Lina retrieved her headset and work materials from her locker, closed the door, and snapped the padlock closed. Her mind was telling her body to turn and head down the hallway to the phone room but her body was frozen in place. She knew at the end of the ramp were people she couldn’t bear facing today—most notably, Faye and Dee, as they were sure to inundate her with questions about her date with Officer Cazzo on Friday night. But what choice did she have? She had thought about calling in sick today but that would only delay the inevitable. You can do this, she told herself. She bore down and willed her feet to move—one step at a time—as she forced herself into the hallway and down the ramp. At the bottom of the ramp, a voice rang out:
“Well, hello there!”
Lina turned to see the shift sergeant standing at his desk. He looked vaguely familiar but she couldn’t pinpoint where she knew him from.
“How are you doing?” he asked her, his brow furrowed with concern.
“Fine,” she said, haltingly. “How are you?”
The sergeant smiled. “I meant, you know, after the break-in attempt at your apartment last Wednesday night.”
And then it hit her where she’d seen him before. Her apartment, the night Vaughn tried to break in. He was the field supervisor at the scene—Sergeant Baylor. “Oh, that. I’m doing okay. Thanks for asking…what are you doing here?”
“I work here.”
“I thought you worked out of the Squaw Peak substation.”
“Not anymore. On Friday I learned there was an opening for a second-shift supervisor here in Communications, so I put in for a transfer and—voila!—here I am.”
Lina laughed, “Most sworn personnel don’t choose to work here voluntarily. They’re usually sent here because of a disciplinary action.”
“Well, in my case it was voluntary, because, hey, it sure beats working graveyards and babysitting a bunch of ugly mugs. And the scenery here is definitely easier on the eyes,” he said, as he glanced out to the complaint room and at the women already seated at their workstations.
“Well,” said Lina, “Welcome.” Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Faye, sitting at her desk, waving her hand, motioning Lina to hurry up and get situated. “I should get to work now,” she said, though dreading Faye’s questions that were sure to come. She steeled herself to prepare for the painful interrogation that loomed ahead.
“Well, if you need to talk about Wednesday night, or about anything else, I’m here.”
Lina thanked him, then turned and marched robotically to her desk, Faye’s beaming, expectant face watching her every step.
Faye pounced the instant Lina got to her desk: “Well?!”
Lina sat down, donned her headset and plugged into the desk jack. “Well, what?”
Faye was nearly frothing at the mouth. “Your date! How did it—Phoenix Police…” said Faye, responding to the click in her ear. She pressed a finger over her mouth tube, “Shit!”
Relieved for the momentary reprieve, Lina closed her eyes and said a silent prayer, begging any god who might be listening to help get her through the next eight hours without her bursting into a flash flood of tears or screaming a torrent of undeserved obscenities at John or Jane Q. Public. Click! “Phoenix Police…”
A string of back-to-back calls kept Lina busy and Faye at bay, for which Lina was grateful, but she couldn’t help but notice the sound of someone clicking in and out of her line during every call. On her last call, she looked over to the sergeant’s desk and saw that it was Baylor, monitoring her calls. Did he not know that she’d passed her twelve-week training period and no longer needing monitoring? Lina wondered if he was monitoring any of the others.”
“How did it go with Officer Tampon?”
Lina looked up. Dee had just come back from her break and was, like Faye, dying to know how her date had gone. The two of them launched a missile attack of questions:
“Where did he take you?”
“What did you wear?”
“Did he kiss you?”
The questions were coming at her fast and furious, like a flight of poison arrows, and Lina felt her armor of steel begin to crack.
“Gawwwwwd!” cried Faye, “Are you going to fill us in or are we going to have to beat it out of you?”
Beat it out of you…it was unfortunate choice of words. And Faye, Lina knew, had no idea just how unfortunate. The steel cloak Lina had wrapped herself in, the steel rod holding her spine upright, the steel cable keeping her emotions bound and tethered…they all fractured, every one of them, each splintering into a million cold and hard, sharp stinging pieces that gutted her like a snagged fish. A heaving sob escaped her throat as she ripped off her headset and fled from the complaint room.
Dee and Faye looked at one another, both in a state of confused shock. A call came across Dee’s line, “Phoenix Police,” she answered, then shooed Faye after Lina, mouthing, “Go check on her!”
Faye found Lina in the restroom, locked in a stall, crying. She tapped on the stall door. “Lina, it’s Faye. Honey, open the door.”
Lina’s sobs grew louder.
“Lina, please open the door.” Faye stood by patiently, leaning against the stall door, waiting for the sobbing inside to subside.
After a few minutes, the door’s latch turned and Lina opened the door. She stood in the stall’s doorway and stared out at Faye, her face streaked with mascara, her eyes dead.
“He raped me.”
Faye gasped. It took her several seconds to find her voice, but when she did, she unleashed her fury: “That mother-fucking, goddamned bastard!” She then turned her anger on herself. “Oh, god! This is my fault, if I hadn’t pushed you to go out with him!”
Lina exited the stall and pulled a paper towel from the dispenser to wipe her eyes. “You didn’t know…how could either of us have known?”
“Did you report him? He needs to be fired! And arrested!”
Lina shook her head. “It would be my word against his, and the department would never take the word of a civilian, especially a female civilian, over that of an officer.”
“It’s not right! Or fair!”
“It is what it is. My sister Kerri told me she’s seen it happen over and over again with the state police. The woman never wins and usually ends up getting fired for having impugned an officer’s reputation.”
Faye slapped her palm against the stall door. “Shit!”
“I have a feeling this wasn’t his first time, and it probably won’t be his last, and that pisses me off more than anything—that he can keep raping women.”
“Because he knows he can get away with it,” said Faye. “Did you go to the E.R. afterwards, or get any kind of medical treatment?”
“Hospitals are required to report any sexual assault patients, so that wasn’t an option. Kerri took me to her gynecologist this morning.” Lina stopped to let another sob clear her throat before continuing: “He gave me a morning-after pill, just in case I might be pregnant.”
“Pregnant? Crap! The son of a bitch didn’t even have the decency to wear a rubber.”
“Decency,” scoffed Lina, blowing her nose into the paper towel. “Yeah, right.”
“Why don’t you go on home. I’ll tell Sergeant Baylor you aren’t feeling well.”
“I’d rather be here working, to keep my mind occupied.”
“Are you sure?”
“I’m sure.” Lina tossed the paper towel into the trash bin and reached for the restroom door, pausing before opening it. “Please promise not to tell anyone about this.”
Faye nodded and gave Lina a hug. When she pulled away, Lina laughed bitterly.
“What’s so funny?” asked Faye.
Lina gave a little shake of her head and flipped back her hair, telling Faye as she opened the door:
“Well…at least I’m not a virgin anymore.”
Back on the phones, Lina was again aware that Sergeant Baylor was monitoring her calls. She muted her mic and whispered to Faye, “Are your calls being monitored?”
Faye shook her head. “I don’t think so.”
She then asked Dee, “Are yours?”
“Not that I can tell.”
The click of an incoming call sounded in Lina’s ear. She unmuted her mic, “Phoenix Police…” and no sooner had she answered then she heard a second click, prompting her to sneak a peek at the sergeant’s desk where Baylor sat, phone to his ear. As soon as she finished the call, Baylor hung up his phone, looked out to Lina and smiled, then picked the phone up again and punched its keypad. Immediately, Lina’s four-digit extension began to ring.
It was Baylor, asking to see her in the lieutenant’s office.
She entered the office to find only Sergeant Baylor, sitting at the lieutenant’s desk.
“Have a seat.”
Lina took a chair next to the desk. “Is something wrong?” she asked, worried she’d mishandled one of the calls he’d monitored.
“You tell me. Is everything okay?” asked Baylor, who spoke to her gently, with genuine concern in his voice.
“Everything’s fine,” said Lina.
“Everything’s not fine. I saw you run out of the complaint room earlier. You looked like you were crying. Is the attempted burglary incident still upsetting you?
Lina shook her head and fought back her tears. “No, it’s not that…” Her voice trailed off as she saw, through the office window, a uniformed officer pass by.
It was Officer Cazzo.
In shocked disbelief, Lina watched as Cazzo slipped into the radio room and sidled up to a radio console where he began flirting with one of the younger, more attractive dispatchers. Seeing him again precipitated a new flood of tears.
Baylor followed Lina’s eyes. Glaring at Cazzo, he asked, “Is that who’s upsetting you?”
Returning her eyes to Baylor, Lina nodded. “He…he…” Lina struggled to find the words to tell Baylor what Cazzo had done.
“I don’t need to know. I think I can guess why he’s got you so upset. Do you know what the uniforms on the street call Communications? The harem room. That’s going to change now that I’m here. Unless they have official business down here, officers need to stay the hell away.” Baylor turned his eyes to the radio room and Officer Cazzo, then added, “Starting with him.”
The sergeant got up, left the office and marched into the radio room where he confronted the philandering Cazzo.
Wringing her hands, Lina watched the scene unfold through the glass. After a brief exchange of words, Cazzo abruptly retreated from the radio room and stormed up the ramp, disappearing from Lina’s view. Baylor returned to the lieutenant’s office and perched himself on the edge of the desk, hands clasped before him. He cast a paternal look upon Lina.
“He shouldn’t be a problem anymore.”
“Thank you,” said Lina. “I should probably get back to the phones now.” She wiped her eyes and rose to leave.
“Are you okay to work?”
“Yes. I’m feeling much better now.”
At the door, she hesitated.
“Was there something else?” asked Baylor.
“I was just wondering why you’re monitoring my calls. I’m no longer in training. Have I done something wrong?”
“No, no, of course not. I’m new here and I need to get up to speed on how calls are handled, so I’m listening in on some of them. I asked the lieutenant which of you I would best learn from and he said, without a doubt, Catalina Jones; she’s the best.”
The compliment lifted Lina. For a fleeting moment, she forgot all about Officer Cazzo.
“You don’t mind, do you?” asked the sergeant.
Lina straightened her spine and lifted her head. “No,” she said, “I don’t mind at all.”