Driving east along the seawall, Sergeant, Ethan Brock reached to adjust the volume on his car’s stereo. Beginning at 6:00 PM on Sunday evenings, New York Public Radio hosted Live Jazz, one of his favorites. He looked up just in time to see a figure in a yellow rain slicker standing on the side of the road trying to wave him down. He slowed the cruiser, rolling to a stop next to a woman with a dog straining at its leash and barking in the direction of the beach.
He lowered the passenger window a couple of inches. The wind had picked up he noted as it attacked the small opening, blowing rain and surf into the warm interior of the car. He looked at the woman illuminated in the pale glow of a streetlight, its bulb haloed in the mist. She leaned her head near the open window and pointed towards the beach, telling him that there was a body down there. He placed the car in park and called his dispatcher, giving his location and the code that signified he would be out of his vehicle, but available on his portable radio.
A veteran of the Montauk Point Police Department, Ethan had seen his share of bodies, one or two each year, especially during the summer when the population of the small, Long Island resort community more than doubled. He followed the woman to the edge of the road and looked to where she pointed. He thought he might be able to discern something lying there, darker against the relative lighter sand. He shined his flashlight over the edge of the embankment trying to find a safe way down. Deciding to chance it, he eased his six-foot frame over the guardrail and gingerly picked his way through the dunes to the wet sand below.
He approached the body slowly; shining his light in a wide arc to make sure there was no one else in the area. Stopping about five-feet away, cognizant that this could be a crime scene, he looked hard at the body and how it lay. Seeing no other footprints except what looked like that of the victim’s, he moved closer. Kneeling, he shined the light on the face and pressed two fingers at the base of the jaw to check for a pulse.
The young woman moaned softly and her eyes fluttered.
“Miss?” Ethan asked, raising his voice to be heard over the wind, “Are you all right?”
She opened her eyes, winced, and tried to push his light away.
“It’s ok,” he tried to reassure her, and then asked, “Are you hurt?”
The woman shook her head. Then, as if she was just now starting to wake up, rose to a sitting position and tried to scoot away.
“Miss, it’s ok,” he told her again, “I’m Sergeant Brock with the Montauk Point Police Department. Do you need an ambulance?”
“No, please, I’m all right, just cold,” she said, shivering out the words.
Ethan thought he could smell alcohol on her breath when she spoke, but with the wind he wasn’t sure.
“Miss, have you been drinking this evening?”
She didn’t answer, but when she tried getting to her feet she swayed. Ethan caught her before she could fall.
“I think I need to call an ambulance just to make sure you’re ok,” he told her, reaching for the radio handset on his belt.
“No, please,” she said, looking up at him.
The surf roared around them and the wind grabbed at their clothes. Ethan looked down into the soft brown eyes looking up at him and thought for a moment, “Only if you agree to let me take you to a doctor I know here in town,” he told her. As she began to protest he placed a finger to her lips. “No argument, it’s either that or the ambulance.”
He felt her nod so he looped an arm around her waist and turned them towards the path that led back up to his car. As they climbed the embankment she saw the woman in the yellow rain coat looking down at them from the road. When she stopped abruptly Ethan asked her what was wrong.
“I don’t want anyone to see me,” she said.
Ethan didn’t say anything; he just slipped off his raincoat and laid it over her shoulders, pulling the hood up and over her head. As they reached the car he dug in his pocket for his keys, pushed the unlock button and guided the young women into the back seat.
Ethan thanked the woman with the dog and offered to call her a ride. She told him her name was Watson, and that no, she and Trixie would be fine. Ethan thanked her again before getting into his car and pulling away.
As he drove through the shiny rain soaked streets, he looked in his rearview mirror at the figure huddled in the back. Returning his gaze to the front, he reached and turned the heater on high. A soft jazz set started up on the radio as he placed both hands on the wheel and concentrated on the road.
He listened to the music, the windshield wipers swishing nearly with the beat; only a little behind the low strums of the base guitar.
Ethan tried to keep from glancing in the mirror but couldn’t help it. He finally forced himself to focus on his driving, trying without much success to act as if there was nothing unusual about having two-time, Academy Award winner Brittany Stephens sitting in the back of his squad car.