The cold steel table rattled as Ellie attempted to wriggle free from the zip-ties holding her wrists. The only light left filtered through a single basement window and faded by the minute. It wouldn’t take long this time of year for it to disappear. Then she would be alone in the dank basement of the downtown warehouse.
Rivulets of tears had flowed back past her ears and dampened her hair as it had matted itself to the table. “Everything is going to be alright,” said a voice in her ear. Her eyes opened wide, startled at the voice despite the familiarity.
Jerking her head left and right, she strained to see where the voice came from. “M-m-m-mom?” Her voice creaked. For a moment there was no reply.
“I’m here.” The voice finally returned. “Shh, shh, shh, baby. It’ll all be over soon.”
“Mom! How did you get here?”
Her mother’s warm hand came to rest on her cheek, her smile still as beautiful as ever. “Don’t you worry about the how, Li’l Rabbit. Momma’s right here.”
“I’m so scared, Momma.” Tears began to gush as her chest heaved. “They said they were gonna kill me.”
“Oh I know, Lil’ Rabbit. Those men can’t hurt you anymore. Momma’s here,” she said as she cupped her daughter’s face in her hands, gazing into her tired eyes.
“Can we go home now?” Ellie pleaded, her voice almost a whisper.
“Of course we can. Of course,” she replied, reaching up to the steel handles where the zip-ties held Ellie’s wrists; releasing them.
Ellie’s arms weakly wrapped around her mother’s neck and breathed in deep. Home.
After a moment, Ellie opened her eyes. She saw another figure in the room and screamed. Her mother held her tighter.
The figure cowered for a second before its face became visible in the dim moonlight.
Ellie squealed as she realized who it was. “Daddy! Oh, I can’t believe you’re here!”
“Where else would I be, Lil’ Rabbit?” he replied, his scruff looking like sparkles in the moonlight as he lifted her from the steel table and put her feet down on the wet concrete.
“They hurt me,” she sobbed, clinging to her father’s midsection. “They-“
Yelling and gunfire erupted from the floor above. Muffled threats followed by more gunfire, then silence.
“Carson! Take Phillips and check the basement!”
Heavy boots clomped down the stairs. The steel door burst open in a shower of sparks. Tactical lights surveyed the room. The floor covered in a sticky red fluid, the sight causing the uniformed men to gag and cover their mouths.
The larger of the men tugged on a string connected to a bare bulb near the door.
The bulb flickered on, revealing a half a dozen tables including the one Ellie had been laying on.
The other spoke into his shoulder. “We found one more. A little girl.”
The radio squawked in reply. “Is the area secure?”
“Affirmative, sir. Area is secure.”
“Roger that. Return topside and wait for further orders.”
“Yes sir! Returning to ground level,” he replied, moving toward the door and motioning for his partner to follow.
“Wait!” Ellie yelled as the two officers lowered their firearms and left. One of them turned to face her, then pulled the door closed behind him.
Her father smiled. “Don’t worry ‘bout them Li’l Rabbit. Let them do their jobs. Let’s go home and I’ll tuck you in to your nice warm bed.” He nestled her under the crook of his arm. Her mother followed close behind. They moved together toward the door.
They walked up the concrete steps and past the bodies sprawled out on the kitchen floor. Ellie’s father shielded her eyes as they shuffled past the remains of the man who had promised to take her life and they continued down the front steps.
They walked all of the way home without saying a word. Father carried her in his arms the whole way. The leaves did not crunch beneath their feet and the cool fall breeze didn’t cause them to get a chill. They trudged up the front walk of their apartment and finally into the place they called home.
“I’ll have to call someone to fix that in the morning,” father said as he glanced at the splintered wood of the apartment door.
Ellie was asleep when he laid her on her small bed; The paint was peeling from the headboard.
Her body remained in the basement until the coroner came to take it away. She was buried next to her parents in the city cemetery three days after her passing.