New York City smoldered beneath the fire of a late summer heat wave. Even in the early morning hours, the temperature hovered at eighty-five degrees, and the city sizzled like meat on a barbecue. The stench of garbage, exhaust fumes and the city’s millions of inhabitants hung like a miasma in the air, making the simple act of breathing intolerable.
Rose Jennings stood in the circle of bright lights emanating from a half-dozen squad cars, bouncing red and blue rainbows off the murky, sludge-filled waters of the Hudson River. She gathered a section of her skirt hem between her hands and wrung the slimy water from it, disgust evident on her face. The blue tee-shirt she wore clung with leech-like familiarity, outlining her breasts and ribs.
As she brushed a strand of her wet blonde hair off her long aquiline face, a tall, plainclothes officer came up behind her, the front of his shirt soaked through with perspiration. “Rosie, here, I gotcha a towel from the ambulance,” he said in a honey-smooth drawl.
“Thanks, Ray, it will help a bit, but nothing except a good cold shower is going to make me feel better.” She put the towel around her shoulders and used one corner to dry her hair. “Harbor having any luck with the recovery?”
“Not yet. The visibility and the position of the car are giving them an issue.” He put his hand on her shoulder. “It’s amazing the girl got out.”
“Did they say if she would make it?” Her crystal-blue eyes watched the rescue trucks as they sped away.
“They think so. She swallowed a bit of the river, but other than that, she’s fine.”
A sharp scraping sound, grating like a scream, caused them to quickly turn. A tow truck was pulling a brown sedan off its precarious perch on the edge of the pier.
“You almost followed him right in.” Ray chuckled.
Rose laughed. “‘Almost’ isn’t the word. Come on; let’s see if I can grab my gear out of there before they take it away.”
They jogged toward the tow truck, waving at the driver to stop. Rose opened the driver’s door and scouted through the broken glass for her pocketbook.
“Got it?” Ray asked.
“Yeah, here it is. I want to know what he was shooting at me with. Look at this seat.” She gestured to the tattered remnants of the passenger’s seat.
Ray whistled softly. “Chalk up another one, Rose. How many cars have you totaled so far this year?”
Rose pulled a pack of lemonhead candies out of her purse and popped one into her mouth. The sweet outside, covering the sour lemon shell, and hard core melted in her mouth. “Six, I think, maybe seven. Come on; let’s wait in your car until the harbor unit recovers the driver.”
Dawn broke over the Hudson as Rose and Ray alternated between sitting in his car and walking on the wharf, watching the NYPD divers repeatedly scour the water for the car. It was nearly 7:30 a.m. before the divers brought up the corpse from the bottom. Rose stood with Ray watching the operation.
“Check out his arms. I’ve never seen one this bad before. They’re completely covered with abscesses,” a uniformed officer noted.
“So much for the millions spent on drug interdiction.” Rose turned away, yawning. “Come on, Ray; let’s go wrap up the paperwork and put this baby to rest. I can’t stand myself.” She inhaled and scrunched up her nose.
Ray laughed. “I ought to make you ride on the roof.”