Rated: ASR · Fiction · Thriller/Suspense · #2293173
A restored brownstone in Brooklyn has a sinister past.
A sudden chill came over me and I couldn’t catch my breath. A million miles away from Oswiecim, and I could still hear the sadistic buzzing in my ears.
We fell in love with the property the moment we saw it, an old, majestic brownstone in Brooklyn, NY. This had been our dream for years. We spent a year renovating our home, turning the basement into a garden apartment to rent for extra income. Bed-Stuy used to be a rough neighborhood, but the Barclay Center was bringing Brooklyn back to life. It was a perfect location in respect to our jobs in Manhattan.
He now relied on a cane for support, but there was no mistaking his underling, terroristic spirit. As he was leaving the store, a small child ran into him and his groceries spilled.
“Watch it, urchin!” He swung his cane in an effort to strike the offending child. Bursting into tears the boy ran to his mother.
“Sir, he’s just a lad-” The mother froze when the old man raised his face to hers and hurried away with her child. The man’s face was twisted into an evil snarl, negating any sympathy his blindness may have incurred.
We rented the apartment to Natalie, a young, single mother and her five year old son, Eli.
“Mommy! What’s that for?” He was pointing to a square metal slab on the ground in the backyard, on the corner of the porch.
“I think it leads down into a sub-basement. Back when these houses were built the furnace was down there.” His mother explained.
“Can I see?” Eli asked.
“Here, let me help you.” I picked up the fallen items and put them back into his sack. The old man grunted for a thank you. “Do you need help getting home?”
“Nein,” he spat out.
“Helmut, this man is just trying to help you. Accept it, not many would offer.” The woman behind the counter said. “Thank you. He’s a stubborn old man,” she whispered to me.
“Come along, I’ll walk you home.” I took his sack from him.
Eli saw me working in the garden and ran out. “Can I see under the house?” I didn’t understand and he pointed to the metal slab.
“The basement? No, I’m afraid not. It’s been sealed up.” I said.
“We decided to close it up when we moved in. The stairs going down are steep and when it rains water drains into it. It was easier to just seal up the stairway than waterproof the basement.” I explained. “Besides, there’s nothing down there. It’s just a dark and dirty basement.”
“The old man lived in a basement apartment of a run down brownstone. He unlocked the door and waited for me to enter. “Put it on the table,” he barked. “Don’t expect me to pay you.” He stood back, waiting for me to argue.
“I don’t expect any payment.”
“Where are you from? You sound, familiar.” He shifted on his feet. I slowly walked around him, taking in the meager dwelling.
“We’ve met. A long time ago.”
The old man drew up with pride. “I’m from Germany. Moved here after the war.”
“So did I.” I sat down on the filthy sofa.
Heather heard the screaming and woke me up. I ran outside and banged on Natalie’s door. “Natalie! Are you ok? Natalie?” She answered the door in her nightgown, Eli in her arms.
“It’s ok, Eli was having a bad dream. I’m sorry if he woke you.” The boy was holding his arm.
“Mama, it hurts,” he cried. I looked at the boys forearm. It was red and swollen.
“He woke up rubbing his arm, saying it burned.” Natalie said, concerned. “I checked his room, there’s nothing there.” She kissed the boy’s head and hugged him close. “Thank you for checking on us. Again, I’m sorry if we disturbed you.”
“What’s your name was?” The old man asked, turning towards my voice.
“Edelstein. Jakob Edelstein.” I waited to see if he had any recollection. “But you wouldn’t know me by my name.” Helmut cocked his head to one side. “I’m 132256.” I could see the realization begin to sink in on his face.
As summer turned to fall, Heather and I were awoken several nights a week by Eli’s screaming in the night. The doctor told his mother Eli was having night terrors.
One afternoon Natalie had to work late and asked if Heather could watch Eli. “I might be late. Would it be ok if he just falls asleep on your couch till I get home?”
“Get out! Get out of my house!” The old man raged. “Leave or I’ll call-”
“The gestapo?” I stood up. “They can’t help you now.” Something in the corner of my eye caught my attention. Why would he keep such an evil thing? My hands shook as I picked it up and switched it on.
“No!” Helmut screamed.
“Can I stay here tonight? Please?” Eli begged. Natalie was grateful to be able to put in extra time at work. “He’s been so afraid to go to sleep lately,” Natalie said. “Whatever makes him comfortable. An hour later Eli woke up, screaming. His sleeves were pushed up his forearms and I could see red, swollen skin on his left arm.
Sweat ran down my back as I held the old man down. His begging for mercy fell on deaf ears.
“Heather!” Carefully I pushed up Eli’s sleeve further. His forearm was bloody and raw. 132257 was crudely tattooed in black ink.
“This is for my wife, you bastard.” The old Natzi passed out from the pain of the tattoo needle. “Never forget her number.”
We were never able to rent the garden apartment for more than a few months at a time. Eventually we had it permanently sealed up. Some nights Heather and I are still woken up by screams from the basement.