“What’s your name?” the police officer asks me.
“Eric Caine,” I answer rubbing my temple while lying on a hospital bed.
“Do you know where you are?” the cop says. Like me, he looks to be in his thirties, and has
the same body type. The officer has short brown hair, gentle blue eyes, and a youthful face that tells me he hasn’t been in this job very long.
Doctor Goldman, the man I saw when I woke up this morning, stands behind the officer. He’s a prematurely balding guy with glasses and a pleasant demeanor; probably just out of med school.
“The Miami VA,” I say scratching my scruffy black beard. “Listen, I already went through this wit h Doct or Goldman this morning. Whats t his all about?”
“I’m Officer Tucker with the Miami-Dade Police Department. I need to ask you a couple of questions.”
“Maybe you should’ve talked to the doctor first, Officer. He would’ve saved you some time by telling you I can’t remember much.”
“Mr. Caine, your employer has filed a missing person report on you. That was eight days ago. Since then, no one has had any idea of your whereabouts. That’s why it’s important to establish what happened.”
“Eight days?” I mutter as the idea dawns on me.“How did I get here?”
“You were found wandering the streets of South Beach by a gentleman,” Doctor Goldman says. “At first, he thought you were just a homeless man, but the fact that you were speaking Arabic caught his attention, so he decided to help. He saw the military ID card in your wallet when you passed out,and decided to bring you here.”
I study the doctor and the policeman with the same quizzical look they cast on me. Why the hell was I speaking Arabic?
“Mr.Caine,what’s the last thing you remember?” Officer Tucker says.
I lie back looking out t he window, and rub my face t o force my memory t o spit up somet hing, anything. “I was at a bar downtown called Tobacco Road. I remember walking to my car. It was late... that’s all I can remember. The rest are just fragments of me walking down the street, and then I woke up here.”
“Were you alone?” Tucker begins taking notes. “Huh?”
“At the bar.”
“Yes, I went by myself.”
“Did you drink that night?” Tucker’s eyes search for an answer even before I can speak. “I had a few drinks,” I say,looking down a little uncomfortably.
“I noticed on your record you got two DUIs about a month apart from each other,” the officer says giving me a hard stare. He’s clearly not buying it .
“It’s been a rough year,” I say holding the officer’s stare.
“It must be,” Tucker says returning to his notes. “You were also detained for getting into a
fight with some guys at another bar a couple of weeks ago.” His eyes shoot back at me. “Luckily for you, nobody pressed any charges.” He continues reading, “The police were also called t o your home t wo mont hs ago, about shot s being fired in your apart ment . An accident al discharge of a firearm involving a television set.”
“Like I said, it’s been a rough year.”
“Have you ever been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder?” Doctor Goldman asks.
“Listen, I’m not some deranged vet,” I say. “If you want to charge me with something, go ahead. So either get to the point or go away.”
I can see both men are taken aback by my outburst. I take a deep breath and lay back, rubbing my eyes and trying to compose myself. I’m still confused as all hell and now my head hurt s.
“Do you remember anything about the accident?” Tucker asks right on cue.
“Accident?” I say freezing. Images of my old man killed by a drunk driver bombard my mind, accompanied by a growing sense of dread.
“You were involved in a car accident near the I-95 not too far from the bar,” Officer Tucker says scrutinizing my face for any signs of deception.
“Was anybody hurt?” Isay before the cop can continue.
I feel as if my blood starts to flow again.
“You crashed your car into a tree,” Tucker says. “The vehicle was declared a ‘total loss.’
There were no witnesses.”
I suddenly feel as if t he ground has been pulled from under my feet . Officer Tucker repeats the question, but my mind is miles away. An accident? I can’t recall anything about a crash. Did I finally snap and try to take it up with God? That’d make sense if I actually believed in him.
He seems sufficiently satisfied by my confused look to proceed with the questioning. “There was reportedly a fight at the bar that same night; you wouldn’t happen to know anything about that,would you?”
“No,” I say in a daze.
“Do you have any family?”
I shake my head.
“I just moved here three months ago.” My answers roll off my tongue automatically.
“Fayetteville, NorthCarolina. I was stationed at Pope Air Force Base.”
“How long have you been working as a paramedic?”
“Pretty much since Igot here,” I say.
“But you live in a luxury condo.” Tucker’s street smarts take over his bedside manner.
“It was my mother’s. Does this have anything to do with your investigation?”
“No,” the officer says closing his notepad. “Don’t worry; this is more of an insurance concern than a police matter. You seem in good health. You didn’t injure anyone or damage any property for that matter. So, aside from a couple of fees regarding the towing and storage of your car, you have nothing to worry about.”
“Other than my memory,” I say.
“Mr. Caine, you seem to have suffered a severe contusion that affected your short-term memory,” Goldman says.“This combined with the shock of the accident must have left you in a confused state. This is, of course, a peculiar situation, to say the least; but not impossible. Fortunately, all your tests came back fine. As far as we can tell, you’re in excellent health.”
“Yet I feel like the floor of a taxi,” I say rubbing my sore body.
“Nothing that a nice bath and a good night’s sleep won’t fix,” the doctor says.
Officer Tucker stands up and hands me his card. “If you remember anything, give me a call.”
I take it and wait for him to leave. He stops, remembering something. “One more thing...” “Yes?”
“Where did you learn to speak Arabic?” “The Air Force,” I say, lying.
“Of course. You have a good day, Mr. Caine.”
- Winner of the 2012 IndieReader Discovery Awards for best mystery/thriller
- Winner of the 2011 Reader Views Reviewers Choice Awards for Best South American Novel
- 2012 ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Award finalist
- Honorable mention at the Paris Book Festival
- Honorable mention at the San Francisco Book Festival