General Fiction posted September 13, 2020 Chapters:  ...5 6 -7- 8... 

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Monique gets an uninvited visitor.

A chapter in the book Par Angusta Ad Augusta

Chapter 7

by teols2016

A law professor gets a family and a bookstore owner offers advice.
Previously in "Par Angusta Ad Augusta":

After his brother and sister-in-law are killed in a car accident overseas, NYU law professor brings his young nieces and nephew to live with him. Meanwhile, bookstore owner Monique Vasquez looks for a new employee for her bookstore.

Believing at first she was still dreaming, Monique woke up to a strange noise. Looking around her dark bedroom, she focused on her clock radio and realized it was 1:47 in the morning.

What the? she wondered.

The noises continued and she soon realized that they were coming from below her bedroom. But the store should be ... she thought when it hit her. Someone was in her store at a time wen no one ought to be there. Someone was robbing her store.

Monique looked over at a small screen mounted on the wall next to her headboard. It showed her that not only that the building's silent alarm had been set the previous evening, but that it had been activated. The police would have received the alert by now, but Monique wasn't taking any chances. Managing to control her arm, she reached out and pushed a large red button below the screen. She hoped help got here soon.

Then, she heard the sound of a door below her being opened. She knew this led to a set of stairs going up from the bookstore to her apartment and the storeroom above it. Since the doors to the store and the exterior door of the apartment were always locked, Monique had never bothered adding any type of real lock to this door. Yeah, her office door had its own lock, but that was because she kept money in there. Now, the burglar had discovered an access point to the rest of her building. Hearing another door open, Monique knew he was now in the main room of her apartment, twenty feet and one door from her.

Her heart racing, Monique lay in her bed. She wished now more than ever she could get out of bed on her own. Maybe then, she could hide or escape. But this wasn't an option.

She could hear the intruder walking around through her apartment. She thought about calling 9-1-1 but decided against it. She had already manually triggered the alarm and the intruder was sure to hear a telephone conversation.

The door handle of her bedroom door made a faint noise as it was turned. Ready to have a heart attack, Monique shut her eyes and pretended to be sleeping. The room was dark, so he probably didn't see anything to suggest she knew he was there. Still, she feared the sound of her terrified breathing gave her away. The soft taps of his shoes on the floor rang in her ears, each sounding like a clap of thunder.

The intruder stepped into the room. Opening her eyes just a bit, Monique could see a flashlight beam dancing off the wall. The intruder went to her closet and began looking through it but seemed to find nothing. He continued to move around the room, ignoring her. Shaking, Monique held her breath.

The intruder came up to the bed and shone his flashlight in her face. Monique involuntarily squeezed her eyes shut tight against the bright glare. She also couldn't withhold a gasp.

The intruder grabbed her shoulder and shook her. Too afraid to do anything else, Monique looked up at him but only saw shadows fall over his face.

"Don't scream," he told her in a soft, deep voice.

Monique nodded, terrified.

"Where do you keep your cash?" he demanded. "Tell me now."

"In the safe in the office downstairs," Monique told him truthfully. "I can give you the combination. And I've also got some money in my purse. It's in the hall closet outside in the main room."

"You're lying!"

the intruder was angry now. Monique was confused.

"I checked the hall closet," he snapped. "There's no purse in there,"

He grabbed her chin and squeezed it tightly.

"Now," he said, "tell me the truth. Don't lie."

"Please," Monique whimpered. "I'm not lying. It's in there. I always keep it in there. Please don't hurt me."

The intruder let her go but he didn't move away from her bed.

"Please," Monique tried again, managing to prop herself up on her elbows. "I'll give you whatever you want."

Without a word, the intruder grabbed the edge of her blanket and pulled it back, shining his flashlight over her pajama-clad body. He reached out and stroked her leg.

Oh God, Monique thought.

Then, they could hear sirens outside. They were getting closer. The intruder froze, his hand still on Monique's leg. Monique was still as well, biting her lower lip to keep from crying.

All of the sudden, the intruder raised his flashlight and brought it down across Monique's head in one sharp blow. The force of the impact caused her to pivot to one side, where gravity took over. She fell off the bed, her feet entangled in her blanket, crashing at the intruder's feet. Leaving her there, the intruder fled the room. Managing to stay conscious, Monique could hear him open the door leading out of the apartment as the sirens got even closer.

* * *

"What've we got?" New York City Police Detective Brian Casslebeck asked, arriving at the bookstore.

"Burglary," a patrol officer replied. "Some punk broke in through the back door down here and seemingly ransacked the place. We'll get someone to tell us if anything's actually missing, but it's definitely a mess."

Detective Casslebeck nodded. He surveyed the store. It seemed as though every book was thrown off its shelf. They lay strewn across the floor. The cash register had also been broken into and the cash drawer seemed to be missing. One coin roll had broken open and silver coins were strewn across the counter and floor.

"Our intruder then went upstairs," the patrol officer continued.

"What's up there?" Detective Casslebeck asked.

"The owner lives up there. Her name's Monique Vasquez."

"Did she call 9-1-1?"

Detective Casslebeck hoped this was the case. that would mean she was still alive and maybe okay, physically speaking. The woman had to be terrified.

"No," the patrol officer explained, "the intruder tripped the alarm. We responded within five minutes of getting the call. The dispatcher said it was a priority because of her disability."

"Disability?" Detective Casslebeck asked. He knew the city had programs which allowed people to have such information entered in databases used by 9-1-1 operators and the like so first responders would be able to act accordingly.

"Yeah," the officer said, "apparently she's paralyzed or something. Paramedics are upstairs looking her over."

Detective Casslebeck nodded and, making his way around two forensics technicians searching for fingerprints and fibers, went back outside and around to an external staircase he'd noticed earlier. He ascended it to find the door leading to the apartment above the bookstore. He entered and greet another technician, hearing voices coming from a bedroom.

"I'm fine," a woman was saying. "Just put a bandage on it and let me get in my chair."

Stepping through the open doorway, Detective Casslebeck found two paramedics tending to a woman on a gurney. The woman seemed to be conscious and coherent as she was speaking with the paramedics, one of whom was bandaging a bloody wound on the side of her head.

"Ms. Vasquez, I assume," Detective Casslebeck said.

Monique turned her attention to him.

"That's me," she declared.

"I'm Detective Brian Casslebeck, NYPD. Are you all right?"

"The perp hit her across the head and knocked her off the bed," a paramedic explained. "She was conscious when we arrived. We're still checking for signs of a concussion."

"Hey," Monique protested. "I'm right here. I can speak for myself, thank you."

"As you can see, there doesn't seem to be any brain damage. We're gonna take her to the E.R. to make sure everything's okay though."

"Wo!" Monique said, ignoring the rude portion of his statement for the time being. "Wo! No way! I'm fine."

"Ms. Vasquez," the other paramedic said, "you were hit across the head with a flashlight and fell off the bed. You may feel fine, but there might be skin tears, broken bones, and other injuries none of us know about yet. Then there's still the possibility of a concussion."

Monique glared at both paramedics.

"Fine," she said, resigned.

"I'll be at the hospital in a little while to speak with you," Detective Casslebeck said as she was wheeled out of the bedroom. Listening to the ambulance drive away, he looked around the bedroom and then headed back downstairs to speak with the forensics technicians.

* * *

Despite Monique's continuing protests, the doctors at Beth Israel Medical Center's emergency room gave her a full check-up before being satisfied the bump on her head was her only serious injury and it wasn't a threat to her health. She had sustained some minor cuts and scrapes along her right side from the fall, which were easily treated and bandaged. She was lying in a hospital bed when Detective Casslebeck came to speak to her.

"Can you tell me what happened?" the investigator requested.

As the sun's morning rays poked in through a nearby window, Monique recounted the previous night's events, adding how she was sure the intruder had planned to harm, and possibly kill, her.

"I just got the absolute chills when he touched me," she said. "The hairs on the back of my neck stood straight up. If you guys hadn't shown up when you did ..."

Her voice trailed off with a shudder. Detective Casslebeck saw her being vulnerable for the first time since he arrived at the bookstore. He gently touched her shoulder.

"You survived," he assured her. "You're here and you're alive. That's what counts."

Monique nodded.

"Have you been released yet?" Detective Casslebeck asked.

Monique shook her head.

"I'm still waiting on the forms," she explained.

"I'll take you home when that's done," Detective Casslebeck said.

* * *

About an hour later, Detective Casslebeck's unmarked sedan pulled up in front of Monique's bookstore. The sun had fully risen by now and Kathy and Frank were anxiously waiting by the open front door. From the looks of it, the crime scene technicians and other police officers were done and gone.

Kathy came forward to help Detective Casslebeck get Monique out of the car and into her wheelchair, which had been left in her apartment while she was in the hospital. She and Frank thanked the detective for all of his help. Detective Casslebeck wished them all well, promised to call with any news, and left.

Monique proceeded into the store, Kathy and Frank behind her.

"Are you sure you're okay?" Kathy asked almost immediately, eyeing the thick bandage on the side of her head.

"I'm fine," Monique insisted. "I took one blow to the head and they already released me. It can't be that bad. I also got some pain killers, just in case."

She pulled out a small vial of pills and shook it at them.

"Supposed to be the good stuff," she said. "Plus, there's definitely no concussion or anything like that.

"You will wanna lie down," Kathy insisted. "You've been up for most of the night."

"I'm fine. Come on. Let's get this place cleaned up so we can be open for at least part of the day."

The crime scene technicians had been kind enough to stack the books on the floor into piles, but there was absolutely no organization to the setup. Frank and Kathy set to work putting everything right again while Monique supervised and took a mental inventory. Some of the books looked damaged and might need to be discarded or donated. They'd do a full inventory once everything was cleaned up. Monique wondered if the intruder actually thought one of the books, or a bookshelf, concealed some sort of hidden treasure and that was why he'd tossed so many volumes onto the floor.

Joan soon arrived and Monique reluctantly allowed herself to be taken upstairs where the nurse checked her out. As she worked, Monique surveyed the apartment, not missing the fingerprint powder coating many pieces of furniture and spots on the walls and doors. The off-white splotches looked sickening.

Joan took an hour to clean the pale powder off Monique's bed and changed her sheets. Despite her protests, Monique was put into bed and ordered to sleep for a few hours. She was given two of the prescribed pills with water.

"I'll come back later and you can then go downstairs," Joan said before leaving, "if you sleep."

Stuck in bed, Monique had no choice but to comply. She released a long, shuddering breath.

* * *

Jefferson's alarm went off at 7:00 that morning. He sat up in bed, rubbing his eyes, hearing Presley getting up from her dog bed in the corner of the room. The dog stretched and left, probably on a quest for breakfast. She'd be waiting by her bowl downstairs.

"Morning," a cheerful voice said.

Jefferson jumped in surprise before realizing it had to be Abigail.

"What are you doing in here?" he asked.

"You said we could be in here if you were in here," Abigail pointed out.

"Are the others in here as well?"

"No. Taylor went downstairs and Matthew's still in his room. We're hungry."

She seemed to have assumed the role of spokesperson for the group again.

"Okay," Jefferson said. "Give me a minute and I'll come down and fix you guys something."

"Okay," Abigail said. "Remember. I don't like ..."

"I think I remember. Get going."

"Okay," Abigail said and left.

Jefferson got out of bed and stretched. He headed downstairs, where he could now hear Taylor interrogating her sister about the status of breakfast.

"When's he coming?" she asked as he descended the stairs.

"I'll get started on it for you guys," Jefferson said as he entered the kitchen and put on coffee. "Go see if your brothers awake."

The girls scurried back up the stairs as Jefferson fed Presley and located his iPhone. Arranging the small cereal boxes Amy bought last night on the counter, he pulled up his Aira app and hit the "Call" button. After listening to a short segment of hold music, he was connected to a representative, or "agent", as this company called them.

"Connecting to Agent Jason," his phone's electronic voice recited.

Jason himself was then speaking.

"Thank you for calling Aira," he said. "What would you like to do today?"

Explaining his layout of the small cereal boxes, Jefferson asked him to help identify them, holding up his iPhone so Jason could see the counter via its camera. In under a minute, they were identified and alphabetized.

"Is there anything else I can help you with?" Jason queried.

"No, thanks," Jefferson replied. "I'm good."

They disconnected and he pocketed the phone. As he took Presley out to relive herself, he thought about how things like this didn't exist even ten years ago. Now, with the push of a button, someone in an office in another city could see what he was seeing and help accomplish minor tasks whose completion might otherwise be delayed due to his lack of sight. And, this was a professional company, complete with the promise of confidentiality.

When the girls returned with Matthew in tow, Jefferson had them wash up and presented their cereal options. Abigail quickly picked out Fruit Loops, something Jefferson found surprising when he considered the variety of ingredients supposedly in the cereal and how picky she normally was. But he decided not to dwell on the matter. She had made a choice and that was what counted. Most importantly, he'd been spared the recitation of her list, something he already found tiring to hear.

Taylor was just as easy, if less surprising, picking out Smacks with little hesitation.

"Captain Crunch," Matthew said.

"I don't have that," Jefferson replied.

"Captain Crunch," Matthew repeated with a pout.

"He really likes Captain Crunch," Abigail offered from her seat, as though this information would somehow help.

Jefferson knew he'd need to buy Cap'n Crunch soon, but what could he give Matthew now? He racked his brain.

"How about Pops?" he asked. "They're kind of like Cap'n Crunch."

He held out the small box, not sure how valid his claim was.

"Okay," Matthew agreed after studying the box.

Jefferson sighed with relief as he set out cups of milk for the kids and added glasses containing their juice requests. Taylor wanted orange juice, which was readily available because Amy had bought it the night before, and Abigail and Matthew wanted apple juice. Since Jefferson could be considered a habitual drinker of the stuff, he had that readily available as well, though he himself was having coffee with milk that morning. Since none of the kids wanted eggs, he scrambled a few of the eggs Amy bought for just himself and joined them for breakfast.

"So what are we doing today?" Abigail asked eagerly between spoonful's of cereal.

"Let's see," Jefferson replied. "Amy and Eric are coming by later today and they're gonna help us settle you guys in more. Hopefully, the movers will get here today and we can start getting your furniture set up in your rooms. I think that'll take most of the day."

"Are we going anywhere?" Abigail asked.

"I don't know," Jefferson replied. "Maybe we'll go out for dinner tonight."

They continued eating and soon all three kids were ready to leave the table.

"Did you guys drink the milk?" Jefferson asked.

Thankfully, he knew enough to see the importance of drinking milk for small children.

"You're not drinking milk," Taylor replied, giving away that she had not drank hers.

"Wrong," Jefferson corrected, testing the weight of her cup to confirm his suspicions. "There's milk in my coffee. I'm drinking it. So will you."

"Can we have some coffee?" Abigail asked.

Jefferson couldn't picture the idea of this already-energetic child on caffeine.

"No," he said, "but you are going to drink your milk. Otherwise, we're definitely not going anywhere today."

The twins gave in and returned to the table. Matthew, who had actually drank his milk, ran off to play.

When the twins were done and had run off as well, Jefferson cleared the table and deposited the dirty dishes in the sink. He called the kids together so they could go upstairs and get dressed. He let them pick out what they wanted to wear, provided they didn't make too much of a mess of the things in their bags. While the twins picked out pretty normal outfits, Matthew was a little more creative, picking an undershirt to wear with a set of swim trunks.

"Absolutely not," Jefferson said, heading for the stairs. "Taylor, come help me."

Using Taylor as his eyes, Jefferson proceeded to help him pick out something more appropriate. It took some pushing, but Matthew eventually agreed and changed.

* * *

Amy and Eric arrived at 10:30, and while Amy went with the kids to go and mark their clothes with Braille tags to indicate their color for Jefferson's future benefit, Eric and Jefferson set to work on the box of legal documents Cassandra Kingman had put together and shipped to New York. As a family court attorney, Eric had experience in dealing with legal matters surrounding adoptions, foster care, guardianship, and the like. Therefore, he was able to review the documents much more quickly than the embassy's legal counsel in Berlin. Jefferson sat with him at the kitchen table, his contribution to the process being to confirm what had already been faxed. He was pleasantly surprised to learn Cassandra Kingman had labeled everything with post-it notes as well.

The task took over two hours, in part due to Eric and Jefferson making half a dozen trips to Jefferson's third-floor office to scan and e-mail items as needed.

"Why didn't we just bring everything up here to begin with?" Eric queried during the fifth trip, eyeing the spare chair in the corner of the office.

"Let's not question our judgement now," Jefferson advised.

Around the same time they finished, Amy and the kids emerged from the bedrooms to report their work was done. the clothes had been labeled with the aluminum Braille tags so Jefferson knew their colors and could match them up properly. Everything was now mostly put away in the closets.

"Mostly?" Jefferson asked.

"You need some more shelves in those closets," Amy told him. "What did you keep in there before?"

"Nothing, really. I never used those rooms much."

The rooms and their closets had come with the house. Jefferson wasn't going to decline the opportunity because of their existence and non-necessity at the time he bought the house.

Lunch consisted of sandwiches from a nearby deli. Then Eric and Jefferson left to file some papers with the courts. There'd be more to do once these documents came before a judge, but for now, everything was in order. Jefferson was the kids' official guardian pending a future hearing to decide if this arrangement ought to become permanent.

I have rearranged this story a bit. It is now thirty-eight chapters (instead of the original forty-two.)

Cast of characters:

Jefferson Thomas: a blind NYU law professor.

Presley: Jefferson's guide dog.

Monique Vasquez: a bookstore owner in Manhattan

Abigail and Taylor Thomas: seven-year-old twin daughters of Stanley and Margaret Thomas. Nieces of Jefferson Thomas.

Matthew: four-year-old son of Stanley and Margaret Thomas. Nephew of Jefferson Thomas.

Joan: Monique's nurse.

Kathy Quigley: a long-time employee of Monique's bookstore

Frank Norris: a long-time employee of Mnique's bookstore

Eric Nelson: Jefferson's colleague and best friend

Amy Nelson: Eric's wife and Jefferson's friend

Stanley "Stan" Thomas: Jefferson's brother. Killed in a car accident in Berlin.

Margaret "Maggie" Thomas: Stan's wife. Killed in a car accident in Berlin.

Feedback is always welcome. Enjoy.
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