"It's time," I tell my reflection. My image is blurred in the steam, distorted. It's accurately reflective of my state of mind. I shrug the negative judgment off and reach for the gun, flicking the wet, recently used toothbrush away from it. Growling at their dampness, the trivial things are important to bitch about now. "Where's the damn towel?" I frantically search, shaking my head in frustration. But it can't stop the pictures dancing incessantly across my mind. Twirling flashes of red-black flecks...white skin...metal...gray skin...bark...I gag and grab the slippery sink edge.
The heat...the humidity...too much...the air, pressing down on me. I feel panic's tentacles spreading from my chest reaching to latch on to my memories of that crime scene. Razor-sharp suckers, grasp the past forward, slicing away my ability to think clearly. Straightening abruptly, "Focus!" I shout at myself, shoving the gun into my back holster. Quickly grabbing a dirty t-shirt, I swipe the concealing condensation away, with my other hand, I fling the door open. A welcome breeze from the open bedroom window lifts it all away. Breathing deeply, I calmly say to my clear image, "It's time."
An impatient honk from my partner outside makes me turn towards the sound. But my feet stubbornly refuse to move. The peace in my heart is a fragile thing, one clumsy bump will shatter it like a running child, arms spread wide, in an aisle of glass. Either I, or those closest to me, will inevitably fail to observe the "Careful - Breakable- Do NOT touch" signs. My thoughts often intrude, acting illiterate. And no one, especially not me, can afford to buy after it's broken. The narrow, long, deep valley of my depression...there seems to be no way to climb up, no gentle slope up and out with sunlight to greet me. But I have to continue to fake it, the same way I fooled the department psych into letting me back into active duty.
Another blast from the horn. I slide into my tan blazer, grateful that it covers my wrinkled white dress shirt. My toned legs, smooth and long, flatter the navy knee-length skirt. Gently touching my badge, then pulling out my ID and clipping it to my belt turns out to be soothing ritual. I head out to the unmarked patrol car. Boring, inconspicuous black. So the department thinks! It stands out, people have an instinct when it comes to authority. Grateful at the amusement entering my being, I hope to hold onto it.
But my partner, how I dread his voice of late, ruins it. His clumsy attempts at sympathetic lying for something he will never personally experience from my end. Or his forced attempts at normalcy, "nothing happened, if we deny it!" So fake. Today is going to be a "false-positive" day. I could tell by how he reaches over and flings open the door. Dentist-bleached teeth blinding me.
"'Bout time Dominique! Sheesh, you'd think all the time you spend in the bathroom that there'd actually be make-up on your pretty face!" Tim's overly-jovial tone grates on my nerves. I feel like I should shoot him then and there. But, it's not time. . .nor the correct place. On purpose, I hike up my skirt to mid-thigh, as I sit down. I sense the heat from his stare. He leans in and reaches for a piece of trash, an excuse to touch my leg. His hand lingers over-long, insidious in its upwards ascent.
"Tim," I banter back with a husky, sexy voice while I remove his hand with an encouraging squeeze. "Ever the gentleman, but you'd think that you'd at least shave that damn shadow during the time you were waiting for me to come out. I know the Norelco is in the glove box."
He chuckles, not offended in the least. "If I shave to the smoothness of your legs, will you do me? The condoms are in there, too!"
I smile, turn to face him, glad that he's so easy. I laiugh, "I know you have one ready in your wallet...hopefully, not expired?"
The buttons, I deliberately left undone, work their magic. My laciest cleavage-enhancing bra on. His black eyes drawn in, hopelessly lost in the pattern, traveling up and down my pale breasts. Reaching for his dark hair, I yank him back hard and force his gaze up. Rumors has it that he likes it rough. I place my other hand perilously close to his manhood. It shifts towards me. In response, I squeeze his thigh hard. His gasp of pleasure nearly undoes my resolve.
"Tim, baby, I want..." my voice trails off, as I try to feign desire and deny my urge to flee to a seven day shower.
"Oh, Dom... really. . .I've wanted you since the day we became partners," I nod, dropping my lashes, not trusting my eyes and my voice to keep the hatred out of it.
But I have to talk, keeping my head down, I touch him and stroke him harder through his jeans. I have to get him to the right place. "Tim, the little lake, the one up the mountain path, by Jensen's farm. It's private, no one. . ."
"Yes, yes!" He eagerly agrees. My green eyes drown into his. Then I turn and look out the window when he starts the car and peels out to get on the highway. Of course, he doesn't remember. Doesn't phase him, so insignificant the event was to him. No association to. . .I stop the thought. No panicking, no rage. I'll make him remember. . .every detail. The winding road into the Eldorado Range and the speed he takes the corners scares me, all this for sex in the woods. Arriving alive and unclenching my fist from the "Oh Shit" handle hurt. We park at the National Park entrance. Ours is the only car in the lot. Soon though, it would be full of hikers that swarming the mountainous forest, lost in the vegetation, stumbling on water flowing or still, in all of nature's forms.
I intertwine my fingers through his, tugging him forward. Acting eager to be alone. The hard-packed dirt deadens the sounds of our hurried steps. The shade of the pine trees welcome in the June heat. The path is steep. His mindless chatter of what he wanted to do to me stops. I try to play the accommodating whore, but the sudden look of recognition plastered to his sweaty face makes me realize the hour is near. Carefully, stepping back, I observe his reaction.
"Dom. . .maybe we should go elsewhere. . . ." He looks frantically around. My gun is out. He left his back at the car. He never could follow protocol.
"Keep going, Tim. You can rest at the top," I pause, making my voice neutral, "At the scene."
The pleading begins as the realization and connections begin to form, "Dom, I'm sorry! I didn't know that was your daughter. .I'll make it right...I'll ..."
"Shut it, Tim. I look just like her. You knew." The summit's still gorgeous with the mule deer daisies, bright yellow near the clear,blue lake. The tall, green, wild grass waving acknowledgment, nodding in agreement with my quest. "We're here."
Ordering him to strip, I chain him to the lightning-struck tree that he had chained Samantha. Its jagged edges, charcoal and gray. No evidence of the violent colors from before. I have no idea of the expression on my face. My body felt cold, leaden and purposeful. The depths of my despair lessening, my spirit raises itself above the darkness. Tim's futile attempts at threats begin.
Toneless, I replied to his verbal abuse. "She's dead you bastard. You can never make it right."
Glancing around, I spot a branch about the same size and length as the one he used on her, my darling 18 year old daughter. She would have graduated today. I don't have the luxury days that he had in his torture of my miracle child. But I would do right by her memory in the short time that I had. Yes, he has one less opening than a female, but I could fix that.