Emily’s stomach flipped at the sight of blue and red lights flashing in her rear view mirror. She glanced at the speedometer and realized she was going ten over the speed limit. Cursing, she slowed her car to a stop on the side of the road. She’d just finished a closing shift at Chandler’s Bar and Grill and wanted nothing more than to shower and fall into bed. She hoped the cop let her off with a warning.
She took a deep breath and cracked her window. The chorus of crickets and other nighttime insects soothed her for a moment, but the crunch of footsteps approaching chased that comfort away. She flicked on a light and rummaged around for her driver’s license and car insurance information. Scanning the dates, she sighed in relief when seeing nothing had expired. Oftentimes she got so busy with work that she let such things slide.
A flashlight shone into her window, and Emily squinted up at the dark figure looming behind the piercing light. Panic flittered in her heart, and she fought the emotion down. It was just a cop and she’d only been speeding. Nothing more.
“Roll the window down all the way.” The deep voice held a note of familiarity for Emily, and she racked her brain, trying to place it as she lowered the window. She knew most of the cops in town by name, and most of them glared at her suspiciously each time they saw her going about her business. A few arrests for underage drinking, vandalism, and drunk and disorderly conduct, among other offenses, had sealed her fate as a problem child of the small town of Remsfield, Texas.
Her eyes watered as she tried to see past the bright light. She tore her gaze away and looked down at her license and insurance card. A sense of foreboding came upon her, and she had the sudden urge to speed away and hightail it down the country road.
But no. That would earn her more than a night spent in jail, community service, and fines. A high-speed chase would most definitely equal jail time, and Emily wasn’t about to do something so foolish, even though her gut continued to scream that something bad was about to happen.
“A little late for you to be out tonight, don’t you think, Emily?” The cop shined the light down, and she finally glimpsed his face.
“George,” she said, sitting straighter and tucking her hair behind her ears. “Um, I’m sorry I was speeding. It won’t happen again.” She smiled politely and hoped he didn’t ask her out on a date again. George had been asking her out since the sixth grade, and she’d never taken him up on his offer. The way he leered at her made her uneasy, and she’d never felt comfortable around him, even as kids. He’d been a bully. The kid who made up names for all the other kids and got away with anything and everything under the sun since his father was the sheriff.
Silence. Emily stared up at him, wondering what he was thinking. Why didn’t he speak? Why did he keep staring at her like he wanted to eat her? Well, she knew why. He’d been blunt about the kind of things he wanted to do to her the last time he’d asked her out, about a month ago when she’d run into him at the grocery store. If he wasn’t a cop, she would’ve kicked him in the groin for speaking to her so crassly that day.
“Actually, Emily, I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to step out of the car, please.” He opened the door and moved back, gesturing for her to exit.
Her heart hammered. She hadn’t done anything wrong! Speeding wasn’t a big deal. There was no good reason to ask her to step out of her vehicle.
“Why, George? What’s wrong? Can’t you just give me a ticket?” She wasn’t about to request a warning and give him the satisfaction of having her in his debt. He’d no doubt remind her of his kindness the next time he asked her on a date.
“Step out of your car now, Emily. You smell like booze, and I have reason to suspect you’ve been drinking.”
She rolled her eyes and laughed. “Oh, come on, George. You know I haven’t drunk anything in over a year. Not since my last arrest. I’ve been working in the bar all night and just spilled a few drinks. That’s all. I always smell like this when I get off of work.”
“Out of the car now!” he barked.
His urgent tone had her scampering out the door, but before she could speak, he grabbed her firmly and turned her around.
“Hands on the car,” he said. “Spread your legs too.”
Fear and surprise stole her breath, but she did as he commanded and tried to find her voice. Even though she didn’t like George, it still hurt her that he’d treat her this way. It shocked her, too. Didn’t he believe her story about spilling booze on herself at the bar? Of all the cops in town, she’d expected some understanding and leniency from George. They’d known each other for a long time, and while they’d grown up on opposite sides of town, she felt he knew her well enough to know she was telling the truth.
“I’m not drunk, George,” she said, her voice wavering.
“You look drunk to me, Emily,” he said, speaking slow with his lips to her ear. The overpowering scent of his minty breath sickened her. She shuddered and pressed her eyes closed, wishing she was at home, tucked safely in bed. “Do you have anything in your pockets?”
“Well, I need to be sure. Stay very still while I pat you down, Emily. If you don’t cooperate, I’ll have to cuff you.”
Her eyes widened at his threat, and she managed to remain perfectly still as his hands roved up and down her body. Nothing about his pat down felt professional. He touched the sides of her breasts, letting his fingers linger a few moments too long before moving down to her legs once again and venturing up the insides of her thighs.
Emily felt violated, but she didn’t want to resist and end up handcuffed. Being restrained by George sounded like a nightmare, and she began to have serious doubts that his intentions were good.
“Emily, have you taken any drugs recently?” he asked.
“No!” She’d done a lot of stupid things in her life, but aside from smoking a few joints in high school, she’d never done serious drugs.
“I don’t believe you. You’re acting very strange tonight. Unlike yourself.”
“George, please, just give me a breathalyzer. I’ll pass it with flying colors, and you’ll see I’m not drunk. And I swear I’m not on any drugs. You can search the car for all I care. You won’t find anything.”
“Oh, Emily,” he said, once again putting his mouth to her ear. She nearly gagged at the intense minty smell. “You and I both know the drugs aren’t in your car. You’re hiding them on you. Probably smuggling them inside your clothing. We’ve seen a lot of that lately around here and have been instructed to do strip searches when we have probable cause. Can’t have drugs overtaking our fine little town.”
His words sent a jolt of icy terror though her veins. Her pulse accelerated and a lump formed in her throat. This didn’t make sense. Not a bit. Strip searches on the side of the road? Her instincts once again screamed for her to run, but her legs remained rooted to the ground. She scanned the road from over her shoulder, praying for another car to venture by. Even another cop car. She didn’t want to be alone with George for another second.
She imagined pushing him down and hopping in her car and racing down the winding road to the guest house she rented from Mr. and Mrs. Maccabee. She also imagined the cops pursuing her and arresting her, and all of last year’s hard work and good behavior would be for naught. She had plans. Dreams. She almost had enough money saved up for a year at the community college. She’d wanted to take a few classes there and eventually gain acceptance to the LPN program. Not cooperating with George might ruin her carefully laid out plans.
Heat rushed to her face, partly due to anger and partly due to shame. George meant to do a strip search. That required him to touch places she didn’t want him seeing, let alone touching.
She sucked in a deep breath and prepared to reason with him one last time. “George, I swear I haven’t been doing anything illegal, other than speeding. Let me take a breathalyzer. Please.”
He chuckled and his laughter made her stomach turn with revulsion. He wasn’t going to listen to her, no matter what she said. The bastard’s mind was already made up.
“Emily, haven’t you been listening to a word I’ve said? I’m pretty sure you’re hiding drugs on you, and if that’s the case, your being drunk pales in comparison to possession of hard drugs.”
“I don’t have anything under my clothes!” This couldn’t be happening. Couldn’t. And yet, it was happening.
She shook her head slowly and peered over her shoulder, meeting George’s cold, hard gaze. The headlights from his cruiser lighted his features, reminding her that he was wearing a cop uniform and she was wearing her usual waitress outfit, which consisted of a short jean skirt and a tight yellow shirt. He wore a badge backed by the law, and she simply wore a nametag from a hole in the wall bar.
“If I have to take you back to the station for this, Emily, you’ll be in a whole lot more trouble than you already are. Now keep your hands on the car. Face forward.”
Humiliation and anger filled her as he unbuttoned her skirt and pulled it down to her feet.
“Step out,” he instructed, and once she stepped out, he moved away briefly.
Even though he’d told her to face the car, she couldn’t resist looking back again. What she saw nearly stopped her heart. He was putting latex gloves on both hands, and the cold gleam in his gaze struck real fear in her heart. She wished she knew the law better. Somehow this didn’t seem right. Cops weren’t allowed to strip you down on the side of the road. But he’d mentioned a recent drug problem, so maybe their protocol had changed recently.
Dammit. She was so tired from working a double shift, she couldn’t think straight.
“Face forward unless you want the cuffs,” he said.
She cringed at his harsh tone and faced the car, staring at the woods beyond the road. Above her the stars glimmered and the full moon shone down, illuminating the night. When he tugged at her panties, she shut her mind off, crawling inside herself the way she’d learned to do as a child when something upset her. Like when her mother didn’t come home for days and she felt impossibly lonely, or when the kids at school teased her for having holes in her sneakers.
For some reason, he didn’t touch her shirt or bra and instead focused on the lower half of her body—the part of her body she wished to keep hidden from George the most. How dare he do this to her. She wasn’t a criminal. Not really. She’d been in trouble with the law before, but her crimes hadn’t been serious.
Once again, his hands moved up and down her legs and up and over her butt, before delving between her thighs and touching her most private place. Her mind drifted further away from her terrifying reality, and the sensation of his groping hands faded. She thought about her life—all her mistakes and all her failed relationships. Most of all, she thought about her mother and how she hadn’t called Emily in over six months. Her mom only called when she needed money, and right now she had a live-in boyfriend who was apparently paying the bills. She thought about the day her mother admitted she didn’t know the identity of Emily’s father. It could’ve been one of three guys, she’d claimed. The only happiness in Emily’s fucked up life had been the joy she felt when her Aunt Jamie visited, but Aunt Jamie had died two years ago, the week before Emily’s high school graduation.
Vaguely, she became aware of George’s hands on her butt again. She wondered why the strip search was taking so long, and she shuddered and trembled, trying to keep her hands on the car. Her arms ached and her thighs burned from holding the slightly bent over position for so long.
“Emily, you’re not going to like this, but I need to do a full body cavity search too. It’s standard procedure during a strip search.” His voice sounded thick and raspy, as if he’d just smoked a pack of cigarettes and drunk too much whiskey.
Shiver after shiver coursed through Emily.
A body cavity search.
No. He couldn’t be serious.
“George, you’re kidding, right? Ha, ha, very funny. Can I please get dressed now? As you can see, I am not hiding drugs.” She tried to inflect a note of bravery in her voice, but her response came out shaky.
“I’m afraid this is no joke, Emily. You would be wise to keep your hands where they are while I perform the search. It’ll be quick as long as you cooperate.” He sounded breathless, and she resisted the all-consuming urge to turn around and slam a fist into his face.
“Go ahead and get your jollies on, George, but I promise to sue your sleazy ass if you do touch me. You have no good reason to suspect I’m carrying drugs. This is getting ridiculous. What if a car comes by?”
He snickered as his hands crept between her legs, brushing her pussy lips. “Be quiet and keep looking straight ahead, and unless you want the cuffs, don’t you dare move.”
Unreal. This whole experience felt unreal. Perhaps she was dreaming. If so, this dream took the cake as far as nightmares went.
“Wait a second,” she blurted, wincing as he thrust a finger inside her. It didn’t hurt, but he had no right to touch her there. She began to feel stupid as the fatigue left her body in a rush and it all clicked into place. Male cops didn’t conduct body cavity searches on women. Female cops, sure, but not male cops.
The realization that George was intentionally doing something against the law left her shaking anew. She considered apologizing for refusing his dates in the hopes of calming him down.
“You’re doing this because you’re pissed at me, right? Because I always say no when you ask me out?” She paused, waiting for his response. When he remained silent for too long, she pressed on, hoping to quell his anger over her constant refusal to go out with him. Keeping her voice soft and apologetic, she said, “Look, George, I’m really sorry I always said no. Truly, I’m sorry.”
Another snicker. “Don’t flatter yourself. I’m simply doing my job. Besides, with your record, no one will believe a thing you say, Emily. Once a criminal in this town, always a criminal. In case you haven’t noticed, we don’t really do second chances around here.”
Run. She had to run. Had to get far away from George. His words pretty much confirmed his bad intentions.
She jerked to the side, freeing his hand from between her legs. Facing George, she gasped at what she saw. He’d unzipped his pants and had pulled his erect cock out. He met her terrified stare with a sinister smile.
“Be a good girl and turn back around, Emily. This will be over soon, and then you can go home. I won’t even give you a ticket for speeding.”
Emily didn’t think—she reacted. She grabbed his shoulders and brought her knee up in his crotch, hitting him square in the balls.
He yelled and dropped to the ground, bending in on himself as he gasped for air. Pain pinched his reddened face, and he lifted his head to scream obscenities and threats at her.
“You fucking bitch! You just attacked a police officer! You’re going to jail for a long, long time now!” He went on and on, spinning a grim tale of her future, promising she’d never see the light of day again, and promising to visit her in jail and fuck her until she couldn’t walk.
Rage simmered inside Emily, and her heart leapt with terror when George tried to stand up. She ran forward and kicked him in the face, sending him hurling back on the pavement.
Eyes wide, she watched and waited for his next move.
Except he didn’t move.
Shit. What had she done? Hands shaking, she rushed to put her panties and skirt back on, then warily knelt next to George and pressed her fingers to the pulse point on his neck. The relief she felt to discover him alive was short-lived.
What he’d said was true. His threats. His promise that she’d go to jail for a long time. With her record, no one in town would believe any accusations she made against George.
She ran a hand through her hair and paced in the darkness, weighing her options. If she called for help, they’d lock her up for good. She’d never be able to make bail or afford a good lawyer, and even if she did manage to get a good public defender, she doubted any judge would see any truth to her side of the tale. Allegations of sexual assault and attempted rape would be ignored and swept under the rug.
Dashing into her car, she peeled off the side of the road and headed for her little rental house, leaving an unconscious George on the side of the road. Hot tears streamed down her face, and she couldn’t stop trembling. She forced herself to grip the wheel and keep her eyes on the road. George had lied to her, violated her, and he’d been about to force himself upon her. She didn’t regret kicking him, but now she had only one option.
To leave town and get the hell out of Texas.
Hell, she might as well forget her name. Emily who? She angrily tore her nametag off her shirt and threw it on the floor.
Ten minutes later, she arrived at her rental house. She entered quickly and ran to her bedroom, pulling out a suitcase from under her bed. Opening the closet and all her dresser drawers, she tossed clothing and shoes into the suitcase until it was full. She gathered a few books, all of them presents from Aunt Jamie, some nonperishable food items, a small photo album, and two flashlights, and shoved them in a large handbag. Most of the money she’d saved was in the bank in a savings account, and she wouldn’t be able to access it before leaving town. But she had a few hundred dollars hidden in a jar behind some books in the living room, and she pulled out the crisp bills and tucked them into her purse.
There. All packed. She panted and spun in a circle, checking one last time to see if she’d forgotten anything important. Well, even if she had, she had to leave. Now.
George might already be awake. The cops could be on their way here at this very moment. She held her breath for a long second, listening for the sound of sirens and screeching tires. But aside from the pounding of her heart in her ears, she only heard crickets and a dog barking in the distance.
She ran outside and into the night. As she threw her belongings into her car, she spared a longing glace at Mr. and Mrs. Maccabee’s house. The porch light had been left on. Most nights the old couple forgot to shut it off before they turned in for the evening.
Guilt visited her over her sudden departure as the police would wake them and question them in the middle of the night, no doubt. She wished she had enough time to say goodbye. Enough time to explain the truth and apologize for the trouble she’d caused them. Their kindness wouldn’t be forgotten.
Emily jumped in her car and sped off in the opposite direction from where she’d left George lying in the road. Doubts and fears clouded her mind as she navigated the back roads of Remsfield until finally reaching a main road and eventually a highway. Though she wanted to drive one hundred miles per hour the whole way north, she had to keep it at the speed limit or risk getting caught. The sooner she made it to Oklahoma, the better. At least, that’s where she thought she was headed. She didn’t have a map or a GPS on her phone. She couldn’t afford such luxuries, so she drove blindly on the highway, looking for road signs but constantly missing them due to her nervousness and agitated state, until the gas light in her car dinged.
“No, no, no!” she said, squinting as she looked for signs of a gas station.
To her relief, she found a truck stop and managed to get in and leave with a full tank of gas in about five minutes, paying cash because she dared not use her bank card. The attendant, an old man with tattoos covering his arms, didn’t even glance up at her as she handed him the exact amount.
Back on the road, Emily became nervous when she spotted a car pulled over by two cops. The highway probably wasn’t the smartest road to take, she realized as she once again scanned ahead for an exit. After a few miles, she took an exit that seemed to lead to nowhere. No stores. No gas stations. Just the name of a road she’d never heard of and would likely forget.
She blinked rapidly as fatigue set in and cursed herself for not taking the time to grab a coffee at the gas station. More than once she nodded off only to jerk awake just in time to avoid landing in a ditch. The further she drove, the fewer cars she passed, and she realized she was indeed in the middle of nowhere. Maybe she could find a place to park and catch a few hours of sleep.
Despite her complete exhaustion, she decided to drive for at least one more hour. Maybe she’d inadvertently cross over into Oklahoma by then. She could only hope. She didn’t want to spend a good chunk of her life in jail for defending herself against a slimeball cop.
She should have refused the strip search and demanded a female officer do it back in town. She berated herself for letting fear and fatigue cloud her ability to think rationally. Believing George’s story about recent drug problems in town and the new search protocols had been stupid. So stupid. A fresh wave of tears wet her face as she continued down the road, headlights blaring into the blackness surrounded by fields and the occasional patch of woods.
The bastard. He’d ruined her life. No matter how far she ran, she’d always be looking over her shoulder. So much for college and trying to make a fresh start.
Emily sniffled and wiped her tears away. At least her trembling had stopped—though fear still occupied her heart and would for some time. She’d actually knocked a man unconscious. She couldn’t believe she’d had that kind of strength in her, but she was grateful she’d managed to escape.
The dark road ahead blurred. Sleep called her name like a comforting lullaby. She fought to stay alert but soon lost the battle. Her heavy eyelids closed, and she didn’t jerk awake until the moment before impact.