Armitage - Chapter 3 - A Good Night Gone Bad (Part 1 of 2)
Later that evening, Madeline was in her dorm room getting ready to go out. She brushed her hair in front of the bathroom mirror and applied some makeup, but only a small amount, as she never liked to wear too much. As she was checking her purse to make sure that she had everything her intercom phone buzzed. Instantly she knew it was Ben and Abby, as Ben always rang the intercom for longer than was necessary. Smiling to herself she closed her purse and picked the intercom receiver off its wall mount.
‘Hi Ben,’ she said.
‘Yep, I’ll be right down.’
‘Cool.’ Madeline pressed the intercom button to allow Ben and Abby to step into the lobby and then replaced the receiver. She turned off her light and stepped out into the hall, where she could hear music coming from Jennifer’s room. She was probably entertaining someone, Madeline thought to herself. Making sure her door was locked, as she did every time she went out, Madeline made her way downstairs to where Ben and Abby were waiting.
‘I’m impressed,’ said Madeline jokingly. ‘You guys are early.’
‘Yeah, managed to get her ladyship out of the door sooner than expected,’ laughed Ben, wincing when Abby punched him playfully in the arm.
‘What can I say?’ shrugged Abby. ‘I just have my own time frame.’
‘Time frame?’ remarked Ben. ‘You have your own time zone.’ Madeline stifled a laugh as Abby shook her fist at her boyfriend.
‘You want more of this?’ she asked, half smiling.
‘No ma’am,’ said Ben, flashing her a broad grin.
‘Alright then, let’s go.’ Ben held the door open for Abby and Madeline and let it close behind him.
* * *
There was a small bar at Jack’s that served alcohol in the evenings and this attracted more customers than during the day, so when Madeline, Ben and Abby arrived they were not surprised to find the place rather busy. There was room to move but it was somewhat of a squeeze getting up to the bar, with Ben leading the way and Madeline and Abby following behind.
‘I don’t like our chances of getting a table,’ said Abby, looking around the crowded café.
‘No, here we go,’ said Ben, as he craned his neck to peer over the crowd. ‘Hey, Mike!’ He shouted towards a timid looking young man in glasses who was sitting by himself in the corner. He smiled and waved them over when he saw Ben. ‘No problem ladies, one table, follow me.’ Ben weaved his way through the throng while holding Abby’s hand behind him. Abby herself reached back and took hold of Madeline’s sleeve and the three of them made their way over to the table that Mike was sitting at. As Madeline passed several people she was surprised to hear someone call her name.
‘Why Miss Jameson, good evening,’ said a familiar voice. Madeline turned around to see Professor Mason smiling at her from one of the tables near the counter.
‘Oh hello Professor,’ she said. ‘I didn’t expect to see you here.’
‘Oh I’ve always been a devotee of the lively arts,’ said Professor Mason brightly. ‘And Jack makes a splendid cappuccino.’
‘You know Jack?’
‘Of course, after all he was a professor up at the university for a good few years. I can’t tell you how pleased I was to find out he wasn’t going very far when he retired.’ Madeline smiled and looked over her shoulder to see Ben and Abby settling themselves at Mike’s table, Ben was saving Madeline a seat while talking to Mike.
‘Well it was nice seeing you,’ she said politely. ‘I’d better get back to my friends; they’re saving me a seat.’
‘Oh of course,’ said Professor Mason. ‘Yes it is rather busy tonight, and I know it’s not the done thing to be seen fraternising with faculty members.’ Both he and Madeline laughed.
‘Well, see you in class,’ she said.
‘Yes, you have a good night.’ Madeline made her way over to the table where her friends were sitting, wondering who this Mike could be. As she approached, Ben took his feet off of the chair he was saving for her.
‘What kept you?’ he asked, as she sat down.
‘Oh, I saw Professor Mason,’ said Madeline, pulling her chair in.
‘He’s here?’ asked Abby.
‘Yeah, he knows Jack, apparently.’
‘Small world,’ said Ben. ‘Anyway, Madeline this is Mike Newman, Mike, meet Madeline Jameson.’ The young man sitting next to Ben smiled shyly and waved a small hello.
‘Nice to meet you,’ said Madeline.
‘Nice to meet you too,’ said Mike quietly. Ben grinned to himself and Madeline caught sight of it. He’s up to something, she thought. She looked back at Mike who tried to meet her gaze but kept staring into his lap, and when the conversation lulled she tried to spur it back into action.
‘So how do you two know each other?’ she asked.
‘Class,’ said Ben, slapping his friend heartily on the back, causing him to jolt forwards slightly. ‘Mike’s my go to guy when I’m stuck’
‘Really?’ said Abby. ‘And I thought you knew it all.’
‘Hey, even us geniuses need a little help now and then,’ smiled Ben.
‘Well genius, you can help us by getting some drinks.’ Ben looked out into the crowded café and made a face.
‘Okay, but you owe me one,’ he said cheekily.
‘I owe you nothing,’ said Abby, making a face back at him.
‘Fair enough,’ said Ben, as he stood up and fished his wallet out of his pocket. ‘Same again, Mike?’
‘Oh, yeah, thanks,’ said Mike.
‘Ladies?’ asked Ben, looking from Abby to Madeline.
‘I’ll have a beer,’ said Abby.
‘Jack and Coke,’ said Madeline.
‘Oh ho, serious drinker here,’ said Ben, smiling fiendishly. ‘Okay, if I’m not back in five minutes send out the National Guard.’
‘Just get going,’ said Abby.
‘Okay, I’m gone.’ Ben stepped awkwardly out from the table and disappeared in the direction of the bar. As Madeline, Abby and Mike made small talk a spotlight was turned on, illuminating a small stage with a stool and a microphone stand. Into the circle of light stepped Jack Greene, carrying a microphone, which he slotted in place on to the stand. He flicked it on and tapped it a few times to make sure it was working.
‘Good evening everyone,’ he said, squinting into the light. ‘I’d like to welcome you all to tonight’s poetry reading. I’m very pleased to see so many of you here so without further ado let’s start the show.’ He disappeared out of the spotlight and was replaced by a short young woman wearing black-rimmed glasses and carrying a small red book, the first of the nights’ poets.
The evening proved to be reasonably entertaining, there were some readings that Madeline quite enjoyed and others she did not really care for, but she was getting on quite well with Mike, whose shyness diminished somewhat as the night wore on, so she was enjoying herself. Jack closed out the evening with some of his own work, getting by far the best reaction of the night, and when it came to closing time Ben and Abby suggested they move on to a nightclub.
‘Not for me thanks,’ said Madeline. ‘I’m beat, and I have to be up early for class.’
‘Can I walk you home?’ asked Mike, standing up as she did.
‘Yeah okay,’ said Madeline, shouldering her purse. ‘That would be nice.’ Ben and Abby smirked at one another as Madeline got out from behind the table, this too she noticed.
‘Awww, he likes you,’ cooed Ben conspiratorially in Madeline’s ear.
‘What are you two up to?’ asked Madeline suspiciously.
‘Us?’ said Ben innocently. ‘I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.’
‘Just don’t do anything we wouldn’t do,’ said Abby with a grin.
‘Well that doesn’t leave me with much, does it?’ said Madeline, also grinning.
‘Oh, the cheek!’ said Abby mischievously. ‘You just have a good night, whatever you get up to.’
‘I will, not that I think anything will happen.’
‘You never know,’ said Abby, as she winked at Madeline.
‘Will you two get out of here?’ said Madeline with a smile.
‘Later Maddie,’ said Ben. ‘See you in class, tiger.’ He slapped Mike on the back as he said this, causing Mike to jolt again and look embarrassed. He avoided eye contact as they left the coffeehouse and began to walk down the street, nervously clearing his throat every now and then.
‘Did you have a good time tonight?’ he asked eventually.
‘Yes thank you,’ replied Madeline. ‘Did you?’
‘Yeah, it was fun,’ he said. They continued to walk in relative silence for a few minutes, engaging in sporadic conversation. Madeline found Mike’s shy demeanour rather sweet and it was certainly a welcome change from the average frat boy who seemed to have partying and sex constantly on the brain. She didn’t chase boys like some of the girls she knew on campus, but she didn’t shy away from male attention either, not if it was done properly. She also knew that at least one of Ben and Abby had come up with the idea of pairing her off with Mike and she appreciated that they were thinking of her, but she took things at her own pace and that was that.
As they walked along they passed the entrance to a darkened alley and it looked as if Mike was about to attempt to strike up another mini-conversation but before any words could leave his mouth a dark shaped lashed out of the alley with lightning speed. A thunderous blow to the head sent Mike sailing to the ground and before Madeline could scream a thick, coarse hand clamped itself over her mouth and held her in a vice-like grip, the fingers digging painfully into her cheeks.
‘Try anything and I’ll kill you!’ hissed the voice of her assailant as he dragged Madeline into the alleyway. He used his free hand to hoist Mike up and toss him, unconscious, on to a pile of rubbish that lay heaped up against a dumpster. The darkness of the alley was almost complete; Madeline couldn’t see anything save for gloomy unfamiliar shapes in the inky blackness. Her breathing came hot and fast on the hand of her attacker but in a moment of strange clarity she noticed that his breath felt cold on her skin, almost like a draught. Before she could think on this anymore the hand that had been wrapped around her jaw whipped behind her head and took a handful of her hair. Jerking her head violently to the side, Madeline let out a cry of pain as her cheek was almost touching her shoulder, and her attacker tugged threateningly on her hair again.
‘Do that again and I’ll snap your neck,’ he growled menacingly.
‘Please no,’ said Madeline, the fear bringing tears to her eyes. ‘Take my purse; take whatever you want, just don’t hurt us.’ The attacker let out a rough and guttural laugh that sent shivers through Madeline’s body. Mike still lay in a crumpled heap in amongst the rubbish, knocked out cold.
‘I don’t want your money, sweetheart,’ the attacker drawled sleazily. Oh God, thought Madeline, he’s going to rape me. She began to feel sick as the terror churned her stomach, while the attacker ran a finger sickly down the length of her neck. His touch also felt cold, thought Madeline in another moment of detached clarity, but the attacker then leaned in towards her and she braced herself for whatever he had planned, but as his mouth was mere inches from her neck his head suddenly snapped back and his grip on her hair loosened. He was suddenly thrown violently into the wall of the alley and as he landed with a thud Madeline spun round to see Professor Mason glaring at him with an expression of such anger that she had never seen before.
‘You…’ sputtered her would-be assailant from the ground.
‘Yes me,’ said Professor Mason coldly, his voice different, harder somehow. ‘This one’s not for you.’ Madeline tried to take stock of what was going on but her head suddenly felt fuzzy, as if her thoughts were clouded in thick fog.