She remained in police protective custody for the rest of the night. The two officers in the cruiser – one of them was a woman, thank God, and Bethany wasn’t sure why that made her feel better but it did – had asked her about the man they had seen her with. Apparently, they had been watching her and Adriel discuss her next move at the crosswalk.
“Whenever we see a man with a woman outside the park this late, and they give us the once-over from across the street, we notice,” the female officer had said.
Once Bethany had told them what had happened, and that the man she was with had helped her (and that she thought his name was Aiden), they put in a call to monitor all hospital admittances following the time of the attack. Then they took her to Magee Women’s Hospital for her minor abrasions, a rape kit, and to get a DNA swab from her fingernails. As they were swabbing her nails, she recalled that she had never actually touched Adriel, but her nails might have picked up some fibers from his coat. Still, they were looking for flesh and blood, so she figured his identity would remain safe. It wasn’t long before a hospital reported one man arriving in the ER with injuries that matched her report. They asked her if she was okay to go to the hospital to see if she could identify him, and she was. When they got to the hospital, she waited at the front desk with the female officer while her partner went into the room where the suspect was being treated. Once he had been secured, they brought her in. Although it had been dark, and she had had her face pressed into the ground, she recognized the man’s coat and hat, and the look on his face when she walked in with the other officer told her that he was the one that had pulled her jeans down. She was happy to see he looked pretty banged up. Adriel’s assessment had been correct: two broken ribs, a broken nose, a broken jaw, and a concussion. The doctor told them that one of the ribs had almost punctured a lung. Bethany kept her eyes on the guy as the doctor told them this. He wouldn’t look at her. Good, she thought. I wish he had punctured both your lungs, and you had died wheezing on the ground, gurgling on your own blood.
Soon, more officers arrived, the man was placed under arrest, and a guard was posted by his bed. When he was well enough to travel, they would move him to a cell to await trial. The police said they would keep an eye out for his accomplice and assured her that if he didn’t turn up at a hospital, then the one in custody would eventually give him up. They claimed to have tactics that proved effective 90 per cent of the time. She didn’t care. She was simply happy to have been able to face one of her attackers – Mr. Thumb – and to have seen him suffer. Whatever happened now, he was fucked. He didn’t look like he had insurance, and the hospital bill alone would screw him more than he had been able to screw her. She, she reminded herself, had come away relatively unscathed. Minor abrasions. It could have been a lot worse. Still, she felt sick to her stomach that she had been in that situation at all. She wished she could go home and take a shower.
Back at the police station, she told her story again, signed her statement, and the policewoman, Officer Barrett who had stayed with her the whole night, asked her if she had somewhere to go, anyone she could call.
“Maybe,” she said, taking Adriel’s card from her pocket. “Is there a phone I can use?”
They let her into the captain’s office where she could talk on the phone in private. The captain was out for the night. She took the phone out of its cradle and held it for a second. Did she really want to call this guy she had just met? He seemed genuinely nice, but anyone can seem nice at first. Still, her curiosity was getting the better of her now. The police had asked so many questions about him, and she finally had just said, “Look, all I can tell you is that he saved me, he beat the shit out of those assholes, and I think his name is Aiden. I don’t know where he lives or why he wouldn’t come talk to you, but I wouldn’t press any charges against him, so what else can I do?” The police had just exchanged a look, and let it go. Perhaps they were worried about a possible vigilante. Perhaps she had watched too many Batman movies.
She was dialing the number. The phone was silent for a moment, and she began to think that maybe she had misdialed. Then there was a tone… a series of five tones. Then the line clicked, and it started to ring. On the third ring, it clicked again, and a voice said, “Hello, Bethany. Are you with the police?”
It sounded like Adriel.
“Yes,” she said. “I’m at the police station. They’re turning me loose and want to know if I have a place to stay.”
There was a pause.
“You do,” he said. “Are you alone?”
“Alright. Tell them you are going to stay with a friend, and then walk out the main entrance, turn left, and go around the block. Across the street behind the station, there is a diner. I’m there.”
“What if they follow me?” she asked. She thought she heard a chuckle.
“That’s cute,” he said. “They won’t.”
There was another click, and he was gone. She sat there a moment and considered her situation. Was she really going to do this? Walk out of the warm, safe police station and go meet this black-eyed weirdo?
Fuck that she thought. Then she sat, thinking again. Why couldn’t the cops just let her crash out for a while on the couch in the captain’s office? It was right there. She shook her head. This is the plight of the homeless, she thought. Even the police can’t offer respite. If they did, they’d become a flophouse. Or so they said. She figured if she really needed it, told them she had nowhere else to go, they would drop her off back at the shelter. She had had enough fighting for one night. She was exhausted, and now just wanted to sleep. In her exhausted mind, Adriel seemed her best option. He had already proven as well as he could that he wouldn’t hurt her, and somehow she trusted him more than the thieves at the shelter, and she was exhausted and thinking in circles that were becoming whirlwinds, so she dialed the number on the card again. She was answered by three tones this time, and then a recorded voice said, “We’re sorry, but the number you are calling cannot be completed as dialed. Please check the number…” She hung up and dialed again, and again she got the recording. She stared at the phone, then put it back in its cradle.
She told the police she was going to meet a friend. They asked for a number where she could be reached. She gave them the number of the shelter. They gave her some paperwork and told her to come back in forty-eight hours to check on the progress of her case. Ten minutes later, she was walking into Ritter’s Diner, where Adriel was sitting in a booth, sipping a cup of hot chocolate.