Samantha's knight in shining armor carried a controlling sword.
A Place for Healing
“Do you know what a beautiful loving spirit you are?” Daniel sounded so sweet and sincere, even drunk. This man towering over her crumpled painful body deserved an Academy award for acting. It was a familiar scene, him coming home drunk, filled with righteous anger. Samantha always became whatever monster he was battling at the moment. It could be a criminal that he failed to catch, another cop rewarded a medal Dan should have gotten, a teenager that called him a pig. He had roughed the kid up but was still unsatisfied. He carried inner anger like a shield to protect himself until he walked through the door. His lovely wife then became the holy vessel to pour it into.
Afterwards, he immediately became loving and remorseful. He bent over her and kissed her bruised neck. So close he could see a quick pulse beating in the tender flesh.
“You know I didn’t mean it, baby. I love you so much,” he voice was slurred. His eyes were half closed now and he was about to fall on the sofa. It was like, "Thanks, babe, I knew only you would take the pain away from me." Then he immediately fell into a drunken sleep. Each morning, all was back to "normal". This happened about once a week, usually right after he pulled two straight shifts and then had a couple days off.
She felt like a fool for letting the abuse continue for years. But who was she going to call? The Philly PD where Dan was a beat cop? He was so careful not to hit her face and knew just where and how to punish her body without killing her. It must be muscle memory; his brain was surely mush with his excessive blood alcohol level. She couldn't tell their family priest who was a cousin. The Francione family was three generations of Italian decorated cops and loyalty mattered. What happened at home stayed at home, according to a family honor code. She remembered her future mother-in-law had tried to tell her, before marriage, in a kind of code. She mentioned the sacred private relationship between couples, how cops had to tell someone about their "inner anger at this mean world they were anointed to care for". It was like Superman combined with the mob, you know?
Daniel Francione was that rare combination of narcissist that certain women are drawn to. His words were smooth as silk, compliments a woman thrives on. Easy on the eyes with unruly dark hair that looked as if he had just tumbled out of bed. His eyes were a warm brown with golden flecks. His mouth had a grin that was slightly crooked, a desirable combination of mischievous vulnerable boy and a grown man with confidence. Women wanted to care for him, make him happy.
Then when she saw him in his perfect uniform complete with medals, all spit and polish without a flaw. The pull of pure masculinity and empathetic personality was irresistible. What woman isn’t attracted to a great looking muscular cop? Your own personal knight in shining armor and he had chosen her. She was so flattered to be on his arm, blushing as he introduced her as his very own Florence Nightingale.
A gentle lover, he would ask, "Does that feel good?" His touch was a little rough, spice with sugar, a building up of sexual tension. Finally, a possessive pull back that felt, well; uncomfortably secure.
At first it was intense and all about a possessive love that seemed to shine like the brass buttons on his uniform. Then time slipped by and he became careless, the hugs were tighter and his jealously was out of control. He wanted to know where she was always and checked her phone all the time for texts and calls. He would tell her he had enemies that he had put behind bars. "Do you know what these sons of bitches would do to a cop's wife to get back at me? Aren't you glad I care?"
For some insane reason she convinced herself that she took her licks because it was her contribution to his profession. Like Daniel said, "You looked at that guy with lust in your eyes. Baby, you don't even realize you are flirting so I need to teach you not to do that." Before she could argue her case, Dan was on her, raining blows. Duck and cover was her "go to", protect her face and pray it would be over soon. Daniel was judge, jury and bearer of punishment.
Days flew by with a muted haze over them. Being a cop, Dan kept drugs hidden around the house, mostly pharmaceutical brand stuff he had not turned in from cases and Sam took them sparingly. She couldn't deal otherwise with the pain. He didn't want her working any more, she was supposed to reproduce little Daniels and Samanthas. She had her own secret, the birth control she got from an RN friend. It was how she had met Daniel. She was working as an RN in the University medical center in the ER. Cops spent a lot of time talking to ER nurses. They shared crazy stories about patients that outsiders would be shocked at. No one had secrets once they needed medical help and things were always accidentally winding up in various body cavities. It was a strange world that these first responders shared, understanding each other's jokes the naive public wouldn't get.
Three months went by and things had been quiet for once. Dan was working undercover and was gone a lot. Then Sam missed her period and the test was positive. All this time she hadn't wanted a baby because she was frightened for its safety. Now she was elated thinking of a new life. Dan would be happy and never hurt her again. She didn't tell him right away but floated in a pink cloud of happy dreams where innocent children played with nice normal parents.
She knew better from working in nursing all those years, watching women come in with broken jaws and stories about falling down the steps. Seemingly caring husbands hovered, listening to every word. They wouldn't leave the exam room. The ER docs would look at scans/X rays and see the old fractures from unset bones. These people denied everything and usually left AMA (against medical advice), running from the cops and security. They didn't have the staff to follow up. Without counseling and usually rehab for the drinking, nothing was gonna change with Dan.
Now Sam had a little life to protect. This was God's way of giving her a way out. She had a really good reason now. While Dan was away so much, she sneaked out taking an Uber. He never had gotten her car repaired from a year ago. She called a battered women's center from a pay phone and they told her to leave home immediately. She made plans. A social worker would met her at the ER.
She told Dan she was going to visit a old friend in the hospital. He couldn't go with her due to his schedule but would be talking to her constantly on her phone where he could track her movements.
"No monkey business, right?" He grabbed her chin, looked into her eyes, "Something is different about you, Sam. If there's a guy, I will kill you both, understand? I can't live without you but I would have to punish you!"
Her day of freedom came. The weather was anything but cheerful with a driving rain and foggy. Plus Sam felt nauseated. She stood watching Dan drink his strong bitter espresso coffee. Then he called the hospital to see if there was a Linda Stephens listed as a patient. He was told yes. Sam said a prayer for these wonderful angels that covered all bases.
Suddenly, all went wrong. Sam's stomach rebelled and she vomited into the sink.
"You can't go see a patient if you are sick, you know that. Go lay down, I'll stay home."
"Dan, it's nothing and you need to go to work. I'll stay home and call you if I get worse, ok?"
"Something is going on, I can feel it in my gut. Sam, you know I always know these things. What are you hiding from me?"
She couldn't look at him then. He slapped her hard across the mouth suddenly. She tasted the metallic taste of blood.
He glanced up and down at her body.
"You look like you've gained weight but you are nauseated. When was your period?"
"Two weeks ago, Dan, maybe I have gained some weight. I'm sorry!"
Dan had the neighborhood pharmacy deliver a pregnancy test with a half hour. His eyes were constantly watching her every move. It was so frightening. They walked to the bathroom and he watched her urinate on the stick. She was sweating and shaking. The pregnant indicator came up.
Dan's face turned into something from a Stephen King novel. Fire burned in his eyes, his whole face contorted into a mask of horrific anger.
"It isn't mine! Who have you been screwing, whore?"
Sam begin to cry, "I thought you would be happy. of course it is yours!"
She felt the cold tile of the bathroom floor when she slowly came to. There was stickiness between her legs and her whole body hurt. There was a female voice, a soothing one, "You are going to be all right, honey. The paramedics are here to take you to the hospital."
She found out the rest of the story in bits and pieces. Gail Simmons, the social worker from the women's shelter, became concerned when Sam didn't show up. They had her home address and drove over ASAP. They heard Dan shouting and their security guard pried the door open. Blood spattered the bathroom walls. Sam was a bloody broken doll on the once white tile floor. Her respirations were very shallow.
After the police subdued Dan and handcuffed him, he sat on the side of the tub in a dazed state.
Dan was now in state psychiatric custody because of the credible witnesses watching him beat Sam over and over before they controlled him. Somehow the baby had survived and the ultrasound showed a healthy girl. Sam had multiple fractures and abrasions. Rolling into a ball by instinct had saved the baby.
It turned out that Dan had been to a urologist because Sam hadn't gotten pregnant. He didn't tell her because of embarrassment but his sperm count was extremely low. He was convinced the baby wasn't his so he was out to destroy a cheating wife and the bastard she carried.
Sam eventually healed physically and carried Amanda to full term. Dan was getting the care he needed but he kept track of where Sam was. He had eyes everywhere with his connections.
Child Protective Services and the ACLU were trying to get get her into a witness protection program with a name change in another town. Sam wan't a fool though and she knew Dan's eyes and ears would never be far away.
A year went by and a delightful Amanda, with blonde curls, was beginning to walk. Sam was in a women's shelter in St. Augustine, The weather was beautiful and they had made new friends. She was thinking of going back into nursing. The old home was a beautiful fortress with hanging plants and a swing on the porch.
The doorbell rang. One of the other girls checked the camera. They were always extra careful. A man showed her an official court document that he held up to the camera. The burly guard actually opened the door. Samantha Francione (now Suzanne Nichols) was delivered a subpoena to appear in court for a custody hearing. Dan's family wanted Amanda to have a stable home, according yo an attached letter from a judge.
Just when she had begun to believe in the goodness in this world. She picked up the house phone to call her lawyer. Then she prayed.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.
The courage to change the things I can
and the wisdom to know the difference..
By Kathie Stehr
Jan. 6, 2022
word count 2000