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Lieutenant Craig Johnson had come to investigate the public disturbance as a favor to an old friend. Mr. Huffy had explained the escalating issues between his wife and the woman next door, and asked the officer to put some fear into the two women before things got out of hand. Both women had valid complaints, but shouting and name-calling wasn't going to solve anything. Craig instructed Mrs. Huffy that the bush in question was not on her property, and that she should go home. Then he turned to the attractive neighbor woman and tried to calm her as well. He got a slap in the face for his effort.
What she needed was a good spanking! He was just the one to give it to her, too. Of course, she'd have to agree to it - so he could threaten to arrest her for assaulting an officer, which would become part of a permanent record. Reluctantly, she agreed to his terms, but before he could administer the good, old-fashioned remedy for attitudes that needed adjusting, he was called away.
"I'll be back," he promised Elizabeth. "And don't even think about running."
She nodded, clearly embarrassed and ashamed. Yet when he returned later, he found her not ready and waiting for her spanking, but unconscious on the kitchen floor! Someone was out to hurt her, and he wouldn't rest until he found out why.
“You get out of my yard!” Elizabeth yelled at her next-door neighbor, the one who was always giving her grief.
“Your burning bush is out of control, Miss Matthews! I cannot see down the street!” Mrs. Huffy pursed her lips with indignation. Elizabeth had seen that look many times since she bought her home three years ago. The woman was a vicious gossip, and the bane of Elizabeth’s existence.
“Your real problem is that you can no longer see in my window, you nosy old woman. Why else do you think I let it grow like that? It was so I can come and go without your spying and snooping on me!”
“How dare you speak to me like that?” she angrily demanded. “You have no right to block our view from our window! I am going to trim that bush so that I can see!”
“No, you are not!” Elizabeth was getting angry, which was a bad thing because her language always took a turn for the worse when she was furious.
“Yes, I am! I have rights, you know!” Mrs. Huffy declared, giving Elizabeth more grief.
“You do not have the right to come on my property and cut down my burning bush. It does not come close to your yard!” Elizabeth informed her.
“I want it down, right now!” Mrs. Huffy stomped her foot like a five-year-old having a tantrum, and then she clicked the blades of her long-handled lopper in Elizabeth’s face.
“That does it! Get out of my yard, you mouthy old bitch, before I call the police and have you thrown in jail!”
“Hah! You wouldn’t dare! Once I told them about this, the cops would take my side and order you to cut down this monstrosity!”
“No, they won’t! I already checked and I know my facts. Go home and stop bothering me.” She wanted to smack her, and if the nosy woman wasn’t in her sixties, she might have given in to the temptation.
“I am not leaving until this bush is cut down!” Mrs. Huffy did her best to stand tall and intimidate Elizabeth. “Stand aside!”
“Not on your life! My burning bush is staying right where it is!”
At that point, a police car pulled up. A man wearing a police uniform got out and approached them. “Ladies, what seems to be the problem here? One of your neighbors called to report the disturbance.” He gave Elizabeth a look that said she shouldn’t be arguing with Mrs. Huffy.
She gave him a look that said, ‘Fuck off.’
“Officer,” the neighbor yelled to get his attention.
“Actually, ma’am, it is Lieutenant.”
“Oh my! I didn’t think lieutenants wore uniforms,” Mrs. Huffy gushed all over him.
“We attended a funeral today, ma’am; the uniforms were mandatory. Now, let’s discuss why the neighbors are complaining.”
“She is trespassing! She wants to cut down my burning bush, and there is no way in hell I’m going to put up with her destroying my property!” Elizabeth said, and then under her breath she whispered, “The wicked bitch!”
“I would appreciate it if you refrained from name calling, Miss.”
Elizabeth felt as though he had smacked her as his dark eyes radiated disapproval.
“You haven’t had to put up with this nosy woman for the last three years!” Elizabeth defended herself and made sure he knew who was the guilty party. “Tell her she is trespassing, and that she cannot cut down my burning bush!”
“It is blocking my view!” Mrs. Huffy said directly. “I want it down right now!”
“Where is your property line?” he asked.
Elizabeth gave a victory grin as Mrs. Huffy accurately indicated the dividing line. Now they were getting somewhere.
“Ma’am, this burning bush is not near your property. It is clearly contained on Miss�" He looked at Elizabeth for information.
“Matthews, Elizabeth Matthews,” she said, somewhat calmer than she had been moments before. Damn, but he was handsome with his dark eyes and a slight beard shadow on his face. He wasn’t much older than she was, and the fact that he was already a lieutenant told her he wasn’t a slacker. His lips were sensual, and made Elizabeth think of kissing. She looked at his hands and a flush turned her body warm. She couldn’t help but wonder how those large hands would feel touching her body in all sorts of places.
“Miss Matthews?" She blinked as she suddenly realized he was speaking to her while she was in La-la-land.
“Yes, Lieutenant?” She cleared her throat, hoping he wouldn’t ask why she was daydreaming, when this clearly wasn’t the time of the place.
“I asked if you threatened Mrs. Huffy?”
“Of course not!” Elizabeth glared at the woman, tempted to launch herself at Mrs. Huffy and put her hands around the woman’s scrawny chicken neck and squeeze. “She is the one who snapped those loppers at my face.”
“All right. This is getting us nowhere. Since there are no witnesses, there is no proof that either of you has threatened the other. I suggest you both go inside and cool down.”
“I would love to go inside, but I have to protect my bush. That unscrupulous old woman will cut it down the second my back is turned.”
“It would be neighborly if you trimmed it down some. It is rather large, Miss Matthews,” he said in his deep voice.
“I know it is large. I planted it when I saw her staring in my windows after I bought this place! I bought the largest one I could find, and planted it, hoping it would eventually block her view of my house and me. I am sick and tired of her spying on me.”
“I am not going to write up either of you for disturbing the peace, but if this sort of thing happens again, one or both of you will take a ride to jail in the back of a patrol car. Mrs. Huffy, leave this bush alone. It is on Miss Matthews’ property, and you have no legal basis for cutting it down.”
“Well, I never!” Mrs. Huffy huffed, clearly agitated.
Elizabeth was finally enjoying herself. Once Mrs. Huffy headed for her own yard, the handsome policeman turned toward her and she couldn’t help smiling. After all, he’d taken her side!
“Miss Matthews, Mrs. Huffy is a good forty years older than you are. I cannot believe the language you were using toward her! You are too pretty to be cursing like that.”
“It is a fault of mine,” she confessed, embarrassed by his scolding. “I tried to be patient, but I lost my temper, and when I get angry, I start swearing. I am not proud of that.”
“I should hope not,” he agreed, looking at her. Elizabeth suddenly felt like a little girl, and she wanted to squirm from the look in his eyes. She hated the feeling, and it made her angry.
“Look, I was defending what belongs to me; that mean old woman is the one who needs a good talking to!” To her surprise, he was nodding in agreement.
“Mrs. Huffy has a husband who is not happy with her right now, and if I thought you had a father, brother, or boyfriend who would deal with you as you deserve, then I could leave, but from the way you are behaving, I would imagine you are running wild.”
“What is that supposed to mean, Lieutenant?” she demanded, barely restraining from kicking him.
“It means that you obviously do not have to answer to anyone or you would not feel so free to behave like an undisciplined child.” Elizabeth could see that he was not joking and his next words confirmed it. “You obviously haven’t had a good sound spanking in some time, if your behavior is so out of control.”
“How dare you speak to me like that?” she screeched, her temper taking control of her mouth, and her hand. Before Elizabeth realized what she was doing, she slapped him across the face. The handprint left by her stinging palm quickly grew to a deep dark red, and Elizabeth knew she’d hurt him. “I am so sorry!” she declared, ashamed of herself.
“Not as sorry as you are going to be. Do you know it is against the law to strike a policeman? If I arrest you, you will spend some time in jail. Is that what you want?”
“No! I said I am sorry!” Elizabeth insisted, trying to change his mind. “I promise I won’t ever do it again!”
“Am I supposed to believe that?” His tone was sarcastic, and she felt even guiltier.
“My temper has a mind of its own; please forgive me.”
“I can’t let this pass, Miss Matthews. You broke the law, and you have earned a punishment.”
“But, if you arrest me I could lose my credibility, and perhaps my job! Won’t you let me simply apologize?” she asked, trying on her best, innocent face as she hoped to convince him that she was serious.
“An apology isn’t enough, young lady. You need to be taken in hand for your own good.”
She had a sick feeling in her stomach that he was talking about corporal punishment. “What do you mean, Lieutenant?”
“I mean that you need a good spanking, Miss Matthews, and unless you agree to submit to a spanking, then I will have no other choice but to arrest you. Striking a police officer is a serious offense and it requires jail time; you will have a permanent record.”
“But, you aren’t hurt!” Elizabeth told him, feeling the seriousness of the situation closing in around her. She was terrified of being locked in a cell with criminals, and she would lose her nursing license! “I already regret slapping you; please don’t arrest me!” Elizabeth felt like she was begging, but to hell with her pride! “Please!”
“Does this mean you will accept a good spanking without giving me a lot of fuss?” he asked.
Elizabeth did the only thing she could do and nodded. Her face was burning and she knew her cheeks were a bright red. His dark expression showed no sign of relenting or taking pity on her as she stood there waiting for the unthinkable.
Suddenly Elizabeth was afraid he would tend to the punishment outside on her lawn, and she had an image of Mrs. Huffy watching and then clapping her hands as she ran over to chop up Elizabeth’s pretty burning bush! “We should take this inside,” she whispered.
“I need to finish my shift, Miss Matthews, and you need some time to think about your actions and how you should have behaved. I’ll come back this evening around seven. And, don’t even think about trying to escape. If you do, I will release an APB and have you picked up. It will go much harder on you then.”
“I won’t run from you!” she snapped. “I have never run from a fight in my life!”
“There won’t be a fight unless you want to go straight to jail.” Suddenly, the radio came to life and he was called to another situation.
Elizabeth went inside, already crying. Dreading the spanking could be worse than the actual event. Why did she have so much trouble controlling her temper? She couldn’t believe she had actually slapped the man; Elizabeth had never hit anyone before in her life� except that one time, but that was different, and no one would ever blame her. It was Eddie Springer, and he had tricked her into a blind date, and even had the nerve to order for her! He made it clear he expected her to sleep with him, and she dumped the spaghetti all over him after socking him on the nose a good one. But, that all happened when she was a senior in high school, and she was positive she’d outgrown such juvenile behavior� until today. Elizabeth had been at her very worst this afternoon, and if her Mama had been here, she would have been mortified.
Elizabeth wished that the lieutenant were here to get the spanking over with. The longer she had to wait, the more agitated she became; she wanted to run and hide somewhere he could not find her. But, there was also a part of her that was excited that someone was doing something to try to help her control her temper. She was aware how that sounded, but she’d always longed for a strong man to guide her, and to take her to task when she did wrong. Elizabeth even belonged to a couple of domestic discipline sites on the Internet, and she longed for a strong husband who would take charge. But, this was not a man who loved her, and she was scared.
Somehow, it did not seem fair that she was the one to be punished when this was all that horrible Mrs. Huffy’s fault! She was the one with a problem, and Elizabeth wished she was the one getting a sound paddling from her own husband! That thought brought a smile to Elizabeth’s face as she pictured the woman lying across his lap getting her butt spanked until it was cherry red.
* * *
“I cannot believe you are the one who called the police, Hubert Eugene! Why, I am your wife, and that horrible Elizabeth Matthews is the one upsetting things! She purposely put that burning bush right where it would block my view!”
“That’s because you are a nosy woman, Catherine.”
“I am not! It is my duty as a citizen to keep an eye on my neighbors. What if I noticed something that was out of place or that seemed off in some way? I might just be able to prevent someone from being raped or murdered!” she dramatically declared.
“Catherine, people don’t like it when you spy on them. Have you forgotten why the Claibornes moved away? It was because they couldn’t take your nosing around all the time. Didn’t I warn you right then that I was going to make you very sorry if you upset another neighbor?”
Hubert moved quickly, in spite of his age. He drew Catherine over to the sofa and bent her over the arm, making sure her plump backside was right where he wanted it.
“No! Hubert Eugene, you stop right now! I am too old for such nonsense!” Catherine huffed as she tried to get up, only to have her husband of forty odd years push her back down. He then picked up a paddle she thought he’d thrown away years ago, and used it to swat her backside vigorously. “Ow!” she howled. “That hurts, Hubert Eugene!”
“It is supposed to hurt.” He swatted her again. She started bawling. “I warned you about causing trouble with the neighbors! I am ashamed I had to call the police today in order to stop you from giving Miss Matthews a reason to sue us for everything we have.” Hubert did not mention that the policeman he called was the son of a friend of his, or that he told the younger man he felt both women could do with a good spanking. He promised to see to his end of things, and he asked Craig to personally deal with Elizabeth Matthews. “I should think by now you would have learned to mind your own business and let the neighbors mind theirs.” He brought the paddle down again and again. He did feel sorry for Catherine. It had been a long time since he had corrected her, and that was his fault. “Is this going to stop, Catherine, or do I need to continue to make my point?” He gave her another crack with the paddle, certain she was close to apologizing.
“I didn’t do anything wrong! It was her! That bush blocks my view, and I want it gone!” she insisted. “I would think you would take my side!” she exclaimed, furious with him. “I do not deserve this paddling; she does!”
“Catherine, you are not going to sit for a week,” Hubert warned as he reached for the waistband of her slacks and quickly pulled them down to reveal her white nylon panties. She tried to wiggle away from him, but Hubert pulled her back and gave her upturned backside five more hard cracks with the wooden paddle.
“Stop! Stop, Hubert Eugene! Damn it, you are hurting me!” she pleaded with him.
“You are hurting yourself, Catherine. You’ve let this nosy attitude of yours take over your life. You’re as bad as the nosy neighbor on that television show, Bewitched!”
“No, I’m not! Don’t you dare say that about me!” Catherine cried in earnest.
“It is the simple truth,” he quietly insisted. “While I do not hold with the disrespectful way that young woman speaks to you, I do understand why she is so angry. If the Kramers had put their noses into our comings and goings, I probably would have planted a row of trees so they couldn’t see us.”
“But, we aren’t up to anything!” Catherine said, shocked at the idea of anyone watching them. “Elizabeth Matthews comes and goes at all hours of the day and night, and you have to admit, it is suspicious.” She yelped as the board cracked across her sore rear end once again.
“It is that kind of thinking that has you bent over the arm of this sofa getting your ass end whipped raw, Catherine. Once again, you have no right to watch Elizabeth’s comings and goings.” He put some arm behind the paddle, and knew that he was going to have to stop soon. Her bottom couldn’t take much more. “Are you prepared to leave that bush alone?” he asked her.
“Yes!” Catherine hissed. Anything to stop the torture of her behind. She was so sore now that it would be days before sitting would be comfortable. “Please stop, Hubert Eugene.”
“I’ll stop for now, Catherine, but if there are any more displays like today’s, you won’t have a butt left. Is that clear?”
Catherine quickly nodded, but her mind was already working on a plan to get rid of that unsightly bush.
* * *
Craig Johnson was happy to see the end of his shift. It had been a long and trying day starting with the funeral of one of the most respected police officers in town. Bud Billings died of cancer, a cancer he managed to hide from all of them for several months until the pain got so bad he needed hospice care. Then he got the call from Mr. Huffy, asking his help with a situation before his wife got herself into serious trouble. Mr. Huffy thought that a police visit was called for, and Craig did his best to put fear into the women. He hadn’t expected to find himself attracted to their neighbor, but he was, and she was all he could think about the rest of his shift� even when his head needed to be on the murder they were trying to solve. He expected to work late after they got the call from the crime scene, but it was one of those rare times when they were waiting for information from out of state and there was little he could do at this point.
It gave him time to go see Elizabeth and deal with her temper. Another police officer would have arrested her, and Craig was going to impress that upon her cute little rear. He pulled up in front of her home, happy he was driving his own vehicle. His dark eyes scanned the yard, and he smiled when he saw the undisturbed burning bush. He certainly didn’t want to arrest Hubert’s wife. His Dad would not be pleased if he did something like that, and he doubted Hubert would be pleased either. Craig walked up the sidewalk, wondering if Elizabeth was prepared for him to arrive. He rang the doorbell and waited. There was no answer. He knocked, wondering if her doorbell was broken. Still, there was no answer. Craig was ready to leave, but first he peeked in the window of her garage door. Her car was there. The little brat was hiding from him!
He marched to the front door, knocked and rang the doorbell. When she didn’t answer, he tried the door and found it unlocked. Now he was alarmed. What if someone broke in and harmed her? He called her name and started searching. He found her in the kitchen, and quickly called 9-1-1 as he knelt beside her on the floor and felt for a pulse. It looked like she’d fallen off a rickety old stool and hit her head on the counter when she fell.
It didn’t take the paramedics long to arrive, and they immediately started an IV and readied her for a trip to the hospital. “I know this woman,” one of the paramedics said with a frown. “It’s Elizabeth, and she works in the ER at River Crossing.”
“Yeah, she’s the best. Let’s get her there so they can help her, John.” The other man seemed concerned, too, and Craig stopped them for a moment.
“Do either of you know if she has any family I can contact?”
“Her contact information will be on her employee records at the hospital.”
Craig nodded, and then grabbed her purse, her keys and her cell phone to bring along to the hospital. He locked the door behind him, and put his light on top of his car so that he could follow the ambulance and keep up. He felt guilty for some reason he couldn’t explain. Had she fallen when he rang the doorbell the first time? Was she so frightened of him that his arrival made her forget she was on a stool? What was she trying to do? There was nothing lying on the floor to indicate she’d dropped it, and the cabinet doors were all tightly closed. Why had she been on the stool?
Craig wasn’t surprised when the ER personnel snapped to attention when Elizabeth was brought in. Craig was told to have a seat in the waiting room, and it was several long minutes later when a young man wearing a white coat approached him.
“Are you related to our Elizabeth?” the man asked him, and Craig surmised he was a resident doctor. “Her boyfriend, maybe?”
“No, I just met her today and was keeping an appointment with her when I found her lying on her kitchen floor, an old stool lying on its side beside her. How is she doing?” He took out his ID and his badge so the doctor would feel he could confide in him.
“I think someone hurt her, Lieutenant,” the man said, his expression angry and his blue eyes flashing with temper. “I don’t think she fell from any stool; her injuries are not consistent with that. She has a bump on her head, like someone hit her with something.”
Craig scowled. Not what he wanted to hear� another mystery? Angry woman falls from stool just made more sense. “May I see her now?”
“Yes, but keep it brief, and if she starts getting agitated, the interview is over.”
“I understand,” Craig said, wondering if the young man had feelings for the pretty nurse. He entered the small exam cubicle in the ER and saw that three nurses were standing there, doing their best to take care of Elizabeth.
“Nurses,” the young doctor said. “We have other patients who need our care, too.”
“Honey, you put on your light if you need anything at all,” the oldest of the three women said in a motherly tone of voice.
“I will, Agnes. Thank you,” Elizabeth answered quietly, her eyes closed. Her eyebrows were drawn together as if the light were painful.
“Your meds will be up soon, Elizabeth,” another nurse tried to console her.
“Yes, I know the routine.”
The nurses left, staring at him curiously, but Craig wasn’t concerned with that. “Miss Matthews?”
Her green eyes flew open as she looked at him. “You?”