Amelia could only open one eye to see the young woman seated beside her. Amelia’s other eye was swollen shut.
Though not beautiful, the young woman’s straight dark hair and high cheekbones could have achieved elegance. But the small dark eyes had no depth. Most damning of all, a nervous tic forever twitched the thin lips into endless expressions of petulance.
“So unreasonable!” the young woman blurted out while grinding Amelia’s blood into her shoe in a fit of temper.
“Gently dab,” Amelia reminded her. “Don’t smear or grind it in.”
Amelia hurt all over. Still, gently moving this and that, she felt pretty sure nothing was broken.
To escape her pain, she struggled to see the carvings from the night before. Soft morning light caressed what she believed was Hamlet delivering his “To be or not to be” soliloquy but failed to clean Lady Macbeth’s hands. Still it glittered over the riot of Rococo curlicues that framed the entrance to the building behind them, reminding Amelia of the fascination with the theatre she had shared with her mother.
The theatre. She smiled faintly. Why they’d been so fascinated with it they never knew.
Amelia looked farther down the brownstone-lined street. An empty lot allowed great shafts of light to slant low through the mighty oaks and sycamores that encroached on the sidewalk. A breeze ruffled their branches, shifting the shafts of light about till they danced across the street to the rustling of the wind. The air was sweet, delicately scented with the freshness of morning, and peaceful.
Suddenly the storage space’s door burst open. Amelia saw a cop emerge amid its carvings. Like most cops, he took one look at her homeless rags and looked away, but then he zeroed in on the young woman still seated beside her.
“Hey,” he shouted at the young woman. “You there!”
Petulance spasmed the young woman’s lips as she ignored this interruption and continued dabbing her shoe, her back to the cop.
“Young lady,” persisted the cop, “is your name Jennifer and were you in this storage space last night?”
Shock wiped all the petulance off the young woman’s face, though the cop behind her couldn’t see this. Realization replaced the shock. Finally a terror took over that broke Amelia’s heart. Plus Amelia could read lips. The words the young woman mouthed silently were, “First-degree murder. And I didn’t do it!”
“Officer,” said Amelia, which cost her a stab of pain as her lip started to bleed again.
He ignored her.
Amelia struggled to think of some lie that would spare him having to take her injuries seriously. “Officer, I got really drunk last night, really knocked myself around good, didn’t I? Got here yesterday afternoon. Guess that’s what happens when you drink too much too long.”
The cop guffawed. Amelia figured she’d done right not to burden him with having to do his job by telling him she’d been assaulted.
“But I can tell you this young woman, who only showed up this morning, never went into that storage space last night. Hell, it was night and it was locked anyway. Otherwise I could have gotten inside. As it was, all I could do was call out to people passing by to report my murder. Like I say, I was drunk. Probably confused a lot of people and got them thinking all kinds of things.”