Matt Deal’s cell phone rang. He was expecting it to be Mercy.
“Mike. What is it? What’s wrong?” Deal said after the caller identified himself as Captain Stevenson of the Fort Walton Beach police department. He knew the voice anyway. The cop was a regular at Deal’s Destin-based Thai boxing studio and gym.
“I’ll tell you when you get here. It’s not good news. Mercy is alive but she’s in a bad way. You drive easy, hear me?”
“I hear you but where?”
“It will take you thirty minutes this time of night. I’ll wait close to the crime scene near the boardwalk. You know it. Your gym is close. You’ll see my SUV.”
Voice croaking, hand shaking, Matt Deal croaked, “Still got the white Chevy, Mike?”
“Yeah. See you soon, Matt.” The phone went dead.
Deal picked up his car keys and threw on a light windcheater. He knew there was no point waking Lorey. She’d be drunk.
It took Matt Deal twenty-three minutes to reach the boardwalk at Destin. He pulled over and parked behind the detective’s white SUV.
As Deal got out of his car, he saw Mike Stevenson standing close to the beach. He was talking to a woman he had seen before but knew nothing about her. Deal approached them.
“What Mike? What happened? Where’s Mercy?”
“Slow down Matt. One thing at a time. Mercy is at the ER. At Sacred Heart. Wolfie here saw her being assaulted and called 911,” Stevenson said nodding towards Wolfie Jules.
“Assaulted? How? Is she okay? Sure it’s her?” Deal said, his mind in turmoil.
Stevenson took hold of Deal’s arm and said, “She’s in a bad way, Matt. Suppose I’d better tell you now than some stranger at the hospital. She was raped. Battered over the head too.” He held up some clear evidence bags. “These her clothes?” Deal nodded.
“Raped!” Deal shouted.
He turned to Wolfie and said, “Fuck’s sake! Why didn’t you stop them?”
“What the hell am I supposed to do? There were five of them. All college brats. As soon as I realised they were raping her, I ran and called 911.”
Deal looked her up and down taking in her five-foot nothing stature, slim build, her leather biker jacket, and the fierce look in her eyes, partly shielded by a wild fringe of black hair. She looked thirty’ish, maybe mid-thirties. Olive-skinned, kind of Spanish looking. Her most striking feature was a black eye patch over her right eye. She looked like an extra out of Pirates of the Caribbean.
“Yeah. Sorry. I’m pretty worked up.” Deal said.
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