I found my truck behind the house. The man had tied Bo and King to the bumper. I quickly undid the knots, ignoring how they tried to lick my hands and face. I looked into the truck. The keys were in the ignition. I needed a weapon to be able to defend myself. I searched the truck, but a lot of the equipment, including all the weapons, had been removed. I scratched my beard and looked at the building.
Just then a voice sounded. A man was calling from within the house. It startled me and I jumped behind the truck, afraid that the next sound would be the crack of a gun. I peeked over the hood of the car. The voice called again, but I didn’t understand the words. There was a small window just above the ground, and I thought I saw some movement behind it, a flickering of a waving hand or a piece of cloth. I hesitated: should I drive off right away, or should I try to get my guns back and find out who this man was?
I came to a conclusion. I rapidly ran over to the house and climbed the steps that lead to the back door. I opened it as silently as possible, and the dogs and I slipped in.
Several of my guns lay on the kitchen table. I picked them up and inspected them. They were fully loaded and in working order. I slung the rifle over my back. With a pistol in each hand, I quickly searched the ground floor. The house was filthy and worn down, waste lying about; empty cans and bottles, dirty plates with leftovers. It smelled of sweat and dirt.
I decided against inspecting the floors upstairs. Instead, I went to the door to basement. It was locked. I kicked it open with my boot, almost removing it from its frame. A wooden staircase led down into the darkness. The house had electricity – as I flicked the switch several light bulbs sprang to life. I could now hear loud shouts, both male and female. They used a language that I couldn’t recognize, but their voices carried panic and anxiety. Forgetting my own fear, I hurried down the stairs.
The basement consisted of a central room; its walls contained four doors, made out of heavy metal, each with a small central window. Big bolts kept them shut.
"Stand back!" I shouted. I went to the first door and pulled the bolt back. I pulled the door open. The room contained a mattress, a blanket and a bucket, but little else. Inside stood a single, small man, skinny from starvation. His clothing, torn and frayed, hung loosely from his body. He had a haunted, scared look on his face, his hair and beard long and unkempt. He couldn’t have been older than twenty five and was of Indian or Pakistani origin. I extended my right hand and he took it, hesitantly at first, but then he put it up to his lips and kissed it, all the while murmuring some surreptitious prayer. I pulled my hand loose, hurriedly walked out of the room and to the next door. I withdrew the bolts.
The man had followed me and wormed past me into the room. A small, dark-skinned woman stood in the middle of it, her head bowed down. She was as skinny as the man, her body frail and barely covered by shreds of clothing.
The man jumped at her, then halted in his tracks and stared down at her body.
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