Ella was snooping through the vacant unit next to her apartment when an attack knocked her out. After recovering, she found her apartment burglarized but only a photo of her deceased husband was missing.
My forehead was throbbing the next morning. The bathroom mirror offered little comfort. A purple bruise ran along my hairline, more noticeable for the gray bangs framing it. Because I’d slept in short but frightening intervals, little shadow satchels hung under my eyes. During most of the night, I was dreaming of brutal hunt scenes. Sometimes I was running with wild dogs after something or someone; other times I was the prey. Each time my rapid heartbeat woke me, I had to catch my breath, look around the apartment, and check the windows. All was quiet. I would slip under my quilt again and hope for rest. Nothing doing. Another dream, another terrifying waking up.
At 6:30, the alarm on my radio was playing something by Mozart while I turned over and debated staying in bed; but, no, I had an appointment with Officer Ferguson and I had to get up. I lowered the volume and went to the toilet. After shrugging at my mirror image, I brewed a quick cup of espresso and looked out the window again. As I sipped my morning remedy, to my left, rounding the corner of my street and Pine Glen, where the school stood, I saw a group of runners. They were not moving like any joggers I’d ever noticed. All of them were leaning forward, their heads thrust out. In unison, they were swinging their arms nearly at chin height. A very large man was leading them. His shouts of encouragement, sounding more like snarls, spurred the group to speed up and they disappeared onto Pine Glen before I could catch any more details. I almost always woke up at 6:30 and, sipping my coffee, would check out the street below, but that was the first time I’d seen those joggers.
I had to do something about my bruised forehead, but first I needed a warm shower. Once dressed I found an old tube of arnica gel. It had helped relieve my bruises in the past so I smoothed a dab across my forehead. Arnica—the last time I’d used it was after I’d bumped into the mover boxes and tended a big black and blue mark on my knee. And before that, yes before that, the bruises on my arms.
A week or so before Randy fell ill, we’d had an argument, no, really just a discussion, I thought. Something in our exchange inflamed Randy. I thought his eyes had turned red—I do have quite an imagination—and nearly growling he leaped at me from his chair. He raised his fists and I wrapped my arms around my head to protect it from the blow I expected. He pummeled my arms.
I shouted at him, “Randy, stop. Stop. This isn’t you,” and he froze. Dropping his arms to his sides, he sank to the floor and wept.
The memory of Randy’s rage turned my stomach. Before that terrifying moment, although our relationship had been cordial and we shared a love of movies and reading, Randy and I had lost the spark keeping us close for so long. Maybe it was his work, his travel, or his preference for jogging and running races. After his illness weakened him and he no longer could run, we hardly spoke to each other. He’d look out the window all day then, wrapped in blankets, sleep on a sofa every night, his chin resting on his folded arms.
I needed to dismiss those thoughts and get ready for my interview with Officer Ferguson. Dressed in black slacks, a white blouse, and my favorite Irish cable-knit sweater, I set off for the district police station. With a glance at the now closed door to 2A, I hurried down the stairs and as I passed her door, Fanny emerged.
“Well, hi. You’re up and out pretty early.”
“Hi. Well, I’ve an appointment at 9:00. Have to get going.”
Fanny came closer and stared at my face. “Do you mind taking off those sunglasses a sec’? Ah, you’re hurt. That’s a nasty bruise.”
Not wanting to upset her, I gave her sketchy information, that I’d fallen and someone had burgled my apartment while I was knocked out. Fanny replied she hadn’t heard anything.
“That’s odd. Dave said he heard me yell and he came to help me.”
“You yelled? Why didn’t I hear you then? Who did it?”
Her questions annoyed me. Impatient to leave, I said, “Fanny, thanks for caring, but I really have to go. The burglar didn’t take anything valuable…I mean, nothing worth money. We’ll talk later. ‘Bye.” I patted her arm and left without looking back.
The district police station did not match my expectations. Instead of a squat brick building flanked by concrete pillars (topped film-noir-style with fly-specked globe lights), I entered a recently built modern structure. Approaching a policewoman at the broad reception counter, I told her I had an appointment with Officer Ferguson. She smiled and asked my name. After checking her computer, she invited me to sit on a nearby bench and she would let the detective know I was on time. Before I could sit, Office Ferguson crossed the lobby, shook my hand, and invited me to follow him to his desk in a large room off the reception area. Complainants, plaintiffs, or arrestees—hard to tell—sat at five other desks in the room. Detectives interviewing them were entering data into their computers or leaning on one hand while listening to the person opposite them.
Ferguson pulled out a metal chair with wooden armrests and I followed his open palm and sat down. Since I was wearing slacks, I decided to cross my legs and lean back, feigning ease and self-confidence. The detective’s tired smile creased his face, especially around his sparkling blue eyes.
“Mrs. Volkman, thank you for coming in. I’d like to hear why you were at the trash burner on the date in question and what happened to you there. Please take your time.”
I was about to describe my walks around the neighborhood when another detective interrupted me. A tall and almost emaciated man whose face was etched with a highway map of wrinkles was standing behind Ferguson. He asked if I would like some coffee. I stared at him then stammered, “Oh, no, no thank you. I’m fine.”
“You’re Ella Volkman, the person who called Falk at Animal Control?”
“Pinscher, Mrs. Volkman and I were…”
“Yeah, Yeah, ex-cuse me. Just being friendly. Officer Friendly.” Pinscher gave me a crooked grin and went back to his desk. Settled in his chair, he watched Ferguson and me while ignoring the visitor tapping annoyed fingers on her armrest.
I turned to Ferguson and gave him a confused look. He studied Pinscher for a few moments, then asked me to follow him outside the station house. “You don’t have to make a formal statement right now. Let’s walk outside and you can give me some background on all this, okay?”
We walked outside the station house and strolled through the parking lot until the detective said, “This is far enough. No one can hear us now.” I looked around. Clearly, no one was nearby.
‘It’s OK, Mrs. Volkman. I really am friendly. Now, you were saying?”
I began again. “I moved here a while ago, sure that I’d found my ideal neighborhood, but…” I didn’t know how to go on.
“Well, one late afternoon, I took a walk.”
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