SANDRA FOCUSED ON HIS CHEST. He would telegraph any moves there first; the rest she could get in her peripheral vision. She had learned that much, wrestling with Walter before her older brother shipped out to Vietnam.
She sensed more than saw her opponent infinitesimally jerk his right hand to make a swing. Before his arm moved, she leapt into him, grabbing his neck and raising her right knee to his lower abdomen. Her inertia threw him on his back. As she pushed back with her left leg, she drove her opposite fist into his sternum. While he lay stunned, she dropped from a standing position and rolled him, bringing his wrists behind his back.
The instructor’s whistle stopped the drill.
Sandra looked around, to see that they were the only ones in a finished match: he down, she on top and in control.
“That’s enough for today. Hit the showers!”
Reaching down, she pulled him up. Their classmates picked up their gear at the edge of the practice mat and headed off, joking and chatting.
“Jeez, Sandra.” He rubbed his chest and Adam’s apple. “That hurt!”
“Sorry, Roy. I only tried to push off.”
“I’ll be okay —”
“What are you two doing?” Sergeant Mosely appeared behind him, staring hard at her.
“How did Mister Yu here end up on the floor?”
“I put him there, sir. Just like you taught us.”
“Trying to hurt him?”
“No, sir. If I were, I would have kneed his groin, and I would have either put out his eyes or broken his nose, instead of grabbing his neck.”
Roy shook his shoulders. “She is fast, Sergeant.”
“Clean up, both of you.” He grinned. “Miss Billingsley, I see you took notes on attitude. Next week I’ll give you someone bigger.”
Roy and Sandra hoisted their bags and left the gym. While he peeled off to the student locker room, she walked up the stairs to the administration wing. To accommodate its only female trainee, the FBI Academy had outfitted the only ladies’ restroom in the building with a shower. No storage yet, so she carried everything she needed for the day in her duffel bag.
The last class of the day was on fingerprinting, or, precisely, the many ways to collect fingerprint evidence. Last week they had learned how to take prints on the heavy paper forms, using rollers and ink. Today, they practiced dusting for prints to obtain the best quality on different surfaces.
It was almost six o’clock when Roy fed onto Interstate 95 toward Washington. He took her to the bus stop in Arlington.
“Give my best to Millie and the kids.”
“Sure thing. Pick you up tomorrow at one.” He drove quickly away; she knew he was a little late for dinner. She had met Roy’s family the first weekend after she started the weekly training.
The unpublicized program to train non-traditional recruits was the secret project of a few top-ranking special agents at FBI Headquarters. They wanted the Bureau to be ready when the Equal Employment Opportunity Bill stuck in Congress finally became law, which they expected at any time. The initial cohort included some financial analysts, two black police officers, a Chinese-American detective from New York, and Sandra. The weekend classes would be followed by field exercises next summer. The men would receive their badges. No one was sure what would happen to Sandra.
She walked to the Chinese restaurant on Braddock Road. Except for the nights at the Yu house, she had eaten there every Saturday night since starting her commute to Quantico.
As she ate her Sichuan chicken, she opened her copy of Cristo si è fermato a Eboli. In Rome, she had read Frances Frenaye’s translation. In the original Italian, Carol Levi’s year in exile was a completely different experience. The heat, the dust, and the rugged wisdom of the people of Lucania as seen through a Northerner’s eyes came through in a way that she had not understood in English.
From the first time Joe Lockhart had walked into her office and rattled off Italian to someone on her desk phone, she had wanted to learn the language better. Now she was taking intermediate Italian and fourth-year Italian literature at George Washington University. The courses also gave her an understanding that helped in her art history major.
After supper, she walked to the bus stop. She missed the 8:30 bus and waited a half-hour for the next one, finishing another chapter sitting on the bench at the stop.
Just before midnight, she stepped off the bus at Dupont Circle. The bus had broken down crossing the river, and it took an hour for a replacement to arrive. They can’t build that subway soon enough! After twenty years of planning and talk, construction on the Washington Metrorail had only started two years ago.
As she crossed the small park in the center of the Circle, she heard someone step out of the bushes in the shadows. She tensed up just before a hand clamped down on her right shoulder and pushed her off the path to the grass behind some oleanders.
She tried to roll, but found her legs caught. Her assailant gripped her ankles, flipping her on her back like a fish on a table.
He spread her legs and moved his hands to her arms as he kneeled on her legs. He was tall and heavy.
The smell of oil, gasoline, sweat, and beer threatened to close her throat. Rising panic and a sense of helplessness gripped her. This was not how it felt in training.
He fell flat on her, pushing the air out of her chest, then lifted himself, still holding her wrists down. Sandra felt his hand leave her left wrist as he reached for his belt buckle. She formed a fist and drove it up toward his head. He snapped his hand over her wrist again and slammed her arm back down.
He dropped on her again and again, crushing her pubic area each time. God, he’s heavy! She could feel her vision narrowing. She struggled to focus.
The third time, she twisted, catching him on her shoulder. That put him off balance. As he fell to the side, she turned more, until he fell next to her. His left hand loosened on her wrist. Pulling her hand out, she drove her right elbow into his chest. He gasped, then growled.
By then her legs were coming free. She pushed, using the momentum to put a fist to his temple.
“Bitch!” He punched her with his left. The pain stabbed her side like a baseball bat. She fell again, her left hand still pinned.
She had to keep her right hand moving before he could grab it again. She bounced her fist in an arc from his head down between his legs. He bellowed as she connected with his testicles. Sandra rolled right as fast as she could.
He grabbed her left ankle, stopping her movement.
“Help!” she screamed as loudly as she could.
Suddenly, there was silence. The man ran from the scene.
“What the hell?” A pair of teenagers came around the bush. One lanky, the other slightly overweight and only shoulder high to his friend.
“Mitch!” said the short one. “Go get the cops. Over there at the coffee shop!” Mitch disappeared. “You okay, miss?”
Sandra paused to catch her breath. “I’m not sure.”
Two policemen appeared.
“Are you injured, miss?” asked the older one.
“I – I don’t think so.”
“Let’s get into the light.”
They led her to a bench under a streetlight. She recovered her composure as a small crowd gathered. One of the policemen shooed them away.
“Can you tell us what happened?”
Sandra described the assault and provided what little detail she could about the size and shape of her attacker. In the dark, she was unable to determine his features. All she remembered was his smell.
“What are you doing walking here?”
“Going home. I live right there.” She pointed.
“You shouldn’t be out by yourself at this hour.”
“It’s not safe here. We get at least three calls a week for assaults here. Not all the women think to scream.”
Sandra considered their faces.
“So, is anyone trying to stop this guy?”
“Like I said, you shouldn’t be here alone.”
Rage replaced confusion and surprise. She forced herself to keep her tone calm.
“No statement, no search for evidence, no call in?”
“He didn’t hurt you, did he?”
“Not that he didn’t want to, and I’ll have the bruises.”
“Well, we can’t really do much. He ran, and there aren’t any witnesses.”
Sandra bit her lip. This isn’t going anywhere. She made a mental note of their names and badge numbers.
“Thank you, officers. Have a nice evening. I’ll walk home now if you don’t mind.”
“Good night, miss.”
The Piranesi print she bought in Rome fell to the floor when she slammed the door entering her apartment.
A large, black bruise was spreading on the right side of her rib cage. Lighter contusions showed on her ankles and wrists. The soreness on her mons pubis had cleared up. She saw no other exterior damage.
Her state of mind was something else. She swung to rage, fear, shock and back to rage. She desperately wanted to talk to someone: Dad, Mom, any of her brothers, but her family had already made known their opinion of her living by herself in Washington DC.
She thought of Joe, but the only number she had was his grandparents’ house in Richmond. He was still settling in at the University of Virginia, and he had not called to give her a number in Charlottesville. But thinking about him did ease her mood.
He had held a door for her the summer before, and they had recognized each other at a night club in Rome, Italy, a couple of months later. Sandra had skipped grades three and six in school, and Joe had lost a year after his father died, so they were the same age. It was a lovely evening, ending with a ride home on his Vespa 50 scooter.
Then in the spring, Jason Joseph Lockhart, Jr. had walked into her office in the Embassy Annex, and their world changed. Working with her boss, Special Agent Jim Redwood of the FBI, Joe had helped the Italian government foil a coup attempt by neofascists in the military. Retired General Ettore Arcibaldo, the coup leader, swore vengeance on the American teenager, but by the time Sandra left Rome, he seemed mainly concerned with his upcoming trial and with maintaining his position as the leader of his political party.
As she lay in bed, she shuffled around to find a position that did not make her bruises complain. She tried to focus on happy memories of Vespa rides, dancing, and dinners in Rome, of hiding Joe in her apartment in the Via della Giuliana, and his all-too-brief visit on his way to Richmond last week.
Still, it was tough to get to sleep.
The next morning, she was still stewing over the attack. Not wanting to keep her own company, she walked to the diner up the street. Darlene was working mornings this month. The sassy Jamaican waitress and Sandra had struck up something of a friendship.
She arrived just before the families began arriving on their way to church.
“Hi, Darlene. I don’t feel like making breakfast.”
The waitress eyed her as she poured black coffee into the mug on the table. “You don’t look so hot either. Bad night?”
Sandra sighed and told her about the assault. And being blown off by the police.
“What time was that?”
“Not that late, about midnight.”
“Bad timing, girl.”
“Not you, too!”
“You don’t understand. It’s the end of their shift. When I work nights here, the police come in about eleven-thirty, and hope that nothing keeps them from turning over at the station on time and going home.”
“But I was attacked? Isn’t that serious?”
Darlene frowned at her, long and hard. “Lemme tell you something, Sandra. If it was a man, those two would be going home at three a.m. And a white man? Maybe at dawn.”
“So, I’m on my own at night?”
“Ain’t we always?” Darlene cocked her head and raised an eyebrow. “What’ll you have, honey?”
“I may kill someone this afternoon. Make it steak and eggs and the waffles.”
“Atta girl. Be right back.”
At one p.m. she was waiting at the bus stop in Arlington when Roy stopped.
“Did you walk into a door?”
“No. That’s from fighting a monster last night.”
“You were attacked?”
“Just a block from my apartment. The cops blew it off. They probably didn’t want to be late for turnover.”
“Know how that works. I can’t count the number of times I dragged home late because of something that came up at the last minute. Something I do not miss about my days on the beat.” Roy had just made sergeant in the NYPD before applying to the FBI program. He was also majoring in Criminology and Accounting at George Mason College.
“I thought they were blowing me off because I’m a woman.”
He glanced at her and nodded. “There’s that, too. The Bureau is even worse in case you haven’t noticed.”
“I have. Maybe that is why I thought as I did instead of the getting-home-late thing.”
“Do you want me to drive you all the way in? We could talk to Millie about it.”
“Thank you, Roy. Let me figure out this one without getting concessions for my sex. Now, I’m so angry, I could injure someone if they cross me.”
“Ask Sarge about it. I’ll bet he says you need more moves to go with that attitude he likes.” Roy grinned. She relaxed.
“I’ll do that.”
Sunday afternoon was spent in the classroom, but Sandra sought out Sergeant Moseley in his office. He gave her the name and address of a buddy who had fought in Vietnam with him.
That night, the phone rang as she let herself into the apartment.
“Ciao, bella. Come stai?” Hi, beautiful, how are you?
“Joe!” Dropping her duffel bag, she sat on the floor.
“Take this down before I forget to give it to you.” She reached for a pencil from the table and wrote the number of the pay phone on the second floor of McCormick Hall.
“I’ve never said this to anyone before, but I have really missed you.”
“I missed you, too. How have you been?”
“Good and bad.” She told him about the weekend training, and the assault in Dupont Circle. “I’m going to find a self-defense course this week. That will be the last guy who ever gets so close.”
“You know what I mean, silly. How has your first week at the University?”
“I’m sore from so much running, but my roommate ran cross-country in high school. He’s teaching me how to pace myself.”
“What are the classes like?”
“Only naval science so far, which I like a lot. Move-in Day is next weekend and then we’ll see what the schedule is. I have to go, Sandra. There’s a line for the phone. I’ll call you tomorrow from someplace where we can talk.”
“Do that. Thanks for calling. And be safe.”
“You, too. Bye.” They hung up.
© 2021, JT Hine
Enemies, the second book in the Lockhart series, is available for pre-order from Smashwords now and from other retailers in January. The release date is 21 January 2022. Click here for more information and options.
Come back in two weeks for sample Chapter Two.