A Strong Woman - Cover

A Strong Woman

Copyright© 2012 by Robert McKay

Chapter 4

When we were able to go back into the room, Burque was sitting up again on the edge of the exam table. She had on one of those silly little hospital gowns that provide about as much modesty as a square of toilet paper. I can't feature why they don't make 'em longer, and let 'em close in the back. A doctor could run an examination just as well if they did make 'em that way, and it would spare people a whole lot of embarrassment.

Burque was shivering, which wasn't surprising since they kept the place chilly. Cecelia looked around, and saw a blanket folded on a counter. She went and got it, and draped it around Burque's shoulders. The young lady drew it around her, and Cecelia held her close. Burque broke down then, leaning on Cecelia and crying desperately. Cecelia held her until she was finished, then patted her shoulder and went to get some Kleenex from the box on the counter. I would have been kissing Burque's hair, and whispering to her, and crying myself ... well, maybe I wouldn't have been kissing her hair – but Cecelia isn't so quick to openly express emotion. I knew she'd felt it even if she hadn't put it on display.

While Burque blew her nose and wiped her eyes, Cecelia shoved a trash can closer, and drew up a chair. She sat down, putting her head lower than Burque's, and said quietly, "Are you all right – as all right, I mean, as the circumstances permit?"

Burque nodded. I was leaning on the wall by the door, wishing I dared get closer. My hand had a frantic need to pat a shoulder, but after Burque's earlier flinch I knew better. So I stayed where I was, and watched and listened. Burque nodded again, and said, "I'm as good as I can be, Miz Carpenter. Tell me one thing – am I gonna get through this?"

"You will." The determination in Cecelia's voice left no room for doubt. "I do not promise you that it will be easy, but you will survive. It is not necessarily true that the things which don't kill us, make us stronger, but those who possess a strong character are able to surmount the obstacles which face them, and come out stronger on the other side."

"Do I have a strong character?"

"I cannot say definitively, having known you such a short time, and not on an intimate basis. But my husband thinks highly of you, and he has considerable practice in judging people; I trust his conclusions. And though you have endured a terrible thing, you are conversing intelligently on subjects of importance. I surmise that your character is, at the least, not conspicuously weak."

"You talk like a professor," Burque said, smiling just enough that I could barely see it.

"So my husband has said. I have, though, never taught anything more than an occasional Sunday School class – and though I'm willing enough, I find that I am not a teacher. I tend to be too impatient with those who do not immediately grasp my points."

The conversation was drifting, and eventually Burque would have to face what had happened, but for now just talking calmly and sanely was a good thing. If she could calm down, it would help. But her next utterance brought us right back to the point.

"Where are my clothes?" she asked.

Cecelia looked at me – she didn't know.

"The cops have 'em," I said. "There'll be trace evidence there, so the clothes will remain in evidence until the final disposition of the case."

"What final disposition?"

"Hopefully when they convict whoever did this and put him in the joint for a long long time."

I could almost see Burque steeling herself for what she said next. "Come here, Darvin."

I did, slowly. There was another chair in the room, and I pulled it over and sat down, so as to seem less threatening. Burque leaned away from me, but I don't think she realized she was doing it. Her fear was visceral, instinctive.

"You're a private detective, right?" she asked.


"Can you find the man who ... who did ... it ... to me?" She was having trouble saying it straight out.


"I want you to find him."

I looked at Cecelia, and then back at Burque. "I want to find him too. But I got a handicap or two."

"What handicaps?"

"First, the cops got a ton of people. They'll put a lot of 'em on the initial investigation. Twenty detectives and uniforms can talk to a lot more people, and gather a lot more evidence, in a lot shorter time, than one person – and I'm only one person. Second, they got technical resources I don't. They have Luminol, alternate light sources, DNA labs, access to AFIS and VICAP, all sorts of stuff that I can't do at all or have to do through others. If I go huntin' for this guy, I'll have to do it the hard way – by talking to everyone I possibly can who might know something, and hoping they'll tell me things they won't tell the cops."

"You make it sound hopeless."

"It ain't, quite. It's doable. But it'll be hard work."

Burque thought for a moment, her head bent. Somewhere during the day, probably during the rape, her Afro had gotten smashed flat in back, and it made her head look deformed. My fingers itched to try to fluff it up, but I knew I'd be better off to let Burque take a pick to it on her own.

Eventually she looked up, and though there were tears in her eyes and a quaver in her voice, she'd found some fierceness somewhere inside her. "Find him, Darvin – at least look for him."

I nodded. "You got any money?"

"It's over there," and she pointed to the other counter in the room, which was behind Cecelia. My wife turned in her chair, reached out a long arm, and snagged the pocketbook that lay there along with keys, change, and the other odds and ends that women carry about with them. It seemed that Burque hadn't been carrying a purse at the time of the rape, or else it would have been there – and besides, there wasn't enough stuff to have come out of a purse. Cecelia handed the pocketbook to Burque, who opened it up and began fishing in it.

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