Rain spattered over the cooling hood like blood, tinted carmine and blue alternately by rotating lights. Stein got out of the car. Ahead of him lay a dead woman marked pale and still by the patrol car’s headlights. He greeted the officer and together they gazed absently at the grisly scene before them. Her dress, once a deep blue satin, was ripped and sullen. The impact had left her barefoot, as being struck by a speeding vehicle often would. The chance-shower paused, as if catching a breath.
“Around what time was she found?” Stein dipped his fingers into the inside pocket of his wool overcoat to fish out a cigarette. A stray breeze caught the Zippo’s flame, wrestling with the golden tongue before he cupped his hand over the determined tiny fire. The dead woman’s blonde hair was soaked in almost equal halves of blood and rain.
“Around midnight.” The officer’s badge read C. Johnson. His face may as well been carved in flint. He dragged his dark fingers up under his plastic-covered police cap through the wiry salt-and-pepper hairs, reseating it on his head afterwards. “The coroner estimates time of death to be about nine yesterday evening, but the cold could be fucking with her temperature.”
Stein grunted in assent, his eyes dazzled again and again by the camera flash as a photographer captured each fatal detail. The dead woman’s diamond wedding ring cast off a shine like a distant star.
“The driver never stopped. No signs of braking at all. Since the road is so far out, we’re figuring it took hours for the next motorist to drive by and see her lying there.”
Stein shrugged. “Or there were more, but you know people…they don’t like to get involved.”
Johnson snorted. “They would have had to drive around her then, with her right there in the middle of the road.”
Blood pooled around the dead woman’s head, sticky and diluted from the light shower. The cleaners were attempting to separate her body from the blacktop. Stein exhaled a plume of smoke and dropped the cigarette at his feet, fating the fading glow into final darkness on the damp pavement.
The crime scene dissipated like fog in the sun. He turned to the woman who stared with wide eyes, her fingers covering her mouth. Her deep blue dress lay in solemn folds against her legs. She stepped forward on tentative bare feet.
“Do you remember anything?” Stein considered lighting another cigarette, then decided against it. He stood patient, awaiting the woman’s response. She’d stopped at the edge of where the blood stain had been moments before.
She shook her head. “Teddy and I were fighting—he said some words. We were on our way to my mother’s. He was saying awful things about her.” She turned to face Stein, her makeup smeared in black tracks over her pallid cheeks with tears.
“I told him that if he hated her so much he shouldn’t have come. He told me he didn’t trust me driving alone. We argued.”
“And then what?”
“He…hit me. He was yelling terrible things. He stopped the car and told me to get out.”
“And did you?”
She nodded. “Yes. He drove off and left me there on the side of the road.” She tucked her bottom lip behind her teeth. “The next thing I knew, you were there. Waiting for me.”
“That’s what I do. Wait.” Stein put an arm around her shoulder, walking her back to his car. Long and low, people said about it when asked. Black, or the deadest shade of purple they’d ever saw. He opened the passenger door and she lowered herself into the ashen seat. Stein got in behind the wheel. Cool blue light washed over his features as the engine rumbled into life. “I’ll get you to where you need to go next.”
The woman instinctively reached for her seatbelt, but found there was none. “Where are we going?”
“I’m taking you home.” He glanced at her huddled against the door with eyes the color of tombstones. “Your name is Allis Forn. You died in 1979. Do you know what today’s date is?”
“No…what is it?”
He told her and she broke into tears. Thirty-two years she’d waited.
They drove towards the light.