(If you’re here for the first time check out excerpts 1-27 in earlier Blogs )
Without warning an arm went around her throat like a vice. All at the same time, she was choking and struggling, and being dragged backwards towards the dumpsters at the back of the building.
Without warning an arm went around her throat like a vice. All at the same time, she was choking and struggling, and being dragged backwards towards the dumpsters at the back of the building. It took a second to go from disbelief to the realization that she was under attack. She tried to scream but the arm was also covering her mouth.
Then, she got angry and struggled anyway she could. But her opponent felt like a Kodiak bear. She was thrown on her back on the ice behind the dumpsters and a knee came up on her chest. It was so heavy the top of her body was completely immobilized, but her legs were flailing wildly. Her hands were pushing with all their might. One of her assailant’s hands was on her mouth, the other on her hips, roughly trying to pull down her pants.
“F___ these jeans!” she heard him say through his ski mask. Maddie screeched when she felt his hand rip the snap and zipper open and then his fist came up and connected squarely with her face in a well-placed punch. Maddie whimpered once, before sinking into blackness.
John Pitts came out of the building swinging his backpack on and zipping up his coat. By habit he seldom wore a hat in the winter but it was getting to the breaking point this year and he might soon have to change that. His car was at the far end of the lot, back near the greenhouses. As he walked down the parking lot he heard a screech, like an animal sound, off to the side, and lifted his head.
“What the hell was that?” And then he was completely alert, and the hairs on the back of his neck were standing on end, and he was running toward the dumpsters. Somebody was crouched back there–no, it was two people. One body was on top of the other, and…shit! The guy had his pants half down. His football training coming back in a flash, John tackled the body on top, slamming it into the side of the dumpster. The guy was big and they grappled in a mad scramble and nearly rolled over the body on the ground. John couldn’t get a punch in, he was wrestling with a madman, intent on escape, who grabbed him by the jacket and swung him into the brick wall.
John felt his head hit the brick and thought he heard it crack. He was winded for a second by the pain, but he was released and the attacker was running away. Almost dragging himself, John took off after him, chasing him towards the alley of the Biochem building. It was dark and empty, though. The guy had disappeared in a puff of smoke.
He started to feel very exposed, wondering where the psycho was laying in wait for him. He picked up a piece of wood from the ground and ventured deeper into the alley, looking up the fire escapes and into the shadows. Nothing.
Finally, he backed out cautiously and doubled back quickly to check on the woman.
John found her crouched in the dark corner of the brick wall. She screamed when he came up.
“It’s okay! It’s okay.” He put up his hands, instinctively. “He’s gone.”
She crumpled back down into a heap and started sobbing. The timbre of the sobs was familiar. He crouched down. “Miss, are you all right?” he asked.
Her tear streaked face turned up to the light. “Oh my God, Maddie?”
He reached for her shoulder. “Maddie, honey. Oh God!”
He saw her frantically trying to close her jeans.
He looked away, trying to focus his thoughts. “I… I gotta take you somewhere. The Health Center. Here, can…can you get up?”
She didn’t respond, the weeping was becoming hysterical. “C’mon, easy.” He pulled her gently to her feet, but when her knees gave out suddenly, he had to pick her up and carry her. He set her down in front of the car and held her up as he tried to get the keys out of his pocket and open the passenger door. He deposited her on the seat, picked up her feet, swung them in and closed the door. The car rebelled against being driven without warm up and John cursed the one-way campus traffic layout which made him drive around a three block radius instead of just over the railroad tracks and across Campus Drive to the University Health Center half a block away. He glanced over at the crying figure beside him; Maddie seemed to be in shock.
He pulled up to the back door of the Health Center and walked her into the glare of the deserted clinic. The nurse behind the desk came out immediately.
“Is this the right place?” John asked. “Should I have taken her to the hospital? I think she was…” He hesitated “This guy attacked her…”
“It’s okay,” the nurse said quietly. “You’re in the right place. Can you bring her in here?” She signaled to the other nurse who picked up the phone.
John guided a now silent Maddie into an examination room. The doctor walked in and John was ushered out into the hallway. He answered some questions from the nurse and then sat down. As soon as he sat down, though, he popped up again and went to the pay phone.
The voice on the other end sounded groggy. “Hello?”
“Hello. Is this Lisa?” he asked.
“No, this is Jean. Who’s this?”
“It’s John. Is Lisa there?”
“I’ll check,” she left the phone and John leaned his back against the wall. He felt so shaky he was having trouble keeping his balance.
“Yeah. John, what’s the matter?” she asked.
“Lisa, I’m down here at the University Health Center. Can you come down, please? It’s Maddie. I think…” he put his hand over his eyes and his voice was broken when he said, “I think she was raped.”
The phone simply clicked. He hung up and went back to sit on the bench. It was barely ten minutes later when Lisa burst in the front door with both Savannah and Jean by her side. The odd thought came to him that, of course, women would stick together at a time like this.
John stood up and motioned to the door across the hall. “She’s in there.”
“What…what happened, John. Tell me quick,” Lisa said.
“I pulled this creep off of her in the back of the building, by the dumpsters.”
“Oh shit!” Lisa whispered, closing her eyes. She walked to the desk and asked the nurse if she could go in. The nurse must have said it was okay, because she took her into the examining room.
John didn’t know how much time went by before Lisa came out. Heading straight for him she said, “It’s okay. You must have gotten there just in time. She wasn’t raped.”
The two other women swore in relief. John suddenly took in a great gulp of air, whereas previously it seemed he had barely been breathing. Excusing himself in a hurry, he walked straight out the back entrance. He reached the parking lot before he managed to get the urge to vomit under control.
It was a few moments before he could stand up straight and lean back on the nearest wall. “Lord, that was close.”
He felt relief. Oh yes, great relief. And anger, and a desire to kill. If that guy ever came across his path again he was sure he would pummel him to death. He felt a deep revulsion welling up inside him that there was such a category of crime in this world, and that those of his own gender perpetrated it.
He kicked the tire of the closest car and looked up in time to see a campus police car pulling up. Two policemen got out and headed for the entrance.
“Excuse me,” John raised his voice. “Are you here about the…attempted rape? ‘Cause I’m the guy you want to talk to.”
“You were a witness, sir?” the officer asked.
“Yeah. I pulled the guy off her,” John answered.
“Can you give us a description?”
“I’ll try,” John said, “but it’ll be sketchy ’cause it happened so fast and the guy had a ski mask on.”
“Well, tell us what you can, sir.”
They took down everything he could remember and asked him to stop by the station the next morning to make a formal statement.
John went into the clinic with them and the policemen were ushered into the room where Maddie was. John paced the hall and worried that they would put her through more than she could handle tonight. He needed to see with his own eyes that she was all right; he couldn’t stand this waiting anymore.
It was a good twenty minutes later that the officers came out. They said her description had been even sketchier than his, but that they would keep an eye out for the guy. Anyhow, perhaps she would remember something more in the morning when she made a statement.
As he watched them walk out the door John addressed the other two women waiting in the hallway, for the first time.
“That’s it? That’s all they’re gonna do? They have no face. So they can’t arrest anybody. Meantime, this…this psycho’s gonna be loose for God knows how long!!!”
He was so angry that he didn’t think of the effect his words were having on the two women. Then, he noticed them looking at him very soberly.
“Welcome to the real world, John,” Jean said, quietly.
He felt she meant to say, “women’s world.” He saw fear in both their eyes; and he asked himself, was it always there, and only showed itself on the surface once in a while? Did women always walk around with this possibility in the back of their minds? Every dark corner, every alley, did they fear the boogieman jumping out? And with every statistic, did they feel one step closer to their own attack? He shook away the grim thought. He didn’t want Maddie to have to live like that.
The door to the examining room opened and he looked up to see Lisa ushering a very subdued Maddie out the door. Her eyes were red and her nose was too.
“I’m taking her home with me,” Lisa told him. “The little old lady she lives with couldn’t handle this and I don’t want Maddie to be alone.”
He nodded and then looked at Maddie, who on meeting his eyes seemed to crumple and reach out for him. She hugged him quickly and murmured a heartfelt “Thanks, John,” into his chest.
The lump in his throat returned as he squeezed her and said, “You just take care of yourself.”
She nodded obediently, then suddenly raised her hand to touch the side of his face. “John, you’re bleeding,” she said.
He reached up to feel a serious bump where he had impacted the wall, a trickle of blood came off on his fingers.
“It’s nothing,” he said, “just a scratch. All I need is a band-aid. Listen, you go home with Lisa. Tomorrow, if you want, I’ll pick you up to go to the station to give your statement. I have to give one too, so we can go together, okay?”
Again, she nodded like an obedient child. As they turned to leave, Maddie suddenly remembered her backpack and keys, which she had dropped when assaulted. John agreed to go back and look for them, since he had also dropped his own backpack in the struggle.
” I’ll put your car in the Vet. Sci. lot so you don’t get ticketed tomorrow morning,” he said.
“Thanks a million, John. You’re the best,” Lisa said, ushering Maddie into the car.
John stood in the parking lot until they had driven off and then took a deep cold breath and walked to his car. It was the week before Christmas and he was scheduled to fly to Montana to see his mother on Thursday. He hoped the rapist would be behind bars by then.
GLOBAL BOOK CLUB DISCUSSION!
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QUESTION 28: Do you fear rape on a daily basis? For yourself or another?
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