bed. Too far to lunge for. Another steps sideways, his back facing the bathroom. They are murmuring to each other quietly, not recognizable enough to make out though. Another language perhaps? The Third intruder cannot yet be seen, but her window of time before they would be able to see her was growing smaller and smaller.  She has to act now. The Renter raises the wine bottle up and lunges forward, bringing the bottle down hard on the back of the head of the First intruder. A splash of warm splatters all over the front of her shirt and arm and face. The victim of the bottle attack moans as he collapses down into a ball on the floor. The First intruder that ventured into the bedroom area quickly turns and shouts, struggles to see what was happening in the dark corner. The light from outside was flooding over his face, causing him to struggle to see clearly. The Renter drops the bottle top and with a running start steps onto the balled up man on the floor and leaps off of his back, lunging for the man covered with light. The Renter plunges the knife into his chest and forces her hand onto his mouth, muffling any more screams. The two topple over and onto the floor. Both are now covered in light and are the most visible things in the room. She pulls herself up quickly while trying to pull the kitchen knife out of the man’s chest, but it won’t budge. If she doesn’t move out of the light quickly, the last intruder can easily pick her off.  She crawls off of her stabbed intruder, who is still moaning from his fresh wound. As she straightens up against the far wall opposite the bathroom, a pop is heard and a fist sized chunk of wall flies up and into her face. Another pop, then another, each sending bits of wall into dust. She drops to the floor and scurries past the freshly stabbed body towards the bed. More popping, but this time hitting the flimsy mattress and bed frame, making plinking sounds as well as sending puffs of stuffing into the air. She quickly reaches her arm onto the bed and feels around for the knife she tossed over here earlier. It was on this side of the bed that she tossed it—Another pop is heard and this time a wet thud follows, as well as a piercing pain that flies from her hand, up her arm and into her brain and back down into her hand again. The Renter retracts her exposed arm and holds up her hand before her face, only to see more bedroom where her hand should have been. She wants to scream and clutch at her freshly given wound, but there is no time for that. One more pop is heard, and then fumbling around as the sound of a clip is heard hitting the floor from across the room. She props herself up to gain a view of the bed as well as a clear visual across the room as a man with a leather jacket is trying to reload his suppressed handgun, with great difficulty as she fumbles in the dark. The leather clad man is struggling to reload as he decides which to look at, the project he is fumbling around with in his fingers, or the woman he was sent to kill staring right at him. She looks down at the bed and with her undamaged left arm reaches for the knife while she jumps onto the destroyed mattress. The handle in the air and the blade in her fingers, she raises it back behind her head and sends it flying forward towards the leathered intruder. The blade makes contact with the gunman in the lower part of his stomach, almost in his side. A few more inches and it would have hit nothing but wall. The gunman stumbles backwards and falls, sliding downward against the wall. He shrieks at the impact of the knife that is now a part of his body, but somehow continues to try and load his pistol. The intruder clicks the magazine into place and raises it up.  The Renter rushes toward him from the bed and with her good hand pushes the pistol aside. A pop goes off and shatters the window outward, taking some of the blinds with it. With her left arm pulling the gunman’s hands forward, she leans back and sends her foot towards the gunman’s face, smashing it against the wall with a sickening crack.

Outside the sound of the gate below can be heard squeaking and slamming shut against itself. The Fourth must have heard the window shattering and is now on his way. In no condition to stay and fight another man in full health and condition, she has no choice but to run. Surprise is no longer her ally. She moves to the window and sees the Fourth running for the stairs as he moves around the pool below. His heavy steps on the iron forged stairs can be felt vibrating through the apartment. She has to time this just right. She backs up to the other side opposite the window and squats down. She can feel and even hear the vibrating of the stairs stop and become solid footsteps that are getting louder and louder. The door knob begins to jiggle, and that’s her cue: She takes off running toward the window and leaps up wards, just as the door begins to open and the Fourth enters inside. She is falling, tumbling downward and hoping to God that she pushed herself off with enough force through her window to clear the walkway and make it to the water below.

SPLASH. Landing in the shallow end shoulder first, she hits the floor of the pool with a sudden stop and thud that sends a lighting of pain along her back and shoulders. The whooshing of the air by her ears ceases, along with all other sound as the pools blue water fills all of her senses and drowns out all else. There is no time to enjoy floating around in here, it’s not over yet. The Fourth is still up there and coming for her. She flips herself stomach side down and begins to attempt to swim for the side. A red cloud follows her hands as she uses her arms to propel her forward. His right shoulder is throbbing as well as her right hand, but she can’t think about that right now. All that matters is getting away. Almost to the edge of the pool, she can hear faint popping, and streaks of bubbles dart quickly all around her, making the smooth cement that lines the surface of the community pool jump up and into the water like sand on an ocean floor, clouding the once clear water. Have to get away. Have to make it out.

The Renter pulls herself from the steps of the shallow end and darts for the iron gate that encloses the complex. Almost to the gate. There is a car just past the lawn that can get her out of here. The key is already inside. She just has to make it there. More pops can be heard and sparks begin to jump off of the gates. Tires screech and envelop her in light from all sides. Heavy doors swing open and shouting fills the air. Bright lights fill The Renters vision. She fumbles for her way forward, trying to make way out of the blinding headlights now pointed right at her. She darts forward, heading straight for the lights. She leaps upward onto the hood of the van and clambers over the roof. The driver door swings open and another leather clad intruder exits and turns. The car is just behind the bushes over on the west side by the shore. A straight sprint from here could– CRACK. CRACK. Cold. The Renter grunts and crumbles over the back end of the vans roof and onto the sandy asphalt below.


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