She wasn't your usual run-of-the-mill street waif, there was something subtly different about her. Firstly, he realised, it was the fact she was wearing a skirt, rather than the ubiquitous jeans. He could see that although her clothes were dirty, they had originally been of good quality, not the cheap stuff from Asda or Tesco, but middle of the range; Marks and Spencers perhaps. Her blouse had once been white, her ragged blue jacket, and the quality of her other clothes, pointed to another existence beyond the steel bench she occupied on the pedestrian area. He didn't often come to the city, mostly because there was no need, he could usually find everything he needed within ten minutes of home. It just so happened though, that today he had an appointment with his publisher, only the city would do, and for once it was bathed in sunshine rather than grey drizzle. Now his business was finished and he was heading for the van, and on his way home, or he had been. Still intrigued by the girl on the bench, he sat on his mobility scooter and lit a cigarette, taking the opportunity to observe her. A much less subtle difference from the usual street waif, other than her clothes, was the fact that she was sobbing as if her heart would break, a bleak and tormented island in a sea of uncaring humanity.
He saw a woman look at her, and make half a move towards her, only to be dragged away by the man at her side. Her husband he guessed. He saw the girl lean forward, her face on her forearms, her chest on her legs, as if the weight of the world was pressing her down, crushing her into the unforgiving steel and concrete of the city. Tears sprang to his eyes and rolled down his cheeks to be absorbed by his beard. He empathised with her pain, an emotional pain far greater than the physical pain he so carefully controlled with drugs. Somehow he had to reach out to this girl. Pinching out the half smoked cigarette and replacing it in the packet, he rolled his buggy in front of her, blocking off her direct line of escape, but leaving room for her to go if she really wished. She never noticed his almost silent approach, she started in shock as he grasped her hand and she looked up into his face, her eyes wide and filled with terror. He couldn't tell if it was the sight of his empathetic tears, his gentle grasp of her hand, or his face that held her, but she didn't immediately bolt for freedom.
'Peace little one, I promise you I won't hurt you, and if I can, I'll help.' He squeezed her hand gently, 'If you want to run I won't stop you, but I hope you can stay and tell me why you're in such a state.'
He spoke quietly, intensely, looking deep into her green eyes as he tried to convince her they were the only two people on that street. He tried to radiate feelings of safety, compassion, love even. Her eyes searched his in return, and whatever she was looking for she must have found it, she started to relax. She looked down at her hand as it lay in his much larger, rougher, paw. She felt the warmth. Her view expanded to take in the disability scooter and the portly frame of its occupant, and then ended at the face. His face was framed by a full white beard, neatly trimmed; his lips were curved in a slight smile. He wore glasses, but the eyes behind them were blue, and seemed to look inside her mind in a kindly way; searching for her soul. He looked like Santa Claus in a leather trilby hat.
'My name's Jon.' His other hand came across to hers, not to grip, but to start stroking the back of her hand gently, 'Tell me what you're running away from. Tell me how I can help you.'
She searched his face, seeing nothing but compassion, she took the plunge, 'They hurt me... '
'Who hurt you little one?'
'My stepfather and his son, they raped me... ' She broke down again into agonised sobs that tore at his heart. In the pit of his stomach anger started to burn.
'Yesterday, a ... after th ... the f ... funeral, they locked me in a shed.' Tears rolled down her cheeks and dripped onto their joined hands.
'Whose funeral?' His heart was breaking, intuitively he knew what was coming, and it came with the inevitability of an earthquake.
'My mother's... ' She whispered.
The anger in his stomach blossomed into a burning rage, 'Have you told the police?'
'I ... I ... d ... daren't, it's my word against theirs, and my stepfather's a county councillor. He's on the police committee.' Even through what little contact she had with his hand, she could feel his rage. She looked at his eyes again, and they seemed to have turned a darker blue.
'How badly are you hurt?'
'I'm bleeding ... f ... from my ... v ... vagina ... I ... d ... daren't get up, my skirt's soiled with blood... '
'Are they likely to be looking for you?'
'They'll find out I'm gone in about an hour, then they'll start looking.'
'Then we have to get you away.' He squeezed her hand gently, 'I know it's asking a lot after everything that you've been through, but can you trust a stranger? I won't hurt you I promise. In fact I can't hurt you the way those animals have.' She saw a look of pain and loss flash across his face, 'But I can help you, are you willing to give it a try?'
'I ... c ... can't m ... move, everyone will see the blood on my skirt.'
'Can you walk if we can cover your skirt?'
'Y ... yes, I don't know how far though, I'm really, really sore.'
Jon got off his buggy and opened the box bolted on the back of the seat, he drew out a fleece jacket. He closed the box and handed the jacket to the girl. 'Tie this round your waist, that'll hide the back of your skirt. It's not far to my van, I'll take you to my home, and we'll get you sorted. Trust me little one, I promise I won't hurt you. What's your name?'
She looked into his eyes again and saw truth, 'I trust you Jon. My name's Felicia, my friends call me Fliss.' She pulled the arms of the fleece around her waist and knotted them. It was enormous on her tiny frame, almost big enough to cover her skirt completely, and hanging down to mid-calf.
It was obvious to Jon from the start that Fliss wasn't going to be able to walk far. She hissed with pain as she stood, and every step seemed to be an exercise in agony. Jon reached under his seat on the buggy and pulled a lever allowing the seat to slide back.
'You're going to have to sit on my knee Fliss, this thing's designed to carry nearly two hundred and thirty kilos, so it should cope with both of us with no problem. If anyone asks, you're my great niece, you've twisted your ankle, and we're only taking you to the car. It's not far though; it's parked in the next street.'
Fliss stepped onto the buggy deck and settled herself on Jon's knee, struggling to find a position that didn't cause her more pain, smoothly they rolled down the crowded street, an incongruous looking couple, a portly old man and a small teenage girl riding an electric scooter, but as usual, nobody took any notice. Fliss felt Jon's arm behind her as she perched on his lap, and for the first time in weeks she felt safe. The warmth from his leg beneath her seemed to ease the soreness in her loins. Tension drained from her slight frame, and Jon felt her relax all her weight onto his thigh. She laid her head against his shoulder and whispered, 'I trust you Jon, I trust you with my life.' She sobbed quietly against his shirt. She didn't see the tears streaming down his face.
Within a few minutes, Jon pulled his scooter up behind a van. It was a Ford Transit, but unlike most vans, there were no double doors at the rear, just a single one that looked as if it opened like a tailgate. That proved to be true. Jon pressed a key fob to unlock the vehicle, then pulled a remote control from a small compartment on the scooter. He pressed a button and the rear door started to lift. It wasn't the fact that the van was customised that drew Fliss' attention though, it was the fantastic airbrush designs that illustrated it. Fantastic creatures crawled around it, sometimes treading on human skulls, often held at bay by heroes, and heroines, with swords.
The tailgate reached maximum height, and a tail lift started to extrude from the load space. Fliss made to stand up, but a quick squeeze from Jon's arm held her in place. Once the tail lift was on the ground, Jon drove the scooter onto it. Another press of the button, a kick from the van's suspension, and it lifted smoothly until it was level with the load space floor. Jon drove the scooter inside, the tail lift folded in behind, and the rear door closed. The interior of the van was boarded out, but there was an extra row of seats behind the seats in the cab, like a crew cab, obviously accessed via a side door, and with windows either side. There was space between the seats to allow access from the rear to the cab, and carpeting in the load space that matched that in the rest of the van; it was luxuriously finished.
Jon urged Fliss to get off the buggy and go to sit in the passenger seat. He pulled a couple of straps across and secured the buggy for travel, pushed a plug into the scooter's recharge socket, then followed Fliss to the front of the van, and dropped into the driver's seat. He was panting for breath. His breathing settled down and he took a couple of blasts from an inhaler before starting up the engine. He didn't drive off immediately; he turned slightly in his seat and looked at Fliss.
'You do realise they're going to have to be punished, your stepfather and his son, they're going to have to pay?'
'I don't know how. He has too many contacts; too many fingers in too many pies.'
'He can't get away from me Fliss, he may be able to escape the law, but I can assure you he won't escape justice!' There was a quiet certainty to Jon's words that sent a shiver down Fliss' spine. Suddenly she was glad she wasn't in her stepfather's place.
'I know it's not the sort of thing one should ask a lady, Fliss, but how old are you?'
'Good, we aren't going to have any worries about custody of minors, or problems with Social Services. As an adult, you can go where you like and do what you want. Let's get you home and find someone to attend to your hurts.' Jon turned in his seat, buckled up his seatbelt, and started the engine.
Thirty minutes later, Jon pressed a button on the dashboard of the van, then briefly stopped before a pair of gates that were sliding open. Once through the gates they followed a well paved drive for about a kilometre. At the end of the drive was a paved courtyard in front of a single story house which appeared to be made entirely of mirrored glass, and appeared to be built against the side of a hill. To the left of the house was a large garage, and Fliss was unsurprised to see one of the doors opening as they approached, allowing Jon to drive the van straight in. He set the parking brake, then climbed out. Fliss opened the passenger door and made to leave the cab, but groaned in pain before she could reach the step. By that time Jon had reached her side, he reached in and lifted her from the seat.
'I may not be able to walk very well, but I'm strong enough to lift a little pixie like you!' He grinned at her, revealing coffee coloured teeth, stained by many years of smoking and coffee drinking. 'Do you think you can walk into the house? I can lift you, but I can't carry you.'
'Yes, I ... I think so, the pain's eased a little now. I think it's with being able to relax in the van.'
Jon bent and picked up a power lead from the floor, plugging it into a socket on the side of the van. 'Come on sweetie, take your time and we'll get you sorted.'
He led the way into a largish laundry room and paused for a moment. 'Take the fleece off sweetie, and chuck it on the top of that basket. Now I hope you'll take this the right way, but I'm going to suggest you leave your skirt here as well. I can't provide you with a replacement skirt, but I have a tee shirt that should fit you like a mini dress and keep you decent. I hesitate to ask, but have you got panties on?'
Tears started leaking again from Fliss' eyes, 'No, no panties, ' she whispered, 'According to the arse wipe and his bastard son, that was just a quick taster 'cos they had to go out. They said they were going to do a proper job today. If I hadn't been able to escape I'd have killed myself.'
Jon turned his back and dug into a pile of clean laundry. Finding the shirt he wanted he turned to hand it to Fliss. Whilst his back was turned she'd dropped the skirt and removed the blouse, standing there dressed in nothing but a brassiere. Jon gasped. Her ribs and abdomen were almost black with bruising, and her legs were bloodstained to her knees. Her thighs were bruised with what looked like hand prints, each finger a separate bruise. She slid off her bra and revealed her tiny breasts covered in bite marks.
'Oh my darling, what have they done to you... '
Fliss wailed like a lost soul and dropped to her knees. Jon quickly moved to her side and lifted her back to her feet. Ignoring her nudity he folded her into his arms, wishing he could absorb the pain and take it away from her. The rage flared inside him again, burning white hot.
Gently, he eased her from the laundry room into a vast kitchen, easing her into a padded chair at the scrubbed pine table. 'Can you sit comfortably sweetie, or would you rather lie down? I know you'd be better off in bed, but we really need to get some fluids into you, maybe some soup or something too, you've lost a lot of blood. I think we're going to need an expert opinion on this.' As he spoke he gently covered her with the tee shirt, lifting her to her feet to allow it to cover her completely. Although it fell past her knees, it was so big on her that the shoulders were halfway down her arms. Luckily it was a crew neck, so it didn't drop off her shoulders altogether.
'Don't take me to hospital Jon, ' she started to shake, 'They'll find me if I go there!'
'No problem Fliss, I have a couple of friends who'll come and look at you. They'll make sure you're looked after properly, and you won't need to leave the house. Now, would you like a cup of tea or coffee, or would you rather have a soft drink?'
'I'm sure a soft drink would be better for me, I probably need the sugar, but I'd much rather have a cup of 'Coffee, white with two sugars please.'
Jon filled the electric kettle, switched it on, and pulled mugs from a cupboard, spooning coffee, and sugar into one, and coffee and sweeteners into the other. As he worked he pondered the girl's reactions, the way she swung between despair and normalcy; one minute wailing like a lost soul, the next asking for coffee as if she were in a cafe.
'Only instant I'm afraid, personally I'm not very fond of ground coffee, but I drink this Gold Blend stuff by the gallon.'
Pulling a jug of milk from the refrigerator, Jon topped off the two mugs and put them on the table, grabbed a cordless phone from it's charger on the worktop, then came to the table to sit down opposite Fliss. Jon dialled a number from the phone's address book, switched the phone to speaker mode, and placed it on the table. After three or four rings a female voice answered, 'Hello?'
'Hi Sandy, it's Jon.'
'Oh, hi Jon, how are you, you old tosser?'
'I'm fine Sandy, but I need your help, how about getting your fat arse over to the house as soon as you can?'
Sandy's tone changed, becoming serious, 'What's up Jon?'
'I have a young lady here who's been raped, she's in a bit of a mess, but there are reasons she can't go and see Mandy at work. You're on speaker by the way, so she's listening. What shift is Mandy on?'
'Oh you poor darling, we'll both be there in ten minutes!' Sandy rang off.
Jon hung up and smiled as he looked up at Fliss, 'It's nice to have good friends with the skills you need, Sandy's a nurse, and Mandy's a surgeon in A&E. They're also good friends of mine and will be discrete. Now, what's your stepfather's name, apart from arse wipe of course, and what's the name of his bastard son?'
'Gordon Atherston and Robert Atherston, though mostly he's called Bobby.'
Jon picked up the phone again, and dialled out using a preset. This time he didn't switch the speaker on, 'Hi Tony, it's Jon, Gordon Atherston, what do you know about him, and what can you find out? ... As bad as that eh? ... Everything, especially anything bad ... I want to crucify the bastard, that's why! ... Great, can you put a rush on it for me? ... I'll tell you more when I see you, but we do this one on the "Gods Principle", you know, "Those whom the gods will destroy, they first drive mad". He's got a son too, Robert, or Bobby, so anything you can get on him will be a bonus, I think he'll have to be dealt with a bit more directly, I think he's going to have to learn to walk again, but that's the least of his problems. Thanks Tony, cheers mate.' Jon hung up.
Before he could make any other calls there was a muted beep from a console on the worktop. Jon looked out of the window to see who was entering the drive, ' Ah! Sandy and Mandy are here Fliss, we can get you looked at and see what the damage is.'
'Will it be OK? I'm scared!' Fliss was gripping her mug so hard her knuckles were turning white.
'It'll be fine sweetie, like I said, Sandy is a theatre nurse, and Mandy's a general surgeon.' Jon chuckled.
Without knocking, Sandy and Mandy entered through the garage's personnel door and came into the kitchen by the same route Jon and Fliss had followed half an hour earlier. Fliss could hear the sound of voices from the laundry room and was watching the door expectantly. Whatever she'd expected it wasn't the vision of loveliness that walked into the kitchen, with bright copper hair and freckles, she looked little older than herself. The woman walked up to Jon and kissed him soundly. The second woman was equally beautiful, though slightly more heavily built with blonde hair, and she repeated the greeting. Both the women were carrying instrument cases, and the second one, a back-pack
'Fliss, this is Mandy, she's a surgeon so we can't call her doctor, ' he said smiling, 'And the young lady behind her is Sandy, she's a qualified theatre nurse.' Jon's visage became grim as he turned to the new arrivals, 'Ladies, this is Fliss, and she needs your help really badly. I've not even tried to clean her up. There are reasons she can't go to the police or to A&E, so we need to keep a lid on it. I'd like you to see if there's any semen left in her that we can get DNA tested. She was raped yesterday evening.'
'You know it won't be admissible in court don't you?'
'This case isn't going to court Mandy, I'll be handling this one.' Sandy paled at the tone of Jon's voice.
Sandy moved around the table, pulled a chair close to Fliss and took her in her arms, tears in her eyes. Fliss leaned into her for comfort, sensing the compassion of the two women.
Mandy was thinking ahead, 'I hate to say this, you old fart, but I think this table is going to be the best place to look at Fliss' problems. There's much more light than there is in the bedrooms, and it's much easier than working on a bed.' She looked at Fliss' startled face as she glanced at the huge windows, 'Don't worry Fliss, the widows are one-way glass, nobody can see in!'
Jon limped into the laundry room and returned with a pile of soft bath towels, 'Put these on the table then, that'll make it a bit more comfortable.'
Sandy got up and spread the towels on the table top, Jon went into the part of the house Fliss hadn't seen yet, and returned with a floor standing reading lamp with a cantilevered head. He grinned, 'Not quite up to hospital standards, but better than nothing.'
He plugged it in, then came back to the table and switched it on, the halogen bulb illuminating the end of the table with bright light, 'I'll leave you ladies to it then.'
Fliss grabbed his hand so hard he thought his knuckles were going to break, 'No Jon! Don't leave me please! I'm frightened!'
'Of course I won't leave you if you don't want me to Fliss; I was just trying to save you embarrassment, that's all.' He squeezed her hand gently.
'You've already seen me naked, so I'm not bothered, and I know I'm safe with Sandy and Mandy, but I just don't want you to go, please?'
'OK sweetie, I'll sit and hold your hand. You do realise though, that you're going to have to take that shirt off completely for Mandy to see all your bruising?'
'I know, but I still want you to stay.' Fliss stood with a wince and stripped the shirt off.
Even Mandy gasped when she saw the bruising, 'Jesus Christ! I've not seen anything that bad even on a Saturday night!
She opened the case she'd carried in with her and took out a pair of surgical gloves, palpating the bruising on Fliss' ribs to see if any were broken. Fliss winced, 'Sorry! I'll try not to hurt you sweetie, but I can't help it sometimes. At least I can't feel any cracked ribs; I can't detect any swelling in the abdomen either. You really ought to have x-rays and an MRI scan, but we'll just have to do the best we can. Jump up on the table and we'll have a look at your naughty bits... '
As Fliss struggled up onto the table, Jon pulled a chair up close to her waist. Sitting down he waited until Fliss was settled, then gripped her hand, both their elbows resting on the table, forearms together, and their joined hands up in the air. From this position Jon was looking up towards her face and could look into her eyes.
Sandy helped Fliss ease herself back onto the towels, folding another towel under her head as a pillow. Mandy first swung the light to her breasts to examine the bites, the nipples looked raw, 'I don't think the skin's been broken anywhere, so there's no reason to worry about infection up here, let's have a look at the other end. Can you get your heels up on the table sweetie? That's it; wide as you can. I'll try not to hurt you.'
Mandy ripped off the gloves she'd been using for the body examination, and pulled a pack of sterile gloves from he case. Sandy draped a towel over Fliss' chest and abdomen, then moved the light into the most effective position to illuminate her vulva. Whilst she was doing that, Mandy went to the sink and washed her hands carefully, she knew she couldn't maintain hospital standards, but she'd damned well do the best she could. Anticipating her needs as a good theatre nurse should, Sandy waited for her with a bottle of alcohol gel hand rub, and prepared to put Mandy's gloves on for her. Once Mandy was gloved up, Sandy got a stainless steel bowl from Jon's cupboard, and filled it half full with warm water.
Pulling a pack of swabs from her backpack, Sandy dipped them in the water and started washing Fliss' thighs. Mandy, murmured something to her, and Sandy took two long plastic tubes containing sample swabs from one of the cases, moving between Fliss legs, she pulled one of the swabs from the tube.
'Fliss, I'm just going to try and take a swab from inside you sweetie, I'll be as gentle as I can, but we daren't use a speculum 'cos we think you've been torn.'
Jon broke in, 'You do realise Fliss, these two perverts are bent as nine bob notes, and would pay good money to diddle with a girlie's privates.' Fliss winced and giggled, 'They've been on at me forever to find a nice boy so I can go DC too, but so far I've managed to withstand all their blandishments and maintain my innocence!' Fliss winced again through a giggle.
'OK Fliss, that's the swabs over with. Don't listen to anything that old fart tells you, he's been trying to get into our panties for a couple of decades now, we've had to fight like hell to keep him out!'
Mandy's voice was more serious, 'There's good news and bad news Fliss. The bad news is that you've definitely got a tear in your posterior vulva junction, that's where your vulva joins onto the perineum, that little bit between the playground and the sewage works. The good news is that you haven't been raped anally. I almost forgot the worst news though, we're going to have to stitch you up.'
Mandy came around the table to look down at her patient's face, 'In the scheme of things, it's not too serious, sweetie, but the problem is that to stitch you up I'm going to have to inject a local anaesthetic, it's going to hurt, but it'll hurt far less than the stitching would without it, and far less than the consequences of leaving you un-stitched. Just before I inject I'll say "sharp scratch", that's medic speak for this is going to hurt like fuck. Try and stay as still as you can though, gnaw Jon's arm off or something, I'll be as easy on you as I can.' Fliss gave her a watery smile.
'Sharp scratch!' Fliss squealed, gripping Jon's hand with almost bone crushing force.
'That's the worst over now chick, you might feel a bit of tugging and pulling as I stitch you up. As soon as I've finished Sandy will get you completely cleaned up.' Ten minutes later it was all over.
Fliss awoke in a pleasant room that was lighted by a translucent dome in the centre of the ceiling. Just the quality of the light told her it was daylight, but why was it coming from the ceiling instead of from a window she asked herself. By the time Mandy and Sandy had finished with her the previous evening, she'd been almost out of it. She barely remembered being carried to bed after a massive shot of antibiotics and painkiller. She was wearing the shirt Jon had given her when they'd arrived home yesterday. Her whole body felt stiff and sore, and there was a sharp tugging pain from the stitches at the back of her vulva. She lay in her bed thinking about yesterday, though her mind shied away from the actual rape. She hadn't been a virgin, so she was thankful for small mercies, but the feeling of those two animals rutting on her filled her with disgust.