[Editor's note: this is the start of a novel I have written and am rewriting. Thought I would post the beginning to see what reaction it might get, to see if it holds your attention and piques your curiosity. Comments welcome.]
Steve shoved on his sunglasses, but they didn’t help. Pulsing reds and blues still stabbed at his eyes. Even the reds and blues bouncing off the concrete Interstate divider took aim at his pain.
Dusk dragged an evening shroud down from the sky, but it wasn’t promising relief.
Of his few remaining friends in the Knoxville Police Department, one had called and told him Stephanie was in an accident. She had pinned a motorcyclist against the barrier and had painted with him and his bike for about 300 feet.
Steve took twenty minutes to move with the knot of cars until he stopped behind a police cruiser blocking a traffic lane on I-40 west. A police scanner in his beaten up Subaru wagon popped up with occasional chatter. He heard talk of the motorcyclist being a preacher of some sort. He heard other things, some of which he didn’t want to, especially when they established that the driver of the SUV was his wife, though estranged wife was closer to the truth. It wasn’t an official legal status in Tennessee, but it was a reality. What he hadn’t heard was whether or not his kids were with her. She shouldn’t be driving, suffering from random blackouts doctors couldn’t explain, other than to say she didn’t have a tumor.
He cupped his hand near his face and exhaled, breath bouncing up into his nose. He found an old piece of gum on the dash and popped it into his mouth. He glanced around to make sure there weren’t any loose bottles in the car cab.
Steve parked the car and got out, his door scraping against the damp barrier. He could see the headline now: Ex-hero’s ex-porn queen wife kills minister on I-40.
An officer approached to shoo him away – another petty gawker come for the carnival – then backed up when she recognized him. He recognized her, Jeannine something. She didn’t wave, but nodded once.
The SUV was close to the dividing wall that separated the east- and west-bound lanes, but the vehicle had been eased far enough back to remove the body from the mangled motorcycle. Steve knew what the body looked like. He’d worked a similar accident once. Once was enough.
He ducked under the crime scene tape. The plodding traffic beside him began to pick up. One or two horns rang out. Gawkers were giving way to angry drivers.
“What the hell’s he doing here?” It was a detective.
In the growing darkness and flashing lights, Steve caught glimpses of his features. Older fellow. Probably retire in a few years. Old school. He was working the scene and making his wife wait in the car. He probably made her watch them remove the body. Figured he get her to talk and not want a lawyer present.
Jeannine spoke,” He’s the driver’s husband.”
“Collins, he’s KPD.”
“Don’t care if he’s the second coming. Get him out!”
Steve made a move toward the SUV. Jeannine stepped in front of him. She was about five-ten, red hair, and little on the heavy side. She looked like she could hold her own and probably wouldn’t mind doing it.
Steve glimpsed Stephanie in the driver’s seat. She looked stolid, almost vacant. He could guess what she was thinking: Really, officer, this isn’t my world. I wouldn’t do something like that.
He stepped back and something crumpled under his tennis shoe, a shattered motorcycle part. Collins would probably want him arrested for tampering with evidence.
He glanced at Jeannine’s name plate above her shirt pocket. He could barely make it out: J. Kerres. He probably had the Jeannine part right.
“Jeannine, where are my daughters?” There were two: Megan and Emily, ten and five.
Before she could say anything, he heard yelling: shrill, piercing, accusing – all at the same time.
“You lying bastard.”
Stephanie charged around Jeannine.
“She came and took them away. Had some lawyer with her. Had some paper with her. Said I was an unfit mother. Said she would raise them. You told her where I was.”
Stephanie lunged at Steve, fingers curled into claws. He couldn’t step away without backing into traffic. He raised his arms to block her thrusts, but she knocked his sunglasses off. He had not told his mother where Stephanie was. At least he didn’t remember telling her.
Temporary flood lights clicked on and white light drenched the area. Steve glimpsed the full magnitude of the mangled bike and the blood smeared along the barrier wall. Like a gawker, he turned to get a fuller look when Stephanie landed a claw near his eye and raked it into his cheek, digging deeper as she dragged her nails downward.
Steve knocked her hand away and before he could stop, he hit her hard on the nose. He heard something crunch and saw Stephanie’s head recoil. She staggered backwards through the tape and fell into the next lane of traffic. She looked like a runner stumbling over the finish line the wrong way, arms flailing and knees giving way.
Steve heard Collins yell, knew it was not at him, and didn’t much care anyway. He reached down, grabbed Stephanie’s leg and dragged her back beside the SUV just as a car swooshed by.
Her nose was bent, blood on much of her face, and tears streamed out from her eyes. His shirt was wet with his own blood. He did what he could to help her.
At first she took his help, then she slapped his hands away, telling him to go to hell. Jeannine stepped in and did what she could until the paramedics arrived. Collins ordered her to go with them to the hospital. “And write down every damn thing she says.”
After the paramedics left, Collins, too, told him to go to hell. What was he, Stephen David York, doing contaminating his crime scene?
“It won’t make no difference, hero boy. Your wife killed a youth minister and she’s going down for it. She already told me she shouldn’t be driving, so she’s going down for it. Your hero status can’t do a damn thing for her.”
Steve saw the glowing hatred in Collins’ eyes and knew that for some cops you don’t rat out corrupt cops – up to and including the chief – even if it was the right thing to do, and because Steve had, his wife could now expect no leniency.