An excerpt from
"You want to know what the problem is with these goils? They want it and they can’t get it any other way, so they wear their blouses down to here so their tits are hanging out and wear their skirts up to their ass, and then they scream ‘rape’.”
“You want to know what your problem is? You’re a sexist pig!” I bellow at the radio. Dr. Joni tells the guy virtually the same thing and hangs up on him. The next caller wants to know how to protect herself. Everybody on radio talk shows is talking sexual assault these days in response to the ABC rapist, so named because his first victims virtually lived on the streets of Alphabet City. He didn’t have to bang down doors to get to them and nobody paid much attention until he did start breaking in past a few doors, entering through a few open windows, and moving west to First, then Second Avenue. “I live on Third Avenue,” the caller says, her voice shaky. “I’m a student at Tisch. I come home late at night. The security in my building is lousy. I think I’ve even been followed a couple of times.”
I turn off the radio and look out of my own window. Force of habit. I know what it’s like to be followed; I was stalked and abducted by a madman the end of last year and I still freeze when I hear footsteps come too close behind me. I still duck into stores where I have no intention of buying anything and wait until the coast is clear. On the streets of New York City, the coast is never clear. There’s always somebody likely to walk behind you, but they’re not all out to get you. It’s easier to believe this in the relative safety of my own apartment, behind a door with four locks, than when I’m out there though.
I live in a sublet on Waverly Place in the West Village, far enough from striking distance of the ABC rapist to feel safe from him. My past experience taught me valuable life lessons about protecting myself from harm. So did the counseling sessions to deal with post-traumatic stress. So did the detective who worked the case. I’m still dealing with him and not professionally anymore, though he never exactly stops acting like a cop when he’s with me, which isn’t as much as I’d like him to be. His name is Patrick Quick, Detective Second Grade, recently transferred from the First Precinct to the Ninth, which encompasses more turf and more work. I sometimes get to see him on his swing, which is what cops call their days off. I still think of it in kid terms as a seat suspended from a tree and sometimes feel like he’s keeping me dangling on one, leaving me to propel myself back and forth until he figures out what he wants to do with me. Quick indeed.
He has the magical ability to pick up on brain waves though. He senses when I’m thinking about him just as he recognizes when a suspect is lying to him. The minute my iPhone rings, I know it’s him. Hat Trick is the silly nickname I’ve heard his colleagues call him at the cop shop. There must be something to it. He’s the David Copperfield of the NYPD, pulling clues out of thin air or pulling emotions out of wounded women like me. I hastily reach to turn off the radio when I hear his voice and realize I already did.
“Have you been listening to the radio?” he asks.
“No,” I say. “Should I be?” My counselor strongly advised me not to listen to the all-news stations any more. I used to depend on them to put me to sleep the way some people use white noise machines, and some of the reports I heard led me to associate other crimes with what I was going through. After it was over, every crime story I heard gave me nightmares. Quick put his foot down too. No more WCBS, no more 1010 WINS. No newspapers either. Talk radio sometimes serves the general purpose that the former did. Until today.
“You know you shouldn’t be.” He pauses. “I got a call from Rubenstein over in the Sixth. There was an assault on Jane Street last night. The vic lived on East Seventh. She was on her way home from visiting a friend when it happened.”
Neither Rubenstein nor Quick deal with sex crimes directly; there are detectives specifically trained to deal with that. They only get involved when the crime goes beyond rape. His use of the past tense isn’t lost on me. “Did ABC do it?” Up to now, ABC hasn’t killed any of his victims.
“We’re looking into it. Right now it doesn’t fit his MO,” he says. “Not even close. But it’s not too far from where you are. I just want you to be aware of what’s going on.” He clears his throat. “So you’ll be careful.”
“I’ve never stopped being careful.” I assure him, switching the phone from one sweaty hand to the other. His concern evokes other physical responses in me too. I could use a little more of that hyper-vigilance right here in this apartment, right now, Detective Quick, sir. He’s doing a week of day tour, though, 8:00 a.m. to 4:15 p.m., so immediate police protection is out of the question, but I decide to feel him out with a Mae West line. “How about this afternoon when you get off work, you come by and check my locks?”
“Can’t tonight, Delilah, I’m sorry,” he says. “I have to stop by Alison’s.”
Alison is his sister, recently released from drug rehab for the second time since December and he’s told me that he suspects she’s headed back for a longer stay; this is all he’s told me about her. Alison is my sole competitor for his attention. I try not to resent it—she’s sick—but I wonder if there’s a family dynamic I don’t know about that’s retarding her recovery. I haven’t dared to ask more about her than, “How is she doing?”
“I’ll call you tonight after I’ve seen her,” Quick promises. “Keep that door locked. Maybe I’ll oil that deadbolt for you over the weekend.”
Fine. That’s the only thing in this apartment that needs lubrication right now. My phone slips out of my hand and rings in protest. Damn. I wipe my palms on my coverall. Quick is gone by the time I pick up the phone. I hit disconnect. The minute I do, it rings again. I wipe my palms again before answering.
But it’s not Quick this time. “Delilah,” a female voice whispers and then breaks into strangled sobs. “It’s Sachi. Can you talk?”
The question shouldn’t be can I, but will I. Sachi has always been known to blow me off in my moments of greatest need, but when she needed a shoulder to cry on, she’s never hesitated to call. Except it’s been months since she’s dared to call and this time she really is crying. “What’s wrong?”
“Can you come over?” she whimpers.
“Now?” Stupid question. I realize she must mean now or she wouldn’t ask. It’s just a delaying tactic. Her apartment is the last place I want to be. Also the last place she’d have wanted me to be in recent months, when she was so tight with her live-in lover that I thought only surgery could separate them. “What’s going on, Sachi?”
“I was raped.”
“What? When?” Later we’ll get around to who, where and how.
“Last night. Late last night. What time is it?”
I look at the red LED display on my alarm clock. “Nine-fifty.”
“I got home around five. Maybe after. It was starting to get light.” She clears her throat. “Well, are you coming over or aren’t you? I don’t want to talk about this on the phone.”
“I’ll be there,” I promise, trying not to think of all the calls she didn’t return last December when I was in trouble, when I thought I needed her. “Have you reported it? Have you been to the hospital?”
All I get for an answer is silence and a ‘call ended’ alert.