Thursday, July 26, 2007
The Opening of The Crime Writer
I woke up with IVs taped to my arms, a feeding tube shoved through my nose, and my tongue pushed against my teeth, dead and thick as a sock. My mouth was hot and tasted of copper, and my molars felt loose, jogged in their beds from grinding. I blinked against the strong light, and squinted into a haze of face, too close for casual—a man straddling a backward chair, thick forearms overlapped, a sheet of paper drooping from one square fist. Another guy behind him, dressed the same—rumpled sport coat, loose tie offset from open collar, glint at the hip. Downgraded to bystander, a doctor stood by the door, ignoring the electronic blips and bleeps. I was in a hospital room.
With consciousness came pain. No tunnels of light, no bursts or fireworks or other page-worn clichés, just pain, mindless and dedicated, a rottweiler working a bone. A creak of air moved through my throat.
“He’s up,” said the doctor from faraway. A nurse materialized and fed a needle into the joint in my IV. A second later the warmth rode through my veins and the rottweiler paused to catch his breath.
I raised an arm trailing IV lines and fingered my head where it tingled. Instead of hair, a seam of stubble and stitches cactused my palm. Lightheadedness and nausea compounded my confusion. As my hand drifted back to my chest, I noticed dark crescents caking the undersides of my nails.
I’d dug myself out of somewhere?
The cop in the chair flipped the piece of paper over and I saw that it was an 8 x 10.
A crime-scene photo.
A close-up of a woman’s midsection, the pan of the abdomen caked with dark blood. A narrow puncture below the ribs faded into blackness, as if a stronger flashbulb were required to sound its depths.
I raised a hand as if to push away the image and in the dead blue fluorescence I saw that the grime under my nails carried a tinge of crimson. Whether from the drugs or the pain, I felt my gorge rise and push at the back of my throat. It took two tries and still my voice came out a rasp, barely audible around the plastic tube. “Who is that?”
“Who…who did that to her?”
The detective’s jaw shifted once, slowly, left to right. “You did.”