The Palpable Prosecutor

by Lubrican

Chapter : 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6-22 Available On

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Chapter One

Master Sergeant (Retired) Robert Shepard strolled aimlessly through the market, looking for something to eat.  He kept hoping he'd see an unusual, exotic food, such as he'd been forced to consume in some far off land.  After twenty-five years in the Army, much of it spent as a Special Forces operator and then Delta Force, he'd finally been injured badly enough that they had kicked him to the curb with a medical retirement.  He'd been retired for four months now, and was healed up well enough that retirement was already beginning to grate on his nerves.

The only people who would offer him work matching his skills were the private security contractors he'd hated working with as an operator.  And, to be honest, he was tired of sand and dirt and not being able to trust anybody outside his tightly-knit unit.  His skill set wasn't really appropriate for a normal job, and he wasn't about to become a rent-a-cop at some mall, where the most dangerous person he'd run into would be a fifteen year old girl who thought the world owed her whatever she wanted.

Not that money was a problem.  He could live comfortably on his retirement pay.  It wasn't like he'd know what to do with a whole house.  And living in the suburbs just seemed laughable to him.  His room in the Highview Hotel, a flophouse, really, was cheap and just fine.  Nobody bothered him.  Out on the streets many people assumed he was homeless.  That might have been the result of his limited wardrobe and the fact that he hadn't shaved or gotten a hair cut since they kicked him out.

The real problem was ... he was bored.

He'd been bored before, of course, plenty of times, in fact.  The old saying about the Army, concerning "hurry up and wait" was as factual and reliable as the patterns of the sun and moon.  But those times of boredom were bearable because you knew action would come.  It might come sooner ... or later ... but it would come.

Now, though, the boredom he experienced felt like it just might be permanent.  His days of action were over.

Or so he thought.

Ten minutes after leaving the market, the internal radar that had been fine-tuned by years of training and field work came alive.  The first blip on that radar was the carriage of a man in the crowd.  He was walking in the throng of people on the street, but not with it.  Once his attention was on the man, Bob saw that his clothing was also out of sync with the people around him.  The coat he was wearing was too long and too heavy for the current weather conditions.

Curious, Bob started following the man, and within another minute realized that the man was following someone else.

Checking for counter surveillance, Bob detected nothing.  The man was on his own.  Casually, he closed the distance between them.  Within another two or three minutes he decided that a woman some twenty yards in front of them was the target.  She was wearing a navy blue skirt and jacket, but that was all he could tell about her, other than that she had her blondish hair up in a bun.

The man's body language changed and Bob's radar flared to danger!   The way he was holding his right arm suggested he was armed, and he was speeding up, closing with the target.

Bob thought about what to do.  Being behind the man would give him a tactical advantage, but he didn't know what kind of weapon was in that right hand.  Whatever it was, though, the guy thought of it as a weapon.  If it was a gun, then there was little Bob could do, other than try to deflect the shot when it came.  But if it was a gun, then the shot could be off before he could reach the man and do anything about it.

Better to be in front of the guy, so he could watch the face and eyes, as well as that right hand.  

He thought of a way to disrupt the flow of events, and broke into a run.

Running past the man, he caught up to the woman and reached to grip her elbow.

"Hey Cindy!" he said, loudly. "There you are.  I thought you were going to meet me for lunch."

Startled eyes turned on him, but he paid no attention to her face.  Instead he was looking past her at the man following her.  He was coming on, now, speeding up.

"Get away from me!" yelped the woman.  "I'm not Cindy!  Who are you?"

"You're in danger," he said, his voice low.  "Move into that store over there!"

"Get away from me!" yelled the frightened woman, again.  "I'll call a cop!"

"Go right ahead," said Bob, who saw that rather than disrupting the man's plans he had accelerated them.  He was coming now at a fast walk and Bob saw the tip of a knife protruding from the sleeve of his right arm.  No doubt he thought he could use the uproar to let him do whatever he had in mind and then melt into the crowd.

She batted at Bob with her free hand, yelling, "Let go!" and Bob used her motion to swivel her behind him, bringing him face to face with her attacker. 

The fight, such as it was, was short.  To most people watching, it looked like the two men bumped into each other, at which time one of them tripped and fell down.  Something black clattered behind Bob as he levered the man's right arm, dislocating the shoulder.  There was a grunt of pain and the man's foot lashed out, hitting Bob's ankle, sending him to the ground, as well.

As he rolled and came up, the other man did too.  Disarmed now, and with an arm that no longer worked properly, he spun and ran, fleeing into the crowd.

Bob turned to find the woman staring at him as if he were a raving lunatic.  He bent to pick up the knife that had come free when he dislocated the attacker's shoulder.  He recognized it instantly as a Kizlyar Irtish tactical knife, the kind the Spetsnaz and the KGB preferred.  Though they were not rare, he was still surprised that a street thug in New York would have one.  He held it out to show the woman.

"He was going to attack you with this," said Bob.  "He'd been following you for a while.  Probably after your purse."

Her demeanor changed almost instantly.

"That's not what he was after.  Thank you.  You probably saved my life."

"No problem," said Bob, easily.

"How did you know he was following me?"

"I'm ex Army," he said.  "I've had some training and I saw some things that tipped me off. I thought I could disrupt the attack."

"So when you accosted me, it was to get into position to do that," she mused.

"Yes.  I'm sorry if I startled you."

"Would you be interested in a job, Mister ...?"

"Shepard," said Bob.  "Bob Shepard. I'm not really looking for a job."

"Well, Mister Bob Shepard, my name is Lacey Cragg, and, as I said, I don't think that man was after my purse."

"Lacey Cragg," said Bob. "I read about you in the paper."

She smiled.  It wasn't a happy smile.  Her face looked pinched.

"I'm not surprised," she said.  "As I said.  You probably saved my life, and I'd like to hire you to protect me in the future."

"I don't know," said Bob.  He didn't really need a job.  But he was bored.

People were flowing past them now, and they stood as boulders in a stream, parting the rushing water, sending it on each side of the obstruction.

"I'd think the government would provide you security," said Bob.

"I've asked them to, but there's red tape involved, and the Marshal Service likes to have a confirmed threat before they act.  As you can see, I need protection now, instead of later."

"Like I said, I'm not really looking for a job," said Bob.

"Why not?  You can't be a bum forever."

"I'm not a bum!" he said.  "I'm retired military."

"Well you look pretty scruffy to me.  The point is you know how to handle yourself and I need somebody to keep me from ending up like the last prosecutor on this case."

"I thought he was in an accident, a car crash."

"There are things the public doesn't know about that," she said.  "Will you at least come with me and let me do a formal interview?"

"You already offered me the job," he pointed out.

"Humor me," she said.  "I'm sorry I called you a bum.  Let me buy you a cup of coffee.  It's the least I can do."

"What the hell," he said.  "I didn't have anything else on my calendar anyway."

Bob sat across the small table from the woman.  He had time, now, to look her over.

She was in the range of five-seven or so.  Her navy suit covered a utilitarian white blouse, and the overall effect was somewhat mannish. She wore little, if any, makeup and the skin on her temples and forehead was stretched by the tight bun her hair was pulled into.  She looked plain, but Bob could see the potential for something much more feminine.

He knew only what he'd read about her in the paper, that she was a rising star in the prosecutorial world, and had replaced the former prosecutor on a big, human trafficking case when he'd been killed in a car crash.  The defendant was Russian, and his mind made the connection to the Kizlyar knife, now tucked into the back of his waistline and covered by his shirt.  She hadn't wanted to call the police, saying there was nothing they could do since the man had fled.

"The former prosecutor died in a car crash, and when they offered his case to me I thought getting it would be good for my career," she said, sipping her latte.  "Then I was informed that the crash John Rawlins was killed in wasn't a single car accident, as originally reported.  They found evidence that he was sideswiped, forced off the road.  They found the car that did it several miles away, abandoned.  It was stolen, of course.  Some argue that it was still just an accident, but it's also possible John was murdered."

"The knife that guy had is Russian made," said Bob.

"Why they think going after me will do them any good, I don't know," she said.  "All I'm doing is prosecuting the case.  The man they want to kill is under heavy protection."

"I can think of a reason they want you out of the way," said Bob.

"Why?"

"Because they want the right prosecutor on the case."

"You mean one they can bribe," she said.

"Yes.  I'm guessing they can't bribe you."

"You're guessing right," she said, firmly.

"They'll try again," said Bob.

"Which is why I need you, protecting me.  You saw this guy before he made his move.  And then you stopped him."

"It was just what I was trained to do."

"Tell me more about that," said Lacey.  "Your training, I mean."

He shrugged.

"Army, twenty-five years, Special Forces and then Delta Force.  Got to go to exotic places, meet interesting people and then kill them."

"Really?  You've killed people?"

"What do you think your Army does?" he asked, his voice wry.

She looked away, obviously uncomfortable.

"I guess the average person doesn't think much about that."

"We don't ask them to," said Bob. "All we really want is to be able to do our job and then go home, like anybody else."

"So ... will you come to work for me?"

"I'm sure the feds will give you a security detail, especially considering what you told me about the accident and what happened today."

"Sure," she said.  "I'm sure they will.  I work with those guys all the time, though, and they haven't done what you've done.  I'm imagining one of them having been with me today.  He'd have been yelling, 'Stop! Federal Agent! Show me your hands!' or some such thing.  But you took action. You took out the threat.  That's the kind of man I want protecting me."

Bob thought about it.  She wasn't much to look at, but it was a pretty good bet that her staff included a bevy of pretty, young interns, or paralegals, or whatever kind of jobs supported her endeavors.  The life he'd led hadn't had room in it for a girlfriend, much less a wife.  There had been women along the way, once in a while, but most of them were either hookers or female soldiers on the support side of operations.  He was only forty-two, which wasn't too old to meet a woman and start a family.  And working for her might just expose him to some potential chances to enter the dating game.  He hadn't done that since high school.  But how hard could it be?  Be charming, tell a few war stories, get the girl all excited, and see where things went.

"I can't protect you twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week," he said.

"You can if you live in," she said.  "And when the Marshal detail shows up, they can take up the slack."

"They won't like working with me," he said.

"Why not?"

"Because I won't like working with them," he said, smiling. "We have different philosophies about how to handle a threat."

"You'll be in charge," she said, firmly.

"I don't think they'll go for that."

"They will if I tell them to," she said.  "Especially if I tell them I only need two or three men, to supplement you.  A full detail is expensive, and they'll jump at any chance to keep from having to spend some of that money."

"I thought prosecutors got paid squat," he said.

"We do.  While I was in college I had a double major, economics and law.  I understood the stock market and did pretty well."

"So if you were making money, why'd you end up in law?  And being a prosecutor on top of that?"

"I'm adopted.  My biological father murdered my biological mother when I was three.  I got put into foster care, and a couple of years later was adopted by the people I think of as my parents.  My biological father went to prison, but only for a short time because he copped a plea.  They could have taken the case to trial. I've actually seen the case file.  It was a slam dunk, but the prosecutor got lazy and did the easy thing.  Or maybe he was overworked.  I don't know.  But I've always wanted to put bad people in jail, and keep them there."

"So you went to prosecutor school," said Bob.

"Not exactly.  After law school I clerked for a judge.  That's where I learned about how to prosecute a case.  I was lucky and got in the DOJ honors program.  I helped with some big cases and then got assigned a high profile case of my own.  It was one of those cases they couldn't just decide to drop. I think they thought it couldn't be won, which is why they gave it to me.  If I lost it they could chalk it up to me being a rookie and it wouldn't soil their reputations.  But I didn't lose it.  And I didn't lose the next two cases nobody else wanted to prosecute either.  I hope some day those stuffed shirts will have to answer to me."

"What will your husband think when you bring a bum home with you?" asked Bob.

"I'm not married."

"Okay, then, what will your boyfriend think?"

"I don't have a boyfriend.  "I work 80 hours a week.  I have no time in my life for a man."

"I know the feeling," said Bob, but he was thinking that, with her appearance, it wasn't likely men were beating down her door asking for dates in the first place.

She looked at her watch.

"I need to get to work. What do you say?"

"Do you really want a man intruding on your personal space?"

"Not just any man.  You."

"It will affect your privacy," he warned.

"I live in a four apartment brownstone," she said. "My apartment has two bedrooms and the one I sleep in has bars on the windows.  You don't need to be in my bedroom, just in the apartment."

"How long will this last?" he asked.

"Just during the trial.  That shouldn't take more than three or four months, six if the defense can get their motions to delay through."

Bob thought about it.  It might solve his boredom problem.  And then there were all those sweet young things in her office.

"What the hell," he said.  "We actually have something in common."

"What's that?"

"I'm a product of the foster care program, too. Spent my entire life in it."

"What happened?" she asked.

"I have no idea. My earliest memories are of having foster parents. I got bounced around a lot.  Was even adopted once, but that didn't last."

"Why not?"

"I had a problem with authority figures. It's why I went into the service.  I figured four years in the Army beat eighteen months in jail.  I'm not complaining, though. It finally taught me some discipline.  The Army's who I think of as my parents."

"So you'll do it?"

"I'm in," he said.  "We orphans have to stick together."

"Excellent.  Get cleaned up and come see me in my office." She got into her purse and pulled a card out, which she handed to him.

"How cleaned up?" he asked.

"I just want you to look presentable," she said.  "I don't mind the beard, but it needs to be trimmed.  And get a haircut.  Do you own any suits?"

"I can get a couple.  But they'll make me stand out, and they're harder to conceal a weapon under.   Speaking of which, this is New York City.  I'll need a gun to protect you.  How do I go about that?"

"I'll take care of all of that," she said. "You just get some clothes to work in.  Where do you live?"

"I'm renting cheap digs," he said, carelessly. "I can move out any time."

"Do you have a cell?"

"Sure."

"Give it to me."

She was all business now as she put her number in his phone, and his in hers.  She handed his back to him.

"Be at my office by six this evening.  You can take up your duties when I go home."

"Got it, boss," he said, grinning.

"It's Miss Cragg in public," she said, sternly.

She stood up to leave.

"But in private you can call me Lacey.  Thank you for being there today."

"You're welcome."

With that she turned and was gone.

Bob finished his coffee and then asked the cashier where a man could buy a suit.

New York City is a place like no other.  For the right money, a man can get three suits custom made and delivered in three days.  Getting the permits necessary to carry a concealed pistol, on the other hand, could take months.  Lacey cut through that bureaucracy with startling speed, though, and by the time he found the place he wanted to make his suits, he was able to be fitted wearing the Jackass shoulder holster, containing the Sig Sauer P229 he would wear under them.  The tailor didn't blink an eye at having to account for the weapon.

Bob kept the Kizlyar and was even able to find a sheath that was a reasonable fit for it in an Army/Navy store in the Bronx.  He wore that strapped on the inside of his right ankle.

His days were spent cooling his heels at Lacey's office, which had exactly zero cute young women dying to meet a retired Delta Force operator.  If she knew she wasn't going anywhere, he was allowed to go do whatever errands he needed to do.  If she had court, he accompanied her there and back.  When she went home he spent the evening with her, unless she was working at home, in which case he watched TV, or read.  He'd always carried a paperback book with him in the Army, but they were usually whatever happened to be available.  Now he could choose what author he wanted to read, and which books he was interested in.

Lacey's stark, frumpy appearance, when they had first met, was no accident.  As he spent more and more time with her it became obvious that she intentionally chose clothes that were intended to mute her femininity and cover her body, rather than display it.  He was curious about that.  It seemed a little femininity might serve her in court, but she obviously didn't think so.  Even at home, she kept her body securely draped, mostly in work clothes, though he did see her in a pair of thick, cotton pants that were gray, and a black sweatshirt.

Their relationship was complicated, at the same time casual, but remote.  They spoke to each other with the familiarity of people who live together, but there was no intimacy in that talk.  They often ate separately, preparing their own meals whenever they were hungry.  At other times one or the other might decide to call in a takeout order, and ask the other if he or she wanted anything.  In those situations, they ate together.  She had no dining room table.  Meals were taken either at the minuscule table in the tiny kitchen, or sitting on the couch or chairs in the living room.

The trial proceeded, if that's the correct word at all, with agonizing lethargy.  He usually sat in the gallery on court days, and to him it was like watching a box turtle intent on circling the high school track at the same time a marathon was being conducted.  The turtle kept pulling his head back into his shell, waiting until it was safe to take another step.  Then, hesitantly, the head would peep out, only to slide back inside when another runner's foot stomped down nearby.

The language of the court baffled him.  The accused wasn't even present as the lawyers danced and sparred, arguing about this or that aspect of the case.  The defense would ask that something be excluded or suppressed.  The judge would disappear into his chambers for a while and then come out and give his answer. If it went the way of the defense, then the next agonizingly slow step would be attempted.  If it went against the defense, as often as not, they would demand more time to prepare for the actual trial date, which Lacey didn't seem to be able to predict for him.

"We're still doing pretrial motions," she'd explained to him one night.  "Then we'll have to select a jury.  That could take months.  If I could just put my witnesses on the stand and be done with it, it would only take a week."

And then something happened that changed their relationship. 

Bob was asleep in his room when he heard her fearful scream.  With pistol in hand, he was out of bed like a shot.  He slept only in boxers, but that was the last thing on his mind as he charged out of his door and through hers.  She hadn't locked it, so he didn't have to put his shoulder into it and break it down.

It was dark, but he knew that the night light she left on in the hallway would silhouette him to any attacker, so he went down and rolled into the darkness, coming up on one knee, arms outstretched, two pounds of force on a three pound trigger.  His arms swept back and forth in the dark, looking for movement.  Lacey was sobbing, but it didn't sound like she was struggling, so he stayed quiet.

When he heard nothing for fifteen seconds, he called out softly.

"Lacey?"

"Bob!" she gasped.  "Something touched me!"

"What touched you?"

"I don't know!  Something touched my face."  She sobbed quietly.

"Is anybody in bed with you?" he asked.

"What?  Of course not!"

Her outrage sounded completely genuine, so he stood.

"I'm going to turn on the light, now," he said.

"Okay," she replied meekly.  At least she wasn't sniveling anymore.

He went to the open doorway and reached for the switch.  He shielded his eyes with his forearm, and flipped the switch.  Light flooded the room.  Almost instantly he saw movement near the ceiling and looked through squinted eyes to see a bat fluttering around in panic.

"It's a bat," he said, conversationally.

"Ewwwww, get it out, get it out, get it out!" she squealed.

“Lacey, it’s just a bat.  It’s not going to hurt you.”

“I don’t like bats,” she said. 

For the first time he looked at her.  She was under the covers.  He was reminded of the Kilroy graphic that he’d seen in dozens of places all over the world, a little line drawing of the eyes, nose and forehead above a line.  To either side of that were fingers that made the line into the top of a wall.  The words “Kilroy was here” were usually beneath the peeking head.  That’s what she looked like now, except that Kilroy was always bald, and Lacey had a mass of honey blond tousled hair framing her face.

“Well that bat doesn’t much like you, either,” he said.  “Look at the poor thing.  It’s frantic to get away from you.”

“I don’t care.  Catch it.  Get it out of here.”

“I can’t catch it by myself,” he said.  “You’re going to have to help me.”

“I can’t do that!  What if it bit me?  It probably has rabies or something!”

“It looks like a brown bat,” said Bob, squinting at the frantic little mammal, still fluttering this way and that.  “They eat mosquitoes, not prosecutors.”

“Hah - hah,” she said, pushing the covers down, fractionally.

“If we get towels, you can herd it towards me and I can net it,” said Bob.

“I don’t like this, Bob,” she moaned.

“Do you want the bat gone?”

“Yes!”

“Then get up and help me catch it.”

“Ohhhhh.”

She dithered, but only for a few seconds, before throwing the covers aside and standing up.  This threw the bat into a tizzy as the air pressure in the room went temporarily crazy and a new obstruction appeared in the little bat’s radar.  It dipped and flew in an arc past Bob.  It looked like it was heading right for Lacey and she shrieked, ducking. But it flew harmlessly past her.  She ran for the shelter of Bob’s arms and hugged him as if he were the last life ring on the Titanic.

His arm went around her instinctively, and he was distracted by both the warmth of her body against his, and the feel of something firm, yet soft in his hand.  With a start he realized that soft, firm thing was her left breast, and he slid his hand to her side.  She didn’t seem to have noticed, though, as she tried to bury her face in his shoulder and look for the bat at the same time.

“He’s more scared of you than you are of him,” said Bob, soothingly.

“That’s what they always say about the bear that eats you,” she moaned.

"Just get a towel or something to wave around and drive him towards me," said Bob.

She ran into her bathroom and emerged with two bath towels.

"I hope you know what you're doing," she said, tossing him a towel.

Five minutes later, after the two of them scampered all over the room, Bob lunged and captured the animal in his towel.

"Be right back," he said.

He took the bundle to the front door and laid it on the stoop, unfolding it so the little bat could orient itself and fly off. 

He found Lacey sitting on the side of her bed, just breathing and combing out her long hair with her fingers.

"All better," he said.

He took in her old fashioned cotton nightgown.  It covered her body entirely, but could not camouflage what was under it.  The woman who, before this, always appeared to have A cup breasts had suddenly grown a pair of Ds.  They trembled gently under the white cotton as her hands continued to bring some order back to her hair. 

That hair was also interesting.  It fell past her shoulders at least eight inches, thick and shiny looking.  It wasn't a brash, white kind of blond.  It was more the kind that has a little red and a little brown in it, that makes it look deep and rich.

"You suppress your femininity intentionally," he said.

She looked up at him.

"That's really none of your business," she said, her voice level.

"Absolutely.  I agree," he said.  "It's just nice to know there's a woman under all that tough exterior."

"I wasn't acting so tough when that bat was flying around," she muttered.

"To the contrary, I know how frightened you were.  It took a lot of moxie to overcome that fear and help me catch the poor little guy."

"It's late," she said.  "Thank you for being so prompt."

He gave a little bow.

"That's what you hired me to do," he said. 

He started to leave and she called out, "Wait!"

Turning back he saw her pointing to his pistol, which was lying on the bed beside her.  A fold in the covers had hidden it during the mad rush to catch the intruder.

"Ahh," he said.  He went to get it and sensed her unease at being so close to the weapon.  "What training have you had in firearms?"

"What?  None.  I don't like guns."

"You need to get over that too.  Whenever the Russians make another play, you may need to be armed yourself."

"That's preposterous.  Why do you think I hired you?"

"If you'll recall, there was an intruder in here with you for a few minutes before I got here."

"I told you, I don't like guns."

"A gun is only a tool, like a fork, or a vacuum cleaner, or a curling iron.  It can be very useful in certain situations.  And when it isn't being used it just sits there.  The only gun that can hurt you is the one in the hand of a human being."

"We'll see," she said.

He took that to be his dismissal.  Carrying the Sig in his right hand, he left the room and went back to his own sleeping quarters.

Lacey lay in bed, staring up into the darkness.  She wasn't sleepy.  It wasn't the excitement of the bat that made her restless.  Rather it was the man who caught the bat.  She'd tried not to stare, but she could count the number of men she'd seen in just a pair of boxer shorts on one finger.  His body fairly rippled with muscles.  He had muscles on his muscles.   And the scars!  They were everywhere!  On his back, his arms.  She'd seen those little puckered scars in some of her cases.  They were bullet wounds.  And there had to be a dozen of the things.  There were others too, but she hadn't been able to see them well.  She remembered a long one on his right thigh, in the back.  It looked like he'd been used as practice for doctors to stitch a man up.  And yet he was graceful and calm, even in the midst of excitement.

She hoped he hadn't seen her staring at him, almost unable to put her eyes anywhere else.  And he'd looked at her too!  He'd even commented on it.  He had noticed her as a woman.  But he hadn't leered, or made suggestions.  He'd treated her like a lady.  Except his eyes had shown interest too, very stark and clear interest.

She'd been binding her breasts since she was thirteen, when they started to grow out of control, and all the boys stared at them. Her breasts were all tangled up in her mind with the feelings she started having about then too.  Ugly, nasty feelings, the kind her mother had warned her about over and over again.  It had made her so nervous and embarrassed that she'd done anything she could to hide the horrid things. Her mother had helped, showing her how to wind the strips of cloth tightly around her bra-encased breasts. 

Next was her hair.  She loved it, loved combing it and brushing it and even washing it.  But that hair drew a man's gaze just like her breasts did.  So, when she wasn't alone in her room, she wound it into a tight bun and pinned it firmly that way.

She eschewed makeup for the same reasons, so that men would look at other women, instead of her.  And it had worked all these years.  She hadn't been asked out on a date since college.  She'd put all her energy into her studies, and then law school.  Clerking for a judge after that gave her no time for men and, by then, she had no idea how to go about finding one anyway.  Vaguely, she knew it was all right, at this age, to find a husband and procreate.  But the thought of that was terrifying ... almost nauseating.

There was a vague, unformed ache deep inside her that she had interpreted as wanting a family, like those she worked with had.  A husband.  A child.  But being a spinster was easier.  That's what her mother would have called it. Spinster.

Bob was the first man she could remember seeing in just those ridiculous loose, striped shorts.  Something had moved around under the cloth, there in the front.  She knew what that was, of course. She wasn't stupid.  But she'd never seen one.  Not a real one.  Her father had pulled her hand against the front of his pants one night, while he was tucking her in.  Then he'd burst into tears and fled the room.  He hadn't touched her after that, not even to give her a hug when she left for college.

Her mind kept going back to the dark skin on Bob's body.  It wasn't pale like her own, but something that looked permanently tanned.

And all those scars!  He must have been in such pain!

Why, then, did she want to touch them?  Stroke them?  Run her hands across them?

It was insane!

She felt that traitorous itch between her legs, the one her mother had warned her about so many times.  It demanded to be touched.

But to touch it meant risking madness.  Her mother had told her that, too.

She knew people dismissed that as hogwash, old wives tales.

But she'd seen what people would do to each other.  She had defended them, and prosecuted them.

And she was quite sure all those animals had masturbated frequently.

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