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Lightning Never Strikes Twice
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Author:

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Cert:
Ken Orford

Modern Fiction

15



“So, how’s your mum then?”

Julie sighed and looked down her drink with a slight shrug and shake of her head. Her shoulder length blonde hair shimmered with the movement.

“Oh, pretty much the same. In fact, exactly the same.”

“Christ, that must be really tough. How long’s it been now?”

“Six years now. I was twelve.”

Julie looked her friend and forced a smile. She sighed again as she looked round the pub. It was gone nine, and it was starting to get quite busy. It wasn’t a bad local really: decent atmosphere, friendly and within staggering distance of home. Not that she was a heavy drinker, or indeed a frequent visitor to the pub. She sipped her drink:

“She’s never been out of the house in the dark in all that time. And even in the daytime someone has to go with her.”

Susy looked sympathetically at her best friend and wondered again what it must be like to be that afraid.

“It must have been tough on you…”

The shrug and forced smile came out again.

“I guess the worst part was the emotional strain of knowing mum wasn’t well. But at times it was just the disruption – you know, not being able to go to my club evenings and to competitions. The coaches were all great and helped, but it was tough.”

Susy remembered her friend’s great passion:

“Have you kept it up?”

The look in response was a typical “Is the pope a catholic?” look.

“Course I have. I’ve got my Level One coach certificate now.”

“That’s brilliant! But did you ever find out why your mum changed? Did anything happen to trigger it? She always seemed so … you know.” Susy shrugged, “So, normal.”

Julie nodded slowly and echoed the shrug, and then looked down again at her drink.

When you’ve been best friends with someone since you were both in Infants’ School then you know when they are hiding something. You know when there’s something they want to tell you but aren’t quite ready. Susy knew, but didn’t say anything, and didn’t even let her body language betray her. She just reached over and squeezed Julie’s hand. In response her friend looked at her and smiled, and nodded an unspoken “thank you”. After a brief pause, Susy decided it was time to change the subject. She looked around the pub:

“God, there’s not much talent in here is there?”

Glancing up in response, Julie said that the Rose and Crown was supposed to be the current in place. She noticed a few people she knew though, a bloke from up the road smiled at her in recognition, and the Jefferson’s from round the corner seemed to be having an argument of some sort a few tables away. Then she noticed a big, heavyset man looking at her. His head was shaved and he was wearing jeans and a grubby looking T shirt. His gaze was fixed on her. Well, to be precise it was fixed on her legs.

She locked her eyes on his as she slowly reached for the hem of her skirt and pulled it down and crossed her legs, minimising the amount of visible thigh. Then she tilted her head and gave him a “so what are you looking at?” look. She knew she had good legs, and a pretty good body – something in the genes from her mum. She was always flattered when people, especially fanciable guys, cast admiring looks at them. But not the way he was. There was something unsettling in his stare. His face broke into a smile that was more of a sneer, as he turned back to the bar, and his muscular, tattooed arms grabbed hold of his pint.

 The two friends talked about Susy’s first term at Uni and about life on a campus. Julie had got better A2’s but had elected to get a job so she could stay close to her mother.  As they put on their coats and stepped into the chilly December air, they didn’t notice the man leave the pub behind them, keeping pace with them, but at a distance.

As they walked the short distance to their homes, they could see their misty breath in the cold night air. Susy brought up the subject of Julie’s mum again , and asked if she had ever tried to get help.

“Nope. Every time I suggested it, she just said she would deal with it and she’d be okay.”

“And she’s never given you a hint about what started it?”

Julie tightened her scarf round her neck against the chill, and stared at her boots. Then she stopped and looked up at her friend.

“She was attacked.”

Susy’s mouth turned into a dark oval as she echoed the last word. Her face turned into a frown asking the obvious question.

“I don’t know who it was, but I do know she is absolutely terrified. You have no idea of what it took to get her to tell me.”

“Oh God.” Susy moved to hug her friend, and squeezed her. “But why didn’t she go to the police? What happened?”

Julie’s small voice seemed to pierce the quiet night as she relayed what she’d learned. The click of their heels on the pavement was the only other sound. She told of how her mother had been walking home from the station, just a few months after Julie’s father had left. She hadn’t gotten out much because at twelve, Julie still needed a baby sitter. Only a few yards from home, she had been grabbed from behind with a hand over her mouth, and a knife held to her throat. The man had told her he would kill her if she screamed. He had then dragged her off and raped her. When it was over he told her to remember…”I know where you live. I know where that little girl of yours goes to school. If you go to the police then I will kill her, and make you watch as I do.”

“So she never told anyone until she told me a year ago. But she is petrified that it will happen again, or that he will kill her. That’s why she won’t go out at night.”

By this time they had reached the corner where Susy’s house was, Julie’s was just another hundred yards or so further on.

“Do you want me to get dad to walk you the rest of the way?”

Julie smiled and shook her head:

“No, it’s okay. You know what they say .. Lightning never strikes twice…”

As Susy gave her another hug she said for Julie to remind her about GCSE physics the next time they met, especially the bit about why buildings have lightning conductors.

Behind them, the man had also stopped and had hid behind a bush until he saw the friends part and one of the girls go into a house, and the other girl move off. He set off and picked up his pace.

Julie hunched up her shoulders as she walked the last few tens of metres to her home. She felt in her pocket for the two plastic strips she had carried everywhere for the past eighteen months. But as the house got closer, she sighed. It looks like tonight will end up another disappointing night.

The sound behind her was so faint that she hardly heard it. Adrenaline flooded her bloodstream and she started in a run towards the beacon of her hallway light shining through her front door. But he was quicker. She felt the hand round her mouth. Dammit, why didn’t I scream when I had the chance? There was a shooting pain in her neck as he yanked her sideways into a driveway. She stumbled but he now had two hands holding her. The hand covering her mouth smelled of soap. Of all the things to think about when you’re about to get raped! Come on girl, think! But his other arm was round her waist and pinned her arms. That was the hand with the Kitchen Devil knife in it. He started to drag her.

Your heels! Use your heels! She tried to kick back at his shins, but he was moving too fast and she just ended up stumbling and making the situation worse.

“My, my! Aren’t we the feisty one! Well you’re putting up more of a fight than your mother did!”

Julie stopped struggling. Okay, this is it. Thoughts of panic and fear gave way to one thought – Payback time. At some point he’s got to loosen his grip if he’s going to get you on your back. Gather your breath. Be patient. The dark night went darker as he dragged her into a large garden shed. His hands still had her in a vice.

 “Right! This is how it’s going to work.” She could smell the beer on his breath as he whispered close to her ear.  “I don’t want to hurt you, but I will if I have to. I have a knife, and I will use it. I will give you the same options I gave your mother. If you take your first option, to scream, it means you will die. Your other option is to go with the flow.” He kissed her ear and bit the lobe. Julie winced. “You never know, you may like it.”

They shuffled a few more feet into the shed and Julie could see a grubby looking mattress on the floor.

“So, are you going to scream?”

With his hand still tightly over her mouth, she was just about able to shake her head.

“Clever girl. Very sensible.”

He started to relax his grip on her mouth. Julie could tell he was ready to react if she screamed. She didn’t. So, he slowly eased the pressure on her arms, making sure she could see the glinting, evil blade of the knife.

“Right! Very good. Now, unbutton your coat.” She did as she was told and let it drop to the floor.

“Turn round, and let’s see if your body’s as nice as...”

Julie had never heard the noise a nose makes when it’s being broken. But at that moment, as her elbow crashed into the middle of his face, she thought it was the most satisfying thing she’d ever heard. She spun round. There was blood everywhere.

“You bitch! You’b broked by do..”

She held nothing back in the kick to his groin. Ten years training to be a Karate black belt ensured he went down like a sack of potatoes. He was doubled up in a foetal position, kneeling on the floor. His hands moving from his nose to his groin. Julie heard him whimper. But she hadn’t finished yet. The knife had fallen from his hands. She kicked it away then grabbed her coat and took out the two cable ties. She kicked him again. This time in the back so he went down on his front. The whimpering got louder.

She started to speak as she knelt astride him, pulling his hands round his back and zipping up the first tie round his wrists.

“You have made my mother’s life hell, and now it’s time for you to suffer.”

She gave the cable tie another tug, their neighbour grunted in pain as it dug into his skin. She now had her knee in the small of his back. She got the other tie and tightened that – taking no chances. The blood started to trickle around where the plastic had dug into his forearm.

“I knew it had to be somebody that lived near us because when you threatened my mum you knew about me. Then when I saw you smile at me in the pub, I thought it may be you.”

She pulled him to his feet. He hung his head, refusing to make eye contact. Julie snorted in disgust, picked up the knife and held it to his throat, forcing him to look up.

“Not so arrogant now are we?” The knife pierced his skin and he whimpered again. “Come on, we’ve a visit to make.”

As she dragged him the few yards to her house, she told him how she had planned this for months, Hoping that the rapist would try and attack her. Her friends thought her obsession with Karate was because she liked winning, but it was the thought of meeting her mother’s attacker that spurred her on to be a black belt.

As she let herself in the front door, she heard mum shout out if it was Julie, saying she had been worried.

Julie announced it was her and that she’d brought a friend home. As she walked into the living room with her prisoner, her mum let out a squeal, and started to retreat to the kitchen. Her eyes were wide, and her mouth was moving but nothing was coming out.

“It’s okay mum. He can’t hurt us any more.”

Julie stepped in front of him, and for the second time used her elbow. This time it was a couple of ribs she felt crack. The rapist was now sobbing in a heap on the floor.

“Mum, he gave you two options before, I think we have two now.” She handed the knife to her mother, and knelt down unbuckling his belt and pulling down his jeans and boxers.

“Option one, we hand him over to the police. Option two, we make sure he can never rape anyone else again, then hand him over to the police.”

***

Epilogue:

Julie’s mum’s trip to the Police Station that night was the first time she had been out in the dark for over six years. It marked the end of her being a prisoner in her own home. The news of his arrest brought forward two other neighbourhood women who had been raped and terrorised by him. There was DNA evidence on the mattress that suggested there were at least two other victims who still remain unidentified. Following his medical examination at the Police Station, the doctor was alarmed to find he had a broken nose, three broken ribs, damage to his left testicle and the word RAPIST carved into his penis.



© Ken Orford, 2009





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