Qualified Entry: Fiction Category
By: Linda Hudson Hoagland
“I saw him hit her and I mean hit her. I could hear her teeth clash together. Then I saw her fall down,” Ellen told the Town of Stillwell Police Officer Charlie Martin who was standing in front of her.
“What happened next?”
“He drew back his foot and kicked her in the ribs.”
“I started screaming my head off. I wanted someone to stop him. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do it, but a man could have. A policeman with a gun could have shot him. That would have stopped him all right.”
“Did you recognize the man?”
“No, I never saw him before. I hope I don’t ever see him again. He is vicious and dangerous.”
“Do you know what brought on the attack?”
“No, she wasn’t doing anything. He just ran up to her and starting hitting.”
“Did he say anything to her?”
“All he said was ‘this is payback’.”
“Payback for what?” probed the police officer.
“I don’t know. Annie never told me that she was having any kind of man trouble.”
“What makes you think it was man trouble? What kind of man trouble?”
“It was a man beating on her. Wouldn’t you think it was man trouble?”
The policeman shrugged his shoulders and gave no verbal answer.
“Would you be able to recognize him if you saw him again?”
“Sure, I looked right at him.”
“That’s good. You might have to come to the station to look at some pictures or help us draw a sketch.”
“Can you describe him for me?”
“I thought you wanted me to look at pictures.”
“I do but any additional information will help. What did he look like?”
“He was white or Caucasian of average height with what I call dirty blonde hair that was graying around the edges.”
“How was he dressed?”
“Black faded jeans and a black, long-sleeved tee shirt. He had on white sneakers.”
“What about his head? Did he have anything on his head?”
“No, nothing. That’s why I could see his dirty blonde hair.”
“Is there anything else you can remember about him?”
“No, not at the moment.”
“Let me have your complete name.”
“It’s Ellen, Ellen Holcombe.”
“You wait right here, Ma’am. I’m going to go talk one of the other witnesses. I don’t want you to leave until I say you can go. I may have some more questions for you.”
Ellen shook her head in acknowledgement. She knew her two lady friends were going to tell the policeman the exact same thing she told him. They were standing next to her. They saw the same thing she did.
“I’m Officer Charlie Martin. What is your name?”
“You saw me talking with your friend Ellen. Now, I want you to tell me what you saw.”
“What did Ellen tell you?”
“She told me what she saw. Now – I want to know exactly what you saw.”
Geri looked flustered. She didn’t want to be involved in all of this commotion. She didn’t know Annie very well; basically only to say ‘hi.’ What were all of Geri’s church friends going to think?
“Well,” she said hesitantly, “I saw him running towards Annie. I don’t know if it was intentional but he crashed into her and her head went back. The force of the hit caused her teeth to rattle and she went down like a rock.”
“The blow to Annie caused by him running into her forced him to miss his stride. When Annie fell to the ground, he couldn’t get out of her way and he bumped into her with his foot. He almost fell over her.”
“You’re saying he ran into her. It was an accident?”
“Yes, that’s what it looked like to me. Isn’t that what Ellen said?”
“Did you know that running man?”
“He looked a little familiar. I don’t know why though. Maybe I’m confusing him with someone else. It happened so fast.”
“Would you be able to pick him out of a photo display?”
“No,” Geri said hesitantly, “I didn’t get a good enough look at his face.”
“Can you tell me what he was wearing?”
“Well – let me think. I need to get a picture of him in my mind,” explained Geri as she closed her eyes to ponder the answer to his question.
“Ma’am, anything will be of great help,” said Officer Martin as he tried to hurry her thinking process.
“Just one more second, Sir,” mumbled Geri. “There – there it is. I have a clear picture of his back and side. He didn’t seem very tall,” she said as she continued to hold her eyes tightly closed. “He was wearing blue jeans; a blue and white striped short-sleeved shirt that pulls over your head, and dark colored tennis shoes. Does that sound about right?”
“It’s not a question of sounding right, Ma’am. I need to know what you saw. That’s all,” he answered as he frowned at the words he had written down on his small notepad. “Did you see his hair? What color was his hair?”
“He had no hair. His head appeared to be shaved or he was completely bald. I don’t think he was old enough to be completely bald but you never know these days.”
“Did he say anything?”
“Nothing I could understand.”
“Is there anything else you might want to tell me about this man?”
“Yes. I think he was Hispanic.”
“Isn’t that what Ellen told you?”
“No, Ma’am, it isn’t.”
“I know what I saw.”
“I’m sure you do,” said Officer Martin as he turned to glance into the direction of witness number three. “Don’t leave just yet. It won’t take much longer. I need to talk to your other friend. You can join your friend Ellen if you would like.”
Officer Martin approached the third witness with dread. He had been told many times that eyewitnesses were very unreliable but this was the first time he had really seen such a disparity between the descriptions.
“I’m Officer Charlie Martin. I need to get some information from you about what happened when your friend was hurt. Let me have your name, please.”
“Okay, Ms. Rollins, describe what you saw.”
“You have talked to Ellen and Geri. I’m sure they gave you an accurate description of the event. Why would I need to give you another one corroborating the same story?” questioned Peggy in her own peculiar way.
“Both ladies have told me their interpretation of the event, but I need yours just to make sure that all three of you are on the same page. Now – please, Ms. Rollins, begin with the moment you saw the assailant.”
“You called him an assailant. I don’t know if that was what he was. There was someone chasing him and he ran into Annie full force. I don’t think he could stop himself.”
“You mean it wasn’t intentional?”
“No, Annie was in his path.”
“Did he strike her?”
“He appeared to make a motion with his right arm. I think he was trying to get her to move at the last moment before the collision.”
“So you’re saying the whole scene was merely an accident.”
“Yes but there was someone chasing him. Once he ran into Annie, that someone left my field of vision and I didn’t see him again.”
“Can you describe the man who was chasing the man that ran into Annie?”
“No – no way – I just caught a glimpse of him.”
“How about the one involved in the collision?”
“What do you want to know specifically?” asked Peggy.
“What was he wearing?”
“He was running until he smacked into Annie. When he knocked her down, I didn’t pay any attention to him. I was concerned about Annie.”
“You don’t remember anything about how he was dressed?” probed Officer Martin.
“Well, yes, but I’m not real sure. I wouldn’t testify to it in court.”
“We need any help we can get, Ma’am,” urged the frustrated police officer.
“I remember khaki shorts and a pale yellow muscle shirt. You know, the kind of shirt that has no sleeves. It looks like an old-fashioned underwear shirt for a man. He was kind of short. That’s all I can remember. He was a blur and I wasn’t paying attention to his clothes, Officer.”
“Yes, Ma’am. What about his hair?”
“It was black, long and bushy looking; like he hadn’t combed it for days.”
“Anything else? Can you remember anything else at all?”
“He was wearing brown sandals.”
“What about his skin color?”
“White, of course.”
“Is that it?” asked Officer Martin as he rubbed at his head while holding his hat cocked over to the side.
“Officer Martin, what did Ellen and Geri say?”
“Ma’am, I don’t believe any of the three of you were looking at the same event. The descriptions aren’t even close,” replied Officer Martin who immediately regretted answering that question. He should have said nothing. He knew that; but, he was so aggravated with what he was hearing from what appeared to be three intelligent, respectable women.
“What do you mean?” demanded Peggy.
“I’m sorry, Ma’am, I can’t talk about the details.”
“That’s fine with me. I’ll just ask my friends to tell me what they said,” snapped Peggy with a definite sarcastic tone.
“I’d rather you didn’t do that, compare notes I mean. The investigation is still on going.”
“It’s not against the law, is it?”
“Then I guess you can’t stop us from talking to each other. After all, we are friends, the three of us work together every day. We will be talking no matter what you say.”
“Yes, Ma’am,” said Officer Martin with a nod of acknowledgement. He wasn’t about to argue with the lady. She seemed a little too defensive to suit him.
Peggy turned away from Officer Martin and walked directly towards her two friends and coworkers.
Officer Martin saw them gesticulating with their talking. He knew there was trouble brewing by the way the hands were flying around and the volume of their voices that increased with every retort. He watched the ladies for a while until the group broke up and headed in three different directions. Then, he decided he needed to go to the hospital to check on Annie before reporting to the Chief of Police.
Officer Martin stood in front of the automatic double doors to the emergency department barely out of the site line of the electric eye that would initiate the opening action of the entrance. He watched for a few moments so he could determine where all of the action was happening. He was sure they would still be making life saving efforts on the prone form of Annie Simons.
He spotted the busy cubicle in the trauma area. The curtains were drawn completely around it to shut out prying eyes.
Officer Martin stepped forward to activate the doors.
No one paid any attention to him. They were busy scurrying in and out of the curtained cubicle.
She didn’t hear him.
“Mary, I need to ask you a question,” he said as he stood in front of a woman dressed in brightly colored scrubs.
“What do you need, Charlie?”
“Is Annie Simons in there?” asked Officer Martin as he pointed towards the curtained area.
“Yes, I think that’s her name.”
“Is she able to talk to me?”
“Not now, she is unconscious. What actually happened to this woman?”
“That’s what I’m trying to find out.”
“You had better talk to the witnesses,” said the nurse as she turned away from the officer.
“I did but they were no help, believe me,” he said in a disgusted tone. “When should I come back?”
“Couple of hours,” said Mary as she disappeared behind the curtains.
“Mary,” shouted the officer, “call me at the office if she wakes up before I get back here.”
“Will do, Charlie.”
Officer Martin sat in the police vehicle and looked at his notes.
“How could the stories from the witnesses be so different?” he mumbled as he drove the short distance to the police station.
“You got any idea how three ladies can look at the same scene and tell me such totally different stories?”
“Now, remember when I told you that eyewitnesses can’t be trusted?”
“Sure I do, Chief, but I didn’t think the stories would be so wide apart, if you know what I mean.”
“Did you talk to the victim?”
“No, she is unconscious. The hospital will call me if she wakes up before I get back.”
“That’s who you need to talk to, you know.”
“I know, Chief. I know. I just hope she does wake up. She’s pretty bad off.”
Officer Martin pulled his notepad from his pocket and stared at the words he had scribbled onto the paper. He was determined to make sense of what the three women witnessed.
“Chief, this is what I have. Can you help me try to put it together?”
“I’ll do what I can.”
“To start with, they don’t agree on the race. Two of them say he is white; one says he is Hispanic; but they agree on average height or shorter.”
“I’d go with a short, tanned, white person,” said the Chief with a smile.
“They do not agree at all on the hair or if he had hair. One says he is dirty blonde. I’d call that a light brown but you know how women are. Another says he has long, bushy, dark hair. The third says he has no hair.”
“Short light brown hair sounds like a good compromise to me,” added the Chief.
“Next – it’s the clothes and that is really strange, too: black jeans and a long-sleeved black tee from Ellen; blue jeans and a white and blue striped shirt from Geri; and khaki shorts and a yellow muscle shirt from Peggy. How do you make sense out of that?”
“Dark blue jeans with a yellow or black tee shirt.”
“White sneakers, dark tennis shoes, or sandals, which one would you guess?”
“Beige sneakers because of one of them said she saw sandals.”
“Okay, now I’ll go to the scene. One said it was an intentional assault. Two say it was an accident with one of those two saying he ran into Annie purely by accident because he couldn’t stop himself in time. The other said someone was chasing the man that basically over ran the victim. Again, it was unintentional.”
“Charlie, my gut tells me it was no accident. I would have to say it was purposeful.”
“Well, that leaves us with a tanned, white male that was holding a grudge against Annie Simons. He had short brown hair wearing dark blue jeans and a yellow or black tee shirt and beige sneakers.
“Are you sure it was a man? You all just assumed that didn’t you?”
“You don’t think a woman did this, do you, Chief?” asked Officer Martin.
“Why not? A woman running fast enough and hard enough could do just as much damage as a man could.”
“I never thought about it that way, but I guess you’re right, Chief.”
“Like I said earlier, Martin, you need to speak to the victim.”
“That’s what I’m going to try to do right now,” said Officer Martin as he walked through the door headed towards the police vehicle.
Officer Martin entered the emergency room and the high speed activity he had seen earlier had dissipated. A couple of the cubicles were occupied but obviously they weren’t the type of emergency the medical personnel had faced with the arrival of Annie Simons.
“Mary, where is Annie Simons?”
“How is she doing?”
“Not good. She has a brain injury.”
“Did she gain consciousness?”
“For a few moments and then she was out again. Doctor says she is in a coma.”
“Does he expect her to ever wake up?”
“He doesn’t know.”
“I’m going over to ICU and poke my head in to let them know I need to talk to her when she wakes up. See you later, Mary. Thanks for the information,” the officer said as he turned to leave.
Wires and hoses were attached all over Annie Simons. There wasn’t any part of her frail body that they weren’t monitoring.
“I’m Officer Martin,” he told the nurse sitting behind the desk. “I need to question Ms. Simons as soon as she is able to talk to me.”
“That won’t happen for a while. She is in a coma but she is showing signs of trying to wake up.”
“How long do you think it will be?”
“You need to talk to her doctor, but it will take her a little bit longer to get fully awake, if she does wake up.”
“What are her chances of waking up?”
“I’d say it’s fifty-fifty, but you never know with brain injuries. Even if she does wake up she may not be able to tell you anything because of memory loss which is pretty common.”
“Has she said anything?” probed Officer Martin.
“Yes, she keeps saying a name over and over again.”
“Do you know who Lisa is?”
“Call me at the police station when she wakes up. I really need to talk to her. Ask for Officer Martin.”
He contemplated his next step as he drove the short distance to the police station. He pulled his notepad from his shirt pocket as soon as he reached his desk. He started making phone calls.
“Yes, this is she.”
“Officer Martin here. Your friend Annie Simons keeps whispering the name of Lisa. Do you know who Lisa might be?”
“No, I’m sorry. I don’t know any Lisa’s.”
“Thank you,” said Officer Martin as he disconnected the call and immediately entered Geri Hampton’s number.
“Annie keeps saying Lisa. Do you know who Lisa is?”
“Let me think,” said Geri.
Officer Martin could see her in his mind as she closed her eyes and willed herself into deep thought.
“No, no, I don’t think I’ve heard her talk about a Lisa. I don’t know any Lisa’s, as a matter of fact . How is she….”
“Thanks,” he said as he disconnected Geri and entered Ellen’s phone number.
“Ellen Holcombe? This is Officer Martin. Do you know anyone named Lisa?”
“That’s what I’m trying to find out.”
“Annie has a sister named Lisa Simons. I don’t think she has married yet so it would still be Simons. Has anyone contacted her?”
“No, Ma’am, we didn’t know she had a sister. Do you have her number?”
“I believe she is staying with Annie.”
“What is Annie’s number and address? I have the information off her driver license but her phone number wasn’t on it, of course. I just want to double check the address, if you have it.”
“Sure, no problem. I’ll get them for you,” said Ellen as she pulled her address book from her handbag.
Officer Martin decided not to call the number Ellen had given him. Instead, he drove to the address and parked on the opposite side of the street. He wanted to watch the house and get a feel for the area.
He saw the curtain move – maybe. He was far enough away from it for movement to be hard to distinguish.
Then he saw it. A body was running away from him, down the street.
Officer Martin went into cop mode and took off after the running figure except that he was in the police vehicle.
The running person glanced back at his car but never slowed.
He started the siren and lights hoping the frightened runner would slow or stop.
The runner turned right, down a narrow alley that, fortunately for Officer Martin, was a dead end. The runner had nowhere to go and turned to face the oncoming vehicle head on.
Officer Martin jumped out of the vehicle and approached the frightened runner with his gun drawn as a safety measure.
“Are you Lisa Simons?”
The runner was leaning over gasping for breath.
“I asked you if you are Lisa Simons.”
“Yes,” she answered breathlessly eyeing the gun cautiously.
He watched her closely. He was not sure if she was pretending to struggle for breath to prepare herself for a rapid take off or not. He holstered his gun and watched her every movement.
He made a mental note of what she was wearing: a navy blue blouse, blue jeans, and dirty once-white sneakers. Her brown hair was pulled back in a ponytail with loose wisps of it falling across her face.
He finally understood why the descriptions were so different.
“Why are you chasing me?”
“I need to talk to you about your sister?”
“Is my sister okay?”
“No, Ma’am. She is in Intensive Care and the prognosis is not too good for her coming out of the coma.”
“Coma? Annie’s in a coma? Why?”
“When you ran her down, she hit her head and was pretty bruised up.”
“I didn’t mean to hurt her. It was just a game we have played since we were kids.”
“It’s a little rough, isn’t it?”
“I guess I really caught her off guard. Normally she side steps me and comes running after me. When I knocked her down, I kept running because I knew she would catch up with me and return the favor. I had no idea she was so badly hurt. Then, when she didn’t come home, I didn’t know what to do.”
“Why did you run from me?”
“I was scared.”
“When I came back to town, I had left a bad relationship at college. I took a couple of things that used to belong to my boyfriend, but he gave them to me. When I left, he wanted them back but they were mine and I was keeping them. It wasn’t much, just a ring and a necklace. I thought he sent the police after me to collect his possessions.”
“Did you intend to cause your sister harm?”
“God, no, never. It was just a game.”
“I’ll drive you to the hospital to see Annie. Get into the back of my vehicle.”
Officer Martin walked with Lisa through the hospital to the ICU waiting room where he left her sitting while he checked in with the nurse.
The nurse led Officer Martin and Lisa Simons into the area where they could see Annie’s prone form with a multitude of hoses, wires, and monitors of all kinds attached to her frail body that looked even smaller on the elevated hospital bed.
Lisa was crying softly uttering Annie’s name and rubbing the exposed area of her left arm.
Annie’s eyes fluttered and you could hear a distorted “Lisa” whispered despite the tubes in her nose and mouth.
Officer Martin left the room and mentally closed the case.
“It was just a game,” he mumbled.