It Can Always Get Worse (Attn Julian)

Nervously Genevieve slipped into the room they were keeping Julian. She knew Asa fairly well, knew his moods, and right now he was all business. Unfortunately that didn't bode well for Julian. Valentine hadn't come looking for him, she'd not made any attempt to contact Asa and he was furious. His plans hadn't worked out.

Genevieve honestly didn't think it was Valentine's fault. Mathew tended to have holes in his surveillance, it was something that Asa had taken him to task for before. Her vampire, however, seemed to have forgotten that and she didn't dare remind him. No, Asa had made up his mind and she couldn't change it, wouldn't dream of trying. She just quietly did his will. It was easiest for all of them really.

As directed she woke Julian, but she did it as gently as she possibly could. This time she did not bring a cold pack or pain killers. She would later though, if he let her. She hoped he would. She suspected he would, the man had a passion for music, she didn't think Asa would kill Julian out right, at least not right away.

"He wants you awake now. Can you sit up please?"

She paused and thought for a second, considering exactly what Asa had said and how much leeway he'd given her.

"Not being able to won't really change anything... I can help you if you'd like or need."

Her voice was low and her souther accent was undoubtedly at odds with the setting and his current circumstances but she hoped it was soothing.

Julian Stephenson 10 years ago
It was the woman in the scrubs. Some time must have passed; she'd changed since the first time he'd seen her. Julian rolled over slowly and sat up, trying to ignore the spinning of the room and the throbbing in his skull. She did not have aspirin with her, which was disappointing. He would give anything for some painkillers.

Her words chilled him. He looked up at her bleakly, then firmed up his resolve. Looking weak wouldn't help him here, and he didn't want her help. He lurched to his feet, felt the blood drain from his face, and took a deep breath.

"I don't need any help."

The words came out softly, angrily, but he softened briefly.
"What's going to happen to me?"

He hadn't meant to ask; he wanted to stay strong. But Julian was desperate to know if his end was near. Maybe Val knew he was here. Maybe they were making an exchange and he could go home.

He walked unsteadily toward the door, knowing there would be more people around. They wouldn't send the woman in alone, surely.
Stranger 10 years ago
Genevieve shook her head. She couldn't tell him, even if she could it would be cruel. She'd already done what she could to persuade Asa and she'd gotten nowhere there wasn't anything else that she was able to do, not without driving herself mad.

"You're up and walking. That is good. Are you feeling any better?”

Given how pale he looked she doubted it, but still she asked. Asa was just outside the door, Genevieve didn't know if he could hear them or not. Even if he couldn't she wouldn't have said anything, there was no warning to give. Instead she tried to steer Julian away from the door and toward the sink.

"Here put some cold water on your face. It should help a little.”

At least it would wake him up some. She couldn't do anything but if Julian were a bit more clear headed maybe he could persuade Asa to behave himself. Maybe he could offer to play, that would distract Asa for several hours and any time Julian could buy would only help him.
Julian Stephenson 10 years ago
Julian thought he was more 'up and staggering' than anything else, but he wasn't going to argue. He headed toward the sink when directed, turned it on, and washed his face a little. If nothing else maybe it would wake him up a bit. He was glad there was no mirror. He didn't want to see his own pale face, matted hair, or any of it. God, he would kill for a spa day. Massage, mani-pedi, wash and style. If by some chance he got out of this, he was treating himself.

Her refusal to answer his question made him a little scared. Bad things were going to happen; he knew it. Julian had to wonder if his reputation with the Symphony was ruined now - was there anyone to notice he was missing? They probably knew by now. He didn't have any performances until the weekend after next, but he'd missed rehearsal and he hadn't done that since he'd been in the hospital a few weeks ago. They'd all been very kind about it, too, and understanding. Was it too much to hope they would view this issue the same way?

Would it matter after today?

Using the wall for support he followed the woman toward the door. He was ready to take in every detail he could. He had no idea what was up with the strange dream about Evgeni. Maybe it was some kind of mental response to captivity, but if it happened again he wanted to be able to tell his friend as much as possible. He wanted it to happen again. It was just a dream but it had felt real and comforting and Julian very much wanted that comfort to escape to, if he got an escape again.
Stranger 10 years ago
Asa waited patiently for Genevieve to bring Julian. Even if he thought hat Julian was a danger to Genevieve, Mathew was there watching, blended into the shadows. The boy liked to watched, Asa occasionally wondered if there was something wrong with Mathew, maybe he'd chosen wrong. Wrong or not he trusted Mathew to do his job and see that Julian made it here.

'Here' was just another room in the basement. There really wasn't anything notable about it, not even a street level window, although they did have to pass by the rickety stairs to get here. As there wasn't need for much equipment everything was stored neatly in an old wooden trunk off to the side. What dominated the room were two very comfortable wing chairs, one of those fake fireplaces a low table and what Mathew called 'The Bat-phone'. It was just an executive model speaker phone, it had better call quality than the speaker in a regular phone, and he wanted Valentine to hear this.

Unable to school himself to stillness Asa paced the length of the room as he waited. Why hadn't she called? Was she playing it cool? Did she really not care? Maybe she simply wasn't bright enough to get a hold of him. That must be it, Asa decided. He'd not given her any way to contact him. Well, thanks to Julian's phone they now had a way to contact her. Granted he could have called her office or sent an email but who knew how long that would take and he really didn't want to wait any longer.

When Genevieve and Julian made their way in Asa frowned, genuinely very concerned. The violinist wasn't holding up as well as he should be. Well, Chase couldn't pay for it any further.

"Come in. Come in my dear boy. Sit down. Let us have a bit of a chat shall we?"

He waited for Julian to sit, to make himself comfortable and hoped that he wouldn't show any of the bravado he'd shown to Mathew. Asa would hate to have to start things out on that note.
Julian Stephenson 10 years ago
Julian tried to note the surroundings as they left. The boxes he thought he'd seen earlier were plainer now, in the corners and along the walls. They were liquor boxes. He must be in the basement of a liquor shop. Well, that was ironic.

The woman escorted him to another room past a staircase; the building wasn't large but they had obviously partitioned the basement off. In this room were a couple of chairs and a table, a fireplace of all things... a fireplace?... and a phone.

Julian wasn't sure if the room was spinning because he shouldn't be up and walking, or because he was very afraid of what was about to happen. Either way he gave the man in the room a wary look at being called a 'dear boy' but wisely opted to sit as directed.

"About what?"

He had no information for them. He had no idea what was going on, except that Val's nutty friends had once again leapt to the conclusion that they meant something to each other. Granted, Julian supposed he hadn't helped correct that viewpoint by getting drunk and hopping into bed with the woman, but he hardly thought he deserved to be kidnapped and beat up for that. She certainly hadn't revealed any deep secrets in the throes of climax that he'd noticed.

He tried to sit erect, straight, to look strong. He wove a little though, even as he sat still, because the room refused to politely stay in one place.
Stranger 10 years ago
Asa ignored Julian's question. He had every intention of handling things at his own pace and in his own order.

"Ordinarily I would offer you something, but I'm afraid business has been delayed long enough. I hope you will forgive me."

He blamed Valentine for this. He should have had time to enjoy Julian's company. They should have had time to play together, for him to listen to Julian play and for him to have casually extracted information from Julian. This should have been perfectly civilized.

Asa sighed heavily. He was frustrated, exceptionally frustrated.

"Can you tell me why Valentine hasn't come looking for you? There isn't so much as a message on your phone. Did you have a falling out?"

Regardless of Julian's answer there was no turning back now. He needed Brosco and through Julian was the only way to get him. Julian could have been a homeless bun and Asa would dangle him in front of Valentine. So break up or no, feelings or no... Julian was the bait.
Julian Stephenson 10 years ago
Julian bit his lip to keep from saying something rude and derogatory. Forgiveness, indeed. He saw red for a moment, feeling a feeling of hatred so intense he could hardly believe it. It was tempered by fear though. No matter how 'civilized' this man wanted things to be, he was one fucked up son of a bitch and Julian could see it. The man was unbalanced, plain and simple.

"How should I know?" he retorted when the man asked why Val hadn't come for him. "We're barely friends. We don't date, like you and your pals seem to think. We see each other at the bar and every now and then we leave together, have a fuck, go our ways. There's nothing more to it than that. She's never called me. I've never called her. I doubt she even knows I'm missing."

They had started to be friends, before this, and who knew - left alone, they might actually have gone out on a date together. But their relationship, such as it was, was based solely on alcohol. music, and sex. Julian didn't know why these tools couldn't get that through their heads. Talk about an epic fail. If they'd wanted to pick on someone special to Val, they'd grabbed the wrong guy.
Stranger 10 years ago
Asa's eyebrow rose oddly hurt by this news. He held Julian in rather high regard and found this out of keeping with his assumption. It took him a second but he managed to turn it around and instead of assuming Julian was the whore, he cast Valentine in that roll. That was much better. True artists were often sensuous, lusty, promiscuous and Valentine was attractive enough.

"Rather disappointing. I do hope you mean something to her though. She does have something I want."

Not wanting to damage his assumptions any further or put things off, Asa called the number that he'd found on Julian's phone. It rang a couple of times before a smoky voice with a lovely brogue answered.

"Hey sexy I didn't expect to hear from you any time soon."

Asa motioned to Julian to say something. He honestly didn't care what. None of this was going to be a secret very much longer. Let the man shout to the heavens he was being held hostage. After all, if he didn't, Asa would in just a moment.
Julian Stephenson 10 years ago
Julian glared hard at the man when he said he was disappointed. He didn't care how the guy felt. He kept trying to tell him he and Val weren't a 'thing' and no one would listen. He swallowed, though, when he realized the vague threat. He sure hoped he meant something to Val, too, because if he didn't he couldn't imagine these guys keeping him around much longer.

He closed his eyes and sighed softly when the man called Val and she answered. At least she would know he was in some trouble now, and maybe she would do something about it. Call the cops. Whatever. The man held the phone out to him and he tried to figure out what to say.

"Val. I'm here with some friends of yours. I thought you said this bullshit was done with."

He tried to keep a calm and level voice, but he knew it was tense and somewhat shaky. Well, maybe that would clue her in that something bad was happening.
Valentine 10 years ago
Val was having trouble with the numbers for an idea she and Tai might run. She was getting better at insurance fraud and was rather pleased with herself. Obviously the thing with Breda and Brosco and Giovanni took top priority right now, but that didn't mean other work ceased to exist. It was, however, always at the back of her mind.

The phone rang and created a very welcome distraction. Especially when it turned out to be Julian's number. Although, it was a bit concerning too. They -never- called each other. It became more concerning when she considered how surprised she'd been when they'd gone to bed together a few nights ago. Val had been certain Julian hadn't wanted anything more to do with her and that night was a one off... a good bye if you will.

But she answered cheerfully enough. That didn't last though. Julian laid things out well enough and her stomach knotted. God fucking son of a bitch damned it. It was hard to be certain, but from the sound of things they were on a speaker phone. Which meant Asa, or one of his goons, was right near Julian. Which meant she had to play it cool.

"It is." She protested, doing her best to sound hurt, shocked and concerned. "Well it might not be but I'm out of it. Why? Who... are you with? What do they want?"

It was a shame she didn't have call tracing technology. She couldn't even hack into systems well enough to pull that off, but it seemed important to keep them on the line as long as possible. Maybe she'd hear some background noise or something.

There was another voice, very muffled, muted, hard to understand. Probably Asa, at least that was Val's assumption. She was only able to make out the word "Brosco". It didn't take a rocket scientist to know what was going down.


Julian really didn't need to be involved in this. Any one else she would have just walked away. But Val liked Julian, so she'd hear things out.
Stranger 10 years ago
That wasn't quite how Asa had expected Julian to go about things. He wondered what exactly Valenite had told Julian, it didn't matter of course but he did wonder.

Asa was losing his patience rather quickly and he wasn't in the mood to dance about. He stood and placced a soft hand on Julian's shoulder.

"Tell her anything you want but tell her that I want Brosco."

There was no point in not being direct. Although he didn't know Valentine what he'd learned of her suggested she was a cut to the chase kind of woman.
Julian Stephenson 10 years ago
Julian shot his captor a nasty look and twitched a little when the man touched his shoulder. But he spoke into the phone as directed.

"I don't know who I'm with. They didn't exactly introduce themselves while they were busy bashing me in the head and kidnapping me. He says he wants Brosco, whoever that is, and while you're at it you might want to send the paramedics because my head hasn't stopped bleeding in two days. Thanks."

He was exaggerating; his head had oozed blood sluggishly for the first day and a half he supposed, but he was trying to clean it up as best he could when he could and every time he got it wet, it did bleed again. He wasn't sure if that was good or bad but it was wet and uncomfortable and it could stop any time, really.

Julian held onto the phone, but held it away from his ear. He hit the speaker button so Val's response would be clear, and the next time jackass behind him had something to say, she would hear it without Julian having to play middle-man.
Valentine 10 years ago
Val swore under her breath. Of course they were smacking Julian around... again. The boy was going to be terribly traumatized and was sure as he|| not ever going to speak to her again. She was more worried about the blow to the head than the bleeding, even Asa was smart enough not to let a human bleed out and head wounds could be very nasty. Not that any of this was good by any means but she picked what was probably the worst of it.

Asa was holding Julian because he thought Julian was worth something to her. Well, he was, but not what Asa thought. It was a calculated risk, but Val very quickly decided to play things as if she didn't care one way or another about Julian, or at least very little.

"Listen, Julian... I'm not sure what to tell you or what they are talking about. I can call the cops, report you missing or whatever but I don't know what they are going to do about finding you. Good luck I guess.”

She'd actually had to work to keep her voice very blasé and uninterested. The truth was she was furious. She was ready to grab a gun and go storm the castle or fortress or whatever Asa was holding Julian in but she didn't know where he was and she knew Asa had -years- on her and was very probably not alone. She had... Tai. Who was as good as a small army in his own way but she could hardly ask him to run blind into this. That was just too big a favor to ask.

Val hung up the phone with a press of a button. Undoubtedly it would piss Asa off but she really was trying to play this as she didn't care about Julian and that seemed to be the right response. She was going to have to out think Asa and she wasn't -huge- on strategy, with any luck ticking him off would shake his plans somewhat.
Stranger 10 years ago
Asa blinked completely baffled by the reaction. "Good luck I guess”? And she hung up... hung up!

"That's it?”

He said quietly to Julian. Granted the man had told him that he and Valentine were nothing to each other but he would have thought there would be at least -some- acknowledgment, -some- concern. He would have gotten more of a reaction from the woman if he'd damaged one of her cars!

Suddenly Asa's temper snapped. He roughly grabbed Julian by his shirt collar and half pulled him out of the chair.

"That's IT?!”

He roared his face not even inches from Julian's. With a sneer he half threw Julian back into the wing chair, hard enough for the chair to rock back on its legs and smacked the redial button hard enough that for a second he thought he might have broken the phone. That realization made him calm down slightly, or at least get himself under control.

The phone rang several times. If it went to voice mail he was going to become very upset. But on the fifth ring she answered with an distant, distracted 'hello'.

"Ms. Connor,” He said quite calmly and reasonably, a voice you would use to talk to a small child. "I don't think you quite realize the situation here.”

She couldn't understand. Even if she personally didn't care for Julian she must care for him as an artist. But before he could say anything she rudely cut him off.

"I understand just fine. What you're missing buddy is, I don't care. It isn't my problem. I'm not involved. Like I told Julian, I'm out of it.”

"Then you don't care for him at all? Not as a man or a musician?”

"He's great. I have to give him that, but still not my problem.”

"So you don't care if he never plays again?”

"That is why God invented iTunes... you can get the recording for 99 cents.”

"I think we should test this.”

Asa mused. Although he didn't muse for long. Almost as soon as he had said it, Asa had grabbed Julian's arm. If it had been a real fire place he would have held the man's hand in it but it was fake. This meant he needed to do something different. With no warning he smashed Julian's wrist -hard- into the mahogany arm of the chair careful to use the edge for the most pressure, as a fulcrum. He was rewarded with the sound of bones snapping.

While he had been careful to pick Julian's bow hand, he doubted that the violinist mush appreciated that right now. Genevieve was going to be cross as well. She had been fairly clear that Julian was in no shape to be further damaged and, although it looked clean, no blood, no breaks in the skin, this very probably still counted as further damage.
Julian Stephenson 10 years ago
Julian closed his eyes, grimacing at Val's words. Anger welled up inside of him, anger that she would take this situation so lightly. If she'd been in the room he would have smacked her.

That was nothing compared to the other man's reaction, though, the violin-man. When he grabbed Julian Julian realized he'd totally lost it. He lost all his air when he was thrown back into the chair, which wasn't exactly plush and comfy. His head hit the back of it and a starburst explosion lit up his vision along with a corresponding wave of pain. He doubted the chair could have damaged his head more but it was open, tender, and incredibly painful still.

He would have tried to get up and run somewhere, anywhere, while crazy-boy hit redial, but the other man in the room, the one who'd beaten Julian up initially a few weeks ago, moved up behind him and held him in the chair with a grip like iron. Still Julian struggled weakly, his head pounding and spinning as the starbursts slowly faded.

As the new conversation filtered through to his ears Julian coughed and moaned,
"Val, you're killing me here. They're at least $1.99."

There was a moment of stillness and the crazy-man mentioned a test. Julian blinked a moment, sure he'd blacked out when the man moved ridiculously quickly and grabbed his arm, smashing it against the chair. Julian heard the sound of the snap and thought the arm of the chair had broken. Then the pain caught up with him, flaring from his wrist deep into his elbow and shooting up his arm. He groaned and thrashed, aiming a kick for the man's crotch with as much energy as he could muster.

The action caused him more pain than he would have thought possible.
"You sick son of a bitch," he gasped.

And then he did lose consciousness as the pain overwhelmed him.
Valentine 10 years ago
In spite of herself, in spite of the situation Val smiled when Julian corrected her pricing. It was a good thing it wasn't a video connection because that one expression would have given the game away.

She groped for something that would distract Asa, something that would get him to leave Julian alone but would leave her out of it. But Asa apparently didn't want to wait for that. She heard a crunching, snapping sound, one that she was as familiar with as anyone who'd spent time in the mob. She had to stop herself from calling out to Julian to see if he was okay.

He said something, so he wasn't dead. That was something. Holy Mary don't let Asa have smashed his hand. The bastard was sick enough to do something like that.

"Sorry old man. I'm out of it. Not involved. Have fun with your boy toy.”

She hung up again. As soon as the connection was broken though she was up and moving. She had no idea what she was going to do but she had to do it fast and she couldn't do it here. The only thing she really had was the number on her cell, Asa hadn't called her from Julian's phone the second time. That had to be worth something. Didn't it?
Stranger 10 years ago
Mathew had appeared and held Julian in place. Asa wasn't surprised. For all his faults the man did tend to be in the right place at the right time, just when Asa needed him. Asa even applauded Julian's effort to kick him. Of course he'd do just such a thing, the man had spirit. You couldn't play like Julian without having spirit.

Valentine, however, was playing this game according to some very different rules and it upset him. Once Julian had passed out and she'd hung up Asa allowed himself to give over to his temper again. He ground his teeth together and hurled the speaker phone across the room. It obligingly burst into more pieces than he could count.

Feeling slightly better he nodded at Mathew who nudged Julian awake again. He was surprised at how gentle Mathew could be when he wanted to.

"I think we'll give her a moment to think this through and try again. I hope she is more agreeable, I don't want to have to injure you further. Shall I have her look at you?”

Asa nodded at the door. Although, Genevieve was really no one he was careful not to use any names at all. If Valentine cooperated he wanted to let Julian go and that couldn't be done if he knew too much.

"Or would you rather just wait here until I call again?”
Julian Stephenson 10 years ago
Julian felt someone shaking him awake. It was gentle, but the slightest touch was agony and it didn't matter where. It was like he had the migraine from hell, and his arm hurt now on top of it. Oh God, what if he couldn't play anymore? What would he do?

He forced his eyes open and watched the man in front of him speaking. He may have been standing in a Peanuts classroom for all the sense he made. After a very long second the strange sounds the man had made resolved themselves belatedly into words and Julian realized the guy had asked if he wanted to hang out here.

"Does it matter?" Julian asked, the words feeling thick and foreign in his mouth.

Tears of pain and fear began to leak unbidden from his eyes and he turned his head and closed his eyes once more. His whole body shook where he sat. He'd never felt so hopeless.
Stranger 10 years ago
Asa frowned. Humans could be so delicate. He wondered how much damage had been done to Julian, he didn't think for a second that Julian wouldn't recover, but apparently he had reached his limits. He felt bad about that, but also reasoned that artists had to suffer. Perhaps this whole experience would make Julian a better musician. That was an exciting prospect. If Julian lived through this Asa would look forward to attending his next concert.

But he just shrugged an answer. It probably didn't matter. He left Julian in the chair though rather than moving the man back and forth. With a single nod he left Mathew in charge of him and went upstairs to handle some other issues, to come up with an alternate plan if Valentine failed to cooperate and they did have to kill Julian. Twenty or thirty minutes later he came back down and looked at Julian, who still looked quite poor and shook his head. His voice heavy with regret he asked.

"Shall we try again? I'm afraid if she doesn't help us we'll have to make arrangements for you.”

The question was mostly rhetorical and Asa again dialed Valentine's number. She picked up on the second ring, her greeting sharp, crisp, professional. Almost as if she were expecting a call. He wondered briefly if she'd called for help, but couldn't think of who she could turn to.

"Ms. Connor shall we try this again?”

"I told you, I'm out of it. I don't care.”

"You've used the man, undoubtedly in more ways than one and you don't care at all?”

There was no doubt that she'd fed from Julian. The idea, however, made him sick. To carelessly drain away such talent was unthinkable. If she weren't careful she could kill him and that would be unforgivable.

He heard her sigh and her tone become irritated. "What do you -want-?”

"I want to get him medical attention and I want Brosco.”

"I don't have him.”

Asa nodded to Mathew who hit Julian's broken wrist. Asa was pleased the man had the good sense not to aggravate Julian's head, but of course Mathew had been there when he'd taken Chase to task for the injury. The lesson had apparently taken. Julian's reaction was... unexpected. He vomited, much to both his and Mathew's disgust. Although, Mathew got the worst of it.

"Are you sure?”

This time there was a pause. She did care, or she did have Brosco or both. Asa became quite excited.

"Quite sure... but... let's meet. Maybe I can trade you something else or maybe I know where to find Brosco.”

Asa looked to Julian and grinned. It was not a cheerful expression at all. it was self-satisfied and predatory.

"Excellent. Tomorrow night then?”

"Yeah... I'll call when I've got something.”


Asa quickly rattled off Mathew's burner cell phone number and hung up.

"It looks like there might be a happy ending for you after all.”

He said gleefully to Julian.

"A pity we never got to play though. I had looked forward to that. Perhaps another time, under different circumstances.”

With that he turned to Mathew and simply ordered,

"Get the girl.”

He'd turn Julian over to Genevieve for a bit. Asa was in such a fine mood he wouldn't even give her orders as to how to tend the man, what she could or could not do. Let her do as much for him as she could. With limited resources it wouldn't be much, but he'd rather not permanently damage such talent.

((OOC... Asa out))
Julian Stephenson 10 years ago
Julian got lost in a haze of half-conscious fog, dimly aware that the man who'd spoken to Val, the guy in charge, had left the room. He returned soon, though, and the whole argument with Val continued with another phone call. This time, he didn't have the focus to figure out what was happening. All he knew was that the man behind him suddenly moved and brought his hand down on Julian's injured arm. Julian cried out, and writhed in pain. A wave of nausea swept over him and he threw up bile and water and not much else, because he hadn't eaten in... what, two days now? He was losing track of the time.

Crazy-man was saying something but Julian's head was swimming. Something about tomorrow night. A happy ending. Julian didn't know. He just wanted to go home. Or to the hospital. Anything. If he passed out completely, would he dream about Evgeni again? Anything was better than this, but he particularly wanted to see a friend. Someone who wasn't torturing him.

He was vaguely aware of being maneuvered around, lifted, his uninjured arm thrown across a set of shoulders. A sharp voice barked a command at him and he tried his best to shuffle along. His feet, which had been almost obedient on the way in, weren't working at all now. The motions was too much for him; blackness swam around his vision again and he went with it.

When he cracked his eyelids open again he was back in the cell, dizzy, sick to his stomach once more. He moved and realized he was resting on something. A pillow, small and flat, but it was something. There was a musty but soft blanket covering him too. He closed his eyes for a long moment, willing the room to stop spinning. When he looked again, feeling something strange on his wrist, he realized someone had bandaged it for him, in thick padding. It wasn't a hard cast or anything and it felt like a club, but it was stabilized at least. He suspected the woman in the scrubs had been allowed to do something.

Julian lay there quietly, too weak, to broken to try to move, until he heard the soft click of the door handle. He immediately cringed at the sound and clutched at the blanket with the fingers of his good hand as if drawing it over him might afford him some protection.