Katherine’s slight stirring, wincing, and flickering eyelids suggested she was fighting a resistance. It was her first signs of rousing.
What’s going on? My body feels heavy. I can’t think clearly. My brain is filled with fog.
Suddenly, he returned, and with the image, came the fear. There he stood, at the foot of the bed, his head fully covered by a black balaclava.
Not willing to suffer, Katherine panicked and reverted back to the safe haven of her coma, with a scream lodged in her throat.
Hearing her daughter stir Barbara sprung from the chair, and gently tapped Katherine’s left cheek. “Katherine, can you hear me? Darling, please . . . open your eyes.”
Katherine’s body went completely rigid and immediately began to shake. Barbara did what most mothers would do under the circumstances; she screamed.
Three nurses entered the room at a run, bustled Barbara aside, and promptly went into action.
“What’s happening to my daughter?” Teary eyed also, Barbara began to panic.
With Katherine’s welfare her priority, the head nurse said to another, “Call Doctor Gilmore, and make it quick.”
The nurse receiving the instruction hastily vacated the room.
Barbara moved nearer to Katherine, but the nurse in charge said, “Mrs. Harris, could you please move aside so we can take care after your daughter. We need as much space as we can get. It’d be better if you sat down, or wait in the corridor.”
“She’s crying!” another nurse suddenly remarked. Tears were flowing from the corners of Katherine’s eyes.
Barbara, so overwhelmed by what she was witnessing, eventually, but reluctantly, sat down.
As Doctor Gilmore rushed in he placed a hand on her shoulder, as an acknowledging sign.
With his report written, he looked to Barbara. “What you saw can be distressing. It happens sometimes, but it is due to the morphine. It can cause nightmares. However, I can assure you she will be okay. Once the sutures are removed she’ll definitely be more comfortable.”
“Are you sure she’s okay? She went completely stiff. I’ve never known her to doing anything like that before!”
“Unfortunately, she’s also suffered mentally. We will monitor her closely while she is recuperating. With you being a psychologist, it will certainly be of help. If she is not coping psychologically, you will recognise the signs faster than we would. I know this is easier said than done, but try not to worry too much. I am sorry, but I have to leave you. I’ll come and see her later.”
Barbara instinctively knew Katherine’s actions were not solely due to drugs. Something else forced her to go stiff. It could be from fear.
JM entered the room, but Barbara’s expression was ample warning that something was amiss. His gaze immediate turned to Katherine. She appears the same. What is going on? He could sense a change had occurred.
Not able to contain herself, Barbara spoke of what had developed. “She went completely stiff. I thought she was dying, and I panicked. The nurses took care of her . . . until Doctor Gilmore came. He said its probable cause was morphine. She also had tears coming from the corners of her eyes. How is that possible if she is unconscious? I think the doctor’s wrong. I think there’s more to it.”
JM stood behind her, placed his arms over her shoulders, and gave her a gentle squeeze. “It must have been terrible to see.”
“Good morning, Detective Perez,” JM said, as two people entered the room. He quickly glanced at his wristwatch. It was almost midday.
“Good morning, JM. Good morning, Barbara. This is my partner, Detective Andretta. JM, I asked last night if you could think of anyone who may have had a key to the apartment or building, but you said you didn’t know of anyone. Is that still correct?”
“Barbara, can you think of anyone who may have had a key?”
Detective Perez hesitated, looked at Katherine, then asked, “Do you know of anyone who’d want to harm you or your family?”
Detective Perez noticed Barbara’s glance to JM. “Please … if you have something, a name, anything at all, we’d appreciate you telling us. It could help.”
Impulsively she turned to JM. “JM?” She was almost demanding an answer.
Barbara was quick to respond, “I’m a psychologist and practice in the Back Bay area. One of my patients is a court-appointed pro bono, and he is a patient of my husband. He was in need of some dental work so I asked my husband to do it, not long after our consultations began. You do realize I’m not at liberty to discuss his psychiatric condition?”
“I know the procedure, but can we at least have his name and latest address? If we can interview him we may get an indication if he was involved, or not?”
Barbara moved closer to the door, then waved in a summoning motion to her husband and the two detectives. “I don’t want Katherine to hear any more of our conversations. His name is Bruno Novak. I do not know his address, but I could ring my office and ask the receptionist. Would that help?” she asked, in a whisper.
“Thanks. Could you ring now?”
“Yes. It shouldn’t take long,” Barbara said, as she reached into her handbag for her cell phone. To ensure Katherine could not hear her conversation she walked out to the corridor.
“Regarding Bruno Novak, do you agree with Barbara?” Detective Perez asked quietly.
“Yes. He has been in our apartment once before and he would know his way around, but I do not know how he would get in. Barbara has been treating him, but ever since he came to our apartment one Saturday evening she’s become wary of him.”
“We’ll interview him as soon as possible. With Katherine and Mrs. Kowalski both unconscious, it may not be easy to discover the perpetrator’s identity. We’re hoping he’s left some evidence to incriminate himself. Is there anyone else you can think of? Anyone at all?”
JM, resigned to not being of help, said, “No.”
“I’ll get the address from Barbara. We’ll leave now, but we’ll be in contact. Thanks for your help. I promise we’ll get this animal. Please accept our sympathy.”
“Are we allowed to go to our apartment to get some extra clothing?”
“I’m not sure if forensics have completed their part of the investigation, but if not it shouldn’t be too much longer.”
Just then, Barbara re-entered the room and handed Detective Perez Bruno’s last known address.
“Mrs. Kowalski is conscious. She’s still under medication so she’s a little drowsy,” a nurse announced immediately on entering Katherine’s room, in the early evening.
JM was just closing Sophia’s door when Barbara turned and looked at him. The white bandages encircling Sophia’s inclined head were in stark contrast to that of her blood-filled eyeballs and their blackened surrounds. She looks eerie, Barbara thought.
Each had walked to either side of the bed and held one of her hands. Only then did they become aware of her trembling body. “Should we call a doctor?” Barbara asked.
Before JM could reply Sophia’s hands gripped theirs. She had woken to the horror of knowing she had failed her Katherine, and them.
Although her mutterings were difficult to understand, her agitation was apparent.
Fortuitously a nurse had entered; in time to observe Sophia’s unpleasant situation. She perused the monitor’s display, then said, “Could you wait in the corridor, please. I need to examine Mrs. Kowalski.”
Even though Sophia could feel herself drifting back into the black hole she’d just emerged from, her instincts were telling her Katherine hadn’t fared well.
Barbara’s guilt was beginning to manifest. She, too, was regretting the New York visit.
JM, wanting to clarify his personal feelings, asked, “Even though there could be doubts, I believe it was Bruno. Do you?”
“Yes!” There was no room for error in misinterpreting her emphatic answer.
JM then thought of himself not only as a father, but also as a husband. How do I respond? What would my family expect from me? Even if I wanted to retaliate … how do I?
“I need you go to the apartment and get some things for Katherine, Sophia, and me.” Barbara said to JM, as they sat together in Katherine’s room. It was late afternoon, the following day.
“Can you write a list of what you need?”
JM could see, through the sleety snow and from within the confines of the warm taxi, some lights aglow in his apartment. It looks as though the police are still there.
As JM attempted to enter the building, a police officer stood in his way. “I’m sorry, but this is a crime scene and no-one’s allowed in.”
“I live here!”
“I’m sorry, no-one’s allowed in.” The officer stood firmly in the doorway, refusing to move.
“Who is it?”
JM had heard the voice before.
Not waiting, JM loudly replied, “It’s Doctor Harris!” Although he could not see the voice’s owner, he knew who it was, Detective Andretta.
“Let him in,” the detective called to the officer, from within the apartment. Within the same timeframe it took for JM to be standing at the bottom of the stairs, Detective Andretta had come out to the landing.
Sophia’s ajar apartment door attracted JM’s attention. Endeavoring to hug the wall, he judiciously ascended the stairs. Contaminating evidence is the last thing I need.
“Good afternoon, Doctor Harris. Forensics have just gone. They’ve taken more DNA and blood samples, but you do know you’re not supposed to be here.”
“I know … but my wife and I need clean clothing. I also have to collect some things for my daughter and Mrs. Kowalski. I’ll be careful not to touch anything else.”
It was an instinctive gesture on JM’s behalf, having entered his apartment, but he immediately looked in the direction of his daughter’s room. What he saw was confronting. The sight of the blood-saturated mattress made him feel ill. He forced himself to ask the question, “How did my daughter survive?”
“She must be strong willed.”
The absence of linen also attracted JM’s attention. “Where are the sheets and the pillow cases? Were they taken for testing?”
Detective Perez suddenly appeared from the living room. “No. They were missing when we got here. We think the intruder took them … probably trying to hide any evidence. I’m sorry you witnessed it. You could be of some assistance, if you don’t mind.”
“In what way?”
“Could you go into each room and tell me if you think anything is missing. Would you be up to it?”
“I’ll do my best.” What am I supposed to be looking for? He walked into his bedroom and immediately his eyes began to search. I have never looked at our bedroom like this before. Not taking everything for granted.
Satisfied that no clothing had been disturbed in their wardrobes, he moved to the dressing table.
“Everything appears to be here, but it’s mainly Barbara’s domain.” He made mental notes of items as he went. Hair brushes, combs, hair spray, lipsticks, perfume, a mixture of photographs of Katherine, and the jewellery box.
On opening the top left side drawer, it was apparent her lingerie was in disarray, which, he thought, was at odds to Barbara’s habit of neatly folding them. The strong odour of bleach grabbed his attention. Sophia usually uses bleach for cleaning our bathroom, but it never smells this strong.
“Why is there a strong smell of bleach?”
“We think the intruder wiped everything he came in contact with,” Detective Andretta replied.
“He certainly wanted to cover his tracks.” He walked to the doorway, turned, to take a second look. “From what I can see there’s nothing missing.”
“We’ll go to Katherine’s room, but if at any time you feel you can’t continue please say so,” Detective Perez suggested.
He was still trying to come to terms with the scene that confronted him earlier, although he now clearly understood the magnitude of his daughter’s suffering.
“If you wish to stop, we can,” Detective Perez said, compassionately. “Michael, could you get Doctor Harris a glass of water, please.”
“No, thanks, I’m okay. Let’s get this over with.”
He was in a state of near mental numbness by the time he had finished examining the bedrooms. Only the living room and kitchen remained.
The destruction of Katherine’s paintings, violin, and photos stunned him. He bent forward, gathered up a piece of a painting he had always admired, and for some inexplicable reason, said, “The rapist was here solely for revenge.”
“We tend to agree with you. As we said before, we don’t consider this a burglary. Only by searching will know if anything’s stolen. It appears as though the intruder deliberately set out to harm your family. This Bruno Novak character … are you sure he’s the only one you can think of?”
“Right at this moment I can’t think of anyone else.” With no other name to add to their list, he was becoming increasingly frustrated. How could someone could act so violently?
Detective Perez, wanting to acknowledge his input, said, “We know it wouldn’t have been easy to walk through and see what’s taken place, but I’d like to thank you for having done so. We’ll wait until you collect the things you came for, then we’ll lock up. I suggest you have the locks changed as a priority. In the meantime, we’ll arrange for a patrol car to keep an eye on your building.”
JM deposited clothing and items into a medium sized bag as he moved swiftly between bedrooms, before finishing in bathroom.
“Officer Dunbar? Please drive Doctor Harris back to the hospital before you return to the station,”
Detective Perez called, to the officer standing at the front door.
“I’ll can take a taxi.”
“It’s the least we can do.”
“Will you keep me informed if there are any developments?” JM was hoping to hear of Bruno’s arrest.
As the police officer drove to the hospital, JM thought of the last few days, and their consequences.