Disclaimers, or lack of them: See Part 1
My thanks as always to my beta reader, Barbara Davies. Her work can be found on her page, Barbara Davies.
It was nearly two hours before Jo returned to her house, and she almost had a head-on collision with a Red VW Beetle as she turned into the courtyard. Both cars skidded in the snow, and Jo peered through the snow-smeared windscreen to see her friend behind the wheel of the dumpy car.
She waved at Harry, indicating she should reverse, and when she did she eased the Merc across the slippery courtyard and flipped the remote for the garage door.
"Where were you going?" asked Jo as she closed the garage and opened the front door.
Harry parked the car and locked it. "Home," she said. "There was no answer, so I was giving up. Just came round to see how your trip went."
"Rocky's up there." She stood back, holding the door open, and allowed the smaller woman to pass her and go on ahead.
"Well, maybe she didn't hear me."
Jo shrugged, and climbed the stairs behind her friend. "Rocky!" she called as she got to the top and walked past her friend. She looked back at Harry. "Hold on, I'll go find her."
Harry went into the lounge, pulling off her coat as she went. She heard Jo's footfalls upstairs, going from room to room. She sat on the sofa, and used the remote to turn on the TV. The weather forecast was on, and in the present conditions made for interesting viewing. She heard Jo pass the lounge and go back down the stairs.
A few moments later Jo appeared in the doorway, an unreadable expression on her face. "She's gone." She moved across to the large armchair and slumped down in it.
Harry watched as Jo sat quietly, her hands folded in her lap, her eyes fixed on the Christmas tree. The lights weren't lit, so she stood and walked over, leaning behind the tree to turn them on at the wall socket.
Then she returned to her place on the chair.
"Maybe she had to pop out," Harry said, and almost winced when she saw the pain in the blue eyes that settled on her.
"I would have done anything for her." Jo's voice was strangled. "Anything she wanted."
Harry stood and took a couple of steps across the room so she could sit on the arm of Jo's chair. "Why are you so sure she's gone?" she asked, laying a gentle hand on Jo's taut shoulder.
Jo covered her face with her hands, so Harry had to strain to hear what she said.
"She would have left a note.... And things she said.... In Cornwall."
Jo leaned her head against the back of the chair, suddenly incredibly weary. She sighed. "She didn't like being a burden." Tears rolled down her cheeks. "I should never have left... her alone."
Harry was at a loss. She'd witnessed for herself the absolute joy her friend had displayed in the company of the small blonde, and now she was witnessing utter despair.
"I've heard sometimes, that these people can't handle going back to a normal life...." Harry was cut short when outraged blue eyes turned on her.
"What the hell do you mean, `these people`? You're talking about Rocky. She's a person, someone I came to know and love, and you're talking about her like she's some kind of statistic. Jesus Christ, Harry." Jo looked away from her.
"I'm sorry." Harry slipped her hand from Jo's shoulder, but remained sitting on the arm of the chair. "You... d'you want to go looking for her?"
Jo shook her head; her anger had gone as quickly as it arrived, replaced by a sense of resignation. "No, if she wants to disappear she knows how to do it. She did it successfully for five years." She sighed. "I don't know what I did wrong."
"Nothing, you did nothing wrong."
"It was too fast. Everything. I should have waited, let her do things at her pace." She massaged aching temples with trembling hands. "Just something else in my life I've fucked up."
The ringing of the telephone interrupted Jo's self-loathing. "Can you get that?" she asked Harry. "Whoever it is, tell them I'm asleep, or dead, whatever you like."
Harry sighed, gave Jo's shoulder a squeeze and reached across to the low coffee table for the phone.
"Hello?" Harry listened, she could hear only breathing. Uneven breathing. She put her hand over the mouthpiece. "It's a breather."
Jo reached out. "Give it to me."
Harry handed Jo the phone and returned to her seat on the sofa.
"Who is this?" Jo listened carefully, hearing the breathing, hearing the caller take in a long shuddering breath. "Rocky?"
No answer, just the sound of ragged breathing.
"Rocky, sweetheart. Is that you? Please, talk to me. Tell me where you are." She still heard nothing. Then suddenly a beep. She recognised it as the sound a cell phone makes to warn the user that the battery is getting low. "Rocky, you have my phone?" Jo stood and went into the hall; her jacket had gone, and she knew she'd left the phone in the pocket. She slid down the wall, the palm of her hand pressed to her forehead. "Rocky, whatever is wrong, we can work it out. Please, tell me where you are."
"Baby, don't be sorry, just come home."
"I can't, I'm sorry."
Another beep. "Rocky, I love you."
Silence for a long moment. "I'm... sorry."
"Are you in London?"
"I don't understand, Rocky. I thought you were happy. Was it something I did?"
"I have to go."
"Go? Go where? Please, tell me where you are."
"He's waiting for me."
The breath was sucked from Jo's chest, and she expected her stomach to expel its contents at any second. "Who's waiting for you?"
"I just needed to say goodbye."
"He found you?"
Silence. Then, "He said he'd hurt you."
"He can't possibly hurt me more than I'm hurting right now." She waited a moment, then did something she'd never done before. "I'm begging you, Rocky."
"I love you, Sweetheart."
"I'll find you."
"I will find you."
"Please, Jo. He'll hurt you, he'll...."
The line went dead, and Jo threw the phone across the hallway, watching with satisfaction as it broke into two parts.
Harry appeared at her side, crouching down next to her trembling friend. "I'm guessing that was Rocky."
"He's got her."
Harry winced at the pain she heard in Jo's voice. "Who's got her, Jo?"
Jo turned red-rimmed blue eyes on her friend. "Her uncle, the man she ran away from."
"Jesus, I didn't know."
"What do I do now?"
Harry stood, looking down at the slumped woman. "You go get her."
Jo laughed, wiping her wet face with both hands. "Sounds simple." She leaned her head back against the wall. "She went with him." She sighed, a sound of finality.
"What if she didn't have a choice?"
The image of her lover being dragged from the house suddenly burned itself into her consciousness. "Oh my God."
"Jo, do you know where he lives?" Harry reached down and pulled the taller woman to her feet.
"Leicester, somewhere. I don't even know his name." Jo pulled her hair back from her face. "I don't know what to do."
"Hey, calm down." Harry could see her friend was about to break down. "Think hard. Did she ever mention his surname? Was he an uncle on her side of the family?"
Jo shook her head. "No, it was her mother's sister's husband."
"Didn't she have any personal things, something that may have had an address on?" Harry so much wanted to give her friend some hope. Never before has she seen the once carefree woman so distraught.
"No, she had nothing, apart from.... Her bag!" said Jo, and flew down the stairs into the laundry room. There in the corner were the bags that Rocky had carried with her for the five years that she survived on the streets of London. The blonde had been meaning to go through the contents, but had always put it off, not wanting to confront the memories that lay within.
Jo opened the bags with something approaching reverence. She reached in, carefully pulling out the jumble of clothing that was inside. There, wrapped in an old shirt, she found a bundle of photos and letters.
The photos she put to one side. One day she would go through them with Rocky - that she was now determined of.
The letters were all still in their envelopes. She didn't open them. But on the front was an address. An address in Leicester.
"I've found her," she whispered.
Rocky's heart rate increased as the large car pulled up to the front of her uncle's magnificent house. As Chief Constable of the Leicestershire Constabulary, he reaped the rewards the position bestowed upon him. His position and standing in the local community was spotless, and none of his friends and colleagues knew anything of the niece he'd used his rank to hunt down.
And it was this, mainly, that caused Rocky to run rather than seek the help of the authorities. Her word against the top policeman in that part of the country would probably not have much credibility.
So now she was back. Back at the place that haunted her dreams, and her memories. She remembered the small room, with the window overlooking the garden with its covered swimming pool. The room with the bolt on the door, the outside of the door.
She watched him as she walked around the front of the car, and then the wind and snow blew against her face as he opened the door.
"Come along, Michelle. Your aunt is waiting to see you again." He held out a hand, and when she didn't move, he leaned across and unsnapped her seatbelt, pulling her out into the falling snow.
She still clutched Jo's jacket in her arms, holding on to that last connection with the woman who had started to ease her out of the darkness. Finding Jo's phone in the pocket, when she'd persuaded him to let her go to the toilet in a motorway service station, had been a blessing and a curse.
She'd stood with her back to the mirror in the rest room and pressed the preset button she knew was Jo's home number. She'd just wanted to say she was sorry, say goodbye. But hearing Jo's anguished voice had been too much for her. If only she'd just left it, she'd have had the smiling memory of her lover as she got in the car earlier that day. The failing battery had put an end to the call, and she'd looked at the small device for long moments before slipping it back into her pocket and returning to the man waiting for her outside.
That same man led her into the house.
They were met in the hallway by his wife, Rocky's aunt. Susan was much more like Rocky than her own mother was. Short and blonde, she was the complete opposite of her tall dark husband.
"Michelle," was all she could say, and she gathered the blonde into her arms.
No other words passed between the two women, both knowing their lives were about to change in very different ways. Susan had prayed he would never find her niece, for she knew she couldn't protect her sister's child against her husband's weaknesses. She knew, to her shame that she would lie awake on the nights he would leave her bed and creep across the landing. In the morning, she wouldn't be able to look at the sweet blonde child. She would fail her now, as she had failed her five years before.
Ron took Rocky's hand and pulled her up the stairs. She looked back down at her aunt, who turned away and closed the lounge door quietly behind her.
"Your room hasn't changed. We kept it as it was for when you came home." He opened the door and stood aside for the blonde to enter. When she didn't he gave her a shove, and she stumbled in.
Rocky spun to face him. "Don't touch me," she whispered.
"Michelle." He took a step towards her. "I know you're tired. Let me help you get something more comfortable on."
He tried to pull the jacket from her arms. "No," she said, pulling away from him.
"Don't be a silly girl, give me the jacket." He managed to get a hold on the sleeve of the leather garment and pulled it forcefully out of his niece's hands, throwing it onto the bed.
Rocky looked from it up to her uncle.
"Now then," he said.
Rocky closed her eyes as he began to unbutton her shirt. "No," she said quietly.
"What's that, Angel?" His attention was on the buttons, hard to undo on the newish shirt.
She knocked his hands away, hating the nickname he'd given her all those years ago. "Don't touch me."
She tried to back away, but he pulled her towards him by the front of her shirt, and finally losing patience he ripped it open. Buttons scattered across the room, bouncing off the walls. He stripped the checked shirt off her shoulders, leaving her standing in her jeans and white teeshirt.
"You used to wear such pretty clothes," he said, advancing on her again. He reached out, tracing her cheek, down to her chin and across her neck.
She flinched away from him.
His hand cupped the back of her head, and he dipped down. His lips found hers, and he sighed feeling the softness he remembered. But this time they were responsive. Before, in those days when he'd first brought her back from the hospital, she had been like a corpse in his hands. But he still couldn't resist her. From the first moment he'd laid eyes on her in that hospital bed, he'd been smitten. And nothing and no-one would keep him from her.
Then he realised that the response he was getting from her was not one of complicity, but one of rejection. She was pushing against him, then his bottom lip was between her teeth and she bit down hard.
He pushed her violently away from him, his hand reaching for his mouth.
Rocky bounced off the wall but stayed on her feet.
He looked from the blood on his hands to the girl standing before him She looked like the girl he'd brought home over five years before, but something new was behind the green eyes.
"I don't understand, Michelle." He pushed the door closed behind him, cutting off any route of escape for her. Then he approached her again. His hands were heavy on her shoulders. They smoothed down the outside of her arms, before taking both her hands in his. He tugged her towards him and, releasing one of her hands, began to lower the zip on her jeans.
"No!" she screamed, and tore her hand from his. She beat on his chest, and his face, landing a blow on the bridge of his nose. He attempted to catch her flailing arms, and was hit a couple more times. Her feet kicked out, catching his shins. He finally threw a punch at her, catching her across the side of her face and sending her crashing into a low chest of drawers.
She scrambled to her feet and launched herself at him. His police training took over and he turned her around, pulling an arm across her throat. He felt her start to weaken in his arms, and pulled her closer against his body.
"You're upset, I know that." He could feel her slumped against him, and as she lost consciousness he lowered her onto the bed. He arranged her limp form on the bed, his fingers smoothing the growing bruise on her left cheek. "You sleep. I'll be back later. Things will be better once you've rested."
He left the room, turning off the light, and sliding the bolt into place.
The weather was worsening, and Jo managed to encounter every traffic jam and accident as she made her way up the M1 having battled her way around a part of the notorious M25.
In places the traffic, though considerably lighter than usual, came to a mind-numbing crawl. But when she finally managed to get through the hold up, she exceeded the speed limit, driven by her fear for Rocky.
She estimated that her lover had been in the hands of that man for upto five hours now, and she dreaded what she would find when she got there.
As she got off the motorway, she saw a petrol station and pulled into it, needing some kind of guide to Leicester, never having been there before.
She tore through the doors, startling the teenage Pakistani youth behind the counter. It had been quiet as the evening drew on, the dreadful weather keeping all but the foolhardy from venturing out.
"I need a street map of Leicester," she said breathlessly, looking across the shelves.
He pointed wordlessly, and Jo snatched an A-Z off the shelf. She walked towards the counter, looking at the back of the book for the price, which she couldn't find.
She threw a ten pound note onto the counter. "Enough?" she asked.
He nodded dumbly, and she turned on her heel, the draft from the closing door causing the note to flutter to the ground.
She almost lost control of the car as she turned back onto the street, cursing like a sailor before she managed to get the Merc pointing in the right direction again. She soon came to a halt however, as the evening traffic gridlocked in the horrendous weather.
She flipped on the light and looked up the road name on the envelope. Forest Lane. She found it, but then took a while to work out where it was in relation to where she was at that moment.
It was actually on the outskirts of Leicester, and she looked up, hoping to find a street sign that would help her on her way. It was hard to see in the driving snow, but she just made out a sign, which, happily had a name on it she recognised. She was on her way.
However, it was nearly two hours later that she found herself only about a mile from the road she was looking for. Snow drifts, accidents, and a few wrong turns had turned the trip into a nightmare. The entire time, her imagination was playing horrible tricks on her. From what Rocky had told her, she knew the man wanted her for one thing. The amount of time she was taking gave him plenty of time to do whatever he wanted to do. And what would she do when she got there? Maybe she should call the police. But then, Rocky had never done that, and there must have been a reason for that. But he was a criminal, surely. He had raped a fifteen-year-old girl.
Jo closed her eyes for a moment as she came to a halt in front of red lights. The image of her lover as a young girl being repeatedly abused caused her stomach to tie in knots, and she thought for a moment that she might actually throw up. She turned into Forest Lane, and as she did so her nervousness grew. What was she going to do? Just walk up and knock on the door?
She pulled the car over to the curb and threw open the door. Leaning out of the car she lost the contents of her stomach.
She wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and sat back in the seat, bringing her breathing under control.
Jo looked through the wet windscreen at the high hedge which lined the street. Behind that was the house, which she hoped held her lover. Shutting the door, she put the car back into gear and turned into the long driveway, which led to the house.
It was in darkness, which surprised her with it being only a little before 10pm. There were no other cars in the drive so she drove right up to the door.
A security light came on as she walked to the door, bathing her in a harsh light, catching the heavily falling snow in its beam. Her hand hovered over the door bell for a moment before pushing it, and she automatically took a couple of steps back when a light in the inner hallway came on.
The door opened, and for a moment Jo thought it was Rocky standing before her. "You must be Jo," the woman said.
"I am." Jo took a step forward, feeling the heat emanating from the house. "Is she here?"
The woman nodded. "Come in."
Jo hesitated for a moment.
"He's not here," said the blonde, understanding Jo's reluctance to enter.
Jo passed the woman and walked into the hall, stamping her feet on the welcome mat to remove the snow, which was packed beneath the soles of her shoes.
"Where is she?" Jo asked, looking around the hall and into the lounge, which she could just see through an open door.
Her gaze drifted upwards, towards the stairs. "She's in her room."
Jo started up the stairs, but a hand on her arm stopped her. "I didn't want this to happen," Susan said.
"But it did." Jo didn't really want this conversation now, but she'd wondered more than once how Rocky's aunt could let her husband abuse a grieving child. "How could you let him touch her?"
"You don't know him."
"You could have called the police." Jo looked up the stairs, wanting nothing more than to go to her lover.
Susan chuckled wryly. "She hasn't told you then?"
"Told me what?"
"He is the police." Susan leaned back against the wall. "She always thought they wouldn't believe her."
"He's with the police force?"
Susan nodded. "You could say that; he's the Chief Constable of the Leicestershire Constabulary."
"Shit," was all Jo could manage. "So it would have been her word against his?"
"Yes." Susan sighed, bowing her head. She looked back up at Jo. "I was so very afraid of him then. When Michelle came to us, he became almost obsessed with her. I didn't realise at first what he was doing, and when I challenged him about it he flew into a terrible rage. He beat me. I know I have no excuses." She walked past Jo and started climbing the stairs. "We talked for a long time this evening after he had gone out. She told me about you, and she told me she loves you very much." She looked back down at Jo, who was following her. "He hasn't touched her... in that way." She watched Jo stop dead, her head bowed.
"Thank you," whispered the dark-haired woman, and resumed climbing the stairs.
Jo winced when they reached Rocky's room, seeing the large bolt, which was obviously designed to keep the blonde in the room.
Susan stopped again and turned to face Jo. "Something happened tonight which caused my husband to leave the house. He's gone to one of his usual haunts, seeking what he feels I can't provide. What he thought Michelle could." She looked at the closed door. "She fought him, Jo. Something he'd never come up against before, not from Michelle, at least."
"Did he hurt her?" Jo was pulling the bolt back, and turning the doorknob, but before she could open the door Susan had pulled her back again.
"Yes, he did. I'm sorry. But I spoke to her after he left the house. She told me he didn't have sex with her. I think her fighting him threw him." She leaned across to see into the room. "She may be a little groggy, I gave her one of my sleeping pills. They're not very strong, but she didn't take it long ago, so it'll still be working. She was almost hysterical after he left, calling for you. I tried to call you - Michelle gave me your number - but I just got your machine." She took Jo's hand, squeezing it gently. "You need to take her away, Jo. And then we both need to go to the police."
Jo nodded, realising what this woman was about to lose. "Yes, we do. Thank you."
Susan nodded towards the room. "Go to her," she said, and backed away.
Jo took a deep breath and crept into the room. She didn't turn the light on, and stood a few feet from the bed for a while, watching the small figure sleep in the light that filtered into the room from the landing.
Rocky was lying on her side, curled in a tight ball. She had her back to the door, and to Jo.
Jo crouched at the side of the bed, and reached out with a tentative hand curling it around her lover's shoulder.
"Hey," she whispered.
The reply was a soft whimpering sound, and the blonde pulled weakly away from the hand that was on her.
"Rocky, baby. Come on." She pulled Rocky onto her back, ducking back as the blonde's arms flailed.
"No," the blonde said, her voice little more than a gasp. "Don't touch me."
"Open your eyes, Baby." Jo cupped a warm cheek in her hand, waiting for the green eyes to open.
When they did they took a few moments to focus, then looked at her blankly for long moments.
Jo traced the bruise she found on Rocky's cheek, barely visible in the dim light. There was also a cut near the corner of her eye, which had bled a little, probably caused by a ring.
Green eyes were blinking at her, then filling with tears. She reached shaky arms towards Jo, and was gathered up into comforting arms. "You came," was all Rocky said.
Jo held her close, burying her face in soft blonde hair. She tried to reassure her lover, but her throat closed and she settled for just holding her, revelling in the reality of having her lover back.
She managed to pull away from Rocky and looked around the room. She saw her leather jacket lying on the floor, and reached across for it.
"Come on," she managed after clearing her throat. "Put this on; we're leaving."
She sat Rocky up and pulled the jacket around her.
"He'll hurt you," said the blonde, swaying as Jo zipped the jacket up. Rocky looked even smaller, engulfed as she was in Jo's leather jacket.
"No he won't." Jo stood, pulling Rocky to her feet. She wound an arm around the blonde and started to walk her out of the room. As they reached the doorway Rocky's knees buckled, and Jo, surprising herself, bent and picked the small blonde up, cradling her against her chest.
Susan approached them, brushing hair away from her niece's face. "I'm so sorry, Michelle," she whispered to the groggy woman. "I'll never let you down again." She looked up at Jo. "You must get her away from here. I'll try to keep him away from the room for as long as possible."
Jo nodded, and, not knowing what to say to the woman she'd hated for a while, she turned with her lover in her arms and made her way carefully down the stairs.
At the bottom of the stairs, Susan made her way past Jo and opened the front door, and then went on ahead, opening the passenger door of the Merc.
Jo settled Rocky into the seat, and buckled her seatbelt. She turned back to the woman shivering in the doorway. "You need to get away from here, Jo said.
Susan nodded. "I know, I will."
The two women regarded each other for a moment across the roof of the Merc. The wind howled, driving the snow through the glare of the security light. With a quick nod Jo got into the car, started the engine, and drove carefully down the drive.
Susan watched them go, and then quietly closed the door. She went up the stairs and closed and bolted the door to Rocky's room. Then she went downstairs and sat in the lounge, awaiting the return of her husband.
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