In The Victim's Shadow

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Chapter 22

A few weeks later, John and Katherine were lying in her bed enjoying a leisurely morning. Katherine stretched and sighed. John stirred beside her and rolled over, moving his hands to her stomach, and continuing up until they found their mark. She smiled and purred, turning over to face him. “Why did we wait so long for this?” she asked.

“I was holding out for you.” His mouth found hers easily, and he kissed her passionately, until he could no longer stand the agony of wanting her, and pulled her on top of him.

“I like morning sex,” she whispered, looking him in the eye. He silenced her with another kiss, moving with her until their sweet climax.

She rolled off him and lay breathless beside him. “I’m starved,” she blurted out, and they both laughed.

“You want me to fix you breakfast?” he asked, rolling onto his side again and caressing her stomach.

“No. Let’s eat out this morning and then head for the zoo.”

“I can’t think of a better way to spend my Sunday.”

“You mean Saturday.”

“No, I mean Sunday.”

Katherine rose on one elbow and narrowed her eyes at him. “You’ve been working too hard. Today’s Saturday.”

He laughed. “Sorry, sweetie, but it’s Sunday.”

She rose from the bed and padded to the bathroom. John heard her rummaging through her vanity drawer and then she came back to the bed, carrying a little round container with a bunch of pills missing. There seemed to be a pill for each day of the week. She thrust the container at him. “What’s that say?” She pointed to the day that read Saturday.

He shrugged. “Saturday. So what?”

“Because if it were Sunday—that little pill would be gone.”

He thrust the container back at her. He picked up his watch from the bedside table and handed it to her, pointing to the date. “What does that read?” She looked at it smugly, and then her eyes traveled back and forth between the two items. “Well, I’m waiting.”

“It reads Sunday,” she said. “But I could have sworn today was Saturday.”

John chuckled. “It looks as if you’re the one working too hard.”

She swatted him playfully with the pillow and rose from the bed again. She padded down the hallway, naked. He heard her gasp and then she flew back to the bathroom and closed the door. He heard water running, and then she came out, a stricken look on her face.

“What’s wrong?”

She waved him off, curling up her upper lip, which made him laugh. “Everything’s fine,” she said.

“Good. Come back to bed.”

“Do you have any condoms?”

“Condoms? What for, you’re on the pill.”

“Well…kind of, sort of,” she said, and then giggled.

“Katherine,” he said. “What was that whole run to the den, gasp, and then run to the bathroom for?”

“Oh, all right,” she said. I forgot my pill last night. “It’s no big deal. I just took it. We just need to use an alternate form of birth control for the rest of the month.”

He groaned. “I hate condoms.”

“Yeah, well, they aren’t my favorite thing, either.”

“Say, Katherine,” he began and then stopped.

“What?”

He shook his head. “Never mind—it’s a stupid idea.”

He got up from the bed and headed for the shower, leaving her wondering in his wake.

“John! Wait! You can’t say something like that and leave it hanging.” She started to follow him, but his phone started ringing just as she heard the shower turn on. “Do you want me to get that for you?” she shouted, but he didn’t hear her.

“Hello,” she said.

“Katherine?” the voice on the other end said. She flinched—it couldn’t be him. What should she do?

“Katherine? Is that you?” the voice repeated.

“Yes, Mr. Walker. It is I.”

“Sorry. I thought I called John’s phone.”

Katherine hesitated, not sure what to do. Should she lie and say he got the wrong number? All he had to do was look at his dialed calls to see he hadn’t. Better to fess up. Besides, they weren’t children. They didn’t answer to him in regards to their personal lives. “You did, Sir. John’s in the shower. I answered for him.”

The line stayed silent, and she wondered if he had hung up. From the bathroom, she could still hear the sounds of the water pounding, and now John was singing. “I see,” he finally said. “I wasn’t aware it was that way for the two of you.”

Katherine looked down at her naked body and felt self-conscious—as if he could see she was standing in the middle of her bedroom with no clothes on. “Well, Sir, it’s a recent development.”

“Oh,” he said. “Well, no matter. Just have him call when he’s free.”

“I will,” she said. She wanted to kick herself for being so afraid to tell him.

“Enjoy your Sunday,” he said.

Again with the Sunday, she thought. She said, “Thank you, and you as well, Sir.”

She snapped shut the phone just as John was turning off the shower. She heard the shower door open and then the sounds of a towel ripped from the towel bar. His singing had stopped, but he was now humming.

She walked to the bathroom door just as he was wrapping a towel around his waist. He grinned. “You look good enough to eat. Let’s skip breakfast and go back to bed.”

“Thanks,” she said, absent-mindedly handing him the phone, “and no, I’m starving.”

He covered his hand as he accepted the phone. “You okay?”

“Mr. Walker wants you to call him.”

“You answered it?”

“Is that a problem?” she asked, feeling as if she’d overstepped the boundaries.

“Of course it isn’t. What did he say?”

“I see.”

“You see what?”

She shook her head. “No, that’s what he said.”

John frowned. “Mr. Walker called my phone. You answered it, and all he said was, ‘I see’?”

“No, that’s not all. He also said, ‘I didn’t know it was like that with you two,’ or something like that.”

“That’s it? He knows?”

Katherine grinned. “He knows.”

“Well, I’ll be. I expected so much more.”

“I did, too.”

His eyebrows rose. “Are you disappointed?”

“Why would I be disappointed?”

“I don’t know. Maybe you thought if he objected we would have to call it off.”

She pushed past him to turn on the shower, slightly stung by his words. “Is that what you want?” she asked, keeping her back to him.

“Not at all. I was just wondering if you wanted out.”

She stepped into the shower, shouting over the spray. “I’m right where I want to be, John. But if you’re going to keep second guessing us, then perhaps we need to talk about it.”

She had heard him before she felt him breathing in her ear. “You’ve talked enough today,” he said. His lips pressed hard against hers, then touched every kissable part they could find before he pulled her tightly against him.

“John,” she protested, but he silenced her by placing his finger over her lips.

“You talk too much,” he whispered. Then he kissed her all over again, savoring the warmth from the water as it cascaded over their bodies, enjoying the sweet taste of her freshly washed body.

“Oh, John,” she moaned. He responded with a caress down her backside. “No talking,” he said, kissing her shoulder as he spoke.

“I just wanted to say this is the best shower ever.”

He chuckled and sat down on the shower seat, pulling her down with him. Their lovemaking was as exciting as if it were their first time, and when they were through, they sat there holding each other until the water began to turn cold.

Katherine reached up and turned it off. “Time to go,” she said, meeting his lips for another kiss. He met her words with a groan and, reluctantly, they pulled themselves to the reality of the day.

When they finished dressing and were ready to walk out the door, she asked, “Do you mind if Timmy tags along? I’m sure Beth would love the break, and I feel better taking a kid with me when I go to the zoo.”

“Not at all,” he said. “I love that little guy.”

She dialed Beth’s number as they were stepping into the elevator.

“Hey, Katherine,” Beth greeted. “What’s up?”

“John and I are headed to the zoo and wondered if Timmy would like to join us.”

“Bless you, Katherine,” she said. “He’s driving me nuts, and it’s only nine o’clock. How fast can you get here?”

The elevator stopped on the tenth floor, and Katherine’s heart skipped a beat, remembering the tenth floor was where Chad lived.

The elevator opened and an attractive, brown-haired woman, who looked vaguely familiar to Katherine, stepped inside. She waved, so Katherine figured she knew her and waved back.

“Not so fast,” Katherine laughed. “We’re going to breakfast first—unless Timmy wants to join us for that, too.”

“That’s okay. You deserve to have a quiet meal. Timmy can eat his usual cereal and banana here. I guess I’ll see you in a couple hours.”

Katherine shut the phone and smiled at the woman. She waved again. “You don’t remember me, do you?”

Katherine shook her head. “I’m sorry.”

“That’s okay. There are lots of apartments here. Does this sound familiar?” She took a deep breath and said, “Do you need some assistance in there?” She laughed. “I’m April. You hired me, but that was so long ago.”

Katherine chuckled. “You’re the voice in the box.” She pointed to the call box. “I’m sorry I didn’t remember.”

April waved her off. “There is a way you can make it up to me.”

The elevator opened, and they all stepped out. John stepped over to say hello to Tony, so April and Katherine could finish their conversation. He had a feeling the girl didn’t want a man hanging around to hear the rest of the story.

“How’s that?” Katherine asked.

She shook her head. “Get the elevator fixed so the creep in 1073 will stop pestering me about it.”

“Who’s in 1073 again?”

“Some creep named Chad. He moved in here, and he’s all over me. He showed up at my apartment the other night and practically raped me.”

Katherine paled. “When was this?”

“Two weeks ago. He showed up here fighting mad. I was ready for bed, being it was a school night and all, and he showed up at my door with a bottle of wine and some cheap flowers. Something had happened that day to set him off good. When I asked him to leave, he got…well, let’s just say he wasn’t happy about it. Honestly, I liked the guy the first time I met him, but after that he creeped me out. You know what I mean?”

Katherine did know what she meant. She also had liked him the first time they met. She had even enjoyed a portion of the evening they had spent together when he tried to cowboy up on her. “What did he do when you asked him to leave?”

April stepped farther away from the elevator. Katherine followed. “He got violent at first…” she paused. “He locked my hands over my head, pinning me down. He pulled my pants down so fast that I couldn’t stop him. Then he undid his pants and slid them down to his hips.” Her eyes pooled, and Katherine handed her a handkerchief from her purse. She wiped her eyes. “I took a self-defense class last year, and boy was I glad I did. I managed to throw him off me before he had a chance to rape me. I ran to the phone, but he grabbed it from me. I was going to call 911. Then he said he was leaving. I filed a report with security.”

“You didn’t call the police?”

She shrugged. “I handled it well enough. Look, I have to go now. I’m meeting a bunch of kids from school for breakfast. We’re having a Chemistry cram session. Just please, please, please do something about that elevator.”

Katherine waved as she walked away. John rejoined her, and she recounted the story. “What do you make of all that?” she asked John.

“I think she should have filed a police report,” John said. “Maybe you should follow up with security.”

Katherine nodded. “I’ll do that.”

“Beautiful day out,” Tony greeted them. “I hope you’re off for some fun. Do you want your car brought around?”

“Morning, Tony. No thanks, we’ll get it ourselves.”

He held open the door for them as they walked through. As they were leaving, she brushed sides with the young man she had seen on the street. She watched him get into the elevator. He seemed oblivious to her, but she remembered him.

She walked back to Tony. “Tony, who is that young man going up in the elevator?”

“He’s a friend of the Simons. Security issued a guest pass to come and go. Is there a problem?”

She shook her head. “No, I’m sure everything’s okay.”

She rejoined John. “Is something wrong?”

“Probably not. It’s just that I’ve seen that guy a few times hovering around the apartment. I was concerned, but I guess it explains why I keep seeing him.” She laughed. “I’m becoming paranoid.”

John took her arm, guiding her toward the car. He helped her inside and then got in behind the wheel. “You’re not paranoid,” he continued. “You be careful. You heard what April said about Chad. What’s his last name?”

“Simon.”

“Didn’t Tony say that guy was a guest of the Simons? I’m going to have Andrew check him out.”

“Don’t, John. I think you’ll make matters worse.”

“What do you propose?”

“I’m going to have management pull his lease records, see where he came from. Maybe there’s some loophole I can find to get him out.”

“Isn’t April’s complaint enough?”

She considered this and sighed. “She didn’t file a police report, and she did say he practically raped her. He didn’t go through with it. He could make a rebuttal against her. Say, maybe she led him on and then changed her mind. There’s no law against heavy foreplay, so long as he didn’t go through with the act, he might have a case for just that. I’ve seen it happen that way in court many times. I don’t see how the charge would hold up.”

She bit her lip as she thought. “On the other hand, we could claim a violation of the moral conduct clause we have written in the lease. I’ll have to see what the steps are involving that.”

“Well, do something soon. This guy has me worried.”

***

John pulled into the restaurant parking lot. He could see that Katherine was still contemplating the situation. “Do you want to skip breakfast? I can call my friend Dan and discuss it with him.”

“No. I’m starved. Besides, unless April is willing to file charges, I’m teetering on a mudslide.”

John held open the door for Katherine, and she stepped out. “I have a hard time understanding how this creep got past security,” she said.

“Maybe you need to look at how you screen your tenants.”

She shook her head, smiled at the server as she placed a menu in her hand.

“Coffee?” she asked.

“Yes, please,” they both replied.

She was back in two minutes with the coffee. “Do you need a minute?”

“I’m ready,” Katherine said. “Scrambled eggs, toast, and half a grapefruit.”

John shrugged. “I’ll have the same, but add bacon to mine.”

She wrote it down and walked off.

“I don’t understand why someone like April would hesitate to press charges against him,” Katherine said. “The guy practically rapes her, and all she does is file a complaint with security. I guess that’s why I’m so confused.”

“Maybe she’s embarrassed,” John said.

Their server set down their plates in front of them. “Maybe she secretly likes the guy,” she suggested.

Katherine and John both looked up at her. She shrugged. “Sorry, it’s hard not to overhear.”

Katherine waved away her apology. “You think that could be the case?”

The server shrugged. “I once had a roommate who let her guy beat up on her all the time. When I asked her why she put up with it, she said he was a lot of fun to be around most of the time.” She shrugged. “He always bought her off with expensive jewelry afterward.”

“So, you’re saying our friend might not ‘really’ want this guy out of her life.”

She nodded. “That’s what I mean.”

They looked at each other and nodded. “I suppose that could be the case,” Katherine said.

The server bounded off with her peppy swing. They finished their breakfast and headed to Beth’s house.

John pulled the car to the curb and turned off the ignition. “Whose car is that?”

Katherine shrugged. “I’ve never seen it before.”

Beth opened the door with Timmy jumping beside her. “We’re going to the zoo,” he sang.

Katherine laughed. “Good thing we didn’t have a change of plan.”

“Thank God you’re here,” Beth said.

John looked at Austin and started laughing. “Is that your sedan out there? What happened to the babe magnet?”

Betty Lee stood beside him, hands on her hips. Austin put his arm around her shoulder. “I’m a family man now,” he said, and touched Betty’s swollen abdomen, just to prove his point.

John shook his head, the laughter slowly dying. “I’m just playing with you. It was a brave thing you did, but I’m afraid we have to kick you out of the club now.”

“What club?” Beth and Katherine both screeched.

“The man club,” John said. At the puzzled look on both women’s faces, John clarified. “Every man is given honorary membership in the man club when they turn eighteen. The only requirement to stay in the club is to maintain your freedom—which means single and childless. At the very least, you have to drive a sports car.” He frowned at the look of incredulity on the women’s faces. “What? I am not making this up. It’s written in the Men’s Club Handbook.”

Katherine laughed. “You’ve lost it, John.”

“I’m serious,” he said though his smile gave him away. “He traded in his sports car for a baby mobile. He’s out.”

A sudden cry erupted from Betty Lee. They all looked at her. Beth recognized the agonizing sound. “It looks as if he traded just in time.”

“What’s happening?” Betty Lee asked. She doubled over, grabbing her abdomen. “It hurts.”

“That’s why they’re called labor pains,” Beth said. She led her to the couch. “Austin, run down the hall and get me one of the vinyl tablecloths from the linen closet.” He jumped to attention, taking off immediately. “And a sheet, too,” she called after him.

“What are those for?” Betty Lee asked.

“My sofa,” Beth said. “I don’t want amniotic fluid all over it when your water breaks. How’s the pain?”

Betty Lee smiled. “It’s gone. That wasn’t so bad.”

Beth grinned. Better to let her find out on her own just how bad they were going to get.

Austin returned with the requested items, saw Betty Lee sitting up and talking, and said, “That’s it? Did I miss it?” He looked around. “Where’s the baby?”

All eyes stared at him.

“You aren’t serious!” Beth exclaimed. “Help her up,” she said, shaking her head.

Austin took her arm, pulled her to her feet just as another wave of pain hit.

“Ow!” Betty Lee screamed.

Beth looked at Katherine. “This might be a good time to get going to the zoo,” she said, jerking her head toward Timmy.

“Oh! Yes, it might be.” She turned to Timmy, who stood with his back against the wall, eyes wide with horror. “You ready to go, buddy?”

Timmy nodded emphatically and raced to the door, flinging it open and running outside, panting. John and Katherine exchanged amused glances.

“I don’t think Timmy’s ever going to lose his club card,” John said, and they both laughed.

John had to circle the parking area eight times before finally finding a place to park. Katherine helped Timmy out of the car. Good thing they brought her car, instead of John’s “man” car. She wondered if he ever thought of trading his in.

John was a man of mystery. She should know him inside and out, but she realized she knew what he did when they were together, but what did he do when alone?

She knew his views on abortion, politics, in general, for that matter, and even religion. He had once told her he did not agree with the teachings of today’s modern churches, but what about those of yesteryear. She had not even questioned him on his childhood antics, friends, or even his first love.

She watched him as he walked along, holding little Timmy’s hand, and wondered how she could share weekly dinners with him, Monday night football, Fourth of July fireworks—her bed—and not even know his favorite color. What did they talk about? She knew the answer, court hearings, and verdicts, judges, prosecutors, food, and so on. With a girlish giddiness, she realized she wanted to know all there was to know about John. She ran to catch up, linking her arm through his. He smiled down at her while he took out his wallet and paid for the tickets. Timmy dashed through the gates so fast they had to run to catch up with him. “Whoa there, young man,” John said, barely grabbing his collar as his fingers closed around it. “Where are you off to in such a hurry? We have all day.”

Timmy giggled. “Sorry. I want to get to the monkeys.” At the mention of these, he took on the pose of a monkey and began jumping about, imitating the sounds a young chimp might make. To Katherine’s delight, John followed suit, urging her to follow his lead. She laughed, tried to brush them off, but neither of them would take “no” for an answer. She crouched low, her arms hanging almost to the ground, stuck her tongue between her front teeth and her closed lips to give them form, and began walking and grunting like a monkey. She was not about to hop—that was just too undignified.

They walked/hopped their way to the monkey cages, where they got more interest than the actual monkeys.

Katherine stood and watched the monkeys while Timmy continued his monkey play. John wrapped an arm around her shoulders. “Way to play along,” he said. Then they stood, shoulders touching while they watched the monkey’s play.

She smiled. “I don’t do it for just anyone,” she said, bumping shoulders with him.

“Is that a ritual mating call?” he asked.

She was about to answer when his phone rang. He took it out of his pocket, glanced at the screen and frowned. “I forgot to call back Mr. Walker.”

“Oops,” she said.

He opened the phone and walked away to take the call.

“Which one is your favorite, Aunt Kat?”

Timmy stood by her side, tired of jumping. She pulled him against her, and they watched the monkeys. “I like the little brown one over there,” she said, pointing to a timid baby hiding behind his mother.

“I like the really big guy,” Timmy said and pointed to the largest monkey in the cage. “He must be the daddy.”

Katherine thought about this and wondered if size determined who dominated in monkey colonies.

John returned and didn’t look happy.

“What’s wrong?” Katherine asked.

“I have to go out of town for a few days.”

“Why?”

“One of Walker’s friends is in trouble. He’s being sued by a client, and he wants me to handle it.”

Katherine’s heart sank. “Do you have to go right now?” She looked down at Timmy, who seemed oblivious to the fact that his fun might be ending.

“It can wait until after the zoo.”

Timmy began to dash off, and John reached out and grabbed him by the shirt again. “Assuming I still have any energy left when we’re done at the zoo. Where shall we go now, little man?”

Timmy looked up into John’s face, his blue eyes innocent and sparkling with excitement. “The bears.”

“You heard him, Miss, which way to the bears?”

Katherine pointed down a path and hoped they weren’t going to make her get down on all fours and walk like a bear.

***

Later, as she sat on a bench watching the boys on the playground, her stomach bursting from hot dogs, french fries, and ice cream, she smiled and thought, I think I could do this.

Her cell phone rang, and she rummaged through her purse, to find it. She answered on the fifth ring. “Hello.”

“It’s a girl,” Beth cried excitedly. “I have a niece.”

“Wonderful! How are the mama and papa?”

“She’s great, but Austin’s a mess. I think he’s told everyone in the hospital. Daddy’s even here, although he’s trying hard to play the tough guy. He can’t fool me, though. I see the twinkle in his eye when he looks at that little girl.” She laughed, and Katherine could hear the excitement in the background. “Anyway,” Beth continued, “we’re all going out for a celebratory dinner, and I was wondering if you could keep Timmy awhile longer?”

Katherine glanced over at the two of them going down the slide, and suddenly a feeling of maternal longing washed over her. “How about if I keep him all night?”

“Really?” Beth said. “But it’s Sunday. What about work in the morning?”

“I’ll swing by your place on the way home and pick up some clothes for him. I still have a key, and I’m just as capable of dropping him off at daycare as you are.”

Beth laughed again. “That would be great,” she said. “Honestly, I could use the break.”

They severed the call, and Katherine walked over to meet the guys. “It’s a girl,” she said.

“A girl!” Timmy said. “Yuck. I wanted a boy cousin so that we could play together with my cars.”

“Hey,” Katherine said, cupping his chin and bringing his eyes to meet her gaze. “I’ll have you know I was Matchbox champion of the first grade.”

Timmy eyed her skeptically. “But you’re a girl.”

“So what,” she said, feigning indignation. “I’ll tell you what. I told your mom you could spend the night. We’ll get all your Hot Wheels and bring them to my place. I have plenty of space to set up an awesome track.”

Timmy’s eyes grew wide. “You’ll play with me?”

“Sure.”

He looked at John. “How about you, Uncle John?”

John answered, but his eyes never left Katherine’s face. “For a while,” he said, “but then I have to go,” and his voice filled with regret.

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