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Police sirens wailed their banshee cry of grief as a squad car pulled into the parking lot. Even more curiosity seekers pushed their way into the crowd to see what was going on. Anne could not convince herself to release Carol’s hand. Even though she was gone she still seemed to need a friend in the midst of the spectacle and noise.
A police officer shoved his way through the mob and began shooing the gawkers back. Anne refused to budge, but others proved more pliant and he managed to establish a ring around them of six or seven feet. More squad cars arrived and men spilled from them like clowns at the circus. They pushed the thrill seekers even further back.
From somewhere very far away Anne heard the train puff into the station and then groan in protest as it pulled away again.
A face loomed in front of her and she pulled back.
“Miss, are you okay?”
Anne blinked. Everything seemed disconnected. Jumbled and distant.
“Yes.” She uttered the words but they might have come from someone else all together.
“Can you come with me? The doctor needs to get in here and take a look at her.”
Anne swallowed and willed her fingers to release their hold on Carol. The movement hurt, as if she were giving Carol permission to be dead. She accepted the man’s hand and he assisted her to her feet.
“You’re freezing.” He waved an officer over and whispered in his ear. Then ushered her through the crowd, which parted before them as if he were Moses. The officer returned with a blanket and the man wrapped it around Anne’s shoulders.
“I’m Detective Jack Morris. What’s your name?” The intensity in his gaze pinned her in place, making it impossible to look away.
“Did you know the deceased?”
The deceased. Tears started then. Unbidden they streamed down her cheeks sopping the blanket she clutched beneath her chin. She couldn’t stop shaking.
“Yes,” she finally whispered.
“Can you tell me her name?”
He put a hand under her elbow. “Come on with me. I’ll take your statement down at the station. It ought to be warmer there.”
Anne allowed herself to be led away a few steps, before a thought seized her. “My bag.” She could not lose that bag and the precious outline it contained. She started back for it.
The detective’s hand on her arm restrained her and she turned to look at him. “Allow me.”
She waited woodenly as he was swallowed by the crowd. She could not halt the flow of tears. The muscles in the back of her neck tightened as if they were violin strings being tuned, tighter and tighter again until they would twang if touched.
Carol. Poor, sweet, Carol. It was all so awful. Who would notify her family back in Columbus? Would the funeral be held there or here? Questions littered her mind tumbling into memories of her friend through the years.
Detective Morris reappeared and held out her handbag. “This it?”
“Yes.” Anne sighed. It seemed a hollow victory in light of Carol’s death. “Thanks.”
“Come on, let’s get you someplace we can talk.”
* * *