“Hello, Louisa, have you missed me?”
The voice came out of the shadow of a lush green hedge. A sudden watery feeling in her stomach made her feel sick. Her body began to tremble as he emerged from his place of concealment.
“What? Nothing to say to your loving uncle?” Percy Styles mocked as he registered the look of dismay that crossed Louisa’s face. “Come here, girl, give me a hug.” he said as he wrapped the slender young woman in his embrace.
Louisa could not prevent the shudder of revulsion that rippled through her body as Styles nuzzled the nape of her pale neck, his lips lightly brushing over the warm soft skin.
“I have certainly missed you, girl.’” he said harshly as he pressed himself more closely against the young woman so that she could be in no doubt as to what he meant. His hardness coupled with the feel of his lips on her skin almost caused Louisa to gag. She jerked herself out of his grasp.
“You need to get away from here, now!” she told him in the strongest tone she could muster.
“Oh, ho! You think so, do you, girly?” Styles mocked, a sneering grin on his face. “You have it all wrong, girl.” His hand suddenly grabbed and handful of Louisa’s hair. Twisting it violently he yanked the frightened young woman towards him. She was almost doubled over due to the excruciating pain to her scalp.
“YOU don’t tell me nothing, d’you hear?” he hissed into her pain-filled face. “I do the fucking telling, here, get it, girl?!”
“The… police…” Louisa stammered as tears of pain pricked her eyes.
“Fuck the police, bunch of idiots that they are.” Styles spat dismissively. “Now, listen up.” he said as he eased the pressure on Louisa’s hair so that she was able to stand upright again without causing herself agonies. “The old bitches you lodge with didn’t seem to like me so much when I called round earlier. You are going to convince them that I am the nicest fucking guy on the planet, aren’t you?” he demanded, tugging Louisa’s hair hard enough to make her cry out in pain again.
“I’m not allowed to have anybody in my room, especially men…” She began to explain until another sharp tug on her hair caused another cry to burst from her.
“No fucking excuses, girl!” Styles spat angrily. “I don’t care what you have to do or what you have to say but you and me are going into that house together, right?”
“I…, I’ll try.” Louisa sobbed.
“You’d better do more than try, much better, for your own sake.” Styles threatened. He relinquished his grip on Louisa’s hair and ordered the terrified young woman to “straighten up and buck up” in readiness to entering the large house. Her head hurt where her hair had been pulled and, when she raked her fingers through it, a good many hairs came away in her fingers. She wanted to cry but managed to hold back her tears.
“Good girl!” Styles grunted approvingly. “Now, if you know what’s good for you, you’ll put on the performance of a lifetime an’ convince those old witches that I am your beloved uncle just come to pay a flying visit, right?”
Louisa nodded her agreement, smoothed her clothing and hair a final time and swallowed several deep breaths before approaching the wooden door and inserting her key into the lock.
They may have had more summers behind them than in front but neither Mavis or Maud Connolly was a stupid woman. They saw through Louisa’s weak lies as easily as they saw through the false smile and equally false air of solicitousness the man she introduced as her Uncle Percy projected.
“Ladies,” he said breezily, “please allow me to apologise for my ungentlemanly behaviour earlier today.”
The charm offensive, if that was indeed what it was, was lost on the two women who had seen off their fair share of charmers and schmoozers in their long lives. Rather than offer him any encouragement by replying they remained stony-faced.
“And it’s just for the evening, dear?” Mable asked Louisa.
It was obvious to anybody with a pair of fully-functioning eyes that the girl was upset, may have even been crying, Maud Connolly thought. She also looked rather rumpled, which wasn’t like her at all. From the day she started work at Deschamps de Paris Louisa had been impeccably turned out. Now, though, she looked like she had been involved in a cat fight. Something most definitely was not right with this situation.
“Yes, Mavis, just the one evening. My uncle has to get going in the morning, early, don’t you, Uncle?” Louisa said.
The temperature in the small cosy room dropped noticeably as Percy Styles was forced to agree with his niece. Anger flashed in his eyes and he clenched his fists behind his back, vowing that Louisa would pay dearly for that smart-mouth comment.
“Well, okay dear, just this once, then.” Mavis said hurriedly. “Not too late, mind.” she added as Louisa thanked her warmly.
As soon as the door closed behind them Styles grabbed his niece and pushed her up against the wall.
“I fucking warned you!” he hissed in a low tone.
“I didn’t do anything wrong. I did everything you said!” Louisa protested.
“Oh yeah? What was that line about me having to leave early in the morning about? Trying to be smart were you?” he spat angrily.
“I was trying to convince the ladies that you were not going to be a problem, that’s all!” the frightened young woman cried. “It worked, didn’t it?” she added.
Styles released his hold and Louisa slumped heavily onto the edge of her bed. Styles threw himself into a fancy Regency-style chair and stared at Louisa.
“Parsons was damn near apoplectic after what you did to him!” he laughed. “I thought he was going to have a heart attack right there in the street!”
Louisa looked away, a blush of shame suffusing her neck and face.
“Oh, don’t be so modest, girl. How much did you take him for, anyway?” Styles asked.
When no answer was immediately forthcoming from his niece the threat of a severe slap to the side of her head had Louisa muttering that she had taken forty pounds from the man.
“Why, that conniving old tosspot!” Styles exclaimed. “That old fucker told me he had almost one hundred pounds on him when you attacked him!” A bark of a laugh escaped him before he queried whether Louisa was telling him the truth.
“Yes. I have no reason to lie,” she said softly, her eyes cast down to the floor.
“You know what? I believe you.” Styles told her. “That old bastard always exaggerated things,” he added.
“Is he also exaggerating about your part in the crimes he has been arrested for?” Louisa asked, raising her face and looking her uncle in the face. He broke eye contact and scowled.
“Nothing to do with me, any of it.” he lied. His tone was defensive, uncomfortable. “Anyway, we’re not going to talk about that stuff.”
“Then why are you here?” Louisa asked, feeling more confident now that she was in the safety of her own room.
“I came to see you. Took me fucking ages to track you down, too.” Styles told her, a small smile playing at the corners of his mouth. “You didn’t think I would just let you disappear did you?” he asked.
Louisa declined to answer. Staring defiantly at the mocking smirk on his face, she told styles that she was not the frightened little girl he and her aunt had treated so badly.
“Why, you ungrateful brat!” Styles swore. “We took you in when you had nowhere else to go other than the orphanage. Is that what you would have preferred?”
“If I had known in advance of what you had in store for me, then, yes, the orphanage would have been preferable to…” She stumbled over her words. “…To certain things that went on.” She managed to blurt out before tears began to slip from her eyes. “You and Aunt Sylvie treated me no better than a slave and when you started to come to my bed at night I was nothing more to you than a possession, that’s all!” Louisa cried passionately.
“And we gave you food, shelter, a fucking home, out of the goodness of our Christian hearts!” Styles said as he shot to his feet. He pushed Louisa backwards and leapt upon the bed. “You ought to be showing me some fucking gratitude, girl!” he hissed as he grabbed the swell of his niece’s breast.
“Get off me!” Louisa squealed.
“Quiet girl!” Styles ordered as he clamped his hand over her mouth. “You make another sound and I swear you won’t live to see the sun come up, understand?” he said in a low, controlled voice into her ear.
Her eyes wild with fear and panic, Louisa managed to nod her head ‘yes’ which bought her the slightest relaxation of the pressure on her face. She breathed noisily through her nose as she felt her uncle’s hands grab greedily at her chest.
“You’re more developed now, ain’t’cha?” he commented. “Not a little girl no more, that’s for sure.”
Tears of shame and humiliation began to course down Louisa’s face while her helpless body was violated. Styles was hastily undoing the row of pearl buttons of the bodice of her dress and was almost done when there was a knock on the door.
“Hello? Louisa dear? Is everything alright in there, dearie?”
It was Mavis, Louisa knew. Her voice was ever so slightly deeper and huskier than her sister’s.
“Get fucking rid of her, now!” Styles ordered into Louisa’s ear. He removed his hand from her face but held it nearby as an unspoken warning.
“Yes, Mavis, thank you. Everything is fine.” Louisa lied convincingly. Styles relaxed and allowed his raised hand to drop to his side.
“We thought we heard a cry, dearie.” Mavis insisted.
There was no point in denying it. She had cried out.
“Oh, nothing to worry about.” Louisa said as airily as she could manage. “I stubbed my toe, that’s all.” she lied.
“Oh, you poor dear. Would you like me to dress it for you?” Mavis asked, genuine concern in her voice.
Louisa felt her eyes fill with tears. Both Connolly sisters had been volunteer nurses during the Great War and had dressed thousands of genuine wounds. Shame suffused her entire body as she continued the charade.
“It’s nothing, Mavis, really.” Louisa insisted, slightly worried at the expression that was settling on her uncle’s face. He was about to lose his temper.
“She’s absolutely fine, thank you. I’ve had a look at it and, apart from a little redness, there is nothing to concern yourself about” Styles said in a slightly impatient tone. “Now, if you don’t mind we are having a private conversation…”
“Louisa, darling, I have a special poultice here that will help keep the swelling down.” Maud’s voice piped up. “Can I give it to you now?” she asked.
Styled shook his head vigorously ‘no’. Gesticulating and mouthing the words he told Louisa that under no circumstances was she to open the door.
“Really, Maud, sweetie, I am perfectly fine. It was only a gentle bump, nothing more than that.” Louisa even managed to summon-up a small laugh.
“I still think we ought take a look, just to be on the safe side.” Mavis said. Her words were accompanied by the sound of the key in the lock. Before anybody could draw another breath the door was broken right off its hinges as the room filled with burly bodies dressed in blue serge.
“Percy Arthur Styles,” Police Sergeant Bernard Penney intoned gravely, “you are under arrest on suspicion of rape and murder.” Styles didn’t even protest as the handcuffs were secured to his wrists and he was led away. Only when her room was clear of policemen did Louisa allow herself to be smothered in the arms and bosoms of her landladies and her tears to flood out of her.
To be continued...