Mistrusting a Memory
Copyright© 2008 by Lubrican
Romantic Sex Story: Chapter 7 - Detective Sergeant Bob Duncan was assigned to investigate a routine rape case. But this case turned out to be anything but routine. Somehow, he and the victim became friends '" good friends. Then there was an accident and Bob had to decide whether to arrest her for a crime... a crime she couldn't remember committing... a crime that might land her in prison for the rest of her life.
Bob had just left the briefing room, coming on shift. He hadn't even buckled his seat belt when the radio squawked to life, telling him of a multiple injury accident, with an explosion involved. Paramedics and the fire department were already on the scene. Three patrols were being dispatched, and all three were still in the parking lot, after the briefing in the squad room.
Three engines roared, and three sirens began to wail, as tires screeched.
It was impossible to get close to the location of the accident. He had to leave his car a full block from the scene. Traffic was hopelessly snarled and would stay that way for hours. When he rounded the corner, it looked like a war zone. Crushed cars and glass littered the street. Dazed people were standing around, bleeding. One car, on its roof, had burned completely. The front of the store near the car was blackened and the windows were all missing.
They couldn't get tow trucks into the mix. It was the worst kind of accident, at the worst kind of place, at the worst time of day. Ambulances had backed down alleys, to pick up the wounded. Troopers were present, but there was little they could do.
The story came out slowly.
The blue car, now a black, stinking hulk, had been 'made' by the highway patrol as a stolen vehicle, and a chase had ensued. When the driver sought to lose the chasing vehicles in the city, rush hour had foiled that plan. There was every indication that the driver had tried to force his way past a line of cars, intent on leaving destruction in his path that would stop the pursuit.
There had been an explosion, and one bystander was in critical condition, with second degree burns. The seriously injured had been taken first and were already at the hospital. The injured were being treated on the scene. All that was left was sorting out what had happened.
The driver of the stolen car was now classified as a "crispy critter." He'd never steal another car. The car he'd been driving was the one that had exploded. Being half on the sidewalk, it had taken out two storefronts, driving broken glass inwards. It was a miracle that only one woman had been hurt seriously. She had been blown through a window, and her pants leg was on fire, when shocked store employees came rushing from the back to find her, amid the ruins of the store.
The cops ignored the car, and the body in it. It had burned so hot that the glass cover of a street light above it had sagged downwards, half melted. The body was so badly burned that it might be impossible to identify without the use of DNA. They had the living to deal with. First were the witnesses. Once they were identified and told to stand by, the next order of business was unsnarling the traffic jam. That was given to the pursuing highway patrolmen, who called in air support to tell them how to route traffic away from the scene.
Bob, and his two other traffic partners, began to take the reams of notes that would be required to write this up. He already knew that this, alone, would take the entire shift and extend into overtime, if the city could afford it. He called in an update.
He walked into what was left of the boutique that had faced the car when it exploded. He located the place where the victim had been, based on a pool of blood on the floor. Everything smelled of smoke and burnt hair or flesh. The two employees, who had been in the back when the car exploded, were sitting, still shaken by their ordeal. All one had to do was look around to see that, had they been out front, they'd have both been cut to ribbons by flying glass. All the displays were hung with clothing that was torn, some shredded, and all of it with sparkling glass particles dusting it. He kicked a pile of bloody cloth to one side and something gleamed on the floor. He bent to pick it up.
He stared. "LJG" in flowing script, told him whose lighter this was.
He turned to the employees.
"Were there any customers in here at all, when it exploded?"
"No," said the woman, looking shaken. "We don't get many in here at that time of day."
"The victim..." He pointed at the blood on the floor. "She was outside?"
"She must have been," said the man. "We would have heard her come in. I think she got blown through the window. If you look, you can see where her body pushed everything aside."
Bob COULD see that, now that he looked for it. There was a clear path from the window to where the blood was.
"She was alive?" he asked.
"Yes," said the woman. "The paramedics said she was. There was so much blood ... she was on fire. I put it out, but she wasn't moving."
Bob frowned. What were the chances? The poor woman was raped and then, in an unbelievable coincidence, was in the wrong place, at the wrong time ... AGAIN!
He wanted to leave ... to go to her ... but he couldn't. In fact, it was seven more hours before they began to wrap things up. It had been a brutal seven hours, with nothing to eat. A store owner had brought them bottles of water, but that was all. His uniform was a mess and he smelled like smoke. He'd had to help remove the remains from the vehicle, before it was turned over and hauled to impound. The body had come out in two pieces. The big one was, as usual, in the fetal position, as the heat of the inferno had caused muscles to tighten and draw the body into a ball. The other piece was one leg, with sharp bone protruding from the burnt flesh that was left, like a tight paper wrapping. The coroner had suggested that there had been a compound fracture during the accident, and the explosion or flames had separated the two pieces.
"I hope the bastard was unconscious when it blew," said the coroner. "That's a nasty way to die, when you know what's happening to you."
"Yeah," said Bob, trying to find something to clean his hands on. He had bits of burnt flesh clinging to them.
He had four more hours of paperwork to get through, before he could go home and clean up. He was able to call the hospital, to get an update on the injured. The unidentified woman was still unconscious, and still critical. A few had been treated and released, but the others were still there. Most had been injured by flying glass, which didn't show up on x-rays, and had to be dug out piece by piece, as each shard was found.
Bob dozed in the chair beside the bed that held Lacey Fetterman. He had been allowed into her room only because he was a police officer. He didn't know why, but he had decided to identify her by her empty car, at the scene, instead of by personal knowledge of who she was. He had seen the car instantly, when he came out of the boutique and looked around. Her purse was in the car. He'd taken her driver's license and used it to identify her at the hospital. She had obviously gotten out of her car, which was damaged, and gone to the car thief's vehicle. When it had exploded, she had been thrown through the window. Her lighter was still in his pocket. He hadn't turned it in to the evidence room. He didn't know why he'd decided not to do that either.
Even though he was in street clothes, he was there, officially, to interview her, as soon as she woke up ... if she woke up. She was a mess. Her beautiful long hair had been mostly burned off. Her swollen face, swathed in bandages, was red from the heat of the explosion. He'd been told that she had second degree burns on one leg that were worse. She had a concussion and cuts all over her body, but no broken bones. They weren't sure, yet, if she was in a coma or just unconscious. The doctor said it would be hard to tell, until some time had passed. Her brain was swollen. The swelling would go down ... or not. Time would tell. That, and the fact that she'd lost a lot of blood, would keep her in the ICU for the moment.
He had stood, looking at her, willing her eyelids to move, so he could see her hazel eyes staring into his. She was a patchwork of bandages. He was able to see her hands, which looked almost normal. He had an errant feeling of relief. At least she could still grip a racquet. Otherwise, she just looked like she was resting. The sheet rose and fell slowly, over her breasts.
Then, fatigue claimed him, and he sat down, to lean his head back against the wall. He dozed, unaware of the times that nurses came in to check on the patient, and record vital signs, and wait.
A nurse finally woke him, around eleven.
"You may as well go home," she said. "Sleep in a bed, not here."
He wanted to stay. He'd already been told to take the next day off. They'd convert his overtime into comp time, if he did, but he didn't care about that. He was worried about his ... What was she? She wasn't his girlfriend. That wasn't the kind of relationship they had. But somehow he couldn't just think of her as his friend, either. It was more than that. They had gone way past the detective/victim relationship. She was his partner, at least in racquetball. He already had plans to suggest that they team up for the city championships in doubles play. He hadn't done it yet, but he intended to.
"I'd really like to stay," he said, softly, even though she couldn't hear him.
The nurse looked at him oddly, but nodded and left.
When she still hadn't wakened, by ten the next morning, he gave up. Her vitals were good. They now thought she was in a coma, but didn't know how deep it was. The swelling was a little less than it had been the day before.
When no one was watching, he took her hand.
"Don't leave me, Lacey," he said urgently. "You haven't had the lasagna at Santini's yet."
Then he went home and got some real sleep.
He went back in uniform the following day, two hours before his shift started. They were supposed to be playing racquetball right now.
The news was good. She had begun moving, and seemed to be responding to pain. Now they were keeping her unconscious with drugs, to allow her to heal more, and to keep her brain inactive. No next of kin had stepped forward to order anything different, so the doctors were having it their way, while they could.
She looked better. There was more color in her face, and not just the bruising. She was breathing a little more rapidly too. Everyone said it was a good sign.
There was more paperwork to do. The incident had been picked up by the local news networks, of course, and they had hundreds of questions that the captain came to Bob to get answered. Lacey was still "unidentified" officially, because there was no one to agree to the release of her identify, and medical records were private. Bob simply reported that she was still unconscious, but appeared to be getting better.
"I'll keep in touch with the hospital," offered Bob.
"You can, if you want, but I think we have this pretty well wrapped up," said the captain. "The perp is deceased, as they say." He grinned. "There's nobody to prosecute. Did you see the autopsy report yet?"
Bob shook his head.
"Yeah, the perp's lungs were charred. He was alive when it went up. Doesn't pay to steal a car these days, huh?"
"Anyway," said the captain, "it's all up to the insurance companies now."
"Somebody ought to at least tell her what happened to her," said Bob.
"Yeah," said the captain, indifferently. "Stay in touch, if you want."
Bob sat, staring at the report that was finished and ready to go into the official record. He was nervous. He felt like he was hiding something. Nobody had noticed that the victim in the explosion was the same victim that was in a cold rape case. If they did, and found out that Bob knew her ... or should know her ... and that he hadn't said anything about that ... well, there would be questions. With a streak of mercenary anger, Bob knew how he'd answer those questions. He'd been pulled off her case—reassigned—she was no longer a concern of his, except for in reference to the accident. He HAD identified her, after all.
He hadn't done anything wrong. The lighter wasn't really evidence. It was a personal belonging of a victim. He'd get it back to her. It just wouldn't be through the paperwork involved in releasing found property.
Still, something seemed off-kilter, somehow. His radar was flickering. The perp had sideswiped Lacey's car, in the incident. Why had she gone to check on the man who had hit her? That had to have been what happened. Her position, at the moment of ignition, had been right by the driver's side of the car. Her purse had still been in her car. Why did she have the lighter in her hand? It had to have been in her hand. He'd seen the clothing they'd cut off her and the pockets were intact.
He felt his pocket, where the lighter lay. He'd never seen her smoke ... never smelled smoke on her breath. Of course he'd never been that close to her face, either, really.
He closed the file and stood up. Time to get out on the road.
He was walking by the detective's squad room, when Don Simpson called his name. He stopped, to see Don walking toward him, smiling. Don looked around, to see if anyone was listening, then moved Bob to one side of the hall.
"Remember your rapist?" he said, his voice low and conspiratorial. "The one you got transferred over?"
"Like I'd forget," said Bob.
"Sorry," said Don. "Anyway, you know he hit again, four more times after that. I told you about some of them."
"Yeah," said Bob.
"Well that crispy critter you cleaned up, the other day? Guess why the state boys were chasing him."
Bob stared, saying nothing.