Note: The following story is my fictional interpretation of the above image. The same image gave rise to a second story, The Woman on Ventura, which appears in my Ebook, The Lost Highway.
Cranston City, USA. 1967.
The metallic voice boomed through the loudspeaker like an angry god. “Car 34, please respond.” Patrolman J.D. Osborne launched the contents of his coffee cup out of the window, spattering the pristine white paintwork of the adjacent Oldsmobile. Grudgingly lifting the radio handset, he thumbed the transmit button. “Control, 34 answering.” The metallic voice replied instantaneously. “‘Bout time too, 34. We got a report of a 507 outside the Kmart on Jefferson. Swing by and check it out, will ya?” Osborne tersely acknowledged Control’s message, replaced the handset and slammed his palm down onto the horn button on the steering wheel.
Patrolman Allen ‘Scooter’ Starkey ambled over to the cruiser – a brand new Dodge Polara – and eased his large frame through the passenger door, wincing as his butt made contact with the superheated leatherette seat. He shot his partner a rueful glance. “How ’bout we park in the shade next time, J.D?” Osborne, never one to use two words when none would do, shrugged his shoulders and gave the Dodge a bootful of throttle, peppering the paintwork of the white Oldsmobile with loose stones. Starkey grinned at him. “Hell J.D., if I didn’t know better I’d say that you just deliberately pebbledashed Mister Hotshot Attorney Grieswald’s nice new car.” Osborne smiled with his eyes and said nothing.
The quickest way to Jefferson from Nellie’s Donuts (“the taste that made America great” according to the garish neon sign that perched unsteadily on the roof) was to hang a right at the intersection of Wilding and Chapel and then blat straight down through the Layton district, home to just about every wino, dopehead and punk in the city. It was the wildest of wild rides, no matter the day, no matter the time, no matter the weather.
Osborne threaded the Dodge, siren blaring, through the light morning traffic, hitting 80 as he passed the burnt-out shell of the old Wilmington Theatre, victim of last year’s so-called ‘peace and love’ riots. Just one more intersection to negotiate and they’d be safely out of downtown Nutville. So near. And yet.
Starkey saw her first. Lying in the middle of Ventura Avenue, empty bottle clutched tight in her right hand. He had no sooner started to holler “Stop!” than he was thrown forward in his seat. The cruiser slewed to a smoky halt, coming to rest no more than 6 feet from the woman. As Osborne leaned over and freed the Remington from its mounting bracket (like every good cop, he knew that you couldn’t be too careful in this neighbourhood), Starkey opened the passenger door and, moving with a speed that belied his ample dimensions, lifted the woman off the road and placed her in the back of the cruiser.
He called it in just as soon as they’d cleared Ventura. “Control, this is 34. No go on the 507. We’re heading to Mount Cedars with an IC1 female we found lying in the middle of Ventura. Intoxicated, no obvious injury. Will advise further.”
By the time they reached Mount Cedars General Hospital, the woman in back had started to come to. As Osborne shepherded her up the hospital steps, recognition flickered in Starkey’s eyes. “Uh, hang on there a second, J.D. I got something to say to the little lady here.” He removed his sunglasses, wiped a thin bead of sweat from his brow. “Barbara Monssen, I’m arresting you for the murder of Whitman Oates. You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to have an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be appointed to you by the court.”