#52weeks52stories: Week 11
Word prompt: assailant
Word Count: 3634
“I don’t like leaving you alone with that maniac still on the loose. I’m calling Reynolds to cancel.”
“You’ll do no such thing, Francis Bennett!”
Sally grasped both of her husband’s hands in her own, clutching them to her chest.
“You and Bill have worked hard for this. No one believed a couple of baby boomers could compete in today’s marketing madness of social media. You’ll proving all the naysayers wrong. You two beat out national companies to get this meeting and you will not miss it.”
She kissed his hands.
“And besides, even though the thought of this guy still out there in the shadows unnerves me, I’m more concerned for my clients, the poor dears. I don’t fit his profile.”
The list of women attacked by Marbury’s Senior Citizen rapist now numbered four—all 69 to 89 years of age; all widowed; all in poor health or recuperating from illness.
Francis ‘Frankie’ Bennett pulled his wife into his arms.
“I know, honey, I know. But no one knows what drives these sickos… better safe than sorry.”
“And I promise I will be safe. Now go finish packing. If you miss your flight, you know Bill will have a mental break.”
Husband and wife shared a laugh before Frankie kissed Sally’s forehead and left to pack.
She retook her seat at the breakfast nook. She gave the article about the Senior Citizen Rapist another read before closing the browser on her tablet.
Sally didn’t know Pearl Wright, but her heart went out to the eighty-one-year-old grandmother of twenty-three.
Plagued with heart problems, Pearl was a regular client of Angels Assist, the home-care agency Sally worked part-time for as a services scheduler.
It was Angels Assist volunteer, Leanne Brinkley, scheduled to prepare breakfast and do light housework, who discovered Pearl’s battered and bruised body.
Awed the elderly woman survived the brutal attack, Sally also worried about Leanne.
After calling police, paramedics, and Pearl’s family, the perky volunteer went into mild shock and was hospitalized overnight.
Angels Assist staff and volunteers were all concerned with their safety. Staff was requesting security escorts and volunteers were canceling late evening and early morning assignments. Any more schedule changes and Sally would have to add herself to the schedule. She didn’t mind though. With Frankie away, she liked to keep busy, but there was no way Sally would tell him she may have to do home visits. He’d cancel his trip for sure.
After completing her weekly reports, Sally emailed the new schedule to supervisors and Blanche, the owner. She uploaded all the documents to the office server and powered down her tablet, grateful for the technology which allowed her to do most of her job from home.
Pouring another cup of coffee, Sally opened her journal and went to work on their upcoming anniversary banquet plans when the phone rang. The name ‘Kristen’—an agency volunteer—flashed on the caller ID.
“Hey, Kristen. How are you?”
“I’ll be a lot better when I know you don’t hate me.”
Sally’s brow knitted in confusion.
“Hate you? What’s going on, Kristen?”
“I-I… have to cancel my hours of availability.”
Sally’s hand shook as panic gripped her. The thirty-something Kristen was pregnant, expecting her first child after she and her husband tried for years.
“Are you okay, Kristen?”
I’m fine, Sally. Midway through my second trimester without morning sickness or heartburn anywhere in sight.”
“It’s just… these attacks on elderly women.”
Grateful mother and child were fine, a hint of annoyance niggled at Sally while Kristen continued.
“I don’t know Mrs. Wright—was never scheduled with her and I only know Leanne as another agency volunteer. But my husband knows Leanne’s family. Her dad was his supervisor years back when he first got hired into the fire department. After he heard what Leanne went through… well, he kinda lost it and insisted I stopped volunteering.”
“Kristen, it’s okay. We’re all unnerved by these attacks and to have one hit so close to home is terrifying.”
“I know, Sally, but – “
“No buts. I hate to even think what could have happened if it had been you instead of Leanne who found Mrs. Wright.”
“That’s what Rory said. We’ve tried so long for this baby, and at my age, the shock alone might – “
“Enough, sweetie. Don’t allow your mind to go there. We’re all grateful Leanne is better and pray for the same for Mrs. Wright.”
“Thanks, Sally. I only had one assignment on this schedule—an overnight tomorrow with a woman recovering from eye procedures for glaucoma. I took it because it was light duty and Rory was scheduled for a four-day shift at the fire station.”
“We’ll get this covered, Kristen, please don’t worry over it.”
Sally pulled up the current schedule.
“This was your only assignment this week. I’ve got next week’s schedule done and you were on for two four-hour respite visits near the end of the week. I’ll have no problem getting those covered. You just concentrate on that sweet baby you’re carrying and putting your hubby’s mind at ease. We’ll all breathe easier when this psycho is caught and behind bars.”
She could hear Kristen exhale over the phone.
“I agree, Sally, and thank you. I’ll be in touch when I can help out again. Take care.”
Sally Bennett smiled as she ended the call. While she hoped the maniac terrorizing the city was caught soon, she doubted Kristen would be volunteering again anytime soon. She’d be a new mom in less than four months, and free time would no longer exist for her.
Sally red-lined the two shifts under Kristen’s name on the new schedule then opened the staff database looking for someone who could cover tomorrow’s overnight assignment on such short notice.
Sally entered the hours of coverage needed, pressed enter, and groaned when no names appeared on the screen.
She’d have to take the assignment.
Sally was good with it, though. She subbed once or twice a month, and Frankie would be away, it would give her time to keep her own caregiver skills sharp.
She was jotting down the address and contact information for Graciela Ramirez when Frankie bounded back into the kitchen.
“I can take you to the airport.”
Frankie Bennett pulled his wife from her seat into his arms. “We are not going to start that again, Sal.” He kissed her forehead. “It’s an hour’s drive one way, parking costs a small fortune, and you can’t go past the security check-in.”
“I know, I know. It just seems as though I’m always telling you goodbye lately.”
“Well, this is the last trip for a while and you know what happens when I get back, right?”
He began to lead her around the kitchen in an exaggerated waltz. “We have an anniversary to celebrate.”
Sally giggled as he spun her around.
“Yes, thirty-two years and we’re still on speaking terms.”
“And don’t forget the fabulous five.”
“As if they’d let us. I know they’re cooking up some big surprise for us. Joanie called, and I could hear it in her voice.”
Frankie laughed. “Five kids and the one who can’t keep a secret is the one who calls the most.”
Sally laughed, but stopped suddenly, running from the kitchen.
When she returned, Frankie was closing a browser on her tablet.
“Doing my job for me, Bennett?”
“No, my sweet sunflower. Just making sure my flight’s on time. Where you run off to?”
She held her hand up, a medicine bottle balanced on her palm. “I knew you forgot these—one bypass surgery is more than enough. We don’t need to go through that again. And what did I tell you about calling me sunflower? Can’t you think of a more feminine flower?”
“Ah, yes, my love. There are more feminine flowers, but they’re also fragile and wilt under pressure.” He stretched his arms toward the ceiling. “But the mighty sunflower is strong and resilient, rising up in the field to provide beauty, shade… and a tasty little snack.”
Giggling, Sally threw the medicine bottle at him.
Frankie caught the bottle of Lipitor. Stashing it in a side pocket of his suitcase, he backed toward the door leading to the garage. “I’d better get out of here while I’m still breathing.”
Sally Bennett grabbed his lapel, kissing him deeply. “Good luck with your meeting. You guys got this. And stay out of trouble.”
He wiggled his eyebrows. “Aw, sweetie. Don’t I always?”
Estelle Ramirez showed Sally around the large well-kept home.
“Mom’s vision is still blurred from the surgery, so even though her television is on, she can’t see the screen. She never misses her Spanish-language novellas, though.”
Sally smiled and nodded once as they approached Graciela’s bedroom.
“I made her favorite dinner—albondigas soup—but she didn’t eat much. There’s sliced fruit in the fridge and sweetbreads on the counter.”
“You done all the work, Estelle. What did you leave for me?”
Estelle Ramirez smirked.
“Trust me, Sally. The queen will keep you busy. She’s independent and spirited. My grandmother and great-grandmother lost their sight to glaucoma. Mami knows she is blessed new medical procedures may help her avoid that.”
Reaching for the doorknob, Estelle tilted her head toward Sally. “That doesn’t make her any less grouchy, though.”
She opened the door and Sally followed her into the darkened room. Even with the low lighting, she could tell it was beautifully decorated in golds and reds with a Latin flavor.
The large queen-size bed was empty, but looking past the bed, Sally saw her charge for the evening.
Graciela Ramirez sat in a gold brocade high-back chair. Sally pursed her lips to hide her grin as Estelle’s reference to ‘the queen’ came to mind.
Despite her diminutive size, the senior Ramirez was regal in her appearance. Her iron-gray hair, swept over one shoulder, was long enough to reach her lap. Long, slender fingers rested on the arms of the chair. Already dressed for bed, Graciela’s winter white robe could put some ball gowns to shame.
Sally’s grandson, Mark, would say Graciela Ramirez was large and in charge.
“Mami, this is Sally Bennett, from the home-care agency. She’s going to stay with you tonight.”
“I do not need a babysitter.”
Sally was struck that despite the thick accent, Graciela’s voice was strong, deep, and clear—not frail and wispy like most of their clients in their seventies.
“Do not start, mami. We’ve argued about it enough. This was the only shift I couldn’t switch this week, and I’m not leaving you alone. I’m grateful for places like Angels Assist. You should be too.”
“I don’t need a babysitter.”
Dragging her hand through her short, dark curls, Estelle then gestured at her mother.
“As you can see, she’s stubborn.” Estelle turned her head, speaking in Graciela’s direction. “But I’m sure she will be show all the grace of her name and the manners she instilled in me.”
“I’m sure we’ll be fine, Estelle.” Sally’s voice held a confidence she didn’t feel. Graciela was a force to be reckoned with, even with limited sight.
“Mami is tricksy too with her language. She likes to play poor old Spanish lady and will refuse to speak English. Ignore her until she does.”
Sally covered her mouth too late and her giggles escaped.
An indignant Graciela raised her hand and pointed in Estelle’s direction.
“Oh, mi hija.”
Resting her fists on her hips, Estelle shot back, “Don’t you ‘oh my daughter’ me.”
Estelle went to her mother and knelt at her feet. She cupped Graciela’s cheek while speaking in a low hushed tone. The senior Ramirez smiled and leaned into her daughter’s hand.
Sally could see the love between mother and child. Their banter was part of that love.
Rising, Estelle kissed her mother’s cheek and turned to Sally.
“She’ll be good… for the most part.” The two women shared a laugh as Graciela feigned a look of innocence.
“Her next meds are due at nine and she must take them all.” She picked up two small bottles from the dresser. “Two drops of each in each eye. They sting and blur her vision even more, but the stinging passes quickly.”
Replacing the bottles on the dresser, Estelle reached for another containing pills.
“She also gets two of these… no matter how she feels. Mami doesn’t have a blood pressure problem, but it has been elevated since her procedures. The doctor doesn’t want to risk any break-through pain exacerbating the problem and wants her to take these as prescribed until he sees her on Thursday.”
Graciela crossed her arms, mumbling and pouting like a petulant child.
Estelle threw her hands up. “I’m going to work, she’s all yours. Call me if you need anything.” She headed for the bedroom door but turned before leaving. “Thank you, Sally. You’re a lifesaver.”
Removing her cell from her back pocket, Sally opened the Angels Assist app and entered the names, dosage, and time for Graciela’s meds.
Sally didn’t have to look up to know the senior citizen was staring at her, sizing her up. Closing the app, Sally gazed out the window at the beautiful twilight caused by the setting sun and knew she was in for a long night.
Graciela Ramirez did not disappoint.
Between numerous requests for snacks and drinks, Sally had caught the spry old woman stumbling through the house three times.
Saying a silent prayer, Sally was grateful when the hall clock chimed at nine.
A new argument started when Sally sat Graciela on the edge of her bed to put in her eye drops.
The client refused to open her eyes.
Sally snapped at the old woman before she could catch herself.
“Mrs. Ramirez! Didn’t your mother and her mother both lose their sight? Is that what you want to happen to you? It seems to me someone as independent as you would do everything they could to keep their sight. And that includes taking your meds.”
Sally saw the look of shame on Graciela’s face as she opened her eyes.
“I-I… am sorry, Sally Bennett. I’m acting like a sullen child. But the drops do burn, and those pills make me fuzzy in the head. I don’t like not being in control of myself.”
Sally Bennett’s heart broke at the sadness in Graciela’s eyes.
“So many of my friends have passed on. And the one who are still here? They wear diapers and have to be spoon-fed. They use mobile chairs and hospital beds.”
She pointed to the foot of her bed.
“There’s a cane there somewhere near the foot of my bed. I stumbled over my house shoe a few weeks ago and Estelle rushed out and bought it for me. I feel like I’m being rushed to the grave sometimes, and I’m not ready for that.”
“Sounds to me like Estelle doesn’t want that either.”
The older woman squinted, trying to focus on Sally’s face. “How so?”
“I don’t think Estelle bought that cane because she thought you were getting old and frail. I believe she bought it for support—to help you with your balance and keep you from falling and injuring yourself… to keep you here with her longer.”
A lone tear slid down Graciela’s cheek, betrayed by the huge grin on her face.
“You are a wise woman, Sally Bennett. I’ve been so busy arguing with everyone, trying to get my way, I never stopped to consider anyone else’s feelings. Especially my sweet Estelle. Thank you, Sally Bennett.”
Graciela then tipped her head back and waited for the eye drops. After Sally finished, Graciela held out her hand for the pain pills and water, taking her meds without argument.
She crawled up into the center of the large bed and Sally was struck by how much the septuagenarian looked like a child in her parents’ bed.
“If you’ll hand me the remote, Sally Bennett, I’ll listen to my novellas until the pills make my brain thick.”
Laughing, Sally passed her the remote.
“Estelle put me in the guest bedroom two doors away. I’m going to read a while then come check on you. If you need me before then, just call out. I’ll leave the door open.”
“I like you, Sally Bennett. I hope you’ll come visit me when I’m not a client.”
“Is that an invitation?”
“I suppose it is.”
“Then I’ll be here.”
Sally smiled as she made her way to the guest bedroom. Graciela Ramirez was a lot like Carol Jean Munson—Sally’s mother. Strong, proud, and independent, she felt both women saw accepting help as weakness.
Grabbing her reader from the side of her overnight bag, Sally snuggled in the easy chair next to the closet. The muted lighting of the Ramirez home had grown on Sally and she reached over and turned off the lamp, choosing to read by the illuminated light of her ereader.
Startled and disoriented, Sally bolted upright. She looked around the dark room, trying to get her bearings.
She laughed at herself after glancing toward the hallway.
Real good, Bennett. What kind of caregiver are you falling asleep on the job?
A swipe of her ereader provided light and the time.
My word! Has it been almost four hours since I gave Graciela her meds? I’d better see if she’s sleeping or needs them again.
Sally held the reader over the edge of the chair, looking for her overnight bag. She reached for it but froze when she thought she heard a large thump.
What was that noise?
She sat motionless on the edge of the chair listening for the sound again. Hearing nothing, Sally grabbed the bag and tossed it onto the foot of the bed. Reaching for the table-side lamp, she heard the noise again, louder and closer.
No, no! I hope Graciela isn’t up trying to get her own meds. Why didn’t she call out for me? Damn it! Maybe she did, and I was asleep.
Feeling her back pocket for her cell, Sally raced the few steps down the hall to her client’s room.
She froze in the doorway.
A dark figure was on top of Graciela.
Without thinking, Sally charged the bed, launching herself at the assailant. She heard a sharp intake of air as the intruder fell toward the foot of the bed.
Sally took the few precious seconds to drag the small woman from the bed. Not able to tell if Graciela was wounded and too terror-stricken to speak, Sally pushed her toward the bedroom door, screaming one word, “Run!”
With her arms out in front of her, the spry senior bolted for the door, feeling her way down the hall.
Before Sally could follow, she felt a hand grab her arm, pulling her back to the bed. She whirled around, swinging blindly with her free hand. Her punch connected with the intruder, but he didn’t let go. As he pulled her closer, Sally bit the hand clutching her arm. Muttering a curse, he let go and Sally flipped onto her back, kicking her legs wildly.
Her attacker leaned down, grabbing the front of her shirt and flung her from the bed. She crashed into the dresser, slumping to floor.
Praying Graciela had found her way out, Sally knew her time was growing short. Her heart raced as she looked up at the shadowy figure approaching, blocking her path to the door.
His breathing was hard and labored.
Sally froze. Something about him was familiar.
She could see him raising his arm and the hallways light behind him allowed Sally to see he wore a ski mask… and the glint of his knife.
Adrenalin barreled through her body. Sally Bennett would not hand this killer her life.
She kicked out both legs, catching the masked figure in the knee.
As he doubled over in pain, Sally leaped from the floor, throwing herself across the bed and toward the door.
Her assailant recovered quick enough to grab her ankle.
Clawing at the bed, Sally struggle for purchase. As he dragged her across the large bed, Sally grabbed at the low bed railing, but its surface was too smooth to hold on to. Sally still clawed and groped until her fist wrapped around something.
The middle-aged woman was tiring, but holding tight to the cane, she swung around towards her attacker. The blow made him let go and allowed Sally to turn and get in two more good swings. The intruder stumbled backward to avoid the blows.
Sally launched herself across the bed one last time, this time falling to the floor on the other side.
She popped up, threw the cane toward her assailant and dashed out the bedroom door. She heard the cane clatter to the floor and knew the man was rounding the foot of the bed, but she refused to waste time looking behind her.
Barreling down the hallway, Sally thought she heard the killer stumble and fall, but it was Graciela’s screams that guided Sally to the front door.
Graciela Ramirez had made it out the house and stood in the front yard screaming. Lights came on in several houses, and Sally grabbed her client and headed for the closest one, still not looking behind her.
A woman opened the door and called out to Graciela by name.
It was only then Sally looked behind her… and saw two men from the neighborhood run into the Ramirez home.
She called out to them. “Be careful he has a knife!”
The woman pulled the two women inside and closed and locked her door.
Sally Bennett and Graciela Ramirez stood in the foyer clutching each other tightly, grateful their nightmare was over.
©2018 Felicia Denise, All Rights Reserved