I knocked softly. No answer.
Tried a little louder.
The door cracked open. Same woman. Same dark eyes.
“Please let us in.”
We didn’t have to be members of the Screen Actors Guild to appear pitiful. A knot rising on my temple and Michelle’s face, were better than horror movie makeup.
After a moment looking us up and down, seeing Michelle’s ripped sweater, how she looked even worse than me, much worse really, the tenant eased the door shut, loosened the chain, and let us in.
She put a finger to her lips. Wasn’t like we needed to be told to keep quiet.
We sat in chairs from a cheap dinette set. Without asking if we wanted any, the woman poured two cups of tea from the little stove. I’d never been a big tea drinker, preferring coffee, but it hit the spot. She kindly fixed two ice bags for me. One for my jaw, the other for my head, which hurt like that old TV commercial with a little man inside the skull pounding the cranium with a hammer.
I listened for an ambulance or police. Official arrival would give us cover to search, but heard nothing. After a few minutes I decided they didn’t want cops or even EMTs in their pleasure palace. They would haul their wounded out themselves.
“Can you tell us what all is going on?” I asked.
She shook her head like she feared the flat was bugged. Maybe it was.
Michelle asked too, a little more insistent, but got no answer.
Wisely she didn’t tell our hostess she was a cop. That detail might have gotten us tossed right out.
We finished our tea in silence, both of us quiet in little shells. The Muslim woman sized up at Michelle’s torn sweater and mumbled, “Oh my.”
Our hostess went into her bedroom. While she rummaged in a drawer I whispered to the detective, “How the hell did you get here?”
“Followed you. I got suspicious when you didn’t answer your phone and saw the photo Special Branch sent on the kid.”
“Good work, Detective Sergeant.”
“No, bad work. I didn’t tell anyone I was here.”
Our host brought out a tee-shirt and gave it to Michelle. The cute little bra, worthless now, hung off her shoulders but served no supporting role, so she tossed it aside and pulled on the tee.
I asked her if she had a spare pair of jeans. She was taller than the detective, but she went into the bedroom and returned with a bleached pair, knees torn out stylishly for Michelle.
I was fishing in my wallet for money when someone banged on the door. A deep snarling voice demanded to be admitted. Our new friend stepped toward the noise and cracked her door, keeping the chain taut.
Through the muted conversation I realized she knew the intruder and was damn scared of him—and that we should be too.
She closed the door, signaling for us to duck into the small bedroom. As we squeezed between the bed and wall we heard her slide the chain and open the door.
The next sound we heard was a slap across the face and a yelp. Some of the words of emphasis—the modifying expletives—were snapped in Arabic, but I caught the gist of it. Honor seemed to be the operative word and the woman had apparently done something to offend the guy’s honor.
“I didn’t do anything with him. He—”
I heard a crash against the dinette set we’d been sitting at and figured he had thrown her. More sounds fists against flesh. I got to my feet.
Michelle grabbed my arm, shaking her head vigorously and mouthing no.
She was right. We had no business getting involved in their family dispute. I was in that hellhole to find my friend, but another smack told me the beating was getting serious. I shook Michelle off. I’d be damned if a woman who had helped us would get beaten to a pulp with me nearby doing nothing.
In a second I reached the bastard—bearded, my height, nearly two hundred pounds, soft belly, fleshy arms—the textbook image of a bully.
He turned, presenting a rich target of opportunity. I gave him a quick education—my fingers jammed into his sternal notch. A technique used by special forces everywhere.
The guy doubled over choking, sucking air. I stepped back, rotated, and took out a knee, dropping him to the floor. How much force? How bad to hurt the guy? I glanced at the woman.
She nodded, locked teeth saying, I hate the bastard.
We couldn’t continue our search, if I left him conscious and able to summon help. So her consent let me dial it up. The guy didn’t know squat about real fighting beyond beating up women. He struggled half-way up, weight on the good leg, and presented his face—shock and fear registered on it—right in my wheelhouse.
I sensed Michelle behind me, but ignored her. I kicked him in the face, spraying blood from his nose. He landed flat on his ass. The two female spectators watched open-mouthed at the power of my blow. I’d demonstrated to Michelle what I could do with enough room against an untrained asshole.
Without seeking permission I circled around and kicked him in the head. I doubt I killed him—I held back some—but frankly didn’t give a shit if I had. Payback for my lashes, our new buddy’s beating and Michelle’s near rape—as far as I was concerned they were all in it together.
“Do you have somewhere you can go?” I asked the Muslim woman.
“Yes, I was leaving anyway. He is my cousin. I have a . . . friend.”
She started gathering up some belongings, then brought Michelle some sandals.
“Thank you again.”
“If they come back, you must tell them you broke in.”
“Sure.” I said.
I would have agreed to convert to Islam to get a chance to rest and hide for a while, but if they were moving the operation we needed to get going.
“You will find some girls in Clapham. Near the common. This is only part . . . they take, uh, customers there. Not here.”
The third novel in the Kristen Kerry Novels Of Suspense "Justice Bought Dear" will be available in 2018. Stay tuned for the release information and book signing dates.
Steve E Clark as seen in the New York Times is Author of Justice Is for the Lonely and Justice Is for the Deserving, Kristen Kerry Novels Of Suspense. You can purchase his books via SteveClarkAuthor.com/BuyBook or request it at your local book store. Want to know more about Steve Clark, read more reviews or speak directly with Steve? Learn more about Steve at SteveClarkAuthor.com