"Where's Dad?" Scott Tracy came to the breakfast table, scratching his head and stretching. He looked around the kitchen. "For that matter, where's Grandma?"
Kyrano, the quiet Asian who was Tin-Tin's father, and helped with the upkeep of the Tracy home, stood silently at the stove, flipping pancakes.
"Your father flew out very early this morning, taking your grandmother with him." Kyrano thought he might say more, then thought better of it. Better that they hear this from their father, he decided.
"Oh. Any idea where they were going?" Scott poured himself some orange juice and drained the glass with one long gulp.
"I couldn't say, Mr. Scott." Kyrano turned back to his cooking as Gordon came in, looking tousled and still sleepy.
Well, if he wants to be mysterious, that's okay with me, Scott thought as he chewed on a mouthful of pancake.
In Thunderbird 5, Alan was sitting down to a bowl of his favorite cereal. It crunched in his mouth, almost covering up the sounds of the speakers in the main control room. When he finished, he rinsed his bowl and put it in the sink. He was heading to his room to dress when his ears picked up the words, "Abidjan, Ivory Coast". He turned around and headed for the bank of radio speakers. Tuning in the one for CNN, he listened intently to the story.
"According to an Abidjan police statement, Dr. Ivan Viranov, world- reknowned structural engineer, was arrested last night on charges of attempted rape. He was attending the annual engineering conference hosted by the International College of Engineers and Designers. His victim, whose name has not been released, was also attending the conference. The attempted sexual assault was stopped by one Hiram K. Hackenbacker, the mysterious designer of Skythrust, who allegedly shot Viranov in the leg and shoulder. Mr. Hackenbacker has not yet been charged, but is assisting police in the inquiry."
Alan's heart leapt into his throat. Tin-Tin! That call from Brains last night must have been about Tin-Tin. He reached over and toggled the switch that put him in communication with base on Tracy Island.
Scott was settling down behind his father's desk when the eyes on Alan's portrait began to blink.
"Thunderbird 5 to base. Scott, where is Dad? I have to talk to him!" Alan's voice was full of panic.
"Whoa! Slow down, squirt. What's this all about? Dad's gone somewhere and taken Grandma with him. I don't know where they've gone." Scott tried to calm his younger brother.
"Scott, I just heard a CNN statement saying that a guy at the conference where Bekkah, Tin-Tin, and Brains are was just charged with attempted rape. The statement also said that Hiram K. Hackenbacker stopped the attack by shooting him! It's just got to be Tin-Tin!" Alan's frantic recounting grew in volume to a loud shout.
"Whoo boy. If it's true, it's no wonder Dad took Grandma with him." Scott was alarmed now. But then a thought struck him. "Wait a minute, Alan. If it was Tin-Tin that was attacked, don't you think Dad would have taken Kyrano with him? But Kyrano is here. Alan, I don't think the victim was Tin-Tin." Scott tried to lessen the panic his brother felt. "Dad has probably gone to help Brains with whatever legal trouble he might be in."
"But then why did he take Grandma with him?" came the sound of another voice. Gordon was standing in the door to the lounge.
"How long have you been standing there?" Scott asked.
"Long enough." was the reply. Gordon came into the room and joined Scott at the desk. "Alan, he took Grandma with him. Not Kyrano. So the victim was probably Bekkah."
Scott rose and put a hand on Gordon's shoulder, squeezing it slightly. He knew about the deep friendship that had sprung up between Bekkah and his younger brothers, Gordon and John.
"Listen, guys. I'm going to get in touch with Dad right now and find out what's happening. As soon as I know, I'll let you know."
"Okay, Scott." Alan was much calmer now. "Thunderbird 5, out." The live feed of his face was replaced again by his portrait.
"Gordo, why don't you get dressed and then find John and Virgil. I'm sure they are going to want to hear whatever Dad has to say." Scott urged.
Gordon gave him a small, rueful smile. "Getting rid of me so you can talk to Dad in private? Okay, Scott. I'll go. But I'll be back soon with John and Virgil." He left the room, shoulders sagging.
I hope it wasn't Tin-Tin or Bekkah, Scott wished. Either way, some of my brothers will be hurt. He set about hailing his father's wrist telecomm.
Jeff Tracy walked his mother up to Bekkah's new accommodations. They walked in silence, apprehensive of what they would find there. Jeff knocked on the door softly. Within a few seconds, Tin-Tin opened the door. She looked haggard, as she had been up watching over Bekkah all night. Mrs. Tracy opened her arms and Tin-Tin ran to her, allowing herself to be enveloped in a firm hug.
"How is she?" Jeff asked.
"She's been in the shower for the past half-hour. I can't get her to answer me." Tin-Tin recounted.
Grandma Tracy turned to her son. "I'll take care of Bekkah. You go find Brains and see what you can do. I'm sure he'll be charged with something since he shot that Virenov character." Jeff nodded and went in search of his lead engineer.
Grandma Tracy took off her hat and coat and laid them aside. Then she walked in the bathroom without so much as knocking. She pulled down the biggest towel she could find, and opened it up.
"You're not going to be able to scrub them off, you know." she said to the woman in the shower.
The shower stopped and a weary voice said, "You're right."
"Come out and let me see them."
Bekkah sighed and stepped out of the shower. Mrs. Tracy wrapped the towel around Bekkah's torso, covering her from breast to thigh. She looked at the bruises from Virenov's mouth with clinical interest. Bekkah then turned around.
"Oh, my!" Grandma gasped. "Did the police get pictures of those, too?"
"Yes. I got those when he slammed me up against the wall. The slam stunned me. That's why I couldn't fight him off effectively."
"But he didn't get to....finish the job?" Grandma asked.
"No. Thanks to Hiram's shooting."
"Then you are luckier than most. Come on out when you're dried off." Grandma Tracy left Bekkah to finish drying off on her own.
"Where are her clothes, Tin-Tin?" Grandma asked.
"The ones she wore last night?"
"No. Whatever she brought with her. We need something to cover those bruises."
Tin-Tin and Grandma went through Bekkah's suitcase and garment bag. They didn't find anything that would cover the bruises on Bekkah's neck.
"Looks like we may have to buy something. Too bad Bekkah doesn't wear make up. A little bit of light foundation would do wonders."
"Grandma, this blouse will cover most of the bruising. Perhaps if we bought a scarf for her to wear with it?"
"That would work just fine, Tin-Tin. Could you go down to the mezzanine and see what you can find in the shops there? Pick out two or three so Bekkah has something to choose from." Tin-Tin hurried out on her errand.
Grandma sat down in a chair, waiting for Bekkah to come out of the bathroom. She knew some of what Bekkah was feeling right now; she had been a rape crisis counselor while in college, and had seen and heard the aftermath of many stories like Bekkah's. The fact that Bekkahis an educated woman was in her favor, Grandma thought. She probably knows that rape is not a crime of sex, but of power. She wondered why this Viranov character had picked on Bekkah.
Bekkah came out of the bathroom, wrapped up tightly in her robe. She went to the side of the bed away from Grandma and sat there as she began to get dressed. She hesitated when she came to putting on her bra.
"I don't think I'll want to wear a front-closing bra again," she said with a sigh. "It was too easy for him to rip it open." She looked in her suitcase and selected another garment.
"Bekkah. Tin-Tin and I thought that the blouse we laid out on the bed would cover most of the bruises. Tin-Tin is downstairs looking for scarves for you to wear with it. There's no need for the press to know that you were the victim in this case."
Bekkah turned around sharply, hissing as the bruises on her back made their presence known. "Has my name been mentioned? Journalists are supposed to leave the names of rape victims out of their reports."
"As far as I know, your name has not come up." Grandma rose from her chair and went to help Bekkah put on her blouse. As she helped Bekkah ease the fabric over the bruises on her back and arms, she asked, "Why did this Virenov character pick you?"
"That's what has me stumped, Mrs. Tracy." Bekkah shook her head. "I've known Ivan for almost as long as I've known Hiram. He's a humorless man, full of himself and his own importance, and he's greedy, too. He's been made the butt of our jokes for quite some time." Bekkah's face flushed with shame. "We really shouldn't have picked on him, but he was so pompous that it was like deflating a big balloon when we used our wit on him. But I never thought he would do something like this."
She swallowed hard and continued, "Last night he was waiting here in my room when I came back from coffee with Hiram. I don't know how he got in. But he told me he wanted to talk and to apologize for his rude behavior after my presentation. I asked him what he wanted and he started going on about how much he loved me and wanted me, not only as his woman but as his design partner. Then he got angry about my move to Tracy Industries and started accusing Jeff of keeping me as a mistress. I told him I didn't know he felt that way about me but the accusations he made about Jeff were not true. He accused me of lying and said that if I wasn't with Jeff, I was with 'one of those useless sons of his'. Then he said that he wouldn't let anyone else have me and he would have me that night. That's when he started attacking me." She stopped to breathe deeply and regain her composure.
"I managed to get free of him by using a tactic Scott taught me and I ran for the door screaming. But he caught me by the hair and put his hand over my mouth. I bit him, and then he threw me up against the wall."
Her narrative slowed as she began to sob. "He threw me onto the bed and straddled me around the hips and began to take my clothes off. He kissed me hard wherever there was bare skin and he gave me a French kiss or two as well, to keep me quiet. I tried to push him away, but was only half-conscious. He rubbed his hands over my breasts and hips and was ready to take my panties down. Then Hiram came pounding on the door. I came to and began to scratch him and scream for help. He pinned me by lying on me full- length and kissing me again. Then Hiram shot the lock on the door and warned him off of me. Ivan taunted him, said he was a weakling and wouldn't shoot him. Hiram shot him in the leg. That gave me the opportunity I needed to push him off me. I rolled off the bed. He tried to grab at me, and Hiram shot him in the shoulder. And that's what happened."
By this time, Bekkah was in Grandma Tracy's arms, and Grandma rocked her back and forth to comfort her as she sobbed. Grandma knew that in the retelling of her experience, the horror would eventually fade, and she would heal emotionally.
A knock sounded.
"Come in." Grandma called. In the doorway were Jeff and Brains.
"We're going down to the police station to find out if Virenov is charging Brains and for him to make a statement." Jeff explained. "Then we are going to the hospital where Virenov is being kept under guard. We want to see how badly he is injured and to try and find out just why he did this to Bekkah."
As they turned to go, Jeff stopped. "Scott called me to find out what was going on. It seems that Alan heard a report about Virenov's arrest and assumed that Tin-Tin was his victim. I told him what Brains here has told me and he is relaying it to his brothers." Jeff looked at Bekkah with compassion. "Rest today, Bekkah. There's nowhere you need to be and nothing you need to do. We'll take care of everything." He closed the door quietly behind him.
Tin-Tin returned with some colorfully frothy scarves for Bekkah to wear. She chose one and put it around her neck, tying it and sliding the ends of the scarf down the v-neckline of her blouse.
There was another knock on the door.
Bekkah called, "Come in."
Standing in the doorway were John and Gordon. They stepped hesitantly into the room.
"Bekkah?" Gordon called, holding out his arms.
She got up and walked slowly towards him. He met her halfway and enveloped her in a warm hug. John stood by quietly, and after a moment, she went to him as well. The three of them stood there, the arms of the men encompassing the woman as if protecting her from harm. She looked up at both of them and sobbed.
"I'm so glad you're here."