This is a work of creativity. As such, you may see words, concepts, scenes, actions, behaviors, pictures, implements, and people that may or may not be socially acceptable and/or offensive. If you are sensitive to adverse and alternative subject matter of any kind, please do not proceed, because I guarantee you’ll find it here. You have been warned. Read at your own risk.
I do not own Fifty Shades Trilogy, or the characters. They belong to E. L. James. I am only exercising my right to exploit, abuse, and mangle the characters to MY discretion in MY story in MY interpretation as a fan. If something that I say displeases you, please, just leave. If you don’t like this story or me, please don’t spoil this experience for everyone. Just go away. For the rest of you, the saga continues…
Chapter 9—Private Eyes and Old Ghosts
I sit in stunned silence looking at the information before me. I haven’t been able to say anything since Welch put this envelope in front of me. How much time has passed? Minutes? Hours? I have no idea. All I know is that some time ago, Welch brought me evidence of the second most horrific thing I’ve ever witnessed.
“Mr. Grey?” Welch is standing in the doorway of my office with a folder in his hand.
“Come in, Welch.” He steps into my office and closes the door.
“I’ve got some information for you.” He sits down in the chair in front of my desk. “The driver of the CLS—James Flemings.” He hands me the file. As I look over his background check, there’s nothing immediately significant about Mr. James Marcus Flemings. He’s 28 years old, successful tech development exec, born in Tucson, AZ. How the hell did he end up here? Why isn’t this guy in Silicon Valley somewhere instead of here pawing all over Ana? He works for one of the companies partnering with GEH. There’s no information on here about his current relationships, so I have no idea if this is her boyfriend. But then, who was the guy hanging all over her in the night club? I’ll have to look further into this.
“Anything on Ms. Steele, Welch?” He clears his throat and shifts uncomfortably. This behavior is not normal for Welch. Is he… nervous?
“It appears that I was correct, sir. Anastasia Lambert and Anastasia Steele are one and the same.” I knew it! I knew she was hiding something and now I’m going to find out what it is.
“What did you find out?” I sit back in my chair.
“Well, she did finish her first semester of her sophomore year at Green Valley.” He hands me her Green Valley transcripts. This is information of which I’m already aware. I do notice, however, that her identifying information is prominently displayed on this transcript whereas there was nothing of the sort on the Lambert transcripts.
“You’re stalling, Welch.”
“In April, she came back to Montesano for a few months. She registered at Montesano High School for the fall semester, but she never attended there. She suddenly turned up back in Vegas at Chaparral instead as Anastasia Lambert.” I’m getting frustrated. I can tell by his demeanor that he’s keeping something from me.
“But why, man? Why?” I’m losing my patience.
“Apparently, she was quite desperate to separate herself from Green Valley, which appears to be the reason why she returned to Montesano and Ray Steele. It’s unclear why she went back to Las Vegas. As a means of staying separate from Anastasia Steele and Green Valley High School, she zoned to Chaparral using the address of a relative of her mother’s third husband Stephen Morton and donned her birth father’s last name to ensure her anonymity.
“She took several extra classes and AP classes to ensure graduation at 17 so that she could quickly go to college. And when I say quickly, I mean quickly! She graduated on June 15 and she was on a bus to Washington on June 16. She used money from babysitting and her part-time job at Tropical Smoothie to get here, which means she had to save every penny! Once she got here, she got the grant for Bates and the job as the cashier and you know the rest.”
I glare at this man. I didn’t build an empire by being stupid. He’s been working for me for years. I’m not going to ask him again to fill in the obvious blanks as to why Ana felt the need to become someone else. My game of stare with him is not as kind or intriguing as it was with Ms. Steele. He has exactly two minutes to give me the rest of the information or he will find himself unemployed.
He reads my thoughts like a book. He leans forward, his forearms on his knees. “Mr. Grey, in all the years I have worked for you, I have never asked you this question—quite frankly, because most often, I never wanted to know. This time, I have to ask. What do you plan on doing with this information, sir?”
If looks could kill, they would be removing the mutilated body of my head of security off my office floor and parts of him off the walls. “It’s none of your fucking business what I plan to do with the information, Welch! Remember that you work for me—and if you have a problem with that arrangement, that situation can easily be rectified!” I bark.
His facial expression never changes. He doesn’t even flinch. What the fuck is he playing at?
He pulls a smaller 6×8 goldenrod envelope out of his jacket. As he stands, he says, “This is why Anastasia Steele became Anastasia Lambert. Let me say that if I find out that you used this information against her in any way, I’ll rectify the situation myself and tender my resignation… sir.” He drops the envelope on my desk and makes for the door.
“Welch!” I snap. He turns around just before he opens the door. “Where the fuck do you get off speaking to me like that? I should fucking fire your ass right now!”
“If that’s what you want, then fine. But before you dismiss me, I did a job for you and I got you the information you requested. Now you sit down there and you look at it. And when you’re done, know that I want nothing to do with the misuse of the information that you are about to see.” He opens the door and before stepping out and closing it behind him, he says, “I’ll be in my office, sir.”
I’m looking at my office door where Welch stood seconds ago like this empty space is going to hold the secrets to life’s unanswered questions. Welch has never reacted this way to any assignment I have ever given him, and I tell you, there have been some real fucking gems! What in the name of God is in this envelope? I sit back down in my seat and open the envelope to examine its contents.
Picture after picture after picture from every possible angle of a petite young girl apparently tortured and beaten within an inch of her life. I can only assume that this must be Anastasia as the only thing recognizable is her long, blood soaked brown hair. She can’t be more than 14 or 15 years old. Her face is so swollen and bruised that I can’t begin to fathom how this poor, mutilated child can be the same beautiful, frustrating creature that I see every Monday and Thursday evening. The pictures of her lower back are the worst though. It looks like something was used to rip the skin off her back. If I look closely at the grotesquely seared flesh, it looks like I can almost make out an “h.”
I barely make it to the restroom before my lunch makes a return visit and is launched into the toilet. What kind of sick, demented, twisted shit is this? And who would do this to a child? Did she fall prey to the same insane bastard I did? After I don’t know how much time has passed, I tell Andrea to send Welch back to my office.
“What is this? What happened to her?” I scream horrified as Welch returns to my office.
“It’s an open investigation, sir.”
“Open…?” After all these years, nobody’s been brought to justice for this brutality? As if reading my thoughts, Welch solemnly replies, “‘Open’ in that it hasn’t been closed, sir. It’s a cold case. There are no suspects, no witnesses, and no one wants to come forth with any information… not even Ms. Steele.”
I’m dumbfounded. I walk over to the desk and pick up one of the pictures of her face. Blue and purple bruises and swelling all over. I try not to go into dry heaves as I hold the picture up for Welch to see.
“Do you know this kid turned out to be a psychiatrist?” I ask, softly.
“Yes, sir,” he sighs, “I do.”
You are such a piece of shit, Grey, I think to myself.
“Thank you for seeing me, Ray. I know it’s short notice and you’re supposed to be leaving.”
“No worries, Annie,” he says, taking me into a hug. “Tell me what’s wrong.”
I never told Ray everything that happened in Henderson. I never told anybody everything that happened in Henderson. True, it’s hard to hide from them that you’ve been beaten to a fucking pulp, especially when you are unconscious for three weeks. But when I woke up, I claimed short-term memory loss so that I wouldn’t have to relive the whole terrible experience again. My mother and her husband never really cared about the story anyway, but every now and again, Ray will try to get some more details out of me. I have a strong feeling that if I told him the whole story, he’d go “Dirty Harry” and I don’t want that to happen.
“I need your help. Are you still in touch with Brian?” Ray looks at me suspiciously.
“Yes,” he answers, with trepidation.
“I really need him to look into something for me, Dad.” I hold my head down and put my hand on my forehead.
“What is it, Annie?” I sigh heavily.
“Someone is doing a check on Anastasia Lambert.” He gasps a bit.
“Oh,” he answers knowingly.
“Dad, I’ve got to know who it is and why. I can’t let this shit creep up on me again… I can’t live like that…” I start shaking. Ray takes my hand to calm me down.
“Don’t you worry, Annie. I’ll call Brian right now. We’ll get to the bottom of this, I promise you. Okay?”
“Okay, Dad.” I’m doing my best to calm down, while my dad calls in the cavalry.
After I talk to Brian for a little while, I turn back to my dad. This business with Henderson popping up makes me feel like little Annie all back over again, and I really need my daddy. I throw my arms around him.
“I wish you didn’t have to leave, Daddy,” I say stifling a sob and burying my face in his neck.
“I know, Annie. I wish I could stick around a bit, too.”
“Because of Mandy?” I laugh through my tears.
“Well, yeah, her too, but mostly you.” He pulls me back to look at my face. “You’re my only little girl, you know.”
“I know.” I wipe my tears.
“But you know I’ve got to get back. I’ve got a lot of work to do.” He does? Just a couple of days ago, he told me that he may be bankrupt, unless…
“You got the contract?” I squeal.
“I got the contract,” he smiles. I hug him again.
“Oh, Dad, I’m so happy for you!” I exclaim.
“Thanks, Annie. Hey, why don’t you come to dinner with Mandy and me? We can celebrate!” I smile at him.
“No, I’m fine. This is your last evening here, and if this was my boyfriend’s last evening in town, I’d want to be alone with him.” I kiss him on the cheek.
“How did you ever get to be so wise?” I sigh as I give his arm a gentle squeeze.
The hard way, Dad.” I smile sadly.
After I leave Ray, I return to work to tend to my other patients. Thankfully, the afternoon flies by quickly and I still have enough time to make it to the King County Superior Court to drop off the documentation from my three other court ordered group members from the last session. I’m still disappointed that I can’t get rid of Grey. That man is a real conundrum for me. He makes my skin crawl when we’re in session, but at night when I am alone, I find myself seeing those gorgeous gray orbs when I close my eyes. And we won’t even discuss the dreams. That’s one of the reasons why this situation is so difficult for me. He’s so fucking hot—his gorgeous eyes; his sexy, disheveled copper hair; those pouty lips; that tall hot, hot bod; and that voice.
Fuck! That voice!
Any other time, a man like that could have me at his beck and call just panting for him 24/7. But, no—I had to meet the totally self-important version. I drop my head in visible disappointment. Let me know when the attitude upgraded version shows up and I’ll be first in line! My fucking luck so totally sucks… and I’m just about to find out how badly.
I make it just in time before the clerk’s office closes to drop off my documentation. I really didn’t want to have to come back down here again until it was time to ditch Grey… and speak of the fucking devil. Just as I’m leaving the clerk’s office, who else but Christian Grey is coming down the marble stairs leading from the courtroom area. He pauses at the bottom of the stairs talking to an older gentleman, probably his attorney and probably about me. He’s wearing a midnight blue two-piece suit with a jonquil tie—most likely Armani or Belvest, but with his money it could even be Brioni or Prada! He looks utterly delicious. He has his back towards me and his left hand in his pocket, showing just enough of his very finely-toned ass. His right hand is running through his sexy hair. I bite my lip as I imagine myself clutching onto it in the throes of passion.
This is why this situation is so difficult for me—I don’t have the good sense not to torture myself! I put my hand on my forehead and shake my head in an attempt to shake off the ludicrous idea that Christian Grey and I could ever be lost in the throes of passion. I then quickly walk in the opposite direction, towards the door and closer to my car and a bottle of red waiting for me back at home at the “Bat Cave.”
It’s amazing to me how hard it is to find out any information on a kid who has been brutally beaten—a kid. How could they not have pursued something this serious? I guess if you don’t have the cooperation of the victim, it can be kind of difficult.
I need to ask Carrick about the situation with the court order. I need to know just how bad it can get. I need to talk to him soon, this can’t wait—especially if Ana plans on turning in her report before the next session. I call Carrick’s office and his receptionist says he’s in court all day, so I’ll have to meet him there.
“Christian! What are you doing here? Is everything okay, son?” Carrick is just coming out of the courtroom and is shocked to see me waiting for him on the bench outside.
“Everything’s fine, Dad.” I shake his hand. “I have a little situation, and I need to talk to you about it.”
“Okay. Am I going to need a drink?”
“I don’t think so.” I smirk.
As we walk, I explain my problem. I want to know the worst that can happen to me if Ana does submit that report to the court. My Dad rubs his chin thoughtfully.
“Well, the worst that could happen is that the judge revokes your plea and you would be required to serve some time and pay a fine.” Shit. I knew he was going to say that. I can see the headlines now…
Billionaire Does Bid in the Big House
“That’s not very likely, but it’s possible—especially with this judge. We can petition to go before a different judge, but that may not work without a justifiable cause,” he adds.
“Do I have any options?” I run my hand through my hair.
“Yes, you do. Convince her not to file the paperwork against you.” I roll my eyes.
“Yeah. Tried that. Didn’t turn out too well,” I say, sarcastically.
“Well, you still have a couple of weeks to try.” He shrugs. A couple of weeks? I thought she said she was filing the report sooner than that.
“What do you mean a couple of weeks?” I ask.
“How many sessions have you been to?”
“Three,” I answer, questioningly.
“And you’re required to attend twelve in total?” I nod. “She can’t submit anything to the court before the sixth session. So, you have three more sessions to prove to her that you’re not a completely lost cause.”
Reprieve! I’ve been granted a reprieve! Well, more like a temporary stay of execution because the Sword of Damocles is still technically hanging over my head. I’ve conquered businesses in less than two weeks. I can win Little Ms. Doctor Girl back to my side between now and then, especially since we so clearly have a common ground now. The problem is that I can’t really let on that I know we have a common ground, so I have to find another way to approach this. I shift on my feet a bit and I swear I see her… just through the crowd—those beautiful blue eyes and that cascading brunette hair. I rub my eyes quickly and refocus… and she’s gone. Now I’m hallucinating about her! Get it together, Grey, for Christ’s sakes!
“Christian?” I completely forget I’m standing here with Carrick.
“How do I go about showing her that I’m not a lost cause? I think I’ve pretty much screwed it up with this,” I question. Women come to me, I don’t go to them. I sure as hell don’t grovel so I don’t have the slightest clue what I should do next.
“Well, son, if you were dating this girl, I would tell you to start with flowers and an apology. But since you’re not, you’ve got me pretty well stomped, too.” Yeah, I don’t think that would work with Anastasia anyway. She seems like a no-nonsense kind of woman who wouldn’t take kindly to that small, insincere gesture-type shit. “You need to bounce some ideas off of someone who can empathize with how she feels.” And again, I’ve never really been too much concerned with feelings.
Brick wall… brick wall… brick wall…
Like whom? Another woman? Ask Elena? Andrea? Ros? Mom?
Dad must have recognized the dear stuck in headlights look on my face and decides to elaborate on his point.
“Well, you threatened to ruin this woman’s career when she was only trying to do her job—which, by the way, was to try to help you. When she didn’t play your game, you pulled out the heavy ammunition and it still didn’t penetrate her walls. In fact, those walls may be even more impenetrable now than they were before. Now, you have to get around those walls—on a personal and a professional level. Who do you think can help you with that?”
“That’s how you’re going to have to approach it, so give it some thought. I’m sure you’ll come up with something.” He pats me sternly on the shoulder before walking away. “Dinner on Friday?” he asks over his shoulder.
“Yeah, Dad. Thanks,” I call after him.
I walk in the other direction towards the door where Taylor has brought the SUV around. I can read minds when it comes to a woman’s body—to seeking out her needs and fulfilling them. Maybe that’s why I can’t seem to shake some of these psycho subs.
Fuck, focus, Grey!
But shit, there are a set of rules and these women are supposed to follow them! They’re supposed to know what’s acceptable and what’s not. It’s a business arrangement… it’s supposed to be professional…
Someone who can empathize with how she feels…
I wave my hand toward Taylor indicating that I’m not getting in the SUV. I’m walking down 3rd Avenue as I call Flynn. Escala is less than a mile from the court and I could use the fresh air. Taylor is driving slowly, looking over at me periodically, almost willing me to get into the car.
“Hello, Christian. What can I do for you?”
“I need your help with a delicate situation, John. Do you have any openings today?”
“I’m afraid not. I’m booked all the way into the evening. Is it something we can discuss over the phone?”
I’m silent for a moment. I don’t really know what to ask so I think it requires some face-to-face interaction to get the answers that I need. And I certainly don’t want to have this conversation while walking down 3rd Avenue.
“How about tomorrow? Early.”
After a moment of silence, Flynn says, “I can see you tomorrow at 8:00 or at noon, whichever you prefer.”
“Eight is fine,” I confirm.
“Is everything alright, Christian? This isn’t some sort of emergency, is it?” He sounds a bit concerned.
“No, nothing like that,” I assure him. “I just need your professional opinion on a very important matter.”
“Okay, I’ll see you at 8:00 then.” I end the call.
Mrs. Jones has prepared lobster pasta with herb cream sauce when I return to Escala. As I enjoy the decadent dish with a glass of Bollinger, my mind drifts to the young girl in the photo. It’s truly hard to believe that poor broken little caterpillar and the beautiful, headstrong, outspoken Dr. Anastasia Steele are one and the same. The horror that child must have experienced at the hand of… whom? What in God’s name could have possibly happened that resulted in that kind of brutal attack on a teenage girl?
I finish my dinner and pour another glass of Bollinger before I head to my study to get some work done. When I turn on my computer, there is an email from Elena.
To: Christian Grey
Re: Ms. Ellison’s Qualifications
Date: Tuesday, June 19, 2012, 18:17
From: Elena Lincoln
Greta informs me that your conversation last week was very productive concerning her abilities and qualifications, yet I have heard nothing from you concerning your decision to engage her services as your submissive. You must know that with her exquisite beauty, talents, and versatility, she is a highly marketable commodity. Though she has expressed a keen interest in signing with you, she cannot wait forever even for someone as undeniably charming as yourself. I told her that you were eager to sign someone—which is what you led me to believe—so I do not understand the hesitance to seal the deal. I’m sure that you’ve had ample time to complete your thorough background check. So, be a dear and sign the woman already!
Elena Lincoln, Owner and Operator, Esclava Salons Washington
Shit. I had completely forgotten about Greta. She has the potential to be one of the best subs I have ever had. Unfortunately, I can’t get Anastasia Steele off my mind.
To: Elena Lincoln
Re: Ms. Ellison’s Qualifications
Date: Tuesday, June 19, 2012, 19:42
From: Christian Grey
Unfortunately, more pressing issues have arisen during these past few days that have prevented my considering Ms. Ellison’s qualifications. If she is impatient to be signed, please inform her that she is free to go with another client. When I have the opportunity to address the issue, I will do so and contact you at that time. You should know better than anyone that, even in my eagerness, I don’t rush important decisions—nor do I allow anyone to pressure me into making one. I will contact you when I have made my decision.
Christian Grey, CEO, Grey Enterprises Holdings, Inc.
I scroll through the rest of my emails attempting to rid my mind of the image of a black and blue teenage girl with long brown hair lying naked and badly beaten on a dirt floor.
“So, Christian, what’s say we get right to it? What’s brought you here today?”
As I sit on John Flynn’s couch—the couch—I’m trying to figure out the best what to approach this topic with him.
“I’ve offended someone,” I state, blankly.
“Well, this isn’t new, Christian. Would you care to elaborate?”
Not really, but I guess I have no choice, do I?
“Well, that little issue surrounding the R8 a few weeks back?” John nods. “I was assigned community service and required to attend group therapy for six weeks.”
“Okay, and how is that going?”
“I’m getting to that, John.” I shift uncomfortably in my seat. “Community service, well, all I’ll say is that you have plausible deniability so let’s just keep it that way.” John shakes his head at me.
“You know, we’ve talked numerous times about you throwing money at your problems to make them go away, and it looks like you haven’t learned a thing!” I can hear the frustration in his voice.
“For fuck’s sake, John, the man ran into me! I was sitting at a stop light and he ran into me! He was so drunk he couldn’t even stand, let alone drive! And once he realized that he had gotten into an accident with the Christian Grey, all of a sudden he was hurt and the accident was my fault!” I jump off the sofa and start pacing his office. “And this judge,” I’m flailing my hands wildly in the air, “he wanted to throw me in jail! I hit the guy one time—one time, John—I didn’t beat him to a pulp or try to run him over with my car! I decked him for trying to say that the accident was my fault and the guy wanted to put me in jail. I swear he kept making all these speeches about crime in Seattle and the rich getting away with anything. It’s like I have a target on my back because I’m Christian Grey.”
“Well, Christian, sometimes you have to be patient and let the justice system run its course.”
“Justice,” I chuckle, “Yeah, right.”
“Yes, the justice system! If the gentleman was as inebriated as you say he was, he would have surely been given a breathalyzer test—which I’m certain he was anyway. Once it was determined that he was drunk, they would have suspended his license and your R8 would be fixed by now. He would be locked up with a suspended license and paying for the damages on your car, and you would be Scot free right now to go on your merry little way!”
I fucking hate when he’s this fucking logical. “Well…” I don’t want to acquiesce, “I could’ve broken the guy’s fingernail and this Hammer-Ass would have nailed me anyway. He had it in for me.” John raises his head suspiciously.
“Hammerstone? Judge Marvin Hammerstone?” he inquires.
I shrug. “Yeah, that’s him.” John chuckles a bit and shakes his head. “Would you like to let me in on the joke?” I snap.
“I’m sorry, Christian. It just seems like you had one hell of a stroke of bad luck.”
Now I’m really confused. “What do you mean?”
“Well,” he shifts in his seat, “You’re one of Seattle’s most influential citizens, and you committed a crime…” I sigh heavily.
“I reacted like anybody else would have reacted in the situation.” I defend.
“Well, not anybody, but we’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and say, ‘most people.’ Nonetheless, this is an election year, and his seat is on the line in King County, and his platform has always been tight on crime.”
And they had to put me in front of this fucker, who apparently has something to prove so that he can keep his seat. Now, this meeting becomes more important than ever.
“Please tell me this is not the person that you offended…” John protests.
“No, no… but it might as well be for where I’m sitting right now.” I run my hand through my hair. “I offended the facilitator of the court ordered group sessions.” John grimaces.
“Nuclear!” I growl. He leans in closer to me.
“What exactly did you do, Christian?”
I explain the entire nasty mess to him. Honestly, everything that I know about her now, and how I see the meeting affected her after I left on Monday, I’m embarrassed just telling him the story. I don’t bother telling him what I found out about her childhood. I don’t think it’s relevant, and even if it were, I wouldn’t use it. But threatening to destroy her career, glaring at her in session—yeah, I spilled my guts on that shit. I even told him what my father said about the whole thing.
“Well, Carrick may be on to something, Christian, when he talked about how to handle someone you are dating.”
“But we’re not dating. And if we were, I still wouldn’t know what the fuck to do in this situation.” Christ, Flynn… have you met me?
“Ultimately, people just want to be shown some consideration. No one anywhere expects you to be perfect, they already know that you’re not. We’re all flawed human beings thrust down here in the same mishmash of confusion just trying to make it from day to day. And here you have this woman who has dedicated her life to helping other people straighten out their mishmash, and she has to contend with the attitude of one Mr. Christian Grey. She no more cares about how you got there than you care for being there. All she knows is that you’re there for a reason, it’s her job to help you, and you’re throwing rocks at her at every turn. No matter how she has tried to engage you, the only thing you feel that she can possibly do for you is to sign your papers and set you free. She can’t do that, though, not in good conscience. It’s against her oath and it’s against the law. If she capitulated to your demands, she would risk everything. If she were to be exposed, she could not only lose her license, but she could also be charged with perjury, evidence tampering, and falsification of documents for turning that order in to the court. You put her in an impossible position and then you basically have a temper-tantrum when she doesn’t play by your rules. You’re a grown man running a mega-empire acting like a toddler with A.D.H.D.—and she has to deal with it. And when she has decided not to deal with it any longer, you threaten her livelihood. She didn’t know who you were, personally, two weeks ago and now you are threatening everything she has worked for. How would you feel if it were you… if you were in her shoes?”
Here we go with the feelings again…”I don’t have a heart, John. I don’t feel.”
“Well, we’ll discuss your supposed non-existent feelings at another time. But you don’t even need those emotions that you so fervently deny having to know that if someone attacked everything that you strived for that you would come at them with everything that you have! And all she has on you is that court order. By her logic, if you do destroy her, at least you’ll be doing it from jail—especially if you’re dealing with Hammerstone.”
Fuck. Fuck. Fuckity fuck fuckerific!
“So, what do I do, John? I’ve been a real arrogant asshole.” You know, my usual self.
“You’re going to have to charm her… and not in the way in which you have become accustomed. You’re going to have to show her some sincerity, because if you come at her with bullshit, she’s going to see right through you. You need to start with an apology and let her know that you are an ‘arrogant asshole’ as you so put it, and that’s how you’re accustomed to handling things. You may even have to give her a little insight into yourself and your past for her to understand why you are the way you are. You may not like this, but you’re at her mercy right now. You’re going to have to act like it.”
Oh, I hate the sound of that.
I’m cold. I can’t see where I am but it’s so cold. The moon gives off just enough light where I can see forms. People moving around. There’s a stable, and a light—almost a haze—on the other side of it. I’m being dragged… to the other side of the stable.
It’s a bonfire.
Are they going to burn me alive?
“No… please…” I’m crying. “Please…”
“Oh, poor baby.” Her face is covered, but I recognize her voice. “Are you scared, you lying BITCH?” She slaps me… hard! “This is what we do to slutty little lying bitches like you!” I see lightening everywhere. I don’t have a chance to see where the blows are coming from; no chance to scream; no chance to cry. But inside my head, I am screaming….”Mommy! Mommy! Mooooooooommy!”
I hear the word echo in my head when I sit up in bed, drenched in sweat and breathing heavily.
“Oh, noooooooooo,” I weep into my hands. The dreams are back. I had escaped them for a long time and now, they’re back.
A few hours later, I’m sitting at my breakfast bar still in my pajamas. I’m sipping on a cup of herbal tea and looking at my blackberry sitting on the counter. I want to call Ray to see if he’s heard anything from Brian. I need to know who wants to know about Anastasia Lambert; who’s digging into a time in my life that should’ve stayed buried; who brought these nightmares back to my nights. Instead, I pick up the phone and dial another number.
“Dr. Saunders’ office,” the perky voice announces.
“Yes, is Dr. Saunders available right now?” I ask, trying to steady my voice.
“No, she’s in with a patient right now. Can I take a message? Is this an emergency, ma’am?”
“No, no, it’s not an emergency,” I take a deep breath. “It’s Anastasia Steele.”
“Ana?” the voice says with recognition. “It’s Amy.”
I’m glad to hear someone’s voice that I know. “Hi, Amy, how are you?”
“I’m fine. Still doing the same thing I’ve been doing, as you can see. How are you?” she asks, trying to mask her concern.
“I’m doing okay. I just had a rough night. I was hoping to speak to Maxie.”
“I can have her call you when she’s done with her patient. It should be about twenty minutes or so.”
“Thanks, Amy. I really appreciate it,” I say before we say our goodbyes and end the call.
I have just enough time to take a quick shower before Maxie calls. I attempt to wash as much of the dream away as I can. I hadn’t intended on washing my hair, but I find myself scrubbing every inch of my body thoroughly almost to the point of pain. I force myself out of the shower as I see that I’m repeating old habits.
“It’s over. You’re okay. They can’t hurt you anymore. It’s over. You’re okay. They can’t hurt you anymore.” I repeat the mantra until my breathing regulates and I’m able to think clearly.
I don my Victoria’s Secret Bombshell black bra and panties just as my blackberry starts to ring. It’s Maxie.
“Hey, Ana. What’s going on? Amy says you didn’t sound too good when you called.” I’m trying not to go into a panic attack while I talk to her.
“Maxie, I really need to talk to you about something, but I don’t know if I can drive,” I say, my voice shaking. I hear a pause, then Maxie’s voice talking to the receptionist.
“Amy, clear my schedule for this morning. I have an emergency. Ana, I’ll be there in twenty minutes.”
“Thank you, Maxie. I wouldn’t ask you to do this, but I’m a little desperate.”
“Say no more, Ana. I’m on my way.”
By the time Maxie gets there, I’ve donned one of the many dresses from my Lindy Bop collection—the Laney chic vintage black Bengaline high waist pencil wiggle dress with short sleeved white top with black polka dots, collar, cuffs, and bow. My hair has air dried and I brush it and pull it into a high ponytail.
“What’s going on, Ana?” Maxie asks when I let her in. I guide her to the dining room table where I sit down at the end and she takes the chair to my left. I’m wringing my hands having such a hard time discussing this, but now is definitely the time.
“I’ve never openly discussed this with anyone. Allen knows bits of it, but not all of it. But I need my friend and a professional, so…” I swallow hard. She sits up straight because she knows this is going to be a session.
“Is this going to be a doctor/patient privilege thing, Ana? I need to know if I need to call in reinforcements… or the police…” She’s cautious. I wave my hand.
“It’s too late for all that,” I choke. I break down momentarily before I can continue. “I would appreciate it if this could stay between us, though.” She takes my hand.
“You have my word.” I take a deep breath and begin my horrific tale.
“Have you ever heard of human branding?” Maxie shakes her head and furrows her brow. “Well, it was a practice that was common in the 15th or 16th century but was abolished in 1822. Humans were branded in various parts of the world for lots of reasons—for committing crimes, for being vagabonds or gypsies, even for committing adultery…”
“Like The Scarlet Letter,” she interjects.
I nod. “Yeah, exactly like that, only a whole lot more permanent.” I pause and Maxie is staring at me, her face is full of confusion.
“Ana, what does this have to do with…” I hold my hand up to interrupt her. I take a deep breath and spit it out.
“I have one.” She’s momentarily still confused, and then realization dawns.
“You have a brand?!” she nearly screams. I nod. “How? Were you hazed!?” she asks, knowing that some fraternities still use branding in the “crossing over” process as a show of brotherhood.
“No. That’s not…” I still find it hard to discuss, but Pandora’s Box was opened when Anastasia Lambert came back, so there’s no turning back now. I hold up my finger for us to pause for a moment.
I go over to my wet bar and grab two glass tumblers and a bottle of Absolut before coming back to the dining room table.
“I know you’re still on the clock, but you may need this.” She declines, but I pour myself a double and throw it back quickly—at 9:00 in the morning.
“When my mother got married for the third time, we moved to Nevada. I used to live in a suburb of Las Vegas called Henderson. A portion of Henderson, called Green Valley, is the Beverly Hills of the area—very affluent neighborhood. That’s where the celebrities have homes—Janet Jackson, Andre Agassi, David Coverdale, Gladys Knight… you get the idea. You didn’t live in Green Valley if you didn’t have money… unless you were me.” I fight back tears that threatened to fall and pour myself another drink.
“I don’t know how my mom’s husband lived in this city, but he did. We had a huge house with nice things and a swimming pool in a wonderful location… and no money.” I swirl the clear liquid around in the glass, but haven’t taken another drink yet.
“In Henderson, not having money and being allowed to mingle with those who do is a social crime. So needless to say, I wasn’t the most popular kid in school. But I could live with that. What I’m about to tell you… I wouldn’t believe could happen in America in the 21st century if it didn’t happen to me.” I have her undivided attention now.
“I was 15 years old and I was raped by one of the most popular boys in school. His name was Cody. He pretended to like me, he offered me a ride home, he took me to a desert field and he raped me in his car then left me there. I made it home, and I told Stephen… Husband #3. He went to Cody’s house and confronted him and his father. Cody said it was consensual and that was the end of it. Stephen wasn’t going to fight it because Cody’s father intimidated him and quite frankly, he didn’t have the money that this kid’s father had. So that was it. I was a dirty little lying whore—and Cody made sure that everybody in Green Valley High knew about it. I was a total outcast—it was worse than Carrie.
“One day, I was walking home from school and somebody hit me over the head from behind. All I remember is that I was walking, and then pain and darkness, and then waking up somewhere dark and cold with my hands tied. I didn’t know where I was until the trunk was opened and lights were shining in my face. When hands came at me and dragged me out, that’s when I realized I was naked. It was dark, it was cold, and I was at a horse boarding stable somewhere.
“They dragged me around to where they had started a bonfire and there was a cluster of kids over there. I was sure that they were going to throw me in the fire, so I started begging for my life. They were all wearing masks and capes, like it was some cult ritual—it was all very dramatic. I knew he was there, though. I knew he was watching, helping, something…” I drop my head. “I couldn’t see anybody’s face, but I knew he was there.” Now I have to take a drink before I can continue.
“What happened, Ana?” Her voice is barely above a whisper. I can feel the tears, but they just won’t come. Not this time, they just won’t come. I have to finish the story—the story I never told anyone.
“The ring leader was Carly Madison. I didn’t see her face, but I recognized her voice. She and Cody were dating and I was just the lying low-class white trash whore who seduced her boyfriend. So, she drew first blood. She laughed at me while I was crying and called me a lying bitch… and then she slapped me so hard that I saw stars, but those would not be the last stars I saw that night.” Maxie’s hand flies up to her mouth, her eyes bulging nearly out of their sockets.
“Ana, no!” she croaks.
I shake my head as if I could shake the memory away. “I couldn’t even tell you who was hitting me, there were so many of them. They… beat me… everywhere! They even beat the bottom of my feet.” I can hear my voice leaving me, but I can’t stop now. “There wasn’t a piece of skin they didn’t touch… not an inch. And when I thought I would pass out from the pain, they stopped. They untied my hands and held me down, spread eagle face down in the dirt. Carly was saying something to me, but I was just on the edge of consciousness so I couldn’t even hear. The next thing I felt can only be described as someone cutting a hole out of the middle of my back. I could smell burning flesh. I screamed and I must have blacked out because that’s all I remember.”
Maxie sits there in stunned silence. Then, without a word, she pours a double-shot and drinks it down in one pass.
“When I awoke, it was three weeks later. And when the police asked me what happened, I really didn’t know. I didn’t lie, because I didn’t know. Hell, I didn’t even know about all the damage that was done to me until they showed me the pictures. All I knew is that I couldn’t move. Three weeks later, and I was still in so much pain that I couldn’t move. And to top it all off, I had been carrying that bastard’s baby.” Her hand flies up to her mouth again. “I lost it during the beating. I didn’t care. I didn’t want anything to remind me of him and what he did to me. But… we can’t always get what we want.” My voice is cracking again. “I still don’t know the whole story of how I was found or how I ended up in the hospital. I just know that they never got a chance to finish the job and they’ve never been punished as far as I know.”
“What do you mean they never got a chance to finish the job?” she asks, horrified. “You were beaten damn near to death, unconscious for three weeks… I think they were pretty fucking thorough!”
“Oh, they were, but they didn’t finish the job.” I stand up, unzip my dress, turn around and show her my “brand.”
Maxie gasps loud and long.
A/N: For those of you who are not aware of the “Dirty Harry” reference, an American actor named Clint Eastwood has a famous line from a 1971 movie called Dirty Harry where he is about to shoot this guy and he says, “Do you feel lucky? Well, do you, punk?” Unless you have been living under a rock, everybody in America (and probably other parts of the world) has heard some variation of that line at least once. In the movie, there’s a killer that got away with several murders by getting off on a technicality. A detective named Harry Callahan played by Clint Eastwood got pissed and chased him down—on and off the clock—until he finally killed him right after he quoted that famous line. Hence, Ana is afraid Ray will go “Dirty Harry” on the people that attacked her.
The Scarlet Letter was a novel written by Nathaniel Hawthorne set in the 17th century. A Puritan woman is deemed an adulteress and forced to wear a scarlet “A” attached to her clothing for conceiving a daughter while her husband was presumably lost at sea.
Carrie was a novel by Stephen King that was made into a horror movie in 1976 and remade in 2013 about a misfit girl who turned out to have telekinetic powers. I didn’t see the 2013 version, but in the 1976 version, she was hazed horribly at the prom. The vote was fixed and she was voted prom queen just so that she could end up on stage and they could dump a bucket of pig’s blood all over her. She was so humiliated that she used her telekinesis to set the auditorium on fire, cause all kinds of accidents, wreak total havoc and kill everybody at the prom while she calmly walks out of the auditorium and down the street to her home. Her final acts were to flip the car containing the couple that orchestrated the whole thing—adding an explosion for good measure—and to finish off Mom and herself after Mom tried to kill her.
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