She’s at it again—just can’t seem to stop…
Widowed R.N. Martha Chance’s futile attempts to rid the world of sexual predators takes her into the realm of terrifying, sadistic criminals, where she uncovers corrupt but powerful city officials who condone sexual crimes against defenseless children and don’t appreciate Martha’s interference. On behalf of the tiny dark-eyed and dreadfully abused little girl in the hospital where Martha works, the desperately lonely teenage girls who frequent online chat rooms and are prime targets for unscrupulous men, and the friend and fellow R.N. suffering horrific domestic abuse, Martha and her alternate personality Serena seek not only to avenge the abuse but to make sure it will not be repeated. Unfortunately, her thirst for vengeance makes Martha a target of men who will do anything to keep their evil deeds a secret—and unleashes upon her a man who plots her death to satisfy his own fiendish soul.
TAYLOR JONES SAYS: The Avenger by Ramona Forrest is a fine sequel to The Vigilante that came out last year. Martha, the widowed RN, is at it again, castrating sexual predators. Having moved to Denver, Martha has a whole new area to hunt in. But her choices are easy. From the abusive father of the little girl in Martha’s hospital to her bruised and battered co-worker, Martha and her alternate personality Serena have their work cut out for them. But they don’t stop there. Martha goes online and poses as a lonely teenage girl in chat rooms looking for sexual predators who are not the teenage boys they claim to be. When she finds them, she lures them to a lonely motel room and—snip, snip.
Forrest’s characters are well-developed and three dimensional. And this time she delves into the area of hired killers and dirty cops. As it turns out, her best-kept secret isn’t all that “best-kept” and more and more people know or suspect what she has been up to. This leads to some exciting twists and turns. If you liked The Vigilante, you can’t go wrong with The Avenger.
REGAN MURPHY SAYS: The Avenger by Ramona Forrest is every bit as good as its prequel The Vigilante. You have to love an author that makes a series of a hot, sexy grandmother vigilante out to castrate every sexual predator she can find. First there is the idea that a grandmother can be hot and sexy, and then the idea of that hot, sexy grandmother castrating sexual predator. I love the irony of it. Not that castration would stop most sexual predators, since rape rarely has anything to do with sex. But you have to appreciate the poetic justice of it.
I enjoyed the book and the characters immensely. It is very refreshing to find a main character that is not a hunk or a bombshell, but a grandmother, of all things. And the fact that the author makes the woman, hot, sexy, and a looker, just adds to the charm of it. The plot is strong with some intriguing twists and turns. I found myself riveting from the very first page.
“I’m not too comfortable in pediatrics, but I’ll take it,” Martha Chance said to the hospital staffing coordinator. She accepted the proffered shift although she felt she’d regret her words. Having and raising a child of your own didn’t make you a peds nurse and, truthfully, Martha always felt a bit uncomfortable caring for the very young.
Today, she shrugged her worries aside, figuring, What the hell, if they’re running short, I can hack one night of it. And she wished to accommodate her place of employment.
Arriving on the ward, she got a coffee, greeted the rest of the staff, and got a detailed report on her patients. A broken leg, a post appendectomy, one injured in an auto accident, and one other patient that sent shivers up her spine and her pulse racing.
Her heart sank to the depths. She’d be challenged emotionally with Aliya Pederson, a four-year-old female victim of obvious sexual abuse. For Martha, once, just the mere mention or appearance of such a thing would have brought back haunting memories hidden and safely buried from conscious thought. Two years ago, all that had changed, and it changed the person she always thought she was.
She made her rounds. Getting a tight grip on her feelings, she approached the child’s bedside. The battered condition of this tiny girl was inescapable. Martha fought the anger rising within her. It soared to insurmountable heights as the seething torment within her mind brought back her husband’s last, fateful words of warning.
“Martha, get a grip on your feelings!” In the face of his own fatal diagnosis, his greatest fear had not been for himself, but for her. “You let her out like that again and you’ll end up in the damned penitentiary!”
As Martha approached Aliya’s bedside, the little girl opened one discolored eye to see her caregiver and turned away. Sobbing, she cried out in her child’s plaintive, high pitched voice, “No–fraid, no–fraid!”
Her small, dimpled knees curled to her chest, she wound her arms around them, with her head pressed tightly against those closely held legs. Tears crept beneath long silky lashes and her body shook in fear.
Hoping to soothe the child, Martha pulled a chair close to the crib, let the side down, and, with soothing voice and gentle hands, stroked the child’s lovely black hair, and slid her hands carefully along the bruised little body to quiet her. With Martha’s gentle approach, Aliya slowly relaxed enough for the initial exam. The report said her injuries consisted of internal vaginal tears and bruising in many stages of healing. The mother had claimed the father molested the girl, but then quickly denied it. Then she said a window was open in the child’s bedroom, and they believe a stranger got in and attacked the girl. As to the bruising, the mother claimed Aliya was a very clumsy child and fell down a lot.
Aliya had long silences, interspersed with fearful cries. In her attempt to withstand the pain during the required treatments, the child held her small body stiff, her mouth and fists clamped tight. Her swollen, discolored little vagina would incite anger and a sense of utter soul-sickness in any decent person, Martha knew. Older, healing bruises bore evidence of physical abuse carried out over an extended period of time.
Martha shook her head and wiped her hot tears away. In private conversations, the charge nurse had mentioned that many a nurse had shed bitter tears after treating Aliya.
Martha felt a sickening anger that this tiny girl had suffered such horrendous indignities and pain. A competent nurse, she understood her mission and gently completed the needed dressings. It hurt her deeply to cause further pain and the fear she saw in the girl’s eyes sickened her soul.
As Martha gently rubbed lotion on the little limbs, she noted the presence of healed scars as well as bruises in yellow, purple, blues and greens, an entire range of slowly healing colors. The child relaxed slightly under Martha’s gentle ministrations and opened her big, dark eyes. Her little private area covered again, she ventured a peek at her nurse, but offered no smile or words.
Martha fully understood, deep in her soul, the tortured hell that child had suffered. She gritted her teeth as she finished Aliya’s care. Of the psychological damages, there’d never be a complete cure, never could be. This child would suffer for years to come. Her grandson Will was another poor child who’d never again be able to trust the male adults in his life.
During her shift, Martha observed the child closely. Aliya continually shrank away from close contact with the nurses and most other adults.
“The parents of this child have failed her miserably,” Martha told another nurse. “Does she have any place of safety in her family setting? Will she be returned home to suffer the same things again?” She huffed in despair, then added, “Has Child Protective Services seen this child?”
“They’re on the case,” Allison, the charge nurse, said. “But it doesn’t look good for this poor little one.” A dedicated pediatric nurse, she gnashed her teeth in anger. “Social Services and the police department did the best they could. Unfortunately, while she’s been here, that damned mother and her high-priced lawyer have gotten the father released–Aliya will be returned to that home. And all that after her initial claim her husband had molested the child.” She wiped away a tear.
“I don’t believe it!” Sickened, Martha felt her rage rapidly mounting until, choking with outrage, she swore, “Before God, I’ll never work this ward again, never!”
“Honey, we see it all the time and it never gets any better,” Allison said, trying to soothe her. She slammed a chart down, and the papers scattered. “Child Protective Services is a joke to us on this ward. We all feel that way.”
During the remainder of her shift, Martha continued to observe the child. Aliya interacted shyly and with reticence with other children, uttering a few soft words and even a smile or two. Sadly, she was lost in her own painful world the rest of the time, and usually lay curled in a tiny ball in her white slatted crib. Martha sighed and a few futile tears escaped. Recovery for this child would be long and painful–if she lived.
The father, jailed on suspicion, had been freed on his own recognizance after the mother begged his release. She claimed he was a respected member of his community and held an important position in his company. The case fell through when she absolutely refused to bear testimony against him, claiming it was someone who got in through that open window. They had seven children to care for. She wanted him at home as they needed the income from his highly paid position.
Martha finished her shift and, in the privacy of her car, loosed her anger, nearly howling with rage at what she’d seen. Horrific memories of her own haunting and devastating past flooded her mind. She fought tears, driving blindly through the darkened streets, not seeing passing cars, trees, or bushes.
She tried to blot out the tormented cries of the battered child she’d tended and cried in anguish over things she could not control. “Why, oh why, do I ever work in Pediatrics?” Pain and anger ruled her mind as she barreled her way home, unseeing.
Reaching her house, she pulled into the garage. Once inside, she took comfort in her quiet, well cared for surroundings. Her rage slowly settled. As her thoughts ran wild, she voiced them to that alter personality who dwelt within her mind. “Serena, you want to clip that rotten bastard of a father! I know you do, and so do I!”
She frequently spoke to her alternate personality. At a fearful time in her life, she had sought a psychiatrist. In that office, she had learned a terrible secret from her past. After discovering her alternate self, Serena, Martha faced a continual internal struggle to confront and quell the desires of this other part of herself. Feeling herself the stronger person, Martha managed to ignore her other self for the most part, but after seeing the injustice to that small child, Serena loomed strong again. Martha believed her alter had right on her side and she agreed with her.
Serena, a being with absolutely no consideration for legalities, social mores, or consequences, could easily take action. In the distant past, she’d been the strong one for Martha and it was that impetus that drove her. Right now, Martha felt that commanding presence urging–pushing…
Within her mind, she reasoned, After all the man can continue to work. What’s a little clipping compared to what he’s done to Aliya? It’d protect the child and who knows, maybe other kids in that family. He could continue to provide for his family–couldn’t he?
“You stupid, asinine fool!” Martha stared at her reflection in the mirror. “Bob knew your weakness–he warned you!” She sat on the bed trying to get her head straight. “I can’t think this way, yet with all my heart, I want to avenge that poor child! Yes, I agree with you, Serena, you wild-hearted thing, but please, leave me and my body the hell alone!”
Martha was tired of dwelling in the past and being unable to sleep. “I need to do something to help me relax and get some sleep.”
Getting out of bed, she stepped into the shower. The warmth of the water soothed her tired mind and body.
“Oh Bob, I need you now more than ever. I don’t know what will happen to me. I can barely control my thoughts anymore, and when I see a poor soul like that child, I don’t even want to.” Her rage was soaring. She fought it down and growled again. “I’ve got to get some sleep and none of your sneaky tricks, Serena”
Martha felt terribly alone after the loss of her husband’s big, solid body; his mind; his embrace; and his wonderful, good-hearted sense of humor. He’d had a way of making things right. In fatigue and confusion, Martha fumbled in her purse and helped herself to the mild sedative the doctor had ordered after her husband’s death. She justified it, saying, “I’ve got to get some rest. This whole thing will drive me mad if I don’t. After all, it is not up to me to solve all the evils of this world.” But she smiled into the darkness with inner satisfaction. We took care of a few of them when we could, didn’t we?
Martha lay awake going over the trauma of Will’s molestation and her subsequent awakening to how her other self had taken care of the perpetrator. “I’ll never be the same person I was before Will was attacked! That sick monster paid his price, and I’ll never be sorry for what I did as Serena.” She sighed and faced the truth. “I have no good reason to go down that road again. It isn’t my family that’s being harmed. Aliya will be like Will if she survives, and my grandson will never be the same joyous child he used to be because of that hideous gift-that-keeps-on-giving from that soul-destroying pedophile.”
When she finally dropped off, Martha slept long and hard. Rising in the morning, she worried her other self might have gotten out again. Checking her image in the bathroom mirror, she saw that her face was clean of errant make-up. And there were no other telltale signs of Serena’s activity. “Idiot, there’s no way she can do anything I’m not aware of. After all, we are one person now.”
Martha fully understood that any action she took would be her own, but her alter personality’s influence frequently edged her beyond what she would ordinarily do, even encouraging illicit actions. With the full and conscious knowledge that anything she did would be her own responsibility, Martha held back.
She had been able to remain a law-abiding citizen with Bob’s steady, calm presence. Losing him had been the toughest time of her life. She’d been brave for him and hidden her heartbreak the best she could, but he was gone now, and she was alone again.
Moping about her empty home after his death, she quickly discovered how easily the world kept right on spinning when hers had come to a screeching halt. Those who’d helped her mourn had quickly returned to their own busy lives. Her daughter Jeanne’s problems with Will kept her endlessly embroiled in his recovery. It seemed that as he grew older each day, he also continued to struggle from the trauma of having been brutalized by a sexual predator.
Later in the day, Martha inspected her image in the mirror as she applied her make-up for another afternoon shift. She liked the quieter atmosphere of afternoons. Most of the doctors had gone home, orders were done, and the work atmosphere was generally more settled.
A grandmother, maybe, but Martha was a bit proud of her looks. A tall, slender woman with chestnut-hued hair softly curling about her collar, she’d always been considered a looker by her co-workers. Bob had always loved her looks, her great green eyes, everything about her, and he’s said so often.
Seeing the lackluster look in her eyes, she grumped, “People say I’m nice looking, but what good has it ever done me?” The small nub at the end of her nose had always bothered her, but fit the rest of her well enough. “My heart is barely into what I do these days, either.” Work usually brought her out of her funk so she told her mirror, “I’d better take a couple of shifts.”
Most co-workers knew of and respected her sorrow, but the work did not. In a hospital, there could be no sorrows other than the patients’. They came first, and no one questioned that. Martha worked per diem as always and frequented several areas, preferring med-surg. She often worked psych, postpartum, neuro, respiratory, ortho, or wherever the hospital needed her skills and enjoyed the liberty of cancelling shifts as well. Not taking a regular shifts, five days a week, gave her the freedom for other aspects of her life. Right now, short on things to occupy her mind, she welcomed the hard work of nursing.
By habit, she overtly watched for abuse. The occasional adult abuse the nurses saw didn’t set off that internal anger like that of the young. Eyes of children shadowed with pain, mistrust, and hopelessness tore her heart out. For Martha, it was too close to home.
© 2014 by Ramona Forrest
Ramona Forrest’s The Avenger, the second book in her The Vigilante series, does not disappoint! The Avenger plunges the reader farther into the inner life and thoughts of its split personality modern-day well grounded, but not quite stable, saucy super hero, grandmother, and friend to those in need, Martha/ Serena.
In the intervening time between The Vigilante and The Avenger, Martha’s strong supportive husband, Bob, passed away, Martha is grieving, and Martha and Serena have more or less integrated into something of an understanding union. Martha and Serena are well aware of each other, and regularly communicate. Martha strives to dominate, but sometimes takes a back seat to Serena because she knows Serena will take action where Martha will merely fret and worry.
The Avenger opens with Martha obviously frustrated while ministering to a young female child who has been sexually violated, and who is mending only to be sent back to her abuser. Martha tries to make sense of the injustices of a system that simply won’t protect this child because no one, not even the child’s mother, cares enough to stop the insanity. When she can’t take it anymore, Martha checks out and lets Serena take over with her poignant and twisted rough justice.
At the same time, Martha befriends a hardworking young nurse with an abusive husband. In her usual style, Martha steps in to offer a helping hand, while Martha/ Serena thwart the crooked husband’s attempts to do away with his young wife and inherit her fortunes. Tucked firmly under Martha’s protective wing, the abused young nurse learns to trust Martha with her very life.
Throughout these trying times, the police visit Martha’s home, ostensibly to help the young nurse, while in parallel investigating a brutal attack that unmanned the father of the young rape victim Martha had cared for earlier. Suffice it to say things get pretty dicey for all when Martha rebuffs the advances of a crooked cop and unwittingly falls head over heels for his boss, who returns her affections.
If you enjoyed The Vigilante, I recommend The Avenger! ~ Mary A. Fuller, Attorney at Law