A few days after Luke was sutured and x-rayed and observed for twenty-four hours in a trauma holding-unit and still not able to return to work, the intercom bell from the condo security desk awakened him in the middle of the night. Lucy MacMiel, the concierge said, and her associate.
He told the concierge to send them. He slipped on his long white terrycloth bathrobe tying the sash loosely to avoid pain. The front gaped to show silk pajama bottoms and bare chest taped from armpit to waist. The left leg of pajamas bulged with the protective bandaging still required to prevent bleeding.
The elevator to the top-floor apartment opened at the end of the hall. He moved to the front door peephole from habit. Lucy strode toward the apartment, distorted in the minute lens but still beautiful in her exotic way. He opened the door before she knocked. Lucy smiled apologetically and a tall older man with a gaunt look stood behind her in the hall.
“I thought your leg was cut,” she said.
He shrugged. "It's the two cracked ribs that keep me awake.”
“Peter Townsend,” the man said from behind Lucy.
Luke didn't respond, still holding the door open and blocking their entrance. "What's up?"
“Thanks for seeing us,” Townsend said.
“The tow truck driver found a body,” Lucy said.
Luke stared, not comprehending for a minute.
“It was on the same side of the road in a ditch. But not near the car.”
“It had nothing to do with the accident,” Townsend said.
"Could we talk?" Lucy asked.
Luke backed from the door to let them in.
“Can we sit down somewhere?” she asked, motioning to Townsend and moving toward the living room.
Lucy sat with Townsend on a curved sofa. Luke eased painfully into an overstuffed armchair.
There was an awkward silence. Luke was fully awake now.
“It’s gotten complicated," Lucy said. "The accident, I mean. The DA has hated me since law school . . .”
“They went to Yale together . . .” Townsend interrupted.
"It’s an opportunity to ruin me . . .” She seemed almost breathless.
“A woman’s body was found near the accident, by the roadside . . .”
“It was the widow of Judge Fogerty . . .” she said loudly.
“The family is crying for justice . . .”
“And they don’t even know how she died. They just say she was in excellent health . . .”
“And we think the DA's investigation is to prove vehicular homicide . . . “
“Even though the autopsy results haven’t been completed . . . there’s no evidence . . .”
“The car’s been impounded.”
Lucy breathed deeply and exhaled.
“And they’ve been to the club. Asking questions about the party.” She uncrossed her legs and leaned forward. “They’re trying to prove I was under the influence.”
Townsend started to say something but Lucy threw him a glare.
“What does this have to do with me?” Luke asked.
“We’re sure the investigators will contact you tomorrow . . .” Townsend said.
“It’s this morning now,“ Lucy said to Townsend. Then she turned to Luke. “We want to know what you'll remember.”
“They’ll ask you about everything that went on for the entire evening,” she said.
“You don’t think she was drunk, do you?” Townsend said.
“I didn't examine her,” Luke said. "I was there as a favor to her father."
“But you were a passenger. You wouldn’t have gotten in a car voluntarily for a two hour ride on an interstate with a drunk, would you?” Townsend asked.
Only for A.J., Luke thought.
“You didn’t see a woman," Lucy stated. "We couldn’t have hit that woman. We would have known,” she said.
“How would I know for sure?” Luke said. “We were in a skid. I felt jolts. The sounds for a few seconds were very loud.”
“But if you hit a woman, you would know, wouldn’t you?” Townsend said. “You were in the front seat of a small car. Not the back seat of a bus.”
“I couldn’t say,” Luke said. "I can't prove a negative."
“Did you hear anything like a body?” she asked.
“I heard lots of things,” Luke said.
“But nothing like hitting a human,” Townsend said.
“I heard a thump as we left the road. I remember that. But I don't remember thinking we hit something. Even if I had thought about it I would have thought of the dog.”
“The dog was found unhurt,” Lucy said, “dragging its leash on a lot a few hundred yards away,”
“Could it have been a mound of dirt, a rock, a tree root?” Townsend asked Luke.
“It could have been any of those,” Lucy said before Luke could answer.
Lucy and Townsend looked to Luke who lightly caressed the surgical tape around his rib cage.
“You finished?” Luke asked.
“We didn’t have an agenda,” Townsend said.
Luke winced. “It’s late, councilor, too late to bullshit,” he said to Townsend.
“We wanted to let you know about the investigation,” Lucy said.
“You wanted to keep me from putting a noose around your neck,” Luke said.
She paused. "That's untrue, and unethical." Her eyes, still veiled to reveal any real emotion, had a tint of pleading. “Will you?” she asked.
Luke looked at her intensely. “I’ll tell what I remember. Nothing more. Nothing less."
"But you're sure we didn't hit that woman."
Luke sighed. "I don't know."
“Are you sure you weren’t driving,” Peter said with acrid contempt.
"That's not appropriate," Lucy said glaring at Townsend.
Luke stood. “Time to go, councilors. You’ve been up too long without proper sleep.”
“Peter didn’t mean anything,” she said.
“Peter meant that if I didn’t say the right things, he’d involve me in any way he could. I don’t like that.”
“That’s not what I meant,” said Townsend.
"He's the best of criminal lawyers," Lucy said. "That's why I brought him. If the DA takes this to a grand jury, you'll be subpoenaed. Peter's the best."
Luke made no attempt to shake Townsend’s hand as he pointed them toward the door. Lucy held out her hand and then thought better of it. She hugged Luke instead, giving him a peck of a kiss on the cheek. Luke closed the door and watched her through the peephole. He heard them as they waited for the elevator to arrive.
“That was stupid to say,” Lucy said.
"Lower your voice."
"He can't hear," she said, but she did speak more softly.
“It’ll make him cautious,” Townsend replied.
“It just made him angry.”
“Look, I know that woman died of blunt trauma. Like from an automobile. Not the heart. And I think they’ll find evidence on the car. Blood. Pieces of clothing.”
“Damn it, Peter. I thought you were my advocate.”
“I think Winkler will go for manslaughter. I think your friend here will be his key witness.”
“To a thump?”
“To driving while intoxicated. Leaving the scene of an accident.”
“We didn’t know there was an accident.”
"You crashed a sports car on a road. That's reckless driving. You didn’t call the police. Even after you got to a phone."
"Don't articulate the obvious!"
"It was the wrecker that found the body. That's guilty behavior, especially for a lawyer.”
"I called them to tow the car."
"The next morning."
"There was no reason to call the police."
"You screwed up. I’d get to know this guy real well, Lucy. There were injuries. I’d neutralize him as a witness. He’ll have to go before a grand jury, if it comes to that.”
“God. What a thought.”
“Think about it. Use that legal brain to make it work.”
The elevator dinged and the door opened.
The investigators questioned Luke the next day. Lucy called when Luke was finished.
“How did it go?” she asked.
“Fine, I think. I told them what I knew.”
“Did it take long?”
“It must have been grueling.”
He didn’t reply.
“Were they tough?”
“Professional. I thought reasonable. It wasn’t an interrogation. Is it going to a grand jury?" he asked.
"I don't know. The evidence on the car was inconclusive."
"So my testimony is like . . . live or die. Could you go to jail?"
"I don't think so."
"But it's possible?"
She paused. "I don't know."
A week later Lucy asked Luke if he wanted to go to dinner. This was a first try at neutralizing him, he thought. But he was widowed with only rare female companionship these days, and Lucy was a very attractive woman.
"Any day this week," she said.
Since the accident, images of Lucy came to Luke at odd times, and he had a dream where she was present, it seemed, but didn't have a role. The next morning she was all that stayed with him from the dream.
"It would be fun for me," she said.
She wore a dress above the knee, short sleeved, and with a V-neck so that a ruby pendant fell on the soft glow of her tan skin. He was charmed and pleased. She was pleasant and agreeable, a completely different person than the times he had known her before. She was lively, caring, speaking of her childhood with charming animated finger and hand gestures. She spoke warmly about her family, as if all she had said before the accident about them had been forgotten. Elizabeth was a dear. A teddy bear of a sister. Lucy talked about her love of movies, and how she usually went alone to late night shows after work to relax. She loved romances.
Over a linen draped table for two, she stared intently, her face accented by warm shadows in the dim light of candles. Luke told her about his passive mother and domineering father, his Maine birth and Massachusetts upbringing, and his five siblings with his vastly different feelings for each. She laughed sincerely at his humor. He enjoyed the time. He found himself remembering almost every word of their conversation. He was convinced he had misjudged her purpose. She was so much more than she seemed on first meetings. So a week later, he called her and asked her to dinner. This time they talked about politics, pop culture, advancement in science. Once he asked her, still with a touch of concern at her unbroken attentiveness and frankly wondering if she was still neutralizing him as a witness.
“Are you still worried about the DA?” he asked. For an instant she was surprised and puzzled, as if unable to remember where he might have gotten such an idea.
“I don’t know,” she said. Now, she'd turned cold and professional.
“Do you think about it?”
“Of course I think about it.”
“Do you ever believe you hit that woman?”
She sipped from a glass of wine. “That's unlikely.”
“I think we'd know.”
“Still no direct evidence?”
"We don't know. The DA is not forthcoming."
He looked away.
“I worry about it,” he said. "That something might have happened."
"My God, what is there for you to worry about?" She leaned forward intently. "It was an accident," she said.
Drinking might make you responsible, he thought. But he said nothing.
"I reacted to that animal. And nothing I drank affected my responses . . . in any way." She hesitated. "My God. You know that . . . don't you?"
She was under the influence when they left the club. He was sure of that. But that was more than three hours before they got to Atlanta.
"I don't know," he said.
"Even if there was contact," she said. "She was dead or we'd have seen her with the dog."
"You're right," he said. "Forget it." But he wasn't sure and he was concerned if under oath he were asked about her intoxication what he would say. He was a doctor, after all, not inexperienced in judging someone's physical and mental competency.
After that they could not find topics to talk about, and the evening ended early by mutual consent.
Luke's doubt about Lucy festered over the next few days. Her denial of possible complicity worried him and she didn't seem to have any concern for the dead woman, whether she had been involved or not. But there was nothing to do; who would ever know if there was even a trace of blame for Lucy causing, or hastening the poor woman's death?
Although he thought about her occasionally, he did not contact her for weeks. He made sure Lucy was out of his future, at least on a personal level, when her mother invited him to a lunch at their house followed by en masse attendance at the Tech-Georgia football game that was in Atlanta this year. He didn't like luncheons or football and the thought of seeing Lucy made him pause, but he doubted Lucy would choose to be there, and he valued A.J.'s friendship and support. A day later he accepted.