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Thursday, June 7, 2007, 2:03 a.m. Tucson, Arizona
The red LED lights swam, cleared, blurred again. Every muscle tense, Harry lay in bed, listening. Something had awakened him. And it wasn't Laura. Her hand was still half clutched in his under the covers, and she slept on, despite whatever had interrupted his own sleep.
2:04. There it was again. A sort of swishing. Not a footstep. But movement. He recognized it immediately as the sound that had just jerked him abruptly out of a dream-a dream about his botanist wife snipping bits of cactus from a garden that had appeared in the middle of their bedroom...
The sound came again. Was it closer? Harry couldn't tell. And he couldn't identify it. It was like moving air. Not from the vent in the ceiling, but lower. Thinking of the unloaded pistol-inheritance from his uncle-in the back of his closet, Harry slid his hand from Laura's, moving so slowly he almost wasn't.
He wanted to believe he was imagining things, but Harry wasn't prone to an overactive imagination. Someone...or something...was in their house.
Without disturbing Laura, he slipped one bare leg out of the covers. Then the second...
He froze. There was a shadow on Laura's side of the bed, the shape of a man bending down, reaching toward her. Harry's arms shot out to grab the bastard around the neck but he was caught from behind. He bellowed in pain and rage, the sound immediately muffled by a leather-gloved hand against his mouth.
His wife's eyes opened-instantly wide-staring at him in the darkness. He read the fear there, the desperate plea for him to do something. And saw a man gag her.
Infused with frantic strength, Harry alternately yanked his arms, trying to free them from his captor's hold, and hit back against him. A hand grabbed the waistband of his briefs and yanked him backward. He bit and tasted leather, bit again and had a piece of leather on his tongue. He couldn't spit it out. Couldn't swallow.
"Do not move and you won't be injured." Laura was hauled up, the strap of her pink gown falling down one shoulder. She tried to right it but before she could, her hands were pulled forcibly behind her and restrained. Her whimper sent him over the bounds of sanity.
Harry's foot connected with flesh and bone. His nails scraped leather and denim. The elbow punch he landed resulted in a loud smack in the too-quiet room.
And then, his arms wrenched behind his back, pulling the left one half out of its socket, he felt something thin and hard being twisted around his wrists, cutting into his flesh.
"Unless you want more than a dislocated AC, you'll keep still," the deep voice muttered. He could hear it clearly despite Laura's high, terrified moans.
Tears streamed down her face.
Shoving against his captor with both legs, Harry broke free, kicked again and again, landing some blows. The shadow was doing something to Laura at the bedpost and Harry lashed out like a madman, needing to annihilate his own unseen force so he could get to her.
Laura's captor joined Harry's and just as Harry realized his wife had been tied to the bedpost, he was attacked by two male bodies at once. He kicked. He bit. He pummeled with the hands tied behind his back, hardly aware of the pain that shot through his shoulder with every wrench. The pain was good; it kept him alive and feeling, aware.
Harry was strong, athletic-a black man who knew how to defend himself-but he was no street fighter.
He landed a kick to one guy's head. The guy fell.And the other was there, smashing his fist into the right side of Harry's face. Stars swam before his eyes at the sudden, excruciating pain in his nose. The fallen man got up. Swung. A crack reverberated inside Harry's head. A second punch made it hard to think. Only the staccato whimpers of his wife's fear kept him conscious. Fighting.
They dragged the antique desk chair to his side of the bed. Harry fought with everything he had, but the two men were bigger, stronger-and less injured. They grabbed his shoulders, numbing his left arm. He felt the edge of the hard wooden chair shove into the backs of his knees.
He continued to fight, to kick and thrash and jerk his body, in spite of the rope securing his hips and then his ankles to the chair. The grunts rising from his throat were unrecognizable-the sounds of a man enduring a nightmare worse than hell.
And knowing it was going to get worse.
Thursday, June 7, 2007. 2:09 a.m. Flagstaff, Arizona
Luke's cries woke him. Jumping out of bed, Bobby Donahue wiped sleep from his eyes and hurried in to check on his three-year-old son.
"What's up, buddy?" he called as he entered the room lit by the soft glow of the angel night-light above the dresser. He instantly swept the space with sharp, alert eyes. Finding it empty, he switched from automatic defensive mode to compassion for his upset son.
"No boogy man, here, pal," he said, reaching the boy. Luke stood at the bars of the crib he still slept in, arms outstretched, and Bobby scooped him up.
"You're soaked," he said, holding the toddler against him anyway. "Is that what woke you?"
"Mama!" Luke's wail pierced Bobby's emotions more than his eardrums.
"I know, pal. I miss Mama, too."
Holding the boy until his sobs subsided to hiccups, Bobby drew in the child's warmth. His nearness.
Luke and the world his son would inhabit in the future were Bobby's reason for being. His son, and all the other pure children. Every breath he took, every decision he made, was for the children of God.
"Your mama loved watching Blue with you, did you know that?"
Changing the diaper the boy wore only at night now and the damp summer-weight pajamas, Bobby snapped Blue's Clues bottoms into a matching short-sleeved top.
"Can you remember how she used to scrunch up her nose just like him?"
Luke shook his head, reaching out to Bobby again. Taking his son in his arms, Bobby headed back toward the crib, but when the boy's arms clasped his neck, he chose the rocker Amanda had loved.
It had been a year since the car accident from which Amanda-Luke's mother, the love of Bobby's life- had disappeared. A year of grieving, of missing her, of not knowing whether she was dead or alive, but assuming the worst. A year to recover.
Luke still had dreams about her. And Bobby continued to draw strength from the living warmth of their son. He liked to believeAmanda remained with them. She'd been his angel on earth, and it wasn't such a far cry to think that she was watching over them from the heavenly place she inhabited now.
He rocked Luke for the few minutes it took to get the little boy back to sleep and then, with a gentle kiss on his son's forehead, he laid him in his crib again, checking the monitor to make sure he'd hear any sounds coming from the boy's room during the rest of the night.
Amanda had insisted on the monitor when Luke was born. And now it gave Bobby great security. He'd die if he lost Luke, too.
Back in his room, Bobby sat propped against the pillows, staring out into the darkness. Some days he was too busy, too filled with the intensity of his work, to think about Amanda much. But on nights like this, the pain of her loss was almost debilitating.
Doing what he'd learned to do at a very young age, Bobby endured as much of the pain as he could, then traveled to other places in his mind, focused on things that felt good. Positive things.
He immediately thought of Tony Littleton. His young college-age friend, a new convert the year before, had left his mother's home the previous summer and moved in with Bobby, helping him care for Luke. He'd also proven to be a loyal and trusted brother of the Ivory Nation.
Tony was in Tucson, at the University of Arizona, where he was being mentored by an influential Ivory Nation brother and studying political science at Bobby's behest, but he still made it home most weekends. Which meant he'd be there by dinnertime the following day.
Bobby couldn't wait that long.
Picking up the phone, he dialed Tony's cell, knowing the boy slept with it right beside him for occasions like this. A true and loyal brother.
The phone rang. And rang. And rang again. Where the hell was Tony at 2:36 in the morning?
For a moment, as Tony's voice mail picked up, Bobby felt the blood drain from his face. Another car accident. Could God be so cruel?
And then a conversation he'd had with Tony the weekend before sprang to mind and Bobby smiled. There was a girl on campus Tony had the hots for. A beautiful white daughter of wealthy Republican parents. Replaying the advice he'd given his dedicated recruit, Bobby had no doubt where Tony was tonight.
And he looked forward to the next evening, after Luke was down for the night, when he'd hear all the details.
Please God, let a baby be made tonight. A white baby boy...
Thursday, June 7, 2:37 a.m. Tucson, Arizona
Jerking his head against the gloved hand at his neck and the other buried in his hair, Harry closed his eyes. They could force him to sit there, to hear, to face the bed where his shy, beautiful wife lay, her gown up around her ribs, but they couldn't force him to watch.
Laura's muffled shriek tore through him and his eyes flew open, quickly adjusting to the dark. To the shadows. The man who'd originally captured Harry was between his wife's knees, pumping frantically in and out. The man's hands were in Laura's long blond hair.
Her face was turned away.
Stay sane, he told himself. Over and over.
Get evidence. He tried to focus his mind in a way that could help him. But his head hurt so much he couldn't think straight, his entire being consumed by a rage he couldn't control.
There were two dark, mostly indistinguishable hooded shapes. One with his wife. The other, shorter one, stood behind him, hands hotly gripping the sides of Harry's face.
The man raping Laura was white. His penis was the only flesh showing but even in the shadows, Harry could tell. He couldn't get beyond the vision of what it was doing to his wife.
He hollered, in spite of the gag in his mouth, needing Laura to know he was there, alive, loving her.
With another jerk of his head, he managed to get a gloved finger in his mouth, bit hard. The man behind him didn't even seem to notice.
His original captor slowed and Harry held his breath. Please God, let them be done. Take them away from my wife, from my home.
Still inside Laura, the man lifted a hand, slid it beneath her gown and grabbed her breast.
Harry saw her body lurch. Laura's injured cry was the only sound in the room-other than the ugly slamming of the rapist's flesh against hers. Harry watched as the man further exposed his wife's glistening white skin and tears pooled in his eyes.
Trying to swallow, he choked. His jailor's grip didn't loosen.
The man on top of his wife shuddered, jerked a couple of times. There was no huge sigh, no taunts or threats or gloats of victory, no sound at all to accompany the dirty releasing of fluid inside Harry's wife.
Sliding away from Laura, leaving her body exposed to the air-conditioned room, the man zipped his fly and Harry got a smidgeon of satisfaction when the bastard bit back a low curse as, with gloved fingers and haste, he caught his still-engorged penis in the zipper.
Harry hoped he'd drawn blood. Other than his original grunt of pain, the taller intruder hardly seemed to notice what he'd done to himself as he walked behind Harry, placing his hands, like a vice, at the base of Harry's neck and around his jawbone. He was the stronger of the two. And all business.
And when he felt those hands settle on him, Harry knew they weren't finished yet. Laura legs were crossed, her hands tied at the wrists and fastened to one bedpost. Still facing the wall, she was sobbing. He could see the shudders wracking her slim body.
The smaller man approached her slowly. His hands together at the waistband of his pants, the bastard left no doubt about what he was going to do.
A little more tentative than his partner, he pulled down his zipper, his hard white cock falling out. Laura locked her ankles together when he tried to spread her knees. The man hesitated and from behind him Harry heard a whisper. Something about white, he thought, but couldn't be certain, not with the roaring in his ears.
That communication changed the smaller man's bearing completely. With more force than the first intruder had used, he pried Laura's legs apart. Not glancing, even for a second, toward her face, he stared at her crotch, touched it with a gloved hand. He seemed to like it when she jerked back as far as her constraints would allow. And then, without further warning, he plunged inside her.