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Her Young Lover
ONEThe car stopped. Its headlights switched from low to high beams and all but blinded Nora Rigby. But, even more disconcertingly, they made her feel stripped in her sheer, summer evening dress. Behind the glare, unseen eyes must be staring at her. She needed no sixth sense to tell her so-the purpose behind the high beam was obvious. And when the lights went off and she saw the three teenaged youths get from the car and come purposefully toward her and Phil, her husband, she had a, premonition of what was to happen.Rape, she thought. I'm going to be assaulted!Just why the idea should have leaped instantly into her mind she could not, later, exactly say. Perhaps because of some stories she had recently read in the limited local press of situations exactly like this: a car broken down on a lonely road-the dark of night-youthful group violence. Perhaps because of gossip about other incidents supposed to have occurred although never reported to the press or the police-who would probably have recognized what she sensed and given it a name on their blotter-MO. Modus operandi. Certain species of criminals were identifiable because they generally behaved in a predictable fashion under predictable circumstances. Or perhaps she thought as she did because the possibility of being violated is never entirely out of a beautiful woman's awareness, though it may lurk so deeply in the abysses of the mind that she is actually unconscious of it-unless it is brought to a conscious level by some sensed threat or menace.Too, only moments before she had seen the trio, her thoughts had been on sex-though of a different kind...Now the three came to where Phil was just finishing changing a fiat tire on the Buick and she stood watching him. Phil, also sensing danger, tried to pull the handle from the jack to use as a weapon. The handle stuck. Phil was unable to remove it.Oh, God; what are we to do, Nora thought wildly. And then: Don't let them hurt Phil-please!The road was a winding, two-lane route through the hills behind town. No other cars were in sight. The only lights, other than Phil's emergency lantern with its red blinker, were a half-mile or more away. Dense woods covered both sides of the road.Phil still struggled to free the jack handle but paused to look at Nora and say, his voice alarmed, tensely off key, "Get in the car, honey. Lock the doors."It was too late for her to obey. The three were too close. One moved to stand between her and the Buick."Need some help, mister?"The young voice was amused, mocking. It belonged to the tallest of the three. Nora could see something of him. He was blond, not unhandsome in what had come to be known, Nora supposed, as the All-American way. Perhaps that was why he seemed vaguely familiar or- brief hope flooded through her-perhaps she had actually seen him somewhere before. He was grinning, looking from Phil to her and then back at Phil again. At his expression, Nora's hopefulness died."I said, do you need any help, mister?""No, thanks," Phil said, facing the three. He was of average height and slightly built. If attacked, he would not stand a chance. Unnecessarily he repeated, "Thanks, anyway.""Sure, he needs help." This from one of the others, a thin, dark boy who made an indistinct, somehow menacing shadow just beyond the glow of the emergency lantern. "Give him a hand, why don't you?"The third youth said nothing. He had a round, featureless face in the night and was short and pudgy. His hands hung ominously alert at his sides and though she could not see his eyes she could feel them on her-from the cant of his head she could tell that his face never turned to Phil. In all three, Nora sensed a wicked amusement. The boy who had spoken first said, "Sure, I'll give him a hand."Brushing Phil aside, he grasped the jack handle and worked it expertly until the Buick's raised wheel with its changed tire was lowered to the ground. He then removed the handle from the jack, seemingly without difficulty, and turned to Phil."There you are, dad," he said disarmingly. "And here's your gimmick."He started to hand the tool to Phil when the thin youth stepped swiftly from the shadows, snatched the jack handle from his friend and lashed out with it. The blow caught Phil across the knees with terrific force, Nora cried out and started forward as Phil collapsed. She heard what might have been a startled protest from the blond boy as she was grabbed roughly from behind by the pudgy youth. She cried out again, screamed this time, and struggled to break away. But he was far stronger than she. His hands had a viselike grip on her arms, just above the elbows. When she continued her furious struggling, hysteria in her, he slipped his arms about her waist and held her against his thick body. She writhed desperately, trying to kick back at him.He laughed. "You doing the twist, chick?"Phil was still on the ground, writhing with pain. The other two boys-how incongruous to think of them as "boys," flashed hysterically through Nora's mind-seized him by the arms and dragged him to the side of the Buick, the side away from the road. They hauled him to a sitting position, his back to the car. He stared up at them dazedly, trying futilely to get to his feet-had they broken his legs, Nora wondered with frozen horror."Listen," she heard Phil gasp. "Take my money and let us go. Leave her alone-" "Money, schmoney," one of the boys said. "We don't want your dough, dad. We just want to borrow your dame for a little while. Don't worry about it. She'll have a ball."Nora gave a violent wrench and got her left arm free. She whirled toward the boy who held her and tried to rake his face with her nails. He caught hold of her wrist, but now that she faced him he had difficulty in restraining her."Hey, you guys-give me a hand with this wildcat."The blond youth had picked up the jack handle again. He held it out to the thin one. With a curious, almost sneering look at his friend, he said, "Maybe you'll want to clobber him again if he makes a wrong move. I'll give Fatso a hand with the dame.""Don't need that," the thin one said, and brought a switchblade knife from his pocket. The long, thin blade snapped from the handle and glinted dully but wickedly in the darkness. "If the jerk moves a finger, I'll cut him, man -cut him good." His voice shook a little.He tried to laugh, but the sound was distorted, unconvincing.For Nora the nightmare now really began. She tried to blank out her mind as the blond boy joined his friend and each held one of her arms. But when they started into the woods, half-carrying and half-dragging her, hysteria seized her again and she cried frantically, "Phil-Phil-" even though she knew he was unable to help her. Then the thought of what might happen to him if he did try to come to her rescue choked off her screams-she remembered the flashing switchblade and the distorted, unnatural laugh of the boy guarding Phil and began to babble soft, frenetic pleas for them to let her go... for them not to hurt Phil further...They laughed at her."Sure, chick," the pudgy one said. "We'll let you go- in a little while. And we won't hurt you."They came to a small clearing and she felt her feet kicked from under her. She fell heavily, the jolt knocking the breath out of her. Dazedly she realized she had literally been thrown against the earth-mercifully, perhaps, her senses swam even as she continued her struggles, so that she was only dimly aware of what followed. Someone-it may have been the blond boy-drew her arms to full length above her head. She tried to kick and thresh, felt cloth tearing-once more she started to scream and a heavy, fat hand clamped across her mouth with such force that she was knocked nearly unconscious.The night's darkness spun and deepened. She was dimly aware of voices-one she thought she recognized as possibly the blond boy's, perhaps because he had spoken more than the others-as vaguely defending her from being hurt, but no one defended her enough. She felt herself unspeakably violated-once, twice-swiftly, brutally, so that she was barely aware of anything but shock or pain.The third time came more slowly-though it was an equal violation. By now some of her awareness had returned and the incident was less a montage of pure terror. For the first time her senses were able to focus on what was happening for her to relate it directly to sex. The blond boy was her last tormentor but though they seemed alone-the other two had vanished-she was too spent, too much in shock still, to resist. It was as if this final outrage were actually happening to someone else or she were dreaming it-a nightmare from which she would soon awaken.There was a sickness in her, a violent nausea which threatened to erupt at any moment...She was barely aware of the exact moment when he left her but in some recesses of her being she knew that he had inflicted no further physical pain on her. He had not hurt her as the others-perhaps because he had not had to. Any vestigial, even subconscious resistance had left her long before he had taken his turn ... The illness remained.She turned, rose to her hands and knees and retched. She felt no better, but emotion returned to her. She felt an anger such as she never before had known. Rage knotted up her insides, brought her to full consciousness.Animals, she thought fiercely, hating all three of them with her entire being. Animals, animals, animals...The worst half-hour of Phil Rigby's life was over when the third youth came from the woods-from Nora- and called to the others, "Let's blow, guys. The rumble's over."The three ran to their car. Before Phil had managed to struggle to his feet, it went roaring away without lights-so he couldn't get the license number, he guessed. He had not even been able to distinguish the vehicle's year, make or model. An old black jalopy, he surmised-a hotrod, probably, with a souped-up motor.He blamed himself for not having noticed more, but all he had been able to think of while they took turns guarding him had been Nora and what had been happening to her. He leaned heavily against the side of his car for a moment, the pain in his knees intense now that he was standing. But his physical distress was nothing compared to his mental anguish. He had failed Nora. The one time she had really needed him he had been unable to help her. He felt less than a man and his shame was all the greater for his knowing that he had been proven so by three punk kids.Kids, he thought. My God, what am I anyway?But his main concern was for Nora-how badly had they hurt her?He shoved himself away from the car and, on pain-tortured legs, plunged in among the trees, calling her name in a voice that sounded like a stranger's to his own ears.Why was there no answer? Had they left her unconscious -dead, perhaps? The thought was unbearable and he paused, listening, every sense alerted by an agonizing panic, a fear greater than he had known for himself when those kids had held him at knife-point, though his legs had been virtually useless.I should have made them kill me, he thought. Then, surely, whatever they did, they wouldn't have killed her, too. She'd at least be alive ...She was alive. He heard her before he saw her crawling on all fours through the brush toward the sound of his voice, her dress torn, her hair disheveled. She was making retching sounds, sobbing-she could not, he realized, have answered his shouts. He knelt beside her, lifted her to a sitting position and held her tightly to him."Damn them," she gasped. "Oh, damn them!""We'll get you to a doctor, darling," he said inadequately. "I'll carry you to the car-" "No-I'll walk in a little while. Just-hold me for a moment." She shuddered against him. "I've been dirtied, Phil," she said after a while. "That's worse than the hurt.""Come on-we've got to take you to a doctor.""I don't want to see a doctor," she said and he realized she was still on the verge of hysteria. "I don't want to see anybody. Just get me home as fast as you can and I'll take care of myself, I don't want to be pregnant by one of those -those animals. Help me up."He started to do so."My shoe," she said. "I've lost a shoe."He said to hell with the shoe but she was insistent. And presently he understood. He searched the brush until he found the shoe and bits of her underwear and dress. He gathered up all the evidence he could find of what had happened, then helped her up. She clung to him for a moment as her legs threatened to give way. She was trembling violently and-while he held her close, wishing to comfort her but not knowing how-he flagellated himself again for having failed to protect her. He felt she must hate him-certainly she had reason to.Finally they started from the woods, moving slowly at first and then with as much haste as Nora could manage. He helped her into the car and quickly shut the door. He went back and threw the jack and the wheel with the flat into the trunk. He did not pick up the jack handle from where the last punk handling it had thrown it, for he knew that if he kept the thing it would always remind him that he had held a weapon in his hand but had been too inadequate or slow-witted to make use of it. He had not been man enough to protect his woman, he thought bleakly. He slammed down the trunk lid, strode to the driver's side, got in behind the wheel.Nora sat with her legs drawn up under her and her hands pressed hard to her bosom, where her dress was torn. She stared blankly through the windshield into the darkness. He started the motor, switched on the lights, pulled off the shoulder of the road onto the narrow hardtop and pressed the gas pedal recklessly nearly to the floor. He had to get Nora home as quickly as possible- the sooner the better-though whatever precautions she could take might not be adequate. Damn it, she needed a doctor. If she should become pregnant because of those bastards...But even more agonizing to him was the thought she might have been injured severely-perhaps permanently. They had probably hit her, perhaps kicked her...TWOHe and Nora had been out for dinner at the Lakeview Lodge. The evening had been a special one. Tonight was their wedding anniversary-the seventh. The martinis be- fore dinner, the wine with their meal and the brandy after it had been a bit over Nora's quota. As they had left the dining room of the Lodge, she had leaned heavily on Phil's arm."You know, darling-" her voice had been thick and her words slurred-"I believe I'm a Utile tipsy."He had grinned at her. "That you are but please, honey, don't conk out on me-not tonight.""Conk out-me?" Nora had giggled. "When did I ever conk out on you, lover? Name just once."They had walked slowly across the parking lot toward their car. Nora had found her legs rubbery."Just once?" Phil had said banteringly. "I could mention a dozen times. One drink too many-you get silly at first and then sleepy. I'll give odds that you'll be asleep before we're down out of the mountains and I'll have to pour you into bed when we get home.""You'll lose your money. Tonight I'm going to stay awake until dawn. After all, it's my wedding anniversary.""It's mine too.""It is?""Uh-huh. I'm your husband, remember.""You are?" Nora said, bringing herself and him to a stop. "Then kiss me, husband-right now."Phil had looked about involuntarily to make sure no one was around to see them. At thirty-four, he was still rather shy and often embarrassed at attracting attention- something he never did intentionally. He loved Nora but avoided being demonstrative toward her outside the confines of their home.But the parking lot had been deserted and he had kissed her quite thoroughly. He too had had two martinis, shared the bottle of wine and finished up with a snifter of brandy. Still, he had been prompted less by alcohol than by a desire to keep the evening at its romantic level. He had wanted the celebration to end as it properly should. There had been a strong need in him earlier in the evening, an aching need that had meant more to him than sexual desire. He had wanted to make love to Nora when they got home-wild, passionate love-but partly what had been on his mind was that they had been childless too long. Perhaps, with both of them emotionally primed, the condition could be corrected tonight.Nora's lips had been warm under his-moist and parted. Her tongue had moved suggestively to meet his. She had slipped her arms about his neck, not noticing or caring about dropping her purse. She had molded her body to his and moaned softly with a longing he had sensed was a kind of agony.Tall for a woman and abundantly endowed, she had filled his arms adequately. She was an attractive brunette to the world-to him a beautiful one-with a showgirl figure, and he had often marveled at his possession of her. He was not especially handsome and felt he had a quite colorless personality. He peered at his limited though adequate world through executive-type, thick-rimmed glasses that gave him, he believed, an absent-minded-professor sort of look. He had sometimes felt overly flattered when Nora had told him he was a bright young man doing a good job in a field with a bright new future. He was a cryogenic engineer and going places with the firm that employed him. She did, he supposed, have to give them both some excuse for having married him. It seemed incredible to him at times, that she should love him.Nora too had worked for the Bentley-Jordan Corporation, manufacturers of freezing equipment, when he had discovered her. He had won her away from a Bentley-Jordan vice-president-though she had been not the VP's wife, fiancé or mistress but merely his secretary. To Phil the victory had been no small one. In fact, it still seemed to him the major achievement of his life. He was as much in love with Nora now as he had been the day he married her.Back at the parking lot, earlier in the evening, he had reached up and pulled her arms from about his neck and stepped away from her. "That's enough for now," he had said, grinning. "Time's a-wastin'. Let's head for home."He had picked up her purse, handed it to her and hurried her to their Buick."Feel good?" she had asked."Never better," he had told her, guessing that she was thinking much along the same lines as he. Nora, too, wanted children.He had shut her door, gone around, gotten behind the wheel. He had been in a hurry to get home, but Nora had insisted they take the old back country road."It's longer," he had protested."It's more romantic," she had said. "Full of memories. You used to court me there-if courting is the word."The old road, a winding affair that climbed up and down past forested slopes and valley farms, did have memories for them. They had driven it many times during the summer they had first found each other. They had parked and necked like teeners at a half-hundred dark, lonely places along it. They had taken it tonight, instead of the fast, four-lane expressway, because Phil had wanted to do nothing to mar Nora's romantic mood-he had wanted the evening to end with a true consummation of their life together.Nora, true to her word, had not fallen asleep during the early part of the trip. She had sat close to Phil, her dark head on his shoulder and her left hand lying on his knee.They had driven the first few miles in silence. At last Nora had asked, "It's been a good seven years, hasn't it, darling?""The best seven years any two people ever had." "You've been happy-truly happy?" "You know I have.""Me too," Nora had said. She had snuggled even closer to him. "It's been a perfect anniversary, too. Better than if we'd thrown a party."Phil had agreed. He was no party type. Actually, they had been celebrating their anniversary a little belatedly. They had been married on the eighth of the month-tonight was the eleventh. On the eighth, this year, Phil had been out of town an business supervising a cryogenic installation for a Florida firm. The job still was not finished-Phil had simply taken the weekend off to fly home. He would be flying back tomorrow. They had just this one night together, until the Florida installation was completed.After another couple of miles of silence, Nora had said, "There's just one thing wrong with it, Phil." "With what?" he asked. "The anniversary?" "No, not that, silly. With our marriage." "That baby we still haven't had, you mean?" "Yes.""Maybe tonight-" It was then that he had felt that the car was no longer riding smoothly. He had braked to a stop on the side of the road."What is it, Phil?""Flat tire, I think.""Oh, darn-so soon?"The Buick was nearly new, only three months theirs. "Probably picked up a nail."The spot was dark and lonely. Leaving his motor running and lights on, Phil had gotten out of the car and walked around it.He had returned to the driver's side. "It's a flat, all right," he had told Nora. "Right rear. I'll have to change it."He had switched the lights from bright to parking, cut the motor and taken the keys from the ignition. Nora had come out to watch as he unlocked and raised the trunk lid. He had taken out the jack and its handle, the emergency lantern with its red blinker, set them on the ground and begun turning the wing nut that held the spare wheel in place.Changing a wheel was no great task and Phil had been tightening the lug nuts on the spare when Nora, still sounding tipsy, had said, "You know what I'd like to do? I'd like us to go into the woods and-and do what we sometimes used to."Phil had looked at her. "Used to is right," he had said. "That's for kids. We've got a home now."She had made a face at him. "You're such a square, Phil Rigby. You haven't an ounce of romance in you."But she had not sounded as though she had meant it. Her tone had been tender, loving.Minutes later, after he had replaced the hubcap and was about to let down the jack, he and Nora had been pinned by the headlight glare of an approaching car. The driver of the other car had slowed, swung onto the shoulder of the highway and come to a stop. Phil was not by nature a nervous person given to baseless fears. But recently local papers had told of terrible things happening to people stalled on dark and lonely roads-robbery, assault, rape, even murder.And when the driver of the other car had switched on his high beam to study them silently, he had known a premonition and had read the same concern in Nora's face-and he had instantly become fingers and thumbs.He had jerked at the jack handle instead of working it loose and it had stuck in its socket...And something terrible had happened to Nora and him.Now he said, "Nora, I failed you.""No," she said heavily. "Never think that.""I was too frightened to fight them.""They hurt you. They held a knife to your throat. They would have killed you if you had fought them.""Another man would have tried," he said, disconsolate "Damn it, that jack handle stuck because I panicked.""You might have gotten hurt, if not killed," Nora said "Stop blaming yourself, Phil. "I'm not really hurt an you're alive. Let's consider ourselves lucky.""Luck." He swore under his breath. Then, in a different tone: "The jack handle-I left it back there, should have brought it along. Their fingerprints may be on it. The police-" "The police?" Nora said, as though she had not eve considered reporting what had happened. "No, Phil- please. I don't want to tell the police about it. It'll get into the newspapers. I don't want to talk about it to anyone I don't want anybody to know." "But I'm not sure we have a right not to report it," he said. "Those three young punks should be picked up. If they get away with what they did to us-to you-they'll almost certainly try it again with somebody else. And next time they may hurt-even kill-their victim. Degenerates like that-" "We're not going to go to the police, Phil," Nora broke in. "I've gone through enough. I won't be put through another ordeal. Just get me home and let me forget it- please."As if she ever could-and they both knew it. Phil did not press the point and they were silent until Nora began to cry, irrepressibly, with great, wailing sobs."Our anniversary-our lovely, lovely anniversary-" He glanced at her. Tears flooded her cheeks. He had never seen anyone cry quite so. She stopped making sounds, but the torrent of tears continued. She did not even make an effort to dry them.He too felt like bawling-for the sorry specimen of a male that he was. It seemed to him that if Nora had any feeling at all for him at the moment it must be disgust.THREENora and Phil Rigby lived in an upper-bracket ex-urban community in the birch-forested hills three miles north of Bentley-Jordan Corporation's huge, sprawling plant. Theirs was one of the more exclusive ranchers and split-levels on large, expensively landscaped lots. The house was white brick and simulated graystone. Its thirty-thousand-dollar price tag was a symbol of success. The symbol seemed hollow and meaningless as, some thirty minutes after leaving the scene of the assault upon their persons, they turned into their driveway.A touch of a button on the Buick's dash raised the garage door but before Phil could run the car in, Nora said, "Let me into the house right away, Phil."He stopped the car in the driveway and Nora rushed indoors. He ran the Buick into the -garage, pulled up beside Nora's station wagon, cut his engine and lights, folded his arms on the steering wheel and rested his head upon them. He sat in the darkness for some moments, trying to fight his sense of shame, to adjust to what had happened. But logical thought was impossible -he could only emote-and at last he got from the car, pressed the button to lower the garage door and entered the house.Nora had not bothered with any but the essential lights. He followed them to the ivory-and-pink bedroom. Nora was in the bathroom, the door shut. He heard the rush of water in the tub, knocked on the door and asked if he could do anything.She called back that she was all right. But her voice shook as she added: "I'm just mad now-mad enough to kill-" After taking her precautions and offering up a prayer that they would work, Nora got into a tub of water almost scaldingly hot. She soaped herself thoroughly, wondering if she would ever feel clean again.