A Strong Woman - Cover

A Strong Woman

Copyright© 2012 by Robert McKay

Chapter 8

I waited while Cecelia called Rudy, using the phone on my desk. I listened with half my mind, seeing whether she'd need help, but I didn't notice anything she did wrong or left out, and she never asked me to give her a boost. When she hung up she said, "Rudy will obtain all the information he can – sketch included – and have it for us in a day or two. The sketch will be the soonest, he believes, since the department is distributing that far and wide. He says that he can have an officer drop it by here this afternoon or tomorrow morning. I told him that today would be preferable – though I know you would rather not spend the day here."

"No, but I will. Oh, we'll go out to lunch, an' maybe take a walk around now and then, but I'll stay."

She pulled the page off the pad, put it with the other paperwork, and put it all in the manila folder. There was a label on the tab which read, Moreno, Albuquerque. We were reducing a human being and a horrible thing that happened to her, down to papers in a file. But I knew that Cecelia would do as I've always done, and remember the human being behind the paperwork. If I'd remained a cop I'd have had to learn to reduce the people to the paperwork, or go insane. That choice is one of the reasons I quit being a cop.

With the file organized, she looked directly at me. We don't often look into eyes, each others' or other people's, for reasons of our own, but just then she looked directly into mine. "What is your opinion of people who do such things?"

"Other than that they're scumballs?" I brushed my mustache with my thumb and forefinger, from above my lip to where it ended an inch or so below my jawline. "That's as much a theological question as anything, C. Lemme give you my view in two parts. As a cop and a human being – well, not a cop anymore, but you know what I mean – I really wonder whether they're human. Especially those who've demonstrated that they're brutally psychopathic – the ones who hurt and kill multiple times and it never once bothers 'em – those I really, really wonder about. Can you call someone human, in any real sense, when he doesn't have any conscience at all, and when he thinks every other person on the planet is an object to ignore if they're not in his way, and to brutalize if they are?"

I tapped my index finger on the desk for a moment. "But theologically I'm not sure it's that simple. Yeah, they lack a conscience. There's nothing in them which tells them it's wrong to steal, or rape, or murder, or torture – shoot, some of these people find that their best if not only source of sexual satisfaction is doing harm to other people. But does that mean, theologically, that they're not human? The Bible talks about people who've seared their consciences with an iron, or something along those lines, and the idea is that what they've done has burned the conscience out of 'em. If you've once had something, and you destroy it, does that remove you from the human race?

"And on top of that, I believe that if God Almighty chooses to save a psychopath, He can and it won't strain Him a bit. I don't know that He's ever done it. It seems to me it would require the creation of a conscience where one doesn't exist, but I don't know that He never has done it. I do know that if He chooses to, He can."

I took a breath. "So I don't really know what to think of such people, at least not abstractly. I do know what to think of whoever raped Burque – he's a slime, and I'm going to find him if at all possible, and if I have anything to say about it he'll never rape anyone else ever again."

"I cannot think when I last heard such a long impromptu speech from you," Cecelia said. "But I did ask a question with a rather wide scope. And I must confess that though I could analyze the matter for some time – longer than you did – I cannot fault your conclusion. Working with you, I'm beginning to see why you only concern yourself with the corner of the world in which you live. Speculation on the nature of those who do grievous harm to others may be of academic interest, but it has little bearing on whether you can locate a particular individual, or how you might go about doing so. It does not help Albuquerque to feel safe walking down the street, nor does it undo the harm which she has received."

"No, it don't." I thought before I said the next thing, and said it anyway. "I don't mean to jump down your throat, C, and if it sounds like that's what I'm doing I apologize. But I have told you so, more than once."

She nodded. "That is an unpleasant truth, but it is the truth. Until now I have not been equipped to grasp it – but now I believe I'm beginning to."

"We all learn stuff we'd rather not. I know things I wish I didn't. I've seen stuff I wish I hadn't seen. I've been in places I wish didn't exist. Cecelia, until you go into a house with roaches running around inside the crib with the baby, until you try to load a drunk into the car who's so stinking and filthy you don't know what disease you'll get just from touching him, until you've gone into a house where a boy's bleeding from the rectum because of what his father's just done, until you've waded in sludge and worse, you can't really know what law enforcement is like. Yeah, there are the times when you can deliver a baby or save a jumper or do something else that's uplifting. But most of it's a daily slog through the very bottom of the barrel, an' even for those of us who've chosen to do it, it ain't easy."

"I could almost believe," she said, "that you're trying to deter me from obtaining a private investigator's license."

"No, that's not what I'm after, though if it does run you off I won't hold it against you. Tain't everyone can do this kind of work, even as seldom as I actually do it. Most people can't do it, and don't want to, and that's all right. But what I'm trying to do is help you understand what you're getting into. If you've got open eyes gong in, it'll be easier to deal with what's coming down the road. Cecelia, I'm going to teach you to investigate my way – shoot, that's the only way I know to teach. But you might, at the end of the apprenticeship, decide you want to do this differently than I do. You might want to do it full-time, or you might decide you want to take cases that I won't touch with a pole. You might even decide to open your own office. And if you do, I want you to be ready – as ready, anyways, as you can be without actually doing it."

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