Dream Lover
By devisun@excite.com

PART ONE

"Alva, is there anything I can get you before I leave?" Evelyn Santos asked softly as she watched the older man writing furiously on a legal pad in front of him. "It's late, can't you finish that in the morning?"

"Go home Evie. I'm going to be just fine." He looked at her through tired, bloodshot eyes and managed a soft smile. "Go home Evie, I'll be going upstairs soon." He could see the disbelief in her stance and her eyes. "Promise. Now go." Finally the young woman, shaking her head sadly, walked away and Alva Keel sighed deeply as he looked at the volumes of books surrounding him. "I can finish this in the morning." As he whispered the words, he wondered if he was trying to convince himself. He knew he could just walk away from the mounds of work that had slowly been piling up over the last month. Finally he tossed the pen he was holding down and brought his hands to his eyes to try and rub the tiredness away. He knew deep down that Evelyn was right and that if he didn't rest soon, his body would begin to revolt and force him to take off for longer than he would want.

Standing, Alva stretched and looked around the cluttered office. There were open books and open files everywhere. He ginned slightly as he thought how much his mind would look this very way if anyone could open his head and look inside. Finally he made his decision to take a short walk before retiring to his room above the office. Grabbing his jacket, he took one more look around the chaos, turned the lights off and walked out the door into the cool evening air.

Not sure where he was heading, he just allowed his feet to walk through the alleyways. He soon found himself thinking about the very work he had left sitting on the table. Paul would be back soon and then, maybe things would be caught up. If there was anything he hated, it was to leave work undone. His mind continued to return to the mounds of paper and pictures that were back at the office, that he soon found that he had walked farther than he intended. He had to stand and turn around for a moment before he recognized his location.

"Hello?" He spoke loudly as he suddenly felt he was no longer alone. "Is anyone there?" He tried to look beyond the shadows that were quickly beginning to form as the sun disappeared. "Probably just a stray." Alva whispered to himself as he turned to retrace his steps.

"Help me." The woman's voice was soft but full of fear. "Please help me."

"Hello?" Alva strained to hear over the sudden breeze that began to blow around him. "Where are you?"

"Help me." The voice repeated, and then began to weep softly.

"Where are you?" Alva moved forward as he spoke. "I'll help you but you have to tell me where you are. I can't see you." His skin began to prickle as the breeze began to take on a foul smell.

"Don't let him hurt me again." She was closer.

"Don't let who hurt you?" Alva suddenly saw movement from one of the dumpsters. "Let me help you."

"If he finds me, he'll hurt me again." Following her voice, Alva finally found her, hiding behind the trash. She was pale and bruised. Her long hair lay matted against her skull and back. "Don't let him hurt me again." She pulled at the ripped pieces of her clothing, trying to cover herself as she stood shakily. "Help me."

"I'll help you." Alva soothingly spoke as he reached out for her slowly. "Come on, I won't let him hurt you." For a moment, he was afraid the woman would run from him, but smiled softly as she finally began to move from her hiding place. "Here, take this." He removed his jacket and placed it around her shoulders, noticing more and more bruises marring her smooth skin. "I have a phone, we can call the police and they..."

"NO!" Her eyes suddenly went wide as she moved away from Alva. "No police! They wouldn't understand. They would think I was crazy."

"Not understand? Why not?" Before he could say anything else, she started backing from him faster. Fearing that she would suddenly run away, he shouted. "Wait! Don't' run away. We don't have to call anyone!" He breathed a sigh of relief as she slowed down and faced him. "Come back. I want to help you. I won't call the police, I promise."

"No police?" Her voice held a childlike quality. "You keep your promises don't you?"

"Yes, I keep them." He held his hand out and smiled as she began to move toward him. "My name is Alva Keel. What do I call you?"

"Magdalene." She finally stopped just inches from him, all the while looking around for some unseen assailant.

"All right Magdalene, do you have a last name?" She shook her head slowly as he carefully reached to pull the jacket tighter around her shoulders. "The Magdalene it is." He held out his hand and waited patiently till she took it in her own. "Now, what do you say we get you somewhere safe so we can talk." She nodded softly as she stared at him. "Good, that's a start at least." Looking around to get his bearings, Alva placed his arm around her shoulder softy. "It's not far away. You'll be warm and safe, okay?" He began to steer the woman back toward SQ, talking to her softly as they walked. "Do you coffee?" She nodded again, looking at him with wide blue eyes. "Good, I'll make a fresh pot when we get inside."

#####

"Are you warm enough Magdalene?" Alva asked as he watched the woman sipping slowly. She nodded over the steam and offered him the closest thing to a smile he had seen since their first meeting. "Good." Carefully not to startle her, he sat next to her on the sofa with a blanket. Placing it over her legs, he found more scrapes and bruises and hoped he was hiding the growing frown that threatened to emerge. "Magdalene, I want to call a friend of mine." He could see her eyes widen in terror as the cup in her hand began to shake. "It's all right, she's just a good friend, and she might have something you can wear. That's all. She won't hurt you, I promise." He watched her slowly calm a bit. "You sit right there and I'll call her. Okay?"

"No police, remember? You promised." The words were a whisper.

"I remember, no police." He lifted the receiver to his ear as he heard the phone ringing. "Evelyn...yes, I'm still downstairs, but that's not why I'm calling you." He waited a moment as Evelyn chided him. "Evie, I know I'm not superman. Look could I get you to do me a favor?" He paused and smiled at the young woman who watched him suspiciously. "Would you mind coming over with some old clothes you wouldn't mind giving up?" He waited then added quickly. "I know it's late, but this is really important. I can explain everything when you get here." Finally he nodded absently. "Thank you Evelyn I owe you one." Replacing the receiver, Alva carefully sat next to her. "See? No police. Just one of my friends."

"She won't hurt me?" She asked timidly.

"She is very kind. I think you will like her." As he spoke, he watched Magdalene stifle a yawn. "It's all right. You're safe here." Standing, he took the cup from her hand and placed a sofa pillow behind her head. "Just rest until Evelyn gets here. I'll watch over you." As he reached for the blanket, he was almost knocked off his feet when she suddenly flung herself into his arms, crying uncontrollably. "Shhh." He found himself stroking her back carefully. "Don't cry, you're going to be just fine."

"No I won't. He'll find me and he'll hurt me again. He wants to kill me." She cried harder. "Then he'll try to hurt you because you're trying to help me."

"No one is going to hurt me or you Magdalene." He found himself wrapping his arms around her small frame and hugging her tightly. "Just close your eyes and rest. For now you can sleep and know you're protected from all harm." He rocked her body softy, humming in her ear as he felt her relax and slowly fall into a deep slumber. Careful not to disturb her, he gently laid her on the sofa and stood, making sure the blanket covered her slim frame. "I don't know who did this to you, but I won't let anyone harm you ever again. That I swear to you.'

#####

"What's going on Alva?" Evelyn handed Alva a bag filled with clothes then followed him into the main room he live in, above the SQ offices. She could see the young woman sleeping fitfully on the sofa. "Who is she? Wha..."

"Shhh, you'll wake her Evie." Alva reached back and locked the door then began to lead Evelyn farther into the room. "I was out for a walk. Not really heading for any particular destination, when she seemed to just appear and begged me for help." Taking a dress out of the bag he looked at it critically then at the sleeping woman. "This should fit, might be a bit long, I think you are taller than she is."

"Did you call the police?" Evelyn started at the woman then at Alva, knowing his answer from his eyes. "Alva?"

"Evie, I tried. The moment I said anything about calling the police she started to run away. I couldn't let her do that." He calmed himself as his voice became louder. "Look, I know I should have, but she's been hurt. I don't know who she is or where she came from but I couldn't turn her away. I had to help her."

"Is that your friend?" The small voice caught both their attentions. Evelyn watched as Alva moved toward the woman who was now sleepily sitting up, staring at them. "She's not from the police, is she?"

"No, I promised you no police." Alva smiled and sat softly next to her. "I always keep my promises."

"Alva tells me your name is Magdalene?" Evie was rewarded with a slight nod. "My name is Evelyn Santos. I'm the friend that Alva called. I brought you some clothes."

"You're the one he was talking to on the phone." Magdalene frowned as she moved closer to Alva. "Not the police."

"Yes, he talked to me on the phone. I'm not from the police. He didn't lie to you." As she moved closer, Evelyn could see the dark marks around the woman's neck and wrists. Swallowing her shock, Evelyn smiled softly. "I can help you clean up and try on some of the things I brought. Would you like that?"

"Alva?" Magdalene stared in fright.

"She's safe. Evie won't hurt you." Alva nodded softly as Evelyn extended her hand toward Magdalene. "Go on, I'll make another pot of coffee while I wait." He watched the woman stand carefully and take Evelyn's hand, walking slowly toward the bathroom. Once he was finally alone, he let out a deep audible sigh and ran shaking fingers through his dark hair. Knowing his knees would not hold him, Alva continued to sit on the sofa and stared at the closed door.

"Keel, what is your problem?" He muttered angrily to himself. "Call the police. Let them sort this out." For a second, his hand moved toward the phone. As his fingers touched the cold plastic, he stopped. "They won't understand." He bent forward repeating the words Magdalene had said. "They won't understand." Resting his elbows on his knees, he just held his hands in both confusion and exhaustion.

#####

"Evelyn?" Alva looked up as the woman walked slowly back toward him, arms crossed, with a stern worried look on her face. "How is she?"

"She..." Evelyn kept her voice low. "Is taking a shower." Her eyes narrowed in both anger and disgust. "Alva we have to get the police involved. "She is covered from head to foot with bruises, cuts and God knows what else."

"No police. I promised her." Evelyn opening her mouth to protest, but seeing Alva glare, decided that nothing she could say would change his mind. "Look, give me some time with her. I'll try to convince her it would be in her best interest to talk to them. But I make no promises. If she insists she does not want to talk to the police I will not force her and neither will you. Is that understood."

"I guess it will have to do." Breathing deeply she glanced toward the bathroom. "Something horrible has happened to her and I don't know if you or I have the ability to reach and help her."

"I, for one will do everything to try to do just that Evie. But I need her trust." Alva moved around Evelyn, toward the door that stood open. "I will not fail her Evelyn. Not this time."

"This time?" Evelyn questioned, causing Alva to swing around and stare at her hard. "You said 'this time'. What did you mean?"

"Nothing." Alva shook his head as he looked down. "I can take it from here Evie. Go home."

"But..."

"Go home Evelyn!" His voice was harsher than he intended it to be. He tried to smile but his eyes were still full of anger. "I'll call you if I need anything else."

"Be careful Alva." She placed her hand on his shoulder softly and felt him recoil. "I'll see you tomorrow." Feeling suddenly like she didn't belong, Evelyn slowly left the room, fighting the sudden urge to grab Alva and run with him. She didn't wait for Alva, who was now staring away from her, to say anything. Shaking a sudden chill away, Evelyn turned and left Alva and the strange woman alone.

"Tomorrow." Alva whispered as he glanced absently at the woman who was already closing the door behind her, then toward the small room where he could still hear the shower running. "Magdalene? Are you all right in there?" Without thinking he found himself walking toward the sound of the woman humming to herself.