“This is very important, so please try to concentrate,” the doctor
whispered from across the wooden desk.
Looking away to the wall on their left, he turned to face her again and
asked her what she remembered. He watched as the woman shook
uncontrollably and awaited any sign or acknowledgement of what he had
just asked for. There was nothing that he could do to stop her from
shaking. Moments ago the man had tried to comfort her with a calm
voice. He spoke to her from the opposite corner of the room, making sure
to keep plenty of distance between them. Why, he had even dimmed the
lights in the room in an attempt to relax her. Nothing the doctor did
worked to calm the woman.
He watched as the woman cried what he thought were her last tears, ever.
Her mascara ran down her cheeks to varying lengths. The woman’s left
eye looked like it belonged to a circus clown, with dark colors running
mainly down from the center, and less from around the corners. Her right
eye resembled that of a battered housewife. Earlier she had rubbed it
with her fist and spread the mascara evenly around the eye, effectively
blacking out the entire area. She was a sad sight to see, and one’s
heart went out to this woman if but a single glance was thrown her
Continuing to take notes and record his evaluation, he focused on the
condition of her head and shoulders. Her short blonde hair was long
enough to be pulled back into a pony tail, but it was unkempt.
Individual strands of hair that were probably once tightly held in place
with the others around it protruded this way and that. At points along
the way it almost looked frayed, possibly from being pulled on or yanked
about. The woman’s right cheek had a lateral cut about an inch long.
Upon closer inspection, it turned out to be more of a puncture. It had
been tended to by police, and a few small white strips helped to keep it
Both cheeks were dirty, covered with blood and debris in various amounts
but mainly around the outside edges. It was apparent that she had wiped
her face in an attempt to clear the blood so she could see, mixing and
smearing the blood even further. It was probably wiped away to some
extent by the first police to arrive on the scene, as they tried to
determine where she was bleeding from. A gash on her forehead which had
also been tended to, sat kitty corner to a large goose egg centered
slightly left of her right eye. Looking at the woman’s eyes when he
asked her questions, he found it distracting and noticed that it
sometimes seemed to move all by itself.
“Do you know your name?” he softly asked.
The woman stared straight ahead, as if he wasn’t even there in front
of her. She neither spoke nor moved in response to his questions. If
asked what her attacker looked like, she would have been hard pressed to
describe any discernable features whatsoever. She was definitely
traumatized, he was sure of it.
“Can you speak? What about your eyes? Can you blink them slowly to let
me know that you understand me?” he asked again.
The woman slowly closed her eyes and opened them back up. That was
something! He had just gotten through! Excitement flowed through him as
he thought about what to say next.
“OK, good. Let’s say that slowly blinking your eyes is a sign of
understanding, of agreement. So, if you close your eyes and open them
slowly, it means yes,” he said excitedly.
He watched as she again slowly closed and opened her eyes. A smile crept
across his face, displaying his satisfaction of the progress they had
The descriptions and accounts of his notes stopped with the possibility
of open communication, so he let the video diary take over. Sessions
were recorded to protect all parties involved. Such was always the case
when one was in a precinct interrogation room. He would get a copy of
today’s conversation in DVD format when the assessment was complete,
just as he always did. The doctor was known to overdocument and,
therefore, took solace in the fact that he could just be himself. He was
all too happy to let the police department video documentation process
do the majority of the work.
“Tell me what happened. Who did this to you?” he said patiently.
She began crying more tears, and as the man watched he knew he was
wrong. She had plenty of tears remaining. Again she shook
uncontrollably, bouncing in her seat at times as high as three inches
before coming back down to rest. He could not put his hands on her
shoulders or hug her the way he wanted to, it was unprofessional to do
such things. He was torn with enjoying the ease of recording his
findings versus his need to comfort her. Back in the day, he often
hugged male and female patients, comforting those who needed it.
However, with today’s society, it was not a good thing to do. Things
like that always seemed to make it into the evening news and were more
often than not grossly misunderstood.
Staring forward to the wall that was only six feet away, she listened to
the voices in her head.
“Don’t answer him. Keep him in the dark,” she heard as her eyes
darted around the room.
“Fuck him! Make him wait for your response,” the voices said again.
One by one they flooded her mind, her thoughts. They had been doing that
now for days, and it seemed like there was no end in sight. At times
they interrupted each other, one drowning out the next. But in all
actuality, they had never answered each other, at least not until now.
“Have her run for the door to escape,” one said.
“No, she’ll never make it. There has to be another way,” said a
third. The man looked on and wrote in his book one, two, sometimes three
words at a time before looking back at the woman sitting opposite of
him. He watched as her eyes became even more animated. He placed his pen
back into his pocket and took in the train wreck in front of him. If
asked to sum up how she was right now, he would say she was
She wasn’t paying attention to anything that he was saying. This woman
had her own agenda. Her eyes moved from one object to another, taking
inventory of her surroundings. They never stayed put for more than a
second or two, but it was obvious what she was doing.
“Are you all right? Do you need a minute to gather your thoughts?”
he asked softly.
Her response was a glance that lasted about ten seconds, before nodding
a yes, and moving her eyes to look at yet another nearby object. Cindy
thought that she didn’t want to gather any thoughts. She didn’t
think that they were her own anyway.
At times, the voices in her head were so loud that she couldn’t
differentiate them from her thoughts, someone else’s, or words spoken
out loud. The words in her head came to her as if she had spoken them.
They appeared to be her own thoughts, but Cindy was at times unsure.
“It’s time for more tears. Cry more tears,” she heard herself say.
The man looked on as yet again the woman in front of him shook violently
and once again began shedding tears. The doctor looked down at his
notebook and then back up to her face. He patiently awaited her next
“It’s time to talk to him now. He needs to know. He needs to know
everything,” the voices said to her.
Tears again flowed steadily from her eyes. It was hard to imagine them
any redder, he thought as he opened his notebook and reached for his
Excerpted from "First Responder" by James Summers. Copyright © 2017 by James Summers. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. Excerpts are provided solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.