***Warning, this scene has a first-person account of a sexual assault***
“It’s okay, just take your time. Do you recognize any of these men?” Ben reassured Serena as she sat awake in her hospital bed.
Ben and Marty got the call that she was awake as they got back to Ben’s car from the poker game. Both took off for the hospital in their own cars. The paper Ben handed to her, had the faces for a lineup, along with Stephen Duke’s mugshot, and the man who broke into her house.
“I… I’m sorry it’s hard to remember. I… he was larger than me.. I remember that. I was asleep and I woke with him on top of me. I don’t remember hearing him come in, or break in.”
“Did he talk to you?”
“Yes, I think so. It is hard to remember for sure.”
“It’s okay, can you tell us anything you do remember, it will help? Even if it seems silly or small.”
“It is all so hard to remember.”
“It’s okay, take your time.”
Serena rubbed her head.
“Detectives, do we really need to do this right now?” Her brother Dean asked from the corner of the room.
“It’s okay Dean, I can do it. I just need to concentrate and try to remember.”
“It’s best if we can get this information as early as possible. I am sorry we really should try to do it now.” Marty said quietly to Dean standing in the corner.
“You said you were asleep in your bed?” Ben asked gently.
“Yes, I was asleep. I woke because I felt something heavy land on me and it scared me. I was confused. I couldn’t move. I panicked and then I felt his hand, it was around my neck.”
Serena’s face changed as the memory of what had happened to her began to return.
“Oh my God..” She began to sob.
“Alright that is enough, you guys can come back later. This is enough.” Dean moved towards Ben and Marty to usher them out of the room.
“No, Dean. No. He can’t do this to someone else.”
“Ser, you’ve been through enough. You need to rest. The detectives can come back later.”
“No, I want to do this now. I want to get it done. I want this monster behind bars. You will catch him, right?”
“We are trying, any information helps. You are very brave and very strong to help.”
“He told me, I belonged to him. If I didn’t do what he said, he’d punish me. He had this ring on, I think it was a ring. He told me if I tried to run or scream for help he’d kill me. I needed to do what he said. He got off of me and told me to take off my t-shirt and underwear slowly for him, to strip for him. When I refused he told me that I was going to be punished.”
Serena stopped speaking as she looked off, staring at nothing in particular. There was an eerie silence in the room.
“I don’t want to hear any more of this,” Dean said as he walked out of the room.
Ben and Marty sat quietly as Serena began to cry again.
“You mentioned a ring?” Ben asked as delicately as he could.
“He, he, he lit it on fire, with a lighter… When I stood up to undress, I tried to run. I didn’t believe that he was going to let me go. He tackled me to the ground. He was so strong. I tried to get away. He flipped me onto my stomach and I heard something that sounded like a lighter. Then I felt this stinging, burning feeling on my leg.” She reached her hand under her thigh. “He burnt me. He said that I would always be his now. He ripped my clothes off, and he…he raped me on the floor of my bedroom. I tried to get away and he strangled me. I woke up in my bed. I thought it had been a nightmare but when I moved my thigh hurt, where I had been burnt. I didn’t see him or hear him, but I knew he was still there, I could feel him in the room, watching me. I was too afraid to move but I told myself to run. I wasn’t able to get up. I remember the smell of him. His body, heavy on top of me again. He told me I was bad and that I did not listen to him, and now I was going to be punished. That is the last thing I remember.”
“You did great Serena. Do you mind if we ask you a few questions?”
“Okay.” She took the tissue that Ben handed her.
“When you say you remember the smell of him, can you describe it?”
“Um, he didn’t stink, I know that sounds weird. He smelled..nice, like good cologne. I mean I didn’t like it, I just remember it.”
“Do you remember the color of his eyes or hair, any distinguishing marks?”
“No, he wore a mask and it was still dark. I saw his hand, the hand with the ring, he was white.”
“Can you describe the ring?”
“Not really, it was dark. He wore it while he burnt me, it had to have burnt him too. He’d have a burn mark on his hand, right?”
“Most likely, that’s great information. Do you remember which finger he wore it on?”
“His left hand, on his ring finger I think. It was thick, like a signet ring. It has to mean something to him if it is a brand. He said I belonged to him after he burnt me. I wish I remembered more. I just can’t. How did I get here I mean, I thought he was going to kill me.”
“There was another man in your house too. He claims he broke in for drug money. Is there any chance there were two men who attacked you?”
“There were two of them? No, it was only one guy I am sure of it.”
“Why are you so sure?”
“This man was possessive. He wanted to be in charge of everything. I only remember one guy, the guy who rapped me. He was the only one there. This guy wasn’t a drug addict, he didn’t look poor, his clothes felt expensive.”
“He had on a button down shirt, it was black. The cotton felt expensive, not cheap. It was thick. I clawed at it and pulled at it and it did not tear.”
“You are doing great Serena. Is there anything else about this man you remember? Can you tell us about his voice? Was it deep, or high, did he an accent?”
“No there wasn’t an accent. It was… normal.. friendly at first, then angry.. then..”
“It was almost like he was happy. It was like he got off on hurting me.”
“He probably did,” Marty said, instantly regretting sharing out loud.
Ben looked over at his partner, not believing he had said it either.
“I am sorry I don’t remember more, it is all sort of blurry still. I am really tired.”
“You’ve done great, Serena. We will let you rest now. This is my card,” Ben set it on her tray table. “If you remember anything else, even if you think it is insignificant please call me, the hour doesn’t matter.”
Serena picked up the card, studying the numbers.
“Will, someone stay, I mean a police officer? Dean said that you two have been here every night. Do you think he will come back?”
“I am fairly certain he will not come back, most attackers don’t come back. We will have a police officer outside your room, for as long as you would like.”
“Thank you. And thank you for watching over me, while I was.. out of it.”
“Get some rest and call if you need to okay?”
“You did great tonight, really well. This information will help us catch him.” Marty said, trying to gain some good will back.
Both detectives walked out of the hospital and out to the parking lot. Ben stopped in front of his car.
“I heard the word expensive a lot,” Ben said.
“Yeah, I caught it too. One of Danwood’s players?”
“It would make sense. What are we missing here?” Ben said.
“Time to go back over these guys, none of these guys have a record, at least the guys we’ve talked to. We have the guys Yee said, including your girl’s ex.”
“He’s got the record for it for sure. You should do the digging on him though.”
Ben’s phone rang in his pocket. It was from Serena.
“Hello, Serena, did you remember something else?”
Marty perked up.
“No, I just wanted to say thank you for trying to catch this monster.”
“It’s my job. He needs to be stopped, and you helped do that tonight.”
“Good night Detective Carter.”
Ben hung up the phone and slid it back into his pocket.
“She’s a sweet girl,” Marty said.
Ben’s phone rang again. He reached into his pocket and answered it expecting it to be Serena again. There wasn’t anyone there at first. Ben pulled the phone away and looked at the number, it was Rachel’s.
“Hello, Rachel? Are you there?”
There was silence and then the phone hung up. Ben pulled his phone away to make sure the call disconnected. He looked down at the phone confused.
“Is everything okay?” Marty asked.
“That was weird. I wonder if Rachel dialed by accident.” Ben dialed Rachel again, “Have a good night. I will see you bright and early tomorrow.”
Ben got in his car and the phone rang until it went to voicemail. He pulled out of the parking lot and headed towards home. Something in his gut told him to call back. He called again. This time the call was picked up but again no one spoke.
“Rachel? Are you there? Rachel? Hello?”
Silence. Then the phone hung up again.
Ben tried again, and the phone went to voicemail. He thought maybe one of the kids had the phone, his gut said that something wasn’t right. He thought of Rachel, so afraid of Rhett, her ex, as he thought of all of the police reports he had read, he pressed his foot down a little harder.
Ben made it home in record time, parking his car on the street in front of his house. It was almost 10:30 but all of the lights were still on at Rachel’s. He looked at the driveway and saw Rhett’s black Mercedes. He didn’t want to push in, he just wanted to know Rachel was okay. He walked across the street towards Rachel’s.
He knocked on the door, the house was very quiet. Rhett opened the door.
“Can I help you, Buddy?”
“Hi, I am a friend of Rachel’s, is she in?”
“No, she’s not here. What kind of friend are you? I am her husband. Rachel is taken. What kind of male friend comes knocking at her door at this time of night. You know she has three kids upstairs, our boys, right?”
“Yes, I know your boys, I live across the street. I thought Rachel is your ex-wife?”
“Why don’t you go back across the street where you came from? There’s nothing for you over here.”
Rhett shut the door hard. Ben caught it just in time. Rhett pulled it back open.
“Fuck off neighbor, before I call the police. Get off my porch and don’t come back over here.”
“I am the police.”
“Yeah and I am the Queen of England, you heard me, fuck off.”
Rhett slammed the door and this time Ben let it shut.
Ben waited a minute, listening to Rhett walk away from the door. Ben had an experiment to try. He knocked on the door again. Rhett’s feet slammed against the hardwood floor. Rhett flung open the door.
“I told you to fuck off!”
Ben looked at Rhett’s hands, no ring, or sign of any burns from where a ring would be.
“I am actually a detective,” Ben flashed his badge. “Will you tell Rachel I stopped by?”
“Fuck you! Go find your own piece, pig, this one is mine.”
Ben looked past Rhett, looking for any sign of a struggle, or for Rachel or the boys, but he couldn’t see anything out of place before Rhett slammed the door again. Ben waited by the front door, listening. The house was still quiet but all of the lights were on, something wasn’t right. He walked off the porch and around the side of the house. He noticed something out of the corner of his eye move towards the garage. It was dark but he could make out a silhouette.
“Mr. Carter,” he heard Rachel’s son Evan whisper as he held out his arm, beckoning Ben closer. Ben quickened his step. It was Rachel’s middle son Evan…
“Please don’t leave.”
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, but my mom. I think my dad…” Evan stopped.
“Is your mom home now?”
Evan nodded. “You can’t tell him I told you, he’ll kill me. You have to promise you can’t tell.”
“I won’t. Do you know where your mom is in the house?”
Ben noticed more movement behind the boy.
“Evan, no!” Tommy whispered loudly.
“It’s okay Tommy, I am here to help. Where is Luke?”
Luke peeked around Tommy and then ducked back behind his big brother. Ben reached into his pocket and pulled out his keys. He found his house key and held it out to Evan who was closest.
“I want you boys to go to my house.” He pulled out his phone looking at the time. It was 11:02. “If I do not come back to my house by 11:30 I want you to call 911. Do you understand? Can you boys do that? You don’t have to tell them your name, just tell them your address.”
Ben knew he should have called it in himself, but he wanted to deal with Rhett personally, he knew it was wrong but he was going to do it anyway.