Trouble Starts at Home; Pt 2

Julie Barnes ran up the stairs into her pad, all excited. Pete and Linc could always cheer her up. She opened the door, and then stopped in her tracks. It was her mother standing by the phone on her desk, and she had streaked mascara under her eyes.

"Mother?"

"Julie how could you?"

"How could I what? Why are you crying?"

"It's Chess! He's very upset about how you treated his brother after we left. I told you to get acquainted. The man is very shy, Julie! You made him feel as if he were some kind of leech, just because he was being friendly!"

"I can't talk about this now, Mother. Pete and Linc will be here soon."

"So I don't matter? Are you just going to destroy my chances with your rudeness and then go off and have a picnic?"

"I didn't do anything wrong! And I'd be careful to pin so much hopes on a man who has a brother like…"

The tears started up again, dotting her mother's face, and she approached her in a slow march.

"Julie, I raised you to be a lady" she was saying as she came. "And don't worry. It will only take a moment for you to apologize."

Julie's eyes widened as her mother walked right by her and opened the front door.

"Mother!" she gasped in dismay, but her mother was busy swiping at her make up with a tissue. And in seconds two men had come up from the street. There he stood, the man her mother was so eager for, and beside him was his brother. Julie tried to swallow a terrible taste in her mouth.

"Oh, Chess," her mother started in, "Julie was so sorry to hear about how your brother mistook her behavior this morning. She says she wants to apologize. It was all a misunderstanding, wasn't it honey?"

"I'm afraid I can't talk now," Julie said, putting on a fake smile. "At any rate, I certainly meant to be perfectly clear this morning. No misunderstanding intended."

"There, you see!"

The brother leaned over and had a murmuring conversation with Chess. And Chess nodded, holding out an elbow to Julie's mother. He looked bored, but ready enough to move onto his own business. He and her mother went to the door.

"We'll just leave you then, to talk it all out," her mother was saying. "You'll feel better once you do!"

But Julie wasn't stupid. Her mother had already pulled that trick on her once that day. Snatching her purse, and angling in an awkward maneuver, Julie slithered by her mother and exited the apartment house first.

"Oops! Excuse me, Mother!" she laughed, trying to cover up. "I just have to run to the supermarket for a few things. Call me in a few days and we'll talk!"

The smile she gave may have been more victory than courtesy, but she didn't care. It was worth it to avoid that man. Knowing the short cuts and corners on her street better than any stranger she tripped away and vanished. She had run away from her mother before.

Once she had accomplished the runaway her steps slowed. That was her home back there, and she had been chased away from it. It was her very first pad that she had worked for and decorated. Of all places, it should be a haven for her… Her mind, without bidding, returned to an earlier time, Pete, Linc and their first big case together. She had been attacked in her apartment that day. Her cover had been blown but she hadn't known it until her attacker had gone through her red snap wallet and found her cop ID taped to the mirror of her compact. He had beaten her, and if it hadn't been for Pete and Linc she didn't know how far that man would have gone. And yet she had overcome her memories of that fear. She was stronger than that, and she had proved it by living happy.

Standing tall, she nodded and turned and retraced her steps. She was a cop now, and she had good friends. She looked all around once her place came into sight but there were no cars parked nearby and no one on the street. She ran up the steps with relief. Opened her front door with caution and peeked inside.

But it was all right. There weren't a lot of places to hide in her studio, and she could see right to the back wall of the tiny kitchen from here. Shutting her door and turning the lock she went into the kitchen and pulled out the picnic basket. She had a packet of cold fried chicken in the fridge, and the bologna would make up into quick sandwiches. Just as she leaned into the refrigerator, wondering where she had hidden the pickles, she felt a draft on the back of her leg. She whipped around, hoping it was Pete or Linc standing there, sneaking one of the grapes.

But it wasn't them. It was that same cat from before, the brother of the man her mother was so enamored with. Leveling slowly Julie stared in his eyes. They were cold, and empty. The look a man gets when he intends to think of his own desires first; the look that Julie had seen before, too often. She didn't waste any time with words. She just opened the pickle jar and threw the vinegar juice right in his face.

In seconds she was away, running for the front door.

What was it about men that always made them so fast? Even an older, out of shape man like this could overcome his extra size and charge right past all of her defenses. She never made it to the door. His paw was a claw and it fit all the way around her upper arm. Using his other hand to backhand her she flew out of his grip, as the force of the blow threw her to the ground.

"Leave me alone!" she got out, but he was beyond words. Like an animal he came on, his eyes bulging with greed. She kicked, pushed, and even tried to bite, but soon he had taken hold and pulled her up towards his face. He tried to force a kiss but she flung her head to the side. He growled some kind of command, incoherent and inconsequential. And Julie, with tears now wetting her hair, screamed. Her kick had force, and she connected it with his shin. And then, while he reacted to that, she brought her knee up to his groin for good measure.

He 'oofed' and bent over, and she broke away. But again, with uncanny speed, he was back. His large body tackled them both down to the floor, with Julie on the bottom and his bulk too heavy to move under. His face was distorted, intense, and awful to see. This time when he tried to force a kiss, she couldn't quite get away from him.

His horrid squishy lips never made contact. His weight suddenly flew off her like he weighed no more than a child's balloon at the circus. The same adrenalin that men could snap into their systems and that had enabled him to catch Julie so fast was now running in Pete and Linc's veins. The back door stood wide open. Her friends must have tried to come in the front when they heard her scream and finding it locked, run around to the back to get in.

"Get off her!" Pete cried, and he delivered a punch that threw the man right into Julie's white bamboo sofa. She loved to see the way the wide silver ring on his finger connected. Out of the corner of her eye she saw a flash, it was Linc flying right off the floor of the loft, over her head and landing on the ogre in her living room. Her attacker stayed down. Linc was digging in the back pocket of his pure white jeans and pulling out some handcuffs. Then Pete scooped her up from the floor.

"Julie!" he shouted, taking her face in his hands. "Are you all right?"

She sniffed hard. Like before, her apartment had been, for a short time, a place of terror for her. But just like that other time, it was also her haven. Linc and Pete had come, and she wasn't alone.

"I'm fine now," she said, making her voice steady.

"I'll phone it in to the Captain," Linc said, sticking to business.

"And once that's taken care of, don't forget," Julie said, wiping her eyes and rubbing her sore cheek but coming up with a real smile.

"Don't forget what?" Pete said, humoring her while he pulled strands of long hair out of her eyes and set them behind her ear.

Julie sat up and included Linc in her smile.

"Don't forget we're going to have a picnic dinner by candlelight this evening, on my back deck! I'll provide the picnic, and Captain Greer is invited too!"