Petra didn’t hear an answer, turning her back to the balcony and shimmying down carefully. She liked this dress and didn’t want to snag it. She finally got her second foot down to the floor of the balcony and suddenly there were hands on her neck, then something more deadly. She could not breathe, unable to catch a full breath and feeling as if she would black out.
She frantically tried to get her fingers under the cord, loosening it briefly until it tightened up once more. She struggled and looked down, seeing the end of one of her stockings, realizing that it was a stocking, one of her own very expensive silk stockings. This angered her and helped her to struggle harder. She tried to kick backwards, kicking at his shin behind her and stepping hard on his foot, but without her shoe on she didn’t cause much damage, and he remained silent. other than a soft groan, flinching at the surprise attack back. It gave her a moment to pull away from him, but her attacker still was between her and the room, and she was even closer to the edge of the balcony. When she got a breath, she tried to scream, eliciting only hoarse words.
“Why?! Is it jewelry you’re looking for? Mine is all in the safe downstairs. I don’t keep it up here.”
“I don’t need your money or your jeweley.”
Petra tried to memorize his face when she got a glimpse. She imagined she was Fay Wray, reaching behind her for the rough balcony wall, for anything to grab onto. She would do nothing but leave skin behind if she kept trying that. There was another figure behind him, a man who looked familiar, in a brown coat that was way too heavy for the weather, and wearing a hat that she could hang her heart on.
As the intruder wrapped the stockings tighter around his fists, the brown coat attacked him and punched him, pushing him off his stride–knocking him off balance, but not off his feet. He got as good as he gave and they wrestled. Petra came back into the suite, watching Robert fight for her, fighting her battle and giving her a chance to save herself. She made it to the door and watched. Like a prize fight, there was a moment and a punch that she knew defined the battle. She knew she should run, but she couldn’t take her eyes off of them.
The stranger went down and Robert stood there, watching him go down, fist still drawn, seeming to Petra to be in slow motion. When he was rendered unconscious, Robert lifted the man up as he would a young lady, as if he had nearly no weight at all, and plopped him into a chair. He looked around, then took a sweater from another chair, one of hers, and put it around the now unconscious intruder’s shoulders in the chair, turning it so that his back would be toward the door. He dimmed the light and when he was satisfied, he turned to her.
“We have a few things to talk about. How long will Perkins be gone?”
He stretched out his arm in a sweeping gesture toward the inside of the suite. “Get some shoes and something sensible to wear. Hurry.”
“Not now. Get your things. We don’t have long.”