Mistrusting a Memory

by Lubrican

Chapters : 1-2 | 3-4 | 5-6 | 7-8 | 9-33 & Epilogue Available On

PLEASE NOTE: This is a preview of this novel. It is available for purchase in its entirety via


I wrote a story called "For Want Of A Memory" in which I explored how amnesia can affect a person's life. In that book, a man could remember specific parts of an incident, but not the whole thing. Because he only had partial information, the decisions he made were flawed, in the sense that he'd have made different decisions if his memory had been whole. In the process of writing that book I realized there are other ways that missing or corrupted memory could affect a life. This book is an exploration of another of those ways.

Chapter One

Bob Duncan ran his hand through his hair and shrugged his shoulders to ease the weight of the Sig Sauer in the shoulder holster under his left arm. He sighed. Another rape in a high rise apartment building. When would women learn to take precautions in a neighborhood that had hosted four rapes in the last three months?

He reviewed the evidence in his head. Purse on the counter in the kitchen, cash and credit cards still in it. Expensive electronics still on the shelves. It wasn't a burglary-turned-rape. Whoever had done this hadn't been looking for money.

He pulled open the doors to the jewelry box on the dressing table against one wall. He was pretty sure what he'd find, but he had to look. Yes, it was still there, a mixture of costume jewelry and some very nice, expensive pieces. One necklace, with a gorgeous oval opal in the center, surrounded by rubies and diamonds, had to be worth a thousand. Something silver gleamed, further back in the drawer. He pulled it open and saw a cigarette lighter, probably sterling silver. He picked it up. It was expensive, and engraved. "LJG" in flowing script. He tried the lighter and it ignited instantly. He examined it, curiously. It was a butane model, and the gas usually escaped when one lay around for a long time. He hadn't seen or smelled any evidence that a smoker lived in this apartment. No ashtrays...no smoker's candles...no packs of cigarettes, either full or empty. Nothing in the trash. He knew. He'd searched the trash himself.

On impulse he removed the drawer and peered behind it. There it was. His fingers were almost too big to dig it out, but he managed. Virginia Slims. Female brand. He smelled the pack, which was missing four or five cigarettes. They weren't fresh, but they hadn't been in there for months either.

Secret smoker, he decided. He kept going through the jewelry box. In one drawer there was an old driver's license and some pins, like they gave to high school kids to put on letter jackets. He looked at the license, to find a fresh-faced pretty girl smiling back at him. Lacey Jean Griggs, age sixteen. Lacey Jean Griggs had saved her very first driver's license. He looked at the picture again. The girl in the photograph wasn't smiling any more. Not now. Not at the hospital, after being raped.

He shook it off. He needed to get moving. He'd taken the pictures, identified the visible evidence, and walked through the crime scene. He needed to get out of the way so the crime scene techs could start collecting the evidence. The victim was at the hospital, being processed, and he needed to get to her, to get her story before anyone contaminated her testimony.

He'd been assigned to the Sex Crimes Unit for three years, but it already felt like three decades. The first thing he'd been surprised about, when they moved him from Property Crimes to Sex Crimes, was the number of women who yelled rape, when they meant something else entirely.

His inspection of this scene had told him immediately that it was a legitimate complaint. The place had a feminine, neat appearance, or had, until someone had been thrown around in it, knocking furniture askew, breaking a vase, and even knocking a hole in the sheetrock of one wall. It was clear that something had taken place on the bed, which was rumpled, and had a large wet stain in the middle of it. The UV light had indicated it was body fluids, but he didn't know what kind. He'd learned a long time ago not to assume there was semen in those stains. Body fluids...yes...semen...not necessarily.  

It had been called in as a rape, by the paramedics, who had answered a 911 call from a neighbor, who found the victim's door open and heard her moans.

Bob had talked to the neighbor already. Vivian Gage, divorced, the kind of typical nosy neighbor that detectives everywhere thanked God for every time they prayed. Vivian Gage had informed him that Mister Fetterman was away on business, and had identified the victim as "That sweet, dear Lacey" of the same last name. It was Vivian who said she'd complained to the super about how the door at the back of the building didn't close properly, but, of course, he was too miserly to fix the lock.

On his way to his car, he stopped by that door...just in case. The Fetterman's door had not been forced. She had opened the door, or it had been unlocked. In this part of town, you'd think that wasn't likely. It was more likely she had opened the door, which meant she'd buzzed her attacker in too. She would know who he was.

The door looked OK. He pulled on the handle and it swung inward. He peered at the latch. It looked fine. Working the handle on the inside showed that the latch went in and out properly. The outside handle was, in fact, locked. Why had it opened, then? He bent over and used his pen light to look at the striker plate. A wad of duct tape had been forced in the detent. That would prevent the latch from extending into the detent, which effectively rendered the lock useless.

Somebody had wanted to be able to get in without a key. But that someone had to be inside the building to sabotage the lock. That meant someone in the building had, at one time or another, invited him in.

Of course it could have been any of a hundred delivery persons or maintenance contractors. There had to be a thousand people who'd been in the building who didn't actually live there. Some of them jimmied locks like this, for their personal convenience, so they didn't have to get buzzed in every single time they went in and out, on perfectly legitimate business. The tape was circumstantial, but not necessarily put there by the rapist. He took the duct tape as evidence anyway. Maybe he'd get lucky. Tape retained fingerprints really well, sometimes. As usual, the list of potential suspects was longer than a ten dollar hooker's rap sheet.

The first thing he checked at the hospital was whether a rape kit had been done on the victim, and who had done it. They didn't have a dedicated nurse on staff for this kind of thing, and some nurses felt like it was too intrusive to process the whole kit. A lot of valuable evidence had been lost by combs not used and swabs not taken. He saw it was Cindy who had done the kit. She was good. He'd have to remember to buy her coffee, or maybe flirt with her a little bit. She was married, but she was also cute and friendly.

Bob was not married. He'd gone straight from college, with a proudly won criminal justice degree, straight into the police academy, where he found out his degree was basically worthless. They didn't care what he knew. They taught it to him all over again...their way. Still, he knew all the precedents for search and seizure, and interviews and interrogations, so the coursework was easy. The physical part had been easy too, thanks to his love of tennis and racquetball.

Then he had been immersed in the real school...the streets of a major metropolitan city. It was there he had learned there were four basic types of people.

There were your hardcore criminals, who didn't care about anything or anybody but themselves. Statistically, twenty percent of them were responsible for eighty percent of all crime. Those twenty percent were the ones he thought about at the firing range. If you could put a dent in that twenty percent, you made a real difference in the world. But you only caught a few of them, and made it stick. The rest of the hardcore types were who he dealt with on a routine kind of basis. He knew all of them, and they knew him. It was a game they all played. Cops and robbers...all grown up.

Then there were your basic ordinary, everyday people who succumbed to temptation, or greed, or jealousy, and did something stupid. They weren't really dangerous to society. They were just in the wrong place, at the wrong time, with the wrong attitude. Prisons were full of them, which was why there was no room for the hardcore types.

The third basic type were what Bob thought of as professional victims. They lived their sad lives in such a way that they were always being preyed upon. Wives who wouldn't leave an abusive husband…homeless people who could have a home and a job, if they had the drive to do that...hookers, who wouldn't take advantage of opportunities to learn a new trade, and the raft of believers that you could get rich quick, with little or no work involved.

Finally, there were ordinary Joes and Janes, who just wanted to get through the day, without bothering anybody else and without being bothered. They had values and lived by them. They stopped at red lights at two in the morning, when there was no traffic in sight. They worked hard and played when they could, and raised kids and volunteered at the PTA, or the Library, or any of a double dozen other places where they could feel like they were trying to be good citizens.

That last group comprised about ninety-five percent of society. Just about all their woes could be blamed on the other five percent. Majority rules. Yeah...right.

Bob reviewed what was available. The lab results weren't done yet, of course. It would take a day or two for that. He asked where he could find Lacey Fetterman and was given an exam room number.

Both women in the room jumped when he opened the door, and then remembered to tap. The younger one, fully dressed and sitting in a chair, jumped up perkily and extended her hand.

"I'm Teresa Green," she said importantly. "I'm Lacey's advocate."

Bob sighed inside. He'd hoped he could get to the victim before the rape advocate got there. He ignored Teresa Green, and looked at the woman on the exam table, wrapped in a hospital gown. She looked vaguely familiar. That didn't mean anything. Everybody looked vaguely familiar. You remembered the bad guys. Everybody else—even people you'd met and chatted with—didn't need to take up storage space in your memory.

"Detective Duncan," he said, displaying his badge. "Mrs. Fetterman?" he asked, formally.

"Yes." Her voice was soft and sounded sad. They always sounded soft and sad.

"I know you've been through a lot," he said, going into his routine spiel. "But I need to ask you some questions. I'd like to catch the man who did this to you."

"All right," she said, her voice cultured.

He noticed that. Most rape victims came from the ordinary ranks of ordinary women, who wouldn't stand out in a crowd for any particular reason. But you couldn't go by appearance, of course. Any woman, from a pre-pubescent child to an eighty-nine year old great grandmother, could end up in this situation. Background didn't tell you much.

Body language, though, spoke loudly, regardless of background. This woman, under the visible bruises, scrapes and pallor, with her long black hair askew, would be beautiful again in a week or two. When the bruises and scrapes healed, she'd be a babe. The way she sat showed the kind of strength that suggested she was used to being confident and in control of her destiny. Her feet hung limply, as opposed to swinging or moving constantly, which would indicate that she was nervous or bored. Her hands gripped the edges of the bed, on either side of her, but she wasn't white-knuckled. She wasn't crying, but that didn't mean anything. Shock did strange things to a person and masked true emotions. All her body language told him right now was that she wasn't terrified and was open to his presence.

That was a good start.

He asked the usual questions, taking notes in his notebook. She said she didn't know who the man was. Her door had been locked. She always locked the door, even when her husband was home. She'd just gotten out of the bath, when the knock came, and the man had announced a gas leak had been called in. He'd said he needed to check her stove, to relight the pilot light, because the gas had been turned off to repair the leak. The instant she'd opened the door, he barged inside. He'd had a knife and had sworn he'd kill her if she screamed.

She hadn't screamed.  

It didn't seem to make any difference to the man. He'd slapped her. It had taken her two slaps and a fist to learn that she wasn't supposed to get back up, until he told her to. Then he'd raped her, with the knife at her throat, on her own bed. When he was done, he'd told her he could get in any time, and that if she called the police he'd come back and kill her. She said she had a long, shallow slice, from the knife, across her left breast and down onto her stomach, where he'd almost carefully cut her, just enough to make it bleed in places, while he'd told her that. Bob didn't ask to see it. There would be photographs taken later, when all the bruises had had time to develop fully.

While she told her story, she'd been interrupted by her advocate five times. Every time she showed any emotion at all, the girl — she couldn't have been more than twenty-two — interrupted her, telling her that everything was going to be all right and that she was safe. Bob wanted to tell Teresa Green to shut the fuck up. Everything WASN'T going to be all right. Not by a long shot. The guy COULD come back and carve Lacey up like a chicken being slaughtered. False hope was not what this woman needed. What this woman needed was to know that the animal who had done this to her was behind bars and not coming out for years.

But he kept quiet. Lacey was doing all right, except that she didn't seem to be involved. Not really. It could be the shock...but she seemed to be holding something back. He believed she'd been raped. Either that, or she and her boyfriend had gotten a little carried away with the S&M stuff, and the nosey neighbor had undone them.

He shook his head mentally. He'd searched the place, from top to bottom. No gags...no latex clothing...no whips and chains...nothing kinky at all, except the vibrator in the drawer beside the bed. And that wasn't kinky. Not these days. Her husband was on the road. According to Vivian Gage, the neighbor, he was on the road a lot, selling something or other. No, this had been rape. Why would she hold something back?

There had been other cases like this, where a man had gotten in under false pretenses and used a knife, making the same threats. Bob had worked two of them, and those women had also seemed to be holding something back.

Lacey bit down on the inside of her cheek...the one that little prick hadn't slapped. She had to retain control. She couldn't just lose it and blubber in front of this man. Where was Paul? She'd asked the nurse to call him. It had been hours since she'd come to this antiseptic, but stinking place. The nurse had seemed so friendly...so nice...and then had done such unspeakable things to her...poking and prodding, scraping under her fingernails, even! Why had she had to pee in a cup? Why had they pulled out some of her pubic hairs?

Teresa's arrival had been good, at first. She finally had someone to talk to...to ask questions of. It was then that she realized she couldn't talk...couldn't ask the questions. The girl was hardly out of high school. She'd never been raped. She'd never felt the things Lacey had felt...was still feeling. She didn't understand the shame and horror. She didn't understand what had happened in that room...in that bed...the room and bed she could never go in again.

She felt hopeless. Nothing could fix what had happened.

"Just a few more questions," said Bob. "I'll need to take a formal written statement, but we can do that in a day or two, when you've had time to relax."

"I'll never be able to relax again," said Lacey.

"It will be all right," chirped Teresa. "He's almost done, and then we'll find you something to wear, and you can begin your recovery."

"Oh," said Bob, remembering the plastic sack he'd brought into the room and dropped by the door. He went to get it. "I took the liberty of bringing you some clothes." The patrolman securing the scene had told him the victim had been naked, when they took her away.

"Thank you," said Lacey, feeling an overwhelming sense of relief as she saw her familiar clothing in the bag. She blushed as she saw the bra and panties. This man had been through her most private things.

"Please describe the man again," said Bob.

"She already did that," said Teresa.

When she had gone over her memory of the man again, and added nothing new, Bob asked the question that was always difficult.

"Try to remember anything odd or memorable about him. What can you remember about how his penis looked?"

Teresa gasped. "You can't ask her a question like that!" she exploded. "This woman has been raped!"

"What do you mean?" asked Lacey, her eyes rolling slightly in her sockets.

"Was it straight or bent? What color was it? Did it have any moles or warts on it?" Bob leaned forward as he saw Lacey's eyes widen. Her pupils got smaller. She opened her mouth to answer, but was, again, cut off by her advocate.

"This is insane!" said Teresa, much too loudly. Lacey winced and then her face went calm. She remained silent.

"Do you know if he ejaculated?" asked Bob.

"I will NOT stand for this abuse!" shouted Teresa. "Do not answer any more of his questions, Lacey. I'm going to make a complaint this instant! Don't say another word! I'll be right back!" she said excitedly.

She hustled out of the room, leaving the woman she was supposed to be advocating for, in the clutches of the man who was currently "abusing her."

"Finally!" said Bob. "She's gone. Look, I know this is hard, but I need this kind of information. I need it to find him, and we'll need it to convict him. Please, tell me what you can. Just close your eyes and remember. I know it's hard, but please try. We don't have much time. She'll be back soon."

Lacey heard his words...heard the earnestness, almost pleading in them, and knew he wasn't being crass or lewd. She knew the answers to his questions all too well. She remembered that part starkly. The urgency in his voice robbed her of control and she babbled.

"It was bent. He made me...he made me use my mouth. He made me put a condom on him. He said I didn't deserve to have his...seed. He said I was probably diseased, but that he wouldn't let me make him diseased. He made me put him in meeeee!" her last word became a wail of pain and she sobbed.

"That's good," said Bob soothingly. "Let it all out. Tell me more. What did he do with the rubber?"

"Heeee...took it...with him," she cried. "He...said...he was...coming baaack," she wailed. "Heeee...said...he'd make...me...do it...again!...that I'd...do…IT...again!" she sobbed.

"Do what again?" asked Bob, leaning toward her.

He wanted to pat her shoulder. He wanted to hug her, to give her some human contact. She NEEDED human contact right now, but he knew others wouldn't understand. The emotion she was displaying now was normal, too. It was guilt. Something had happened in that room that she felt guilty about. It happened sometimes, but no one talked about it.

It came to him in a split second. Her behavior and the way she'd said things was what did it. It was as he asked the question that would explain all this, that the door opened and Teresa stalked in, the head nurse in her wake.

"Did you have an orgasm?" asked Bob.


"Out!" snarled the head nurse, pointing to the door.

"I'm not done here," said Bob.

"Yes, you most certainly are!" said the nurse, her voice rising. "And you can bet your ass I'm going to make you sorry you ever came here, you pervert!"

Lacey was a basket case, and the shouting of the two women had caused her to fall to her side, and curl up in a fetal position. Bob knew it would take hours to calm her down, and it was obvious that his presence wasn't helping things now.

"I'll call you about the formal interview," he said to Lacey. Her eyes darted to his, so he knew she heard him.

The head nurse escorted him to the emergency room doors, making sure he left. He didn't say a word to her. She didn't understand either.

Bob didn't really worry about the complaint. He knew he could explain things to Mrs. Fetterman, when she came in for her formal interview. He gave it a day, then called the cell number he'd gotten from her at the beginning of the hospital interview.

"Hello?" came her soft voice.

"Mrs. Fetterman, this is Detective Duncan again," he said. He didn't make small talk. "I need to set up your formal interview."

"Oh," she said. Her voice sounded flat over the phone. "I already told you what I know," she said.

"I know," he said. "But the prosecutor will need to review your statement."

"Have you caught him?"

"Well, no, not yet," said Bob. He hated this part. "We're working on it, though, and if we find him...when we find him, the prosecutor will need your statement. It will keep you from having to tell it again then."

He hated this part, too. He was lying. The system required that the victim tell her story over and over and over again. There were good reasons for it. People remembered things as time went by, for one thing, and those little facts and details could make all the difference in a prosecution. Another reason was to catch the liars. Liars couldn't remember what they'd said the last time, and often said something different. The truth is easy to remember. You have to think about it to lie. The average person didn't understand all this, though, and for victims like Lacey Fetterman, it was just torture.

"Teresa said I wouldn't have to talk to you again," said the soft voice.

"Look," he said, impatience edging into his voice. "I'm on your side in this thing."

He winced. That wasn't true either. He was a fact finder, plain and simple. He collected evidence, and it could be used by either side in court. His job was to prove or disprove that a crime had been committed. If there WAS a crime, his job was then to prove or disprove who had been involved in it.

"What I'm saying," he went on, "is that Teresa's a nice girl, and all that, and she cares about you, but she doesn't understand police work. There are good reasons I asked you the questions I asked you. I can explain that to you when you come in for your formal interview. You want us to catch this guy. We need your help to do it. That's all I'm saying."

"All right," said the soft voice. "When do you want to see me?"

He set up the appointment for the next day and hung up.

Chapter Two

Bob walked into the squad room and tossed his notebook onto his desk. His inbox was full, and he groaned. He could hold his own on the streets. He'd been shot at half a dozen times, and had survived them all. He'd been in two wrecks, and all he'd suffered was a deep bruise in one thigh. He'd processed enough blood and body fluid evidence to infect a hundred thousand people with Hepatitis, or HIV, and was still clean as a whistle. The paperwork, though, would kill him. He knew it, deep in his heart.

That would wait, though. Mrs. Fetterman was due for her interview. He'd much rather gaze on her lovely form than some piece of paper.

There was a note stuck to his monitor:  "See Dillworth."

He groaned. Frank Dillworth was the new Detective Captain and he was an idiot. He'd been Captain of Logistics for years, and was pretty good at that, though he'd bowed down to the penny pinchers at every opportunity. Why he'd wanted to take over supervision of an experienced and hardworking bunch of detectives was anybody's guess. He and Bob had had three or four run-ins already and he'd only been on the job for two months. Dillworth didn't know a damn thing about being a detective. Half the time he didn't even know the law. He was a toady...a brownnoser...and he was already responsible for two veterans cashing in their chips and retiring, when they could have stayed on for three or four more years.

He knew there was a problem when he entered Dillworth's office to find him fawning over Lacey Fetterman...and Teresa Green. Teresa looked up and a look of triumph came over her face.

"Yes sir?" said Bob.

Dillworth looked away from Lacey, who looked distinctly uncomfortable. Her eyes went to Bob and then down to her lap.

"I'm reassigning Mrs. Fetterling's case to Simpson," barked Frank.

"Fetterman," corrected Bob. "It's Lacey Fetterman."

Frank's face suffused with dark purple. Bob hoped he'd have a stroke.

"I don't need any sass from the likes of YOU!" said Frank, his voice rising. "Mrs. ...Fetterman...has been kind enough not to press charges against you. You're off the case and that's final!"

Bob looked at Lacey, who was looking at him again, through lowered lashes.

"Tell Simpson about the orgasm," he said. "It's important."

Frank leapt to his feet, outrage on his face. "THAT'S IT!" he screamed. "YOU'RE THROUGH! PACK YOUR FUC..." He stopped and went suddenly white. Bob ached to see his eyes roll up in his head as he toppled, a coronary thrombosis doing what needed to be done. "Pack your stuff," he huffed, calmer now. "I'm recommending you be fired. Go see the freaking union rep if you want to, but I'll have your backside for this, Duncan!"

Bob turned to leave. The look on Lacey's face was one of shock...and something else. He didn't have time to think about it. "Tell him," he said to her. Then he closed the door, before Dillworth could scream again.

He didn't get fired. The higher ups knew that the reasons they'd put Frank Dillworth in the Detective Captain chair was because of what he could do for them, when they needed a favor, and not because he had a clue. They had assumed he'd just ride the coattails of the experienced and effective force he was put in control of. Good men made a supervisor look good. Nobody thought he'd actually try to investigate anything. They certainly didn't think he'd run off the good men who could have made him look good. Now, they were stuck with the ramifications of their choice.

Dillworth did reassign the Fetterman case to Don Simpson, but Detective Simpson couldn't get anything done on it, because he had to report directly to Frank three times a day and then run off to do whatever lame-brained idea Frank had come up with since the last time he'd reported. The case went nowhere, and finally stalled.

Bob found all this out in the locker room...most of it from Don, who said he hated Bob because he'd lipped off to the boss, which had pulled Don into the mess and gotten Frank's fingers where nobody wanted them. Bob knew Don didn't actually hate him, but he wasn't happy.

"That bastard will hit again," said Don, sitting down beside Bob. "He's a classic control pervert. Beat her up, made her do things. He even made her cum."

"I thought so," said Bob. "When I talked to her at the hospital I knew she was holding something back."

"I almost didn't find out," said Don. "That little bitch that was with her wanted to approve every question I asked. She said Dillworth told her that was fine! Can you believe that shit?"

"So, how'd you find out?" asked Bob.

"The Fetterman woman finally asked the bitch to be quiet. I wanted to laugh, but I didn't. She said she just wanted to get it over with and started talking. I could hardly keep up with her on the computer. When she said she had an orgasm, the bitch started screaming again, and the whole thing fell to shit. Dillworth wanted to take that part out of the statement, but he couldn't figure out how. I told him I'd already saved it. The stupid fuck bought it. I was lucky to get her signature on it."

"Well, you got it," said Bob. "That's part of an MO. It will help get him, sooner or later." He sighed. "If any of his other victims will admit it too, that is."

"Yeah," said Simpson, putting on his shoes. "So, how's traffic?"

Bob shot him an evil look and Simpson laughed. "Hey, at least nobody's shooting at you!" He grinned. "I might ask for a transfer myself," he said, his smile fading. "I can't get anything done with Frank Fucking Dillworth dogging my tracks. He says I have promise! Can you believe that shit?"

Don Simpson had been a cop for six years and a detective for two. He deferred to Bob's ten year record, but he was very good, when given the chance to be so.

"A nice, quiet squad car and writing a few tickets now and then might be nice," sighed Don.

"I've already gained four pounds," said Bob. "Sitting around all day doesn't do you any good."

"Protect and defend!" said Don, standing up and saluting. "See you later, buddy. I know it doesn't mean much, but I think you're better off."

"Yeah," said Bob, glumly. "Better off." In two weeks, three drunks had puked in the back of his patrol car and another one had puked ON him. Everybody he pulled over was irate at him for molesting them. Everybody seemed to feel like they had an inalienable right to drive fifteen miles an hour over the speed limit, run red lights at their whim, and park wherever they felt like. He'd been called a communist, an agent of the Gestapo, a "fucking pig" and a "pig fucker." All in just two weeks. If this was "better off," he had no idea how he was going to do his last nine years.

A week later, Bob was standing at a vending machine in the gym he belonged to, drinking the last of a bottle of Gatorade, when she walked around the corner and literally ran into him.

"Oh! Excuse me," said that soft voice.

Her eyes lit on his face and widened.

"What are you doing here?" she gasped.

"I play racquetball here," said Bob.

He looked at her. She WAS beautiful. Her long black hair was held back in a pony tail that reached to her lower back. She was dressed in tight shorts and a white T shirt that clung to her body like it was two sizes too small. Her breasts bulged in that way that announces they're confined in a sports bra and don't like it. There were just the last traces of bruising on her throat and jaw, where her attacker had hit her with his fist.

She had a sports bag slung over one shoulder, the handle of a racquetball racquet sticking out. He noticed that it had sticky tape wrapped around the handle. Well worn sticky tape. That was interesting. The only people who needed sticky tape were people who were power hitters. It kept the racquet from twisting in the grip. His eyes went to her right hand, but it was bare of a glove. She wasn't sweating, either. She had just arrived.

While he was examining her, she examined him too. He was taller than she was, by a couple of inches. Out of his suit, he looked rugged, rather than beefy. His tank top was wet, in a drooping oval from his neck to his stomach, and his arms and wide shoulders had a sheen of sweat on them. He was wearing a headband and two wristbands that were dark with sweat, and the hand holding the bottle was gloved. His left hand held an E-Force Lethal 160 racquet. She stared at the racquet. Those things cost over three hundred dollars, and she was shocked to see a mere detective...ex detective?...holding one. All in all, he looked as lethal as the racquet.

She felt a flutter in her belly. It horrified her and she shrank back.

"You don't have to be afraid of me," said Bob, seeing the look of horror on her face. "I'm not mad about anything."

His tone brought her back to this place...here...in the gym she was so comfortable in. It was the only place she could go to battle the demons that ate at her. Here, on the court, she could slam them...slam HIM. Her rapist was only the latest of a string of frustrations she had battled on the racquetball court at the gym. Before that it had been her boss, whose eyes undressed her constantly. She'd gone out on her own, because of that, and was now in direct competition with him, running a successful business called Fashion La Femme. Her customers had come with her. Before that it was her lemon of a car, which Paul wouldn't let her get rid of, because it was only two years old. Sometimes it was meat, which she was trying not to love, because Paul had become a vegetarian. Occasionally it was her mother, who never listened and forbade her to talk about divorcing Paul.

"I'm not afraid of you," she said, her chin jutting a little.

"Good," he said. "You any good?"

"What?" She looked confused.

His left hand came up and the tip of the racquet touched the handle of hers. "Are you any good at racquetball?"

He saw her shoulders and jaw stiffen. "I do all right," she said, almost lazily. Her comment didn't match her body language. He almost smiled. That handle alone said she did better than "all right."

"My partner had to leave," he said, letting his invitation hang.

"You'd play a girl?" she asked, her hazel eyes showing interest.

"You're probably not supposed to talk to me anyway," he said indifferently. "What with me being a beast and all."

Her eyes got guarded at that. "Why did you... She didn't finish her question. "I was looking for a pickup game," she said instead.

That was another clue to her level of expertise at the game. Most people who weren't any good, or had just started, had set partners they played with. The best way to get your ass handed to you was to get in a pickup game with somebody you didn't know and who was probably a lot better than you.

"I've got the court for another hour," he said.

"Another hour." She repeated, her eyes narrowing.

"Yeah, I do two hours, three times a week."

"You're good, then," she said. Now her body AND her voice showed interest.

"I do all right," he said, straight faced.

"Let me put my shoes on," she said.

He watched her pull out court shoes. He was impressed that she didn't play in street shoes. When she pulled out sweat bands, like his, a glove, and wrap around eye protectors he smiled. Then she took out velcro wraps. She leaned forward letting her long hair drape in front of her, and put three of them around the hank of hair, so it wouldn't fly all around on the court.

He could already tell this would be good.

She was better than good. She was so good that he actually got a good workout. She was light on her feet, lightning quick, and had a deadly catch off the back wall, where she leaned just so and picked up the ball three inches off the floor. It stayed three inches off the floor, usually...all the way to the front wall. She knew how to put English on it too. Quite often it hit the wall and rolled, instead of bouncing. That it rolled right to him was no accident either. She was taunting him. The ball almost never squeaked when she hit it.

There wasn't anything you could do about that. The low kill shot was impossible to return, because it just wasn't returnable. It was simple physics. But, when he forced her to put it up on the wall, there were lots of things one could do with the ball.

He used the first two games to probe. She was, as he had thought, a power player. That meant the ball was everywhere, and moving fast. But, as he well knew, because he played the same way, it also meant that the ball bounced hard, and that meant you could stay in middle court, where you could reach almost everything.

He tried slamming the ball so it would come directly at her. In power play that meant you had to be quick to step aside and address the ball, or just boink it, with the racquet right in front of you. Boinked balls were easy kills. Her speed amazed him. She rarely boinked, choosing instead to fall aside and use the back wall. She was good at that too, hitting it just hard enough to get it from the back to the front, on a high arc that gave her time to adjust and made him move forward.

Her serve died in the back corner, and she ran ten points in a row, just on that serve, until he figured out a way to scoop it out of the corner. He lucked out twice, barely getting the ball to the front wall, where it hit that corner and dropped to bounce rapidly back to her serving position. She hadn't reacted, because she thought he'd missed the serve.

She was poetry in motion, whenever he got a chance to actually watch her play. Which wasn't often. He hadn't played anybody this good in years, and it was pure joy.

Ten games later they sat, leaning against the wall, gasping for air.

"You're good," she panted.

"You're no slouch, yourself," he panted back. "Do you belong to this gym?"

"Six years," she said, taking a breath between the two words.

"I can't believe I haven't seen you play," he said.

"This isn't my usual time," she said. "I usually play in the morning. Things...changed." Her last comment came with obvious unhappiness.

"Changed?" he said, automatically.

At first he thought she wasn't going to answer. As tired as she was, her body announced that this was a very sore point. Finally she relaxed a little, but didn't look at him. "Paul is divorcing me."

Bob stifled a groan. Rape led to divorce in a lot of cases. Hubby couldn't understand why she no longer wanted him to touch her. Hubby blamed it on her, like everybody else did. If you were running in the park, alone at night, you were just asking for it. If you wore slinky clothes, you deserved what you got. You didn't fight hard enough. You didn't say "NO" loudly enough. There were no marks on your body, to show you fought at all—or not enough marks to satisfy him. There were a thousand reasons that people assumed the woman brought it all on herself. Some men thought of their raped wife as diseased, and wouldn't come near her. At the time the women needed them most, a lot of men ran away.

"He got a copy of my statement," she went on. "When he saw that part about the orgasm...well..."

She stopped. She was tense again.

"Why did you tell me to do that?" she asked, her voice heavy. "It ruined my life. Now that stupid captain of yours doesn't even believe I was raped."

"He's an idiot," said Bob. "There are very good reasons why that information is critical. I could explain it to you, but not here."

"Why not?" she asked.

"Because it's complicated, and you'll have more questions, and I'm thirsty."

She blinked at him. "I'm thirsty, too."

"You want to get something to drink?" he asked, and felt stupid instantly.

"Are you asking me out?" Her voice held something other than just question in it.

"Of course not," he said. "That wouldn't be ethical, and our little friend Thelma would be irate.

"Teresa," Lacey corrected him.

"Whatever," he said, levering himself up. "She'd be irate. She'll be irate if she finds out I even talked to you."

"She means well," said the woman, accepting his hand and letting him pull her up. She had a strong grip. He knew that already. Her racquet had twisted in her hand exactly once during play.

"She helps rapists stay free," he said darkly. "She gives bad advice, at the wrong time, and women like you stop cooperating with the police."

"I cooperated," she said, wounded. "I even did what you said, and look where it got me." She frowned. "What else could I have done?"

"It's not your fault," said Bob. "None of this has been your fault. You're the victim here. The problem is that the system re-victimizes you. It stinks, but there's very little anyone can do about it, especially when people like Tanya and Frank Dillworth get involved."

"Teresa," said Lacey, gently.

"Teresa," he said heavily. "I don't remember names unless the person I'm remembering needs to be arrested."

"Well," she said, her voice soft again. "Since you aren't asking me out, and since we're both thirsty, I don't suppose anybody could complain if we both sought out something to drink at the same place."

They left the court, walking side-by-side. He stopped at the vending machine and dug into his sports bag for quarters.

"What's your pleasure?" he asked.

"White wine," she said.

He looked at her. Her head was cocked sideways, like she was evaluating him again.

"Showers first," he said.

She was waiting for him when he emerged from the locker room. She had on a maroon blouse and tan shorts, with sandals. Her hair was still in the pony tail, and was dry. She saw him looking at the pony tail.  

"It takes too long to dry. I'll wash it when I get home." She seemed unconcerned that he was looking at her, but he forced himself to look at her face, feeling the loss of being unable to let his eyes linger on her body. She was a startlingly beautiful woman. But she had troubles enough, without him acting like a caveman, and probably didn't have too high an opinion about men right now anyway. He felt guilty all of a sudden. He was attracted to this woman, and he had no business being attracted to a woman in her situation.

"Delvechio's?" he said.

"My, my," she said. "The man has a three hundred dollar racquet and drinks at the most exclusive joint in town, too."

He shrugged. "You work, you get paid...you may as well enjoy it."

They walked. It was only a block and a half, and both their cars were in the parking garage, which was probably as close as they could get to Delvechio's anyway.

Claude, the maître d', met them at the door with a professional smile.

"Mrs. Fetterman!" he announced, bowing slightly from the waist. "How delightful to see you." His eyes turned to Bob. "And Detective. I hope nothing is amiss."

"We thought we'd talk away from the noise and bustle of the office," said Bob.

Claude eyed the sports bags that each was carrying.

"Yes," he said, completely unconvinced. "How nice. Let me just seat you in a nice, private booth." His job was to make the customers smile. What they did while they smiled was none of his business.

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