This my entry for @mctiller 's 24-hour short story contest for July 24th " A lonely man develops the ability to see through walls" found here.
Benjamin Barrons was a lonely man. After the death of his mother in 1999 at age 13 he had come to the city to live with his Aunt Jenny, his only remaining relative.
Aunt Jenny was kind and loving and provided well for young Benjamin. She recognized his severe speech impediment as the reason he avoided social activities with other young people. Jenny never said an unkind word about her dead sister's neglect of her son's handicap. She hired the best specialists in the city to mitigate the damage done to this shy young man's personality. No matter how hard his doctors worked, they all had the same reply when questioned about their lack of progress.
"If we only had treated Benjamin when he was younger perhaps we would see more improvement," they told her.
Eventually, Benjamin and Aunt Jenny settled into a comfortable living arrangement where she accepted the quiet boy as he was and learned to communicate well with only looks and gestures when the words wouldn't come.
Be that as it may, she saw to his education and insisted he take lessons in music and the martial arts.
Benjamin played the piano well, and he would spend all of his free time playing either the upright piano in her parlor or learning the favorite songs of the day in his room with his acoustic guitar. The only time Benjamin's voice never failed him was when he sang.
Aunt Jenny would sit in her den in the evenings, and if she heard Benjamin singing in his room, she would mute the TV and lay back in her plush chair and listen to her nephew's beautiful voice.
Benjamin graduated in the top ten percent of his computer science class and struggled through many job interviews until he secured a position with a small software company within walking distance of where they lived.
Amanda Prather founded the company right out of college and built the small firm into the successful business it was. She hired Ben because she had a knack for seeing talent in an individual. She conducted the job interview and didn't lose her patience as Benjamin's stammered through the series of questions the HR department required.
Benjamin was surprised when at the end of the problematic meeting, Amanda offered him a position in her firm. The job was perfect for him. He sat in a cubicle all day and coded tedious routines of challenging programs that didn't require him to interact with others too often.
Benjamin's life became a mundane routine but one he enjoyed. He worked 9 to 5 Monday through Friday, Tuesday's and Thursday's he spent in the Dojo after work with the kind old Sensei that sparred with him. Sometimes they would stand side by side and work through the katas of the old masters.
Sometimes, at night, Benjamin would stare at the ceiling and wonder if he would ever find someone to share his life. Something inside him yearned for the touch of another person. He dreamed of one day meeting a girl who would accept him as he was and perhaps he could sing to her when they needed to talk. But, he would often turn to the wall, close his eyes and resolve himself that no girl in her right mind would ever want a man that stammered his way through life.
One day Amanda brought a man around to meet her employees. She introduced Jeremy Gremillion as her fiance' and soon to be an equal partner in the business. When they stopped at Benjamin's cubicle, Amanda made the introductions and when Benjamin stammered a friendly reply to Jeremy's casual inquiry about his job, the man laughed and said, "Wha, wha, wha, well, duh, duh, duh, duh, don't knock yourself out ole boy!
Ha, where did you get this one, Amanda? Gees, I see we'll be making some changes around here!"
Benjamin blushed, and Amanda mumbled an apology and followed her boyfriend to the next cubicle.
A year passed, and during this time Ben saw Jeremy around the office on fewer and fewer occasions. Amanda's personality changed from the confident young woman that had hired him to a reserved recluse. Before Jeremy arrived her office door was always open but now she seemed to come to work and close herself off from the staff.
Benjamin came home from his workout at the Dojo one evening to find Aunt Jenny slumped in her comfortable chair. Her body was cold, and the coroner determined that the old woman had died soon after he left for work that morning.
Jenny's attorney read her will to Benjamin. She had bequeathed everything to him after her favorite charities were generously funded. Ben discovered that his Aunt had been a very wealthy woman. He never would want for anything. Still, he enjoyed his work and decided to stay at his job.
One evening Benjamin was sorting through his Aunt's large jewelry box and came across a circular piece of blue glass mounted in a silver bezel with a heavy silver chain. At the bottom of the kraft paper box, he found a note written in the elegant script of his aunt.
Use this device wisely and never for personal gain. I never used it for evil, and I trust you won't either. If you cannot pass it down to another that you trust completely, please destroy it.
Aunt Jenny's signature was at the bottom.
Ben turned the object over looking for any apparent use it might have. It seemed like an ordinary piece of blue glass, something that might have broken from an old wine bottle and been polished. It could have been mistaken for a large monocle if not for the dark tint. He held the thing up to the light and was astonished when behind the glow of the bulbs was the blue of the afternoon sky and the leaves of the old oak tree blowing in the wind.
Benjamin jerked the object away from his eye and examined it closer. He placed the thing up to his eye once more, and found he could see beyond the wall into the next room! Ben tested it in every room, turning as he looked through the object.
From the living room the kitchen was visible, then the bedroom, then he could see outside, and Ms. Jeffers was letting Scruffy poop on his Aunt's lawn. Ben often wondered who allowed their dog to do that! He suspected the nosy old shrew but could never prove it.
Ben threw open the front door and shaking his finger at the startled Ms. Jeffers he stammered, "He...he...he...HEY!" Ms. Jeffers snatched up her Pomeranian and hurried down the sidewalk.
The next morning at work Benjamin looked up to see Amanda walking down the aisle between the rows of cubicles. He thought she appeared a bit more despondent than usual but managed to stammer out his typical "good morning" when she passed his desk.
One wall of his cubicle nestled up against the wall of her office.
Benjamin glanced around to make sure none of his coworkers could see him, then fished the monocle from his coat pocket. He put the device up to his eye and peered into Amanda's office.
She sat at her desk staring into space. Then Ben watched as a single tear ran down her cheek and splashed on the glass surface. She leaned forward and placed her hands over her face and sobbed. Benjamin removed the device and sat back in his chair wondering what could have upset her so badly. When he looked again, Amanda had removed her long sleeve blouse and was standing in front of the full-length mirror she kept in a corner. Benjamin jerked the monocle from his eye, but something he had seen convinced him he should look again.
Her back was to him when he looked again, and he could see large angry welts that looked like someone had beaten her with a strap. In the reflection of the mirror, angry purple and yellowed bruises ran the length of her arms. She lifted her skirts, and he could see the tops of her thighs were bruised and welted as well. Whoever abused her knew what he was doing. There wasn't a mark on her body that she couldn't hide from others with appropriate clothing.
Benjamin was shocked! He knew he had to do something, but what?
That evening Ben followed Amanda home at a distance. There was a small secluded park next to her elegant apartment where the local mother's let their children play. He found a bench where he could observe the apartment she shared with Jeremy and slipped the monocle from his pocket.
Jeremy was sitting on a couch wearing headphones with a game controller in both hands. He seemed focused on whatever mindless war game he was playing. Amanda walked from the kitchen and placed a beer in front of him on the coffee table. She bent over and gathered empty bottles and pizza boxes that had piled up in an apparent marathon gaming session. This attempt to tidy the area required Jeremy to remove his feet from the table and look over her body at the screen.
The slight interruption of Amanda trying to remove his clutter caused him to miss a shot or interrupt his gameplay because the next thing Benjamin saw was an angry Jeremy throw his headset and controller on the couch leap up and kick the poor girl as hard as he could in the buttocks. The blow sent Amanda sprawling across the floor among the scattering pizza boxes and beer bottles. Jeremy leaped across the table and kicked the prone girl repeatedly before seizing her by the arm and dragging her up off the floor. Benjamin didn't know what was said, but he could see the violent man screaming into Amanda's face while she turned her head away and cried in terror.
Ben was stunned, what, if anything, could he do? He quickly discounted going to the police. The nightmare of trying to explain what he saw without handing over the monocle would be impossible, even if the detectives had the patience to let him tell the story in his stammering speech.
Ben held the monocle to his eye again and saw Jeremy pounding away at the locked bedroom door. Amanda was cowering against the opposite wall crying uncontrollably. She darted her frail body toward the nightstand and retrieved a pistol from a drawer with her shaking hands. She pointed the gun at the closed door and shouted something.
This situation was too dangerous, and Benjamin decided he had to do something, anything. He ran to the apartment and tried the front door. It was open. When he walked in, he heard the bedroom door splitter as Jeremy kicked it in. Running toward the back of the apartment, Benjamin listened as the enraged man shouted at Amanda.
"DO IT!... DO IT BITCH!... I DARE YA!
"He...he...HEY!" shouted Ben as he stopped short of entering the room.
Jeremy stood with his arm cocked back preparing to strike Amanda with his closed fist. Amanda cowered on the floor with the barrel of the pistol in her mouth and her finger dangerously shaking above the trigger.
"WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU DOING HERE?" asked Jeremy surprised at the sudden intrusion. Amanda lowered the pistol and shakily said, "Oh, please don't hurt him, Jeremy, please, please, please."
"Hurt him? I'm going to kill the stupid motherfucker!" He snatched the pistol from Amanda's weaker grip and whipping around brought the barrel within an inch of Benjamin's face.
Twenty years of martial arts training took over. It was as if time slowed. Block, seize the weapon arm, roll into the attacker, elbow to face, drop and slam gun wrist against the bended knee, recover, secure the weapon. In less than two seconds Jeremy was disarmed, and blood gushed from his fractured nose. Amanda watched in surprise as this humble man reached his hand down to help her up.
"We're getting out of here," he said.
"The hell you are!" said the bigger man recovering from the first round of action. He spun Benjamin and wound his fist into his shirt lifting Ben from the ground.
Jeremy shook his head trying to clear his foggy vision. He spat fragments of teeth out onto the floor where the combined force of Benjamin's palms shooting through the gap of his opponent's arms had jammed Jeremy's lower jaw hard into his upper teeth.
The force must have knocked him unconscious because Amanda had had time to gather her things and was snatching family pictures from the wall and jamming them into a black plastic trash bag.
Jeremy groaned. "You stupid bitch! Where do you think you're going?" Amanda looked at him fearfully.
Benjamin squatted down so that Jeremy could see him glaring at him. He calmed himself and quietly so that Amanda couldn't hear, Benjamin spoke to Jeremy. There wasn't the slightest hint of a quiver in his voice.
"You will never again speak to her. Is that clear?"
Jeremy began to say something but the sudden fury he saw in the other man's face stopped him.
"I asked you if that was clear?"
"Yes," he said.
"I'll say this once," said Ben, "If you ever touch a hair on her head I will visit you and deliver more pain and suffering than you could ever imagine. From this day forth she will never be bothered by you again. You better hope that if you meet you see her first and can disappear before she sees you because if she EVER tells me, she saw you, I will KILL you! Understand?"
The look on his face convinced Jeremy that Benjamin was prepared to do just that!
"Yes," he answered meekly.
Later, in the safety of Aunt Jenny's kitchen, Amanda thanked him for rescuing her from that situation.
"Do you know, you were magnificent Benjamin? I never knew. And you didn't stutter. Not once!"
"I think it was because, in my head, I'm singing to you," he said.
And he never stammered again. Not even once, through a long and happy life with her.