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Svetlana – 11: Refuge

“Be quiet, and take your shirt off.”
“What?”
“Just do it.”
I shook my head and removed my shirt.
“Aha! I thought so.” She gently removed the plaster and scrutinized Thak’s handiwork.
She looked at me. “Nice sutures. Do I know the doctor?”
“Thak.”
“Your beautifully-mannered Gurkha bodyguard?”
“The same – he’s a trained field paramedic.”
“I won’t ask how you got it.” She smiled ruefully at me.
“No, please don’t.”
She applied a new plaster, then prodded, poked and manipulated my shoulder, but despite showing it being tender, exposed no real problems.
“You’ll live.” she said. “Extend my compliments to him.”
“I will.”

This is the eleventh chapter in my serialized story. You may wish to read the previous chapter 1st: 10: Precious Inventory.
The menu ‘Svetlana’, in the left sidebar contains links to chapters published so far. A similar menu can be found at the bottom of the post.

This story tells of a man who has adopted a life of helping homeless and vulnerable girls, and of waging a dark and ruthless private war on the human traffickers and criminals who prey on them. His chance encounter with a young Serbian woman, and his experience of her growing unconditional love for him, reveal to him that emotionally, he is as broken and beaten as the girls he is trying to help.

Warning: The story contains adult subject matter, several explicit scenes of an intimate sexual nature, descriptions of human jeopardy, and is not suitable for minors, or those who are easily offended.

« 10: Precious Inventory ——–oOo——– 12: Payback »



The Carlson Imperative
Book 1: Svetlana Curuvija
© 2010 J.W.Brown

Chapter 11: Refuge



Zee released us both and held out her arms.
“Can I take her?”
“Careful Zee, I think her ankle is broken. Sit down, and I’ll give her to you.”

Zee sat down on the sofa, and I placed the still-sleepy Constanza beside her. Zee talked to her softly in Portuguese, and the girl’s face lit up with joy.
I turned to where Svetlana and Katrina were dancing round each other, both hands holding, tears streaming down both their cheeks.
Jane moved over to me. “No problems there then?”
“Not yet anyway.” I smiled. “But I still want you to watch them both. Zee will have her hands full. Can you manage?”
“I will.” she nodded.

I moved over to the dining area, and Tomas followed me.
He eyed me shrewdly. “You’re beat.”
“Yes.”
“Coffee?”
“Please.” I said, and sat down heavily at the table and looked at my watch, it was 4:35am.
He poured me a coffee and sat down opposite.
“You know you’ve been hit?” he said quietly.
“Yeah, Thank God for the vest.” Then I looked quickly down at my left shoulder.
“Yes.” he said, “The vest didn’t stop it.”
“Have they seen it?” I said urgently.
“I don’t think so, but when the excitement dies down, they will.”

“Christ, Tomas. They mustn’t see.”

“I’ll make an excuse and we’ll go upstairs and take a look at it.”
“OK.” I said, and drained my coffee.
Tomas walked over to the girls, and said we needed to discuss things, and were going upstairs.
I heard Svetlana saying she wished to thank me first, and then she was in front of me.

Kisses showered around my neck and face and she almost smothered me with her loving embrace. Suddenly she stopped.

“But what is this?” She stared in horror at the blood on her hands.

“Svetlana!” I said sharply. She froze, and I beckoned her close to me.
“Sweet lover. Don’t let the girls know. It will only upset them, and I’m fine. It is only a flesh wound in my shoulder – look!” I pointed to the small patch of blood on my Tee shirt.

She took my head in both hands. “You not lie to me?”
“No, never.”
“What we do now then?”
“Please. Stay with Katrina. She needs you. Tomas and I will go upstairs and see what need to be done. Don’t worry.”
She seemed doubtful, but accepted what I said.
“OK lovely Joe. Go and look. But in one hour I find you, plis?”
I smiled “Yes, OK.”

She went to the sink and washed her hands, flashed a smile at me and re-joined the other girls.

We headed upstairs to Tomas and Zee’s apartment, and Tomas found Thak.
They laid me on the kitchen table and stripped my shirt off.
Thak left and retrieved his instruments, and after sterilising them and the wound, he had a gentle poke around.

“I can feel it, and it’s not too deep. Also, there’re no local large vessels. Shall I pull it Joe?”
“Yeah.” I said. “Go for it.”
He picked up a pair of long-nosed forceps and nodded to Tomas, who held both my shoulders on the table.
Thak dug in, and it hurt like Hell.
“Whoa!” I said “Stop!”
I turned to Tomas. “Where’s that Madeira?”
He grinned, and passed me the half-empty bottle of his favourite Blandy’s. I took out the cork and took a long swig, then lay down again.
“OK.”

It still hurt like Hell, but when the red mist cleared from my eyes, I saw Thak holding the forceps and staring intently at the projectile he had retrieved.
I said. “Let me see.”
Thak placed the bullet in my hand. It was three times heavier than I expected and tapered to a very sharp point. “Good God!” I said. “No wonder the vest didn’t stop it.”
Thak shook his head. “The vest, and probably your bag’s leather strap, saved your shoulder. If I’m not mistaken, that bullet is made of beryllium-copper with a depleted uranium core.”
“Christ! He was using armour-piercing rounds?”
“It looks like it. Lie still,” he said, “while I practise my cross-stitch.”
I laughed, then winced as he cleaned, then closed, the small wound and placed a plaster over it. Tomas washed me down, and brought me one of his shirts, and we wandered back down to the basement.

Svetlana ran across the room. “You are OK?”
I smiled. “Yes, just a very small hole.”
“Can I see?”
I laughed. “Later. Please don’t mention this to the girls.”
She placed her finger on her own lips. “I promise.”
Then she wrapped her arms around me and whispered wonderful things in my ear, occasionally taking a little nibble of me.
Then she broke away. “Come. Katrina has not good chance talk to you.”
She led me to where all the girls sat.

I sat down next to Constanza and Zee. A cold compress had been wrapped around her ankle, but she smiled at me shyly.
“Ola Joe.”
“Ola. Como estás a minha menina?” I asked her smiling.
She giggled softly at my accent but replied. “Estou bem, Obrigada.”
I looked at Zee. She beamed at me.
“What a lovely little girl you have brought back to me. How strange is fate that you walk through that door for the second time, saying those words again, in the same language.”

I smiled sadly. “Yes. The night has been heavily punctuated with Déjà vu for me.”
Her smile faded. “Should I know now?”
I nodded. “There is just a little.”
She wrapped her arms around the willing child, who cuddled in to her.

I spoke very quietly. “I took her from Vasilov’s bed. The man was a monster. God knows what she’s been through.”
I saw her shudder.
“Are you going to be OK Zee? Shall I call in extra help?”
She shook her head. “I will look after her. But forgive me if I spend too much time with her.”
I laughed softly. “Nothing to forgive, we’ll play it by ear.”

“Joe?” Her soft voice was close to my ear, and I felt her breath on my neck, and smelt her perfume. I turned.
She stood with Katrina, hand-in-hand.
Laughing, she said. “Katrina says that when she first saw you, you look like monster-man. She wants to say proper hello.”
They really were very, very beautiful together.

I looked into Katrina’s bluest of blue eyes, and held out my hand.
“Хелло Катрина. Моје име је Џо.”
She ignored my hand, and leaning forward placed her arms around my neck and kissed my cheek, then greeted me.
“Здраво Јое. То је дивно бити овде. Ти си леп човек.”
I thanked her for her greeting and compliment. “Ви сте превише љубазни. И то је дивно да си овде.”
She looked up at Svetlana and smiled, then they both giggled.
I turned to Zee smiling. She said “What’s so funny?”
“My accent probably – or worse.”

Svetlana kissed my cheek, and said Jane and her were going to help Katrina freshen up and put on some clean clothes, and all three went into Svetlana’s room.

Tomas had been sitting separately, just watching. I got up and beckoned him over. “Sit with Zee and Constanza please Tomas.”
He looked at me quizzically, but did as I asked.

I looked at all three of them sat on the sofa. Zee, the little girl who could easily be mistaken for Zee’s daughter, and Tomas, a potential worthy father.
“I won’t spoil the moment by taking a picture,” I said, “but you really all look very good together.”
Zee and Tomas grinned. Constanza didn’t understand, but smiled at me.

Then came the screams.

I held up my hand as Zee started forward.
“Stay, she needs you.”
Constanza’s eyes had already widened, and she shouted. “Svetlana?”
I made my way swiftly into the bedroom.

Katrina stood in the middle of the room, naked apart from her panties, and with her back to me. Multiple, dreadful bruising, a carbon copy of Svetlana’s, decorated her back. At the far side of the room Jane was attempting to stop a screaming Svetlana from smashing her own head against the wall.

I ran over and put my arms down and around Svetlana’s, pinioning them to her sides, and turned her away from the wall.
I caught Jane’s eye and said “Katrina.” quietly but firmly, and she turned and left me holding a struggling, screaming Svetlana.

I managed to turn Svetlana so that she was facing me and tried to make out what she was screaming. Her anger and accent made it difficult, but Katrina’s name, ‘left’ and ‘fault’ figured, so I followed the instinct that had already warned me that this would happen.

Quietly, my mouth close to her ear, I asked her the questions in Serbian, pausing slightly between each one.

“Had you not left her, would you not now both be prisoners still?”

“Had you not left, would you be together now, free and able to talk and dance together?”

“Had you not left, would little Constanza be with us now, or still in the bed of the evil bastard who beat you? It is his fault, not yours, that all of this happened.”

“Or the twelve other girls, who are now free. Would they be free had you not left?”

“Your brave act of escaping means that you and your beloved sister are together again, Constanza is free from that wicked, wicked man, and the other girls are now safe, in other Refuges around London.”

After the second question, her screams had turned to sobs, and I relaxed my grip, turning it into an embrace.
I felt her nodding after the third, and after my last statement, she tightened her arms around me and kissed my neck.
“Hold me Joe. Please hold me.”

I held her. We stood in each others arms until she finally stopped sobbing. She broke away a little from me and looked at me, her beautiful face flushed red with tears.

“Him?” she said.
“He is dead.” I said softly. “All five are dead. They will never be able to hurt you, Katrina, Constanza, nor anyone, ever again.”
Her eyes flickered to and fro across my face. “The Avenging Angel – he helps you?”
I nodded. “He did, and his heart is full of love for you.”
“Oh Joe!” she said, and kissed me gently on the lips.

I whispered. “Katrina needs you Svetlana. Will you go to her?”
She smiled. “Yes plis.”
She walked to the bed where Jane sat with Katrina, covered now in a bathrobe, and they wrapped each other in their arms.
Jane looked at me and made to get up, but I held my hand up and smiled, mouthing “Wait”, then left the bedroom.

Constanza looked up at me as I re-entered the lounge. “Svetlana?”
“Ela está bem.” I said.
She held out her arms.
“Posso vê-la?”
I lifted her, and she hung her arms around my neck. Zee smiled the gorgeous smile I loved, then turned to a smiling Tomas.

He looked from her, to the little girl, to me, then back to Zee, and reaching up held Zee’s face in both hands and kissed her.

I left them, and walked back into the bedroom.
In Serbian I said “Your little friend was worried about you, can she sit with you for a while?”
Space was made between Svetlana and Katrina, and I gently lowered Constanza onto the bed.
I looked at Jane. “Are you OK for a few minutes Jane?”
She smiled and nodded, and I made my way out to the lounge.

I stopped at the bedroom door. Tomas and Zee were in a loving embrace on the sofa.
I smiled, and turned back into the bedroom, closing the door behind me. I went to the dressing table and picked up the Lalique hairbrush.

Svetlana was sat at the foot of the bed. I walked over and stood behind her, then started gently brushing her hair.
“Ooh!” she exclaimed, and Katrina and Constanza giggled.
“Is that nice?” I said.
“Yes plis lovely man.”
I stood and brushed slowly and gently, as they talked together.
After several minutes, Svetlana turned and flashed her dazzling smile at me, taking the brush.
“I am gooey now. So is Constanza’s turn.”
She turned and started brushing the young one’s hair.
I looked at Jane and we both laughed.

I sat down on the dressing table chair and let the chatter of their voices drift over me for ten minutes or so. All was now calm, so I suggested that Svetlana help Katrina bathe, and Jane and I take Constanza into my bathroom, so that she could bathe there.

They all nodded, and I picked Constanza up and carried her through into my room, Jane behind me.
I noticed that Tomas & Zee sat hand in hand talking quietly, as we walked through.
I sat Constanza on the bathroom chair, and started running the bath. Jane helped Constanza take off her clothes while I found fresh towels.
I tested the water temperature and turned off the taps, and was ready to leave the room, but Constanza held both arms out to me.
“Joe! Faz favor!”

I smiled, and lifted her carefully up, and lowering one of my knees to the floor, set her gently down into the bath.

She pointed to the hand shower head, and I picked it up, then turned on the taps, and held it out to her, but she smiled, pushed her hair back, and pulled my hand so that the water ran down her hair.
I carefully rinsed her hair, holding the back of her head, as she lay back to avoid the water in her face.

I turned off the taps and taking a face cloth, dried her face.
While I had washed her hair, I had been conscious of her eyes upon me, unblinking throughout.
She took hold of my hand and said my name.

“Joe?”
“Sim?” I said
“Aquele homem, aquele homem horrível?”
I paused, and looked down at her brave sweet face.
“Ele está desaparecido. Ele nunca vai te machucar novamente.”
She nodded. “E os outros?”
“Eles se foram também.”
“Posso ficar com você agora?”
“Sim, a minha menina. Claro.”
“Muito obrigada, você é um homem muito gentil, Joe.”
“É o meu prazer. Até breve”
I got up and turned to leave.

Jane sat on the bathroom chair looking dumbstruck. Zee was stood in the doorway, a big grin on her face.
I smiled at Zee. “Would you like to take over now?”
She kissed me gently on the cheek. “Yes please, although you seemed to be managing very well!”
I smiled and turned to Jane, who was still watching Constanza.
“Jane?”
She didn’t hear me. I touched her on the shoulder.
“Oh! Sorry Joe.”
“Shall we start breakfast?” I asked.
“Good idea.” She said, getting up and following me out of the room.

Tomas set out the places, while Jane and I prepared to cook. She was very quiet.
“Are you OK Jane?” I said. “I know you must be tired. Do you want a break?”
She smiled. “Neither of those things. I’m just stunned.”

I laughed. “Stunned? At what?”

“You.” she said, stopping what she was doing.
I poured three cups of coffee, passed one to Tomas, and held out a cup to her. We all sat at the table as the bacon fried.

She looked levelly at me. “I’ve seen the way that Lizzie seems to trust you implicitly, and that is one thing. But that little girl, who clearly has been very badly abused, and up until a few hours ago had never seen you before, she let, no, she invited you to bathe her.”
She paused.
“How did you gain her trust so quickly? That’s why I’m stunned.”

“Well,” I said tentatively “I suppose that I tried to show her from the very start that above all else, I respect her.”

“At all stages I informed her of my intentions, especially when I realised she was injured, and intended picking her up and carrying her.”

“I tried to be gentle and kind, despite our not understanding each other well, and my touch, my carrying her, she probably already associates with her happiness at being free.”

I paused. “Now my theory, though academics will probably shake their heads at me, is that in extremis, when we feel our very life is at risk, and someone comes along and saves us, we are permanently altered by that single event.”

“There is a part of us that associates our continued existence inextricably with our saviour’s, the logic being, because if that was not so, we would not now exist. In fact, both ourselves and our saviour are changed by the experience. By what degree of course, is quite variable.”

I could see by her face, that Jane was still struggling.

“Do you think that is too simplistic and sterile?” I said, smiling.

“Yes, I do. I’m sorry..” she paused.
“It’s the girl. I’m still having problems with her complete and utter trust, and apparent devotion, even love, for you.”

Tomas looked at me, smiling, and raising his eyebrows slightly.

“Well.” I said, “I’m not so sure of love – more an acceptance that our fates are shared, our lives are linked, and that she’s intensely glad that it is so, because through me, she is free from the Hell she was in.”

“I think I prefer the word ‘love’.” Jane said smiling.

I looked at her and grinned. “What woman wouldn’t?”

I got up and removed the cooked bacon onto a drainer, then fed some toast into the large machine, and started the mushrooms and tomatoes frying.

“How do you feel?” she asked quietly.

“In the car, on the way here, looking down at her peacefully asleep and safe beside me, I felt ecstatically happy.”

“And just before, when she insisted you help her wash?”

“Momentarily surprised, but I shouldn’t have been. Then very happy to wash her.”

“Didn’t you feel embarrassed?”

I looked at her. “Why would I feel that? She is a little girl I’ve just rescued from the bed of a serial torturer, child rapist and murderer. I have no reason to feel embarrassed, just thankful at her total acceptance of my innocent intentions, that she knows I am here to help her, and for no other reason.”
I smiled at her in encouragement, seeing she had yet another question.

“And the conversation you had with her after washing her hair?”

I laughed. “Funny, but already my poor Portuguese is coming back to me.
She asked. ‘That man, That horrible man?’
and I replied ‘He is gone. He cannot hurt you ever again’.
Then she asked ‘And the others?’ and I said ‘They are gone also.’
She then said ‘Can I stay with you now?’ and I said ‘Yes, little one. Of course.’
Finally she thanked me.”

Jane drew in her breath.
“You say he is ‘gone’ Joe,” she said quietly, “and I heard you tell Svetlana he was dead. Did you kill him? The murderer of your wife?”
I shook my head. “No Jane, much as I would have wanted to, I didn’t. I’m afraid that privilege went to someone else.”

She nodded, and thanked me, knowing I would not say any more in explanation.

I heard Zee shout my name, and went into my bedroom, coming back with Zee, and carrying a giggling Constanza. Svetlana and Katrina joined us, and we all sat down together and ate.
As I looked around the table at Tomas and the five happy girls talking and laughing, a deep feeling of satisfaction came over me, a conviction that the events of the night were justified, and very right.

I sat thumbing through ‘Homes and Gardens’, and sipping yet another coffee. It was around 10am, and I felt wrecked.
Millicent had insisted on examining both girls herself, and had just despatched Constanza and Zee to the X-ray room. She was now with Katrina and Svetlana.

Twice I had been called in to help translate, but Svetlana had managed to help Katrina answer almost all of Millicent’s questions.

A hand gripped my shoulder and I flinched. She walked around in front of me. “Are you OK Joe?”
“Just a little tired.” I smiled at her.
“You jumped.”
“I was surprised. You float without sound, as if on Angel’s wings, Miss Courtney.”
She laughed, and shook her head. “Let’s go over there.” She pointed to an empty consulting room.

She followed me in and closed the door.
“How is..” I started to ask about Katrina.
“Be quiet, and take your shirt off.”
“What?”
“Just do it.”
I shook my head and removed my shirt.
“Aha! I thought so.” She gently removed the plaster and scrutinized Thak’s handiwork.
She looked at me. “Nice sutures. Do I know the doctor?”
“Thak.”
“Your beautifully-mannered Gurkha bodyguard?”
“The same – he’s a trained field paramedic.”
“I won’t ask how you got it.” She smiled ruefully at me.
“No, please don’t.”

She applied a new plaster, then prodded, poked and manipulated my shoulder, but despite showing it being tender, exposed no real problems.
“You’ll live.” she said. “Extend my compliments to him.”
“I will.”

She shook her head “You should have told me about this Joe.”
“But you’ve seen for yourself, it’s nothing.”
She stood back and looked me up and down. “Anywhere else?”
I shook my head.
“Sure?”
I laughed. “Yes Millicent, I’m sure.” I added. “Look, I’m sorry. I didn’t want to compromise you in any way..”
She cut me short. “You are kind Joe. But next time give me the opportunity of helping you as your friend, as well as your doctor. You are not a fool, you know how I feel.”

She looked steadily at me, and I nodded slowly.
I moved forward and kissed her gently on the cheek. Her hand reached up and touched my face gently and briefly, her hazel eyes meeting mine. Then it was over. I stepped back, and she flashed a brilliant smile at me.

“Well, as I was saying, Katrina seems fine. I’ve done the usual tests, and I’ll have the results tomorrow. She has been very roughly used, hence the severe bruising, but she is strong and there is no lasting damage I can see.”

I grinned at her. She smiled and continued.

“Constanza has, I suspect, a small fracture of her ankle, which the radiologist will shortly confirm or not. She is underweight, but shows no signs of heavy or frequent penetration. There is, as you’ve no doubt seen, quite severe bruising.”
She paused. “Do you know her abuser and his predilections?”
I nodded. “I believe he was impotent and insisted on oral sex.”

Millicent nodded gravely. “I’ve checked her mouth, and she seems OK, but the test results will show any problems.”

She shook her head. “She’s still a child. What’s wrong with these people Joe?”

“They are past redemption Millicent.” I said simply.
She looked sharply at me, then nodded slowly.

I smiled. “I want to say thank you once again, for all your help.”
She nodded. “You are always welcome.”

I pulled my shirt back on, and we left the consulting room joining Svetlana and Katrina in the waiting room.
Zee joined us pushing Constanza in a lightweight wheelchair, and Millicent headed off to get the X-ray results.

Everyone looked a little tired. I took out my mobile and called Thak.
“Can you bring the Espace round to Millicent Courtney’s Clinic in Harley Street Thak. Svetlana and Katrina are ready now, Zee and Constanza maybe, maybe not.”
“Will do.” He said and hung up.

I got up and stood in front of the girls. “When you get back, I want everyone to rest – for at least a couple of hours anyway. No exceptions. OK?”
Svetlana did a mock salute. “Yes sir!”
Katrina and Constanza giggled. Zee laughed and shook her head. Perhaps I was mistaken. Maybe it was just me that felt completely washed out.

« 10: Precious Inventory ——–oOo——– 12: Payback »


Svetlana – Index of Chapters.

Book 1 of The Carlson Imperative is now available as a PDF download here: The Carlson Imperative – Book 1

The Carlson Imperative is a work of fiction. Any resemblance between characters in the story, and real persons, either living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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