In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • The Assault
  • James Lee Burke (bio)

The phone call to the professor's house came at one in the morning. An officer named Carter said the professor's daughter was involved in a "disturbance" and "behaving in a very unpleasant way." The officer was going to allow her to speak to her father in hopes the problem could be resolved.

"Fuck you!" the professor heard his daughter scream in the background.

"Is she injured?" the professor said.

"You'd better ask her that," Carter said.

The professor's name was Delbert Hatfield. He was in his study, the lights off. Through the window he could see the jagged peaks of the mountains surrounding the valley; the peaks were blue and streaked with snow and looked as sharp as broken razor blades in the moonlight. He heard his daughter sobbing, then the sound of the officer transferring the cell phone, the scraping sound of a callused hand, one that was perhaps too big to hold small things.

"What is it?" Delbert said. "Have you been in an accident?"

"I've been beaten and treated like trash! I don't have a coat! This motherfucker wouldn't let me sit in his car!"

"Don't use that language, particularly now. Who beat you?"

"A man and a woman. The man held me."

"Let me talk to Officer Carter again."

The professor heard the officer take back the cell phone. This time the officer's voice was clear, unstrained, as though emotionally he had moved on. "I didn't want her to get sick in my car," the officer said. "She left that out of the story."

"Can you drive her home?"

"We don't do that. I can get her a cab."

"What's this about a beating?"

"She says two people waylaid her."

"Where are they?"

"Fled the scene."

"Did anyone get a license number?" [End Page 282]

"This is the Sundowner. Not a cop-friendly crowd. Your daughter turned down an ambulance. She's heavily intoxicated and verbally abusive. Unless you want to file a complaint, we're pretty much done on this, Professor."

As an academic Delbert had long ago learned the connotations of his title when used by certain kinds of men. "Is there a security camera there?"

The line went dead. Twenty minutes later a cab dropped his daughter in front of his house. She vomited on the grass, then fell on the living room rug and curled into a ball.

He drove her to the ER in a hospital located next to what had once been a U.S. Army fort where African American bicycle troops were stationed to control the Native Americans who had not been rounded up with Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce. The old water tower still stood high above the river, stenciled against the sky, perhaps as a reminder. But of what? Delbert wondered. An admissions clerk at the hospital asked him about the source of his daughter's injury. "An assault outside a nightclub," Delbert said.

"We have to notify the police."

"They already know," Delbert said.

"We've got to do it anyway," the clerk replied. He smiled, as though offering an apology."

The responding officers, both in uniform, turned out to be Carter and his partner, a young Hispanic woman whose name Delbert didn't catch, primarily because her identity seemed lost in the shadow of her male companion. Carter was heavyset, his shirt too tight, his dark eyes shiny, as though he had a fever, his eyebrows a thick line. He shook his head as soon as he saw who was in the room. "I knew this one was gonna come back around."

"I didn't quite track that," Delbert said.

Carter scratched at his eye with one finger. "I have a way of stepping in bubble gum when I'm about to go on vacation," Carter said. "Happens every time. Not your fault."

"My daughter has a bump the size of a softball on the back of her head," Delbert said. "I think by anyone's measure this is felony assault."

"Professor, this doesn't come close to felony assault. That's a term you...


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pp. 282-320
Launched on MUSE
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